The Black Stallion Returns
Director– Robert Dalva
Starring – Kelly Reno, Vincent Spano
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
The Black Stallion Returns is the sequel to the 1979 hit The Black Stallion. Returning in the sequel is Kelly Reno as Alec Ramsay, who travels to Morocco to get his horse Black back. His beloved horse is taken by his former Arabian owners led by Ishak (Ferdy Mayne) who said the horse originally belonged to them. They need Black for what is called “The Great Race” which is a horse marathon. After the horse is taken back by the Arabs, Alec on his own stows aboard a plane on route to Casablanca, where he eventually befriends Raj (Vincent Spano, from And God Created Woman) where together they search for Black. They do find the horse, and again Ishak and his men are there to prevent Alec from taking back the horse. This leads to Alec being allowed to ride his horse Black in the great race, which leads to an exciting horseback riding climax. Alec not only has to win the race, but avoid being killed as well. Does Alec get the horse back after all of the efforts he put in? Watch and see!
The Black Stallion Returns is a good family film, for children particularly, with a lot of great breathtaking scenery, music, and some good ‘horse-riding action’ but overall I felt the film was bland, run of the mill, and Kelly Reno as the young boy Alec who loves his horse Black I didn’t find very appealing. Something was missing badly after the first film. Performances overall were fine, and the musical score fit perfectly. Interesting of note that there were two horses playing the role of Black. The horse from the first film, Cass Ole, and El Mokhtar were used. El Mokhtar died of colic when the film was being shot.
Twilight Time Presents The Black Stallion Returns in 1080p, with an AVC MPEG-4 and in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1 encode and the results are just beautiful. The colors are sharp and vibrant; the daylight scenes look marvelous with the gorgeous scenery looking just dynamic. The image has a lot of depth and tremendous detail. This has excellent picture quality; most definitely the best this film will ever look.
The audio for this release is English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and everything was perfectly fine. This release is Region Free and limited to 3000 units
For those who love special features on their release are sure to be disappointed. The extras for this release are the usual isolated score track and the original theatrical trailer. Julie Kirgo does her usual fantastic job outlining the film with her seven page essay
The Film: 3/5
Miss Sadie Thompson (3D)
Directed by: Curtis Bernhardt
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Jose Ferrer, Aldo Ray
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Usually when the word ‘remake’ or ‘reboot’ of a movie occurs, in our present society many fans of the original film, tend to groan and approach a remake with a great deal of trepidation, expecting the worst or just wondering why Hollywood cannot create new original movies. Was it like that in the pre-1960’s era? I don’t know, but many of the films that were remade during the ‘classic’ era surpassed the originals, including The Wizard of Oz, The Maltese Falcon and others. One such film, Miss Sadie Thompson, arguably is considered to be superior to earlier incarnations; this of course depends on one’s tastes.
For those that have seen the earlier versions, Sadie Thompson (1928), Rain (1932) and Dirty Gertie from Harlem USA (1946), then you know what this movie is about. For those who haven’t seen any of these movies, I recommend that you see them all. Miss Sadie Thompson, just like the earlier versions is about a free-spirited woman, Sadie (played by Rita Hayworth), a singer and entertainer, who tickles the fancy of several marines while being stranded on a military outpost. One in particular takes a serious liking to Sadie, Sergeant Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray) and wants to marry her. Meanwhile a self-righteous, religious zealot, Alfred Davidson (Jose Ferrer), head of the Mission Board, wants her off the island because he thinks she is not only a fugitive running from justice, but a prostitute. They get into several heavy-hitting arguments which are just incredible. Davidson decides that will let her stay on the island, ONLY if she repents and conforms to his liking and beliefs. What happens next to me would be a spoiler to those who haven’t seen the film. Let’s just say some people should practice what they preach.
I enjoyed this movie as much as the earlier versions. My own personal preference is Rain due to the incredible performances in that film was more risqué due to it being in the pre-code era, although Miss Sadie Thompson is a highly recommended film as well. You can’t go wrong with either one, or even the silent 1928 Sadie Thompson. The 1953 version also has more musical numbers and her character in this version is a nightclub singer, whereas in Rain Sadie is a prostitute. The acting in Miss Sadie Thompson is excellent with some great interaction between Sadie and Mr. Davidson; you can feel the tension and anxiety as the film progresses. Rita Hayworth is just fantastic as Sadie, with her music numbers and sexy dancing, of which disgusted some critics when it first came out. Rita Hayworth is many known is best known for her roles in Gilda and The Lady from Shanghai. Sadie’s would be husband and/or lover in Miss Sadie Thompson, Aldo Ray did some war films and other dramas before moving on to horror and science fiction movies, including Bog and Biohazard. Jose Ferrer, another excellent actor had a great career and you can see his work in films such as The Caine Mutiny, Fedora, and Lawrence of Arabia. Another iconic name in the film that many are familiar with Charles Bronson (Death Wish) is also one of the military characters on the island.
Miss Sadie Thompson gets a blu ray release courtesy of Twilight Time (with the HD master provided by Sony) and the results, while not overwhelming or super spectacular are solid. Overall the picture quality is very good. It is dual layered, widescreen 1:85:1, with a 1080p resolution, and an MPEG-4 AVC video. It seems to be brighter than previous versions, most likely due to a boost in contrast. Colors are bright and clear; it’s a really well done HD presentation.
The audio for Miss Sadie Thompson is DTS-HD master 2.0 and both the dialog and the songs are loud and clear, no issues found.
Twilight Time has provided us with some extras for this release as well. We get an audio commentary with film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros, an introduction to the film by actress Patricia Clarkson, an original theatrical trailer, the obligatory isolated music and effects track and seven page booklet essaying Miss Sadie Thompson written by the great Julie Kirgo.
The Film: 4.5/5
Panic in Needle Park
Director– Jerry Schatzberg
Starring – Al Pacino, Kitty Winn
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
Twilight Time releases such amazing films on a regular basis that it is nearly impossible to pick a favorite among their monthly releases. However, in the entirety of their 2016 I would say that the award might have to go to their release of the 1971 Al Pacino/Kitty Winn vehicle Panic In Needle Park. Panic In Needle Park stars Winn as Helen a young woman from Indiana now living in Manhattan. As the film begins she is returning home from a back-alley abortion to the apartment of her on again/off again boyfriend Marco (Raul Julia). Helen appears to be in a terrible state due to the nature of the condition of where the procedure was done. At the apartment when she returns is Bobby played by Al Pacino (in one of his earliest roles). A little while later Helen finds herself in the hospital due to bleeding from the procedure, Marco has left her, but Bobby visits.
Thus begins an oddly co-dependent romance between the two as Bobby introduces Helen to his lifestyle of crime and heroin addiction. She begins as a passive observer enjoying the life Bobby is setting up for the pair, but inevitably becomes involved, and when a "panic" (lack of drugs) happens around their neighborhood, and Bobby finds himself in trouble with other dealers Helen struggles to get him and them out of it.
Panic at Needle Park is an absolute classic of not just drug cinema, but 70's cinema in general. The performances by Pacino and Winn are absolutely iconic, as the two having amazing chemistry and play extremely well off one another. Director Jerry Schatzberg turns to the prior decades French New Wave for inspiration for the film's visual style. The film has a very spontaneous free flowing look to it that is akin to early to mid-60's Godard. This is mixed with a hint of cinema verite style that helps to add to the realism of the piece.
Twilight Time presents Panic in Needle Park in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. The Blu-ray has quite solid detail, nice color reproduction though the film is primarily cast in Earth tones and darker colors. Flesh tones are accurate, and there is a nice grain structure present over the piece. The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono track in English with well represents the sound of the film with dialogue and score coming through without issue. Extras include isolated score, archival behind the scenes interviews and documentaries, text cards about an unused score, the trailer, and excellent liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Film: 5/5
A Prayer for the Dying
Director– Mike Hodges
Starring – Mickey Rourke, Bob Hoskins
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
It’s always tricky, when reviewing a movie, to decide to whom we should attribute the choices that resulted the final film, but this is especially true when a movie is recut against its director’s wishes. This was the case with A Prayer for the Dying, which was publicly disowned by director Mike Hodges and star Mickey Rourke after it was recut and rescored by distributor Samuel Goldwyn. In an interview on Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray, Hodges says that it may not be possible at this point to do a true director’s cut of the film, as the surviving elements are in rough shape. It’s a shame that we can only judge the movie by its theatrical cut; while this may have never been a great thriller, there are hints in many scenes that it was originally a much more interesting one.
The movie, an adaptation of the novel by Jack Higgins, would seem to be a perfect match for its star and director, and there are moments in the movie that remind of the brutally economical outbursts of violence in Hodges’ Get Carter. But from the beginning, something seems off in this story about an IRA hitman (Rourke) who wants out. The movie opens with Rourke’s character, Marton Fallon, overseeing a bombing that goes horribly wrong; it’s the moment that would be the turning point for his character in another film, but we don’t know anything about this guy yet. Along with the rushed, oddly perfunctory staging of what should be a disturbing sequence, it gets the movie off on the wrong foot. And when Fallon’s boss, Jack Meehan (Alan Bates), offers to let him leave after one more hit, there’s barely any sense of the supposedly guilt-ridden hitman struggling this decision before going through with it. We don’t see the protagonist evolve because he’s already near the end of his story, and any sense of his inner conflict is totally perfunctory.
Fallon’s last hit is witnessed by a priest, Father De Costa (Bob Hoskins); refusing Meehan’s order to kill the priest, Fallon tries to protect De Costa, who in turn tries to save the hitman’s soul. Hoskins and Bates both effectively play against type, and there seem to be all of the pieces for an effective, if familiar, melodrama about a bad guy trying to redeem himself as he’s torn between two opposing father figures. The problem is, the movie in its present form is completely free of subtext - it feels like scenes that would deepen the characters and their relationships have been stripped away in favor of the more action-heavy scenes, and the many scenes where Hoskins and Rourke spell out the character’s central conflict are frustratingly repetitive and free of nuance. Meanwhile, I suspect that Fallon’s romance with De Costa
It doesn’t help that Rourke - who was very good in two other movies that year, Angel Heart and Barfly - seems unusually self-conscious in the role, though given how a performance can be reshaped by editing, I can’t help but wondering if more interesting work was left on the cutting room floor. A Prayer for the Dying isn’t a bad movie, and it’s often effective as a violent thriller, but even if I didn’t know about the film’s trouble history, I suspect that I would’ve been distracted by the thought of the more interesting movie it could’ve been. As it is, a late-in-the-movie moment where Rourke clings to a crucifix that was obviously meant to be a moment of spiritual epiphany for the character instead provoked unintentional laughter.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray of A Prayer for the Dying presents the movie in the movie’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p transfer is mostly solid, with black levels and contrast in the interior scenes looking especially strong. The exterior scenes are less consistent, though the colors in some of the movie’s autumnal scenes are quite gorgeous. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio is strong throughout. The most interesting extra is a 30-minute interview with Hodges where he discusses his late involvement in the film (he replaced another director), the production and what his version of the movie would’ve been like. Also included are an interview with cinematographer Mike Garfath, the film’s theatrical trailer and an isolated track featuring Bill Conti’s score. A booklet featuring liner notes by Julie Kirgo is included with the disc.
The Film: 2.5/5
Director: Tom Gries
Cast: Charlton Heston, Geraldine Chaplin, Tina Chen
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
While 1966’s Hawaii was a and a critical commercial hit, the three-hour epic was only a partial adaptation of the centuries-spanning narrative of James Michener’s novel. The Hawaiians picks up a few decades after the previous film’s ending, with Charlton Heston starring as Whip Hoxworth, the grandson of Hawaii’s Rafer Hoxworth (Richard Harris). Whip returns to Hawaii after his grandfather’s death to learn that he’s willed his estate to Micah Hale (Alec McCowan), the grandson of the missionary couple played by Max von Sydow and Julie Andrews in the original movie. While the story that unfolds, as Whip attempts to make his own fortune by growing pineapples, is certainly gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t have much dramatic interest, especially as the conflict between the characters relies on knowledge of the earlier movie, which, frankly, isn’t that great to begin with.
Hawaii at least had the benefit of its two leads and the central conflict of whether von Sydow’s uptight, moralistic character would learn to adapt a more compassionate approach towards the island’s natives (led, in a wonderful supporting performance, by Jocelyn LeGarde as island matriarch Malama Kanakoa). The Hawaiians, by comparison, lacks a compelling central conflict to drive the narrative. While Heston commits admirably to playing a racist, deliberately unlikable protagonist, it’s hard to invest in a drama that has little conflict beyond whether Whip’s pineapple plantation will succeed. Geraldine Chaplin tries gamely to make her role as Whip’s wife work, but what domestic drama there is seems thin against the backdrop of the movie’s gorgeous location photography.
The most interesting aspect of the movie is Tina Chen’s performance as Nyuk Chin, a stowaway on a boat of Chinese workers who ends up helping Whip run the plantation. Chen creates a more nuanced character than exists on the page, and while the relationship between Nyuk and Whip is ultimately anticlimactic, it’s only in her scenes that we get any sense of the larger historical sweep of the narrative. Otherwise, the native characters are used, as is often the case, for colorful background in a movie that decries their treatment at the hands of Western colonists while simultaneously exploiting their frequent nudity. The Hawaiians is a wannabe epic with a narrative that simply doesn’t measure up, and as impressive as the location photography by Lucien Ballard is, I was impatient for it to end.
Twilight Time presents The Hawaiians in the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The 1080p transfer is a fine representation of the gorgeous widescreen cinematography that is the highlight of the movie - contrast, skin tones and colors are strong throughout. The DTS-HD 1.0 audio track is clear throughout. The only extras included are the movie’s theatrical trailer, an isolated score track and a booklet featuring liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Film: 2/5