The Glory Guys
Cast-Tom Tryon, Harve Presnell, Senta Berger
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Bobby Morgan
In yet another of her meticulously-researched set of liner notes accompanying a Twilight Time release, Julie Kirgo addresses the long-standing rumor that Sam Peckinpah served as an uncredited director on Arnold Laven’s 1965 western adventure The Glory Guys. Although the future director of The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid did play a major role in the film’s making, adapting Hoffman Birney’s novel The Dice of God into a fine screenplay for Laven’s production company in the 1950’s, Peckinpah was already in the progress of establishing himself as Hollywood’s most-combustible and unreliable director thanks to the disastrous production of Major Dundee and getting fired from The Cincinnati Kid.
The rumor that has persisted throughout the years (aided in no small part by forums such as the Internet Movie Database that are hardly unbiased, rock-solid sources) does a great disservice to Laven’s slick and professional direction of a rousing, old-fashioned action yarn that packs thrills, humor, romance, and a little revisionist history into 113 minutes – every second of it punched up by Peckinpah’s pickled tough guy cynicism and wit, resulting in a film that appears conventional but always feels a little different than most major studio westerns of the time.
Calvary officer Captain Demas Harrod (Tom Tryon) is charged by the glory-obsessed General Frederick McCabe (Andrew Duggan) to train a regiment of experienced troopers, greenhorns, and troublemaking blowhards for the ongoing campaign against the Indian tribes in the Southwestern region of the U.S. Harrod’s unlikely prospects for the battles to come include mouthy Irishman Private Anthony Dugan (James Caan) and baby-faced Private Martin Hale, and with the help of the commanding Sergeant James Gregory (Slim Pickens) these men will be whipped into fine fighting shape. As he goes about his duties, Harrod also finds himself competing with the general’s top scout Sol Rogers (Harve Presnell) for the affections of the widowed gunsmith Lou Woddard (Senta Berger).
One of two produced screenplays Peckinpah wrote but didn’t direct (the other being 1968’s Villa Rides, which was extensively rewritten by Robert Towne on the orders of star Yul Brynner), The Glory Guys is exquisite proof that the man did in fact possess a romantic side which shined the brightest when he was displaying an affection for the mythologized Old West. In his later films this aspect of Peckinpah’s personality would be forced to fight it out with the uglier, more violent impulses that fueled the actions of his greatest characters, but the adaptation of Birney’s novel provided him with the ideal creative playground to express his often overlooked passions for the traditions of old before hurtling headlong into the dusty and blood-splattered ballets of gunplay that he would become famous for as the optimistic 1960’s ended with a bang (or several bangs, heard around the world) instead of a whimper.
The Dice of God was a thinly-veiled account of Custer’s spectacular failure of a campaign against the Sioux, with the names and events altered to prevent the dead from further public shame. Director Laven, who also created the classic television western series The Rifleman, brings his years of experience in small screen tales of white hats and black hats, cowpokes and Indians, to provide a steady and confident hand in the making of The Glory Guys. Laven’s style is of the old school and since the story is very unambiguous in its depiction of the central conflict (with the only complexity to be found buried deep beneath the surface of an otherwise conventional narrative and only acknowledged on rare occasions), it suits the material better than expected.
Laven stages the battle scenes with energy, epic scope (those Cavalry charges across the plains look terrific), and a camera that isn’t afraid to get into the thick of the mayhem, creating a gorgeous controlled chaos. The expansive widescreen cinematography of James Wong Howe (Sweet Smell of Success, The Thin Man) captures the intimidating beauty of the Mexican desert landscapes where the film was shot (and would become a key location in Peckinpah’s features in the years to come). Adding to the unconventional look and feel of The Glory Guys is the brawny, light-hearted score from the great Italian composer Riz Ortolani (Cannibal Holocaust), and Tom Rolf’s editing keeps the pacing tight while allowing crucial dramatic scenes to play out and giving the action sequences a fast-cut intensity. Rolf would later go on to apply his commendable editing chops to films such as Taxi Driver, Heaven’s Gate, The Right Stuff, and Heat.
Tom Tryon (The Cardinal) cuts a commanding and respectable figure as the beleaguered yet determined Captain Harrod; he has warm chemistry with the lovely Lou (Senta Berger is underused but does what she can with what little she is given) and shares a friendly antagonistic relationship with the scout Lou, played by Harve Presnell (Fargo) that develops into something somewhat meaningful by the end of the film. In one of his earliest film roles, James Caan steals his every scene as the goofy Irishman who grows to be a real soldier under the guidance of Harrod and the gruff Sergeant Gregory (the great Slim Pickens, always a character to watch, and one who would later work with Peckinpah on Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid). Andrew Duggan, who would later be featured in several of Larry Cohen’s earliest films including Bone and It’s Alive, is solid as the general lusting for victory and the accolades of his superiors and peers.
Fine supporting performances are contributed by Michael Anderson Jr. (Logan’s Run) and Wayne Rogers (M*A*S*H); Anderson had also appeared in Major Dundee for Peckinpah. As for the Cavalry’s Indian adversaries, the warring tribesmen are portrayed by a small army of hollering extras in bronzer and red bandannas. None of them stand out, serving no function in the story other than to give the Calvary troops moving targets to blast. It would have been nice for one or more of the Indians to develop into real characters, but that’s show business.
The Glory Guys makes its debut on Blu-ray with a solid 1080p high-definition transfer presented in the film’s original 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio that looks to have been sourced from a restored print prepared by MGM. Although the quality of the transfer hardly explodes from your television screen, colors are natural and authentic, fine detail in the foreground and background look equally sharp and pronounced, and grain has been reduced to an acceptable and consistent minimum, with only a few daylight scenes appearing chunkier on that front and for a brief time. The film’s original mono sound mix is replicated with clarity and spaciousness on the English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track; distortion is nowhere to be found and dialogue, music, and effects melt wonderfully together without cancelling each other out through unbalanced volume levels and overlap. English subtitles have also been provided.
Twilight Time’s Nick Redman is joined on an audio commentary track by fellow Peckinpah devotees and film historians Paul Seydor and Garner Simmons to discuss the legendary filmmaker’s involvement with The Glory Guys, adapting The Dice of God for the screen, thematic parallels between Laven’s film and Peckinpah’s own later masterworks as a director, and more. “Passion & Poetry: Senta & Sam” (26 minutes) finds the eternally ravishing Berger talking (in her native German, with English subtitles) about her professional and personal relationships with Peckinpah and sharing anecdotes from her film career. “The James Wong Howe Story” (8 minutes) is a short tribute to the renowned cinematographer narrated by Glory Guys star Tryon from decades ago that looks pretty rough for its age due to being transferred to video in the 90’s from an 8mm source.
“Promoting The Glory Guys” (3 minutes) is an animated still gallery documenting the film’s advertising campaign in the U.S. and around the world through posters, stills, and lobby cards, all set to the theme song. Another stills gallery features behind-the-scenes and production photos that you can page through manually. The original theatrical trailer (3 minutes), a trailer for MGM’s 90th anniversary, the Twilight Time catalogue, and that enjoyable booklet of liner notes written by Kirgo I mentioned at the beginning of this review close out a selection of supplements that is more than generous for a film that has fallen into obscurity in the years since it was first released.
The Film (4/5)
Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia
Director– Sam Peckinpah
Starring – Warren Oates, Isela Vega
Country of Origin- U.S./Mexico
Reviewer- Bobby Morgan
It’s impossible for me to love Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, at least in the way that one would love a gorgeous winter sunset or a four-course Italian dinner or watching their favorite NFL team triumph at the Super Bowl. Bring Me the Head is not about victory, or hope, or even love. It’s about greed… and failure…. and madness…. and ultimately loss. Its lifeblood is a combustible cocktail of cobra venom and tequila. This may not be Sam Peckinpah’s greatest film, but it was the one he was allowed to make without corporate interference and creative compromise. It is 100% pure uncut Bloody Sam, the confrontational master filmmaker’s most personal artistic achievement, and a bonafide masterpiece of down ‘n’ dirty action cinema.
In the performance of his career, Warren Oates is one magnificent bastard as Benny, an American expatriate working as a piano player in a lowdown Mexican saloon that brings him plenty of boozing opportunities but little in the way of financial compensation. He gets his shot at the brassiest of rings when he encounters a pair of well-dressed gentlemen (Robert Webber, Gig Young) looking for a man by the name of Alfredo Garcia. Benny dummies up because he doesn’t know Alfredo but he knows someone who does, his prostitute girlfriend Elita (Isela Vega). Further inquiry by Benny reveals that the powerful underworld titan El Jefe (Emilio Fernandez) has offered a reward of a million dollars for Garcia’s head because the handsome playboy impregnated the big man’s own daughter Theresa (Janine Maldonado).
What the small army of mercenaries and assassins hunting for Garcia’s noggin doesn’t know is that he’s already dead, which gives Benny all the incentive he requires to set out for the man’s grave with a shovel, machete, and Elita’s reluctant assistance, while cold-blooded killers and avaricious bandits trail his progress with the intention of seizing the gory prize for themselves.
Better writers than I have in the past devoted hundreds of thousands of the finest words in the English language to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia – the film, the history of its creation, its theme, the parallels between the main character and Peckinpah himself, etc. – and it is common knowledge among cinephiles that Sam Peckinpah never made a film on its level for the remainder of his career, though he continued to work until the day he died. Much like the introverted oil baron Daniel Plainview in the final scene of There Will Be Blood, I can imagine Peckinpah taking a look at his preferred cut of Alfredo Garcia (which he co-wrote with Gordon Dawson, his associate producer on The Ballad of Cable Hogue and The Getaway, from a story he conceived of with Frank Kowalski), the one that made it onto the silver screen unmolested by studio executives and weak-willed sneak preview audiences, and saying to himself in a raspy sigh of resignation and pleasure, “I’m finished.”
Films like The Killer Elite, Convoy, and The Osterman Weekend (I have yet to see Cross of Iron, but I hear good things) followed in the decade leading up to Peckinpah’s death, and although they displayed the occasional glimpse of Bloody Sam’s irreplaceable talent, they were shadows of the man’s true greatness. Abuse of alcohol and cocaine contributed to his fall from grace, but watching Alfredo Garcia one would not be thought of as a fool for seeing the film as Peckinpah’s testament to life, a tortured final masterwork where every frame is soaked in the booze, rage, and despair that leaked from the director’s pores uncontrollably. It’s like watching Sam’s soul perish slowly and agonizingly before our very eyes.
Yeah, Warren Oates is essentially playing a thinly-disguised screen alter ego of Peckinpah (right down to the perpetually hungover Benny’s mutual preference for wearing sunglasses most of the day), but Oates gave the performance of his career as a halfway decent human being driven to madness and murder in the name of self-preservation, even if in the end he walks away with nothing of what he set out to earn. Alfredo’s decapitated, fly-riddled dome plays poor Yorick to Benny’s pathetic wretch of a Hamlet as the film becomes the sort of oddball buddy comedy a certifiable lunatic might dream of in its final, blood-soaked act.
The hauntingly beautiful Mexican actress Isela Vega hits all the right emotional notes and shoulders the dramatic burden of the narrative through the tender scenes she shares with Oates and one indescribably powerful moment where she turns a potential rape at the hands of a sleazebag biker (Kris Kristofferson) into a more personal encounter that forever alters who she is in the eyes of the man she loves and proves once and for all that her and Benny have no shot at a happy future together. If Oates provides the film with its decaying soul, Vega gives it a heart that continues to beat no matter how much verbal and physical abuse it takes.
Emilio Fernandez, who previously essayed the role of the odious General Malpache in The Wild Bunch for Peckinpah, has a depraved blast as the savage crime lord who has his own daughter’s arm broken and a bounty placed on the head of the man who impregnated her and then happily plays the doting grandpa to the adorable product of their carnal union he so brutally condemned. The remorseless killers shadowing Benny’s every move are portrayed with level-headed cool by Robert Webber (The Dirty Dozen) and Gig Young (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), and the film’s executive producer Helmut Dantine oozes vile charisma in his brief scenes as another mysterious individual with a vested interest in Alfredo Garcia’s head.
The music score by Peckinpah’s preferred composer Jerry Fielding is astounding and one of his best, a skin-crawling symphonic cauldron brew of misery and melancholy, and the cinematography by the great Mexican director of photography Alex Phillips Jr. (who later shot films as eclectic as The Devil’s Rain, Good Luck Miss Wyckoff, Sorceress, and several titles for Cannon) brings out the simmering hostility and authentic beauty in the South of the Border locations.
Twilight Time first released Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia on Blu-ray in March 2014, but that edition sold out soon after it went up for sale. Luckily for those of you who missed out on that disc but don’t want to pay hefty prices for a copy on eBay, this Encore Edition is the answer to your prayers. The video and audio quality are pretty much the same as the first Blu; the 1.85:1 widescreen-framed 1080p high-definition transfer is very sharp and pleasing to the eyes, with only minimal print damage noticeable in second unit establishing footage. Colors are natural and warm and close-up reveal the strongest improvement in detail. The film was released with a mono soundtrack so don’t expect a barn burner from the English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 track, but despite occasional problems of audibility with the dialogue that likely originated with the source elements there is no distortion and the music and sound effects – in particular the gunfire and screeching tires – pack a bit of a punch. Fielding’s music score gets its own isolated audio track, and English subtitles have also been provided.
The selection of bonus features is identical to the 2014 Blu-ray, with one major new addition: an audio commentary with Peckinpah's assistant Katy Haber and film historians Paul Seydor and Nick Redman. One of the Twilight Time label’s co-founders as well as the producer of the wonderful 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary short The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage and any other supplemental featurettes for the DVD releases of Peckinpah films, Redman can also be heard on the other two commentaries in this set – the first was produced for the first Blu-ray release of Alfredo Garcia and finds him conversing with writer-producer Gordon Dawson, while the second was ported over from MGM’s 2005 Region 1 DVD and also includes Seydor and fellow Peckinpah biographers Garner Simmons and David Weddle. Between these three tracks there isn’t a subject relating to the film or its fearless director that isn’t discussed in great detail, but the Haber and Dawson commentaries offer a fantastic amount of personal insight from their experiences working with and knowing Sam Peckinpah.
“Passion & Poetry: Sam’s Favorite Film” (58 minutes) was produced several years ago by Mike Siegel as part of a multi-chapter examination of the director’s life and career and included on an earlier Region 2 DVD release of the film. As far as retrospective documentaries go, this is about as extensive as it gets when it comes to Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, bringing in most of the surviving principal players to share their memories of working on this classic. Peckinpah himself can also be heard from beyond the grave via audio recordings of him reading passages from an early draft of the screenplay. Biographer Simmons is one of the individuals interviewed for “Passion” but he gets to hold court solo in “A Writer’s Journey: Garner Simmons with Sam Peckinpah in Mexico” (27 minutes), where the writer talks about how he first came to know the director when he went to interview him for his book and ended up appearing in Alfredo Garcia briefly.
“Promoting Alfredo Garcia” (6 minutes) is a full-motion gallery of posters, lobby cards, and other materials used to sell the film around the world. Six television spots (4 minutes), the original theatrical trailer (2 minutes), a trailer for MGM’s 90th anniversary (2 minutes), and a booklet of liner notes written by Julie Kirgo wrap up an impressive collection of bonus features for one of Twilight Time’s essential releases and a blast of a Blu-ray any fan of violent, uncompromising filmmaking cannot do without.
The Film (5/5)
9 to 5
Director- Colin Higgins
Starring – Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dabney Coleman, Dolly Parton
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
I used to see this movie frequently during the eighties when it aired on television seemingly every weekend. Not having seen the movie for at least thirty years, and given a Blu-ray release, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to watch 9 to 5 at least one more time and possibly more.
9 to 5, also called Nine to Five, is the story about three women Judy Bernly (Jane Fonda, On Golden Pond), Violet Newstead (Lily Tomlin, Flirting With Disaster) and Doralee Rhodes (country music singer Dolly Parton) all working for Consolidated Companies, who want to get even with their boss, Mr. Richard Hart (Dabney Coleman, Cloak and Dagger, Drexell’s Class) because he is a “sexist lying egotistical, hypocritical bigot”. Hart is indeed just that; he’s a verbally abusive, sexist pig, who also has a right-hand woman, Roz (Elizabeth Wilson, The Day of the Dolphin) telling him gossip and other things which isn’t any of their business.
Hart refuses to promote Violet because she’s a female; he makes passes at Doralee, constantly staring at her cleavage, and spreading rumors that he’s sleeping with her, basically doing things one could no longer get away with at the office in today’s workforce society (sexual harassment and discrimination didn’t exist in the eighties, I suppose)
On one particular day where both Doralee and Violet are quite enraged over Hart and go for a drink, they wind up smoking marijuana along with Judy and imagine ways to get even with him and having a good laugh. One of the ways dreamed up was poisoning him, which nearly winds up becoming a reality when Violet accidently puts rat poisoning in his coffee. What she believes is that Hart drank the coffee and is being rushed to the hospital and dies, but what Violet doesn’t know is that he didn’t drink the coffee (he simply bumped his head on a desk). This leads to all kinds of antics including the three ladies taking what they think is Hart’s dead body to Violet’s car and driving off to avoid the autopsy. Of course it wasn’t Hart in the trunk; he’s recovered from the bump on the head, leaves the hospital and goes back to the office. He tells the three ladies that he plans to prosecute them attempted murder, knowing that they did want to kill him with poison. The three ladies decide the best defense against Hart is to blackmail him, which they do discover an embezzlement scheme, but it will take six weeks to obtain the proof that they need. They ‘kidnap’ Hart, with a plan to keep him tied up, literally, until they receive the evidence. It nearly works but Hart escapes and at the last possible second, just before he’s ready to call the police and prosecute the three girls, along comes the Chairman of the Board, Russell Tinsworthy (veteran actor Sterling Hayden, The Long Kiss Goodbye) to unknowingly save the day. He’s come to congratulate Hart because of the increase in productivity, which was actually due to Violet, Judy and Doralee’s ideas and changes made to the company while Hart was ‘tied up’. He saves the day and sends Hart to Brazil to head operations over there.
This is a funny, entertaining film with a great cast of veteran actors; all of them giving excellent performances. The song 9 to 5 was Dolly Parton’s biggest hit of the eighties and she would become an iconic singer soon after. The film itself came from an idea from Jane Fonda who wanted to do a movie about women in the workplace.
9 to 5, courtesy of Twilight Time has been given Blu-ray release and the results are really good, if not spectacular. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video. Colors are pretty sharp, with great details; the daylight scenes look splendid. The skin tones look fine, grain is present and there is no signs of DNR being used.
The audio used for the film, DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 has been used and music, dialog, gun shots and other sound effects are perfectly fine with no audio drop-offs or other issues. There are English subtitles for this release.
This release is loaded with extras. In addition to the isolated track score, this release has two audio commentaries. The first commentary is with Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton and producer Bruce Gilbert. The second commentary is with screenwriter Patricia Resnick and film historians Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. Even more extras include Nine @ 25 revisiting a comedy classic, remembering Colin Higgins, Singing Nine to Five Karaoke, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin Interviews, deleted scenes, animation reel, gag reel, and original theatrical trailer. Rounding out the extras is the always welcomed booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. This release is limited to 3,000 copies as is the case from 99% of Twilight Time’s films. 9 to 5 to this day is a timeless classic and has been given a great release, with a beautiful HD presentation, superior audio and loaded with supplements, this one comes very highly recommended!
The Film (4/5)
From Noon ‘Til Three
Director- Frank D. Gilroy
Starring – Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Douglas Fowley
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
From Noon Till Three is a Western satire of sorts. Graham Dorsey (Charles Bronson, Murphy’s Law) is (reluctantly) riding with a small gang of robbers, including Buck Bowers (veteran actor Douglas Fowley, Charlie Chan on Broadway) with to rob a small town bank. He gets left behind because he had to shoot his horse down as it was injured. They attempt to buy a horse for him to continue riding from Amanda Starbuck (Jill Ireland, who appeared Death Wish II along with Bronson) who claims that she doesn’t have any.
When Dorsey goes to look in the barn to see if she’s lying, he does find a horse in the stable, but doesn’t tell his comrades. They leave without Dorsey, who stays with Amanda. For the few hours they are together, From Noon Till There, hence the movie’s title, they make love, fall in love, dance, get dressed up in formal attire, and share memories. Learning that the four robbers were caught and will be hanged for their crimes, Amanda insists that Graham go and help his comrades. He leaves, and winds up getting chased by a posse and killed..well not exactly. He was mistakenly identified as the dead body, but Dorsey is very much alive. Amanda, thinking he’s dead writes a book about her three unforgettable hours she had with him. It’s a huge success! Dorsey returns only to find out that nobody believes he’s still alive, including Amanda! This leads to a startling finale.
From Noon Till Three is a fun film, lighthearted and a good weekend morning matinee type of films. Bronson isn’t the hard hitting hombre in this movie which was a change of pace for the actor. This movie is also known for the “Hello and Goodbye Song”. This would be the second to last Western Charles Bronson was in, as his final one that he acted in was The White Buffalo. He was in eighteen Westerns total.
Twilight Time’s release of From Noon Till Three on Blu-ray is a dandy. The film looks terrific in HD. It is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video. Colors are sharp, crystal clear, with great details, daylight scenes look just fantastic. The skin tones look fine, grain is present. No print damages to report. This looks more like a film that was made more recently than 1976.
The audio used for the film, DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 has been used and music, dialog, gun shots and other sound effects are perfectly fine with no drop-offs or other issues. There are optional English subtitles for this release.
Extras for From Noon Till Three isn’t very much; basically there is the usual Twilight Time standard isolated score track, and the original theatrical trailer. The other extra is the always welcomed booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. This release is limited to 3,000 units.
Another classic has been released on Blu-ray, thanks to Twilight Time. Even though it lacks extras, the film is very entertaining and the picture quality more than make up for that. Another great release that is recommended!
The Film (3.5/5)
Director- J.Lee Thompson
Starring – Charles Bronson, Carrie Snodgrass, Kathleen Wilhoite
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Murphy’s Law was another title, when announced for a Blu-ray release from Twilight Time, received a lot of hoopla. Having not seen the movie, I decided to watch it via streaming to see what all the excitement was bout and I thoroughly enjoyed it; and now it’s part of my Blu-ray collection.
In Murphy’s Law we are introduced to Jack Murphy (Charles Bronson, Death Wish, House of Wax) is a hard-nosed tough guy police detective who is also a heavy drinker due his personal life being a disaster. His ex-wife, Jan (Angela Tompkins, Alligator) is a stripper which greatly upsets him, and would love for her to come back home. On one evening when he visits his ex-wife, Murphy is framed for murder by Joan Freeman (Carrie Snodgrass, The Attic). She is seeking revenge on Murphy for arresting her for murdering her significant other and everyone associated with it including Murphy’s partner, the prosecutor and others)He gets arrested for three murders that he didn’t commit, one including his ex-wife, but he quickly escapes imprisonment with a petty thief that he was handcuffed to at the police station. But she’s more than just a petty thief; she is someone that he locked up for stealing his car. She is the often foul-mouthed, wild child, Arabella McGee(Kathleen Wilhoite, Angel Heart). Arabella has blessed with the gift of gab, with dozen great dirty, funny insults that possibly inspired the Beavis and Butthead characters. Murphy and Arabella form an unholy alliance; she helps Murphy clear his name and also assists in helping him battle a mob and eventually, the crazy, cunning and very dangerous Joan Freeman.
Murphy’s Law might not be the most original movie out there, as it borrowed elements from similar films; basically it’s Cape Fear meets 48 Hours. Despite the lack of originality, the film is a fantastic nonstop action crime thriller that doesn’t disappoint! The acting is really good with Bronson enjoying his role as a cop(his best roles are when he’s holding a gun) , with Kathleen Wilhoite stealing the show with her endless insults (“monkey vomit” “dinosaur dorks” among other, more adult themed wise cracks). J. Lee Thompson holds it all together with a great directing job, keeping the film moving at a good pace. This was the sixth film Thompson and Bronson paired up on.
Murphy’s Law, courtesy of Twilight Time has been given Blu-ray release and the results are really good, if not spectacular. Given an HD master from MGM, the film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video. Colors are pretty vivid, with great details, daylight scenes look fantastic. The skin tones look fine, grain is present. It was very enjoyable just watching to view the Blu-ray quality.
The audio used for the film, DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 has been used and music, dialog, gun shots and other sound effects are perfectly fine with no drop-offs or other issues. There are English subtitles for this release.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary with actress Kathleen Wilhoite and Nick Redman, an isolated score track, and the original theatrical trailer. Rounding out the extras is the always welcomed booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. This release is limited to 3,000 Copies. This is a very recommended
The Film (3.5/5)
Tony Rome/Lady in Cement
Director– Gordon Douglas
Starring – Frank Sinatra Jill St. John, Richard Conte, Raquel Welch, Martin Gabel
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
My mother and I, both big fans of Frank Sinatra’s music and because she had a couple of his movies in her DVD collection, Tony Rome and Lady in Cement, I borrowed her movies and watched them both. I thoroughly enjoyed them and added both films to my own DVD collection. Now, years later, I’m happy to say that these have recently been given the blu ray treatment as a double feature courtesy of Twilight Time.
Frank Sinatra stars as the title character of the first movie, Tony Rome, a Miami based tough-guy former cop who is now a private detective. The case which he has been hired to do, is to locate a missing diamond pin that was taken from the wealthy Diana Pines (Sue Lyon, Alligator). Searching for this pin leads to many dead bodies and a lot of characters such as strippers, drug dealers, and other low-lives and it’s up to Rome to discover who the murderer is and how this relates to the missing pin. This is a great hard-hitting mystery, with plenty of action, great dialog and Sinatra enjoying his role as Tony Rome. Director Douglas keeps the nearly two hour film moving as a great pace with no let up on the action. The only downside to Tony Rome is that two ‘name’ actors, Richard Conte, as Lt. Dave Santini (and a friend of Rome) and Jill St. John as Ann Archer seemingly don’t have much to do in this picture. Conte would return in the sequel with a bigger role.
Lady in Cement, the sequel to the first feature has Tony Rome discovering a naked dead blonde lady, at the bottom of the ocean. Her feet have are surrounded by a cement block, to ensure she drowned and being unable to swim to the surface. Rome reports this to this Lt. Dave Santini (Richard Conte, returning from the first film) start investigating for the murderer of this woman, but gets sidetracked by a very large man Waldo Gronski (Dan Blocker, The Girl in Black Stockings), who hires Rome to look for a missing person named Sandra Lomax (Christine Todd). This scene reminded me so much of the 1944 blockbuster, Murder My Sweet with big Mike Mazurki, hiring Dick Powell to find his “Velma”. During his investigation Rome crosses paths with Kit Forrester (Raquel Welch, One Million Years BC, Fathom) as she hosted a party that Sandra was to be at. She offers to help Rome, and gets romantically involved with him. This leads to Rome getting in too deep with the investigation, with both the police and gangsters pursuing him as well as a few more murders. And could it be that the missing Sandra Lomax was the “Lady in Cement” at the beginning of this picture?
Lady in Cement is another lively entry in the Tony Rome series. Frank Sinatra is just terrific in his role as Rome; the performances of the cast which also includes Lainie Kazan (Lust in the Dust) and Richard Deacon (Piranha) are good, well maybe this wasn’t Raquel Welch’s finest moment in acting but we can forgive her because she looks just insanely beautiful in this picture. Director Douglas once again, as he did in Tony Rome keeps the movie going with a lot of action, suspense and a little corny with some tongue in cheek humor(but not enough to make the film a comedy). There are a few zany characters, a lot of cheesecake, a lesbian couple, some great hip music and a couple of psychedelic scenes to remind us that yes, this movie was made in the late sixties.
Both Tony Rome and Lady in Cement are presented in 1080p MPEG 4 with an AVC Encode; both are letterboxed in their original aspect ratios of 2:35:1. The picture quality of Tony Rome is quite good. The colors look vivid with excellent details; there a few blips but nothing major. The flesh tones look a little on the red side at times, but overall this is visually pleasing. Lady in Cement also looks really good, daylight and underwater scenes look really sharp, excellent colors; the flesh tones look fine here. Black levels for the two movies are terrific. Both films overall simply look stunning in high definition!
The audio used both Tony Rome and Lady in Cement is English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0, no audio drop-outs or anything wrong. The unforgettable musical scores in films, the dialog, and gun shots are all loud and clear. There are optional English subtitles for this release
Extras include isolated score tracks for both Tony Rome and Lady in Cement; Tony Rome has a commentary by film historians Eddy Friedfeld, Anthony Latino, Lee Pfieffer and Paul Scrabo, and rounding the extras off are the original theatrical trailers for both films.
Last but not least there is the always welcome booklet by Julie Kirgo who essays both films.
Twilight Time has released two great films, for the price of one. The audio and video quality for both films are excellent, with some good extras make this a very satisfying release.
The Film (3.5/5 - Tony Rome, 3.5/5 - Lady in Cement)
Eye of the Needle
Director– Richard Marquand
Starring – Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Stephen Mackenna
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Several years ago, as someone who loves to try various films and film genres, I decided to do some exploring with some spy thrillers, such as Three Days of the Condor, Day of the Jackal, and a film that has finally gotten a Blu-ray release courtesy of Twilight Time; that film is Eye of the Needle
Donald Sutherland (Dr. Terrors House of Horrors, Invasion of the Body Snatchers,Virus)stars as the title character -Heinrich Faber aka The Needle. Faber has been given the nickname “The Needle” because he kills people with a stiletto. Taking place during World War II, Faber is German spy who, while in England, obtains vital information about D-Day. He plans to go to Germany to share the information but the boat he’s on gets shipwrecked during a storm and winds up on ‘storm island’.
Heinrich gets help from Lucy (Kate Nelligan ,Fatal Instinct, Wolf) and her wheelchair bound, unhappy husband David (Christopher Cazenove,Royal Flash, Zulu Dawn). This leads to a romantic subplot with Lucy, who is unloved by David because he’s in a wheelchair, falls in love with Heinrich, who is hiding the truth about himself to her as he has fallen for her. David discovers that Heinrich is a Germany spy and gets killed trying to stop him. She stumbles across his dead body in the ocean and learns the hard truth about Heinrich, leading to a great cat and mouse sequence chase in a rainstorm
Eye of the Needle is just an outstanding spy thriller. The acting is outstanding with excellent direction, coupled with a great musical score, and a great deal of suspense. It captures the spy atmosphere that these films need to succeed. Donald Sutherland, who at this point in time (1981) had been acting for nearly twenty years, has now become an icon, and still making films and television shows, now fifty years later. Director Richard Marquand, who did such a great job with this movie, went on to direct what was most likely his biggest blockbuster, Star Wars Part VI Return of the Jedi. He passed away at the young age of 50
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray release Eye of the Needle is fantastic. Starting with the image quality, the film (given an HD master from MGM) in its original aspect ratio of 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video, overall simply looks stunning. Having owned the MGM DVD, this Blu-ray release is easily a vast improvement over it. Colors are vivid, sharp with great details, daylight scenes look fantastic. The skin tones look spot on. While not perfect in every single frame, generally speaking this looks the best that I’ve seen it. I was very pleased with viewing it in HD.
The audio used for the film, DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 has been used and the excellent musical score, dialog, gun shots and other sound effects are perfectly fine with no drop-offs or other issues. There are English subtitles for this release.
Extras for this release include an audio commentary with music historian Jon Burlingame and Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman an isolated score track, the original theatrical trailer. Rounding out the extras are the always welcomed booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo. This release is limited to 3,000 Copies. Recommended!
The Film (4.5/5)
Director- Fred Schepisi
Cast- Sean Connery, Michelle Pfeiffer, Klaus Maria Brandauer
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Tyler Miller
Barley Scott-Blair (Sean Connery), is the head of a popular British publishing firm, who just happens to meet an odd writer named Dante (Klaus Maria Brandauer) in Moscow. Dante starts dropping hints about change in Russia and a few months later a beautiful woman named Katya (Michelle Pfeiffer) drops off a stack of manuscripts that hint at Russia’s plans for conquest, and possible nuclear war. Before Barely can leave, he is forced into working with the British secret service led by an agent named Ned (James Fox) to meet Katya and uncover what Dante wants to do. So now Barley is trapped being a spy, but can the British trust him, or is he a bedfellow with the Russian government?
The works of John Le Carre (the pen name of writer David John Moore Cornwell) have had an interesting impact on espionage films, TV shows, and fellow novels. Focusing on harsh realism with insider slang, Le Carre wanted to make Anti-Bond novels with depth and fascinating characters. Probably best known for his novels “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” and “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold”, Le Carre quickly became a master of the spy genre. It didn’t take long before his books were turned into movies and tv miniseries.
THE RUSSIA HOUSE (1990) is the most romantically filmed and epic in scope of the Le Carre films I’ve seen. Unlike some of the previous films, like the 1965 THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD starring Richard Burton, this adaptation isn’t filled with dread and harsh cinematography. THE RUSSIA HOUSE is colorful and big. The camera work flows and there are some good melodramatic story beats. The only downside to this lush production is the focus on the romance and not the suspense. Throughout the movie there seems to be a lack of danger. None of the characters expect for Katya and Dante actually fill scared or stressed out of the cat and mouse games going on. Despite this issue, the movie is wonderfully entertaining.
The whole cast gives marvelous performances, Sean Connery’s Barley is right up there with Alec Guinness and Gary Oldman as George Smiley in the two versions of TINKER TAILOR SOILDER SPY (1979 BBC & 2011), as one of my favorite Le Carre characters. Connery goes through a wide range of emotions and is very likeable. Michelle Pfeiffer’s accent fits the character and she is totally believable. Connery and Pfeiffer’s chemistry together also saves what could’ve been a dull mystery. The rest of the cast is a great mix of talent. James Fox, Roy Scheider, John Mahoney, and even Ken Russell (who directed the notorious, THE DEVILS) all deliver solid performances that highlight the scale of the drama.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray is an incredible upgrade on previous DVD editions. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio Track is well leveled with no errors or pops. The dialogue and music sound next too perfect. Speaking of music, Jerry Goldsmith’s jazzy and noir-ish soundtrack is highlighted in the Isolated score track. This is one of my favorite Goldsmith tracks. The amount of raw emotion and joy for love, make this track a must listen. The movie comes with easy to read English subtitles with white text. The 1080p HD transfer is outstanding. The amount of detail in every shot is wonderful. The look of the film is clean with no noticeable digital noise.
On the Extra side of things, we get an 8-minute featurette called “Building The Russia House”, the original theatrical trailer for the film, and a MGM 90th anniversary trailer. To top the package off, there’s a booklet with an article on the film by Julie Kirgo and plenty of production stills. THE RUSSIA HOUSE Blu-ray is limited to 3000, so if you’re a fan of the film and John Le Carre, this disc is highly recommended.
The Film (4/5)
I Could Go On Singing
Director: Ronald Neame
Cast: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde
Country of Origin- U.K.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
I Could Go on Singing is one of the best examples of how the right star can single-handedly elevate a movie. The script, adapted by Mayo Simon from a “Studio One” episode, is a very familiar melodrama about a singer who reunites with the son who gave up at birth and his father. It’s well-worn material even for 1963, when the film was released, and yet the fact that the singer in question is played by Judy Garland is enough to make it feel fresh. It’s impossible not to watch Garland - playing world-famous singer Jenny Bowman - and reflect on the parallels between the charismatic, troubled Bowman and Garland herself. The parallels surely weren’t lost on the filmmakers, and I Could Go on Singing could have easily felt exploitative if it weren’t for Garland herself, who was seemingly incapable of a dishonest moment onscreen.
The movie begins with Jenny visiting her ex, David (Dirk Bogarde); the two had a child fifteen years earlier and agreed that David would raise him in England. From the beginning, there are references to the toll show business has taken on Jenny, not just the sacrifices she’s made but physically, as David, a doctor, diagnoses Jenny’s vocal strain as the consequence of too much drinking and smoking. Garland had rarely appeared onscreen in the decade since A Star is Born, and it must’ve been bracing for audiences in 1963 to see her as a woman in her forties who has visibly lived hard. I feel embarrassed even referencing an actress’s appearance, and it’s not like she’s Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler here, but I mention it because, as much as Garland had a reputation for being fragile and emotionally insecure, her performance here is remarkably free of vanity.
Jenny convinces David to let her visit her teenage son, Matt (Gregory Phillips), although the boy doesn’t know his dad’s friend is actually her mother. Against David’s wishes, Jenny and Matt spend a couple of days together in London while his father is out of town. Garland’s scenes with her young co-star bring out her more playful side, even as she doesn’t shy away from her character’s more self-absorbed moments. Her performance often reminds of a tougher, more self-deprecating Vicki Lester from A Star is Born, and Jenny’s relationship with Matt has echoes of Garland’s connection with her largely gay, male fanbase. Not that it’s ever hinted at that Matt is gay, but the middle section the movie is largely a fantasy of what it would be like to be Judy’s little buddy/estranged son. Not to mention that, towards the beginning, Jenny attends a school performance of H.M.S. Pinafore with Matt in drag. Maybe I’m reading too much into it - it is a boys’ school - but they could have made him a sailor and didn’t, is all I’m saying.
The movie’s most electric moments, naturally, are when Garland is onstage, and director Ronald Neame (who’d most famously direct The Poseidon Adventure a decade later but was already a veteran at this point) is smart enough to block those scenes simply and handsomely and get out of the way. He also shines in the movie’s best scene, when David goes to pick up a drunk Jenny at the hospital; Garland’s mesmerizing, emotionally raw performance, alternating between bitterness and regret, is captured in an unbroken seven-minute take that is more remarkable for never calling attention to itself. Bogarde apparently helped Garland reshape the scene and much of her dialogue throughout the movie; it’s not a showy role, but he provides strong support, as does a young Jack Klugman as Jenny’s manager. However, Garland, in her final film role, is the main attraction here; the movie is tailored to its star, sometimes imperfectly, but it’s a must-see for Judy’s fans.
Twilight Time’s Blu-ray of I Could Go on Singing presents the movie in a 1080p HD transfer that preserves the movie’s original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. It’s a strong, pleasantly filmic presentation, particularly in the musical performances (filmed at the London Palladium); the “By Myself” sequence, with Judy wearing a red dress against a red backdrop, is particularly eye-popping. When the movie is offstage, the quality varies a bit, with some scenes noticeably grainier than others (though in a way that looks like the transfer is probably accurate to the movie’s original look). The DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is strong throughout, and Twilight Time’s standard option of an alternate audio-only track - presented in 2.0 stereo - is a treat for Garland fans. Two commentaries are included, the first with screenwriter Lem Dobbs, Twilight Time’s Nick Redman and the film’s producer, Lawrence Turman; it’s an entertaining conversation that veers into Turman’s work on other films like The Graduate, and I was surprised to hear him mostly discuss Garland in terms of her erratic behavior on the set, as her performance onscreen seems totally committed. The second commentary, by film historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros, is focused on Garland. Two theatrical trailers and a TV spot are also included, and an excellent essay by Julie Kirgo is included in the disc’s insert.
The Film (3.5/5)
Romeo is Bleeding
Director: Peter Medak
Cast: Gary Oldman, Lena Olin, Annabella Sciorra
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
While movies named for songs don’t usually derive a lot of their meaning from the songs themselves, it’s easy to find echoes of Romeo is Bleeding in the Tom Waits song about a crook who stabs a sheriff before being shot in the chest.* The song describes a swaggering tough guy who is bleeding “but not so as you’d notice,” ultimately dying in a movie theater balcony - “an angel with a bullet and Cagney on the screen.” The protagonist of Romeo is Bleeding is not a gangster but a crooked cop, but the movie is a chronicle of its tough guy hero bleeding out in slow motion.
The movie opens with the cop, Jack Grimaldi (Gary Oldman) at a bar in the desert, explaining via voiceover (the movie proudly announces itself as a noir from the start) that he’s going to tell us how he got there. Jack’s corrupt from the start - doing favors from the mob - and a womanizer, bouncing between his long-suffering wife, Natalie (Annabella Sciorra) and a jailbait mistress, Sheri (Juliette Lewis, in the role she played about a dozen times in the early nineties). The movie was released squarely in the middle of Gary Oldman’s string of charismatic sleazeball roles, and he’s in full sweaty, bug-eyed mode here; he’s mesmerizing, but we wonder how Jack’s even made it this far, which is our first tip-off that director Peter Medak and screenwriter Hilary Henkin aren’t interested in making a “realistic” crime story. Romeo is Bleeding was one of many gritty, violent noir updates in the early ‘90s; Reservoir Dogs is the most famous, but the tone here reminds less of Tarantino than an alternately hyperbolic and self-deprecating update of The Postman Always Rings Twice and countless other movies where a praying mantis targets some poor sap who can’t stop thinking with his dick.
The femme fatale in question is Mona Demarkov (Lena Olin), a Russian mob assassin; Jack is supposed to kill her, but he’s almost immediately outwitted by her and literally caught with his pants down. The movie’s best running joke is that Mona, who is smarter and more powerful than Jack in every way, doesn’t need to outsmart him; he knows she’s trouble, he leaves all of their encounters badly injured (physically and psychically), but he can’t help himself. The movie’s high point sees a handcuffed Mona, in the back seat of Jack’s car, trying to choke him with her thighs as he tries not to crash. It’s a ludicrous moment, but it works, and Olin deserves a lot of credit for making the character work; she’s sexy and frequently undressed, but even as the camera leers at her, Olin finds the right balance between playing the character straight and allowing just enough of a smirk to creep in that we know she’s in control of Jack, the sadomasochistic scenarios she plays out with him, and the movie itself. Her performance and the movie are the logical extension of the previous year’s Basic Instinct, with the second half of the movie amounting to an extended, deadly role play, with a tough guy hero who discovers he was a bottom all along.
It’s kinky stuff, and had it been directed by Paul Verhoeven, it might have been a sleazy masterpiece. Not to knock Peter Medak, who gets strong performances out of his leads and supporting cast (particularly Roy Scheider as a frighteningly chilly mob boss), but the movie never quite finds the tone it needs to fully work. And while Hilary Henkin’s script cleverly skewers noir archetypes of masculinity, that Sciorra and Lewis’s characters are so underdeveloped dilutes the movie’s impact a bit, particularly with what could have been a devastating ending if we were more emotionally invested in the characters involved. Still, it’s a great deal of sleazy, guilty fun, and peak Gary Oldman; while the actor’s range is phenomenal, he never seems to be having more fun than when he’s playing a scumbag, and Romeo is Bleeding is no exception.
*Unless, of course, the movie is named for the Hall and Oates song.
Romeo is Bleeding is presented in a 1080p transfer that preserves the movie’s 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s a good-looking transfer, with excellent detail and rich contrast that compliment cinematographer Darius Wolski’s preference for noirish lighting and wide lenses. Occasional dirt and other damage are visible, particularly during the opening credits sequence, but it’s a strong presentation overall. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track is strong throughout, particularly when the action and Mark Isham’s score kick in. The score is given its own isolated track, though the theatrical trailer and an MGM 90th Anniversary trailer are the only other extras included. I would’ve enjoyed hearing a commentary by the Twilight Time crew on this film, especially since Julie Kirgo’s essay on the film, placing it in the context of the noir tradition, is typically insightful.
The Film (3.5/5)