Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Barbara Hershey, David Carradine
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
Of the many filmmakers and stars whose careers were given an early boost by Roger Corman, Martin Scorsese is one of the biggest names in a group that includes Francis Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Peter Bogdanovich and Joe Dante. Scorsese had already directed several shorts and the low-budget feature Who’s That Knocking at My Door and worked on a few documentaries, including Woodstock, when he was hired by Corman to direct a thematic follow-up to his hit Bloody Mama. While Scorsese would follow Boxcar Bertha with Mean Streets and see his career quickly take off, Boxcar Bertha remains an anomaly in his filmography that hints at the filmmaker he would become.
Based on Bertha Thompson’s fictionalized autobiography “Sister of the Road,” the film follows the titular character (Barbara Hershey) as she drifts through the Depression-era South and, with union leader “Big” Bill Shelly (David Carradine), fights the corrupt railroad companies. This soon leads to a life of crime, with Bertha turning tricks to get by and, eventually, robbing members of the elite at gunpoint in their mansions. Boxcar Bertha is one of several post-Bonnie and Clyde movies that romanticizes outlaws in love (see also: The Sugarland Express, Badlands, Thieves Like Us). While Corman’s production is an exploitation variation on this theme, easily meeting Corman’s quota of bare breasts per reel, Corman was also smart enough to recognize the value of hiring a young, talented and hungry director. It’s fascinating now to see Scorsese experimenting with stylistic devices that would go on to become trademarks of his - the freeze frames, rapid dolly shots and quick inserts that punctuate moments of violence in Boxcar Bertha are all over Raging Bull, Goodfellas and the rest of Scorsese’s body of work.
Viewed as a low-budget exploitation movie, Boxcar Bertha is well above average - it’s entertaining, tightly paced and skillfully acted (in addition to the leads, Bernie Casey stands out as one of Bill and Bertha’s partners in crime). If it’s not remembered as fondly as Scorsese’s other ‘70s output, it’s because it’s comparatively impersonal. Scorsese has said that, at its premiere, his mentor John Cassavetes bluntly told him the movie was “a piece of shit” and urged him to focus on more personal work. It’s not a piece of shit, but it’s a for-hire gig - Scorsese hasn’t shown much interest in this kind of earnest social drama since, and his antiheroes are far less romantic than Bonnie and Clyde.
There are glimpses of Scorsese inserting his preoccupations in the material, particularly with one character’s Christlike demise (it was on the set of Boxcar Bertha that Carradine gave Scorsese a copy of Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ; years later, Hershey would play Mary Magdalene in Scorsese’s adaptation of the book). Scorsese would learn to infuse his personal obsessions into commercial material more effectively as his career went on. Still, Boxcar Bertha allows one to imagine an alternate timeline where Scorsese is heralded by cinephiles as an underrated B-movie director.
Boxcar Bertha is presented in a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer at the film’s original aspect ratio of 1.85:1 The movie looks great throughout, clear and mostly free of scratches and debris while retaining a pleasantly filmic layer of grain. Skin tones, contrast and detail are strong throughout. The DTS-HD 2.0 mono audio is also solid, particularly whenever the film’s action kicks in. Extras are limited to an isolated score track and the film’s theatrical trailer. An audio commentary by Twilight Time’s film historians would have been a welcome addition; at least a written appreciation by Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo of Scorsese and the film is included with the disc.
The Film (3/5)
The Gang’s All Here
Director: Busby Berkeley
Cast: Alice Faye, James Ellison, Carmen Miranda
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Andrew Bemis
I must confess to having a blind spot with Busby Berkeley, who directed The Gang’s All Here for 20th Century Fox while on loan from MGM in the days when studios had the power to “loan” directors. Berkeley’s a director who I’m more familiar with through his influence on other movies and the many parodies of his style - like referring to a movie as “Lynchian,” calling a movie Busby Berkeley-esque conjures a general concept - in this case, a splashy, opulent mode of movie musical - without necessarily getting at the specifics of the genuine article. I was pleased to discover that, based on the evidence of The Gang’s All Here, Berkeley both lives up to his reputation and is far more weird, at times bordering on avant garde, than I ever would have guessed.
The movie opens on Broadway, where two muckety-mucks (Eugene Pallette and Edward Everett Horton) hire a ritzy club to put on a show to sell war bonds. Horton’s son Andrew (James Ellison) meets and woos singer Edie (Alice Faye) before shipping off; when he returns, she discovers he’s engaged to Pallette’s daughter Vivian (Sheila Ryan). It’s very thin sauce, assembled from formulas that were well worn even in 1943, as well as the patriotic sentiment of countless WWII-era Hollywood productions (the end titles include a reminder to buy bonds in the theater lobby). It barely matters that the story’s so familiar, though, or that the likable Faye and Ellison lack chemistry. The star here is Berkeley and his non-stop, frequently astounding musical numbers.
Early on, Carmen Miranda steals the spotlight from the two leads with the number “The Lady in the Tutti Frutti Hat,” her trademark “sexy fruit salad” attire complimented by a chorus of dancers wielding suggestively enormous bananas and strawberries. The garishness of the Oscar-nominated production design by James Basevi, Joseph C. Wright and Thomas Little is matched by cinematographer Edward Cronjager’s stunning Technicolor lighting and fluid, elaborate camerawork. The highlight is the movie’s final number, which progresses from a performance by the Benny Goodman Orchestra to a hallucinatory pink neon fantasia that somehow manages to anticipate both pop art and psychedelia (it’s fitting that the movie was a big hit in repertory screenings with dopers in the ‘60s). In lieu of resolving the “plot,” The Gang’s All Here ends up as a celebration of surreal, kaleidoscopic spectacle for its own sake, which Berkeley and his collaborators make a fine case for.
The Gang’s All Here is presented by Twilight Time in a 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer at the film’s original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The movie looks gorgeous throughout and the transfer is excellent, looking near-pristine without any excessive digital scrubbing. The contrast between the hot pinks and deep blacks in the final number is particularly jaw-dropping. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 mono audio is also strong throughout, particularly in the movie’s many musical numbers.
Two audio commentaries are included, the first with film historian Drew Casper and the second with film historians Glenn Kenny, Farran Smith Nehme and Ed Hulse. Both are highly informative, though the latter is more entertaining as the participants are able to play off each other (and I share Kenny’s anxiety at the sight of Eugene Pallette’s disembodied singing head in the final number). Also included are an isolated score track (including some dialogue and effects); a 20-minute retrospective “Busby Berkeley: A Journey with a Star”; a vintage 25-minute featurette featuring Alice Faye reminiscing about her filmography; a five-minute deleted scene; and the movie’s theatrical trailer. An essay by Julie Kirgo is included with the disc.
The Film (4/5)
Moscow on the Hudson
Cast-Robin Williams, Maria Conchita Alonso, Cleavant Derricks
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Bobby Morgan
The humor that often leaves the greatest impact does so with the sting of truth. More than three decades after its theatrical release, the late Paul Mazursky’s warm and honest human comedy Moscow on the Hudson remains a relevant, heartbreaking, and hilarious film that achieved classic status because it takes its characters and subject matter seriously and treats them with the upmost respect, grace, and love.
In one of his finest screen performances, Robin Williams plays Vladimir Ivanoff, a saxophone player with a Moscow circus who isn’t happy living in a country where the KGB practically monitor your every move and securing a decent pair of shoes and a few rolls of toilet paper require waiting in line for several hours, but it’s a life. His friend and colleague Anatoly (Elya Baskin) is fed up with living under a Communist regime and wants to defect to the United States and wants Vladimir to go with him, but Vladimir wouldn’t dream of doing so for fear of losing his family. While on a trip to New York City, their performing company makes a quick stop at Bloomingdale’s before heading to the airport and Vladimir, inspired by the sights and sounds of the city and the intoxicating sensation of living free, decides to defect.
If our optimistic hero thought living in the Soviet Union was rough, he finds life as an immigrant to be even worse. He makes a friend in Bloomingdale’s security guard Lionel (Cleavant Derricks), who agrees to let Vladimir live with him and his family until he can make his own way in the city, and falls in love with the store’s perfume saleswoman Lucia (Maria Conchita Alonso), herself an immigrant from Italy. With their support, Vladimir begins his long and arduous journey to becoming a full-fledged citizen of the U.S.
It’s a journey that tries this good man’s soul in every possible way. Moscow on the Hudson, which Mazursky also co-wrote with Leon Capetanos (his collaborator on Down and Out in Beverly Hills and Moon Over Parador), approaches Vladimir’s battle for American citizenship as a test of his character, one that essentially requires him to hit the reset button on his life and embrace the language, culture, and pace of a different country in order to survive. Mazursky and Capetanos refused to turn Moscow into a bleak exercise in metropolitan neorealism, instead using humor that emerges naturally from their three-dimensional creations and the dreams, flaws, and fears they all share to examine the travails any immigrant must go through as part of the process of becoming legal in this country.
Vladimir’s defection at Bloomingdale’s quickly brings him to the attention of Orlando Ramirez (Alejandro Rey), a fast-talking immigration lawyer who also immigrated to the U.S. by way of a raft to which he fled Cuba clinging. Although he has rich tastes that his vocation can modestly afford, Orlando takes pity on a fellow refugee from a Communist country and offers his services to Vladimir. Their relationship, as with the others realized in this film, is beautifully developed, and Mazursky bravely resists the urge to turn his characters into cardboard clichés who merely exist for the sake of cheap jokes.
Some of the best sources of humor in Moscow come from Vladimir realizing that America and Russia have more in common than the people would like to admit, but there’s also emotion to be found watching Williams, perfectly balancing comedy and drama in a way he would only be able to accomplish a few more times in his acting career, struggle with trying to establish a normal life for himself in a country where new experiences (including a few he would prefer to avoid) wait for him literally around every corner. His romance with Lucia is fun to watch due to the sweet chemistry Williams and Alonso (in one of her best performances in American cinema), but after a few scenes we start to get the feeling that their relationship will not be dictated by the demands of moviegoers wanting a happy ending but instead by the individual desires of the characters themselves.
It's not love that will allow Vladimir to conquer all in this new world, but his own unfailing optimism and resilience. However, it would not be truthful if those virtues were not put to the test a few times and almost shattered irreparably, as they are in several of the film’s most poignant scenes. We’re not watching the creaky mechanics of a machine-tooled script grind, but the new life of a spirited immigrant who still has enough gumption to face the absolute worst the world must offer and give it a knowing smile.
The performances from every member of the cast, including the underrated Derricks, are wonderful. Williams demonstrated his devotion to playing an authentic Russian by spending a year learning the language and almost as long becoming proficient in playing the saxophone. Special props for the supporting players must be given to Elya Baskin (Spider-Man 2) as Vladimir’s friend and inspiration for defecting, and real life Russian immigrant Saveliy Kramarov (2010: The Year We Make Contact) as a comically sad KGB operative whose own character arc has an amusing resolution. Yakov Smirnoff, the Ukrainian comedian who briefly achieved American stardom playing an exaggerated rendition of Williams’ bemused immigrant character, puts in a brief appearance because of course he does.
The cinematography by Donald McAlpine (Predator) and David McHugh’s (Mystic Pizza) understated music score both benefit greatly from Moscow on the Hudson’s first Region A Blu-ray release, which features an excellent 1080p high-definition transfer framed in the film’s original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture looks appropriately gray and drab during the earlier scenes in Moscow and the grain is heavier and details are less defined as well. Once the narrative moves to New York, the transfer really opens up with vibrant colors, sharpened details (best spotted in close-up shots and used to give texture and presence to the cluttered intimacy of Pato Guzman’s production design), and an abundance of depth. Twilight Time has provided this disc with 24-bit English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and 2.0 soundtracks which both act as bold and luxurious replications of the original theatrical Dolby sound mix with pleasing clarity on the dialogue (despite the many accents and languages the characters speak in throughout the film, everything can be heard very well) and a stirring integration of the music score and hectic sounds of the city that are quite prominent as Vladimir arrives in the Big Apple. English subtitles are also included.
Extra features include two commentary tracks, one with director Mazursky and the other with Twilight Time’s resident film historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, and an isolated score track in 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. The Blu-ray also comes with liner notes written by Kirgo.
The Film (4.5/5)
Director- Noel Black
Cast- Anthony Perkins, Tuesday Weld, Beverly Garland.
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Tyler Miller
Dennis Pitt (Anthony Perkins) is the new man in town, with a secret and dark past. He has recently skipped out on his previous town, and his parole officer (John Randolph). Dennis is deeply disturbed and seems desperate to leave, as he is already bored at his new job. While enjoying lunch at a burger stand, Dennis notices the perfect cheerleader named Sue Ann (Tuesday Weld). He runs up to her pretending he is a CIA agent and tries to get her to meet him.
Sue Ann is surprisingly too eager to listen to Dennis, and the two soon become a couple. The tables soon turn when Sue murders a night watchmen during a sabotage mission at Dennis’ workplace. The police are now involved and Sue keeps hinting that her mother (Beverly Garland) needs to be the next one to die.
Anthony Perkins is an actor that I constantly grow more respect for with each movie. After Alfred Hitchcock’s PSYCHO (1960), Perkins quickly became semi type cast as the sweet but ultimately creepy guy. In some ways, it seems like a curse, but after seeing him in small roles in bigger films like MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974) or as leads in smaller films like SOMEONE BEHIND THE DOOR (1971) or FIVE MILES TO MIDNIGHT (1962), his range even playing similar parts is beyond impressive. His work in PRETTY POISON (1968) is one of his most complex and hard to judge. In the movie, he is a fine balance between predator and prey, with an almost bipolar attitude when dealing with love for Sue Ann. The focus of the movie quickly switches from Perkins in charge to Weld dominating the second half.
PRETTY POISON is such a bizarre movie. It looks and sounds like Terrence Malick’s BADLANDS (1973) or BONNIE AND CYLDE (1967) meets Claude Chabrol. It starts as a romance built on crime, and then takes a violent left turn into a cold murder thriller in the same vein as Chabrol. There’s some dark comedy with their playful relationship, especially during the early “CIA” mission parts, but the darker message wrapped in is pure Americana turned on its head.
This was director Noel Black’s first film. Despite some behind the scenes problems, Black brings a Nouvelle Vague sense of style to the whole movie. The camera work is wild, and yet classical. The cold slow burn build up is hidden underneath the more comic moments. The movie uses scope and depth to impressive heights, and the cold-blooded treatment of the characters, give the presentation a tough edge. The falling of the pipe system near the river is the most impressive set piece. The editing is also experimental with a wide range of bizarre tricks, such as quick intercuts between the present and burning house flashbacks, and fun sound bridges such as a smack transition a burger being tossed on the grill.
The rest of cast is wonderful. Tuesday Weld (Michael Mann’s THIEF) does some of her best work here, mixing native charm, with a sinister short breath laugh. Beverly Garland (Roger Corman’s IT CONQUERED THE WORLD) is also fantastic as the bitter and vocally abusive mother. John Randolph (PRIZZI’S HONOR) is the solid voice of reason as the Parole officer. Dick O’Neill (the 1974 version of THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE) is the biggest surprise as the insulting boss in the chemical factory. Every scene with him is a fine mix of suspense and dark humor. PRETTY POISON is one of Anthony Perkins best films, and a damn fine suspense film that will stick with you once it’s over.
Twilight Time has yet again knocked another gorgeous transfer out of the park. The 1080p HD transfer is near perfect with a natural level of film grain. The picture is razor sharp with an impressive level of detail in every shot. The black levels are velvety smooth. Textures of hair and the leather of seats are also proudly detailed on display. The movie comes with a 1.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio track. The sound mix is well balanced with clear audio on all fronts. No hiss or crackles. The soundtrack by Johnny Mandel is a real gem, and even more so on the Isolated music and effects track. The Foley sounds are clear and the music doesn’t have any sudden drops in volume. Easy to read English subtitles are included.
Extras include two audio commentaries, with the first being with executive producer Lawrence Turman and film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman, and the second is with Director Noel Black and Film Historian Robert Fischer. Both tracks are filled to the gills with insight into the film with very little dead air. Rounding out the disc is the deleted script with commentary, and the original theatrical trailer. Inside the Blu-ray case is a handsome booklet of liner notes written by Julie Kirgo. Highly Recommended.
The Film (4/5)
Director- Mauro Bolognini
Cast- Shelly Winters, Max Von Sydow
Country of Origin- Italy
Reviewer- Tyler Miller
Based on the real-life crimes of Leonarda Cianciulli, known to the masses as the “Soap-Maker of Correggio”, GRAN BOLLITO tells the story of Lea (Shelly Winters), a lonely woman who has lost many children to bizarre accidents. Her only son Michele (Antonio Marsina) is her whole life, and the bond they share is a little too incestuous. Lea’s life seems completely out of control when she moves to her new home. Soon after her husband (Mario Scaccia) suffers from a stroke and Lea must now do all the heavy work. Her sanity starts to crack when Michele starts to drift away from her for the arms of his new girlfriend Sandra (Laura Antonelli). To cure her troubles, Lea starts to cook more. But her new special ingredient, may explain why some her friends keep disappearing.
GRAN BOLLITO (1977) is one of the strangest and most unexpected films I’ve ever seen. It’s a period drama set in the 30’s, that soon turns into a giallo thriller with the grisly murders. But to add the stew, the film is packed with an underling sense of dark humor, that never tips over into high camp. There’s camp elements here with the odd, but later inspired casting of three men in central female roles. But the actors are respectful to the material and quickly blend into their roles without batting an eye. The film then surprises us again by having the three men reincarnated as new characters that ultimately bring Lea to her doom. Accounting to the excellent commentary housed on this disc, originally the film was to have starred Laura Betti (Mario Bava’s HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON and BAY OF BLOOD) as a more sinister version of Lea, but having Winters in the role adds a more human element to film, and an unusual uneasiness.
Director Mauro Bolognini (THE MURRI AFFAIR), came from a background in set design and composition, so it’s no surprise that the movie is huge in scope and full of life. The quiet thriller of a movie takes place in the huge openness of a gone by Italy. The setting not only draws you in, it also helps you sink into the underling melodrama. While casting Betti wouldn’t most likely turned this movie into a darker giallo, with Winters in the role, the story is more tragic and believable, despite some of the outlandish elements at play. The soundtrack by Enzo Jannacci is poetic and haunting, with a fantastic and gets stuck in your head song, Vita Vita by Mina. The murder set pieces themselves are striking and deeply unsettling. The beheadings are quick and swift with the buildup completely catching the audience off guard.
Shelly Winters (NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, S.O.B) is at her most subtle and gives a truly tragic and symptomatic performance. The three men playing women are Max von Sydow (THE EXORCIST), Renato Pozzetto (LA BABY SITTER), and Alberto Lionello (THE VIRGO THE TAURUS AND THE CAPRICORN) and all three of them are completely believable as flesh and blood women with personality. Of the three, Max Von Sydow is oddest and campiness, the sight of him in a pink dress is a sight to behold. GRAN BOLLITO is one of the oddest films around, but for an offbeat thriller it’s strange and tragic.
Twilight Time gives GRAN BOLLITO the grand treatment in terms of transfer. The 1080p HD picture looks fantastic, with a few overly bright scenes. The blur effects pop up a few times, but isn’t too distracting. The amount of texture and detail is impressive with single hairs being able to be picked out. The black levels are smooth and there’s a thin layer of natural film grain. The movie comes with the Italian 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The audio is crisp and clear with no noticeable hiss or pops. The score especially sounds nice and has a High-quality CD feel to it. Easy to read English subtitles are included.
Extras are slim, but what we have is excellent. The major extra is a commentary by Film Historians David Del Valle and Derek Botelho. The commentary is a blast to listen to. There’s almost zero dead air and the track is full of insight into the original murder case, the production of the movie, the life of Shelley Winters, and the Italian film industry in general. The commentary is worth buying the Blu-ray for alone. The theatrical trailer is also included. There’s also a packet of liner notes written by Julie Kirgo on the film. GRAN BOLLITO comes Highly Recommended.
The Film (4/5)
Director- Woody Allen
Cast- Woody Allen, Jessica Harper
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- Scott MacDonald
2 filmmakers I absolute love are Woody Allen and Federico Fellini. Fellini's film 8 1/2 has been one of my favorite films since the first time I watched it in film school over a decade ago. Soon after that first viewing I was to find out that Allen would take his distinct vision, and apply it to the template set by Fellini almost 2 decades before. The result would be Allen's 1980 film Stardust Memories.
Stardust Memories stars Allen as Sandy Bates a filmmaker who is attending a retrospective of his own work. During the event he is frequently told by fans that they prefer his "earlier, funnier" films. In the midst of this he ends up finding himself flashing back to his childhood, visions of his ex-girlfriend, and also finding himself falling into relationship with 2 different women.
Woody Allen has always channeled his love for the Euro-arthouse filmmakers of the 50's through the 80's in his work, most notably Ingmar Bergman. A few years prior he would make his Bergman homage Interiors which was more along the lines of a straight homage than what we have here. Stardust Memories uses visual queues like the circus that are straight out of a Fellini work, but blends in the comedy that Allen is most known for. Allen as should be no surprise puts together a marvelous cast to perform the work, and they of course are wonderful in all regards.
Twilight Time presents Woody Allen's Stardust Memories in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer preserving the film's OAR. Everything looks fantastic here, detail is excellent, contrast is strong, and there is a healthy grain structure in place. The audio is presented with a DTS-HD MA 1.0 track in English. Optional subtitles are included everything here sounds crisp and clear. Woody Allen is not one for extras so the disc includes just an isolated score, trailer, and a wonderful set of liner notes by Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo.
The Film (5/5)
I Want to Live! (1958)
Director– Robert Wise
Starring – Susan Hayward, Simon Oakland, Virginia Vincent
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Based on a true story which happened in 1955, I Want to Live! Is about the tragic tale of Barbara Graham (Susan Hayward, Rawhide) who, due to her life’s surroundings, has gone to a life of street crime such as prostitution, forgery, perjury, gets the death penalty via the gas chamber for the one crime she didn’t commit: murder. This comes after she actually tried to settle down to a, what is considered “normal life”, by getting married and having a child. Her husband unfortunately is a drug addict, and causes her marriage to end. Barbara’s life, once again on the rocks goes back into a life of crime and gets involved with two men who have murdered an older woman. The two men, trying to avoid the death penalty, more or less say “she did it”, manage to get her implicated; Barbara is given the death penalty sentence. The remainder of the film focuses on Barbara’s life while imprisoned waiting to be sent to the gas chamber. A reporter, Ed Montgomery (Simon Oakland, Psycho) who at first attacked her character in the newspaper becomes convinced that she did not commit the murder; he thinks she’s innocent.
This is a very powerful Film Noir / drama with director Robert Wise sending an anti-death penalty message. He creates a lot of tension throughout the picture especially as we head toward the execution sequence. The director actually was allowed to see a death by gas execution to help with his picture. And when we get to the end and Barbara puts on a blindfold so she can’t see, you can feel the tension mount as she goes into the gas chamber, sits and waits for her death. Watching the gas rise up while Barbara sits there blindfolded is quite chilling. I will mention that the hip music at the end took a little away from the seriousness of what just happened. My impression at the end was a woman just got the death penalty, so let’s play some happy hip music! It didn’t fit the mood at the end of the film which was somber.
Susan Hayward, a great veteran actress whose career spanned over four decades, won an Academy Award for her performance as Barbara Graham.
In addition to Hayward giving a great performance, the supporting cast including, Simon Oakland (in his first film) Virginia Vincent and Theodore Bikel all play their roles very well.
Courtesy of an MGM HD Master, Twilight Time presents I Want to Live! widescreen 1:85:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video encode. This is quite gorgeous, with beautiful crisp black and white textures. The greyscale looks great. It looks dare I say clean as a whistle with very little print damage. No DNR has been applied, film grain is present. This was breathtaking to watch just for the visuals !
The audio used for this release DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0. Dialog yelling, screaming, and Barbara’s baby crying all come in loud and clear. Optional English subtitles are included.
Extras for I Want to Live! Include the usual isolated score track with an audio commentary segment by Robert Wise associate Mike Matessino. The original theatrical trailer is included.
Rounding out the extras are the always welcome liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Film (4/5)
The Boston Strangler
Director– Richard Fleischer
Starring – Tony Curtis, Henry Fonda, George Kennedy
Country of Origin- U.S.
Reviewer- David Steigman
Tony Curtis, an iconic actor who appeared in over one hundred films spanning six decades(and father of Jamie Lee Curtis), stars in what is arguably his most controversial role in also what is arguably the most controversial film of his career: The Boston Strangler. The film is based on the true story of Albert Desalvo (Curtis) who is a schizophrenic. He’s married a parent and employed, but his other persona is that of a woman murderer. As said, based on the true story, Desalvo brutally killed thirteen women between the years of 1962 and 1964. This film covers the events of this horror.
The film begins with having three elderly women being murdered the same exact way; the police conclude they have a serial killer at large. As the body count increases, a bureau is brought in to investigate with John S. Bottomly (Henry Fonda, Fail-Safe) in charge. Together with a psychic Peter Hurkos (George Voskovec,The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) and detective Phil DiNatale (George Kennedy, The Naked Gun), they seek out the murderer.
After a few men are captured but turn out not to be the strangler, Desalvo, after a botched attempt at killing another women gets apprehended by a police officer while trying to escape. At the time of capture, no one was aware that he was the strangler, nothing more than a person who broke and entered an apartment, but after a few clues, he becomes the prime suspect. Because of his mental state he is brought to a psychiatric hospital for observation where we learn the truth of Albert Desalvo once and for all, and how he winds up in a very powerful ending.
The Boston Strangler is a brilliant and highly effective film. The acting in this is fantastic; in fact Tony Curtis was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for his amazing performance as Desalvo. Many of you will recognize some up and coming actors (at that time) such as James Brolin(The Car), William Marshall (Blacula) as well as some actors who had supporting roles in timeless classics, such as Murray Hamilton(Jaws, The Hustler, Anatomy of a Murder). From top to bottom, the cast all hands in excellent performances
Richard Fleischer did an excellent directorial job in this as well, and used a few creative techniques which more than likely inspired a few directors. Throughout the film, you will notice his use of a split screen where you see two different characters on each side doing some activity (ala Brian DePalma) or simply a split shot camera angle of the same scene. There are also some scenes shot in tiny squares and rectangles, probably the director just wanting to add some more originality. The film also broke a few barriers with the use of the word “faggot” (a term rarely used) and some somewhat graphic murders with a bit of female nudity on the same level of Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy.
The Boston Strangler receives a Blu-ray release from Twilight Time, which as we know means it’s limited to 3,000 units. This is a great release to say the least. The film elements was sourced from an HD master from 20th Century Fox and presented in its original letterboxed 2:35:1 aspect ratio, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC Video encode. The image quality for this release is just phenomenal. The colors look really strong here, bold, with great depth and textures. Black levels look solid as well. Skin tones look fine and natural. This came from very well preserved film elements and it shows.
The audio for this release has two options (outside of the commentary and isolated track). The options are DTS-HD Master Audio English 2.0 or 3.0. Either channel has excellent sound quality. Dialog, screams and other noises all sound great with no hissing or audio drop-outs. There are optional English subtitles for this release as well.
Twilight Time has gone the extra mile for supplements on this release. We get a great NEW audio commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros, which is just as impressive as their commentaries on other films. They do a very thorough job discussing The Boston Strangler, the actors in the film and other wonderful bits of information. It’s a great listen that commentary aficionados should not miss.
As with other Twilight Time releases there is the isolated music and effects track. There are two featurettes entitles “Split-screen personality – William Friedkin on Richard Fleischer’s The Boston Strangler” and “Real Killer ,Fake Nose”, which is from the Region 2 Blu-ray release from Carlotta
Even the extras from the Fox DVD release are also included to make this quite the package. There is the “AMC Backstory: The Boston Strangler” and the Fox Movietone Newsreel, a three minute original theatrical trailer and a forty-five second teaser.
Last but not least is the obligatory and always welcome eight page liner notes by Julie Kirgo.
The Boston Strangler is a great, essential film not to be missed. This release from Twilight Time is superb, everything from the image and audio quality to the extras and the film itself.
The Film (4/5)