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Twilight Time Zone #20
 

By Andrew Bemis, Jason Pollock, Scott MacDonald & David Steigman

ttz20Interiors

ttz20KeysKingdom

ttz20Moglie

ttz20Gulliver

ttz20Deerfield

Interiors

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page

Country of Origin- U.S.

Discs- Scott MacDonald

   Woody Allen is a filmmaker whose work I simply adore. His work bridges the gap between the arthouse drama and comedy so well that I have found it irresistible since I caught his wavelength just over a decade ago. However, there is one film in Allen’s oeuvre that I find myself drawn to above all his others, his 1978 film Interiors.

   Some fans might be confused, why Interiors? This is a film that lacks his trademark comedy entirely, and is the beginning of his experimentation with drama. Well, from a personal perspective, as much as I love Allen, I worship at the altar of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s films, and so does Allen. Interiors goes farther then any other film in his repertoire to show that idolatry, so much so that it feels like the American variation of a Bergman film.

    The film to give a quick summation tells the story of 3 daughters who are thrust into the drama of their parents late in life divorce. The performances from the cast are powerful from early Allen muse Diane Keaton to Geraldine Page, E.G. Marshall and beyond. Gordon Willis cinematography has a nice soft look to it, that channels some of Bergman’s early 1970’s pictures quite well, and helps to add to the dramatic atmosphere that Allen is going for with the picture.

    Twilight Time presents the film in a splendid 1:85:1 1080p transfer that preserves the OAR of the film. Everything here looks natural, and well detailed, obviously soft in spots, but that is how the film looks. Grain is rendered well, and honestly this is the best I have ever seen Interiors look. I will be excited to come back to this again and again. The audio is DTS-HD MA 1.0 in English, everything sounds fine right here, dialogue and score come through nicely. Woody Allen does not participate in extra features, so we get a trailer, and a predictably wonderful set of liner notes from Twilight Time’s Julie Kirgo.

 

The Film (5/5)

Audio/Video (4.5/5)

Extras (1.5/5)

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3 Worlds of Gulliver

Director – Jack Sher

Cast – Kerwin Mathews, Jo Morrow, June Thorburn

Country of Origin- U.S.

Reviewer- Jason Pollock

   It is perhaps meaningless to general audiences, who have been trained to tolerate CGI that straddles a line between convincing and cool, but the difference between computer-generated imagery and the work of Ray Harryhausen is a tactile truth. I’m a big proponent of rendered imagery, because I want a filmmaker to be able to employ every tool in the box, but for all of the atmospheric/reflective/particulate passes that aid in making CG look wet, dry, slimy, scaly, hairy and/or huge – nothing quite beats just fogging a set, grabbing the right lenses, making a brilliantly-sculpted puppet slimy or wet, then putting the little – or big guy, as the case may be – through his paces. That’s how Willis O’Brien did it. It’s how Harryhausen did it… and it’s worked out pretty well so far.

And it works out pretty well in Gulliver’s Travels. The film is only loosely based on Jonathan Swift’s tale, so while it ditches out on the story’s mean-spirited (and hilarious) shitting on nationalism, it does retain all of the names that either sound like something filthy, or sound like something filthy backwards – and thrusts a shipwrecked Gulliver (played here by the Sinbad saga’s Kerwin Mathews) in the midst of a saber-rattling conflict between two warring nations – one a kingdom in miniature, and one ruled by giants. The screenplay, co-crafted by the film’s director, Jack Sher, emphasizes whimsy and spectacle in the Harryhausen tradition, eschewing the snide satire of nations-being-nations that is the entire point of the original Swift (though the Emperor of the tiny Liliputians gets to spit some hardliner shit; “I hate justice, but I love law!” is a line that wouldn’t be out of place coming from the current administration), but perhaps that’s to be expected from a man whose entire career was dedicated to filling the world with a bit of magic to lift it out of its doldrums.

Somewhat disappointingly, the film features little of Harryhausen’s sterling stop-motion work – though what is here is fantastic, including a creepishly-realistic squirrel – so much of the technical wizardry of the film is achieved through what was, at the time, a technological breakthrough in optical compositing tech, which allowed for cleaner, less grainy matte work – which was something pretty crucial considering the film’s near-constant need to drop Gulliver into oversized or undersized environs in a convincing fashion.

I’ve been disappointed in Twilight Time releases for their image quality before, as it seems that the company just releases whatever they’re handed by the studios they license from – but here, we get a vibrant image with a great film look and well-resolved grain. It helps that this was a film that benefitted from an aforementioned innovation in compositing that cut down on the layers of camera negative required for a process shot. There’s still a telltale uptick in grain, but it’s not anywhere near as bad as what you might remember from the Sinbad pictures.

Twilight Time presents the film with a simple but clean mono DTS-HD track, and the film is subtitled.

I’ve been disappointed in Twilight Time releases for their dearth of special features before (see a trend?) – but here, there’s actually a great deal more going on than the “isolated score” that has become comically de rigueur with these packages. Included here is an original trailer for the film, “The Harryhausen Chronicles” an hour-long documentary from 1998 (itself rare enough that VHS and DVD copies have been known to sell in the $25.00 to $30.00 range on Amazon and eBay, so thanks TT!), a vintage promotional featurette entitled “This is Dynamation” – which seeks to sell audiences on the idea that every trick in an effects artist’s toolbox was part of a proprietary process you could only experience through the grace of Columbia Pictures, and a compelling commentary with visual effects guru Randall Cook, multi-hyphenate film historian-author-producer-documentarian Steven C. Smith (who has produced some excellent work on Gulliver composer Bernard Herrmann), and filmmaker C. Courtney Joyner (the man who wrote the beloved Class of 1999, Prison, and Doctor Fucking Mordrid). It’s an eclectic group that knows its stuff and shares it freely. Also present is a booklet featuring production photos and an enlightening Julie Kirgo essay on the film’s production history.

Also… there’s an isolated score.

The Schneer-Harryhausen Machine keeps on running, producing charming entertainments for the entire family. Twilight Time has produced a handsome Collectors’ Edition for roughly three thousand of those families – so you should probably get on it if you want it.

 

 

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (5/5)

Extras (5/5)

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Keys to the Kingdom

Director– John M. Stahl

Starring – Gregory Peck, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price

Country of Origin- U.S.

Reviewer- David Steigman

   The Keys of the Kingdom is a, shall we say, a religious drama, which is told in flashback. The film begins with Father Francis Chisholm (Gregory Peck, Yellow Sky) an elderly priest who is being asked to retire by Monsignor Sleeth (Sir Cedric Hardwicke, The Ghost of Frankenstein) because his teachings are not the typical methods and are distracting. As the Monsignor goes to his room, he finds the diary of Father Chisholm, which is his life story and reads it, thus starting the flashback. Through the flashback we learn all about Father Chisholm; his parents were both killed during his childhood and was an orphan.  He was raised by his aunt; as a young adult he begins to study at a seminary with Anselm “Angus” Mealy (iconic horror actor Vincent Price, House of Wax, Theater of Blood, Madhouse), a childhood friend, but it isn’t very fulfilling to him. He decides that he wants to pursue a young girl named Nora who he had loved also since childhood.

To his dismay, before he gets the chance to see Nora, she sadly, has passed away. He then goes back to the seminary to finish his studies where he becomes a priest. Father Chisholm’s first tasks have left him feeling empty and his mentor, Father Hamish MacNabb (Edmund Gwenn, Them, Foreign Correspondent) sends him to China to be a missionary over there. While there, Father Chisholm has to deal with a vast amount of obstacles, hurdles and difficult challenges, which includes not exactly being welcomed by non-Christian Chinese but he is determined to meet each challenge that he faces. After he saves the life of a Chinese boy, he begins to gain acceptance and slowly rebuilds a church (funded by the Chinese) with a school for the children. As years pass, his determination has led him to be a successful parish, with a growing congregation of Chinese. Each obstacle is met, and leads to a very peaceful community that has flourished 

After he finishes reading the diary, Monsignor Sleeth allows Father Chisholm to continue his teachings for whatever time he has left.

The Keys to the Kingdom is a terrific film, with great direction and wonderful performances given by the cast which consisted of both fantastic established ‘name’ actors and up and coming future stars. Be on the lookout of future legendary actor Roddy McDowall(Legend of Hell House) who played Father Chishom as a young boy. The music by Alfred Newman is just wonderful. 

The movie was nominated for several Academy Awards including *Best Actor in a Leading Role*(Gregory Peck as Father Chisholm), Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Music.

Twilight Time has released The Keys of the Kingdom on Blu-ray, which as usual is limited to 3000 units. The presentation is just wonderful. Courtesy of an HD master from 20th Century Fox, in the aspect ratio of 1:33:1, in 1080p with an MPEG-4 AVC encode; the black and white picture quality is just phenomenal, the best it has ever looked. The greys look really bold, sharp and deep, with excellent black levels as well as great texture and contrast. I didn’t notice any print damages or specs; if there were any at all it would be minimal. Fox didn’t excellent restoration job on this release.

The audio, a DTS-HD master audio 2.0 track, is more than serviceable with no real sound issues with the music or dialog

The Keys of the Kingdom also has a couple of good extras. There is a commentary by Film Historians Kenneth Geist and Chris Mankiewicz, the original theatrical trailer and the usual isolated track score accompanied with the linear notes booklet by Julie Kirgo. This is another fine release from Twilight Time

The Film (4/5)

Audio/Video (5/5)

Extras (3/5)

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La Moglie Pił Bella

Director: Damiano Damiani

Cast: Ornella Muti, Alessio Orano

Country of Origin: Italy

Reviewer- Andrew Bemis

   While the opening of La Moglie Pił Bella carries a disclaimer that the film is not based on actual people or events, it was actually inspired by an infamous 1965 court case in Sicily involving a 15-year-old girl. Her fictional on-screen counterpart is Francesca (Ornella Muti), a child of peasants who is wooed by a young Mafioso named Vito (Alessio Orano). Vito has been urged to marry by his boss, but when Francesca resists his advances, he abducts and rapes her, knowing that Italian law will require that she marry him to avoid disgrace. But Francesca refuses, ultimately rebelling against her village and family.

 

 If, like me, your only previous experience with Italian director Damiano Damiani is his hilariously sleazy Amityville II: The Possession, you might expect that this premise would make for a lurid rape/revenge thriller. Instead, Damiani plays it straight - the pivotal rape scene is staged discreetly, and what follows plays like straight drama rather than exploitation. It’s Francesca’s defiance of a patriarchal tradition in her country, and her being shunned by her own family, that takes up the bulk of the movie’s running time, and Damiani is clearly invested in his heroine’s plight.

 

 La Moglie Pił Bella provoked some controversy in Italy when it was released; while the customs it’s protesting are less relevant today, it’s easy to imagine its story unfolding in less progressive parts of the world. Even allowing for its being a product of its time, the movie and its protagonist’s sense of defiance are still bracing today. And it still holds up as an equally serious-minded and pulpy drama, largely thanks to Muti’s remarkably mature central performance, years before her scenery-chewing role in Flash Gordon. Damiani’s direction is restrained and tense, and Ennio Morricone’s score helps sustain that tension through the movie’s slower scenes. While La Moglie Pił Bella doesn’t seem as provocative today, it remains an entertaining thriller driven by its empathy for its heroine.

 

 La Moglie Pił Bella is brought to Blu-Ray by Twilight Time in a 1080p presentation that preserves the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot on 2-perf Techniscope and relies a great deal on outdoor and low-key lighting, and the transfer is heavy on grain and shadows (albeit with strong detail and contrast). While it won’t be anyone’s new reference disc, it’s a pleasantly filmic transfer that feels accurate to the film and its age. The DTS-HD 2.0 audio is clear throughout, and an alternate English dub is included, along with the isolated score by Ennio Morricone. The disc includes an archival documentary from a previous DVD release featuring interviews with Damiani and members of the cast and crew. A brief interview with Damiani is also included, as is the film’s theatrical trailer. A booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo is included with the disc.

 

 

The Film (3/5)

Audio/Video (3.5/5)

Extras (2.5/5)

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Bobby Deerfield

Director: Sydney Pollack

Cast: Al Pacino, Marthe Keller

Country of Origin: U.S.

Reviewer- Andrew Bemis

   Bobby Deerfield is example of a type of mainstream entertainment that largely went out of fashion after Star Wars, which was also released in 1977. It’s a handsomely mounted melodrama with a pair of attractive stars, set against the backdrop of gorgeous European locations. In a way, I want to celebrate it for being the kind of movie for adults that they don’t make much anymore. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty flimsy excuse for a big-budget romance.

 

 The most interesting thing about the movie is Al Pacino, in a rare romantic leading man role as the title character, a race car driver on the European circuit. Pacino, along with Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, redefined what a leading man could look like, and it’s fun seeing him in the kind of role normally played by Robert Redford or Paul Newman. At the film’s start, Deerfield is a loner, weighed down by ennui and in the last days of a dead-end relationship with a French woman (Anny Duperey). This changes when, in quick succession, he witnesses a competitor die in a fiery crash and meets Lillian Morelli (Marthe Keller), a terminally ill free spirit. Lillian’s the kind of character known as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl these days, but she’s neither manic nor a pixie; this life-changing female is more in the Ali McGraw world, her romance with Deerfield compelling this island of a man to wonder what it’s all about.

 

 I’m being pithy, but that’s about all Bobby Deerfield has to offer for conflict in its two-hour runtime. While the racing sequences - shot during real F1 races - are engaging, they take up less than ten minutes of the movie. Most of the rest is devoted to Pacino and Keller fighting, making love and giving each other looks that are pregnant with meaning, or would be if the actors had more chemistry together. Sydney Pollack’s direction is assured as always, and the largely Swiss locations do make for a gorgeous backdrop, but the script from the usually reliable Alvin Sargent is too thin to support the movie’s artier aspirations or keep our interest. For fans of Formula One or scenery porn, it’s worth checking out; for anyone else, it’ll probably be a tough sit.

 

 Twilight Time brings Bobby Deerfield to Blu-ray in a 1080p presentation of the film’s original 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Henri Decae’s gorgeous widescreen cinematography is the best thing about the movie, and it looks great here - colors are rich and there’s plenty of shadow detail in the film’s practical interiors. The location exteriors, in particular, shine on Blu-ray. The disc includes three audio tracks - DTS-HD 5.1, 2.0 stereo and mono - as well as a track featuring Dave Grusin’s score. The 5.1 track comes to life in the racing sequences, but I’m glad they included the original options for purists. Extras included are the film’s theatrical trailer and an archival commentary by Pollack, who passed away in 2008. It’s the kind of commentary that’s heavy on describing the onscreen action, but Pollack’s an entertaining enough speaker that I didn’t mind. A booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo is included with the disc.

The Film (2/5)

Audio/Video (4/5)

Extras (2/5)