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DE LIFT/THE LIFT and DOWN(THE SHAFT) Blu Ray/DVD Combo packs from Blue Underground

THE LIFT/DE LIFT 1983(Ltd Ed Blu Ray/DVD combo)Blue Underground $39.98 region 0
Color / 99 min. Dutch /English

https://www.amazon.com/Lift-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray-Stapel/dp/B074BNZP7G/

DOWN -2001 (Ltd Edition Blu Ray /DVD combo ) Blue Underground $39.98 region 0
Color /111 minutes English
https://www.amazon.com/Down-Shaft-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray/dp/B074BNB14B/

Back in 1982, ‘Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring was a music video in constant rotation on the new channel MTV. The catchy tune  referenced the
popular TV.series as a suspected spy is caught and interrogated . Several music video directors went on to make popular fantasy films ,such as David Fincher ,Russell Mulcahy, and Alex Proyas.

Also among them was Dutch director,writer,producer, and musician Dick Maas. Since then he has given us many Dutch thrillers and horror films like AMSTERDAMNED(1988,also available from BLUE UNDERGROUND https://www.amazon.com/Amsterdamned-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray-Stapel/dp/B071GW2L2Z/ ), SINT (SAINT) 2010,up to 2016’s PROII (PREY). His films are marked by their style as well as dark humor that permeates them.

His first film that drew him to international attention was DE LIFT . In a modern apartment building in Amsterdam, strange things are happening ,most of which seem to involve the bank of elevators . The company who are responsible for the maintenance of the three conveyers (or lift of the title ) send Felix Adelaar (Huub Stapel ,later to star in MaasAMSTERDAMNED )to check out the systems.

While working, he runs into reporter Mieke de Boer (Willeke van Ammelrooy, star of the art house hit and Oscar winning ANTONIA’s LINE ,1996)who is investigating the strange events.

Among the occurrences are two drunken couples who are trapped in an elevator while the heat increases to dangerous levels , a blind man who falls into an empty shaft (and which the building owners declare is a suicide) ,and the gruesome decapitation of a security guard .

The more the Felix & Mieke investigate, the more strange things become. Is the company RISING SUN,who provides microprocessors for the system ,somehow involved with the strange things?

 

Their detection leads to Adelaar’s wife leaving him and taking the children, thinking that he is having an affair with the journalist. His boss also suspends him. Felix has nothing to lose as he goes to building one final time to find out what is happening and confront the evil within.

DE LIFT seemed to have done well in Europe, but it was not as well received in the United States.

Released to a limited number of theaters in July ,1985 , critics were indifferent to the foreign title ( “Mr. Maas leaves the elevator’s potential fiendishness largely unexploited.”-NY Times,July 4,1985)and 6 year old distributor Island Alive folded shortly after .)

Luckily ,video stores were booming and Media Home Entertainment released it on VHS in 1986 in a dubbed version, and in 1988 through their foreign film division Cinematheque Collection in a Dutch language subtitled print.

Maas continued to create wonderfully off kilter films through his First Floor Features .He creates three popular Dutch comedies and a T.V. series (FLODDER)as well as the marvelous already mentioned AMSTERDAMNED (1988) and even an episode of the THE YOUNG INDIANA JONES CHRONICLES (‘Transylvania Transmission”).

It seems that for years people kept after Maas to do a sequel or a remake to DE LIFT. Finally in 2000, Maas raised sufficient funds (fifteen million Euros) for a larger version that expands on several of the ideas from the original film, and hires American actors as the leads as well as several marvelous character roles.

While set in New York City , the majority of the film was shot in Holland on some of the biggest sets ever built for a Dutch film .Some street scenes and aerial photography were the bulk of the American footage. The blending is for the most part flawless, and even the Dutch actors blend in convincingly in this English language film.

In DOWN (also known as THE SHAFT ,which makes one expect it to be a film about Richard Roundtree ), the setting is in a modern NYC skyscraper. In the Millennium Building, one of the elevators malfunctions and traps a group of pregnant women ,overheating the air and several of them give birth !

The building managers call in the Meteor company that maintains the elevators, who send Jeff (Eric Thal ,Sam Nevins in Buena Vista’s adaptation of Robert Heinlein’s THE PUPPET MASTERS,1994 ) and his new young assistant Mark Newman (James Marshall ,who is best known for portraying James Hurley in the original and revival of TWIN PEAKS )to check them out. Newman wants to do a more in depth review of the systems ,but his partner feels that will be too much of an inconvenience to the building, and expensive. Mr Milligan (Edward Herrmann, LOST BOYS ,W.B. 1987),the building owner, agrees.

Not long after that , a blind man and his seeing eye dog fall (literally) victim to the killer machines. One of the security guards who finds the corpses hanging in the shaft gets his head caught in the door and decapitated when the elevator descends .

Reporter Jennifer Evans (Naomi Watts, later to star in Peter Jackson’s epic KING KONG ,Universal,2005) starts to investigate, and she interviews Newman ,quoting him in her article as saying “ 9 out of 10 people make it out of an elevator alive.”

Newman is chewed out by his boss ,Mitchell (the always wonderful Ron Perlman, HELLBOY,Columbia,2004). Shortly thereafter, another bizarre death happens ,when a skateboarder is pulled supernaturally into an elevator and within seconds hurled up to the 86th floor, and then flung out violently ,through a glass partition and off to the ground below .

A press conference is held by Milligan and Police Lt McBain (Dan Hedaya,THE USUAL SUSPECTS, MGM,1996). The official statement is that the skateboarder committed suicide, and that it had nothing to with the previous accidents .

Evans does not believe it ,and she visits Newman’s home .She has gotten several surveillance tapes, and it shows the skater’s death. Most mysterious, the elevator trip, which should take at least 40 seconds, is accomplished in less than two!

Jeff refuses to believe them ,and so they go to Evan’s newspaper office . Their research keeps bringing up the name of a researcher named Gunther Steinberg (Michael Ironside, forever typecast as a villain thanks to his brilliant work in SCANNERS,Avco Embassy ,1981). Gunther ,who had worked with the army on mixing dolphin brain mass with electronic circuits ,was hired by the elevator company to develop microchips .

The next morning Milligan is horrified when he has the body of Jeff drop through the ceiling of the elevator he was occupying. Jeff had probably been checking the elevators but Milligan and company use his death as a means of scapegoating. At the conference, they call Jeff deranged and say that he had been responsible for all the events, and probably died trying to set up another incident.

The story is believed and the building conducts business as usual. That is ,however, until one elevator speeds upward, the bottom dropping out and passengers, including a small child, fly helplessly downward to their doom . Those who hang on are not safe, as the container hurls at extreme speed through the roof ,stopping with a crushing Impact.

The President of The United States holds a White House press conference ,where he announces he feels that the events are due to terrorists and a terrorist team is sent to protect and prevent any further incidents.

Evans and Mitchell continue to investigate the bizarre history of the building, and the experiments of Steinberg .

Since the Army let him go, it seems that he has continued,only now their may be human DNA ,and the chips have become sentient, and evil.

Can they get in the building, pass the militia and Steinberg to stop the evil ? The film ends like a supernatural DIE HARD (Fox,1988)

DOWN was given a token release by Buena Vista International on May 20,2001. It seems to have come and gone quickly ,and the home video rights were acquired by Artisan . It seemed to have also made little impact on the dwindling video store market ,and with fandom .

Now BLUE UNDERGROUND has done stellar work on finding the best material possible on these two films, and put them on Blu Ray.

THE LIFT is a 1080p HD resolution print 2 K restoration from the original negative , presented in 1:66:1 wide-screen.The film is available in it’s original Dutch Language (5.1 DTS-HD or 2.0 DTS-HD) or English (2.0 DTS-HD). The sound is very clean and clear, with sound effects and original music jumping out at certain points.

Dick Maas also composed the score , and it is one of those now dated sounding synth scores as well as electronic whooshes and sounds .

The English track uses terms like “lift” (a direct translation of the title)rather the more common American usage.

The subtitles seem to be based upon a direct translation of the Dutch dialogue ,as it does not always match the English language dialogue. They are clear and easy to read. There are also English SDH and Spanish subtitles as well.

Other extras are :

-A running commentary by director Dick Maas and editor Hans van Dongen who talk about the difficulties of making this film on a 350,000 Euros budget.

-”Going Up” an interview with star Huub Stapel

-”Long Distance”-a short 4 minute short that has the feel of a Twilight Zone episode ,wherein a father who has had a car accident, calls his home and speaks to his daughter . Beautifully filmed and acted.

-Trailers from the U.S. and Holland

-A poster and still gallery .

-a nice newly written essay booklet by by writer /filmmaker Chris Alexander . He nicely covers the film ,plus discusses the more relaxed mores of European filmmakers about sex and nudity as well as comparisons to Stephen King works about machines gone wrong. He prefers the original film to the 2001 remake.

For DOWN , the film is also a brand new 2K restoration from the original negative, 1080p HD Resolution , presented in a 2.35.1 wide-screen all region print .

The audio is available in the original English as well as French in both 5.1 DTS-HD or Dolby Digital Stereo .

The sound is more mixed for multi speaker presentation (due no doubt to it’s larger budget ),with sounds being very crisp and clean.

The Yellow Subtitles are easy to read, though whomever wrote them , they need to learn the difference between “Your “ and “You’re” .

Spanish subtitles are also available.

Other extras include :

A running audio commentary with Maas and stunt coordinator Willem de Beukelaer . Maas at times seems to have forgotten how certain scenes were done ,but is reminded by de Beukelaer (an example is the opening shot that moves from C.G.I.  and model shots to the live action.On the extras ,we see how the shot was accomplished.More on that later.). It is fascinating to hear the two say how they have worked together since AMSTERDAMMED ,and the difficulties of doing a film like this. The recreations of New York interiors is perfect ,and it seems the diner was actual functional (too bad they didn’t move it to an actual building.I am sure it would have been a hit with tourists to have an American diner in Amsterdam!).

The same director of photography (Marc Felperlaan )worked on both films ,and they recreate some shots ,while using a little C.G.I. to blend between the real actors and effects(such as the beheading in the elevator).

The director seemed to have had disagreement with Marshall on the exact tone of the film, but it does not come across in the finished production.

Director Maas mentions that the film opened the weekend before 9/11, but he is referring to the European opening. It seems it opened well, but after the events, the film did no business.

It is easy to see why. A New York Skyscraper ,people falling to their death, the President referring to terrorists (dialogue was actually copied from President Bill Clinton referencing the Feb 26,1993 bomb attack on the Twin Towers). It is quite creepy ,and not in the way the film intended. Needless the film ended up being a financial failure.

The use of Aerosmith’s “Love In An Elevator” was a big expense but is a nice button to the film.

Other extras are

The Making of Down : a behind the scene look at the making of the film, including the construction of the huge sets, and the mix of CGI and live action,as well as the various stunts.

The Blu Ray exclusive is a more detailed behind the scenes documentary.

-There is also the American teaser and theatrical trailers.

-A poster and still Gallery

– A Collectible booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold.

 

Both films have much to recommend them . The original has a nice gritty quality to it , though oddly, I lean more to the slicker American remake. It is probably because of the expanded story-line plus the dark humor comes more to the fore . The remake does seem to fluctuate as to whether there is a supernatural element or is it a sci fi A.I. story (or both) , but it doesn’t take away from the film.

Maas handles possessed machinery better than Stephen King film adaptations like MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986,D.E.P.). It also predated supernatural skyscraper films like the little seen  DARK TOWER (Sandy Howard, 1987 ;directed by Freddie Francis (as Ken Barnett), Ken Wiederhorn  (as Ken Barnett)(!!) starring Jenny Agutter and Michael Moriarty) and elevator terror films like DEVIL (Universal,2010) or ELEVATOR ( Inception ,2011) .

 

I would definitely recommend both films ,especially if you wish to see an example where a foreign director remakes his film in English and doesn’t mess it up (a la THE VANISHING (Argos Films,1988  and  Fox,1993).

Both Recommended.
.
-Kevin G Shinnick

Feel free to share our reviews.

 

 

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THE PRISON (blu ray) contest from WELL GO USA (update: CONTEST OVER.CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS-9.2O.2017)

CONTEST OVER.CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS-9.2O.2017

Win one of 4 blu rays of WELL GO USA ENTERTAINMENT‘s HE PRISON.

After a fatal accident, Yu-gon, a former police inspector, is sentenced to hard time in a prison he once helped fill. Once inside, he discovers the entire penitentiary is no longer controlled by the guards, but by a vicious crime syndicate that breaks out at night, using their prison sentences as the perfect alibi to commit intricate heists. Looking for revenge against the system that placed him inside, Yu-gon joins the syndicate… but with every man out for himself, how long can the perfect crime last?

Director: Na Hyun Producer:Lee Sung-Hun
Cast:
Choi Sung-Won, Joo-Wan Han, Han Suk-Kyu
Genre: Action & Adventure, Foreign
Run Time:125 mins.
Korean with English subtitles

See the trailer here :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFoLR2ARyBY

“The Prison is a ferociously effective genre film from Korea that feels like the kind of movie Hollywood will remake in its own image. But adding star power and the English language won t necessarily improve things, as The Prison is brutally entertaining just the way it is.” –Fort Worth Star-Telegram

To enter, merely like and follow both

https://www.facebook.com/SCARLETreviews/

and

https://www.facebook.com/WellGoUSA/ ,

then send an email with the heading

Take Me to THE PRISON
to

scarletthefilmmag@yahoo.com

Include your name and mailing address in the body of the letter.

Deadline is September 19th,2017.

Four winners will be drawn at random .

THE PRISON will be released on BLU RAY from WELL GO USA ENTERTAINMENT on September 19th.

$29.95 value

 

 Thanks to WELL GO USA ENTERTAINMENT for sponsoring this contest .

(update : CONTEST OVER.CONGRATS TO THE WINNERS-9.2O.2017)

 

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FEED- review by Sean Fallon

FEED- Sony Pictures- Now Playing Theatrically

Troian Bellisario’s new movie FEED provides a fascinating insider look at eating disorders, while simultaneously giving fans of thrillers an entertaining story. While those who suffer from eating disorders are the primary target audience, outsiders to that type of sickness still get to experience a captivating story, even if our takeaway is vastly different from what Troian Bellisario intended when she wrote the script.

Bellisario plays the central protagonist, Olivia, a high school senior on pace to become valedictorian. She has a twin brother named Matt (Tom Fenton), with whom she is very close. As Matt is driving Olivia home from a party they attended together, they get into an argument, leading to a crash that is fatal for Matt, and emotionally devastating for Olivia.

Olivia still interacts with “Matt,” after the crash. In my instant video reaction at bit.ly/sfffeedv I speak about how “Matt,” could either be perceived as a haunting from Matt’s ghost, a demon impersonating Matt, or as a manifestation of trauma-induced insanity in Olivia’s head. After researching “Matt’s” actual meaning, however, all three of those scenarios, although plausible and loaded with high entertainment value, are not consistent with the intent of Troian Bellisario. “Matt,” actually is supposed to be a personification of the destructive voices that some people with eating disorders hear inside their heads, a concept that makes clear sense to insiders who have had that experience.

The sharp contrast between my list of possible perceptions and the writer’s vision is actually quite eye opening, in that it further shows how we process what we see through the lens of what makes sense to us, which can often blind us to what is truly going on inside other people’s minds and hearts. While Bellisario’s goal was to help provide hope and inspiration for people with eating disorders, an endeavor that was largely successful, she also helped provide outsiders to those illnesses with a greater awareness and understanding of the need to be sensitive to people who display behaviors that we have a difficult time processing or understanding. Thus, in addition to being highly entertained, viewing the movie the way I saw it at the time I saw it, I feel as if God used this movie, and my post-viewing research on its true meaning to help make me a better person. I highly recommend this movie to mature audiences, particularly those who have experienced eating disorders.

Sean Fallon

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I AM MICHAEL

We welcome writer SEAN FALLON reviewing a controversial true story drama, I AM MICHAEL . -We look forward to more of his intelligent reviews . – Kevin G Shinnick

 

I AM MICHAEL (Passion River )DVD $19.99.Color .98 Minutes. 2015 Also available currently to view on Netflix .

 

The movie I AM MICHAEL is based on the true story of Michael Glatze, a former advocate for gay rights, who converted to Christianity, renounced homosexuality, became a Christian pastor, and married a woman. The film, starring James Franco, and directed by Justin Kelly, seems very subtle in its tone, despite addressing such a loaded topic that generates such strong feelings from so many people.

 

Franco and the real Michael Glatze

In today’s society full of hatefully divisive rhetoric found both by some left-wing gay rights advocates and some right-wing evangelical preachers who grossly misrepresent Christianity, it is imperative that people distinguish the difference between rejecting gay marriage and hating gay people. This movie fails to clearly make that distinction, despite a small attempt. “I’m not condoning hate. In fact, this is about love. Choosing a gay identity will condemn you to an eternity of suffering and I want to save people from that,” are theologically flawed words that influenced Michael Glatze, but address the reality that love can be the motivator behind objections to gay marriage.

 

According to true Christian theology, the mere state of being gay is not sinful. It is the unrepentant practice of illicit sexual behaviors, whether heterosexual or homosexual, that 1 Corinthians 6:9 warns will prevent people from entering the Kingdom of God. Christians believe that God loves the gay community, we are called to love the gay community, God is all knowing, God is all loving, God has communicated that practicing homosexuality is harmful to those who do so, love can not condone behavior that harms our fellow man, Christians are called to be courageous, and courage requires standing up for what is truly loving, as defined by God, even if mainstream society will persecute us for doing so, while branding us with nasty labels.

 

Quinto & Franco in happier times.

 

Michael Glatze (James Franco)tells a young male teenager, “If you are a moral person, then you will choose heterosexuality, in order to be with God.” Glatze makes no attempt to help lead the teenager to Jesus, through love. Rather, he makes an ill-conceived, insensitive, and theologically flawed attack on the teenager’s morality and decency, based on feelings that the teenager did not choose to have. Not everyone can just “choose” heterosexuality. People who experience same sex attraction can instead choose to avoid sexual sin by living a chaste and celibate life, a difficult challenge, but possible by God’s grace. While the movie addresses the reality that there are people who simultaneously are openly gay and openly Christian, it fails to address the aforementioned way of celibacy through which those people can still live in obedience to God. Not surprisingly, the teenager who Michael Glatze spoke to is later seen in a store with a gay male partner.

Whether you are a Christian, gay, both, or neither, you will likely find this movie that is by no means family friendly to also be ultimately unsatisfying and unsettling in its wishy-washy approach to such a sensitive issue. Furthermore, many may find the male on male kissing scenes, profanity, and controversial dialogue to be very off-putting. Despite great acting performances by James Franco and Zachary Quinto, I could not in good conscience recommend this movie, since it essentially asks people to choose between sin and heresy, without properly defining the truly Christian road that rises above both.

 

Review by Sean Fallon

 

 

The Reel & REAL Michael & Rebekah Glatze

 

 

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Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker

Riccardo Freda: The Life and Works of a Born Filmmaker
Roberto Curti Price: $45.00 40 photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index
376pp. softcover (7 x 10)McFarland  2017                                                http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-1-4766-6970-0

Like many American film fans, my knowledge of director Ricardo Freda was mostly limited to his
Horror films I Vampiri /THE DEVIL’S COMMANDMENT (Titanus,1957),Caltiki il mostro immortale /CALTIKI,THE IMMORTAL MONSTER(Lux,1959),L’orrible segreto del Dr. Hichcock /THE HORRIBLE DOCTOR HITCHCOCK(Panda,1962) and Lo specttro /THE GHOST (Panda,1963).

• However, Freda had a career in cinema that lasted from 1937 (Lasciate ogni speranza /LEAVE ALL HOPE ,Juventus Film) until 1994 (La fille de d’Artagnan /REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS ,Canal+ )starting and ending his career as a writer.

• Writer Roberto Curti of Cortona Italy has done a remarkable job tracking down an amazing amount of information on Freda’s life and career.His love for the subject comes though with his very detailed synopses of these rarely seen (outside of certain countries), providing the history behind many of them, production facts, and their success or failure in various territories as well as changes made to them .

Curti uses Freda’s memoir Divoratori di celluloide (Emme Edizioni (1981),164 pages)as a starting point ,but also researching though film magazines and newspapers from several countries, as well as tracking down and watching the titles from the director’s long career. Curti points out that the director could often be petty and recall incidents that might not always match the facts.Curti’s interviews and research sometimes contradicts what Freda put into his book.

• Still ,the Egyptian born Italian director lived La Dolce Vita, being an extravagant personal spender and gambler as well as womanizer. It is ironic that he despised films like Fellini’s La Dolce Vita (Riama,1960) as well as the entire neo-realist movement of films like Ladri di biciclette/THE BICYCLE THIEF(Ente Nazionale,1948).

He was more a storyteller who felt that film should be escapist,and take us out of reality. Not only did he have those skills, he was also able to make limited budgets look richer than they were, due to his understanding of film editing and camera placement ,as well as working with innovators like the great Mario Bava. Indeed, the short tempered Freda walked off the set of a I Vampiri ,leavinng it to be  finished by Bava. We see throughout the book that Freda had a habit of walking off set, much to the detriment of his films and career.  I Vampiri has an important place in Italian horror films ,as it was the country’s first true sound horror film (the first Italian horror film may have been Il monstro di Frankenstein(1920) a now sadly lost silent picture).

Freda had prior to I Vampiri had done a lot of regional comedies ( he cared little for the comics in many of his films ,but put in many physical gags inspired by the likes of Buster Keaton ,historical dramas and swashbucklers . Indeed ,his love of classic novels and adventure tales seemed to have merged into Caccia all’umo /LES MISERABLES( Lux,1952) ,making it more of an action thriller!

His swashbucklers seemed to have broken new ground in storytelling in Italy, being more inspired by American filmmakers than the home grown artisans. His love of tracking shots to get a lot of detail within a long take was developed during this period .Having reviewed the Italian historical drama La cena delle beffe / THE JESTER’s SUPPER* (Società Italiana Cines,1942 ,not by Freda, but by a contemporary),I would love to see more these  rarely motion pictures                (see review at https://scarletthefilmmagazine.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/the-jesters-supper-dvd/ ) .

Freda also was one of the first to leap into the sword and sandal films ,even telling an earlier version of the tale of SPARTACUS(Spartaco(API,1953),released in the U.S. by RKO as SINS OF ROME ). He hopped from genre to genre with various budgets and varying success. Comedy (at which he seemed to have a lot of success),drama ,spy thrillers ,Krimi( he faced off and WON against the antagonistic Klaus Kinski) ,swashbucklers,historicals, and of course horror.

His indifference to some parts of the movies he made show with some sloppy work (in ROGER LA HONTE( Comptoir Francais du Film Production ,1966,one of his later films with a decent budget, he allows a major stunt to show clearly that a “woman” passenger is actually a stunt man since his trousers are clearly visible ),as well as his indifference to actors (he was notorious for using doubles when actors gave him any grief). Yet in staging ,he often surpassed the budget with strong imagery and tracking shots that convey a lot of information .Plus several actors who worked with him praised the director .

Curti’s book makes me want to revisit several of Freda’s films and seek out some of his rarities. Curti has done what any film researcher should do, and that is evaluate and place into historical context the work of the subject.

McFarland is to be commended once again for putting out such a detailed volume about a filmmaker not as well known as perhaps he should be. Each film has b&w illustrations of the film posters or on set photographs, The graphics are sharp and easy to see.

This is a MUST HAVE for lovers of film, especially for those who love Euro-Cinema.

Highly Recommended.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

                  "Acquista il libro o ti farò del male ..."

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The Jester’s Supper (DVD)

SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE DVD REVIEW
THE JESTER’S SUPPER (La Cena delle Beffe) 1942 Italy 82 minutes B&W –Historical Drama – $19.95 from CAV Distributing Corp / One 7 Movies. Region 0 DVD available through http://www.oldies.com/product-view/83234O.html as well as Amazon and others.

 

 
Thanks to Turner Classics, I have been on a foreign film binge of late so the arrival of this DVD could not have been better timed.

 

 

 
The film THE JESTER’S SUPPER (la Cena delle Beffe) was an extremely popular costume drama produced during WWII. For those who think Italian Cinema began with the neo- realists after the war, this film will come as something of a revelation. With the output from Hollywood cut off, the Italian populace truly embraced their home grown productions. The Fascist government, under son, Vittorio, realized the power of film, sponsor movies (even constructing Cinecittà studios) but their films were mostly of a propaganda nature. However, they also produced comedies and historical dramas that rivaled American productions with their artistry and skills.

 
THE JESTER’S SUPPER is based upon a popular play by the Italian writer Sem Benelli, which was first staged in Italy in 1909. In 1919 the play was put on in New York City . The play was the basis for an opera La cena delle beffe composed by Umberto Giordano with a libretto written by Benelli himself. It premiered at La Scala Opera House in 1924.

 

 

 

The film was shot at Cinecitta using leftover sets from a previous big budget epic from 1941 La corona di ferro (The Iron Crown). Set in Renaissance era, two aristocratic brothers, Neri (Amadeo Nazzari) & Gabriello (Alfredo Varelli ) Chiaramantesi, have been abusing the people of Florence with impunity due to their power and station. Things begin to change when Neri dares to ravage Ginevera (Clara Calamai) in front of her lover Giannetto Malespini (Giannetto Malespini) then toss him into the river. He survives, and what happens next is a tale of revenge best served Italian style.

 

 
Amadeo Nazzari, usually a hero, was cast against type and played the lecherous villain here. He usually sported a mustache and I could see why .Even clean shaven, here he resembles Errol Flynn. Amazingly, he turned down Mussolini’s request to join the Fascist Party and yet continued to have a successful career during the War years. He played a movie star (!) in Fellini’s classic Le notti di Cabiria/ NIGHTS OF CABRIA (1957).

 
Valentina Cortese, then 19, appearing as Lisabetta, is perhaps best remembered (she is still alive at this writing, age 94!) for her Oscar nominated turn in Truffaut’s La Nuit américaine /DAY FOR NIGHT (1973).

 


THE JESTER’s SUPPER boasts one of Italian Cinema’s first topless nudity scenes, when actress Clara Calamai has her top torn from her by the lustful Neri. In interviews, Calamai had not wanted to do the scene, but felt compelled to by the director. That quick flash of nudity is a reason that people went to see the film again and again. Though often cited as the first bit of nudity in an Italian sound film, Vittoria Carpi showed a bare breast for a moment in THE IRON CROWN/La corona di ferro  (1941)   which was also directed by Blasetti. Horror fans may recall Calamai from Dario Argento’s Profondo rosso /DEEP RED (1975) coming out of retirement to portray the eccentric matriarch, Marta.

A kissing scene and the topless scene both appear in the final montage of CINEMA PARADISO (1988).( http://www.filmsite.org/cinemaparadisokisses.html )
Some of the performers did not live long after WWII. Due to their Fascists leanings, both Osvaldo Valenti and his pregnant mistress Luisa Ferida, who appeared in several movies together, were executed without trail on the streets by partisans.


Director Alessandro Blasetti was called the father of Italian Cinema because he led to the revival of Italian Cinema in the 1930s and becoming one of the leading figures during the Fascist era. He is also known as one of the first directors of what became Italian neorealism with his 1942 film Quattro passi Fra le nuvole /FOUR STEPS IN THE CLOUDS. Amazingly, even though he seemed to have strong ties with the Fascists government, it does not seem to have affected his career, as he is listed as having made films after the War from 1946 to 1969.

 

 
The print used by ONE7 MOVIES is incredibly sharp, with just a little digital artifacting appearing on certain shots. The subtitles (which have an on/off option) are quite easy to read .The sound is clear and the score by Giuseppe Becce sounds rich even in its original mono sound. The only extra is a brief photo gallery that appears to be frame blow ups.

 

 

 
Raccomandato (recommended!).
-Kevin G Shinnick

(originally published on SCARLET THE FILM MAGAZINE REVIEWS FACEBOOK PAGE,May 18, 2015. Updated May 7,2017)

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1960s, Art house, Blu Ray, CLASSIC, Classic Hollywood, crime drama, cult, film, FILM HISTORY, FILM NOIR, Fox, genre, review, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Twilight Time Blu Ray, Uncategorized

BOSTON STRANGLER/PRETTY POISON Twilight Time Blu Rays

2-coversTHE BOSTON STRANGLER ( 1968 Fox)116min        http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/boston-strangler-the-blu-ray             / PRETTY POISON (1968 Fox)89min         http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/pretty-poison-blu-ray/Twilight Time Blu Rays      $29.95 each Limited to 3000 pressings each

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1968 was a banner year for movies: 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY(MGM), OLIVER(Columbia), ROMEO & JULIET(Paramount), ROSEMARY’S BABY (Paramount), PLANET OF THE APES(Fox). Among those films were two marvelous murder thrillers, both from 20th Century Fox, one a box office and critical success (BOSTON STRANGLER) the other a box office failure that has developed a strong cult following that continues to grow (PRETTY POISON).600full-the-boston-strangler-poster

First, we have THE BOSTON STRANGLER.

 

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THE BOSTON STRANGLER was a big budget ($4.1 million) film released October 16,1968. Critical reaction was mixed for director Richard Fleischer (20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA(Disney,1954) and his then daring split screen and multiple images to show various points of views at the same time (also used in GRAND PRIX (MGM,1966) as well as THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (U.A.,1968)). There was a more unanimous consensus of praise for Tony Curtis and his daring and solid performance as split personality Albert DeSalvo. Curtis won a Golden Globe for Best Actor, which must have been thrilling for him, considering that he was not considered able to play the role, but had to win the role by taking photos of himself in makeup and having director Fleischer slip them to the studio head, who said that was the type that they were looking for!

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                                                                   (old VHS  print from Key Video)

 

Based upon Gerold Frank’s best-selling well researched non -fiction book of the same title (Hardcover, New American Library,1966), there was difficulty in finding the right screenplay adapter. The original choice, Playwright Terrence Rattigan who wrote stage plays like THE WINSLOW BOY(London,1946) was a friend of producer Robert Fryer. However, the screenplay that he turned into a comedy! Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and writer Edward Anhalt (winner of an Oscar for the adaptation he co-wrote with his wife Edna for PANIC IN THE STREETS (Fox ,1950) produced a script that was more faithful in feeling to the Gerald Frank book.

 

Henry Fonda portrays John S Bottomly, who leads the investigation into a series of Strangle Murders in Boston. The police get so desperate they even resort to a Psychic to aide them. The killings continue unabated until plumber Albert DeSalvo is apprehended for attempted breaking and entering. A series of incidents and clues lead them to believe that DeSalvo is killer whom they have been seeking.fg11295-the-boston-strangler
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Tony Curtis is superb playing the family man who has a dual life and even a dual personality. The fractured screen shots and isolated images also perfectly encapsulate the isolation and separation that DeSalvo seemed to be suffering from. That he was not nominated for an Academy Award (the best actor award going to Cliff Robertson for portraying another person suffering from mental problems in CHARLY (Cinerama,1968)) is one of the major shames in the whole award process mentality, as he gives a superlative performance.reel-vs-real

Besides Fonda, other great performances are given by George Kennedy (a year after his best supporting actor Oscar win for COOL HAND LUKE(WB,1967)) and Murray Hamilton (who had performed on stage with Fonda, but is perhaps best known as playing the Mayor in JAWS(Universal,1975)as two of the detectives who piece together the various bits of evidence, as well as various members of law enforcement and society being portrayed by William Marshall(BLACULA,AIP,1972),Sally Kellerman (MASH,Fox,1970),Hurt Hatfield (forever Dorian in THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY,MGM 1945),Jeff Corey (SECONDS,Paramount,1966),James Brolin (still a struggling contract player at Fox at the time before rising to fame as a T.V. heartthrob on MARCUS WELBY,M.D.(Universal,1969-1976) ,and many more .wm-marshall

William Marshall

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(William Hickey as a suspect )

 

 

 

 

The 1080P transfer Region Free transfer is sharp and clean. Audio is an optional 2.0 or 3.0 DTS-HD Master. There are optional English (SDH)subtitles.

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Extras on the Blu Ray reviewed include:

-An isolated music and sound effect track. The score by Lionel Newman (COMPULSION, Fox, 1959) is effective, but, to me, not memorable on its own.boston-strangler-2

-An informative and nonstop Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle and Steven Peros that covers both the production history of the film as well its cinematic style, as well as a lot of information about the actual murders, the doubts that exists that if DeSavlo was the killer of all the victims, and where the film deviates from the facts of the case.e284dd9161031cb9263860acc4bf01ef

– “Real Killer, Fake Nose”- is over a half hour long documentary about the making of the film, and how innovative its cinematography and editing was for the time. Interviews include Sally Kellerman (who plays one of the victims) and Mark Fleischer (the director’s son) and D.P. Richard H Kline.9208-2284hqdefault

– “Split Screen Personality” -has director William Friedkin (THE FRENCH CONNECTION,Fox 1971) discuss the real-life events and the film, plus how the film influenced his style.f7242f42ecf78b86b83c9636bd8

-Original Theatrical Trailers (approximately 4 minutes)tony

-An 8-page booklet by Julie Kirgo about the film

Two extras ported over from the Fox 2004 DVD release are

– “AMC Backstory: The Boston Strangler”- a nice overview of the film made for The American Movie Classics channel when it was still about movies.

A Fox Movietone News clip (roughly 3 ½ minutes) from the era about Albert DeSalvo.desalvo

Like Most of Twilight Times releases, this is limited to a print run of 3000.boston_strangler_mug_shot

Highly recommended.

 

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Next we have PRETTY POISON.
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PRETTY POISON was and is a quirky little thriller that failed to find an audience when first released. The screenplay by Lorenzo Semple Jr (fresh from T.V.’s BATMAN (Fox,1966-68)) is a fairly faithful adaptation of the short novel “She Let Him Continue “by Stephen Geller (first edition: Hardcover E.P. Dutton,1966), save for a reduction of the pill taking so prevalent in the book.e-p-dutton-1st-edition-1966hardcover

 

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            (note,this paperback edition says filming for EMBASSY PICTURES!)

 

Director Noel Black had only had a short film released by U.A. before he was given his feature film debut. He had seen Tony Perkins on Broadway, and thought he would be perfect for the part of Dennis Pitts, a young man who had killed his aunt when he set fire to their home when he was 15. So, sure that Perkins was right for the role, that Black waited at Perkins’ request until the play closed before filming began.6ku

Dennis Pitts, after his release, is stuck in a dead-end job at a local chemical company. To break up the monotony, he thinks of young Sue Ann Stepanek (Tuesday Weld, who had been acting since age 13 in ROCK ROCK ROCK (DCA,1956)). Weld was a perfect choice for this role of the young innocent who it turns out is not as innocent as she first appears.s-l225

Dennis tells Sue Ann that he is secretly a CIA operative spying on the factory for dumping chemicals into the river. His harmless fantasies however fuel an amoral side to Sue Ann, who becomes the dominant partner in both sex, wanton destruction, and finally murder, starting with her mother (Beverly Garland, star of many Roger Corman 1950s films).sddefault

Weld supposedly hated her director, and would often refuse to do as he asked or would break down in tears. Perkins had no such problem with Black, and the finished film was affected by the behind the scenes dramas. Weld & Perkins would work together again in PLAY IT AS IT LAYS (Universal,1971), another wonderful film that was also a box office failure.prettypoison_toppage

Though not hired with it in mind, it is hard to escape the idea that this is a variant of Norman Bates for Perkins. Indeed, parts of it could be a template for PSYCHO II (Universal ,1983). The film also seems to me to be a precursor of Terrence Malik’s BADLANDS (WB,1973), albeit with a darker sense of humor than that latter film.

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Shot over 30 days on location in Massachusetts, with only an additional day of studio work, the film was brought in for a 1.3-million-dollar budget.dolce-veleno-italian-poster-by-enzo-nistri

Sadly,1968 was a year when random gun violence was on the rise, with the murders of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr happening earlier. The studio, which didn’t seem to have much faith in the finished film, dumped it into 42nd Street double bills. However, when Pauline Kael and Rex Reed championed it, the studio gave it a more halfhearted art-house release, again with little support.nxcgmsszzyldoylqfq4dhklhxil

Director Noel Black never seemed to have ever gotten the chance to ever match this film. Several aborted projects, some barely released (MIRRORS,1978, First American Films), and a lot of tv work.

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His biggest theatrical success was the teen sex comedy PRIVATE SCHOOL(Universal,1983). Towards the end of his life, Anthony Perkins tried in vein to get Noel Black as director for PSYCHO IV, which eventually was directed by Mick Garris from an awful Joseph Stefano script (Universal TV,1990).

 

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It was only when PRETTY POISON began showings on t.v. in a heavily edited edition that a wider group of people began to discover the movie. A rather bland vhs release and a no frills 2006 DVD from Fox (the region 2 DVD at least had a commentary by director Black) were also both released without fanfare.

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TWILIGHT TIME, once again, has gone all out on bringing this gem to the attention of the movie loving public, and what a wonderful job that they have done.

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First, we have the beautiful 1080p High Definition transfer. The magnificent cinematography by
David Quaid (whose previous work varied from SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS(Embassy,1964) to THE SWIMMER(Columbia,1968)) gets a proper framing and clean sharp images.

The original mono sound can be heard in crisp 1.0 DTS-HD MA, with optional English SDH subtitles.

As for extras:
At this point (January ,2017), I think of those who worked on PRETTY POISON, only producer Lawrence Turman (age 90!) is still with us. Turman’s latest production was the 2011 remake of THE THING(Universal), so we are lucky that TWILIGHT TIME could get him for the audio commentary. With him are film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. The trio keep up a lively commentary.

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Also included is the audio commentary from the 2004 region 2 DVD. This has director Noel Black and film historian Robert Fischer discussing the history and tribulations of the film,

Johnny Mandel’s music and the films effects sound track are given an isolated sound track on the disc. Mandel’s score strikes the right balance between a thriller and a romance.

Optional English Subtitles are also available.

Julie Kirgo once again supplies an informative 8-page booklet about the film.

The BluRay sleeve is reversible with a stylized drawing of Perkins & Weld.

Also included is the audio commentary from the 2006 region 2 DVD. This has director Noel Black and film historian Robert Fischer discussing the history and tribulations of the film,

An interesting extra is a text script scene that was deleted that has commentary by Black and Fischer.

This TWILIGHT TIME release is limited to only 3,000 units.

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Once again, I must say, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I may just have to save time at this rate and say TWILIGHT TIME -HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for all future reviews.

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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(Did I mention the 1996 remake?I didn’t? Good, because it was pretty bad.) 

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