2017, film, Horror, Netflix, review, streaming, thriller, tv film radio books theatremusic storytelling horror mystery fantasy science fiction thrillers drama, Uncategorized

CLINICAL (2017)

CLINICAL (Campfire/Netflix) Now Streaming on Netflix since January 13,2017. 1 hour 44 minutes.color. Horror.

The movie CLINICAL is a 2017 horror/thriller done so well that it will have the viewers at the edge of their seats, feeling the terrified emotions of central protagonist Dr. Jane Mathis, played by talented actress Vinessa Shaw who hasn’t aged since she played Allison in the 1993 movie, Hocus Pocus (Walt Disney Pictures). For those who are into intense emotional horror movies, this film, available on Netflix is definitely worth your time.

Dr. Jane Mathis is a psychiatrist who treats patients who experience trauma. One of her young patients, Nora, brilliantly portrayed by India Eisley who does creepy really well, breaks into Jane’s office, while Jane is there, and uses broken glass to first attack Jane, and then cut her own throat, right in front of Jane, who is too wounded and scared to stop her. Nora survives her self-assault and is institutionalized, while Jane is emotionally traumatized, despite making a full physical recovery from the attack.

 

Time passes. Jane begins seeing a psychiatrist of her own, to deal with what has happened. She is still plagued by nightmares about Nora, while furthermore emotionally haunted by the self-doubt of her failure to effectively reach Nora, which makes Jane question her own abilities and methodology as a psychiatrist. This helps make Jane a highly relatable character to people who have ever felt less than successful in their profession.

Nestor Serrano as Dr Saul

Jane takes on a new client, Alex, a man who has been disfigured and is emotionally suffering, too, convincingly portrayed by Kevin Rahm. While Jane has serious apprehension about trying to treat Alex, he persuades her to continue. Jane uses the controversial, yet popular strategy of trying to help her patient recover from his trauma by first recalling and acknowledging the cause of his trauma, even if he is trying to repress the painful memory. Dealing with Alex, however, is dredging up Jane’s memories of her horrific incident with Nora, making it rather ironic that Jane’s strategy for her client is having an adverse impact on Jane, as it becomes unintentionally applied to her own situation.

The story goes on with twists and surprises that will startle, intrigue, and entertain the viewers, who can make their own conjectures as to what will happen next and how the story will resolve itself. For those who easily become squeamish with depictions of blood and gore, there are some scenes that may be difficult to take, but you will still find this excellently done horror movie worth your time.

I highly recommend it.
-Sean Fallon

 

Hey,isn’t that William Atherton too? Cool.

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EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX -Woody Allen-Twilight Time Blu Ray

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (U.A.,1972) (TWILIGHT TIME Blu Ray ) $29.95 .Region Free A/B/C release July 18,2017 https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-sex-but-were-afraid-to-ask-blu-ray/ . Limited to 3,000 units.

Sex Sells. The maxim in advertising is often quite true. People are shocked and titillated, offended and fascinated, intrigued and repulsed by it. Due to that, interest in it never waivers. Back in the 1948 & 1953, the two books that became known as THE KINSEY REPORTS were published. These dry data filled books shocked people , as it let the general public know that their neighbors were doing it, how they might be doing it, some kinks they might have . Masters & Johnson also published their scientific studies, that showed such far out ideas as women might actually enjoy sex .


The freer society of the late 1960s led to the publication of the book EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* (*BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) by David Rueben ,M.D. Published by McKay in June 1969, the book became a world wide best seller. His how to manual seemed a must have .

When it was announced that Woody Allen was going to make a film based upon the non fiction book, people were surprised. Allen ,who had begun as a writer for the Colgate Comedy Hour on television, and written short humor pieces for magazines like The New Yorker. He stepped out and began his successful stand up comedy career , which led to his guest appearances on several popular T.V. shows.

 

His first play, DON’T DRINK THE WATER , was a hit that ran for 598 performances, and introduced the author to Lou Jacobi and Tony Roberts, the latter who became strongly associated with Allen’s films of the 1970s and 1980s.

 

A year earlier , he had written and taken a small role in the popular film WHAT’S NEW ,PUSSYCAT ? (U.A.,1965) .

His next film ,co written with writing partner Mickey Rose was the redubbed Japanese spy thriller International Secret Police: Key of Keys(Toho),with all the dialogue re-dubbed into an hysterical plot about the world’s best egg salad, and the new version was called WHAT’S UP TIGER LILLY?(AIP,1966),hoping to cash in on the success of Allen’s previous movie.

Disappointed by studio interference , Allen vowed to direct and retain creative control on his next films.
His play PLAY IT AGAIN ,SAM in 1969 was another hit, and brought actress Diane Keaton into both his professional and personal life.

Working with Mickey Rose again on a screenplay , Allen also directed and starred in TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN (Cinerama,1969). The modest film doubled it’s investment ,leading U.A. to sign him to a long term (though not exclusive) deal. BANANAS(U.A.,1971) made five times its production costs ,and his play PLAY IT AGAIN SAM (which he wrote & co-starred, but did not direct for Paramount 1972) also did fairly well . Diane Keaton, Jerry Lacy and Tony Roberts also reprised their Broadway roles.


So ,Allen ,who played a nebbishy character often obsessed with but failing at sex, seemed to be ready for the ultimate sex romp. But how to turn the book into a comedy ?

His solution was  to turn the film into an omnibus, with seven stories that all work separately,all dealing with sex.

Do Aphrodisiacs Work?

They definitely do for the Fool (Allen) who has fallen for the Queen(Lynn Redgrave). While his Bob Hope style one liners fail to thrill the King (Anthony Quayle),the Fool definitely has an interest in the lovely Queen(Vanessa Redgrave) that involves more than jokes.

While walking the parapet, the Fool  has an encounter with his father’s ghost (Allan Caillou,probably best known to many as The Head on the short lived tv series QUARK (Columbia,1977-78).A very funny exchange parodying Hamlet ensues.

The ghost sends him to the Sorcerer (played with glee by Geoffrey Holder) who give him a love potion

The potion definitively gets her in the mood. Their amour is stopped by her chastity belt,of which her husband The King has the key. Let us say it ends with Fool  losing his head over sex. A very Decameron inspired tale,by way of Woody Allen. ”It’s great to be back here in the palace!”

WHAT IS SODOMY?


Gene Wilder is Dr Ross,a general practitioner. A new patient ,Stavros Milos ( Titos Vandis,who had starred on Broadway in the original ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER,1965)),has a problem. He was a lonely shepherd who feels that his sheep Daisy no longer loves him. Shocked at first, Dr Ross is smitten by her sheep eyes, and persuades Milos to leave her with him.This leads to the doctor’s downfall,as he is discovered with the animal, ending in his divorce ,a nervous breakdown,his career shattered ,and him drinking Woolite. Wilder is superb and very sympathetic, so it makes the ending somewhat sad rather than funny.

Why Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching an Orgasm?

Woody returns in this spoof of Italian films. Here he is Fabrizio ,a husband of six weeks. His lovely blonde wife Gina (played by Allen’s real life second ex-wife Louise Lasser)is unable to climax during sex. Talking with friends provides no help ,until one day when he kisses her in a store ,she gets excited and they begin having sex in public.


The film is an hysterical satire of the popular films that were filling the art-house theatres . The clean lines ,camera set ups, and dialog marvelously send up the films of Fellini and Antonioni. The dialogue is even in Italian with English subtitles.

Are Transvestites Homosexuals?


Lou Jacobi is brilliant as a man who is at a dinner party at a friend’s home, when he decides to try on some of the wife’s outfits. The episode kind of ends abruptly,making it one of the more unsatisfying episodes,plus it never answers the question posed. For the solution  ,one needs to seek out the works of Ed Wood (the answer, by the way ,is no.Not all transvestites are homosexual).

The author of the original book, by the way, seemed to be anti homosexual.He found gay male sex life as loveless anonymous encounters,and also called a trans woman as a “surgically mutilated male homosexual”.

What Are Sex Perverts?


This segment is made to look like the popular game show “What’s My Line?” as if taken from an old black & white kinescope. Jack Barry plays himself ,as the host moderator of “What’s My Perversion?”. In real life ,Barry had been involved in the game show scandals of the 1950s . Among the real life celebrities who had careers on panel shows guessing  portraying themselves are Regis Philbin, Robert Q Lewis,and Pamela Mason, as well as Toni Holt(now infamous for strong support of Donald Trump). There are a few jokes about child molesters and rape that may offend .

Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research and Experiments Accurate?


This is my favorite segment of the film. An hysterical send up of low budget horror films. Heather MacRae               ( daughter of Sheila & Gordon MacRae) portrays Helen Lacey , an investigative journalist whose car breaks down .Luckily, she meets Dr Victor (Allen) who is going to the same destination,the home of mad scientist ,Doctor Bernardo (John Carradine, in an uproarious send up of a role he had often portrayed). He and his hunchback assistant Igor (Ref Sanchez,whose make up resembles Karkov in TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM(Cinerama,1973),a film that also starred- John Carradine!!)are taking part in strange sexual experiments, among them one of which an unconscious woman is being given nothing but silicone for a whole year.

”She used to be flat chested .Give me another year, and watch out”cries Carradine,the thought of which starts him slobbering and smacking his lips insanely.

 

Karkov in TERROR IN THE WAX MUSEUM

 

Dr Bernardo  plans to use Helen in his next sexual experiment ,but a fight breaks out ,and the equipment explodes and goes into overdrive . The result is that the silicone woman is turned into a giant deadly breast that begins to terrorize the countryside.

The film has the look of so many of the drive in films of the period ,including the stilted explanatory dialogue, the few pieces of mad scientist equipment, and oh yes John Carradine!

 

What Happens During Ejaculation?

Production Designer Dale Hennesy takes an early stab at the look that he will use for Allen’s next futuristic film, SLEEPER (U.A.,1973). In this segment, the set and the sequence at times resembles the 1966 science fiction classic FANTASTIC VOYAGE (Fox,1966) .The brain of our unseen protagonist is run by The Operator (Tony Randall) his assistant Switchboard(Burt Reynolds),and Brain Control ( Oscar Beregi,Jr) .They discuss the latest string of sexual failures, and The Operator checks out their current date (played by Erin Fleming. Fleming is perhaps best known as the woman who helped thrust Groucho Marx in his later years back into the spotlight, only to be sued by the comedian’s family after his death).

They are unsure if this date will result in sex until she says she went to New York University . “We’re in!”crows The Operator confidently.

The various parts of the body are contacted, trying to help get an erection( operated in a room filled with sweaty shirtless men trying to raise a hand cranked crane).

The sperm gather ,as if they are parachuters in a World War II film. One of them is Allen, who fears what’s out there, as you hear about guys hitting against a rubber wall,or perhaps it is an homosexual encounter!

The film is very funny , though some may be offended by some of the humor(rape jokes,gay humor, lines like “This is what we call a beaver shot”. ). That said, if you are going to see an R rated film with this title, you shouldn’t really be surprised .

The film was again a big hit for Allen, making a profit 9 times it’s $2 million dollar budget.

The film had formerly been available on VHS on Key Video .In 2000, MGM released with an acceptable Region 1 print.

The Twilight Time print seems sharper than the film has looked for years, though there is strong grain in the original negative . The film is presented in a 1080p High Definition ,1.85.1 ratio . The audio is English only 1.0 DTS-HD MA. The sound is clean and acceptable,with the dialogue clean and clear. There are also optional English subtitles,that follow the dialogue and action perfectly. This comes in handy if you wish to listen to Mundell Lowe’s score on an isolated track.It is a perfectly serviceable though hardly memorable film score.Still , it is nice that the option is offered.

Julie Kirgo has written a nice essay enclosed in a lovely booklet that is a Twilight Time specialty,wherein she points out that the film was a hit with almost everyone—except Dr David Reuben. Some people just don’t have a sense of humor.

I am aware that Arrow Academy in the U.K. released a region B only version in September ,2016. I do not have access to that print, but I do know it lacks the isolated music track.

If you are a fan of Woody Allen (as I am ) or enjoy wild comedies, you would be well advised to pick up TWILIGHT TIME’s Blu Ray of EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX .

Recommended.
Kevin G Shinnick

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DEATH LINE from Blue Underground Blu Ray/DVD combo

DEATH LINE (aka RAW MEAT)Blue Underground Blu Ray/DVD combo (DEATH LINE ,K.L. Productions/released by Rank (U.K.)1972; A.I.P,1973 as RAW MEAT ). color. 87 minutes. Region Free. $39.98 https://www.amazon.com/Death-Line-Limited-Combo-Blu-ray/dp/B06ZZZN1TS/

“MINDDADOORS!”

The 1970s was a time when horror films were changing. Hammer Films biggest hits were their t.v. based comedies,while their final pairing of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee was the barely released THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA . Traditional horror was on it’s way out ,as major studios would soon be pouring millions into the type of films that smaller studios used to make .,among them THE EXORCIST (W.B.). Still ,there were still several intelligent and interesting British horrors made although they too got minimal releases outside of the U.K.,such as THE WICKER MAN (British Lion)and DEATHLINE (K.L.Productions,released by J.Arthur Rank in the U.K. ,aka RAW MEAT via A.I.P. in the U.S.).

 

When people start vanishing in the London subway system ,the police ,led by Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence ,seemingly having a grand time in the role) is put in charge of the investigation. What he discovers involves a cave in from the late 19th century and cannibalism.

The film was writer /director Gary Sherman’s debut feature (he had made a short film in 1966 called THE LEGEND OF BO DIDDLEY). Sherman had the original story idea which was expanded by Ceri Jones into the screenplay. Producer Paul Maslansky had previously backed Michael Reeves debut features (CASTLE OF THE LVING DEAD (1964 Italy,released by Tigon in the U.K. and Woollner Brothers in the U.S. IN 1965;and SHE BEAST (1966 Italy,released by Europix in the U.S. in 1967)as well as John Hough’s debut SUDDEN TERROR(1970,MGM- EMI,NATIONAL GENERAL in the U.S. 1971),so he was a producer willing to take a chance on a creative novice.

 


J.Arthur Rank Film distributed the film in the U.K. where it had some success as a co-bill to the Mark Lester starrer NIGHT HAIR CHILD . However, in the U.S., it was re-titled as RAW MEAT in 1973,with a misleading poster that made it seemed that the underground was swarming with a group of near naked zombies,and the film did sluggish business.

When it was released to television in the early 1980s ,it was in dark murky prints and edited for broadcast. It seemed to have been completely over looked in the U.S. VHS release marketplace, only getting a bare bones (get it?) DVD release by MGM in 2003.

                                                                      BARE BONES-get it?

 

Now ,BLUE UNDERGROUND has done horror fandom a great resurrection, restoring the film and releasing it in a BLU RAY/DVD All Region combo pack.

 

The film has been cleaned up and given a new 1080p transfer from a 2k master,restoring it to a Wide-screen 1.85:1 / 16×9 ratio . The film has some grain,due to it’s low budget but the miracle that the lighting crew did on lighting vast areas of the subway with little lighting equipment is addressed in the commentary track.

Indeed, the commentary track is one of the most fun and informative that I have heard in some time. It involves director Sherman, producer Maslansky, and a.d. Lewis More O’Ferrall discussing the genesis of the film ,its cast, shooting and distribution. There recollections are quite vivid for a project that they worked on some 46 years years ago,and you can sense the affection that they have for the project.

One interesting bit was the cameo by Christopher Lee . It was hard to shoot a dialogue scene between he and Pleasence due to their height difference and so the director used it to his advantage ,for they shot the men in separate takes, and the camera edged higher on Pleasence to show that he was being diminished by his bowler hatted superior, Stratton-Villiers, MI5 (Lee).

Donald Pleasence is credited for a lot of the humor that the character he portrayed displayed in the film.The actor seemed to have been universally revered and respected.

 

Also discussed is Norman Rossington (best known to American viewers for his role as The Beatles ‘ manager Norm in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT(U.A.,1964) but in the U.K. he was a very well regarded and well known performer.

Actor Hugh Armstrong is  rightfully given credit for his exceptional sympathy that can switch to savagery quickly in the role of “The Man”. I doubt he ever forgot his dialogue, as his lines consisted of the one phrase :”Minddadoors” (Mind The Doors,which was often shouted as the doors on the railway carriages closed) .That he can put so many different feelings and emphasis on that one phrase is a credit to his acting skill.

The film script had to be submitted to the London Underground for approval ,and so a false script was provided and given approval. The film’s U.K. release poster also caused some stir with the London Underground as well.

Vic Flair’s original Transparency Art

Interestingly, Marlon Brando was attached to the production but dropped out when his son Christian became ill.

Back to the BLUE UNDERGROUND release. The sound DTS-HD Mono / Dolby Digital Mono .It is perfectly adequate and quite clear,with no need to play around with shifting speakers.

 

Tales From The Tube – is a short video Interview with Co-Writer/Director Gary Sherman and Executive Producers Jay Kanter & Alan Ladd Jr.

From The Depths – another short video Interview with Star David Ladd (grandson of the legendary Alan) and Producer Paul Maslansky.

Mind The Doors -An Interview With Hugh Armstrong. The charming gentleman talks about how he became an actor and his role in DEATH LINE, which involved a lot of improvisation.

Also included are original RAW MEAT TV and radio spots ,both U.K. and U.S. movie trailers,and a posters and still gallery.

If that isn’t enough for you ,there is a marvelous bonus collectible booklet written by Michael Gingold of Fangoria as well as author Christopher Gallo (THE FILMS OF DONALD PLEASENCE http://www.bearmanormedia.com/the-films-of-donald-pleasence-softcover-edition-by-christopher-gullo).

The DVD cover can be reversed ,as one side is for DEATHLINE and the other is the RAW MEAT poster.

The sound DTS-HD Mono / Dolby Digital Mono .It is perfectly adequate and quite clear,with no need to play around with shifting speakers.No Head Splitting Sound…

DEATH LINE was screened at Lincoln Center as part of their Horror Series in 2002, and director Guillermo Del Toro declared it to be one of his all time favorites. That is a pretty major endorsement for the film.

I think that if you pick up this BLUE UNDERGROUND release of DEATH LINE, that it may become one of your favorites as well.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNVVjYhketY

Highly Recommended !

Kevin G Shinnick

 

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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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THE BIG SICK review by Sean Fallon

THE BIG SICK (Amazon Studios/Lionsgate ) 2h 4m . Theatrical release June 23,2017.

 

The movie THE BIG SICK is a romantic comedy based on the true story of comedian Kumail Najiani, and his romantic encounter with Emily V. Gordon. Set primarily in Chicago, THE BIG SICK delves deep into the internal conflict experienced by the self-portrayed Kumail Najiani (t.v.’s SILICON VALLEY;H.B.O.). He comes from a Pakistani Muslim culture, yet falls for Emily a white American, convincingly played by Zoe Kazan. Kumail’s inner turmoil is not of a personal religious nature, as he is not strong in his faith, but it is in knowing that his family would not merely disapprove of Emily not being a Muslim, but would outright disown Kumail if he chooses Emily over his family’s cultural tradition of arranged marriages between Muslims.

 

When Kumail and Emily first meet, they are not forthcoming towards each other about major issues that could adversely impact their relationship. Emily initially fails to mention that she had been previously married, while Kumail fails to mention that his parents are constantly trying to set him up with Muslim women to marry, and would never approve of his relationship with her. When Emily finds out that Kumail could not realistically see a future with Kumail and Emily together, their relationship comes to an unpleasant end.

 

Soon, Emily is hospitalized with an undiagnosed condition. Kumail finds out, and under the influence of a doctor, claims to be Emily’s husband, granting him permission to sign a paper consenting for the hospital to place Emily into a medically induced coma, for the sake of diagnosing and curing her ailment. Soon, Emily’s parents arrive at the hospital, enhancing the quality of the production with excellent acting performances by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter.

 

 

The window that the movie provides into Islamic culture is one that requires further clarity, if the viewing audience is intended to take away a positive perspective. Islamic parents disowning their children for religious reasons paints Allah, the Islamic understanding of the God of Abraham, as being a god who is ultimately unloving and disinterested in the well-being of his children, and merely requires obedience for his own sake. This is very different from the Christian understanding of our all-loving God whose love never fades, no matter how far we have strayed, a God who wills for all to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, a God who so loves the world that He sent His only son, so that he who believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life, a God who we can refer to as “Our Father.” These two very different views of God, however, could be shown as reflecting the different views that Ishmael and Isaac had towards Abraham, Ishmael being the child of a slave woman, with Isaac being the beloved free-born son of the promise of God.

 

While making light of ISIS in stand-up comedy is in extremely poor taste, and truly good comedy does not require profanity, the movie definitely will have the audience laughing at various parts, while also captivating the audience with the emotionally deep drama of the plight of Emily in the hospital. It is there where the audience will truly be captivated by the story, pulling for a positive outcome for all involved. I recommend this movie for mature audiences. Beyond the high entertainment value, it brilliantly demonstrates how cultural clashes disturb both internal and external tranquility, yet conveys a tone that desires for true love to overcome.

 

The real Life Husband & Wife

-Sean Fallon

See the official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Z_o-8pkiVo

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KISS OF DEATH (Twilight Time Blu Ray)

KISS OF DEATH. (Twilight Time Blu Ray) 20th Century Fox 1947. B&W. 99 minutes. Region Free. $29.95 .Limited to pressing of 3,000 discs. https://www.twilighttimemovies.com/kiss-of-death-blu-ray/

People who have never seen the complete film know of it due to the iconic scene of a giggling insane Tommy Udo (essayed by Richard Widmark in his stunning film debut) pushing a helpless wheelchair bound woman (Mildred Dunnock) down a flight of stairs as she screams in abject horror.

 

KISS OF DEATH is a classic example of film noir that needs to be in every film lovers collection. Dark storytelling with the sense that violence and death permeates the entire story. Shot mostly in New York City at many actual locations (though, in my humble opinion, I think the interior apartment scenes and stairwells are sets, as knowing the size of the old Mitchell 35mm cameras, as well as lights needed, that is a heck of a lot of equipment and people to squeeze into such small spaces, not to mention loading in and out). around the city.

Ex con Nick Bianco (Victor Mature, at the height of his stardom) and three others botch a jewel robbery that results in Nick getting arrested.

Rather than turn on his accomplices, Nick is sentenced to twenty years at Sing Sing Prison. Nick thinks that his accomplices will protect his family, but three years into his stretch, Nick’s wife commits suicide and his two daughters are sent to an orphanage. Nick tries to make a deal with the Assistant D.A. D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) but too much time has passed to make a deal. However, if Nick will help the A.D.A. on another case, Nick will get paroled.

 

 

 

On the streets, Tommy Udo(Widmark)who served time with Nick, tracks down the mother of Rizzo. Rizzo, who is unseen in the film, was supposed to guard Mrs. Bianco, but instead it was hinted that he raped her, which resulted in her committing suicide. Tommy looks up to Nick (and many critics feel an almost homoerotic passion) and so when Rizzo’s mother (Dunnock) lies to him, we end up with the famous stairwell killing.

Udo tries to show off to Bianco, taking him to various establishments and talks freely about his previous crimes, to impress his “friend”. Nick, however, turns the info over to the Assistant District Attorney, who indicts Udo and grants Nick his pardon.

Nick tries to restart his life on the straight and narrow, marrying friend Nettie Cavallo (Coleen Gray ) who used to baby sit his daughters when he first went to prison. However, despite evidence, Udo is acquitted and wants revenge.

The film when it was first released was not an enormous success, but over the years its status has grown to where it is now acknowledged as one of the great film noirs of all time.

The film has been available on video and DVD in previous releases from Fox Video, but TWILIGHT TIME has really gone all out with its definitive release of this classic piece of cinema.

First off, the 1080p High Definition scan has increased the sharpness of the imagery, showing off the beautiful cinematography of Norbert Brodine. Brodine began working in the silent era (including Lon Chaney’s A BLIND BARGAIN, Goldwyn,1922), and during the early sound period he hopped around from major studios to independents (Bela Lugosi’s THE DEATH KISS, KBS,1932; DELUGE, Tiffany 1933) before finding a home at Hal Roach (TOPPER ,1937; OF MICE & MEN,1939; ONE MILLION B.C.,1939).

By the mid-1940s, he went over to Fox, where he had prior to KISS OF DEATH had lensed the noirish HOUSE ON 92nd STREET (1945).and the overlooked gem SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946). His black and white photography has deep blacks and various shades of gray.

The sound is mono (DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0) and there is really no need for surround sound, as the music dialogue and sound effects are crisp and crackle free. David Buttolph’s music is sparse but always efficient when used.

As to extras:

There are two audio commentary tracks that are well worth listening to.

Original to this release are popular Twilight Time Film Historians Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman, who have a more conversational style and while knowledgeable, still have the joy of fans.

Kirgo, for example, points out that she grew up in NYC and recalls how it looked somewhat as the film presented it. They also go into the homoerotic feelings that Widmark’s character may have had for Mature (“Ya can’t have fun with dames about”).and how Widmark originally thought the script hilarious (!) and read the script to friends in the voice he used in the movie. It made me wonder if the erotic undertone was added by Widmark, similar to  what Stephen Boyd did years later to Charlton Heston in BEN HUR (MGM,1959).

Ported over from the prior Fox Film Noir series DVD release is the Audio Commentary with Film Historians James Ursini and Alain Silver has a more scholarly tone but never monotonic while delivering so much information on the making of the film and behind the scenes going ons (for example, Miss Dunnock had to be flung down the stairs TWICE because the cameraman was not ready!). They also discuss the (loose )1995 remake.

The music score is also available on a separate audio track. The trailer features legendary columnist Walter Winchell praising the film with hyperbole that must have made the publicity team go crazy about. The optional white English subtitles are clean and easy to read, and follow the dialogue and action.

Get it and add it to your collection or Tommy may have to visit you!

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Kevin G Shinnick

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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

 

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