All posts by alanwp

Cheesy, cheap and a true cult classic: Olive Films brings “Panther Girl of the Kongo ” to Blu-ray and DVD

Patty, Maxene and LaVerne promised that bongo, bongo, bongo, I don’t want to leave the Congo, oh no no no no no/Bingo, bangle, bungle, I’m so happy in the jungle, I refuse to go.

Spelling aside, we can’t wait to spend 12 chapters with Panther Girl of the Kongo that, at a cost  of $179,341, was the most expensive Republic serial of 1955.

When we say this is cheesy and cheap and oh-so-cultable, we mean it. The series was the penultimate ( 65 of 66) Republic serial, and was filmed in about two weeks. In order to make it possible to use significant stock footage from the earlier serial Jungle Girl, and cheaply pad out Panther Girl of the Kongo, a duplicate costume was used; as a result, Republic’s last female lead wore the same costume as its first!

The plot was a meld of serial fodder. Dr. Morgan is a mad scientist who is trying to nab sole access to secret African diamond mines (by way of the Republic backlot). In order to accomplish this he breeds giant “claw monsters to scare away any other inhabitants. Jean Evans, the Panther Girl, and her friend Larry Sanders encounter this plot while on a photo safari in the region.The star was Phyllis Coates, who played Lois Lane in the first season of the television series Adventures of Superman. Dr. Morgan was played by Arthur Space, best known as veterinarian Doc Weaver in 39 episodes of the TV series Lassie.

Olive Films releases release Panther Girl of the Kongo to Blu-ray and DVD.  Even audiences unfamiliar with serials can find plenty to enjoy. You may just not want to leave the Congo . . .

“Resistance” shines light on the little-known, top-secret Winston Churchill organization

And you think our country is in trouble.
What if D-Day had failed and the Third Reich continued to roll across Europe?  Following in the alternate history footsteps of The Man in the High Castle and Fatherland, Resistance shines a light on the little-known British Resistance Organization (BRO), Winston
Churchill’s top-secret and highly trained civilian army designed to wreak havoc on occupying enemy forces. This BAFTA Award-winning revisionist drama will be available on DVD and Digital on March 7 from Omnibus Entertainment, the specialty label of award-winning independent and foreign film distributor Film Movement.
Starring Michael Sheen, Andrea Riseborough, Iwan Rheon and Tom Wlaschiha, Resistance, based on the acclaimed novel by Owen Sheers is set in Nazi-occupied Britain.  D-Day has failed, and, as Panzer divisions and Nazi troops sweep westward across the dispirited countryside, Sarah Lewis (Riseborough), a young Welsh farmer’s wife, awakens to find that her husband, along with all the other men are gone, presumably having fled the village to join the top-secret BRO.

Shortly thereafter, a small Wehrmacht platoon arrives in the pastoral countryside and sets up an outpost in the valley to root out the resistance.  And when the severe winter forces them to cooperate with the locals, Sarah befriends the commanding officer, Albrecht (Wlaschiha), and the lines between collaboration, duty, occupation and survival are put to the test. Called “a beautiful, elliptical war film with the haunting qualities of a ghost story” by Empire Magazine, Resistance was nominated for the prestigious Cinevision Award at the Berlin Film Festival and a BAFTA Cymru Winner for Best Actress (Sharon Morgan).

Who offers great TV shows on DVD? BBC has just what the doctor ordered

Who continues to churn out great shows on must-have Blu-rays and DVDs? BBC America does, offering just what the doctor offers. Catch up on Doctor Who’s latest adventure with Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, working its way onto Blu-ray and DVD on February 21. And, yes, there’s some nifty bonus content.

In Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio, join the Time Lord, played by Peter Capaldi, as he teams up with an investigative journalist, played by, and a superhero to save New York from a deadly alien threat. Written by Steven Moffat, the special stars Justin Chatwin as Grant, along with Matt Lucas, Charity Wakefield, Adetomiwa Edun, Aleksandar Jovanovic and Logan Hoffman.

The bonus content? There’s A New Kind of Superhero, in which we ask what it is about the Doctor that makes him so heroic; a special Christmas Doctor Who Extra (which stars Peter Capaldi and Matt Lucas); and many other extra features giving fans a special inside look at the making of The Return of Doctor Mysterio.

Mercy me! PBS Distribution is leading fans of great TV to “Mercy Street: Season 2”

Mercy me! PBS Distribution is leading fans of great TV to Mercy Street: Season 2, available on Blu-ray and DVD (and as a valentine) on February 14. The program will also be available for digital download.

What a small-screen saga! The critically-acclaimed Civil War-era drama takes place in the occupied city of Alexandria, Virginia, where allegiances blur, loyalties shift and the drama intensifies as the scope of the war pushes beyond Mansion House, the former hotel commandeered by northern troops to serve as a Union hospital.

The series follows the doctors, nurses and soldiers, as well as free, enslaved and contraband African Americans and other residents of the war-torn city, as they navigate the new world emerging from the most cataclysmic event in our country’s history.

Just how hot is the series? The first season of Mercy Street, that premiered in January 2016, reached a total audience of 14 million people. It is the second highest rated drama for the year to date on PBS, after Downton Abbey.

The second season picks up directly from the dramatic events at the end of the first season finale, continuing to explore life in the chaotic city of Alexandria, the complicated interpersonal dynamics of Dr. Foster, Nurse Mary and the Mansion House staff, the increasingly precarious position of the Green family and the changing world of the burgeoning black population. The second season will introduce a number of new elements, taking the viewer closer to the war and into the halls of Confederate power, all set against the intensifying war, starting with the Seven Days’ Battle and culminating with Antietam.

The new season also delves deeper into the lives of newly freed African Americans, exploring–among other areas–life in a contraband camp, where formerly enslaved African Americans are forced to confront horrific living conditions and disease, but also get a glimpse of freedom.

New actors and guest stars introduced in Mercy Street: Season 2 include:

· Patina Miller as Charlotte Jenkins, an educated contraband abolitionist activist who arrives in the first episode. A former slave who escaped to freedom years before through the Underground Railroad, Charlotte (a composite of numerous historical figures, most prominently Harriet Jacobs) offers education to other former slaves and helps with the sick who have contracted smallpox, which was epidemic during the Civil War.

· Brian F. O’Byrne as Allan Pinkerton, head of the Union Intelligence Service. The character is based on the real Allan Pinkerton, a Scottish emigrant and abolitionist who founded America’s first detective agency and successfully brought down some of the country’s most ruthless criminals.

·Bryce Pinkham as Major Clayton McBurney III, the new hospital chief.

· Lyne Renee as Lisette Beaufort, a stylish and bold Parisian who has a past with Dr. Foster and creates a stir in the hospital when she accepts a commission with the Union Army in medical visual documentation.

·Chris Wood as Captain Lance Van Der Berg, a handsome young Union captain lodging at the Green home when he strikes up a budding romance with Alice Green, who has ulterior motives for the courtship.

· William Mark McCullough as Larkin, a Confederate sympathizer in league with Jimmy Green, who helps formulate a plan to provide rebel fighters with munitions.

· Nyambi Nyambi as Caleb, a contraband who arrives at Mansion House Hospital searching for a particular woman.

“The Genetics of Health: Understand Your Genes for Better Health” is a practical guide to personalized health and nutrition

You can now take charge of your health by understanding the connection between our evolutionary past and our future well-being with The Genetics of Health: Understand Your Genes for Better Health (Atria Books/Beyond Words, $26), a practical guide to personalized health and nutrition from distinguished physician Sharad Paul, MD. Save the date: The book releases April 4.

Recognized as one of the best in his field, surgeon, academic and philanthropist (Time has dubbed him “Open Hearted Surgeon”), Dr. Paul combines everyday health with evolutionary biology and explains how to improve your overall wellness by following a diet and exercise plan based on your gene type.

Written in a captivating literary narrative that sets this title apart from the average self-help book, The Genetics of Health starts with our brains and covers everything from skin and muscles to hearts, diets and stress management. Dr. Paul shares key information and provides steps to improve our daily well-being—impacting everything from our energy levels to memory retention to our overall longevity.

Dr. Paul discusses:

· How to eat for your gene type

· Getting your genes tested

· How you can test for genetic dispositions such as laziness and procrastination

· The best types of exercise for your gene type

· How to reduce your risk of dementia

· The surprising benefits of dance and stress on our genes

· How anxiety and being a scaredy-cat can make you live longer

Our evolutionary past and genetic makeup determine how and why the body works the way it does and how it all combines to make us unique individuals. Presenting a compelling blend of medical mysteries, patient stories, and science, Dr. Paul has developed a revolutionary approach to wellness that will result in beautiful skin at any age, a healthier diet for muscle endurance and skeletal strength, a more resilient and efficient heart, better mood and memory balance and more.

 

Save the date! “Hits And Pieces–The Best of Marc Almond and Soft Cell” hits March 10

For the record: As a youngster growing up in Southport, Merseyside, Peter Mark Sinclair “Marc” Almond was immersed in the magical world of the three-minute single. Remember those 45s with those nice round holes in their centers? The 45-rpm single was King, and Almond worshipped at its spinning throne. Marc had always aspired to become a great singles artist; he wanted to follow in the footsteps of two of his heroes, David Bowie and Scott Walker in turning the single into an art form.

Those records, as well as tuning in to Radio Caroline, Radio Luxembourg and a weekly fix of Top of the Pops, acted as catalysts for the aspiring singer’s dreams and ambitions. He achieved exactly that when “Tainted Love” rocketed to the top of the UK chart in September 1981 (and became the biggest selling single of the year), commencing a singles chart love affair that has played a huge part in Marc’s 40 + year career and has seen him shift in excess of 30 million sales.

Now that impressive singles career is celebrated on March 10  with the UMe release of Hits And Pieces–The Best Of Marc Almond And Soft Cell, which comes available as a 2-disc or single CD digital download and traces Almond’s singles career from Soft Cell through to his solo work and collaborations.

Almond has always excelled at recording superb singles–he has secured a body of work that encompasses truly outstanding originals, covers and duets. Highlights of Hits And Pieces include “Tainted Love”; “What!”; “Say Hello Wave Goodbye”; the No. 1-reaching Gene Pitney duet “Something’s Gotten Hold of My Heart”; his interpretation of Scott Walker’s cover of Jacques Brel’s “Jacky” (with its epic kitchen sink production from Trevor Horn); a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” (with Bronski Beat); “Melancholy Rose” and “Ruby Red” from the Mother Fist album, a Tony Visconti-produced nugget “The Dancing Marquis”; last year’s superb “The Velvet Trail”; the glam stomper “Varieté” and another unforgettable cover in the form of “The Days of Pearly Spencer”.

To complete the package is the newest track on this compilation: The previously unreleased “A Kind Of Love”, three effortlessly breezy minutes that hint at Almond’s past–the “light summery psychedelic sounds” on that mid-’60s transistor radio, the Northern soul scene that inspired Soft Cell to cover “Tainted Love” and “What!”–without really sounding much like anything Almond has recorded before. “A Kind Of Love” was co-written and produced by Chris Braide. The loving tune is Almond the Singles Artist showing once again how to turn three-and-a-half minutes into aural gold.

Almond, a LaVeyan Satanist, has been with the same man for more than two decades. Yet he says he dislikes being pigeon-holed as “‘gay’ . . . such a label “enables people to marginalize your work and reduce its importance, implying that it won’t be of any interest to anyone who isn’t gay”.

“Blood on the Mountain” is a powerful and “early autopsy of a dying business”

It’s been called a “sobering early autopsy of a dying business”, this powerful and riveting documentary from filmmakers Mari-Lynn Evans and Jordan Freeman. Blood on the Mountain, available on DVD on February 21 from Virgil Films, helps explain some of the psychology behind its region’s economically embattled actors, whether they are beaten-down miners, unregulated companies or compromised state politicians.

Using interviews, archival clips and a timeline of headlines and news footage, this shocking in-depth investigation of the coal mining industry sheds light on the economic and environmental injustices that have resulted from industrial control in West Virginia. The film examines the harsh conditions of the coal industry and the haunting effects on the American workers. It is a documentary the American public needs to see.

Over the course of many years, the coal industry has transformed and impacted the development of coal. The need and appetite for coal and labor has placed a massive burden on many people including the workers and the land of Appalachia. Blood on the Mountain delivers a striking portrait of a fractured population, exploited and besieged by corporate interests, and abandoned by the powers elected to represent them. This documentary details the struggles of a hard-working, misunderstood people, who have historically faced limited choices and have never benefited fairly from the rich, natural resources of their land.

The film showcases the haunting and long term devastating impacts of coal mining that it will have its citizen and the planet. The film will inspire audiences to take action towards the many issues presented in the documentary.

 

Harper Design and MinaLima team for a most glorious “The Beauty and the Beast”

Tale as old as time/True as it can be/Barely even friends/Then somebody bends/Unexpectedly . . . 

Harper Design never does anything unexpectedly, but the publisher has bent itself in a most lavish way. They have just released The Beauty and the Beast ($29.99), the third book in a series of illustrated classics, that gets reimagined in a most deluxe gift edition. What a glorious journey . . . the tome features stunning new artwork and nine interactive features from the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise, MinaLima. Timed to coincide with Walt Disney Pictures’ film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, this book engages those interested in seeing the musical starring Emma Watson, Ewan McGregor, Kevin Kline and Ian McKellen.

To add elements of visual intrigue, MinaLima includes:

· A trifold map of the rich French city where the Merchant (Beauty’s father) and his family reside

· A fold out that reveals the interior of the Beast’s enchanted palace

· A series of windows that open to reveal different entertainments to Beauty while in the Beast’s palace

· A dial of the ring Beauty turns on her finger to return to the Beast’s palace after visiting her family

This collectible edition is filled with stunning illustrations of stories that continue to be cherished by readers of all ages. Forget the flowers, chuck the chocolates. The Beauty and the Beast  is a scrumptious wonder.

Hungry for great dishes and great TV? Feast on “Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking: Season 4”

Public Media Distribution continues dishing out tasty dishes. And DVDs. Now available: Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking: Season 4.

Nominated for an Emmy and James Beard Award, and winner of both Telly and TASTE Awards, the set is hosted by Pete Evans, Australia’s top celebrity chef. Follow Pete on a culinary journey across America as he teams up with the country’s most innovative chefs to source the finest regional ingredients and create a multi-course feast for friends.

In the two-disc Season 4, learn cooking tips and techniques from talented chefs, including Curtis Stone, Sean Brock, Andrea Reusing and Brian MaLarkay, and how you can interpret their flavorful dishes in your own kitchen. Watch as diners sit down to enjoy these spectacular meals hosted in unique places, from a majestic redwood grove and river oyster farm to a stunning ranch in the foothills of Montana and the deck of the USS Midway. You’ll want a seat at the table!

The episode descriptions are below:

Los Angeles, California–Curtis Stone & Francis Derby
Chefs Curtis Stone of Maude restaurant and Francis Derby of The Cannibal restaurant join host Pete Evans to explore the culinary mecca of Los Angeles. From browsing the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market to Logan’s Gardens, the three collect their ingredients to prepare for an extravagant pig roast. Curtis makes a fresh peach mustard for his fennel-rubbed pig, which is paired with Francis’ spread of mixed charcuterie, raw vegetables and duck rillettes. It’s a picture perfect feast for a beautiful location in Silverlake, California.

Bozeman, Montana–Melissa Harrison & Eduardo Garcia
Big Sky meets lamb in Bozeman, where chefs Melissa Harrison and Eduardo Garcia create dishes with rustic flair. Our host Pete Evans joins the chefs in the beautiful Montana terrain for trout fly-fishing and the three channel their wild side as they forage for natural and fresh ingredients. This Moveable Feast takes Chef Evans to the spectacular Willow Spring Farm in Montana, where Chefs Harrison and Garcia serve a mouthwatering whole roasted lamb on a spit.

Charleston, South Carolina–Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope
Explore the culinary wonders of Charleston as you head toward the shore. Chefs Mike Lata and Jason Stanhope join the team as they venture into the water for shrimp and other seafood delicacies that make for a mouth-watering dinner. With oysters as an appetizer and Lata’s fish stew served with Stanhope’s rice and vegetables dishes, this meal will be one for the books.

San Francisco–David Barzelay and Brandon Jew
Host Pete Evans takes us to Golden Gate Park with fellow chefs David Barzelay of San Francisco’s Lazy Bear and Brandon Jew of Mister Jiu’s. Our team will forage today, first for seaweed off Bodega Bay, then redwood bark for our cocktail. For their meal, they prepare steamed halibut and bone marrow and aged cheddar cheese with crudite. Their cross-cultural meal meets a rustic setting as they eat a beautiful dinner inside a Redwood grove.

Baltimore, Maryland–Duff Goldman & Bryan Voltaggio
Pete takes on blue crab country when he joins chefs Goldman and Voltaggio. After gathering crabs from JM Clayton Seafood Company, the oldest crab-picking house in the U.S., the group visits the small specialty store of Hex Ferments to purchase the best sauerkraut in the area. Pete starts the feast with Thai-style deviled eggs with crab mayo and kraut, while Brian serves a true Maryland blue crab feast and the Ace of Cakes aces it with the classic Smith Island Cake for dessert. Get ready for the crab and cake feast of your dreams.

San Diego, California–Brian MaLarkey & Javier Plascencia
Explore the culinary style of San Diego, where chefs MaLarkey and Plascencia create dishes with Mexican-Cali flair. Our host chef Pete Evans joins the chefs for visits to a Californian coffee roaster and the shores of San Diego to find perfect ingredients. We also embark on a trip to Catalina Offshore, one of the region’s premier seafood purveyors. Chef MaLarkey prepares a fantastic salad with grilled local sardines while Chef Plascencia impresses diners with a fantastic mole.

Davidson, North Carolina–Joe & Katy Kindred
Pete heads to  North Carolina to meet with the owners of the famous Kindred restaurant, chef Kindred and his wife Katy. The three visit the award-winning Noda Brewing Company–home of the Hop, Drop ‘n Roll IPA–and the family-run Newtown Farm for organic vegetables. Together, they make a beautiful lakeside feast, featuring classics like a crispy North Carolina oyster and shrimp roll, as well as pasta and clams. And, of course, no southern meal would be complete without a sweet dish like Katy’s strawberry shortcake spin.

Charleston, South Carolina – Sean Brock & Benjamin Dennis
The program returns to Charleston, where chefs Brock and  Dennis create some classic local dishes with all the Southern charm. Our host Pete Evans joins the chefs for visits to a South Carolina plantation, which produces some of the finest vegetables and rye in the area. We also embark on a trip to an innovative farm looking to feed and train the people of tomorrow and teach them to grow sustainable foods. Chef Dennis prepares a fantastic short rib and conch stew with classic southern grits, while Chef Brock roasts a pig with heritage greens and vegetables.

Topping, Virginia – Ryan & Travis Vroxton & Chef Dylan Fultineer
Pete welcomes us to Virginia, where we meet skilled oystermen Ryan and Travi, as well as Fultineer. Dylan brings Pete to Sub Rosa, a bakery specializing in traditional breadmaking. Later, Ryan and Travis have the chance to show Pete the secrets to their trade as they head onto the water and harvest one of the tastiest oysters in the world. Together, they design a meal that combines southern barbeque with the sea in the Croxtons’ BBQ Oyster Fest, and Dylan cooks up a special lamb and oyster stew.

Outstanding in the Field–Chef Oliver Ridgeway
Join our host Chef Pete Evans for Moveable Feast’s biggest feast of the season–an outstanding meal in the beautiful fields outside Sacramento, California. Our host visits Outstanding in the Field, a visiting chef-based, farm-to-table dinner experience, with Chef Ridgeway, who works with local farmers to create a delicious, fresh Moveable Feast.

Greenough, Montana–Chef Ben Jones & Rory Schepisi
The program goes to a chuck wagon dinner in Greenough, Montana. Our host chef Pete Evans joins chef  Jones, of Paws Up, and grilling master Schepisi, to experience a classic Montana barbecue. Chefs Jones and Schepisi take Evans on a tour of local farms to harvest honey and see how real Montana angus beef is raised. The chefs prepare a delicious meal featuring Montana beef in this quintessential Chuck Wagon dinner. This Moveable Feast even has our host on the move… on horseback!

Durham, North Carolina–Andrea & Brendan Reusing
From rooftop to rain in North Carolina, host Pete Evans is joined by the Lantern restaurant co-founders and siblings Andrea and Brendan to create an amazing local feast. Our team visits the small Chapel Hill Creamery, known for its award-winning cheeses, and the sustainability-driven EcoFarm for its fresh, organic produce. With the ingredients they’ve gathered, they prepare grilled country pork ribs with a rhubarb relish; a warm kale salad with radishes, eggs, and a bacon dressing; and an appetizer of grilled Bibb lettuce with mozzarella and preserved lemon and spring onion dressing.

Washington, D.C.–Mike Isabella & Jennifer Carroll
Go Greek in the U.S. capital with chefs Mike Isabella and Jennifer Carroll. Our host Chef Pete Evans joins the chefs in Washington, D.C. for a seafood extravaganza and to taste and learn about different varieties of smoked fish. We hit the original fish wholesaler to find high-quality seafood that is not only tasty, but good for the ecosystem! Chef Isabella wows with a simple and smoked mixed fish platter while Chef Carroll combines smoked salmon and blue catfish with marinated spring vegetables. It’s a feast fit for Zeus in Washington, D.C.

Need an escape from politics? Here’s a trio of good reads

Feeling exhausted from all the recent headlines?  Need an escape from politics?  Bad weather putting you in a bad mood?  Forget forking over big bucks to go for some R&R . . . you can savor R&R by Reading & Rereading. What better way to escape than reading a good book?

We offer a trio of our picks this month. Drawing you into a world of art and beauty, Alyson Richman’s The Velvet Hours (Berkley, $16) is inspired by the true-life story of a sumptuous Paris apartment that was mysteriously shuttered for seventy years right before the eve of WWII, and once belonged to the elusive courtesan, Marthe de Florian.  The novel is a mesmerizing journey of one woman’s reinvention from an impoverished childhood to art collector and muse.

Distract yourself with a glamour and flair with Melanie Benjamin’s Swans of Fifth Avenue (Bantam, $16).  This scandalous, riveting novel about the “New York’s Swans of the 1950’s and the scandalous headline-making, and enthralling friendship between literary legend Truman Capote and socialite Babe Paley.

If you’re still looking to journey further, try Dinah Jefferies’ The Tea Planter’s Daughter (Lake Union Publishing, $14.95). Set in ’20s Ceylon, a young Englishwoman marries a charming tea plantation and widower, only to discover he’s keeping terrible secrets about his past, including what happened to his first wife, that lead to devastating consequences.