Category Archives: Movies

Bela Lugosi + Edgar Allan Poe + creepy pre-Code condition + Arlene Francis =”Murders In The Rue Morgue”

What’s her line?
Arlene Francis may be most famous for her years-long stint on What’s My Line?, but she has a teeny (and uncredited) part as a “streetwalker” in the creepy 1932 American pre-Code horror flick. Based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe, Murders In The Rue Morgue is a haunting atmospheric thriller heavily influenced by the German Expressionist classic, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, and features Bela Lugosi in one of his most sinister roles.

Bela and Arlene

A deranged scientist, Dr. Mirakle (Lugosi), searches Paris for a “prospective bride” for his pet gorilla. Inviting young ladies to his laboratory, he injects his victims with gorilla blood and then disposes of their ravaged bodies through a trapdoor. Mirakle finally settles on a beautiful woman to be the mate of the gorilla, kidnapping her from her fiancé, Pierre Dupin.

Murders In The Rue Morgue

But just as the young lady is about to be sacrificed in the name of unholy science, a frantic Dupin locates his betrothed and tries to rescue her from Mirakle’s unspeakable evolutionary experiments.

Scream Factory, the deranged sister of Shout factory!, has released a crisp, remastered Blu-ray of the film. Great cover art, too!

Bonuses include new audio commentary by authors/film historians Gregory William Mank and Gary D. Rhodes; the flick’s theatrical trailer and a stills gallery.

February is a month of love, and what better than binge watching PBS programs with Russell Stover?

February is a month of love, and what better to love than binge watching PBS programs with an armful of chocolates?

Enjoy!

MASTERPIECE: Sanditon
Andrew Davies, Britain’s national treasure, has given Jane Austen fans what they have been waiting over a century for: the completion of Austen’s last piece of work, unfinished due to her death in 1817. Now Davies takes the first 11 beautifully crafted chapters of the final Austen masterpiece and creates an epic drama for all to enjoy. The lavish adaptation stars Rose Williams as Austen’s lively, but levelheaded heroine Charlotte Heywood and Theo James as the humorous, charming (and slightly wild) Sidney Parker.

Charlotte observes hypochondria, avarice and attempted seduction run amok. Lady Denham is playing matchmaker for her destitute nephew, Sir Edward, who is determined to seduce Lady Denham’s ward, Clara and become the primary heir to his aunt’s estate. Then, the arrival of wealthy, mixed-race heiress Miss Lambe, under the guardianship of Tom’s upright brother Sidney, adds another interesting complication.


MASTERPIECE: Howards End
Written by Kenneth Lonergan, comes the four episode adaptation of E.M. Forster’s, Howards End. Starring Matthew Macfadyen as Henry Wilcox, Philippa Coulthard as Helen Schlegel, Julia Ormond as Mrs. Wilcox, Hayley Atwell as Margaret Schlegel and Tracey Ullman as Aunt Juley,

this is a fresh take on the story of two independent and unconventional sisters and the men in their lives seeking love and meaning as they navigate an ever-changing world. Also starring Joseph Quinn, Rosalind Eleazar and Alex Lawther.


American Experience: McCarthy
The legacy of Joseph McCarthy’s relentless search for anyone he deemed a communist or enemy of the state will forever be shrouded in infamy. The Wisconsin Senator’s crusade is now the centerpiece of any conversation involving the government’s role in decency, democracy and ethical conduct. This witch hunt, completely free of restraint or oversight, led to the trials and imprisonment of many celebrities, Americans and immigrants.

This program details the rise of McCarthy’s political life which led to his belief that there was a great conspiracy threatening America, culminating in a chilling campaign full of groundless accusations, bullying intimidation, grandiose showmanship, cruel victimization and a web of lies to keep public opinion on their side.


NOVA: Decoding da Vinci
On the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death, with guidance from historian Walter Isaacson, NOVA pulls back the curtain to investigate what led to da Vinci’s ahead of his time, legendary successes.

The program examines how Leonardo’s scientific studies, from dissecting humans to studying optics, led to a host of brilliant inventions, like hang gliders, armored tanks, parachutes and many others. Decoding da Vinci further explains how this deep scientific curiosity was behind the most captivating work of art in history, The Mona Lisa. Viewers now have the chance to delve deep into Leonardo da Vinci’s Renaissance genius.


NOVA: The Violence Paradox
Violence is ubiquitous in our every day lives. We see it in the news, in movies, on TV and video games so why do some experts say that violence is decreasing and that we’re living in the most peaceful time in history? Can this actually be true?

The Violence Paradox addresses these questions and explores the intricacies of how violence permeates our life, psychology and every day thoughts and actions. The program takes us through time and the human mind to investigate what impacts the violence rates and what people are doing now to reduce violence in the world.


NOVA: Animal Espionage
Studying animals that are incredibly hard to approach or observe without them being aware has always been a constant struggle for wildlife experts. Though now, with the technological advancements of the camera industry, experts and viewers are able to get an intimate view of these species behind closed doors during their everyday lives. Camera traps and drones, completely hidden from the animal’s view, are allowing for revolutionary findings in wildlife biology, allowing viewers to get closer than ever before to animals like whales, tigers and elusive giant armadillos.

NOVA: Animal Espionage DVDThe recordings featured on this program capture everything from the unexpected to the comical, and these technologies are giving wildlife analysts insights that could ultimately help them fight extinction and habitat loss.

Mill Creek Entertainment offers exceptional box sets of favorite and funny TV series

Curious people may meander down to the old mill stream, but whenever we want something special to do, we head to Mill Creek. Here is where we (and you) will find with Entertainment with a capital E.

We stumbled upon two nifty complete series box sets whose content Mill Creek licensed (legally, of course).  Great picture quality and sound. And a hell of a lot cheaper than the same sets issued by the original studio.

Once upon a time… there were three girls who went to work for Charles Townsend, a mysterious man they never got to see, at his Beverly Hills detective agency. And they became the sexiest private eyes to ever grace TV.

Welcome to Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series, a 20-disc Blu-ray gem. Enjoy every episode of high-kicking action, glamour, guns, bikinis and hair. Each is packed with dangerous intrigue in the Angels’ world of money, mystery and murder. And the guest stars?

Then there’s, the 12-time Emmy winning Mad About You that explores the romantic ups and downs of an endearingly neurotic couple, Paul and Jamie Buchman, as they cope with marriage, mood swings, love and life. Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser still make us laugh . . . again and again.

Celebrity guests include such familiar faces as Lisa Kudrow, Carl Reiner, Sid Caesar, Estelle Getty, Bruce Willis, Hank Azaria and Cyndi Lauper. The 14-disc set includes a host of bonus features including commentaries, featurettes and a blooper reel.

Arrow Academy/Arrow Video drops a triumvirate of great flicks on February 25

February always makes us think of arrows . . . after all, that is the cherubic Cupid’s weapon of choise.

We also think of Arrow, that continues to offer up a diverse lineup for home video collectors with a trio of must- see, must-have releases.

The triumvirate drops on February 25, starting with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Manon via Arrow Academy. Loosely adapted from Antoine François Prévost’s 1731 novel, this stunning French drama is the story of a French Resistance fighter that rescues and falls in love with a woman from accused of working with the Nazis. The couple moves to Paris where their life begins to spiral out of control as they get caught up in prostitution and murder.

How good is it? The film took home the Golden Lion award at the 1949 Venice Film Festival. This new high definition release includes a brand-new video appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew and an archival documentary that features Clouzot discussing his love for literature.
First up from Arrow Video is the multi-disc set One Missed Call Trilogy. This legendary trio of J-horror films launched with Takashi Miike’s2003 film about people who receive strange voicemails from their future selves predicting their deaths. Yumi Nakamura, a young psychology student, begins to investigate the calls and discovers this terrifying circumstance has been plaguing Japan for centuries. The original series was followed by two more films, One Missed Called 2 and One Missed Call: The Final Call.

While the franchise never quite reached the popularity of contemporaries like the Ring and Ju-on: The Grudge, it’s certainly not without its own devoted fan base thanks to its visual flare and the nightmare scenario catered towards a generation that grew up with cell phones. The complete trilogy comes to Blu-ray with a full voicemail of special features that include interviews, documentaries, a TV special and a short film.

Rounding out February is José Ramón Larraz’s bonkers late-era slasher, Deadly Manor. Also known as Savage Lust, this final genre effort from Larraz follows a pretty standard template as teens stay the night in an abandoned mansion that happens to be home to a lunatic killer.

Unlike the trailer above, the film has been restored in 2K using the original elements. Deadly Manor will be making its Blu-ray debut. This release will include a multitude of special features, including a new interview with actress Jennifer Delora and the original VHS trailer.

Already ready for your eyes and ears:

José Ramón Larraz’s Edge of the Axe. This Spanish-American slasher follows a masked killer picking off people in a small California village with, that’s right, an ax!

Overlooked for years, this new 2K restoration (from the original camera negative) looks to introduce this cult classic to a new audience. The release includes English and Spanish versions of the film, two new audio commentaries, and more.
Black Angel is a stunning black-and-white film noir that marked the final time behind the camera by prolific director Roy William Neill. After a man is convicted for murder, his wife and victim’s ex-husband fight to prove his innocence. Lost in the shuffle of ’40s noir, and hated by author Cornell Woolrich whose novel served as the source material, Black Angel is a sleek and stylish film that genre fans will surely appreciate.

This new Arrow release contains a brand-new restoration of the film, starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre,  and a number of bonus features, including a video appreciation by film historian Neil Sinyard.

Jon Lovitz’s career has gone to the dogs. The dog’s name? “Agent Toby Barks”

We gotta admit we love Jon Lovitz. Even his name is funny . . . don’t you think? Lovitz has lent his distinct voice to a most adorable flick, Agent Toby Barks.

Is America’s greatest super-spy living in your backyard? Bret and Kate don’t think so—until they learn that their beloved pet dog Toby (voiced by Lovitz) is a secret agent working for the U.S. government!

In this hilarious, thrilling family adventure starring that super man Dean Cain, two teen kids must join forces with their talking, fighting, computer-hacking pooch to rescue their beloved Auntie B—who’s also a spy—from a mad villain who wants to use B’s crazy inventions to rule the world.

The flick hits March 15. It’s worth the wait.

Indeed, the cat’s meow!

“Zombi Child” takes a fantastical and frightening look at Clairvius Narcisse, a real/dead life zombie

The dude’s name was Clairvius Narcisse. Yes, he was real man, born in 1922 and dead in 1994; check him out on Wikipedia and learn “he  was a Haitian man said to have been turned into a zombie by a Haitian vodou preparation, purportedly a combination of psychoactive substances”.
Yikes!
Learn more with the riveting Zombi Child, opening here and there (see schedule below). Director Bertrand Bonello injects history and politics into this unconventional cross-genre film. Opening in 1962 Haiti, the horror-fantasy follows the real-life story of Narcisse (played by Mackenson Bijou), who falls dead on the street but is soon turned into a “zombi” when he is dug up from his grave and forced to work on a sugar-cane plantation.

Shifting to present-day Paris at the Légion d’honneur boarding school, rebellious teen Fanny (Louise Labèque) befriends Melissa (Wislanda Louimat), who moved to France when her parents died in the 2010 Haiti earthquake. After recruiting her into a secret literary sorority, Fanny learns of Melissa’s connection to Clairvius, and becomes obsessed with her new friend’s past and culture, soon doing the unthinkable: seeking out her voodoo mambo aunt to solve her recent heartbreak.
As  Screen Daily says, “Mixing political commentary, ethnography, teenage melodrama and genre horror, the film is an unashamedly cerebral study of multiple themes, taking us on a journey that’s as intellectually demanding as it is compelling”.
Talk of days of the dead and the walking dead.

SELECT THEATRICAL DATES
January 31 Alamo Drafthouse (Brooklyn; weekend shows)
February 7-9 SIFF Film Center (Seattle)
February 21  Nuart (Los Angeles)
February 21 Museum of Fine Arts (Boston)
February 28 Cosford Art Cinema (Miami)
February 28 O Cinema Miami Beach
February 28 Landmark Opera Plaza (San Francisco)
February 28 Landmark Shattuck Cinema (Berkeley, CA)
February 28 Cinema Salem (MA)
March 6 The Grand Berry (Ft. Worth, TX)
March 6 Gateway Film Center (Columbus, OH)

“Bombshell” offers tour de force performances in a film ripped from today’s headlines

We always though the term “bombshell” referred to Hollywood’s stunning, ill-fated Jean Harlow.
The  we caught Bombshell, the Oscar-nominated provocative (and true) story of three ambitious and strong women who risk everything to stand up to the man who made them. The flick arrives on Digital on February 25 and on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on March 10. This empowering drama commended by critics and audiences is nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Actress (Charlize Theron), Best Supporting Actress (Margot Robbie), and Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling (Kazu Hiro, Anne Morgan, Vivian Baker).
Directed by two-time Emmy winner Jay Roach and written by Academy Award winner Charles Randolph, Bombshell also stars Nicole Kidman, John Lithgow,  Kate McKinnon and Connie Britton, with Malcolm McDowell and Allison Janney.

Explore the fascinating journey it took to bring this ripped-from-the-headlines tale to the screen with in-depth Blu-ray and DVD bonus features, including a 7-part making-of documentary featuring interviews with the incredible cast and crew.

BLU-RAY / DVD / DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES
“No Easy Truths: The Making of Bombshell” 7-Part Documentary:
  • “Convergence: Genesis of the Film” Featurette
  • “Quid Pro Quo: Charlize, Nicole, Margot, John” Featurette
  • “Human Dynamics: The Ensemble Cast” Featurette
  • “Breaking the Fourth Wall: Visual Design” Featurette
  • “Layer by Layer: Makeup, Hair & Clothing” Featurette
  • “A Unique Skill Set: Jay Roach” Featurette
  • “Catalyst for Change: Parting Thoughts” Featurette
PRESS MATERIALS

Two new films offer honest love stories, as they take a vivid look at being gay in Central America

When we heard that José  was named the ​Queer Lion winner at the 75th Annual Venice Film Festival, we knew we were in store for something special. (FYI: The Queer Lion is the trophy awarded to the “Best Movie with LGBT Themes & Queer Culture”.) Not bad for the first-ever Central America film at the prestigious festival
José is a gripping,  layered and beautifully honest story about one working class young man’s struggle to find himself. Made in the neorealist filmmaking tradition, the film is a nuanced and vivid look at being gay in Central America.
José (magnetic newcomer Enrique Salanic) lives with his mother (Ana Cecilia Mota) in Guatemala City, where they survive on her selling sandwiches at bus stops and with him working at a local restaurant. In this poor and sometimes dangerous country dominated by conservative Catholic and Evangelical Christian religion, living as an openly gay man is hard for José to imagine. His mother has never had a husband, and as her youngest and favorite son, on the edge of manhood at 19 years old, she is determined to hold on to him.

Reserved and private, José fills his free moments playing with random hook ups arranged on his phone apps and meeting in clandestine sex houses. When he meets the attractive and gentle construction worker Luis (Manolo Herrera), however, their affair develops into a passionate romance; José then must choose between running off with Luis or remaining at home with his mom who needs him.  As he is thrust into new passion and pain José is pushed into never before self-reflection. Will his reluctance to take a leap of faith lead to happiness?
Director Li Cheng and producer George F. Roberson lived in Guatemala for two years to make the film using all-Guatemalan cast and crew and all non-professional actors. Researched in the 20 largest Latin American cities, they built the José story based on interviews with hundreds of young people about their hopes and dreams. They restricted the story around answers to three key questions: Which person are you closest to in your life? What’s your most unforgettable memory? Have you been in love?
The film was researched in a dozen Latin countries, and filmed in Guatemala because of  extreme homophobia and the young population; half is under age 19.
“We lived in different zones and neighborhoods,” recalls Cheng. “We’d take long walks in the city and see many dramatic, cinematic places. The first scene of José walking to work has a bus, metro station and a chicken bus station. It’s a crossroads. There’s prostitution, drug dealers, a market and it’s dangerous at night; it’s a mix of everything. It’s a big transition place. We saw these iconic places and how people are living their lives. They take two hours to go from the slums to get to the city early in the morning to make money. I wanted to create a kind of reality—where and how these characters lived their lives. We wanted to respect the people and their dignity.”
José was sparked from anger and disappointment in the world situation today and the film emerges with hope in the new generation of young people poised to reshape the world in breathtaking ways.
The film has much sex and nudity. It is nothing offensive. As Cheng explains: “For the sex scenes, many gay films are afraid to show a penis, or a complete sex scene. They cut to someone’s face or show a side butt. We need to be honest with gay sex scenes and make them like straight sex scenes. We should see a man’s sex organ like a woman’s. We insisted on this when we prepared with the actors. They were nervous and afraid, but they were bold. For the motorcycle scene, we had the actors sit behind each other, and touch each other. My direction was, “You need to get a hard on. Be intimate with each other,” so that’s what we prepared. I wanted to use this film to show that sex with love is more attractive, and valuable, and passionate. ”
Jose opens nationally on January 31.
January 31 New York, NY
February 7 Los Angeles, CA & Chicago, IL
February 14 Miami, Boca Raton, FL;
San Diego, CA; Phoenix, AZ
February 21 Palm Springs, CA
[other cities to follow; visit outsiderpictures.us/movie/jose


Maybe a distributor would consider a double bill?
Coming to DVD on March 10 from Film Movement and winner of the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature at NewFest 2019:
is Temblores.  In this deeply personal follow-up to his landmark debut Ixcanul, director Jayro Bustamante shifts his focus from rural Guatemala to Guatemala City, but once again sets his sights on an individual caught between two seemingly irreconcilable worlds.
When handsome and charismatic Pablo (Juan Pablo Olyslager) arrives at his affluent family’s house everyone is eagerly awaiting the return of their beloved son, devoted father and caring husband. A seemingly exemplary pillar of Guatemala City’s Evangelical Christian community, Pablo’s announcement that he intends to leave his wife for another man sends shock waves through the family. As Pablo tries to acclimate to his new life in the city’s gay subculture with the liberated Francisco, his ultra-religious family does everything in its power to get their prodigal son back on track, no matter the cost.

Winner of numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the Best Latin American Film at the San Sebastián International Film Festival; the Emerging Filmmaker Award for Bustamante at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival; and the Grand Jury Award for Juan Pablo Olyslager for Outstanding Performance in an International Narrative at L.A. Outfest, Temblores garnered universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike.  The New York Times called the film “vividly imagined”, while The Los Angeles Times says it’s “a penetrating, mournful portrait of sexual identity”. We like what Variety penned: “As the latest in a long line of films to examine the hypocrisy-laden clash between gay rights and evangelical Christian ethos, this strong second feature from Guatemalan talent Jayro Bustamante doesn’t ask new questions, but its sensuous, reverberating atmospherics find fresh, angry ways to answer them.”
Bravo!

Finally, the true and inside story of Hollywood’s forgotten force (and Garbo’s lover), Salka Viertel

Salka Viertel was once the highest paid writer on the MGM lot. She was also Greta Garbo’s lover, for whom she wrote five films.  A side note: So close were they that Viertel  bought a house next door to Garbo; when in 1969 Viertel  published her “autobiography” The Kindness of Strangers, she revealed their true relationship. Garbo never spoke to her again, avoiding her on the streets of New York City.

Garbo’s on the left

For the scores of wartime refugees fleeing persecution under Hitler she opened her doors to, Viertel was a lifeline. A courageous woman with a fascinating life and an incalculable impact on the lives of others, she has been long overdue for her moment in the spotlight.

So we can thank Donna Rifkind, whose biography, The Sun and Her Stars: Salka Viertel and Hitler’s Exiles in the Golden Age of Hollywood(Other Press, $30) shines a light on this remarkable story.

Actress-turned-screenwriter (Viertel declared herself  “neither beautiful nor young enough” to be a movie star), she left Berlin for Hollywood in 1928, bringing with her the bohemian spirit of the Weimar era. She would work with the luminaries of Hollywood’s Golden Age, including George Cukor, Irving Thalberg and David O. Selznick. At her house in Santa Monica she opened her door on Sunday afternoons to scores of European émigrés who had fled from Hitler—such as Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht and Arnold Schoenberg—along with every kind of Hollywood star, from Charlie Chaplin to Shelley Winters. In the living room (the only one in town with comfortable armchairs, said one Hollywood insider), countless cinematic, theatrical, and musical partnerships were born. As Nazi domination grew in Europe, Viertel poured herself into the refugee cause, arranging for jobs and affidavits for Jews and anti-fascists seeking safety in America.

Garbo in perhaps her greatest film, “Queen Christina” (1933). Her lover wrote five film for her. Viertel co-wrote the film with Harold Marsh Harwood. She also co-wrote(with Clemence Dane) the 1935 classic “Anna Karenina”, a snatch seen below.

If Viertel’s name has been largely forgotten in America, it is because too few people believed what she accomplished was important. Now, alongside our current moment’s interest  in recovering historically-overlooked women’s creative contributions, investigating women’s ability to survive and flourish in sexist Hollywood, and considering the moral obligations of Americans to displaced people in a world undergoing a vast refugee crisis, the questions Salka asked herself in the ’30s and ’40s about how one should live—and the answers her life exemplified—are as vital as ever.

It’s impossible to understand the true history of Hollywood without knowing the story of the dramatic, courageous figure of Salka Viertel and her rescue mission.

“The Ice King” chronicles the emotionally resonant journey through John Curry’s remarkable life and career

Forget Frozen. Perhaps the best film taking place on frozen water (think ice) is The Ice King (Film Movement). With a mix of new interviews, crisp footage and a treasure-trove of archival materials,  Emmy-nominated documentarian James Erskine takes viewers on an emotionally resonant journey through John Curry’s remarkable life and career. Curry transformed ice skating from a dated sport into an exalted art form. Coming out on the night of his Olympic win in 1976, he became the first openly gay Olympian in a time when homosexuality was not even fully legal.

Toxic yet charming; rebellious yet elitist; emotionally aloof yet spectacularly needy; ferociously ambitious yet bent on self-destruction, Curry was a man forever on the run: from his father’s ghost, his country,  even his own self.

Above all, he was an artist and an athlete whose body time and time again—sometimes against his will—became a political battlefield. This documentary uses Curry’s life and accomplishments to chart both the evolution of competitive ice skating and of the gay movement of the ’70s and ’80s that culminated in the onslaught of AIDS, which he was diagnosed with in 1987 and which contributed to his death in 1994.

John Curry with his Gold medal in 1976.
BONUS FEATURES
  • On the Beautiful Blue Danube: Creating the Music of The Ice King
  • Q&A with director James Erskine