Tag Archives: Ealing Studios

PETRUCELLI PICKS: 2019 GIFT GUIDE: THE YEAR’S BEST DVD/BLU-RAYS FROM FILM MOVEMENT

Film Movement has the knack to move things around . . . actions that move film fans to explore genres, watch movies previously unknown to them, introduce themselves to new directors, new actors, new talent.
We took such actions this year and discovered a trove of treasures; films that moved us to tears and laughter and the promise to keep our minds and hearts open.
A small sampling of Film Movement flicks that must be added to your must-see list:

Oh! The genius of Fritz Lang . . . M, Metropolis,  Fury, Scarlet Street,  Rancho Notorious, Clash By Night, The Blue Gardenia, The Big Heat.  After more than two decades of exile in Hollywood, the master filmmaker Lang triumphantly returned to his native Germany to direct a lavish two-part serialized cliffhanger from a story he co-authored almost 40 years earlier: 1959’s The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb, which together would become known as Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic.

Operating outside the Hollywood system and given more freedom and resources than he had seen in years, Lang returned to remake the exotic adventure The Indian Tomb, which he originally helped to pen in 1921 but didn’t have the opportunity to direct himself. With breathtaking location shoots, a large international cast, elaborate sets and a jungle’s worth of danger and treachery, Lang crafted a blend of evocative images and montage that, in the twilight of his career, once again proved him a virtuoso of film form.
Initially released in America as Journey to the Lost City, a radically condensed 90-minute version, these exotic masterpieces are finally presented in all their original splendor, featuring more than three hours of breathtaking cinematography and cliff-hanging suspense, in this new 4K restored edition. The release of the film is cinematic history.


It’s been described as “less a swan song than a meteor shower rendered in Technicolor”, a fab phrase that we wish we came up with. Cassandro the Exotico! is a stirring feature portrait of a lucha libre legend in his waning years in the ring. The latest documentary portrait from director Marie Losier, whose 2011 film The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jay followed the gender reassignment journey of musician and artist Genesis P-Orridge, puts the spotlight on another, very different gender-bending LGBTQ+ performer.

Famed as much for his flamboyant drag and sky-high pompadour as for his show-stopping kicks and flips, 47-year-old Saul Armendariz — known in the wrestling ring as Cassandro — is a champion “exotico” wrestler, a luchador who performs in drag with generous doses of camp vamping between back-breaking suplexes. His trailblazing ascent as one the industry’s first openly gay wrestlers has resonated internationally for a quarter century- the story of an underdog and a queer icon simultaneously fragile and mighty. Losier captures the moving, at times humorous, and always colorful dualities of this legendary figure with her talent for forging intimacy with a subject while celebrating his individuality broadly.
The film, shot entirely on 16mm film, follows the “Liberace of the Lucha Libre” in his final years of competition, struggling with opponents and the cruel passage of time, while melding tender encounters and larger-than-life fight scenes into a stylish whole that reflects the vivid textures and hues of a dazzling life in sport.
Dazzling, daring and diversely different, Cassandro the Exotico! is the Best Film Movement Film of the Year!

We never had heard of Arvo Pärt, but That Pärt Feeling The Universe of Arvo Pärt introduced us to the most performed living composer in the world. Who knew?
He is considered to be something of a recluse, and his person and work have rarely been documented on film. In this documentary we get to know Pärt as an artist combining an incredible sensitivity with humor and energy in his work.


The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s celebrated philosophical children’s book about friendship, love and respect, is one of the world’s most widely translated literary works. In The Miracle of the Little Prince, director Marjoleine Boonstra visits the people who have translated this little masterpiece from French into Tibetan, Tamazight (North Africa), Sámi (northern Finland and Scandinavia) and Nawat (El Salvador). All of these languages are under threat. Passionately enthusiastic language researchers, teachers and translators talk about how the observations of an alien prince on earth are interpreted in their own culture.
The Miracle of the Little Prince They also recall the first time they read the book, and, naturally enough, discuss the linguistic challenges they faced how do you translate water faucet if there’s no such term in your world? This original approach and the exquisite, calm cinematography allow for the telling of personal stories that are as bizarre, human and painful as the experiences of the titular prince. It s a film that inspires wonder a testimony to the imagination and the solace and liberation it offers.


Bursting with the colorful street style and music of Nairobi’s vibrant youth culture, Rafiki is a tender love story between two young women in a country that still criminalizes homosexuality. Kena and Ziki have long been told that “good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives”. But they yearn for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls encourage each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, Kena and Ziki must choose between happiness and safety.
RafikiInitially banned in Kenya for its positive portrayal of queer romance, Rafiki won a landmark supreme court case chipping away at Kenyan anti-LGBT legislation. Featuring remarkable performances by newcomers Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva, Rafiki is a hip tale of first love.


The Mad Adventures of “Rabbi” Jacob, a riot of frantic disguises and mistaken identities, has been magnificently restored in 4K and has been released on Blu-ray fpr the time in North America.
Victor Pivert, a blustering, bigoted French factory owner, finds himself taken hostage by Slimane, an Arab rebel leader. The two dress up as rabbis as they try to elude not only assassins from Slimane’s country, but also the police, who think Pivert is a murderer.
The Mad Adventures of 'Rabbi' JacobPivert ends up posing as Rabbi Jacob, a beloved figure who’s returned to France for his first visit after 30 years in the United States. Adding to the confusion are Pivert’s dentist-wife, who thinks her husband is leaving her for another woman, their daughter, who’s about to get married, and a Parisian neighborhood filled with people eager to celebrate the return of Rabbi Jacob. A hoot!


Umar Bin Hassan hasn’t even hit 70 yet, but he walks with difficulty and there’s sadness and fatigue in his eyes. As a member of The Last Poets, a group of performance poets who expressed the progressive spirit of the times starting in the late ’60s, he was a major influence on later hip-hop artists. In one of his best-known pieces, “Ni****s Are Scared of Revolution”, he criticizes his black brothers’ destructive, macho behavior.

Scared of Revolution, based on Christine Otten’s book, The Last Poets, concentrates on Hassan’s personal life, in which he still fights his demons. He grew up poor with a violent, unpredictable father, which in turn left him with an inferiority complex. In the course of his adult life, he has had a string of bad relationships and left children without a father figure. In his darkest hour, he also battled a crack addiction.
“Deep inside, Umar was scared of the revolution himself,” says fellow member of The Last Poets Abiodun Oyewole. But, as this intimate documentary portrait shows, Hassan takes control of his life again, breaks the destructive cycle and does his best to be the devoted father and grandfather that he was never fortunate enough to have.


We save the best for last. With an emphasis on “best”.
Since its launch in 2015, the Film Movement Classics label has been dedicated to seeking out distinctive films of the past from around the globe, and offering these digitally restored classics to cineastes everywhere. We go excited—truly, really excited—when we found out that Film Movement has acquired a baker’s dozen of British classics from the ’40s-’60s for Blu-ray and digital release on the Film Movement Classics label beginning this month.
That gasp you just heard? That was me. Yes, that excited.
Each of these new home entertainment releases has been digitally restored for optimal enjoyment, and each release will feature numerous bonus features for an unparalleled viewing experience.
The first two British classics to be released on December 20 are The Titfield Thunderbolt and Passport to Pimlico, both hailing from Ealing Studios, whose output from the ’40s and ’50s helped define the Golden Age for British Cinema and the birthplace of the most delectable crop of films to decorate postwar cinema.
The Titfield Thunderbolt (1953), the first Ealing comedy to be made in color, tells the story of the inhabitants of Titfield, who endeavor to prove that their single-track railway is the only form of transport for the village. The villains of the piece are two unsavory characters who have introduced a smart brand new single-decker bus to Titfield. Crump and Pearce, owners of the bus company, are determined to cease the running of the Titfield train, by fair means or foul. The film starred Ealing regulars including Stanley Holloway, Naunton Wayne, George Relp, John Gregson and Hugh Griffith. Extras on the Blu-ray include, “Making The Titfield Thunderbolt“, “The Lion Locomotive” and a Locations featurette; Home Movie Footage from Cinematographer Douglas Slocombe; Slocombe on Charles Crichton audio interview, the original trailer and an archival stills gallery.
Starring Stanley Holloway, Hermione Baddeley, Margaret Rutherford and Paul Dupuis, Passport to Pimlico (1949) is one of the most whimsically charming Ealing films from director Henry Cornelius. When an accidental explosion of an undetonated WWII German bomb unearths a buried cellar containing both fabulous riches and an unknown royal charter from King Edward IV that cedes the surrounding land to the last Duke of Burgundy, the town of Pimlico is turned upside down.
Since the charter has never been rescinded, the London district of Pimlico is now legally the long-lost Duchy of Burgundy, and therefore no longer subject to British law, including postwar rationing and pub closure hours. The locals, quick to see the opportunities, do their best to take full advantage of the situation.  Extras include a Locations featurette with Film Historian Richard Dacre; an interview with BFI Curator Mark Duguid; a restoration comparison and an archival slideshow.
Yes, dear readers, as Film Movement Classics reveals other releases, we will be the first to let you know. For instance . .  .
The next release, arriving on February 18, 2020, is The Alastair Sim Blu-Ray Collection. Though he is perhaps best known for his role as Scrooge in the 1951 film adaptation of A Christmas Carol, Scottish character actor Alastair Sim is one of the best-loved and most prolific actors in classic British comedy. Often appearing in multiple roles, he starred in more than 50 films beginning in 1935 and was both critically acclaimed and unfailingly popular, regularly topping the cinema-goers popularity polls. This specially-curated set includes Hue and Cry (1947), Laughter in Paradise (1951), The Belles of St. Trinian’s (1954) and School for Scoundrels (1960).
 
We tell us this  so that any cash Santa brought you must be set aside so you can buy this invaluable collection.

PETRUCELLI PICKS: GIFT GUIDE 2019: THE BEST DVDS/BLU-RAYS OF THE YEAR

Before making Hollywood epics such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, director Richard Fleischer started his career with a series of low-budget B-features, often taking ripped-from-the-headlines tales of crime stories and spinning them into noir gold,  of which an exquisite example is 1949’s endlessly entertaining Trapped.

A young Lloyd Bridges stars as hard-boiled hood Tris Stewart, a convicted counterfeiter doing time in the Atlanta pen. When a fresh batch of fake bills starts circulating, treasury agents bail Stewart out to help lead them to the maker of the fake plates. But Tris double-crosses the Feds, hooking up with his gun-moll sweetie (22-year-old Barbara Payton in her breakout role). They plan to heist the plates and hightail it across the border. With the Feds closing in and the double-crosses piling up, Stewart finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Will he trapped for good?

Although long sought by the Film Noir Foundation, Trapped was believed to have suffered the unfortunate fate of many B-films of the era—oblivion. But when a private collector deposited a 35mm acetate print at the Harvard Film Archive, the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive (with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust [The HFPA Trust]) sprang into action, restoring the film. The result, presented in a Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition by Flicker Alley, honors the pitch-perfect performances, assured direction, and gorgeous cinematography of this edge-of-your-seat, noir classic.


Olive Signature line has released  a Blu-ray edition of Bells of St. Mary’s that is a significant improvement over the DVD released by Republic Pictures 100 years ago. The lack of specks and soot and and scratches leads us to believe the film has been (greatly) restored, though why Olive doesn’t use this bragging point is beyond us.
The Bells of St. Marys (Olive Signature) [Blu-ray]This is not a true “Christmas film”, but the warmth and heart and humor and luminous Ingrid Bergman make it worth a few viewings. We are still a bit surprised when we admit that she and co-star Bing Crosby (as a nun and a pastor at odds with each other) have appealing chemistry together.


Have an appetite for a dark, delectable comedy in the tradition of cannibal classics Eating Raoul and Delicatessen? Look no further than A Feast of Man (IndiePix Films), certain to satisfy your hunger (and funny bone).
A Feast of ManWhen a wealthy and eccentric New York playboy prone to mischief dies unexpectedly, his four closest socialite friends  are summoned to the late aristocrat’s country home overlooking the Hudson for a viewing of his video will. Only things don’t go quite as Wolf, the executor of the estate, had planne: Gallagher’s posthumous wish is to put his dearly beloved to the test—each will become a millionaire overnight if they can unanimously agree to consume his dead body and the group, has until the end of the weekend to reach a decision.  Funny food for thought!

Say hello to the ultimate Tony Montana experience with the Scarface “The World Is Yours” Edition Gift Set (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment). This gem is chockfull of goodies: The 1983 film is 4K UHD; experience the unforgettable film like never before with HDR for brighter, deeper, more lifelike color.
There’s also more than 2 and a half hours of bonuses, including the brand-new Scarface 35th Anniversary Reunion Feature, with an all-new conversation with director Brian De Palma and actors Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer. Another Blu-ray bonus: Both the original theatrical and alternate censored versions of Howard Hawks’ newly restored 1932 version Scarface. Perhaps best of all is the limited edition, individually-numbered replica of one of the most iconic props from the film.


After a 30-year-old bachelor, leaves his corporate job to pursue his dreams as an artist, he embarks on a new life as an Uber driver while working on a graphic novel titled Pixelia, which just happens to also be the name of this IndiePix Films release. One day, a transgender woman gets into his car and changes his life forever; they spend the whole day together, opening each other’s minds: she shares her desire to adopt a child, while he narrates the story of his graphic novel.
After a special bond quickly forms, he realizes his own queer identity, and the couple start to make their way in a culture that is not always friendly to alternative ways of life.
This LGBTQ festival favorite, made on a show string budget, is a prime example of India’s budding queer cinema movement.

The Broad City Complete Series(Paramount) has everything a queen or two could ever need. In addition to every single freakin’ episode, there are special features including outtakes, deleted/extended scenes, and every episode of Hack into Broad City and Behind Broad CitysPlus, a special features only disc with more than 30 minutes of additional extras. Yaaaas!


Frank Capra’s heart-warming masterpiece is the best-known and most-loved holiday film.  Now you can watch It’s a Wonderful Life (Paramount)  holiday classic like never before, newly remastered from the original film negatives and more vibrant than ever with stunning clarity.
With the endearing message that “no one is a failure who has friends”, Capra’s heartwarming masterpiece continues to endure, and after more than 70 years, this beloved classic still remains as powerful and moving as the day it was made.


Not to be catty, but little heroes can romp to the rescue with the PAW Patrol pups, as the canine crew use their tools, tech, vehicles and problem-solving skills to save Adventure Bay.
Each pup has a unique job and skills, but the pack must always come together as a team to save the day. The 3-DVD set PAW Patrol: Best in Snow Collection (Nickelodeon) deserves a spot in each kid’s stocking.


For the young and young-at-heart: Bumblebee & Transformers Ultimate 6-Movie Collection,
including Bumblebee and all five Transformers films, from visionary director Michael Bay and legendary producer Steven Spielberg.


Baby Boomer boom! The Toys That Made Us (Screen Media) is an American television series created by Brian Volk-Weiss. The first four episodes of the series began streaming on Netflix on December 22, 2017, and the next four were released on May 25, 2018.
The eight-episode documentary series, as it was originally touted, focused on the history of important toy lines. The first four episodes focus on the Star Wars, He-Man and G.I. Joe toy lines with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. The Bu-ray set includes a free collectible!


Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orphee & Eurydice in one of opera’s most beautiful masterpieces; his exquisite drama introduces us to Orpheus, the poet and musician whose every word and note communicate the most overwhelming love for his Eurydice.
Gluck: Orphee et Eurydice [Blu-ray]This production features Gluck’s reworking of the original German opera into a French-language production which contains thrilling ballet sequences that will come to vivid life under the direction and choreography of the legendary John Neumeier. This production stars Dmitry Korchak as Orphée with Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and Lauren Snouffer as Amour.  Oui!


Democracies should protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable among them, but the United States is increasingly failing to do so especially in areas like the Rust Belt, the manufacturing heartland of the nation that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The investigative documentary The Corporate Coup d’Etat (First Run features) shows how corporations and billionaires have taken control of the American political process, and in doing so have brought economic hardship and ruin to vast swaths of the country. It combines insights from political thinkers and journalists with the experiences of citizens from the Rust Belt, where factory closures and outsourcing have left it desolate and people hopeless.
Corporate Coup d'Etat, TheThe film argues that the crisis predates Adolph Freak’s election by many years: Decades ago, U.S. democracy began selling its soul to big corporations; lobbyists and business-friendly politicians took control in Washington, gradually undermining the will of the people. Provocative and revealing, The Corporate Coup d État exposes what happened and where we are now.

Other First Run features topping the list:
Tattoo Uprising reveals the artistic and historical roots of today s tattoo explosion. This sweeping overview explores how tattoos were used in early Christian practices, how they were discovered halfway around the world during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and how they exploded in popularity in America beginning with artists like Ed Hardy.
Tattoo UprisingThere’s an unforgettable appearance by  Werner Herzog, who allows a rare glimpse at his Ed Hardy tattoo.

Spanning three generations, Chasing Portraits is a deeply moving narrative of the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and an unexpected path to healing. Moshe Rynecki was a prolific artist who painted scenes of the Polish-Jewish community until he was murdered during the Holocaust. Chasing PortraitsFor more than a decade his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, has searched for the missing art.

An elderly man, Octav Petrescu (portrayed by the brilliant Marcel Iures), returns to his childhood villa in Romania to sell it. Arriving there after a decades-long absence, Octav wanders through the atmospheric house and undulating grounds that surround it and is confronted and transformed Octavby the memories and spectres of his youth, eventually finding answers to questions that have cast a shadow over his adult life.

From Oscar-nominated Josh Aronson and featuring a new song from Jon Bon Jovi, To Be Of Service is a documentary about veterans suffering from PTSD who are paired with a service dog to help them regain their lives.
To Be of ServiceThe film follows these warriors with their dogs as this deeply bonded friendship restores independence and feeling for the men and women who so courageously served our country.


Inherited from Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori Method is a child-centered educational philosophy that celebrates and nurtures each child’s desire to learn, an approach valuing the human spirit and full development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The Montessori Method is increasing in popularity both in the U.S. and abroad.
Curious to see how the Method works first hand, filmmaker Alexandre Mourot sets his camera up in the oldest Montessori school in France (with kids from 3 to 6) and observes. He meets happy children, free to move around, working alone or in small groups. Some read, others make bread, do divisions, laugh or sleep. The teacher remains discreet.
Children guide the filmmaker through the whole school year, helping him understand the magic of their autonomy and self-esteem–the seeds of a new society of peace and freedom, which Maria Montessori dedicated her life work to.
Such is the wonder and joy of Montessori: Let the Child be the Guide.


Holy high notes! Melody Makers (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Visual), a chronicle of the birth of music journalism from the world’s oldest and longest standing seminal music magazine, Melody Makersis not just another music documentary; through a series of interviews from artists and journalists of the time, the film tells the true story of the rise and fall of the world’s most influential music publication and uncovers an era of tremendous creative freedom.


Who says the holidays can’t be a horror . . . and we don’t just mean when the in-laws come. George Roy Hill’s landmark science-fiction classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, tells the tale of World War II soldier Billy Pilgrim and how he was abducted by aliens. The flick took home the Jury Prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and has been a favorite of sci-fi fans ever since.  Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote the novel the book is based on, famously claimed, “I drool and cackle every time I watch that film.”
Slaughterhouse-Five [Blu-ray] Not only is Arrow bringing this to Blu-ray for the first time in North America, but it comes with a brand new 4K restoration and a spaceship-load of special features. Yippee!


He was a true genius. And Kurt Weill’s Street Scene is an amazing mélange of show tunes, arias, jazz numbers, folk songs and spirituals, a true musical melting pot that aptly underlines the rich variety of characters that populate the New York City tenement block in the ’30s that’s the focus of this exceptionally vital and criminally undervalued work.
It was meant meant to be a truly American opera, half-way between his The Threepenny Opera and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and drawing from the famous play by Elmer Rice (recipient of the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1928).
Kurt Weill's Street Scene [Blu-ray]Weill wrote Street Scene shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany. When he discovered the vitality of the American musical scene, his focus became to reconcile the Broadway musical with European traditional opera, jazzy and North-American tunes with an almost Puccinian-like lyricism. Under Tim Murray’s vivid and precise baton, the superb production by John Fulljames perfectly renders the vitality and energy released by the streets of New York that proved to be a great inspiration to the theatrical mind of the composer.
Released by BelAir Classiques, the staging generously evokes a bygone era of American history, simultaneously looking rundown and part of a dreamscape worth longing for.