Category Archives: DVDs

Ignite Films ignites film fan fervor with restored ‘Invaders From Mars’

Ignite Films will be igniting the screen with its upcoming release of its sensational 4K restoration of William Cameron Menzies’ 1953 Invaders From Mars. The sci-fi classic will be released on Blu-ray and 4K UHD on September 26, 2022, just ahead of the film’s 70th anniversary.

Special bonus features include a restored 4K version of the original 1953 trailer and a newly commissioned 2022 trailer, an interview with the film’s star, Jimmy Hunt, an in-depth look at the restoration process led by Scott MacQueen, Restoration Supervisor, plus a new documentary about the film featuring interviews with directors Joe Dante, John Landis, Multiple Visual Effects Academy-Award winner Robert Skotak and other luminaries. These extras and the documentary were produced and directed by award-winning

filmmaker Jeremy Alter.

“I’m excited for audiences, old and new, to finally be able to watch this masterpiece of both film and restoration on Blu-ray and 4K UHD,” says  Ignite Films Director Jan Willem Bosman Jansen.
“We have taken great care to cover as many aspects of the movie in our bonus materials and design to bring it back to life for as wide an audience as possible. The work we have done is also a homage to the overall genius of William Cameron Menzies, and I cannot speak for him of course, but I think he would be thrilled with how his movie looks today.”
Fearful memories of this timeless 1953 bone-chiller still haunt the dreams of fans who have never forgotten the story of David MacLean, a young boy (portrayed by Jimmy Hunt) who witnesses an alien invasion. Invaders from Mars was filmed from a child’s point of view, using exaggerated sets and upward angles. It became a modern classic and was also one of two early ’50s classic alien-invasion science fiction films (the other is Robert Wise’s The Day the Earth Stood Still) reflecting Cold War tensions, the Red Scare and paranoid anxiety typical of many films in the ’50s.
The restoration of Invaders from Mars has been much hoped for and a long time coming. But the process was not an easy one. Leading the effort was longtime enthusiast and preservationist of classic cinema Scott MacQueen, who previously was head of preservation at UCLA Film & Television Archive for more than a decade, before retiring in 2021.
The biggest challenge for MacQueen was that the color negative confirmed for printing in SUPERcineCOLOR lacked many shots and needed to be sourced from 70-year-old prints.
Invaders from Mars was one of the most complex projects I have ever undertaken,” MacQueen says.  “In the days of analog restoration, it would not have been possible, but 21st century digital tools have been game-changers. Released in an archaic process that is irretrievable today Invaders from Mars was pieced together from five different sources. Additionally, eight minutes of European scenes and an alternate ending, and the original trailer, have been preserved. As star Jimmy Hunt says, ‘Invaders from Mars has never looked so good.'”

The 4K restoration process of the sci-fi classic required a lengthy search for the final elements, which was conducted by Ignite’s Janet Schorer. Additionally, it was imperative to locate the elements necessary to fill in the gaps in the original camera negative, which was stored with great care at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The George Eastman Museum and National Film and Sound Archive of Australia were instrumental in supplying additional key elements which were essential to completing the film.

Bonus Features
  • Restored 4K original 1953 trailer AND a newly commissioned 2022 trailer
  • Interviews with star Jimmy Hunt, William Cameron Menzies’ biographer James Curtis and recollections of Menzies’ eldest granddaughter Pamela Lauesen
  • Featurette with acclaimed film directors John Landis, Joe Dante, editor Mark Goldblatt, special visual effects artist and two time Oscar Winner Robert Skotak (foremost expert on Invaders from Mars), and enthusiast and film preservationist Scott MacQueen
  • John Sayles’ introduction at Turner Classic Movie Festival in Hollywood, April 2022
  • Before/after clips of restoration: Original negative and archival film elements,  with film restoration supervisor Scott MacQueen
  • Restored segments in 2K of the Alternate International Version– alternative ending and extended Planetarium scene
  • Gallery with original Press Book pages, behind the scenes photos from the restoration process
  • Twenty page extensive essay on the restoration process: Invaders From Mars: A Nightmare of Restoration by Scott MacQueen

Cohen Film Collection offers two important French classics

One of Cohen Film Collection’s August DVD and Blu-ray releases feature two titans of French Cinema: Simone Signoret and Alain Delon.  They are brought together for The Burned Burns, a crime drama set in the snow-covered French countryside on the border with Switzerland. The body of a young woman is found savagely murdered near the isolated Burned Barns farm run by Rose (Signoret ) and her family.

The police work begins and the investigating judge, Pierre Larcher (Delon), soon comes to suspect that Rose’s family, and in particular her sons, may have played a role. Signoret and Delon are outstanding as two forces playing a game of wits with profound consequences. Keep your eyes and ears open—Jean Chapot’s film features a stunning soundtrack by electronic music pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.

The second must-have flick: Symphony for a Massacre. In this stylish heist noir from director Jacques Deray, master director of the French crime film, five men tied to businesses with varying degrees of legality pool their money to go in on one huge narcotics deal that can set them up for life—and test their loyalties.

Restored in 2K from a 4K scan of the surviving 35MM interpositive (the negative is lost), the film boasts stunning black and white photography, supported by a lush and memorable score. Deray assembled an impressive cast of stars, including Charles Vanel, Michel Auclair, future director José Giovanni who also co-wrote the film, and Jean Rochefort, in a brilliant casting against type from his largely comedic roles up until then. This rediscovered crime thriller is sure to please fans of classic film noir.

“Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” return in fully restored Americana glory

There’s nothing like keeping it all in the family.

One of the most popular series in television history is making a comeback,  fully restored,  in association with the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and from the original 35mm picture and sound elements. Welcome The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Seasons 1 and 2 (MPI Media Group), arriving to entertain old fans and new viewers  on four-DVD sets on June 21, 2022. The two sets contain 39 episodes each, representing the complete first two seasons (78 episodes) of the long-running sitcom ranked number 6 on Vulture’s list of “The 50 Most Definitive Family TV Shows.”

For a record-breaking 14 seasons and 435 episodes, the series aired on ABC from 1952 through 1966, becoming one of the most cherished cultural touchstones of the 20th century. The positive, wholesome series epitomized an idyllic American ’50s lifestyle, its gentle humor brought to the screen by the real-life Nelson family: Ozzie and wife Harriet with their sons, David and Rick, all portraying themselves in a trend-setting blend of fact-meets-fiction comedy decades before Seinfeld and other semi-reality-based shows.

The series humorously chronicled the daily lives of the Nelsons as David and Ricky grew up before millions of weekly viewers. While Ozzie  had been a real-life bandleader and Harriet a singer, the series would help launch the musical career of their younger son, Ricky, who would become a teen idol with such enduring hits as “Travelin’ Man” and “Hello Mary Lou.”

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was the longest running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history until It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia surpassed it on December 1, 2021, when that series debuted its 15th season. But Ozzie and Harriet still hold the record for most episodes produced: 435. Among its Emmy nominations and many other accolades, TV Guide placed Ozzie Nelson at number 21 on its list of “50 Greatest TV Dads of All Time.”

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And now, for the very first time, in association with the Nelson family, the entire series has been digitally restored for its 70th Anniversary with complete episodes from the original film negatives for superior picture quality.

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Season One contains all 39 full, fun-filled episodes on four DVDs, starting with the premiere show and other rare adventures not seen on television in decades. Don DeFore appears as Ozzie’s neighbor pal Thorny along with guest stars from classic television and films, including Hal Smith, Ellen Corby, Janet Waldo, Joseph Kearns, Frank Nelson and other familiar faces. Season Two also contains 39 episodes––with more lost moments appearing for the first time since originally broadcast—and features such guest stars as Frank Cady, John Carradine and Lurene Tuttle.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT: WATCH “DANGEROUS ASSIGNMENT” AND RELIVE CLASSIC TV OF THE PAST

Old-time actor [read: great actor] Brian Donlevy stars in the old-time TV series [read: great TV series from yesteryear] Dangerous Assignment: The Complete Series (MPI Media Group]. Here, the veteran plays U.S. Government Agent Steve Mitchell, who travels the globe investigating cases of espionage, sabotage and threats to National Security.
Sound familiar? Donlevy originated the character on NBC Radio. The set includes all 39 episodes of the action-packed TV series from the 1950s.

The forgotten police series “Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files” comes back in all 39 episodes

Interested in binging on an arresting (but forgotten) police series? All 1020 minutes spanning 39 episodes? Then mark July 20 on your must-get list; that’s the date Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files hits the shelves.

In 1957, Hal Roach Studios and producer Ben Fox brought the fast-paced drama to television, starring Richard Travis as Sheriff George Barrett of the Los Angeles County Police Department, Denver Pyle as Sgt. Murchison and Fredd Wayne as Sgt. Bill Hollis.

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Like its sister series Dragnet, Code 3 featured true crime cases–this time from the files of the search and rescue branch of the Los Angeles Police Department–always “changing the names to protect the innocent.” At the end of most of the broadcasts, the real-life Sheriff of Los Angeles County, Eugene W. Biscailuz, made an appearance to recap that night’s adventure.
Code 3 enjoyed a healthy run in television syndication and featured lots of guest stars. Instead of naming names, we are going to tease you by tossing out the names of other TV series from which the guests were imported . . . Star Trek, The Patty Duke Show, Bewitched, Gilligan’s Island, Mannix, Zorro and The Dukes of Hazard.

Alain Delon + Jacques Deray + Cohen Film Collection = Three French Films that are Must-See

Die-hard film fans know  that Alain Delon (a) French actor is a handsome hunk and (b) Jacques Deray is a daring director. Pair them together,  and French fireworks explode.
Save the date: On August 31, Cohen Film Collection releases “Three Men to Kill: Two New Restored Films by Jacque Deray.”
The Gang (1977): In 1945, as World War Two comes to a close, five small time crooks unite to form a gang lead by Delon. After several bold robberies they become notorious as “the front-wheel drive gang.” The police attempt to stop their crime spree with little success . . . but how long will their luck last?
Three Men to Kill (1980): In this gritty, violent and suspenseful thriller, Delon plays Gerfaut who comes to the aid of a man laying wounded in the road, not knowing the man has taken two bullets to the belly.

Soon he becomes the target for the killers, who see him as a dangerous witness. But Gerfaut has been around the block a couple of times and he won’t be so easily eliminated.

George Chakiris’ autobiography will leave some readers (dis)pleased

Read it. Digest it. And after coming up for air after a whirlwind read of George Chakiris’ autobiography, My West Side Story: A Memoir (Lyons Press, $24.95), you realize you were dazzled.

And duped.

We will explain.

It’s obvious Chakiris loved dancing, a skill so streamlined and stylized that it launched him into a pretty nice career, most notably for West Side Story.

The actor/dancer was first cast in the London production as Riff, gang leader of the Jets. The musical premiered in London in late 1958, and Chakiris received rave reviews, playing the role for almost two years.

The actor, who is of Greek descent, then auditioned for the film version, but the producers thought Chakiris’ dark complexion made him more suitable for the role of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks. (Russ Tamblyn got the role of Riff.)

Switching sides to play Bernardo, brother to Natalie Wood’s Maria and partner to Rita Moreno’s Anita, secured him the role on Broadway after seven months of filming. The film (also co-directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins) returns to theaters for two days only as part of Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies’ TCM Big Screen Classics series with an introduction from TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. The beloved movie musical will play in select theaters June 24 and 27 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. local time both days.

The movie not only gained Chakiris a huge  following but also the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in Motion Picture.

West Side Story, all three versions, made him a star.

“I know exactly where my gratitude belongs,” Chakiris writes, “and I still marvel at how, unbeknownst to me at the time, the joyful path of my life was paved one night in 1949 when Jerome Robbins sat Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents down in his apartment and announced, ‘I have an idea.'”

It’s obviously Chakiris was not best friends with Jerome Robbins, the legendary choreographer who was a former Communist Party member and named 10 communists in his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee. Robbins did propel Chakiris into WSS stardom and the actor dishes Robbins. Up to a point. He doesn’t tap dance the legendary truths about the mercurial, relentless Robbins, but in a few breaths he credits him with shaping Bernardo into such a memorable character.

Yet, before his became known for his stage work, Chakiris  had made a bunch of films—dancing, of course, but unbilled and in teeny roles He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe’ “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

It’s sad to know that, though Monroe was 23 years old and Chakiris was 19, they did not became friends, something he misses.

As he writes: “Marilyn had a quality that can’t be taught, or created with wardrobe and makeup, a quality you’re either born with or not. . . . Many decades later I accepted an invitation to participate in a documentary about her.  I said then what I’ll always say—I’m sorry I didn’t get to know her, but I’ll always be grateful I had the pleasure working with her.”

Can you spot him in the snippet below?

He appeared as a dancer alongside Rosemary Clooney, as she warbled “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me” in White Christmas (1954). See him?

TV shows, two record albums, sundry stage work and more films were wedges between his years. It’s sad that his film career was so spotty. Two films made in France—Is Paris Burning? (1966) and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort  (1967) are really good and still hold up; The Big Cube (1969, watch Lana Turner on LSD!) and Jekyll and Hyde…Together Again  (1982) are jokes.

Today, the 86-year-old thespian still creates, this time making sterling silver jewelry—pendants, bracelets, earrings. What started as a hobby blossomed into a full-time business. Chakiris’ stunning works can be seen (and bought) at georgechakiris.com/jewelry.

And before you ask, the answer is no. In the book, Chakiris refuses to confirm his sexual orientation.

He has kept details of his love life hidden from the media’s attention, yet it is widely believed among Hollywood actors and actresses that he is gay – even the popular movie and TV series rating website IMDb has featured him  in their “500 Gay Actors & Personalities” list. Some have even claimed that George secretly married his long-term partner sometime in the 2000s, but no proof has been provided to support the claims.

His is a terrible bother to me, born one day after Chakiris came out (of his mother) and into the world. If he is gay, it would serve as a great benefit to those boys and girls, men and women, questioning their sexuality, fighting the bullying, dancing around suicidal thoughts. I have the same feeling about Lily Tomlin and Barry Manilow’s queer denials—the singer especially. Everyone knew he was gay yet for decades he made up girlfriends and excuses. When he finally married his long-time partner and manager Gary Keif in 2004, his excuse for the delay: “I thought it would hurt my career.”

That’s why my Manilow CDs have been destroyed and why Chakiris  book was given away.

Not all acting succeeds.

 

How and why Dolly and I are bosom buddies and breast friends…from 9 to 5 and beyond

I knew Dolly Rebecca Parton and I would become fast friends when she let me hold her left breast. Before you start calling the tabloids or TMZ, let me explain. It was 1987, and we were in a photographer’s studio on the Upper East Side where Dolly was being photographed for the cover of Redbook.

She was dressed in a handmade denim blouse (size 0), the wig was perfectly placed, the makeup flawless. She eyed the catered buffet and picked up a piece of chicken with her two fire-engine red (fake) fingernails, brought it to her mouth and, plop!, the sliver landed on her blouse, smack-dab on her left . . . well, you get the picture.

The adrenaline kicked in. “Quick, Dolly!” I said. “You hold and I’ll wipe.” I poured water on a paper towel and began to very gently dab the spot. Dolly grabbed a portable hair-dryer and with that infectious giggle cooed, “Now quick! You hold and I’ll dry.”

With those seven simple words, my entry into the dizzy, delightful world of Dolly Parton—40DD-17-36—had begun. “One day,” I thought to myself, “I will live to write about this.”

The shoot was a success, and as Dolly climbed into her limo, I whispered, “I feel like your bosom buddy.” Without missing a beat, she said, “And my breast friend.”

And so Dolly—so surgically streamlined so many times she’s starting to look like a Siamese cat—continues to be honored and remembered, in books, TV specials, films, a failed Broadway musical, a Time-Life super-duper (and expen$ive) DVD box set and the marvelous PBS program Dolly Parton: 50 Years at the Opry.

The Queen of Country Music celebrates 50 years as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. Recorded live in Nashville, this amazing special pays tribute to her songs and career with special performances from Dolly and her star guests, including Lady A, Emmylou Harris and Hank Williams, Jr. This incredible concert brings together five decades of hits & memories into one unforgettable evening of entertainment for everyone to enjoy.

Alicia Keyes produces the riveting, important “How It Feels to Be Free”, a look at six Black Legends

Black lives matter. And 15-Time Grammy Winner Alicia Keys knows it so well, she executive produced How It Feels to Be Free (PBS Distribution), an essential documentary that takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers—Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier—changed American culture through their films, fashion, music and politics while challenged by entertainment industry deeply complicit in perpetuating racist stereotypes, and transformed themselves and their audiences in the process.

The film features interviews and archival performances with all six women, as well as original conversations with contemporary artists influenced by them, including Keys, Halle Berry, Lena Waithe, Meagan Good, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and other luminaries, as well as family members, including Horne’s daughter Gail Lumet Buckley.

Based on the book How It Feels To Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movement by Ruth Feldstein, the film highlights how each woman — singer, dancer and actress Lena Horne; jazz vocalist, songwriter and actress Abbey Lincoln; Tony-winning actress, singer and model Diahann Carroll; jazz, blues and folk singer Nina Simone; actress and model Cicely Tyson; and actress Pam Grier — harnessed their celebrity to advance the civil rights movement.

“These revolutionary Black women embody stories of courage, resilience and heroism. They fought for representation and economic, social and political equality through their artistry and activism,” said Michael Kantor, American Masters series executive producer. “We are proud to share the stories of how each left an indelible mark on our culture and inspired a new generation.”

Executive producer Alicia Keys adds, “I am proud to be a part of such a meaningful, important project. Art is the most powerful medium on the planet, and I continue to be inspired by and learn from these powerful, brave and stereotype-shattering women who leveraged their success as artists to fearlessly stand up against racism, sexism, exclusion and harassment. I honor their courage by celebrating their stories and continuing the work they started.”

Henry Louis Gates hosts essential “The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song”

Henry Louis Gates Jr. hosts some pretty heady programs.  His latest: The Black Church: This is Our Story, This is Our Song (PBS Distribution). This powerful history of the Black church in America takes us from his own experience onto a 400-year journey throughout which the church has been the Black community’s abiding rock and its fortress. As Gates brilliantly shows, the Black church has never been only one thing, and its story lies at the vital center of the civil rights movement, having produced leaders such as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

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also penned an essential companion to the series of the same name (Penguin Press, $30); a tome loaded with countless photos, as written as the special is hosted.

Also hosted by Gates: Gates Finding Your Roots: Season 6 (PBS Distribution).