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Crimes Featured

Blu-ray Review: “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Capping off the strongest decade of Woody Allen’s career, Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) is a nearly ideal synthesis of Allen’s strengths as a writer, director and actor. That might sound strange if one considers Allen’s talents to be primarily comedic — Crimes and Misdemeanors can certainly be funny, but the humor hardly undercuts the fundamental darkness of the material.

Nevertheless, this is where it all seems to come together. Allen’s attempts at brooding, intense dramas can fall flat, particularly when he’s aping Bergman (comedic emulations of Bergman, like Deconstructing Harry, are another, more successful story). But in its riff on Dostoevsky, Crimes and Misdemeanors strikes a meaningful, weighty tone. The film also incorporates Allen’s strongest comedic tenor — wry and rueful. Allen’s documentary filmmaker character isn’t radically different from any of the other men he’s played in his films, but the way he’s stymied at every turn adds an extra dimension of melancholy to his wisecracks.

Crimes and Misdemeanors is also one of the most convincing examples of Allen’s skill as a director, generally the most maligned, or at least ignored, aspect of his career. The construction of this thing is remarkably elegant, cutting back and forth between parallel stories and only gradually emphasizing the thematic similarities. One doesn’t tend to associate Allen with intricately designed visual rhymes, but here we are.

The first moral crisis we’re introduced to is that of ophthalmologist Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau), a man who should be entering into contented golden years, having achieved professional success and surrounded by a loving family. Instead, he’s forced to confront his own transgressions, brought forcefully to the forefront of his life by Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston), a flight attendant and his mistress. The luster has worn off the affair for Judah, and Dolores, motivated by a combination of vengefulness and guilt, threatens to tell all to his wife (Claire Bloom).

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Panic-stricken, Judah contacts his brother, Jack (Jerry Orbach), who arranges for a hit man to take care of Dolores. The ensuing scene is disturbingly matter-of-fact; there’s a methodical, almost banal quality to it that makes a woman’s murder seem like the most ordinary thing in the world. Later, Judah visits her apartment to recover some incriminating evidence, and the scene strikes a similar tone, flatly showing Dolores’s lifeless body and Judah’s understated reaction. His subsequent mood is far more distraught, but that owes more to his newfound conception of himself rather than her murder. The moral inquiry that proceeds from here is hilariously self-focused, an existential crisis that’s completely crass in its dismissal of the value of someone else’s life.

Allen crosscuts this story with Cliff Stern’s (Allen himself), a filmmaker who longs to make important, serious documentaries, but has to settle for a puff piece on his TV producer brother-in-law, Lester (Alan Alda) to pay the bills. Lester is comically pompous, but Cliff isn’t much better in the self-awareness department, cutting together a pathetic attempt to embarrass Lester and clumsily pursuing Halley Reed (Mia Farrow), the producer on the project.

Like many an Allen protagonist, Cliff can be charmingly self-effacing, with his Indian takeout and Singin’ in the Rain on 16mm, but he also overestimates himself. The scene in which he learns the subject of his passion project has died and decides to make a pass at Halley is painful. Never mind the fact that Cliff is married, however unhappily to Wendy (Joanna Gleeson). Here’s another character whose thoughts turn only to himself in moments of crisis.

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Allen’s playful interrogation of his characters’ moral fiber and the audience’s perception of that morality makes for a rich work. Where on the spectrum of right and wrong do these characters’ actions fall, and does it even really matter? Happiness doesn’t seem to have much correlation with morality, as Allen underlines in the film’s final scene when Judah and Cliff’s storylines finally intersect, and the two men share a moment of reflection. In Allen’s conception of the world, there’s hardly a clear-cut answer, but at least we have laughter, even if it’s of the bitter type.

After a run of decent-to-strong Woody Allen Blu-ray releases, it appears Fox/MGM is unfortunately getting out of the game of distributing his catalog titles on Blu-ray, handing Crimes and Misdemeanors and the forthcoming Broadway Danny Rose (and let’s be honest — probably a number of others) off to Twilight Time. Aside from Twilight Time’s signature extra, this is virtually identical to what Fox/MGM would have given us — only at twice the price. Oh well.

The 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer is similar to what we’ve seen on the previous Allen Blu-rays. Detail levels are solid, the image is reasonably clean and clarity represents a nice improvement over the DVD, even if it’s not mind-blowing. Grain is cleanly rendered, offering a fairly film-like appearance. Sven Nykvist’s slightly burnished cinematography is appealingly presented; autumnal browns are warm without looking oversaturated. A few speckles pop up here and there, but aren’t too concerning. Digital tampering doesn’t appear to be an issue. The 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack presents the classical and jazz tunes clearly, while dialogue is adequately clean.

Allen’s home video releases are almost always essentially barebones, and this one is no different. Twilight Time includes the usual music and effects track, but this seems even less useful than usual, as the film doesn’t possess a traditional score. The original theatrical trailer is also included, along with a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.

 

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor, the Twilight Time’s Titus Blu-ray rates:

The Film (out of ****): ***1/2

Film Elements Sourced: ***

Video Transfer: ***

Audio: ***

New Extra Features: *

Extra Features Overall: *

 

Twilight Time

1989 / Color / 1.85:1 / 104 min / $29.95

 

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based writer and editor who splits his critical ambitions between writing Blu-ray & DVD reviews and theater criticism. He’s a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.

Man in the Dark Featured new

Savant 3-D Blu-ray Review: “Man in the Dark” (1953)

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When Arch Oboler’s Bwana Devil set off a stampede to promote 3-D as the savior of Hollywood, the first studio picture on screens was a Columbia quickie filmed in record time, on the cheap. Producer Wallace MacDonald had the 1936 amnesia-plastic surgery potboiler The Man Who Lived Twice reworked as a very lightweight noir thriller. Man in the Dark pulled in customers primed by the big publicity push being given 3-D. Warners’ House of Wax followed two days later, losing the race to be first but reaping much bigger returns.

The refurbished storyline drops the plastic surgery angle but retains the now- disturbing idea that doctors might use brain surgery to “cure” lawbreakers of criminal tendencies. Convicted criminal Steve Rawley (Edmond O’Brien) volunteers for the operation half-assuming that he’ll not survive. He awakes with total amnesia and a more cheerful personality. Under a new name, “Blake” actually looks forward to beginning life afresh tending the hospital’s hedges. Steve is instead kidnapped and beaten bloody by his old cronies in crime Lefty, Arnie and Cookie (Ted de Corsia, Horace McMahon & Nick Dennis), who want to know where Steve hid the loot from their last robbery. Steve remembers nothing, and kisses from his old girlfriend Peg Benedict (Audrey Totter) fail to extract the location of the $130,000. But weird dreams provide clues that might lead Steve and Peg to the money everyone is so desperate to possess.

Columbia chief Harry Cohn’s commitment to 3-D had its limits, as Man in the Dark is a real quickie distinguished only by its cast of noir icons. The adapted storyline is packed with somewhat limp ‘smart’ dialogue. Indicating how conscious writers of this time were of previous hardboiled thrillers. One speech even borrows a line about money “being a piece of paper with germs on it” from Edgar Ulmer’s Detour.

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Man in the Dark is sometimes listed as a sci-fi movie, owing to its notion of using surgery to correct criminal behavior. If that idea had been developed beyond gimmick status the movie might connect with later sci-fi efforts like A Clockwork Orange. As it is Dr. Marston (Dayton Lummis) merely succeeds in making a blank slate of Steve Rawley’s mind. It is just assumed that he’s no longer a crook. The doctor sees nothing wrong in wiping out the identity of a human being, but he does object to Rawley being questioned by the insurance investigator Jawald (creepy Dan Riss). Although one would think that Steve’s post-operative brain might be a little on the tender side, he suffers no ill effects from the beatings delivered by the sadistic Lefty.

Understandably disenchanted with his new/old cronies, Steve breaks free to get the missing moolah for himself. But can he remember where he left it? Peg Benedict thinks that he’s reverting to his wicked ways. The rather inconsistent Peg initially acts as a standard-issue femme fatale, seducing Steve to find a short cut to a big payday. Later, she accuses her former crook boyfriend of ‘being himself’ and starts complaining that since they’re in love they don’t need the money.

Some tension arises when Jawald’s detective proves to be just as slimy as the crooks — he’s perfectly happy to allow the dangerous fugitives to stay at large and pummel Steve, as long as they lead him to the cash. The subject of crime-fighting ethics is dropped like a hot rock, along with any and all questions about the exact nature of Steve’s brain operation. We instead get a few back-lot chases and a dream sequence in which Steve and a dozen cops pile into an amusement park ride. While an animated statue of a fat lady laughs, the hallucinated cops pull their guns and shoot at Steve at the same time.

The big finish — promised in all the ads — sends Steve on a wild roller coaster ride. It’s the famed Pacific Ocean Park Pier, whose massive wooden roller coaster can also be seen (from several of the exact same angles) in the same year’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. A big chase between Edmond O’Brien and Ted de Corsia’s stuntmen takes place on the rooftop of Columbia Studios at their old Sunset & Gower location. Look closely and you’ll spot the first two letters of the Hollywood Sign, and a few seconds later, the distinctive sign for the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Director Lew Landers (Louis Friedlander) made his career by grinding out movies at a blistering pace, averaging about six features a year. The IMDB lists twelve Landers titles for 1942 alone! Landers’ direction of Man in the Dark hypes the 3-D by making sure that small objects are thrust into the camera at regular intervals — medical instruments, guns, spiders, a bird. Variety’s review called the 3-D effects the real reason to see the movie. That trade magazine’s coverage rather ungallantly suggests that “Miss Totter’s figure is a definite 3-D asset.” Reviewers made the same promises about the erotic potential of 3-D for their coverage of Universal’s It Came From Outer Space.

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Edmond O’Brien’s career as a leading man was winding down by this time, as was the enticing Audrey Totter’s tenure as a top noir siren. Both give solid pro performances, although the baddies Ted de Corsia (The Naked City, The Killing) and Nick Dennis (Kiss Me Deadly, Spartacus) are more fun to watch. The costumers give Dennis the cheesiest-looking striped suit imaginable, which with his wild shock of hair makes a perfect low-rent impression.

The Twilight Time Blu-ray + 3-D of Man in the Dark is a pristine transfer of this oddity, one of only two official films noir shot in the 3-D format. The Academy aspect ratio is correct and consistent with the April ’53 release date. An Isolated Score Track gives us the full effect of stock film music rearranged for a movie, rather than composed for it. The work of half a dozen composers blends together unobtrusively.

Twilight Time’s first 3-D offering is also a disc debut for Man in the Dark. The trailer included in the package is a teaser item hyping the special shoot as if it were the Manhattan Project. Edmond O’Brien addresses a sales pitch directly at the camera, just outside a stage where the “top secret” film is being shot.

The menu for the 3-D version encoded on the disc comes up only on 3-D disc players, otherwise the disc reverts to the fine-quality flat HD version. The 3-D effect is satisfying, although most shots are not as carefully designed for the process as they are in more expensive pictures. It is interesting that this Columbia show chooses to use a roller coaster ride as a way of showing off its 3-D depth — the year before, the initial This Is Cinerama launched the mad race to defeat Television by starting with a roller coaster ride. Audiences may not have felt the same jolt, however, as the roller coaster sequence is all done with 2-D rear projection.

Julie Kirgo’s liner notes detail the custom rig used to film Man in the Dark and add some thoughts about the use of 3-D in the dream sequences. This disc will be a sure sell to the owners of 3-D home theater equipment.

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
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Man in the Dark

Blu-ray + 3D

Twilight Time

1953 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 70 min. / Street Date January 21, 2014 / available through Screen Archives Entertainment / 29.95

Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly?
YES; Subtitles: English

Packaging: Keep case

Starring Edmond O’Brien, Audrey Totter, Ted de Corsia, Horace McMahon, Nick Dennis, Dayton Lummis, Dan Riss.

Cinematography Floyd Crosby

Film Editor Viola Lawrence

Musical Director Ross DiMaggio

Composers of Stock Music George Antheil, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, George Duning, Herman Hand, Paul Mertz, Ben Oakland, Hans J. Salter, Marlin Skiles.

Written by George Bricker, Jack Leonard, William Sackheim, from the 1936 film The Man Who Lived Twice by Tom Van Dycke & Henry Altimus

Produced by Wallace MacDonald

Directed by Lew Landers


Thunder Featured

Blu-ray Review: “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot” (1974)

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There seems little doubt that, 20 years from now, many of Clint Eastwood’s formula blockbusters, movies like The Gauntlet (1977), Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Firefox (1982), and all of the Dirty Harry sequels will gradually fade from public consciousness, while his more ambitious and unusual starring films – The Beguiled (1971), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Bronco Billy (1980) – will be reappraised as far more interesting works. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) belongs in this latter category. It’s a road movie-crime film with, for the time and its genre especially, surprisingly rich and offbeat characterizations. It’s also, contrastingly, brutally violent at times and features especially good action set pieces, particularly some dangerous-looking car stunts supervised by Carey Loftin (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World). Eastwood alone gets his name above the title, but up-and-comer Jeff Bridges received most of the accolades, including an Academy Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Eastwood’s Malpaso Company produced the film for release through United Artists, but the actor reportedly was unhappy with UA’s handling of the movie (though it still grossed a robust $25 million against its $4 million negative cost). He may have a point. Warner Bros., home to most of Eastwood’s filmography, aggressively releases and re-releases all of Eastwood’s movies, good and bad, while Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, part of the MGM library, has been released to DVD exactly once: in June 2000, in a widescreen but unenhanced video transfer. Despite the grossly outdated transfer, as I write this Amazon is currently selling new copies of this old DVD for $75.98. Huh? Why MGM has chosen to all but ignore probably the most internationally bankable star of the last half-century is a mystery.

But now, through Twilight Time, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot comes to Blu-ray and 1080p high-definition. Needless to say, it’s a vast improvement over the DVD, especially considering writer-director Michael Cimino’s and cinematographer Frank Stanley’s excellent, frame-filling Panavision compositions. The disc also includes an audio commentary and trailer.

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The movie starts with a literal bang as the sermon by a rural Idaho preacher (Eastwood, hair neatly slicked back and wearing bifocals) is interrupted by the shotgun blasts of Red Leary (George Kennedy), clearly gunning for the minister. Meanwhile, carefree young drifter Lightfoot (Bridges) steals a Trans Am right off the lot of a used car dealer (Gregory Walcott). Lightfoot and the preacher meet as the latter effects his escape from Leary, with the younger ne’er-do-well gradually recognizing the preacher as Thunderbolt, a fugitive bank robber who with muscle Leary, driver Eddie Goody (Geoffrey Lewis), and two others audaciously used a 20mm cannon to blast open a seemingly impenetrable vault and steal the $500,000 inside it.

Thunderbolt squirreled away the loot behind the blackboard of a one-room schoolhouse, but the two return there only to find a modern school built in its place. Leary and Goody eventually catch up to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot seeking revenge, all because Leary wrongly assumes Thunderbolt double-crossing everyone. Instead, Lightfoot convinces the others to simply break into the vault a second time, using the same cannon.

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Thunderbolt and Lightfoot came about after Michael Cimino impressed Eastwood with his cocky personality and rewrites on Magnum Force (1973), the second Dirty Harry movie. Eastwood generously acquiesced to first-time director Cimino’s desire to adapt his own script, though Eastwood reportedly was later annoyed by Cimino’s perfectionism and endless takes. (Cost-conscious Eastwood has one of the lowest shooting ratios in Hollywood, and during the making of the film Eastwood-as-producer often vetoed Cimino’s excesses.) While overlong at 114 minutes, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s screenplay is nevertheless far superior to Magnum Force and most of Eastwood’s ‘70s output.

In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Eastwood is polar-opposite of his short-fused, grimly neo-fascist Dirty Harry, nor is he the reticent, brawling good ol’ boy of comedies like Every Which Way But Loose. Instead, here he’s unusually relaxed and even smiles broadly several times, Thunderbolt clearly amused by Lightfoot’s cocky, charming naïveté. It’s Lightfoot’s ambition to pull off a big heist that drive the plot, his childlike enthusiasm spurring the more experienced if aimless middle-aged career criminals.

That the heist becomes something as enjoyable as it is dangerous and even deadly is one of Thunderbolt and Lightfoot’s many unusual qualities. Like the slam-bang opening, Cimino’s idiosyncratic script is full of surprises. Amusingly, to stake their heist the four work minimum-wage jobs: Goody drives an ice cream truck, Leary works as a third-shift janitor at a department store guarded by man-eating Dobermans, etc.

In one of the best (if entirely tangential) scenes Thunderbolt and Lightfoot hitch a ride with what turns out to be a completely balmy driver (Bill McKinney) who keeps a caged raccoon in the passenger seat while his car’s trunk is packed to the gills with fluffy white bunny rabbits. (Cimino seems to have given Bridges especially room to improvise. One possible example of this is an exchange where Lightfoot accidentally puts his hand in some raccoon shit. Eastwood’s amused reaction doesn’t look rehearsed.)

Ultimately though, it’s the beguiling father-son like bonding among thieves Thunderbolt and Lightfoot that cements the picture, the former amused and paternal, fulfilling an unstated longing by the latter, eternally optimistic, for someone to look up to. Some read a gay subtext to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, but really it draws on a tradition common to myriad B Westerns, with Bridges a Russell Hayden/Lucky Jenkins-type admirer to father figure William Boyd/Hopalong Cassidy.

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The 1080p transfer of this 2.35:1 Panavision production is excellent. The title elements are quite grainy, but overall the transfer is true and accurate with minimal manipulation. In high-def the careful framing and gorgeous rural Idaho and Montana locations really shine, while the 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio maximizes the limitations of the mono audio. (Optional English subtitles are provided.)

Extras include Julie Kirgo’s observant liner notes, and she joins Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman on a somewhat meandering but okay audio commentary track. An original trailer is included, along with an isolated score track.


Darkman featured

Blu-ray Review: “Darkman” (1990)

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After the first two Evil Dead films became instant cult hits, director Sam Raimi decided to attempt a more mainstream effort, and planned a film adaptation of The Shadow, the legendary crimefighter of pulp novels and radio. Unable to obtain the rights to the character, Raimi instead worked with his brother Ivan to create his own action hero, one that would appeal to his love of classic horror as much as his fondness for comic books. The result was Darkman (1990), a stylish superhero outing that proved popular enough to spawn two direct-to-video sequels, a TV pilot and comic books. Previously released as a no-frills disc by Universal in 2010, Darkman is now available in a new special edition Blu-ray from Scream Factory, Shout! Factory’s label for cult/horror titles.

Darkman tells the story of Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), a researcher developing a synthetic skin that can be molded to resemble anyone’s features. He has achieved remarkable results, but is unable to get the skin to last more than 99 minutes when exposed to light; after that, it dissolves. Just as Westlake is on the brink of a breakthrough, his lab is invaded by sadistic mobster Robert Durant (Larry Blake) and his gang of thugs. Sent by corrupt real estate mogul Louis Strack (Colin Friels) to retrieve an incriminating memo discovered by Westlake’s girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), an attorney with the DA’s office, Durant and his gang assault the scientist, kill his assistant and destroy the lab with a fiery explosion. Blown clear of the blast, an unidentified, comatose and horribly burned Westlake recovers at a hospital where the staff severs his nerves to relieve his extreme pain. Upon regaining consciousness, he breaks through his restraints and escapes, the loss of sensory input having made him prone to bursts of adrenaline-fueled rage that give him near-superhuman strength. Determined to perfect his discovery so he can conceal his hideous disfigurement and resume his old life, Westlake reconstructs his lab in an abandoned factory. Spying on Julie (who believes him dead), he sees Strack and Durant, triggering his rage and filling him with a lust for revenge. Using his synthetic skin to impersonate members of Durant’s gang, Westlake becomes an avenging hero destined to be known as . . . Darkman.

Darkman belongs to that subset of superheroes who behave as obsessed vigilantes dishing out pitiless justice—Batman, The Punisher, etc. Although Universal may have backed the project based on the enormous box office success of Tim Burton’s Batman (1989), the character clearly owes more to Raimi’s original confessed inspiration, The Shadow. Like his pulp predecessor, Darkman is often garbed in a dark hat and flowing, cape-like coat while waging war on the criminal underworld, and sometimes uses disguise to infiltrate the gangs. The radio Shadow could become invisible via his hypnotic ability to “cloud men’s minds”; Dr. Westlake can effectively make himself disappear by assuming another identity and blending into the crowd. The influence of classic movie monsters, especially those of Universal Studios, is also a key component of Darkman. (in 1990 interviews, Raimi often referred to Darkman as a monster movie.) Those characters often had a tragic side to them, and it is this quality, along with the evocative visual iconography of the genre, that Raimi chooses to tap.  Like The Phantom of the Opera, Darkman is a violent disfigured genius with a hidden lair who is motivated by his ultimately doomed love for a woman. Like The Invisible Man, Peyton Westlake is a scientist swathed in bandages struggling to hold onto his sanity while desperately searching for a cure to his condition. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, these nods to classic characters might have made Darkman come across as a lazy knockoff, but Raimi and his cast believe in Peyton Westlake and the world he inhabits. In their hands, the homages to the past are just a foundation upon which to build something new. Liam Neeson, still three years away from his breakthrough role in Schindler’s List (1993), does a good job pulling together the disparate sides to the character and evoking audience sympathy without resorting to mawkish pathos. Some scenes call on him to turn on a dime and switch from caring boyfriend to snarling madman, and Neeson is able to make it all seem like different facets of the same man, even when most of his face is concealed by bandages or Tony Gardner’s (very effective) grotesque makeup design. Like Boris Karloff and some of the other stars of classic horror, Neeson seems to enjoy the challenge of working in the makeup, and he invests his scenes as the disfigured Westlake with an old-fashioned melodramatic flair that suits the genre.

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Raimi uses all the skill and tricks he learned in his early low-budget efforts in directing Darkman, and the film greatly benefits from the lively, kinetic visual style he brings to it. Distinctive Raimi touches are easy to spot: elaborate montage sequences; the “shaky cam”; dramatic low-angle tracking shots that dolly in to close-ups of characters; stylized, “comic-book” lighting; etc. Raimi’s experiences on Darkman would clearly influence his later work on the Spider-Man films; compare, for example, Westlake’s hospital escape with that of Doctor Octopus in Spider-Man 2, or the construction site battle with the one in Spider-Man 3. Given his horror movie background, it’s not surprising that Raimi excels at the film’s horror/Gothic touches; some of the most memorable moments are Darkman alone in his factory lair struggling to come to grips with his new, monstrous identity. First-time cinematographer Bill Pope does an excellent job realizing Raimi’s style and gives the film a polished, attractive look. The production design by Randy Ser further compliments Raimi’s vision of Darkman as a Gothic-tinged comic book, making Westlake’s abandoned factory resemble a mix of Dracula’s crumbling castle and a classic mad scientist’s laboratory.

Unfortunately, an interesting hero and a sense of style are not enough to carry a film, and Darkman falters badly in the areas of character and story development.  Frances McDormand’s Julie is meant to be a strong, independent modern woman, but she’s so hopelessly underwritten as a character that she’s a forgettable cypher. She is supposed to be an attorney with the D.A.’s office, but we never see her doing her job other than foolishly confronting the villain with her knowledge of his guilt, which causes her boyfriend to be disfigured and his assistant killed, and puts her own life in jeopardy. She compounds this error by not linking Strack to the accident until late in the film, and even allows the sleazy developer to flirt and dance with her. For most of the film Julie is just a symbol of the life to which Darkman wishes to return, a prize to be sought like the stuffed bear Westlake tries to win at a carnival he visits. By the end she’s just the standard damsel in distress, and it’s disappointing to see the talented McDormand wasted in such an unrewarding role. (In the disc’s extras, McDormand admits to some frustrations with the part and not always being in sync with Raimi’s vision.)

Not faring much better is Colin Friels as Louis Strack, ostensibly the film’s chief villain. Strack is corrupt, greedy and ruthless, but there is no sense that he has any larger evil scheme other than to make money off of the new high rises his company is building. In Robocop (1987), the villains are also plotting a major real estate development, but we understand that it’s part of a grander plan to seize power in all aspects of society. There is nothing comparable in Darkman; for all we know, Strack has no ambitions beyond real estate. He’s a more ruthless but less colorful Donald Trump, and comes across as a supervillain wannabe. (The Blu-ray’s commentary track mentions that scenes were cut further developing Strack’s character and hinting at broader corruption among the city’s power elite; one suspects that these could only have bolstered this weak aspect of the film.) Beyond being dull, Strack is also quite possibly the dumbest villain in superhero movie history: After going to great lengths to retrieve the incriminating “Bellasarious Memorandum”, he carelessly leaves it on his desk for weeks in plain view instead of destroying it. Why? So Julie can discover it in the film’s third act, when the filmmakers need her to figure out that he was involved with the lab explosion. This is lazy, careless plotting of the worst kind. (One can imagine an alternate version of the film in which a diligent member of Strack’s janitorial staff turns the memo over to the D.A.’s office, thus saving Darkman a good deal of trouble.) With Strack written so poorly, all the heavy lifting in the villainy department is left to Larry Drake’s Robert Durant. In 1990 Drake was widely known for portraying the gentle, mentally challenged law clerk Benny on TV’s L.A. Law, and his turn here as the cold, cruel Durant was startling at the time and remains memorable. Whether he’s chopping off fingers with a cigar cutter, barking out commands to his gang or firing a machine gun from a helicopter, Drake steals every scene he’s in. He, not Friels, is the villain everyone remembers, and it’s not surprising that Drake was invited back for the sequel and TV pilot.

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As an action film, Darkman delivers a terrific setpiece in which Durant snags Westlake on a cable suspended from a helicopter and flies him high above the city to be smashed into the sides of buildings and lowered into oncoming freeway traffic.  Featuring a live stuntman in most shots—no dummy, no CGI double—it’s a thrilling sequence peppered with amusing touches, such as Darkman politely apologizing after crashing through a high rise window and a near-collision with Raimi’s beloved Oldsmobile Delta 88. Unfortunately, the film’s finale is, by comparison, a letdown. The concept for the scene is fine: a climactic showdown high up on the girders of a skyscraper under construction. Ultimately, though, the scene lacks the excitement of the helicopter chase because we’re never convinced that our leads are hundreds of feet up.  In spite of state-of-the-art (for the period) effects, the scene feels like it’s confined to a nice, safe soundstage.  There’s less suspense in the scene than in a Harold Lloyd thrill comedy from the 20’s. (It doesn’t help that the confrontation is between Darkman and the dull Strack, rather than Durant.) It ends Darkman on an unsatisfying note and contributes to the sense that the film never lives up to the full potential of its interesting premise. Raimi may have felt the same way, as he would complain that studio meddling forced him to remove a number of scenes, including more Darkman “rage montages” that take the viewer inside Westlake’s tortured psyche. Even had Raimi been allowed to release his director’s cut, though, the film would still suffer from poor supporting characters and some careless plotting, flaws that must be laid at Raimi’s doorstep as co-screenwriter and creator of the original story. As released, the film is at best a mixed bag (albeit a stylish one) for which Raimi deserves to take a share of both credit and blame.

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Shout Factory’s new special edition Blu-ray of Darkman should please the film’s many fans. The transfer captures the subtle gold and rose highlights featured in early daytime scenes, the lurid comic-book bursts of red that accompany Darkman’s rage and the fine details found in the many scenes set at night or in heavy shadow. Grain management appears to have been applied, probably to even out the mix of original photography and opticals. It’s not as overdone as in some earlier Universal Blu-ray releases like Tremors, but purists with large displays will definitely find it quite noticeable. This reviewer would have preferred a more natural, film-like texture, but in general did not find the grain reduction to be too objectionable in this instance. The audio, available as either 5.1 or 2.0 DTS, is strong, with Danny Elfman’s brooding score coming across particularly well. Subtitles are available in English only. Like most Scream Factory releases, the disc is Region A locked.

Sam Raimi is conspicuously absent from the Blu-ray’s newly-produced bonus material; one wonders if it was merely a scheduling issue or if he still harbors bitterness over the changes Universal imposed. Even without Raimi, there’s still plenty here for fans to enjoy. Cinematographer Bill Pope contributes an entertaining commentary with plenty of anecdotes about the production and working with Raimi. There are a half-dozen new featurettes adding up to roughly one hour; interviewed are stars Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand and Larry Drake; supporting players Dan Bell and Danny Hicks; production designer Randy Ser and art director Philip Dagort; and makeup artist Tony Gardner. Rounding out the package are vintage EPK featurettes and interviews (Raimi and Colin Friels do appear in this material), the trailer, a dozen TV spots and still galleries devoted to production stills, behind-the-scenes photography, storyboards and posters. The plethora of extras helps compensate for the imperfections of the transfer, and make this release an attractive package that is highly recommended to Darkman enthusiasts.


On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Darkman rates:

Movie: ***

Video: ***

Sound: ****

Supplements: Audio commentary, new and vintage featurettes; still galleries.

Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? YES

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Savant Blu-ray Review: “Dead Kids” (1981)

Michael S. Laughlin certainly earned his stripes for off-the-beaten-path filmmaking. As a producer his name is on the highly-regarded Bryan Forbes film The Whisperers, Michael Sarne’s Mod-gay disaster Joanna, Monte Hellman’s terrific road epic Two-Lane Blacktop, Floyd Mutrux’s eccentric account of heroin addicts Dusty and Sweets McGee and the failed neo-noir thriller Chandler. In the early ’80s Laughlin directed two fantastic genre exercises in New Zealand for the prolific Australian producer Antony I. Ginnane. Bringing his star connections with him, Laughlin hooked up with fledgling screenwriter (and later Oscar-winner) Bill Condon and gave his utmost to a freaky semi-throwback teen horror opus aiming to score big in the current wave of slasher flick success: Dead Kids (1981). Given the more palatable title Strange Behavior for America, Dead Kids established a solid reputation that was dulled only by twenty years of wretched pan-scanned video releases.

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Dead Kids is a one-of–a-kind horror treat, a teen mayhem tale in which the small town ambience ambiance brings s fresh sense of innocence to what had for several years become an exceedingly ugly genre. A string of knife killings in tiny Galesburg, Illinois baffles both the coroner and Police Chief John Brady (frequent Woody Allen star Michael Murphy), as no two murders are alike. Encouraged by his friend Oliver Myerhoff (Marc McClure of the Reeve Superman movies), John’s teenage son Pete Brady (Dan Shor) volunteers for some paid psych experiments at Galeburg College, in the lab of the beautiful Gwen Parkinson (Fiona Lewis of The Fearless Vampire Killers), helped by her odd assistant Nagel (Arthur Dignam). Gwen offers little or no explanation of what she’s up to, but all Pete must do to earn his first $100 is take a pill. His spirits are so high that he invites the lab receptionist Caroline (Dey Young of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School) out for dinner. Bucking other locals convinced that he’s harboring a personal grudge, Chief Brady is convinced that the killings have something to do with secret experiments in the college lab. Sixteen years ago his wife worked there, and died under mysterious circumstances related to bizarre experiments being conducted by the notorious Dr. Le Sange (Arthur Dignam), who died himself not soon after. Or did he?

Believe it or not, Auckland New Zealand of 1980 comes across as a perfect idealized U.S. Midwest, with tidy frame houses, pristine green grass and streets teeming with vintage American cars. Pete Brady drives a beat-up Ford Thunderbird. The American actors seem right at home and the Kiwi talent fits in beautifully. We have to assume that the producers purposely made Dead Kids look as if it were an American product. They certainly score better than the Italians did twenty years before, when they Anglicized all the names on their horror film credits to make them look like English productions.

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Dead Kids works because between its horror material, it delivers a compelling, sympathetic image of family life. We see no rotten parents driving their children into trouble. A prospective teen girl victim sneaks out of her window to attend a forbidden party, but she’s very much concerned with returning before dawn, so as to not upset her folks. Pete Brady is very close to his father, and understands his continuing suspicions and ill temper. John Brady has a steady love interest in Barbara Moorehead (Louise Fletcher), an understanding woman who wishes John could let go of the unpleasant past. John’s suspicions are heightened when he realizes that all the victims so far are related to the four or five men who opposed La Sange so many years ago. But nobody will listen to him. There are also no pig-headed cops. Brady doesn’t even wear a uniform. His office clerk is played by the highly familiar American Charles Lane. Normally one would think a local actor would be given such a role, and Lane seemed to exclusively play obnoxious clerks and unfriendly bureaucrats. Here he’s good pal, competent worker and a thoughtful helper. The production also flew in character actor Scott Brady, of Johnny Guitar, among dozens of memorable films. Scott Brady’s Chicago detective isn’t much use in a case that makes no criminal sense. He tells some dirty jokes and orders in a “bunch of scientific stuff” that probably won’t help very much.

All of these characters are afforded an unusual degree of respect — none is present to be the butt of humor or a disposable victim. Typical of this concern in Dead Kids is a housekeeper played by Beryl Te Wiata. It’s a throwaway role until she witness a grisly killing in progress. Even after being stabbed herself, she manages to describe her attacker over the phone. The movie treats her as an unfortunate heroine, not killer bait.

In a lesson horror movies often forget, our concern for the characters makes the scary content all the scarier. At the core of the picture is a time-warp concept from a ’50s mad-doctor picture like The Unearthly or I Was a Teenage Werewolf, the kind of medico-fantasy that David Cronenberg was already exploiting. The alluring Gwen Parkinson is using drugs and who-knows-what to effect a remote control of her teenaged subjects, who are apparently programmed to do appalling crimes, and then experience complete memory loss.

Laughlin and Condon stage their killings with more finesse than is usual for slashers made in the wake of dreck like Friday the 13th. Some of the stabbings are explicit and others less so, but each is shocking. One dismemberment in a bathtub makes us fear for more atrocities, and a close-up sight of a boy trussed up as a scarecrow, with his eyes carved out, is strong stuff. But the film doesn’t revel in the individual killings and they don’t become exercises in one-up-manship: it’s not like lovers are skewered or eyes are pierced because the production feels the need to top the latest Argento or Fulci gorefest.

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The most disturbing scene plays off our most simple medical nightmares. Pete Brady is strapped into a chair by the attractive but utterly un-reassuring Gwen, who reaches across for the largest, most wicked-looking syringe seen this side of The Amazing Colossal Man. Without so much as a “hold still’, She then plunges the needle into the corner of Pete’s eye socket and pumps in several ounces of green fluid. If this isn’t performed in one shot, it feels like it — and is effective enough to make an entire audience yelp and squirm.

Elsewhere Laughlin and Condon indulge what must have been some personal desires. One of the killers wears a rubber Tor Johnson mask, reminding us of the Captain Kirk mask worn by the mad killer in Halloween. Even better is an in-from-left-field musical number during a rather kitschy costume party. Pete shows up and meets a desirable girl just as Lou Christie’s Lightning Strikes causes all the kids to hop-dance in unison, with a handsome camera pullback making it all look like completely self-conscious, high spirited choreography. Some viewers think the stylized scene is just plain dumb, as what are kids from 1981 doing rocking out to a 1966 oldie? Actually, the song’s lyrics about an unstoppable compulsion seem fully appropriate.

Perhaps Dead Kids’ final scenes were meant to show Michael Laughlin’s higher ambitions. With the threat vanquished we’re treated to several images of happiness unexpected in a horror film by anybody, from anywhere. After all, these were the years where horror films were outdoing each other to generate nihilistic conclusions. The peace won by Michael Murphy’s character is hard-earned and much deserved. The movie in particular is very kind to the great (and sexy!) actress Louise Fletcher, who since her oppressive nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest had difficulty obtaining sympathetic parts.

Michael Laughlin and Bill Condon would move on to the more ambitious retro- Sci-fi tale Strange Invaders, with even more imported Yank actors (Paul Le Mat, Nancy Allen, Diana Scarwid, Michael Lerner, Louise Fletcher, Wallace Shawn, Fiona Lewis, Kenneth Tobey, June Lockhart, Charles Lane, Dan Shor, Dey Young) making New Zealand become America of the 1950′s. The film has its fans but I always found it obvious and unconvincing. That’s a shame, as a retro- ’50s Sci-fi picture would seem a perfect fit for this fan of film fantasy.


Severin Films’ Blu-ray + DVD of Dead Kids is a great improvement over two earlier DVD releases, Elite’s from 2003 and Synapse’s better disc from 2008. The very widescreen image (Laughlin and cameraman Louis Horvath use every inch of the wide screen) seems enlarged in all four directions. The first scene looks terrible — out of focus, drab — but from then on the film’s images are sharper and more colorful than any copy we’ve seen before. The sight of Fiona Lewis stalking around the lab complex in her white smock, high heels and just-so hairstyle is quite arresting. It’s actually too bad that we don’t learn more about what makes the evil Gwen Parkinson tick — she’s worthy of a sequel all her own.

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As reported at the very discerning Mondo Digital website, the movie here encoded is actually two minutes longer than its reported running time and has two brief scenes not seen before. As the sharp-eyed Nathaniel Thompson says, Severin’s disc contains an unheralded expanded cut!

The film contains some local New Zealand rock of the period, but soundtrack duties are handled by the estimable Tangerine Dream. The tracks are effective, if not nearly as expressive as those on Michael Mann’s Thief (which just came out from Criterion). Tangerine Dream’s eerie music is auditable on an Isolated Score track.

One commentary with writer Condon and actors Dey Young and Dan Shor hails from the earlier DVD and is still entertaining — all three talents have gone on to busy and rewarding careers. Severin adds a new commentary with Michael Laughlin, unfortunately not the best of recordings. We get some insights but not a full picture on this interesting filmmaker.

A special treat is a nicely-paced interview with special makeup effects artist Craig Reardon, the hand-picked protégé of Dick Smith. With candor and honesty, Reardon goes over the ups and downs of what was one of his first solo makeup jobs. Plunked onto an airplane with a few prepared latex appliances and a fake gelatin arm provided by Tom Burman, Craig had to come up with a difficult effects gag straight off a twenty-hour plane ride, and pulled it off with pure ingenuity. Craig’s ‘disguise’ makeup for Arthur Dignam, using techniques learned from Dick Smith, is a whopping success in the completed picture. We also see some rare photos of Reardon’s later, more universally celebrated work. And he’s still active, capable of terrific, cutting edge makeup concepts.

Severin’s package concludes with trailers for both International (“Dead Kids”) and U.S. (“Strange Behavior”) markets. Dead Kids is one of the few modern horror films that appeals to this reviewer. i respect quite a few, but this one I actually warm up to.


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Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

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Book Review: “The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy – A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K”

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Niche publishers McFarland & Company are well known for their essential and often outré cinema books. A friend and I used to come up with imaginary titles reflecting McFarland’s quirky catalog: The Moon Voyage Films of Ray Harryhausen, The 2,341 Malaysian Films Beginning with the Letter “F”, Smelly Movies: The Creation, Production, and Distribution of Mike Todd Jr. Smell-o-Vision (Wait a minute – that’s a book I’d like to read!).

The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy – A Study of the Chaotic Making and Marketing of Atoll K is one such actual McFarland title. The great comedy team of Stan Laurel (1890-1965) and Oliver Hardy (1892-1957) are positively beloved around the world for the silent and sound comedies they made for producer Hal Roach, but an entire book devoted to their disastrous last feature, a movie even Laurel himself regarded as “an abortion,” one so notoriously bad even many die-hard Laurel & Hardy fans outright refuse to watch it?

But, in fact, The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy is a fascinating read. Though Atoll K is, undeniably, severely flawed for myriad reasons, not the least of which is Laurel’s shocking physical state – he became gravely ill partway into the production, and in much of the picture looks positively cadaverous – author Norbert Aping rightly reappraises the film as not the complete catastrophe most have long assumed, that against all odds the picture has scattered moments of pure Laurel & Hardy comedy in line with their ‘20s and ‘30s films for Roach. More importantly, Aping collates his exhaustive original research into an almost day-by-day account of the film from the development of its multiple screenplays, its problem-plagued production, and labyrinthine release versions.

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The first generation of Laurel & Hardy scholars, notably the late John McCabe, outright dismissed all of the team’s films after 1940, when they left Hal Roach Studios for what they thought would be greener pastures at 20th Century-Fox. However, once ensconced Laurel particularly was horrified to discover that the creative freedom he’d enjoyed at Roach was practically nonexistent at Fox as well as MGM, where they were loaned out for two additional films. The eight features they made during this period, as well as the subsequent Atoll K, were simply dismissed as total rubbish and barely mentioned in any of the early Laurel & Hardy books about their careers.

But DVD releases of the Fox (and, later, MGM) movies beginning in 2006 necessitated at least a perfunctory reexamination and, lo and behold, some of these long-reviled movies weren’t nearly as bad as their reputation suggested. Their first two for Fox, Great Guns (1941) and A-Haunting We Will Go (1942) are pretty terrible, and their two for MGM, Air Raid Wardens (1943) and Nothing But Trouble (1944) arguably are even worse, but in fact their Fox movies gradually improved. Jitterbugs, The Dancing Masters (both 1943), The Big Noise (1944), and The Bullfighters (1945) aren’t exactly masterpieces of screen comedy, but the best of these films are really no worse than the team’s weaker Roach features. Where movies like Bonnie Scotland (1935) and Swiss Miss (1938)  get bogged down with romantic subplots, musical numbers, and Roach’s A-feature ambitions, these later Fox films wisely focus on the team’s unadorned antics.

Nevertheless, the team left Fox after 1945, wrongly assuming their modest but profitable movies assured them employment elsewhere. But the industry was changing rapidly in those early postwar years and Laurel & Hardy, considered “old-fashioned” clowns even during the 1930s, were all but washed up as far as Hollywood was concerned.

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But a comedy-starved Europe had not forgotten them. After the war their older movies were reissued and even their newer films were warmly welcomed. They embarked on a fabulously successful series of British music hall tours where they were mobbed everywhere they went.

Given their huge popularity in Europe, a French-Italian co-production starring Laurel & Hardy must have seemed like a sure thing. Indeed, though Aping’s book doesn’t speculate much on this, had Atoll K been a pleasant and rewarding experience for the team, it’s not unreasonable to suggest Laurel & Hardy might have enjoyed a brief but fruitful second career making one or two features per year there until Hardy’s untimely death.

Unfortunately, and despite a huge budget about equal to the negative cost of all of the team’s Roach features combined, Atoll K was positively cursed from the get-go. As Aping documents with extraordinary detail, the film was plagued with myriad screenwriters working in three languages (English for Laurel & Hardy’s scenes, French and Italian for everything else), each with his own comedy agenda and interests (including political satire), none particularly suited to the team’s style of screen comedy. They were also saddled with a director, Léo Joannon, completely out of synch with their brand of humor, and who infamously strutted about in pith helmet and puttees, armed with megaphones of various sizes and functions.

Meanwhile, the team’s physical health evolved into a major crisis. Hardy was never fatter, though this impacted his comic timing not in the least, and he’s actually less uncomfortably obese than he appeared in his cameo role in Frank Capra’s Riding High (1950), in which he sweats with alarming profusity. Rather, during the course of Atoll K’s absurdly long production, Stan Laurel undergoes a complete transformation brought on by illness. In most of the location footage, shot first, he appears older but reasonably fit, but in all the studio scenes he looks like a man recently liberated from a concentration camp, the 5’8” actor’s weight dropping down to 115 lbs. at one point. He’s so disturbingly thin and weak, even in some of the team’s best scenes Laurel’s appalling physical state becomes an insurmountable, painful distraction.

Aping’s book is movie archeology at its best. With most of the cast and crew dead or not interviewable, he had to rely on surviving archival documents that are surprisingly plentiful. For instance, he details each version of the treatment and screenplay, weighing their pros and cons, and later clearly examines each of the film’s various final edits, including differing French, Italian, German, and two very different English-language cuts of the film.

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In the larger sense, The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy offers detailed accounts of the team’s movements during pre-production and filming, particularly during its many long delays, as they bide their time in Paris and, later, travel to Italy to help promote the film. Other books have satiated those interested in Laurel & Hardy’s music hall career in Britain, and their last days appearing on the American television show This Is Your Life and preparing for a sadly unmade television series. But Aping’s book reveals a significant part of their later lives never before so thoroughly documented.

As someone who always liked and/or was fascinated with at least big swaths of Atoll K, by the end Aping’s book had me genuinely longing for a complete restoration of the best complete version of this now-public domain movie (the most widely available in America, called Utopa, is cut and compromised in several important ways), one that would allow viewers to see Atoll K in the best possible light. Until then, Norbert Aping’s The Final Film of Laurel and Hardy offers a tantalizing examination of this long-reviled but fascinating film.

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Blu-ray Review: “Titus” (1999)

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The opening scene of Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999) is just about the perfect encapsulation of the film itself. A young boy sits at a kitchen table, playing with toy soldiers and action figures, violently smashing them into one another. Eventually, he’s dumped a bottle of ketchup and a carton of milk all over the table, creating a messy tableau of entangled bodies, bathed in unfounded chaos.

If this scene isn’t Taymor’s self-portrait, then such a work doesn’t exist. In her other films, but especially here in her directorial debut, she’s a filmmaker who exults in careening bodies, objects and shots. Cuts don’t fit together like puzzle pieces; they crash into one another like ill-fitting toy bricks, brought into alignment by the sheer force of their assembler. Taymor’s maximalism thrives on chaos. She’s unlike a filmmaker such as Ken Russell, who frequently went over-the-top, but generally in service of his central theme. Taymor’s more of a “throw everything at the screen and see what sticks” kind of filmmaker.

These qualities make her a pretty good candidate to direct the film version of William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus, a bloody horror show generally considered to be one of the Bard’s lesser works, sometimes verging on hysterical self-parody. Shakespeare’s play is rarely considered to be great art, and Taymor’s film certainly isn’t, but it’s also never boring. Taymor finds enough variety in her visual assaults to prevent the film from becoming monotonous in its excess.

Taymor consistently weds the modern and the ancient in her anachronistic vision, and that begins straight away, as the soldier-playing boy (Osheen Jones) in the first scene is transported back to the latter days of the Roman Empire, where he turns into the grandson of Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins). Titus has just returned victorious from a battle against the Goths, and he’s brought their queen, Tamora (Jessica Lange), back as a trophy.

Titus may be bloodthirsty — within the first 20 minutes of the film, he’s killed one of Tamora’s sons and one of his own — but he’s not power-hungry, deferring an offer to become emperor and nominating the fulsome Saturninus (Alan Cumming) in his place. Saturninus decides he wants Lavinia (Laura Fraser), Titus’s daughter, as his queen, but she refuses, leading him to pick Tamora as an act of defiance against the Andronicus family. Now, with his mortal enemy installed as the Roman Queen, Titus finds himself and his family the targets of a number of gruesome attacks. But Titus’s capability for revenge is vast.

The film’s relative faithfulness to the source material is one of its saving graces, as it keeps the sequence of events fairly coherent. For all of its stylistic flourishes, this isn’t a film that could have gotten by on style alone — it’s far too scattered. Some of Taymor’s imagery is incredibly striking; the early scene of Titus’s army returning from war, clay-caked and walking in bizarre lockstep, sets the tone for the disturbing, humanity-shredding events yet to come. But her attempts to meld traditional imagery with a punk-rock aesthetic end up looking like half-committed, pale imitations of Derek Jarman or Alex Cox. Some of the film’s vulgar energy is nicely reminiscent of Pasolini, particularly in a scene where the world’s most mellow orgy is interrupted by a bow-and-arrow attack. Then again, that energy is sometimes directed into hilariously stupid scenes, like when Lavinia identifies her attackers while melting into a blue-tinged acid trip, complete with leaping tigers.

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Hopkins has sufficient screen gravitas to not be overwhelmed by the visual anarchy that surrounds him. Still, he perhaps plays the role too straight, only embracing something campier in the film’s late sequences, especially in a scene where he devises a grotesque cannibalistic trick and revels like Hannibal Lecter once the truth is revealed. The film’s best performance belongs to Harry Lennix, who played Tamora’s Moor lover Aaron in Taymor’s initial stage adaptation and reprises the role here. Lennix is totally convincing in his offhanded, freewheeling cruelty. It’s a performance that simultaneously embraces the absurdity and the horror of the adaptation — fun but not superfluous.

Titus is a worthy addition to the cinematic Shakespeare repertoire, if only because it’s the only significant adaptation of this particular play. In the 15 years since the film’s release, Taymor hasn’t done much to counteract her skeptics’ opinion of her work, either on the screen or the stage, but this first outing can be just winningly demented enough to work enough of the time.

Twilight Time brings Titus to Blu-ray in a limited-to-3,000-copies edition that presents the film in 1080p and a roughly 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Twilight Time can only work with the transfers given them to them by the studios, but here’s a case where one wishes they would’ve pushed back on Fox. From the opening, slightly washed out Fox Searchlight intro, it’s clear that the transfer was sourced from a dated master. Speckling and dirt are a problem here and there, but the real killer is how smeary and muddy the image looks. Fine detail is not distinct, clarity is inconsistent and contrast is muddled. This rarely looks better than an upconverted DVD, and not a particularly impressive DVD transfer at that.

The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is a much more obvious upgrade over DVD, presenting Elliot Goldenthal’s score crisply and cleanly, and spreading out the film’s action-heavy sequences nicely through the surrounds. The track seems a little on the quieter side, particularly in dialogue-heavy scenes, but it’s a nice mix overall. A 2.0 DTS-HD track is also presented as an option.

The disc includes a selection of extras that have all been ported over from Fox’s DVD release. They are:

  • Three audio commentaries. One with Taymor, one with composer Goldenthal and one with Hopkins and Lennix.
  • A nearly hour-long making-of documentary featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
  • A question-and-answer session with Taymor following a screening of the film at Columbia University.
  • A brief featurette on the film’s nightmare sequences.
  • A collection of theatrical trailers and TV spots.
  • An isolated score track.
  • A booklet featuring an essay by Julie Kirgo

 

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair and Poor, the Twilight Time’s Titus Blu-ray rates:

The Film (out of ****): **1/2

Film Elements Sourced: *1/2

Video Transfer: *1/2

Audio: ***1/2

New Extra Features: N/A

Extra Features Overall: ***

 

Twilight Time

1999 / Color / 2.35:1 / 162 min / $29.95

 

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based writer and editor who splits his critical ambitions between writing Blu-ray & DVD reviews and theater criticism. He’s a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.

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Savant Blu-ray Review: “Foreign Correspondent” (1940)

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We’ve had our fill of tell-all biographies about Alfred Hitchcock’s alleged sexual obsessions with his leading actresses, a trend that came to a head a couple of seasons back with the shockingly fictitious movie Hitchcock. In the 1940s Hitch was being driven batty in a different way, putting up with David O. Selznick, the powerful producer and talent broker. Selznick brought England’s most entertaining director to Hollywood, where the creative possibilities within the massive studio factories seemed unlimited. Hitch had been on a roll with witty U.K. spy thrillers that put attractive amateurs into high jeopardy, fighting assassins on moving trains and fleeing enemy agents on the Scottish moors.

Selznick instead first assigned Hitchcock to help fashion a glamorous but overlong romantic thriller, Rebecca (1940). After a flaming finale the characters must continue talking for several minutes to clear away the story deadwood.

Selznick was so busy with his other films and with promoting Jennifer Jones that he loaned Hitchcock out several times during the run of his contract. Almost immediately came Foreign Correspondent (1940), a gutsy ‘spy’ chase given real bite by the international situation. England was already at war, and independent producer Walter Wanger was eager to strike a propaganda blow against Hitler. A committed leftist, Wanger had produced Fritz Lang’s critical crime picture You Only Live Once as well as the somewhat muddled anti-Franco drama Blockade, both starring Henry Fonda. In perhaps the most direct bit of revolutionary theater transferred to the screen, Fonda wails that the Great Democracies are doing nothing to stem the Fascist atrocities in Spain: “Where is the conscience of the World?!”

As it turned out, patriot Hitchcock was the tempering influence behind Foreign Correspondent. Wanger salted in dialogue lines referring to Hitler’s progress across Europe, but Hitch worked to keep the film’s tone as light and entertaining as possible. The movie turns to overt propaganda only at the end, in the brief but famous “The lights are going out all over Europe”.

Hitchcock critics are much better informed today, but there was a time when they debated the same rather narrow issue: is Hitch’s best work his clever ’30s spy chases The Secret Agent, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps and The Lady Vanishes? Or do his glossy, star-driven Hollywood thrillers show a maturity in his style: The Man Who Knew Too Much, North by Northwest, Topaz?

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I’m of the opinion that Foreign Correspondent is the best of Alfred Hitchcock’s spy chase thrillers. While not blessed with top box office stars, its leading actors Joel McCrea and Laraine Day are intensely likeable, and Hitchcock puts them through a series of exciting, fresh adventures that never strain credibility, or go for cheap jokes. As with the earlier English classics, Hitchcock makes use of silent movie visual gags to involve the viewer in the action. The easiest of these is the bobbing forest of umbrellas in Holland, which both hide the assassin and reveal his escape path. Hitch also uses visual shorthand to add droll visual jokes, like the hotel sign that suddenly makes its own comment on anxious pre-war Europe. Some of these visual gags are so simple they remind us of the hand-drawn cartoons Hitch reportedly added to silent movie cards when he was just starting out.

Although filmed in Los Angeles, Foreign Correspondent is also the kind of fast moving travelogue that Hitchcock preferred. A few of his later VistaVision pictures take time out to observe flower markets, or just admire the countryside. After WW2, breaking countries down into simple references (like Switzerland = chocolate) would have been insulting. Hitch tried a ruthlessly unsentimental spy story in Topaz and nobody felt engaged in the story. The new lovers in Correspondent cuddle and kiss on the deck of a ship crossing the English Channel. He: “You see, I love you and I want to marry you.” She: “I love you and I want to marry you.” He: “Well, that cuts our love scene down quite a bit, doesn’t it?” For once every line of dialogue is a witty gem; there are no clunkers. That’s how it should be when talent like Charles Bennett, Joan Harrison, James Hilton and Robert Benchley are properly applied to a script.

With the bigger, glossier ’50s films name stars take a much bigger role. James Stewart and Doris Day’s marital relationship in the Man Who Knew Too Much remake is terribly dated. Day’s traumatized mother is sedated before being told that her son has been kidnapped; it’s assumed she can’t handle the pressure. The frightened couple also break Hitchcock’s rule by going to the police early and often. So we have to listen to the cops in scene after scene.

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Finally, career adapter Ernest Lehman turns North by NorthWest into a ‘best-of’ collection of Hitch’s Greatest Chase Hits. When not wowing us with extraordinary set-piece scenes like the Corn Field Crossroads, Lehman baldly repeats situations from earlier films. It’s a great movie with marvelous characters. As in most of the ’50s Hitchcocks, the bad guys are identified from the moment they’re introduced.

This by no means is a criticism of any of these Hitchcock pictures, almost all of which are superb entertainments. Foreign Correspondent quickly breaks free of thriller conventions. Its hero Johnny Jones is not a two-fisted adventurer but a crime reporter who loves his Mom, keeps losing his hat and punches out policemen. Half the time the tone is of a screwball comedy. Harry Davenport is Jones’ grinning, mischievous editor, and co-writer Robert Benchley is on hand as an alcoholic, slacker foreign correspondent that greets Johnny’s boat.

When the spy threat becomes more intense, the humor doesn’t depart, but instead morphs into proto- James Bond witticisms and caustic observations by George Sanders’ good-guy intelligence agent. Haughty and bored-looking in all but the most unpleasant situations, Sanders’ unflappable cool is highly entertaining — and impressively original.

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Finally, Foreign Correspondent has several bravura set piece scenes that for my money top anything before or since in similarly themed Hitchcock pictures. Walter Wanger secured for his director the best technical wizardry in Hollywood, starting with William Cameron Menzies, whose distinctive designs gave shape to many a shaky production. Johnny Jones’ escape out a high hotel window is only a refinement on standard matte painting techniques. But Menzies’ genius is fully realized in the Holland windmill scene. When he enters the noisy, dust-filled windmill Johnny Jones is trying to determine if the shooting of the beloved Peace advocate Van Meer (Albert Basserman) has been faked. The noise and the turning gears allow Johnny to hide, even when it seems certain that his presence will be discovered. Hitchcock and Menzies use every trick they can think of — a villain changing his sweaters give Johnny a chance to shift position, for instance. But then Johnny’s raincoat gets caught in the gears and is dangled practically in the faces of the bad guys. Every shot in this swift sequence is a complex beauty. What dialogue we do hear is irrelevant – the pictures tell the story, compelling us to share Johnny’s experience at a gut level.

Before CGI was used for everything, some of the best special film effects were little more than clever slight-of-hand-gags. To escape from the fourth or fifth floor of building under renovation, one of the heroes leaps from a window, rips through an awning and gently alights at sidewalk level. The shot looks like one take, an amazing feat. But closer examination shows the stunt to be constructed in two halves — the man making the big drop is a dummy, and the actor takes over for the drop through the awning. It always gets applause in theatrical showings.

The sequence that really wows ‘em is the crash of a flying boat in mid-Atlantic. Here Menzies uses everything he knows to inject realism (1940-style) into the spectacle of a passenger plane shot down by a warship. The ship interior tilts and hand-held cameras reflect the passengers’ panic as the cabin floods with real water. The actual moment of crash impact was an expensive “this better work” gag involving large water dump tanks — it’s better seen than explained. When the survivors climb out on the few pieces of the plane still floating, we see real water, rear-screen projected waves and other effects working that are much harder to analyze. The important thing is that the Foreign Correspondent plane crash is still one of the most effective, audience-engaging disaster scenes ever filmed.

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We’re told that Alfred Hitchcock resisted letting Foreign Correspondent become an outright attack on Hitler and the Nazis. One factor might have been that patriotic films being made in England were careful not to provoke the Germans too much, for fear of reprisals against Brits already in prison camps. Our Isolationist (read: pro- Bund) congress was censuring Hollywood to curb all propaganda movies. But Correspondent does mention Hitler by name. The epilogue in the BBC radio room as the air raid begins is a message for America to get active, now. It might be too late for England, leaving America as the world’s only hope. I think it’s one of the most stirring calls to battle ever made by a movie, and all the more effective because of Hitchcock’s breezy treatment.

The Criterion Collection’s Blu-ray + DVD of Foreign Correspondent is quite a surprise. Remastered from its owner Westchester Film, the B&W HD image is gorgeous, far surpassing Warners’ earlier DVD and looking like something one might see on a screen in 1940. Alfred Newman’s great score (with an infectious little tune to represent the inexperienced Johnny Jones) comes through more strongly than ever. Shots that before were lost in darkness, leaving visual details difficult to assess, are now sharp as a tack. A photo-story Life magazine article arranged by Hitchcock shows how idle rumors hurt the war effort. Joseph Cotten appears in a 1946 radio adaptation, and the insert booklet carries an essay by James Naremore.

Effects spokesman Craig Barron provides a lengthy breakdown of the film’s wizardly camera tricks, while Mark Harris provides an absorbing visual opinion essay called Hollywood Propaganda and WWII. An episode of the Dick Cavett Show has Hitchcock as its coddled guest.

Criterion’s Dual-Edition release contains all extras on both Blu-ray and DVD. The In-House producer is Susan Arosteguy.

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Blu-ray Review: “The Epic of Everest” (1924)

The Epic of Everest

Even if it were nothing else, Captain John Noel’s documentary The Epic of Everest (1924) would be an astonishing historical document. A technologically cutting edge look at an unsuccessful bid for greatness, the film documents the 1924 British Mount Everest expedition, the second effort after a failed 1922 try. Noel’s film is a thorough journalistic record, the detailed narrative spilling out over dozens of intertitle cards, among images of extensive preparations in Tibet and the eventual climbing attempts.

But The Epic of Everest frequently transcends mere documentary status; its images of the imposing mountain face, sometimes dotted with minuscule human figures, are mind-blowing, even in this age of Planet Earth and Imax nature docs, where seemingly every detail is brought right up into our faces. Noel’s work isn’t just descriptive; he treats Everest like a living entity, and shots of the mountain’s surfaces have an appropriate blend of awe and terror.

For the men on this expedition, Mount Everest might as well have been an alien being. In the film’s early moments, there are some moderately colonialist observations about the Tibetan people and their strange customs, but Noel’s fascination with the their otherness is nothing compared to how he regards the mountain. A number of shots of men trudging across the snowy landscapes look like something out of a sci-fi film. Intertitles make bold proclamations about the explorers standing where no other human has ever stood, and as a viewer, you’re feeling confident in going a step further — are these people still on Earth?

Captain John Baptist Lucius Noel was one of 12 British men and numerous Tibetan and Sherpa porters to make the trek. Armed with a customized 35mm camera that was both extremely light — less than 20 pounds — and equipped with a 20-inch telephoto lens, Noel could capture action unfolding more than three miles away. No concessions about the era or the technology are necessary to proclaim this a work of technical virtuosity.

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The national pride that served as one of the primary motivating factors for the repeated British Everest expeditions is certainly apparent in the film; wide shots of the exploring crew have a self-mythologizing quality, as if the exploits of superheroes were being documented on film. And yet, Noel doesn’t shy away from tragedy when it strikes. The fallibility and fragility of man is embraced rather than downplayed.

The film’s conclusion, after the finality of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s likely failed attempt to reach the summit has been fully realized, escalates into mythic proportions. Noel notes the Tibetan name for the mountain, Chomolungma, literally “Goddess Mother of Mountains,” and the conception of Everest as the giver and taker of life seems to provide some context and some serenity. Noel has the soul of both a fact-obsessed documentarian and a poet — one of the film’s final intertitles extols the virtues of the pure white snow under which Mallory and Irvine’s bodies were hidden away in their final resting place. “If you had … died in the heart of nature, would you, yourself, wish for any better grave?”

The BFI’s new dual-format release of The Epic of Everest features both a Blu-ray and DVD copy of the film. The Blu-ray presents the film in 1080p high definition at 24 frames per second in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. A restoration of the film was undertaken in collaboration with Sandra Noel, the director’s daughter. Sourced from nitrate positives held by the BFI National Archive, the transfer presented here is nothing short of luminous. One gets the feeling of watching an exceptional 35mm print, with a beautiful grain structure and excellent levels of fine detail. The original color tinting has been conscientiously recreated, and all intertitles have been reconstructed and restored from the original film elements.

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On the audio side, the disc defaults to the newly commissioned score by Simon Fisher Turner, an arresting, moody ambient piece sprinkled with bits of period music and droning sound effects, like a foreboding storm composite that plays out over a climactic moment. To be sure, this is a much more experimental piece than anything that would have accompanied the film in 1924, and there were times where I felt like the score almost hit the tipping point of overwhelming the imagery. Mostly though, I was able to appreciate the unconventional sensibilities of Noel’s filmmaking all the more because of Turner’s score.

And for anyone who can’t abide by the avant-garde accompaniment, BFI has gone the extra mile and also included a recreation of the 1924 score, sourced from more than 25 selections of music, reconstructed and directed by Julie Brown. Turner’s score is presented in 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, while the 1924 score is given a lossless 2.0 track. Region-locked consumers will be happy to know that the Blu-ray disc is region-free.

Bonus features included in the set are:

  • Introducing The Epic of Everest (9 minutes) Sandra Noel and silent film curator Bryony Dixon offer an overview of the production history of the film.
  • Scoring The Epic of Everest (8 minutes) Simon Fisher Turner talks about the genesis of many of the ideas underpinning his new score.
  • Restoring The Epic of Everest (6 minutes) Dixon, archivist Ben Thompson and Lisa Copson of Deluxe Digital discuss the necessary restoration work and what was done to bring the film into the digital realm.
  • Four audio-only musical extras that feature pieces that accompanied the film at its first London screening: Prelude to Part I, Untitled; Prelude to Part I, Tibetan Lamas; Prelude to Part II, ‘Tibetan Pastoral Music’; The Mount Everest Suite: Airs of Tibet and Nepal
  • A downloadable PDF of the original 1924 film program (only accessible on the DVD copy)
  • 30-page booklet, featuring an essay on the film by author and anthropologist Wade Davis, a piece on the fundraising commemorative expedition stamp by Sandra Noel, a restoration overview by Kieron Webb and notes on their scores by Simon Fisher Turner and Julie Brown

 

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, the BFI’s The Epic of Everest Blu-ray rates:

The Film (out of ****): ****

Film Elements Sourced: ***1/2

Video Transfer: ***1/2

Audio: ****

New Extra Features: ***

Extra Features Overall: ***

 

 

British Film Institute

 

1924 / Black & White/Tinted / 1:33:1 / 87 min / £19.99

 
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Khartoum Featured

Blu-ray Review: “Khartoum” (1966)

Khartoum 1

Though Criterion’s reconstructed It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963) understandably got all the attention, January 22nd actually saw the release to Blu-ray of two filmed-in-Ultra Panavision, presented-in-Cinerama roadshows. The other was Khartoum (1966), a much less successful but still interesting historical epic dramatizing Britain’s equivalent to America’s Alamo. Had the film been released in 1956 instead of 1966 it would likely be remembered as an intelligent, intimate epic when compared to the more common, mindless CinemaScope spectacles that dominated the 1950s. But, ten years later, David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) casts a long shadow. Khartoum can’t help but invite comparison, and in every way is inferior. A mostly British production but produced, written by, and starring Americans, Khartoum today is remembered as one of the first of a long line of failed Cinerama roadshows (it earned $3 million in U.S. and Canadian rentals versus its $6 million cost), the beginning of the end for that company and that type of roadshow exhibition, as well as for historical epics generally. But Khartoum does have its good points: the basic conflict is vast and intensely personal at once; the second unit work by Yakima Canutt is often spectacular; in retrospect the events in 1880s Sudan anticipate the rise of Islamic fundamentalism a century later; and some of the performances are interesting, though star Charlton Heston’s portrayal of Gen. Charles “Chinese” Gordon is maybe his least interesting within the genre. Twilight Time has licensed what originally was a United Artists release from MGM. The high-def results aren’t as splendiferous as the extremely pristine and aurally spectacular It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World but still good, plus there’s a smattering of interesting special features.

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More than 10,000 British-led Egyptian troops are slaughtered by an army of Muslin fanatics, an army led by Sudanese Arab Muhammad Ahmad (Laurence Olivier), self-described Mahdi (“messianic redeemer”) who believes Mohammed has chosen him to lead a crusade to spread radical Islam across the region. To set a very public example, he intends to murder the entire population of Khartoum, moderate Sudanese and Egyptian Muslims not allied with Ahmad and non-Muslims alike. Word of the massacre reaches pragmatic British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (Ralph Richardson). He’s loathe to send British troops to Khartoum in order to save the thousands of Egyptians and Europeans stranded there, this in spite of Britain’s close ties to Egypt (and its Suez Canal). Instead, he decides to unofficially dispatch celebrated war hero Gen Charles Gordon (Heston) to the region, believing that if loose cannon Gordon’s mission to evacuate Khartoum with Egyptian troops fails, the British government will be absolved any liability or political fallout. Accompanying Gordon on this suicide mission is Col. J.D.H. Stewart (Richard Johnson), whose responsibility it is to try and keep Gordon in line. Formerly Governor-General of the Sudan who broke the slave trade there some years before, Gordon is hailed as a god-like savior upon his return but the situation is dire, with the Mahdi having cut Khartoum off from the rest of the world. A large British force is the only thing that can save Khartoum now, and that’s not likely to happen. Khartoum’s main point of interest is in the way playwright-anthropologist Robert Ardrey’s screenplay essentially makes Gordon and the Mahdi two sides of the same coin: True Believers (the real Gordon a devout Christian cosmologist) who’d gladly surrender their lives for the Greater Good. The only difference seems to be that Gordon barely recognizes the dangers of such unquestioning devotion. The movie’s best scenes are two brief meetings between Gordon and the Mahdi, meetings that didn’t actually happen though dramatically justified here. Part of the problem with Khartoum is that Gordon pretty much remains an enigma, nor is this characterization helped by Heston’s atypically reserved but still indulgent performance. The script, at least as far as one can make out in the final cut of the film, hints at Gordon’s evangelism but not enough to present any real clear picture of the man. The screenplay also suggests Gordon as egotistical, cocksure, but charismatic, qualities similar to T.E. Lawrence. Some of these Heston gets across, but like the mid-Atlantic accent he affects, mostly Heston hedges his bets, more often than not playing Gordon as a stiff upper lipped, A.E.W. Mason-inspired British Empire stereotype. Further, much of Ardrey’s script posits Gordon as the great white savior lording over adoring dark-skinned followers in “his” Sudan, especially in all the scenes involving Khaleel (Johnny Sekka), Gordon’s devoted valet, he forever bemused by Gordon’s faith and this strange Jesus fellow reads about in Gordon’s Bible. (What the film does not mention is that Gordon reinstated the slave trade to Khartoum upon his return. I doubt that went down well.) Laurence Olivier’s Muhammad Ahmad is another matter. Something like an extension of his controversial blackface performance as Othello, Olivier hides behind dark brown make-up, a thick beard, and flowing robes, affecting an inconsistent accent that, in his first scene addressing victorious troops, has the unintended comical effect of reminding viewers of Leo McKern’s Swami Clang in The Beatles’ movie Help! (1965). (I suspect that may have been the first scene Olivier shot; he dials back the accent considerably for the rest of the picture.) However, after 9/11 Olivier’s performance can’t help but remind contemporary viewers of Osama bin Laden, whose ambitions, fanatical beliefs, and terrorist strategies were starkly similar. In full make-up, Olivier even looks a little like bin Laden. Moreover, the British government’s interests in the region likewise draw eerily similar comparisons to America’s more than a century later. Another problem with Oliver’s scenes is that all too clearly the actor never set foot outside a British soundstage. In all of the location scenes Olivier is clearly doubled, the effect similar to Fun in Acapulco, G.I. Blues and other Elvis vehicles where the actor is painfully absent in all the location scenes because “Col.” Tom Parker refused to let his precious commodity travel abroad. In Khartoum, the flawless performances of the always-good Richard Johnson and Ralph Richardson outshine the two leads. Heston reportedly was happy with Basil Dearden’s direction, and indeed his unimaginative camera set-ups don’t help. The film has extraordinarily few close-ups, and the use of Ultra Panavision’s extremely wide canvas is bereft of visual flair. Yakima Canutt’s second unit work is far more interesting. The climatic moment of the picture, based on George W. Joy’s famous painting General Gordon’s Last Stand, is particularly disappointing and ineffectively edited.

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Twilight Time’s 1080p Blu-ray of Khartoum sources superior 65mm film elements, made clear by the “in Cinerama” title card which would have been removed for 35mm engagements. Also intact are the film’s original overture, intermission break, entr’acte, and exit music. At 136 minutes, this also seems to be the longest original cut of the film, which is missing several minutes in the original U.S. release, making it one of the shortest narrative roadshow releases. The image is strong throughout, with good detail and accurate, vivid color. The 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio lacks the directionality of the original 6-track magnetic stereo mix; it’s not clear why MGM couldn’t use those sound elements as they apparently still exist. Optional English subtitles are included. The disc includes an original Cinerama release version trailer, also in high-def; an isolated music track (DTS-HD mono, alas); an audio commentary with film historians Lem Dobbs, Julie Kirgo, and Nick Redman; and Kirgo’s typically observant liner notes (she aptly describes Olivier as looking “like a bearded walnut,” and rightly likens Khartoum’s portrait of Gordon to the later Patton). Khartoum, then, is a deeply-flawed epic but also an ambitious, mostly intelligent one that, on Blu-ray, can at long last be assessed more fairly than decades of panned-and-scanned viewings on 13-inch TV sets allowed. That it aims so high and falls well short of its goal doesn’t negate its many fine qualities, and Khartoum deserves the wider audience this handsome Blu-ray release allows.

On a scale of Excellent, Good, Fair, and Poor, Khartoum rates:

Movie: Good

Video: Excellent

Sound: Good

Supplements: Audio commentary, Cinerama release trailer, isolated score track, booklet.

Deaf and Hearing Impaired Friendly? YES

Twilight Time 1966 / Color / 2.76:1 Ultra Panavision 70 / 136 min. / Street Date January 22, 2014 / $29.95 Starring Charlton Heston, Laurence Olivier, Richard Johnson, Ralph Richardson.. Director of Photography Edward Scaife Music Frank Cordell Written by Robert Ardrey Produced by Julian Blaustein Directed by Basil Dearden

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