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Harry's DVD Picks & Peeks: 1st wk of July 2010: Buster Keaton, Ray Harryhausen, Gamera, Hallenbeck and Noir!!!

Hey folks, Harry here with another Tuesday of DVD PICKS & PEEKS. There’s some seriously beloved stuff on the list this week – and I don’t want to keep ya from it. As usual the pics and titles are linked over to AMAZON where you can learn more on the title in question, and purchase it if it fancies you. If you do follow one of the links and purchase something, part of that price goes to help support this column. And for that, I thank you. Here ya go, with the greatest Fantasy Film of all time… Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

In my opinion, the single most perfect fantasy film ever created is JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS. I’ve seen this film countless times. I’ve seen the various effects sequences even more so. But to separate out the visual effects, which are flat out masterful, by Ray Harryhausen is a disservice to this Fantasy Masterpiece. I’ve read the original myths and frankly, this is better. For me, Todd Armstrong & Nancy Kovack were put on this earth to play Jason & Medea – and my entire life, I’ve been pissed that there was never a tragic sequel that continued that great story. But relieved too. That tale isn’t as “family friendly” as JASON & THE ARGONAUTS, but this is enough. From the Goddess Pussy Galore to her husband played to note perfection by Niall MacGinnis, From Nigel Green’s amazingly unique take on HERCULES to Douglas Wilmer’s cowardly Pelias, to Jack Gwillim’s epic KING AEETES… the casting is perfect. Who doesn’t love Laurence Naismith’s Argos or that evil fucking Gary Raymond’s Acastus. Hell, even the blind man Phineas by Patrick Troughton… is note perfect. Then there’s Bernard Herrmann’s score. Jesus God… How can you discuss that masterful score? Whenever I get in my dad’s Dodge – I see the Dodge Ram… and my brain instantly belts out that majestic “Sailing/Adventure Beginning” music of Herrmann’s. Bombastic and powerful, it stirs some ancient need to be playing an unknown game with the God’s for their amusement. Jan Read & Beverley Cross’ script is note perfect. Wilkie Cooper may not have won a single award for his Cinematography over his career – but I love it. I love the daring use of color, light and shadow in this along with his work in 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, 3 WORLDS OF GULLIVER, MYSTERIOUS ISLAN, JASON, FIRST MEN IN THE MOON and ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. Then there’s the hero of the production, that isn’t often singled out. Alfred Cox. The Sound Editor. But man, as much as I love Ray Harryhausen’s astonishing work, every time Talos moves – I want to hug Alfred. Ray’s animation of a gigantic moving bronze statue is brilliant, but Cox’s metallic squealing causes me to shift in my seat – sending a signal right down my spine. The sound of the Hydra, the sound of the Skeletons being vomited from the earth from the seeds of the Hydra’s teeth… I love the sound of this film. Lastly and most importantly, there’s RAY HARRYHAUSEN – who serves as much more than “the effects guy” – generally conceiving of the project, working as a Producer with the great Charles Schneer. His drawings, sculptures and vision permeates everything. Director Don Chaffey perfectly fit into this – his direction over the performances were the strongest in any Harryhausen film. You are not a film geek without this movie. You’re just someone that likes a lot of movies. JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is THE FANTASY FILM!

The other day when I put this in I was just in a great mood. It was about 4am, I’d had a great night of film with some friends – still a bit high on that buzz one gets watching movies with great company – and I figured. Yeah, let’s watch some Keaton. I have Buster Keaton’s life mask above the doorway exiting my house, along with a few others. And when I’m put to the question about KEATON vs CHAPLIN, I’m a self-admitted sentimentalist… so of course I say Chaplin. But the reality is – Keaton awes me. I watch in utter awe of his majesty on screen. Watching him in the last half of STEAMBOAT BILL, JR – well, the only thing you can do afterwards, and that is put it on again, which I did. KINO has done a brilliant transfer on this. The image is so crisp and sharp that you’ll just be amazed by what you don’t see. Like any manner of safety. Nothing looks safe here. You’ll find your heart skipping beats because you know… this is all really happening. And it rules. It rules so much. Here’s what’s on this amazing Blu Ray: This definitive Blu-ray edition contains both versions of STEAMBOAT BILL, JR. the Buster Keaton Estate version and the Killiam Shows Archive version each mastered from archival 35mm materials. All new Special Features include: Complete alternate version of Steamboat Bill, Jr., comprised entirely of variant takes and camera angles, Music by The Biograph Players presented in DTS-HD, Master Audio 5.1, Organ score by Lee Erwin, Piano score by William Perry, Documentary on the making of the film, Stills Gallery, Why They Call Him Buster (a montage of pratfalls), and Two vintage recordings of the folk song Steamboat Bill .

I received a standard def screener of THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO about a month ago. I’ve watched it about 5 times now. I love it. I love a good mystery, suspense, thriller. When those three genres are properly mixed, you can be so deliciously enraptured, almost more than in any other kind of genre. I love films of this type. Like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, BASIC INSTINCT, PRESUMED INNOCENT, FRANTIC, DON’T LOOK NOW, INSOMNIA (the original), KLUTE… well, you get the picture. The modern, adult version of the Film Noirs, Hitchcock style flicks… well, they’re cruder – in the sense that you will see nudity and really nasty things, but hey… That’s what floats the boat of our decadent society these days. Now, this was my introduction to the whole GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ‘story’ – and I’m in lust with the titular actress. And yes, that definitely makes me a perv. But knowing is have the battle. I will be reading the novel on my trip to the FAMOUS MONSTERS convention, because I am very curious what about the book has everybody that I know that’s read it and seen this film… kinda become dismissive of this fantastic film. And by reading and discovering that, I hope to get very very pumped for Fincher’s upcoming adaptation. One of my favorite films of this year thus far.

Weekend before last, my nephew came over to spend the weekend with me. It is interesting being an Uncle. I feel a lot of responsibility to get him excited about a host of cool things. Give him a sample of things that he gets to consider in his quest to discover more of everything. That is why I buy him classic literature, eclectic music of all variety upon his iPod, continue to feed his love of Science, classic boy stuff like Scouting & camping… And as you would expect… I give him a great variety film to like, hate, love and talk about. I tend to introduce things in order of how I discovered things – just to see how he reacts. But of course my sister introduced him to things I probably would have held off for Teenage years… But I feel starting off a kid with EVIL DEAD 2… well, it makes showing that same kid the B&W Universal Monsters… harder. Well, this particular weekend I decided to introduce my nephew to GAMERA VS BARUGON. Turns out that, although I’ve shown him the classic GODZILLAs (not the more modern ones, not yet. Maybe sometime soon) – this would be his first experience with Gamera… as it was for me, ages ago on a fateful afternoon on Cable. THOUGH – this lucky rat bastard was getting it in its original language with subtitles… and I just fucking love that this kid is reading fast enough to watch foreign flicks with subtitles – and he’s jazzed he can do it. But as a result, his future has things like CHINESE GHOST STORY in it. Basic review, I wish to god this was a Blu-Ray. As a DVD, it’s as sharp as they get, it is pretty much a pristine original language with English subtitles. The film is bliss – and I’m happy to report that my nephew thinks Flying Turtles are the best kind. About 5 minutes in, he asks me, “Uncle Harry who would win in a fight, Godzilla or Gamera?” All too easy… heh heh heh.

SINGLE MAN is a fantastic film. And I find myself wondering if Tom Ford will direct another film. I certainly hope he will, but at the same time I can imagine this simply being THE FILM he had to make. Its success as one of the best films of last year, pretty much guarantees we’ll see more. I just wonder if that’s what he’ll do. This movie is one of THE films from last year. Check it out.

Ya know… I pretty much like every performance in the film, but the story just kinda doesn’t involve or interest me. There’s a whole helluvalot of acting going on, but very little in terms of compelling story. It is all rather dreary and uninteresting, because it never made me care about any of that.

Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics, Vol. 2 ( HUMAN DESIRE / THE BROTHERS RICO / NIGHTFALL / CITY OF FEAR / PUSHOVER )
Ok – NIGHTFALL is directed by Jacques Tourneur – and you classic Val Lewton Horror lovers know what that means. A great director getting to work with the stunning Anne Bancroft, the always great Brian Keith and FUCKING ALDO RAY! The film is simply outstanding. A must see. Then there’s Fritz Lang’s HUMAN DESIRE starring one of the best ladies of Noir. Gloria Grahame, is amazing to watch. You may remember her as Violet in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, everyone loves her Oscar winning performance in the unforgettable BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Here she’s great again. Then there’s Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford. All working from an Emile Zola novel? Really fantastic Noir. I haven’t seen the other 3 yet, but I’m looking forward to checking them out soon. Another great volume of Columbia Noirs!

This is just typical. Neither of these films have ever gotten the proper respect that they deserve. And here they are being put together as a double feature – and apparently unworthy as a separate with cool special features. Nope. Not the awesome of THE LAST BOY SCOUT starring Bruce in what is easily his greatest most awesome role as JOE HALLENBECK!!! I say this because it is so. You may argue the point, but it just simply goes to show you do not know what you’re talking about. And Hallenbeck would punish you in a punishing manner befitting of someone that just doesn’t give a shit anymore. This and TRUE ROMANCE are Tony Scott’s best films. THEN – There is Walter Hill’s gangster version of the Western version of the great Samurai version of this awesome story. The production design and cinematography alone are worth picking this film up for. That, and frankly it is pretty damn bad ass.

LOST KEATON: Sixteen Comedy Shorts 1934-1937
Ok, now STEAMBOAT BILL, JR on BluRay was great, I’d only ever seen a 16mm print of that, but I’d never seen Keaton’s EDUCTATIONALS before. You get all 16 sound shorts that Keaton did. These are frankly awesome. THREE ON A LIMB is my fave of them all, but that’s because I’m an Eagle Scout and the plot of Buster being the world’s oldest Boy Scout. Well, tis very rich. LOVES IT! 5 hours of sound Keaton! Definitely a must for Keaton geeks!

CHICAGO – The Original 1927 Film Restored
First, let it be known I fucking love Eugene Pallette. He played Friar Tuck in Errol Flynn’s ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD a good 11 years later. Here he plays the guy that Roxie Hart famously conducted an affair with. You know the story, you’ve seen the musical version of this. This is Cecil B DeMille’s pre-Musical version of the actual case. Phyllis Haver is fantastic as Roxie. This is a tremendous film that many felt was lost for all time, only to be discovered in the late director’s archive… and restored beautifully. This is a two disc set, on the other disc you get THE GOLDEN TWENTIES, which is a doc that was made in the 50’s. And THE FLAPPER STORY from 1985. We’re very lucky to have this film.

I think this is hysterical. My wife thinks I’m crazy. I don’t get no respect at all!

This was one of the highlights of FANTASTIC FEST last year for some… Me, I never got to see it, so when I saw it coming out this week, I was like… DAMN, now I can see why Neve McIntosh walked off with Best Actress. I’ll be picking this up shortly.

I don’t know anything about this film. Over at AMAZON, the director wrote up his experience making it, and it has made me curious enough to order it. I kinda dig the trailer. What do you folks think?

Next week we’ll be taking a look at CHLOE, the latest MST3K set, the Film Noir Classic Collection Vol 5, GREENBERG, Nolan’s INSOMNIA Blu Ray, Volume One of THE SUPER HERO SQUAD SHOW, The complete series of STREET HAWK! We’ve also got the great, IN BRUGES on Blu, the ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 remake Blu, MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, ALPHA DOG (Blu) and SCREAM GIRLS. Yeah, slim pickens, but that’s the week ahead of us. Hope you enjoyed this week’s offering.

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