DVDBeaver Newsletter for January 19th, 2006
Hi Folks ! - We, once again, are living up to our 'Eclectic' moniker. This week we have an amazingly diverse listing of review/comparisons - a classic from von Sternberg and his muse, 3 popular machismo westerns, an animatronic recreation of the first predatorial life on this planet, Dickens done by one of the most intriguing of living directors, 2 clandestine film noirs, An all-black Hollywood film, a heavily financed Jackie Chan action spectacular, a cornerstone of the Brazilian Cinema Novo movement, a nostalgic 60's Hong Kong drama, an animated necrophiliac's delight... and more !
We did get talked about in Josh Steins article in Chicago Tribune article HERE. Thanks Irina for letting us know!
If you missed the last one, here is another on its heels - Another Sale at Amazon.UK - £ 7.97 or less
Etre Et Avoir , Delicatessen , Sympathy For Mr Vengeance , Mirror , Abigail's Party , The Last Metro , Three Colours Blue , Three Colours White , Three Colours Red , Persona , Lovers Of The Arctic Circle , The Gospel According To St. Matthew , Ivan's Childhood , Jamon Jamon , The Magician , Code Unknown , A Short Film About Killing , To Joy , Crisis , Beau Travail , Summer Interlude , The Terrorist , The Wicker Man  and many more!
RECOMMENDATIONS... I'm quite impressed with the French Sternberg/Dietrich's that I have seen and will try to review more in the future, but for now - Dishonored (aka Agent X-27) has a big thumbs up! The Sam Peckinpah's Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue) is a no-brainer if you are at all into the director of the genre. I'm so high on all of this series I just have to promote- Walking with Monsters - Life Before Dinosaurs. I doubt anyone will regret owning these DVDs and odds are you will watch them repeatedly. Gregory is fast becoming the go-to man for Noir selections and I trust his judgment - both The Crooked Way and Without Warning! are great deals. Lastly, we often complain about NY'er but they put out some amazing films and Vidas Secas is a perfect example.
Most Recent Reviews
Dishonored (aka Agent X-27) - It's possible
to look at this 1931 Josef von Sternberg film and see nothing but camp (it stars
Marlene Dietrich as secret agent X-27, working behind the lines in World War I),
but give it an ounce of respect and you'll discover a remarkable aesthetic
object--an exercise in mise-en-scene of an awesome, glacial beauty. Had we known
some of these DVDs would have made mention in the
DVD of the
The Wild Bunch - Violence comes in many shapes, sizes, and forms. Twenty-six years ago, when Sam Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch was first released, it caused a stir because of its gritty, uncompromising style. The deaths in this film are neither sterile nor heroic. When a gun is fired, the result is inevitably messy. In many ways, especially in its determination not to glorify bloodshed, The Wild Bunch shares key themes with Clint Eastwood's Unforgiven -- only this film came twenty-three years earlier. Now the new DVD is compared to the old!
The Magnificent Seven - Our new comparisons suggests little improvement in the image from new to old. A bandit (Eli Wallach) terrorizes a small Mexican farming village each year. Several of the village elders send three of the farmers into the United States to search for gunmen to defend them. They end up with 7 (Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson etc.), each of whom comes for a different reason. They must prepare the town to repulse an army of over 100 bandits who will arrive seeking food. An oft recognized Americanization of the Japanese Kurosawa film Seven Samurai.
Ride the High Country - A much-loved revisionist Western, director Peckinpah's second feature film proved to be a bittersweet swan song for the Old West and a classy farewell to the screen for actors Scott and--for some years--McCrea. This is what was to be an obsession by Peckinpah - men who have lived past their era in history and find it difficult to adapt to changing times (The Wild Bunch; The Ballad of Cable Hogue; and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid all share this theme).
Walking with Monsters - Life Before Dinosaurs - This is a scientific representation of life before the dinosaurs. Starting with Theia crashing into earth and forming our moon. We go from the Cambrian Period (530 Million Years Ago) and ending at the Early Triassic Period (248 Million Years Ago), Walking With Monsters shows the life and death struggles prehistoric creatures before the dinosaurs. It also portrays an accurate picture of our first ancestors. Spiders as big as your head, scorpions a meter long and dragonflies with 110cm wingspans are just some of the fascinating animatronic recreations used in this multi-million dollar award winning series. This whole series is fantastic!
Oliver Twist - Roman Polanski directs the classic Charles Dickens story of a young orphan boy who gets involved with a gang of pickpockets in 19th Century London. Abandoned at an early age, Oliver Twist (Barney Clark) is forced to live in a workhouse lorded over by the awful Mr. Bumble, who cheats the boys of their meager rations. Desperate yet determined, Oliver makes his escape to the streets of London. Penniless and alone, he is lured into a world of crime by the sinister Fagin (Academy-Award winner Sir Ben Kingsley) -- the mastermind of a gang of pint-sized pickpockets.
Cabin in the Sky - Hollywood's first all-black film since The Green Pastures tells the vibrant fable of rascally Little Joe, torn between the love of his good wife Petunia and the wiles of good-time bad girl Georgia Brown...and caught in a tug-of-war between emissaries from the Lord and Satan. How can virtue triumph over evil? Well, as Petunia says, "Sometimes when you fight the devil, you gotta jab him with his own pitchfork." Debuting movie director Vincente Minnelli (An American in Paris, Gigi)
Without Warning! - Splashing spotlights across tight blonde curls and the sharp edges of the murderous blades of a gardener's shears---Without Warning! Opening with pure noir murder, our love-killer gardener Carl Martin (Andy Williams, North by Northwest) leaves his latest fair-haired victim gaping at the ceiling in a motel room in a post-passion melee. But our killer is not a random psycho, He's a clean-cut kid with an unknown chip on his. shoulder and a pair of garden shears in his hands---and a murderous lust for big-busted blonde babes out for a quick night's thrill. Befriending a local garden shop owner's daughter, Carl boldly snares her in his lair. Without Warning! is one of the final missing pieces in the shadowy world of American film noir.
Vidas Secas - is the cornerstone of the Cinema Novo movement. Derived from Graciliano Ramos' eponymous novel, this Brazilian Grapes of Wrath is set in the early 1940s, and describes two years in the life of an itinerant cowhand's family struggling to eke out an existence in the drought-ravaged, landowner-dominated sertão of the country's Northeast. The film is stark in its imagery and a powerful documentation of the uprooted. At the time of its theatrical release, Vidas Secas was considered the absolute last word as a realistic film depiction of the wretched of the earth. Today it somehow seems much more a white-hot, almost mystically intense pilgrim's progress through an unending purgatory with no other side.
Madame Slender Plum - Being part of the 'Shaw Brothers library' this is a bit of an odd duck considering the extensive action/martial arts genre films that the producers found as their niche. I wouldn't really call this a 'mystery' as it is described by some - if I had to find a film that it seems to be patterned after it would be Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford). A stacked Diana Chang Chung Wen seems to do a good job as the workaholic mother and matches beauty with her daughter played by sexy Eurasian Jenny Yu. This film certainly has nostalgia appeal and exhibits much of the period fashion, cars, color scheme and even dances.
R-Point - when telling this ghost story, the pace and timing is perfect and the sensation is extraordinary eerie. Here we get the back-story of the island, of the French hospital and the former events. But when having the characters interact, the pace comes to an almost complete stop, and the film has to pick itself up again. This causes the individual scenes to separate themselves from the internal narrative and each ghost scene now stands sort of isolated as a set-piece versus the acting scenes.
The Myth - Jackie Chan takes on dual roles in his latest action spectacular, The Myth. Chan plays Jack, a modern day archeologist who is recruited by his old friend William (Tony Leung Ka Fai) to investigate some mysterious levitation activities at an ancient Indian shrine. Meanwhile, Jack is having vivid dreams that he is General Meng Yi, a high-ranking officer during the Qing Dynasty. After saving the life of beautiful Korean Princess Ok Soo (Kim Hee Sun), Meng Yi must safely guide her through the treacherous countryside to the safety of the royal palace.
The Crooked Way - 1949's "The Crooked Way" is an obscure but highly enjoyable film noir, with some of the most stylish noir photography and lighting I've ever seen. This is because the cinematography was handled by the legendary John Alton, the most recognized and respected name in film noir cinematography. To be honest, I've never thought of John Payne as a great actor. However, with his gloomy, cynical personality and his frequent frowning, he was perfect for film noir.
An Unforgettable Summer - The Romanian-Bulgarian border setting may be remote and the mid-20s date equally distant, but one comes away from this compact, well-acted movie with the notion that matters have not progressed for the better in eight decades. The central character is an army captain (Bleont) who takes up a dangerous post with his wife (Scott-Thomas) and their children. When a group of his untrained men are killed, Captain Petre takes local hostages, only to have his wife's compassion enter their lives when he is eventually ordered to execute the peasants. A cruel and pointless act, which succinctly poses a moral dilemma.
Corpse Bride - Who else but Tim Burton could make Corpse Bride, a necrophiliac's delight that's fun for the whole family? Returning to the richly imaginative realm of stop-motion animation (after previous successes with The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach), Burton, with codirector Mike Johnson, invites us to visit the dour, ashen, and drearily Victorian mansions of the living, where young Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) is bequeathed to wed the lovely Victoria (Emily Watson). But the wedding rehearsal goes sour and, in the kind of Goth-eerie forest that only exists in Burton-land, Victor suddenly finds himself accidentally married to the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), a blue-tinted, half-skeletal beauty (how pleasantly full-bosomed she remains!) with a loquacious maggot installed behind one prone-to-popping eyeball.
More NEWLY listed releases - keep your eye on our Calendar for more !
The Cary Grant Box Set (Holiday / Only Angels Have Wings / The Talk of the Town / His Girl Friday / The Awful Truth) Sony Pictures
The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack Arnold, 1957) Universal Pictures Video R2 UK
The Busby Berkeley Collection (Footlight Parade / Gold Diggers of 1933 / Dames / Gold Diggers of 1935 / 42nd Street) - Warner
Ryan's Daughter (Two-Disc Special Edition) (David Lean, 1970) Warner Home Video
Raise the Red Lantern (Yimou Zhang, 1991) Razor
Young Mr. Lincoln - (John Ford - 1939) Criterion Collection
The Prisoner of Shark Island (John Ford, 1936) Eureka MoC
Miracle In Milan (Vittorio De Sica, 1951) Arrow Film UK R2
A Royal Scandal (Ernst Lubitsch, Otto Preminger 1945) Gaumont - CTHV - France PAL
Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1942) Image Entertainment
The Taisho Trilogy Box Set (Seijun Suzuki - Yumeji - 1991, Kageroza -1981, Tsigoineruwaizen- 1980) Kino International
3 Films by Louis Malle ( Murmur of the Heart; Lacombe, Lucien; and Au revoir les enfants) Criterion
Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection - (Man of the World, We’re Not Dressing, Hands Across the Table, Love Before Breakfast, The Princess Comes Across and True Confession) MCA Video
Films of Faith Collection - ("The Nun's Story", "The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima", "The Shoes of the Fisherman") - Warner
Mae West: The Glamour Collection - This two-disc set (1xDVD14, 1xDVD9) includes 5 films: Night After Night, I’m No Angel, Goin’ To Town, Go West Young Man and My Little ChickadeeMCA Video
Marlene Dietrich: The Glamour Collection: Morocco, Blonde Venus, The Devil is a Woman, Flame of New Orleans and Golden Earrings.) MCA Video
Assassination (Masahrio Shinoda, 1964) Eureka/MoC [R2-UK]
La Bataille du Rail (René Clément, 1945) Facets
Captains Courageous (Victor Fleming, 1937) Warner Home Video
The Champ (King Vidor, 1931) Warner
Hope the weather remains acceptable wherever you reside on the mudball,
P.S. Our TOP most recent and popular comparisons (CLICK to access):Toy Story 2, 2046, The Big Lebowski, Ben Hur, Black Narcissus, Cafe Lumiere, Lost Highway, Nightmare Alley, Pickpocket, Le Samouraï, Ugetsu, Wizard of Oz