DVDBeaver Newsletter for November 24th, 2005
Hi there, firstly Happy Thanksgiving to our American friends!...
Well at the bequest of a few emailers I am trying to push a little more 'center' (cinematically speaking) and I am accused of being quite 'stayed' and 'old fashioned' - hmmm - maybe they have something there... but after watching Mr. Spielberg's War of the Worlds I am scampering right back to my little corner.
You thought we were all over the board last week? - I think this may be the widest berth since we started. We have the already noted Hollywood 'Blockbuster', a Senegalese master expression, a Wildlife documentary, the BEST 50's Family TV show, some Noirs, Pre-codes, classic comedy, stunning musicals, old Russian and more modern experimental avant garde and some Dogme films to boot!... ohh and a Kurosawa epic!
For those with uncooperative mail clients - you may read our newsletter via the web HERE.
Marlene Dietrich fans must already be aware of her 13 films coming to DVD in France - Dec 5th- Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg -1932), The Devil Is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg - 1935), Dishonored (Josef von Sternberg - 1931), The Flame of New Orleans (Rene Clair 1941), A Foreign Affair (Billy Wilder - 1948), Golden Earrings (Mitchell Leisen - 1947), Morocco (Josef von Sternberg - 1930), Pittsburgh (Lewis Seiler - 1942), The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg - 1934), Seven Sinners (Tay Garnett - 1940), The Song of Songs (Rouben Mamoulian - 1933), The Spoilers (Ray Enright - 1942). See our Calendar listing at the bottom of the newsletter.
I've been putting some time into the Calendar HERE. Peruse before you check out...
STILL SELLING STRONG! - THE NEW Region Free DVD Player: the Malata DVD-856 Region Free (brand new model) - its the best region-free machine I have seen. CHECK HERE for details and pictures. Delivered anywhere in continental North America for $145 US.
RECOMMENDATIONS... : The Miracle Woman may be my top pick for the week. The Barbara Stanwyck Screen Goddess Boxset is a true gem and substantiates the reason I have THIS as my computer wallpaper. Close second, but too much 'apples to oranges' is Unknown Chaplin - I was captivated through the whole thing - reminds me why I love cinema. Oklahoma and State Fair are too good to ignore. Totally a personal choice but I LOVE Leave it to Beaver (1st Season) and this, Entuziazm: Simfoniya Donbassa, is enticing but looks pretty hard to get. There - have we spent enough money?
Most Recent Reviews
Dogme Collection 1-4 - There are many ideas of what Dogme is. Concocted
by Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg one late evening after having discussed
cinema and consumed several bottles of wine, the ten rules of chastity were
written down in less than 20 minutes, and as Vinterberg later said, we laughed
all the way, yet were very serious about it. The 5-disc collection includes
Mifunes sidste sang,
The King Is Alive and a
March of the Penguins - instantly qualifies as a wildlife classic, taking its place among other extraordinary films like Microcosmos and Winged Migration. French filmmaker Luc Jacquet and his devoted crew endured a full year of extreme conditions in Antarctica to capture the life cycle of Emperor penguins on film, and their diligence is evident in every striking frame of this 80-minute documentary. Narrated in soothing tones by Morgan Freeman, the film focuses on a colony of hundreds of Emperors as they return, in a single-file march of 70 miles or more, to their frozen breeding ground, far inland from the oceans where they thrive.
Ran - With Ran, legendary director Akira Kurosawa reimagines Shakespeare’s King Lear as a singular historical epic set in sixteenth-century Japan. Majestic in scope, the film is Kurosawa’s late-life masterpiece, a profound examination of the folly of war and the crumbling of one family under the weight of betrayal, greed, and the insatiable thirst for power. See how the new, stacked Criterion DVD matches against 5 rivals.
Entuziazm: Simfoniya Donbassa - Dziga Vertov’s hatred of the narrative film has been well-documented. He was in search of some kind of pure cinema, a kind of international film language that could be understood universally. For this he invented the term ‘Kino-Eye’, which meant for Vertov that the camera is superior to the human eye and it was only the camera which could record the world as it really was.
Kings and Queen - At 44, Desplechin has established himself as the least predictable, most interesting of younger French directors—and certainly the most film-intoxicated. His movies are remarkably generous; his interviews give evidence of considerable enthusiasm, for the process even more than the history of cinema: "I love to make films like roller coasters," he told Cineaste, explaining that while shooting "Kings and Queen" he nailed a Truffaut maxim to the wall: Every minute, four ideas. "Kings and Queen" just picks up the baggage and runs — it's terrific filmmaking.
Unknown Chaplin - Indispensable for any Chaplin fan and important and highly intriguing for anyone who cares about film history, this three-volume series offers the outtakes and unreleased tracks of the Little Tramp's storied career. Archivist Kevin Brownlow and David Gill meticulously and ingeniously piece together previously unseen footage from Chaplin's private collection, demonstrating in part 1 how painstakingly the director developed gags in such short films as The Cure and The Immigrant. Part 2 is less essential, but offers the famous behind-the-camera intrigue of the making of his classic City Lights, a film in which pokey perfectionist Chaplin makes Stanley Kubrick look like a caffeinated, indie tyro rushing through production. Part 3 demonstrates how Chaplin recycled ideas he discarded early in his career for use in later film.
All I Desire - An early Sirk melodrama that is saved by Stanwyck's full-blooded performance. She's a failed actress invited back to the small town she left ten years earlier after a scandalous affair. Her daughter is acting in a play and wants her mother to see her in the high school production, but the townsfolk have long memories and are prepared to punish Stanwyck for her past behavior. Part of the much coveted Barbara Stanwyck Screen Goddess Boxset.
The Miracle Woman - Capra was already an established director when he began working with the incomparable Stanwyck around 1930. This adaptation of a play, derived from the life of evangelist Aimée Semple McPherson, gave her a strong role as a woman so upset by her father's death after his congregation has rejected him that she embarks upon a career as a 'miracle worker', aided by a con man (Hardy). She finally sees the error of her ways, thanks to a burgeoning relationship with a blind musician-ventriloquist. Shot in just four weeks, this is a minor miracle in itself, courtesy of Stanwyck's mesmerizing personality and Capra's infectious direction. This film is reason enough to buy the Barbara Stanwyck Screen Goddess Boxset.
Moolaadé - Ousmane Sembene’s second film in his trilogy exploring Female Heroes of Daily Life, “Moolaadé” is a triumph of filmmaking; poetical, life affirming, political and comical. Each scene is carefully created, almost naively simple in mise-en-scene and dialogue, but so rich of life and involvement. Watching “Moolaadé”, one feels alive and part of Sembene’s world; thru laughter and tears. Film when it is most alive.
Scarlet Street - is a remake of Jean Renoir's picture La Chienne (1931). The most important immediate difference between the pictures is one of tone and attitude towards the characters. Renoir's film is a kinky black comedy about a pair of sexy low-lifes who humiliate a middle aged man. It is basically a sexual fantasy. Lang's picture is a tale of paranoia, how a pair of disgusting human beings, and fate itself, persecute an innocent man. Lang strips most of the sexiness from the crooked couple in the picture. Instead he and scenarist Dudley Nichols emphasize their sheer awfulness. The new Kino DVD is not perfect but its the best out there.
House by the River - A deranged writer murders a maid after she resists his advances. The writer engages his brother's help in hiding the body, and then watches as the brother becomes the prime suspect. This film has been neglected, partly because prints are hard to come by, and those existing accentuate the gloominess of the period events and the atmospheric photography. More significantly the second-rung cast respond to the spirit but not the tone of the story about a writer (Hayward) who murders his servant and then implicates his brother (Bowman) in the crime. Adapted by Dinelli - a master of small-scale terror - from a novel, it stays in the house and on the weed-clogged river where the body is disposed of. It tumbles into melodrama after its opening nightmare, but that's not unusual in Lang's films.
The Bitter Tea of General Yen - Deliciously romantic melodrama - and unknown Capra territory - which has the great (and underrated) Stanwyck as Megan Davis, an American missionary who comes to wartorn Shanghai in the 30s and is kidnapped by a Chinese warlord. Coming across as a kind of raw, emotional The King and I (but without the whistling of happy tunes, thankfully), the film's narrative dips in and out of Stanwyck's strange dreams, where she is both attracted and repelled by the sophisticated General (Asther). A heady and sensual cocktail of drama and emotion and, in pre-Hollywood morality code times, a goodly amount of sexual tension.
Marx Bros. 6 disc Boxset - This tinbox is in contents 100% identical to the former Region 2 release of August 23, 2004, which again is a Region 2 port of the Region 1 release of May 4, 2004, except that the Region 1 boxset has the film "Room Service" (1938, William A. Seiter) additional. In 'A Night At The Opera' Milan's finest opera stars come to New York, with some unexpected stowaways on board - Harpo and Chico. 'A Day At The Races' finds the Marx Brothers' business facing ruin unless they can save the day at the races. In 'The Big Store' the Marx Brothers bring chaos to a large department store. 'A Night In Casablanca' consists of more Marx mayhem in the Hotel Casablanca, North Africa, where hotel managers are being murdered as soon as they discover stolen jewels and art treasures hidden in the hotel. 'At The Circus' tells what happens when our duo find themselves on the circus payroll. 'Go West' finds the Marx Brothers in the 1870's Wild West.
Leave it to Beaver (1st Season) - 'That's a very nice dress you are wearing today Mrs. Cleaver'
Some of my fondest memories growing up were watching this show (in syndication) over lunch and being amused at the poignant humor and subtle family gestures of love. A website named DVDBeaver would have to have a review of a show called 'Leaver it to Beaver' - more than simply a 'feel-good' sitcom but one of the more special shows in the history of television .
War of the Worlds (2005) - Every once in a while I need a refresher course in why I don't watch a lot of modern Hollywood films. Viewing this should last me at least 4 months. Emailers were about 10-1 supporting my stance (cheque is in the mail guys)
By Brakhage - Stan Brakhage is one of the true giants of the American avant-garde cinema, a pioneer who constantly pushed the envelope and who, in the process, forever altered our conception of what cinema can be. This 2 disc set from Criterion brings together 30 works of his voluminous oeuvre. One of the undisputed highpoints on this disc is the complete ‘Dog Star Man’, arguably Brakhage’s best work and certainly his most famous one. Many rated this as DVD of the Year for 2004.
Oklahoma - The hit Broadway musical from the 1940s gets a lavish if not always exciting workout in this 1955 film version directed by old lion Fred Zinnemann (High Noon). Gordon MacRae brings his sterling voice to the role of cowboy Curly, and Shirley Jones plays Laurie, the object of his affection. The Rodgers and Hammerstein score includes "The Surrey with the Fringe on Top," "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'," and "People Will Say We're in Love," and Agnes DeMille provides the buoyant choreography. Among the supporting cast, Gloria Grahame is memorable as Ado Annie, the "girl who cain't say no," and Rod Steiger overdoes it as the villainous Jud.
State Fair - "I've got that nice, tired old feeling," says Pa Frake near the end of the gentle, sunny 1945 film, State Fair. The Rodgers and Hammerstein music, commissioned while Oklahoma was still making musical-theater history, feels tired too, like the result of a hastily written score. The state of Iowa just can't seem to inspire the same quality music as its more memorable, southern cousin. Remember that State Fair gem "All I Owe Iowa"? Still, it is R and H, and "It Might as Well Be Spring" is here as well as some other decent ditties. There's a country-mouse feeling as the Frake family journeys to the big city for the annual harvest celebration. Young daughter Margy (Jeanne Crain) has her eye on something more exciting than her bore of a fiancé, while her brother meets a lovely big-band singer with a secret. But the bucolic, Old Farmer's Almanac feel is genuine, and it's most obviously a picture of a bygone era when someone expostulates gleefully, "You're gonna be the wife of a journalist!" Not a "don't miss" but not a dismiss either.
Suspira - This is the story of a young American girl, Suzy, who accepts an offer from a prestigious ballet school in Europe. As she arrives, she sees a girl fleeing. Later on, she finds out that this girl was in fact murdered shortly after that. After some more strange occurrences, Suzy begins to suspect that there is something more complex at work. The plot is basic and the acting (overdubbed voices, like most Italian films) is pretty bad, but the technical aspects of the film more than make up for it. The colorful cinematography, haunting music and unconventional camera angles all contribute to conveying the sense that you are in fact in someone's nightmare. A must-see for fans of the horror genre.
Upcoming releases (next 2 weeks)
Classic Kurosawa: (Five features. 'Stray Dog', 'Ikiru', 'I Live In Fear', 'Throne Of Blood' and 'Red Beard'): - BFI UK PAL
The Frighteners (Unrated Director's Cut) ( Peter Jackson - 1996) Universal
King Kong Vs Godzilla/King Kong Escapes (Ishirô Honda - 1963) Universal
Landscape in the Mist (Theo Angelopoulos, 1988) New Yorker
Loving Couples (Mai Zetterling - 1965) New Yorker Video
March of the Penguins (Luc Jacquet - 2005 - Widescreen Edition) - Warner Home Video
Unknown Chaplin - (outtakes Chaplin had wanted destroyed) A & E Home Video
Windhorse ( Paul Wagner 1998) New Yorker Video
As Tears Go By (Wong Kar-wai, 1988) Tartan [R2-UK]
Blonde Venus (Josef von Sternberg -1932) - Universal R2 - France
Cinderella Man (Ron Howard - 2005) Universal Studios
The Devil Is a Woman (Josef von Sternberg - 1935) - Universal R2 - France
Fantastic Four (Widescreen Edition) (Tim Story - 2005) Fox Home Entertainment
Forbidden Games (René Clément - 1952) Criterion Collection
Golden Earrings (Mitchell Leisen - 1947) - Universal R2 - France
Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway - 1947) Fox Home Entertainment
The Life Collection - David Attenborough (24 Disc Boxset) - BBC - R2 UK
Matt Helm Lounge (The Silencers/ Murderers Row/The Ambushers/The Wrecking Crew) - Columbia Tristar
Morocco (Josef von Sternberg - 1930) - Universal R2 - France
My Favorite Brunette (Elliott Nugent - 1947) Aae Films
The Ninth Day (Volker Schlöndorff - 2004) Kino International
Pam Grier Collection (2005 - Coffy, Foxy Brown and Sheba, Baby) Columbia Tristar Home Video
The Pinky Violence Collection (Various - Criminal Woman: Killing Melody/ Girl Boss Guerilla etc.) - Wea Corp
Pittsburgh (Lewis Seiler - 1942) - Universal R2 - France
Rain (Lewis Milestone - 1932) Aae Films
The Rockford Files - Season One (James Garnber - 1974) - Universal
Shoot the Piano Player (François Truffaut - 1960) 2-disc Criterion Collection
Essential Truffaut Collection (The Soft Skin, The 400 Blows, The Last Metro and Jules Et Jim) - Tartan UK PAL.
W Django! (Edoardo Mulargia - 1972) Koch Vision Entertainment
Walt Disney Treasures - Disney Rarities - Celebrated Shorts, 1920s - 1960s (1956) - Buena Vista Home Video
Watermarks (Yaron Zilberman - 2004) Kino International
Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger) Fox Home Entertainment
Whisky (Juan Pablo Rebella - 2004 - Artificial Eye R2 UK
Wish I could join one of my Yank friends for a drumstick and some sausage stuffing... ahhh well, Enjoy!!
P.S. STILL A DEAL: If you were contemplating purchasing the 7-disc Preston Sturges Boxset - it is 48% off at the moment from Amazon UK HERE Seven features: 'Sullivan's Travels', 'The Lady Eve', 'Hail The Conquering Hero', 'The Great Moment', 'The Great McGinty', 'Christmas In July' and 'The Palm Beach Story'.
P.P.S. We have a few sweatshirts left HERE - the support for Beaver would be greatly appreciated! Hey, Rosenbaum, Kehr, R.A. Harris and Darghis all wear one - and there are only 100 in the entire world! As MoC mocks - 'it's perfect for snubbing philistines!!!'