DVDBeaver Newsletter for Dec 1st, 2005
Hi there - time is just zooming by isn't it? - its almost December! The rumors of DVDBeaver's demise are not that greatly exaggerated I'm afraid. We'll hold the fort together till 06' and our DVD of the Year selections... I can't wait for that... The reward of toil is rest!
We continue our eclectic ways - easily surpassing last weeks boast. Let's see - 16mm educational films, classic 70's TV, encompassing Noirs, Asian anime, Holiday favorites, a sexed-up super spy, the greatest film of an Opera... ever, Giallo splatterings, poker DVDs (did you say poker DVDs?!?), French masterpieces (yeah 2 of them) a full length independent feature, and a David Lynch nightmare. Wow is right!
Those with unsophisticated mail clients - you may read our newsletter via the web HERE.
RECOMMENDATIONS... Too much great stuff on shiny discs this week - I was most impressed by Kiss of Death as a new favorite Noir. Tales of Hoffmann is like a revelation for Powell/Pressburger fans and the DVD is a must-own. The The Educational Archives - Limited Edition Lunchbox are some of the most fun you can have with a friends in front of the tube. I LOVE The Rockford Files (Season 1) and I can't see any reason to miss out on this dynamo from 70's TV. Forbidden Games knocked me on my a** - another strong recommendation. I was very pleasantly surprised by The Last Days of Pompeii - great film! And for a positive 'pass on this' reaction - you can probably miss the Matt Helm Lounge - it hasn't aged well and the DVDs are quite poorly authored.
Most Recent Reviews
The Rockford Files (Season 1) - With appealing characters like his father Joseph (a.k.a. Rocky), his best friend Sgt. Dennis Becker of the LAPD, his lawyer/girlfriend Beth Davenport, and his former cell-mate Evelyn "Angel" Martin the show has an iconic status and one with a huge appreciative fan base. His great rugged looks and easy going attitude combined with Rockford's knack for being on the short end of life's opportunities make this show unique and truly both endearing and appealing.
Shoot the Piano Player - François Truffaut is drunk on the possibilities
of cinema in this, his most playful, anarchic film. Part film noir, part comedy,
part tragedy, Shoot the Piano Player relates the adventures of the mild-mannered
piano player Charlie (Charles Aznavour, in a triumph of hangdog deadpan) as he
stumbles into the criminal underworld and a whirlwind love affair. Loaded with
gags, guns, clowns, and thugs, this razor-sharp homage to the American gangster
film is pure nouvelle vague.
Forbidden Games - A timeless evocation of the loss of innocence, René Clément’s heartbreaking Forbidden Games tells the story of a young orphan and her friend, who are forced to fend for themselves in World War II France. A breathtaking cinematic achievement, Clément’s film features brilliant performances from its child stars and won the 1952 Academy Award for Best Foreign Film. Masterpiece.
Lost Highway - New French edition is tops... You're sitting quietly, and something unfolds in your mind... It's a dangerous thing, you know, to say what a picture is. I can't really talk about that. I can say, it's, you know, it's...I wouldn't be able to say it in a short, you know, time. It's about a man in trouble...a psychogenic fugue is the type of trouble. And it's maybe beautifully uneasy.
Matt Helm Lounge - includes The Silencers, Murderers Row, The Ambushers, and The Wrecking Crew. The girls were sexy, the plots were sexy, heck - even Deano himself is pretty sexy! This Bond-parody has the charm of the protagonists and we wanted more of what made the super spy so damn super - gadgets and girls... Matt Helm has them both with the latter flourishing in abundance.
Tales of Hoffmann - Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger create a phantasmagoric marriage of cinema and opera in this one-of-a-kind take on a classic story. In Jacques Offenbach’s fantasy opera The Tales of Hoffmann, a poet dreams of three women—a mechanical performing doll, a bejeweled siren, and the consumptive daughter of a famous composer—all of whom break his heart in different ways. Powell and Pressburger’s feverishly romantic adaptation is a feast of music, dance, and visual effects, and one of the most exhilarating opera films ever produced.
Huddle with three significant Fox Noirs':
The Dark Corner - Lucille Ball stars in this quality film noir. Cunningly plotted and ominously atmospheric, a down-at-heel private eye finds himself accused of a murder he didn't commit. Fox keeps up their high Noir standard! Bravo!
Kiss of Death - Perfect noir - A gritty tale of deceit and manipulation filmed with an almost documentary-style realism, this hard-edged noir thriller stars Victor Mature as a gangster who takes the rap for a jewelery-store heist to protect his wife and children. But when his friends on the outside fail to honor their promise, he turns the tables on the mob and works with the FBI to incriminate the men who helped put him away. Richard Widmark debuts as the evil mobster with the manic laugh.
Where the Sidewalk Ends - This was Otto Preminger's last studio pictures at 20th Century Fox. "Where the Sidewalk Ends" was adapted by Ben Hecht, writing under a pseudonym, based on the novel "Night Cry" by William Stuart. It still contains some wonderful film noir qualities and scenes. The plot involves a law enforcement officer, Mark Dixon, (played by Dana Andrews) who we are never sure of which way he will morally fall. He hates the bad guys and has a reputation for leaning on them too hard. This aggressive behavior cause him to kill a suspect with a defensive punch. He fights with his past and his father's (a thief) reputation to hide the crime, but will the pureness of Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney) assuage his inner battle and admit the truth? This drifts in and out of the noir genre, but is a marvelous film regardless.
Poker DVDs ?!? - Beaver not only goes out in left field, but right out of the stadium too - Rick Cognoscenti reviews 5 Poker DVDs including - Poker Superstars Invitational Tournament - Series 1, World Poker Tour - Season Two, Ultimate Poker Challenge Season One, 2003 World Series of Poker and Winning Texas Hold 'Em. Hey, you'll be surprised how addictive watching this is! I'm hooked.
The Last Days of Pompeii (1935) - This is an excellent and impacting film - a follow-up after King Kong from producer Merian C. Cooper (who also directs some scenes). It has some intangibles that make it a timeless production. Preston Foster plays a blacksmith on a mission after his wife and child are run-over by a chariot. He enters the field of Gladiatorial combat as an ambitious assassin, but after his success in the coliseum makes a sweet young boy (David Holt) an orphan, he softens to adopt the child as his own. In typical older film fashion his character comes full circle miraculously quickly, but it just all seems to work so well. Actually the strength of the film is in the characterizations (Basil Rathbone is excellent Pontius Pilate) but there is really no relation to the catastrophic demise of Pompeii that we might be imminently expecting. Still a fabulous Hollywood film, if inaccurate rending of the novel. We strongly recommend.
The Educational Archives - Limited Edition Lunchbox - Generations of American children sat in dark classrooms and absorbed wisdom from 16mm educational films. Through the flicker of dim projector bulbs and the warble of optical soundtracks, a blueprint for better living in the atomic age was spelled out in no uncertain terms. This collection from the late 1940s to the 1980s is historical, hysterical, and filled with more important misinformation than you can digest in one viewing. The literal lunchbox (with working thermos) includes - Sex & Drugs, Social Engineering 101, Driver's Ed. and On the Job. This is beyond 'kitsch' appeal - its the best!
Blood and Black Lace - Giallo masterpiece? An unscrupulous business operating under the guise of a top fashion house with exotic models running sexual favors, cocaine dealings and blackmail, becomes a murder scene—after someone is pushed to the edge. The saga begins when a beautiful model is brutally murdered, and her boyfriend, a known addict supplying her drugs, is suspected of the crime…but is he guilty or is someone waiting in the shadows setting him up?
4 Holiday DVDs reviewed in PDF by Nick Zegarac!
Bishop's Wife - An Episcopal Bishop, Henry Brougham, has been working
for months on the plans for a new cathedral paid for by a stubborn widow. He is
losing sight of his family and of why he became a churchman in the first place.
Enter Dudley, an angel sent to help him. Dudley does help everyone he meets, but
not necessarily in the way they would have preferred. With the exception of
Henry, everyone loves him, but Henry begins to believe that Dudley is there to
replace him, at work, and in his families affections, as Christmas approaches.
The Bells of St. Mary's - Father O'Malley the unconventional priest from 'Going My Way' continues his work for the Catholic Church. This time he is sent to St. Mary's, a run-down parochial school on the verge of condemnation. He and Sister Benedict work together in an attempt to save the school, though their differing methods often lead to good-natured disagreements.
Miracle of 34th Street - At the Macy's Department Store Thanksgiving Day parade, the actor playing Santa is discovered to be drunk by a whiskered old man. Doris Walker, the no nonsense special events director, persuades the old man to take his place. The old man proves to be a sensation and is quickly recruited to be the store Santa at the main Macy's outlet. While he is successful, Ms. Walker learns that he calls himself Kris Kringle and he claims to be the actual Santa Claus. Despite reassurances by Kringle's doctor that he is harmless, Doris still has misgivings, especially when she has cynically trained herself, and especially her daughter, Susan, to reject all notions of belief and fantasy. And yet, people, especially Susan, begin to notice there is something special about Kris and his determination to advance the true spirit of Christmas amidst the rampant commercialism around him succeeding in improbable ways.
White Christmas - After leaving the Army after W.W.II, Bob Wallace and Phil Davis team up to become a top song-and-dance act. Davis plays matchmaker and introduces Wallace to a pair of beautiful sisters (Betty and Judy) who also have a song-and-dance act. When Betty and Judy travel to a Vermont lodge to perform a Christmas show, Wallace and Davis follow, only to find their former commander, General Waverly, is the lodge owner. A series of romantic mix-ups ensue as the performers try to help the General.
Overcoming - In 2001 did Bjarne Riis, former Tour de France winner, become leader of the Danish Team CSC, and from the very first day, his intentions was to create the best cycle team in the world; and do so with non traditional means.Both as film and as documentary film, “Overcoming” deserves to be called a masterpiece. Form and presentation takes full advantage of everything film has to offer, telling an emotional gripping story about overcoming obstacles, what ever they may be. Inspiring in every possible way.
Sky Blue - The year is 2140. The world has been destroyed by an environmental disaster. The only way to survive is to live in the last outpost of human civilization – Ecoban. The only reason that one can live in Ecoban is because of human slaves who make it work; slaves, who await a hero, who will give them their freedom and save the planet. A a film for Asian animation completetists only.
The Eternal Present - A full length independent feature film made with very little (if any) budget by an art school drop-out and self-invented filmmaker. Wait... don't run away! This deserves more credit than you might imagine. I see influences of German new wave and some other European arthouse expressions (Resnais, Erice ?). Indulgent? - yes a little, although it would be an impossibility to create such a film without a bit of pretense. Unintentionally paced as a thriller (a genre it only flirts with) I was very comfortable with how it was evolving. There was definitely some thought-out mis-projection of time and space in Buj's debut film.
Upcoming releases (next 2 weeks)
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
The 40 Year Old Virgin (Judd Apatow - 2005) Universal Studios
Conan The Barbarian (Arnold Schwarzenegger-1982) -Ultimate Edition (Limited Edition) (Japan Version)
Dark (D.A. Bullock - 2003) Image Entertainment
Five Pennies (Melville Shavelson - 1959) Paramount Home Video
Frank Miller's Sin City (Recut & Extended Edition) (Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez - 2005) Buena Vista Home Video
Godzilla - Final Wars (Ryuhei Kitamura - 2004) Columbia Tristar Home Video
Harryhausen Giftset - 20 Million Miles To Earth, It Came From Beneath The Sea and Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers - Columbia Tristar Home Video
The Island (Michael Bay - 2005) Umvd/Dreamworks
King Kong - Peter Jackson's Production Diaries (2005) - Universal Studios
Next Stop, Greenwich Village (Paul Mazursky - 1976) Fox Home Entertainment
Popeye: Original Classics from the Fleischer Studio (1933) Mackinac Media
The Producers (Deluxe Edition) (Mel Brooks - 1968) Columbia Tristar Home Video
The Simpsons - The Complete Seventh Season - Matt Groenig - Fox Home Entertainment
Sundance Film Festival Collection: Celebrating 25 Years - Sundance Channel Home Entertainment
Three Men in a Boat (Ken Annakin - 1956) - Jef Films Inc.
P.S. HOW LONG WILL THIS LAST?: 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'.