Random Film of the Week: High and Low

High and Low 24_BD_box_348x490_originalBased on the 1959 crime novel King’s Ransom: An 87th Precinct Mystery by Ed McBain (Evan Hunter), Akira Kurosawa’s 1963 film Tengoku to jigoku (Heaven and Hell or High and Low to western audiences) is one of those great police procedural films that’s a must for crime drama fans. With perfect casting, a gripping story of a kidnapping gone wrong thanks to a case of mistaken identity and the rush to find the kidnapper before things go further south, Kurosawa’s film is a multi-layered masterpiece worth seeing multiple times.

When “wealthy” businessman Kingo Gondo (Toshiro Mifune) and the company he works for decide to snap up the National Shoe Company, there’s a divide between executives on how to close the deal. Gondo prefers the company stick to making well-made and reliable stompers for the masses but other big shots want shoes for all that are cheaply made and thus, more profitable because they’ll need to be replaced more often. With all the back and forth debating going on, Gondo has a master plan he’s hiding from his peers. He’s mortgaged everything he owns and plans to pull off a leverage buyout of National Shoes that would put him in charge for good and keep National doing what they do best.

Little does he know he’s being watched by a few pairs of far more evil eyes looking up at his “castle” from the lower depths… Continue reading

You Don’t Need Six Reasons To Get These Two Films From Criterion…

But here they go, trying to convince you you need convincing:

Look, if you’ve never seen Stanley Kramer’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World by now, you NEED to and Criterion’s five-disc Blu-Ray is a must buy, period.

 
As for Michael Mann’s Thief, yeah, it’s a more modern classic as well as a brilliant film that’s a great keeper.

So yeah, short post because it’s snowing like hell and they’re kicking people out of the library. Go buy one or both of these and thank me later. I hate you, Criterion for making me want to spend more money. Boo. And Yay. You’re just TOO damn good at what you do these days…

DVD Review: Here’s Edie – Early 60’s Time Capsule Makes A Mostly Glorious Return To Earth…

Here's EdieI had an English teacher in high school who was obsessed with Edie Adams to the point that he actually stopped a fight in class by singing part of a Muriel Cigars commercial that made the two girls fighting stop and stare at him as if he were completely insane. Of course, by then I’d seen some reruns of The Ernie Kovacs Show on PBS and had a whisper of an idea of what he was going on about. However, I also recall bumping into him during a lunch break (he was outside smoking a Muriel Air Tip, of course) and hearing tales of a TV series starring Edie that no one else I asked seemed to have a clue about.

It turns out what I thought was one man’s fantasy life getting a wee bit too real was actually a real TV variety show. MVD Visual is about to unleash Here’s Edie, a 4-disc set of her 21 half-hour specials unseen anywhere since they first aired. After spending some quality time this past weekend with this incredible lady and her talented friends, I can very safely say that fans of classic variety TV will absolutely want this one in their collections… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week: “X”- The Man With The X-Ray Eyes

 

X-TheManWithTheX-RayEyesMPOhhhh-kay... I’m having a SERIOUS case of déjà vu here. I know for a fact that I’d written up a review of this great 1963 Roger Corman “B” flick a few years back and posted it either on the old blog, here or somewhere else, but it’s nowhere to be found as far as I’ve checked. Crazy! Or perhaps I had such a vivid dream about writing this up that I merely THOUGHT that I’d run a review. Hey, it happens. But only to me, it seems…

Anyway, I despise rewriting stuff, so it could be that I did a draft that was close to completion but somehow was deleted or accidentally overwritten thanks to that oddball WordPress flaw where if you have two “Add New Post” tabs open and make the mistake of using them for new posts, you overwrite the first post with the second. Anyway, this is one of those really surprising low-budget films that, thanks to some great casting and some genuinely tight direction, manages to be much better than it should be… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end), Too: Horror Castle

(thanks, sleazeorama!) 

Horror Castle smallGiven that it’s been released with no fewer than three titles (The Virgin of Nuremberg and Castle of Terror are the other two), it’s not surprise that I didn’t get to see this Italian horror flick until it popped up on TCM a few days ago. Of course, if I wasn’t up and half dying from the scratchy throat that mutated into the cold I’m now getting over, I’d have missed this frightening little import gem. Sure, it’s got a score that sounds a bit out of place, some odd dialog (although I’m not sure if this a translation issue) and yes, plenty of cliché gone wild moments that would sink a lesser effort. Nevertheless, the overall gloomy atmosphere and great color photography, a great extended cameo by Christopher Lee (misspelled as Cristopher Lee in the credits) and a pretty damn excellent scene involving rats, a cage and a young woman’s face make this one worth tracking down…

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Random Film of the Week: The Magic Sword

(Thanks, Alistair Knight!)

the magic swordUs-ually, I like to write up these RFotW posts alone, as I sometimes rely on memory and a re-viewing of a film to do some precision pre and post watching-progression in a few notes before writing. That said, I actually hadn’t planned on writing up The Magic Sword at all, but I was dropping off a loaner game at a friend’s, he happened to let me know that the movie was coming on TCM in about twenty four minutes and asked if I wanted to hang out and watch it.

My eyebrow went up, as I’m quite a busy guy this week… but I can be bribed under the proper circumstances (usually with food). “Toss in a pizza for two as a bonus for the pleasure of my company and we’re on”, I gently “suggest”.  Hey, I’m no fool and double hey, he owes me a favor anyway, so it’s a deal.

A call was made, no anchovies were laid and thankfully, that pie was here exactly two minutes before the film started. I hadn’t seen it for a number of years, so I figured “what the hell!” as it would be interesting to see what happens when I sit down with an audience (hey, an extra person is an audience to me!) to catch something I’m usually trying to concentrate on alone for later article-worthy purposes. Ah, the best-laid plans of mice and men (and Bemis) get steamrolled into heckle-filled hilarity as the film in question wasn’t quite as good in some aspects as remembered… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end)*: Dementia 13

(thanks, drbloodsvideovault!)

dementia 13Sure, it’s a quickly made post-Psycho cash-in with the added shock value of a character getting decapitated on screen (a rather nifty cheap effect if you’ve never seen this flick before), but thanks to a creepier tone and some nicely tense lensing by a young director named Francis Ford Coppola, Dementia 13 manages to be a pretty decent little horror film.

Granted, if you pay enough attention past making popcorn and turning your brain off to watch this one, much of the script and more of the dialogue make about as much sense as a cat driving an oil tanker full of Tater Tots down a freeway on the way to the mall. But on its own merits, it’s a fine directorial debut brought in on a shoestring by the director and enhanced by producer Roger Corman to include the aforementioned head removal and some other elements he thought would punch things up a a bit more…

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Random Film of the Day*: Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

* Nope, this isn’t a permanent format change, folks. For the next week or so plus, I’m going to add a random film the great Ray Harryhausen worked on. The legendary special effects MASTER passed away today at age 92 in London and yes, the film world owes him more than they can ever repay.

JatA_posterForget about today’s overblown CG effects, many of which make modern movies worse than better. Ray’s best work was all about blending fantasy into the assorted realities of the worlds he created and transporting viewers to places and making them forget about the outside world for about an hour and a half or so.

Jason and The Argonauts was the sixth collaboration between Harryhausen and producer Charles H. Schneer and for many (including Ray), his best film. As a kid, this was one of the stapes of my TV diet, and as I grew older, finding out just how much work Harryhausen sunk into each film he worked on made me realize the man deserved his “legend” status as well as a the director’s credit denied him by Hollywood’s arcane rules… Continue reading

Random Film of the Week(end): It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

Soon after hearing about Jonathan Winters’ death two days ago, I had the realization that we’re running out of truly great NATURAL comedians that made us laugh without resorting to juggling expletives or putting themselves in the public eye constantly in an ego-feeding frenzy. Granted, trying to get today’s short attention spanners out there to sit down and watch Winters’ best work is going to be a hard sell, but I think Stanley Kramer’s 1963 comedy classic kills a few birds with one stone.

Yes, the movie is too long by today’s standards (hell, it was too long for 1963 standards), but it’s packed to the gills with comedians and comediennes from a huge enough slice of history that you could see the careers of some beginning and ending with this one zany epic. The story of a bunch of wildly assorted strangers chasing down a dead robbery suspect’s stolen loot is still required viewing for anyone who considers him or herself a fan of comedy and the film works so well because no one gets away without taking a few lumps or a pratfall or three… Continue reading

Hmmm… Who Are Newspaper Comics Aimed At Again?

comicsOK, I have a really good sense of humor and I’m a terrible non-prude, but I just HAVE to ask who decided to run these two dopey cartoons on the same day last week (and right above each other). Granted, I don’t read many newspapers much these days thanks to the lack of actual NEWS and focus on overly opinionated “journalists” (read: supremely loony egomaniacs) with an axe to grind trying to whittle anyone they see fit down to size that they don’t happen to like for whatever damn kooky reasons they’re wrong about if they got their heads out of the clouds and ass (amazing how they can do that, huh?) and actually wrote sans bile and other junk in their eyeballs.

But I digress (as usual)… Anyway, Gary Larson was at least regularly funny and stopped doing his fine work when he ran out of steam. These not-so great pretenders are good for a chuckle at best, but the retread rate has gone off the scale, I say. Of course, neither cartoon is really “offensive” at all…but what KID under ten has EVEN read Moby Dick? I guess everyone stares at boobies at some point, so maybe that one works on that level. I can’t tell, as I’m typing this in public and I was distracted… (*beet*… BUSTED!)…

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