Currently Watching : Criterion Blu-Ray THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957) by Mikhail Kalatozov

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

“I believe in poetic cinema. Poetic cinema is the cinema created in especially vivid form… by great masters like Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzhenko. In my own work I strive to affect a viewer’s consciousness and soul by means of poetic cinema.”
-Kalatozov in a 1961 interview. Available on the Criterion Blu-ray

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Tatyana Samoylova in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

THE CRANES ARE FLYING (1957)-Three things period Russian films do just about better than anyone else, is tragedy and beauty and grandeur, and Director Mikhail Kalatozov’s THE CRANES ARE FLYING is overflowing with all three. You get the deep focus cinematography immortalized by Orson Welles married to a balletic, spiraling, intimate ground breaking, “you are there” camera movement, that is uniquely Russian. what kalatozov himself would call— poetic cinema.Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Almost 7 decades later and without any need for CGI, and 20 years before the invention of the Stedicam – the cinematography in this film (by the equally acclaimed Sergei Urusevesky) remains— both unbelievable and sublime. It is a film that draws you in from frame one, and holds you and the characters like a lover— deeply, afraid to be parted.Aleksandr Shvorin in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

All in all, a transfixing and haunting viewing experience, greatest of which is the beauty of Tatyana Samoylova, whose beauty captured here for all time, is so great –- and her performance so affecting—- that at times looking at her – is like looking at the sun.

One of the great Russian beauties, she becomes the mythical Helen – whom all young men seek to impress with war; and ‘changed by the war’ young men; seek only to hold in peace. THE CRANES ARE FLYING is up there with I AM CUBA/SOY CUBA (another Kalatozov cinematic achievement, with this time a stunning Cuban beauty) as a milestone of Russian cinematography, and by extension a milestone of world cinematography; up there with Welles CITIZEN KANE and Lean’s GREAT EXPECTATIONS. There is no putting this movie on, and not being captivated by it.

THE CRANES ARE FLYING is another masterpiece lovingly provided by the Criterion Blu-ray label. I am on a hunt now to see the other available Kalatozov directed films, as well as Tatyana starring films. Kalatozov,while IMDB lists 20 directing credits for him, most of those appear to be documentaries or shorts or state sponsored work. It really appears he only has 6 or 7 feature films to his name, all coming toward the end of his career, especially once he found a kindred spirit in his cinematographer, Urusevesky.  So I look forward to adding THE FIRST ECHELON, LETTER NEVER SENT and RED TENT to the list of Kalatozov films to add to my collection. Grade: It is a simple enough story, but the visuals just make it, cinema undeniable— A+.Aleksey Batalov in Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Click the image below to get the best price on the feature rich Blu-ray, and you also earn a few very appreciated pennies for this blog! A win-win!

Letyat zhuravli (1957)

Currently Watching : DEATH IN THE GARDEN (1957) by Luis Bunuel courtesy of Kanopy Roku Channel!

Georges Marchal and Simone Signoret in La mort en ce jardin (1956)

One of the pioneers of surrealism, specifically cinematic, LUIS Bunuel is most well known for his early experimental films such as UN CHIEN ANDALOU and L’AGE D’OR and THE EXTERMINATING ANGEL, However what tends to get lost is that he did over 30 films, and did a few adept, straight narrative films as well. LA MORT EN CE JARDIN aka DEATH IN THE GARDEN stands as one of his strongest straight narrative films, and plays a little like Bunuel’s quasi-reimagining on the themes of Clouzot’s WAGES OF FEAR, with a smattering of huston’s THE TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE thrown in.

While not on the level of those two iconic films, this film is very good, and deserves better than its nearly forgotten status.

It is hurt perhaps a bit by its meandering nature, and the lack of a charismatic lead actor in the central role, but as the movie goes on the lack of stars, makes the journey they endure more compelling and impactful, and surprising. Ultimately the film goes surprising, unexpected places; Journeys external,  paled only BY even vaster journeys internal. And what must also be applauded is the beautiful use of color in this film, vibrant and rich and painterly.

Grade: A very good film that deserves far more attention. B+.

Also as a bit of trivia, the film may be the earliest to display a character giving someone the finger. 🙂 . Watch it for free courtesy of the Kanopy Roku Channel, and when suitably impressed, get the Blu-ray by clicking on the image below.

Special Features: Audio commentary by film critic Sam Dhegihan | Booklet essay by film critic Peter Tongue-tie | Interview with film critic Tony Rains | Trailers

Currently Watching: CANDY SNATCHERS Blu-ray by Vinegar Syndrome

 

The Candy Snatchers (1973)

One of the hardest things I find a film to be, is almost immediately engaging, exciting, and surprising. THE CANDY SNATCHERS is the first film I picked up from Blu-Ray Boutique label VINEGAR SYNDROME, and I picked it up because 1/it was given good reviews on a couple online outlets 2/ it had a stunning slipcover and 3/it was on sale.

I personally did not have high hopes for the film, it is not my genre of film. I don’t like extreme cinema, it is not my cup of tea. The torture/porn variety of cinema, just not for me.

I have seen the extreme films of Directors such as Miike Takashi, and I have seen their subtle films, and particularly with Takashi, his subtle films I find vastly better and more entertaining and well told, such as THE BIRD PEOPLE IN CHINA and THE NEGOTIATOR.

But I do appreciate crime films. So it is a tricky tight rope for a film to walk, to ride that line between telling a tale of criminality and not going overboard into atrocity and gore for gore’s sake. That said, it is no walk in the park. If you do not like challenging films, and films about and showing a certain amount of violence and sex and abusive behaviour, you will want to avoid this film. At the end of the day, you have to be the barometer for where that line is for you.

I spent the first 10 minutes of THE CANDY SNATCHERS with my mouth agape, saying “WTF?!!!” and I spent my last 10 minutes of the film with my mouth agape saying “WTF?!!!”

And in between that ending and that beginning, i was completely riveted, and impressed by the quality of the performances, and the adept, stylish excellence of the Direction.

The performances are all excellent, all the actors are great, but particularly Tiffany Bolling as Jessie and Cristophe who plays Sean Newton are revelations for entirely different reasons. When they are on screen they are riveting; Tiffany Bolling for her beauty which is honestly mesmerizing, and her performance which is galvanizing, and Cristophe for his performance.

 

“1973 was the Mt. Everest of the ‘MADE for TV’ years. It was a pretty stunning period. So bear in mind, you could go to the theater and see this film [THE CANDY SNATCHERS] then you could turn around come home, and you could see something like DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK or COLD NIGHT’S DEATH.”

—from the pretty compelling Audio Commentary on the Blu-ray by film Historian Nathaniel Thompson

 

It is a film that veers wildly between suspenseful, horrific, disturbing, distasteful, riveting and just plain strange, and even rare bits of awkward levity. I was doubtful, very doubtful of this inane titled THE CANDY SNATCHERS being a good movie, however now having just fished it — I’m hard-pressed to find a reason not to call it a great movie.

I don’t want to oversell this little known crime oddity from 1973, but if my reviews have not steered you wrong in the past, they will not do so now. Pick up Guerdon Trueblood’s THE CANDY SNATCHERS, this was the director’s first and only feature film. Great Gaia, what a debut! It adds him to that list of great one time Directors (such as Charles Laughton, Saul Bass and Patrick McGoohan) that you wish had gotten the chance to direct more.

It is a must own. And get it with the stunning embossed Slipcover if you can.

The Candy Snatchers (1973)

Kickstarter Discovery of the Day!!!! & Jim Rugg on John Siuntres Podcast!

https://ksr-ugc.imgix.net/assets/029/014/102/e59854b43f6684cdc2936b871bf6852a_original.jpg?ixlib=rb-2.1.0&crop=faces&w=1024&h=576&fit=crop&v=1588964923&auto=format&frame=1&q=92&s=3dd4a6f7a390b823e8edd86500c16158

 

Click here for the Kickstarter!!

An entire Blacklight Comic Book?? Count me in!!!!

Plus Jim Rugg did the excellent AFRODISIAC. (And if you like that try out the excellent BLACK DYNAMITE by Brian Ash. However if looking for something that is not a parody, but just a straightforward bit of 70s inspired action and grittiness, I highly recommend the brilliant WORLD OF HURT : THRILL SEEKERS by Jay Potts.)

Greatest of All Time MMA List! The Final Word???

You will see a lot of people reacting to Connor McGregor’s GOAT List.

Most people with axes to grind, including the original video itself. However, I think this video by Youtube channel Weasel really gives you a list of Greatest of All Time, with ego removed, and one that actually makes sense.

Really great list. I give it a thumbs up!

 

 

 

 

VOD Streaming Film of the Day : Roger Corman’s X starring Ray Milland on Amazon Prime

 

I’ve seen this before, in passing quite a while ago. I did not remember it being this good. It is quite a fascinating and surprisingly dire film. Not a great movie, but a very good one, with one of the more impactful endings. A homerun by Roger Corman.

 

“What do you see?”

“This city, as if it was unborn, rising into the sky with fingers of metal, limbs without flesh, girders without stone, signs hanging without support, wires dipping and swaying without poles.

A city unborn, its flesh disolved in an acid of light.”

 

 

Check out the comments, as the brilliant Derrick Freguson, excellent Writer, Reviewer, general Renissance guy drops the knowledge on the ending! Also released today, coverage on the film, by great youtube channel SOLITARY RONIN at the link below. Watch the movie before checking out both, though.

And if he sells you on getting the Bluray like he did with yours truly, then get your copy here:

New favorite TV Pilot of the Day : Marc & Alana Scott Zicree’s SPACE COMMAND

 

Kemmer, The Son:

Now you don’t like Synthetics?

My God, i don’t believe it. You’re missing the good old days.

 

Kemmer, The Father:

Humans weren’t designed to observe, we were built to do.

So yeah… I miss ’em.

Let me tell you something.

Soft lives make soft men.

Soft men… make soft choices.

 

That beautiful exchange 10 minutes in to SPACE COMMAND tells you everything you need to know about why this may be your must watch and must support show of the day. A 3 year in the making pilot, having seen it, it has charm and wit, and has proved itself worthy of the time and effort that went into its forging. With stars such as the great Mira Furlan, Bill Mumy, McClure, Robert Picardo, Bruce Boxleiter and Doug Jones, alongside new faces, such as Ethan McDowell.

With any project, especially one done for love, on virtually no-budget, and no corporate backing, there will be limitations. Generally the younger actors don’t have the comfort or gravitas, the subtlety of the older actors, and with the exception of Ethan McDowell, that disparity comes across. Ethan McDowell however, manages to hold his own alongside actors who were forged in the fires of many years of theater, and television and movies.

But that disparity with most of the younger actors,  is to be expected given the budget limitations, but those limitations aside, I was completely captivated by the one hour pilot. In the age of streaming where content is the new gold rush, if I was a Netflix, or Apple, or Disney, or At&t I would be attempting to acquire content and production teams like this, that have a built in passionate fan-base.

All in all SPACE COMMAND is a worthy addition to the dreams of men named Roddenberry and Straczynski.

 

 

View it here:

1977’s THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT Streaming VOD Amazon Prime Movie of the Day!

The People That Time Forgot (1977)

Currently watching and enjoying 1977’s THE PEOPLE THAT TIME FORGOT,  a charming little period fantasy, adventure, pulp flick in wonderful widescreen technicolor, currently streaming courtesy of Amazon Prime.

The People That Time Forgot (1977)

 

Everything from prehistoric creatures, daring heroes, murderous cavemen, samurai and did I mention buxom babes? It is just a fun film.

And the ravishing Dana Gillespie on screen, definitely helps. Full name Richenda Antoinette de Winterstein Gillespie, descended from lords and ladies, this would be as close as she would get to a starring role, which was unfortunate. It is obvious the camera loves her.

This is a fun little film, a sequel to 1974’s THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, also by Director Kevin Connor, I actually like this one a little better, All in all a keeper of a movie that I will be looking to add to my Bluray collection. Grade: A solid B!

5 favorite audio books NOT available via streaming, spotify or Audible! Book #5 WOLFEN!

There are about two dozen truly great audio actors, whose work on audio books, is a MUST OWN. Among them are Orson Welles, David Birney, Harlan Ellison, Roddy McDowall, James Mason, Michael Boatman to name a few.

Some of these guys work, for various reasons such as rights etc, are not available via streaming or in some cases even on CD. But these are preeminent works, of the greatest voice actors of their respective era, giving their greatest deliveries. And they can still be picked up via LP or cassette, at affordable prices, and deserve to be.

Once bought on LP or cassette go ahead and digitize it so you have these must own works in a preserved format. Here then without further ado, is the first of our 5 must own audio books!

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/41-EAZMm3fL._SX295_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg Roddy McDowall reads WOLFEN- I am a huge fan of the 1981 WOLFEN film, I think it is a flawed, but unjustly overlooked masterpeice. However, I love this audio book version as much, perhaps even more, and that iis down to Roddy McDowall.

Roddy McDowall, a prolific actor with over 250 credits to his name, who is likely only remembered by a younger generation for his turn in FRIGHT NIGHT (1985),  gave some of the great, humanistic performances of cinema in his abundant career. From Academy Award winning turn in HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)  to his immortal role as Caesar in PLANET OF THE APES (1968) to THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) to the aforementioned FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and everything in between, Roddy McDowall, despite the quality of the film or script, never gave a bad performance. The consummate actor, he always carried his role, you always believed him; and he brings that veracity to this audio book, and paints with his voice the hallowed and harrowing world of WOLFEN.

Click on the link below to acquire this essential bit of audio book history.

 

The Wolfen Audio Cassette – June 1, 1990

Material Type: Fiction, Audio book, etc.
Document Type: Sound Recording
All Authors / Contributors: Whitley Strieber; Roddy McDowall

ISBN: 1558002227 9781558002227
OCLC Number: 21983678
Notes: Abridged from the author’s book of the same title.
Performer(s): Reader, Roddy McDowall.
Description: 2 audiocassettes (approximately 180 min.) : digital, Dolby processed, 1/8 in. tape
Responsibility: author, Whitley Strieben.