Three Essential 3D Blu-ray Movies to Purchase, while they are still available! September 2020 Edition!

 

Ang Lee in THE LIFE OF PI, uses 3D as masterfully, as you will likely see it used. Like cinematography, or the score, 3D here is not a gimmick, but is ingrained in the way the story is told. Absolutely essential to see this film in 3D. In a properly setup home system (or commercial system) the experience of watching this in 3D  feels like— a moment of grace.

 

For Anybody who has issues with films post converted in 3D, direct them to FORCE AWAKENS. This Post Converted film looks vastly better than some films shot with 3D cameras (such as RESIDENT EVIL:AFTERLIFE and TRANSFORMERS:THE LAST KNIGHT). It is clear it was photographed and shot, with 3D in mind. Because it uses that depth, masterfully. The film looks like  you can step into it, and more, in moments like it can push out toward you.

One moment, a little more than 36 minutes into the film, comes a stunning and awe inducing moment of 3D projection, as one of the Star Destroyers appears quite effectively, and repeatably, to extend out of your TV.  And more than that one scene, 3D here is used as immersive and involving storytelling. A winning 3D film. I wish the 3D in THE LAST JEDI (my favorite of this new era of Lucas Films, and right up there with  THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as my favorite of any of the Star Wars films) was as well done.

 

 

I saw GUN FURY first in 2D. It was ok in 2D, but after watching it once, I had it in my to sell pile. I had seen it, let someone else enjoy it. However I then watched it in 3D, this 70 year old film, and I was blown away. I mentioned before, the 3D in THE FORCE AWAKENS being better than some natively shot 3D films. This is not one of those films.

The 3D in this film, magnificently restored by the 3D Film Archive, is a revelation. That 3D from 7 decades ago could look this good, this immersive, this grand, is a revelation. And kudos to the filmmaker, the great Raoul Walsh, one of the great Director’s of the golden age of Hollywood (I’m very partial to many of his films, including THE ROARING TWENTIES, THEY DIED WITH THEIR BOOTS ON and HIGH SIERRA).

Here, the reportedly dashing former stuntman, turned actor, turned (due to an accident on a shoot) one-eyed Director, delivers his only 3D film; and for a man who could only surmise the effect of his shots in 3D, he delivers a movie that is gripping in its use of stereoscopy; replete with breathtaking endless vistas of an untamed America that seems to go on forever.

This is the power of 3D, to make a film more involving; just like great sound design,  or a great score, 3D is a tool, to make a film work better. 

In  the hands of a great filmmaker, 3D is more than a gimmick. 3D elevates GUN FURY from a film I thought was good but disposable, to a film that nearly every scene captivated me, and it will now —  not leave my collection. That is the power of well applied 3D.

 

Hope you found this helpful. Click on the images to view the films in question. Purchases through the links are appreciated and earn this blog always appreciated pennies. Thanks for looking and on the way out, go ahead and like, subscribe, and share the link to this site.

Be well out there!

Diary of a new at Home 3D Blu-Ray Fan or How to get Started with 3D at Home Part 3!

Per my previous post I have jumped into the world of 3D Blu-ray/Home Projection and I LOVE IT! 3D TV’s being dead, or prohibitively expensive (for the used ones remaining) held me off for a long time.

However, I did my homework and research (for months) before acquiring my current system, and for under $1500 ( and potentially under a $1000 if you get great deals) you can all-in [Blu-ray, projector, screen, glasses] , have a GREAT 3D system.

So quick update on what I have seen on my 3D system, since part 1, and what the winners and losers are.

Today’s 3D film reviews are two films that actually surprised me.

First watch is THE LEGEND OF HERCULES from 2014.

2014 was one of those years where we had multiple films come out on the same subject. Much as 1981 was the year of the WEREWOLF movie, with three great Werewolf films, 2014 was the year of the sword and sandal films, most notably with 2 big budget HERCULES films reaching theaters that year; the arguably more lauded HERCULES starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson with a pretty great cast of supporting character actors, and then this one, THE LEGEND OF HERCULES. Nothing about this one, from the lead actor to the poster art, made me at all interested in this film.

I think I even caught a bit of this on tv, and just was not compelled enough to finish it. However since I am now on the 3D kick, and had seen the Rock’ HERCULES film in 3D (The 3D is pretty great in that film) and reviews had pointed to this one having great 3D as well, i decided to give this film a look.

A quick aside on 3D, a great 3D home experience depends on your personal setup. So depending on your setup, or lack of, your mileage may vary. At a minimum I suggest a multi-region Blu-ray player that will play 3D. Also either a 3D tv, or more likely these days a DLP 3D projector , and Active Shutter glasses. Your glasses are very important in terms of not just comfort, but image quality. Better active glasses will have a switch to flip the left right views, which makes a MASSIVE difference depending what content you are watching. If the content is flipped, it is going to appear slightly out of focus, incorrect depth wise etc; so a good pair of Active Shutter glasses will let you resolve/fix that with just a press on the glasses. So like anything else, if you are having a less than stellar experience with something, check your setup and tools. As mentioned if I get 7 likes on this post, and the previous parts of this article, i will do a post breaking down my exact recommended 3d/2d hardware/setup.

I have to say, watching this film in 3D, two things surprised me.

One, the 3D from the first frame is what people call Reference quality. Or more literally, this Blu-ray is ‘Show off’ quality. This is one of the 3D discs you put in to sell people who don’t like 3D, on 3D. I just loved the deep depth and clear separation between layers, between all the spatial elements. A lot of newer 3D, is afraid of looking too 3Dy, they are afraid of the clear separation, that for me is the best thing about 3D. This one you can look deep into the screen, offering wonderful depth, as well as offering very compelling and fun push outs.

I was not expecting how impressive the 3D looked, and the thing about really good 3D is it can be the same as really good camera work, or really good sound design, it can become part of the storytelling process, rather than just a gimmick. It can be a part of involving you and immersing you in the story.

I’m not sure if this film was Natively Shot in 3D, or post-converted (if post converted it is a great example of masterful 3D conversion) , but Director Renny Harlin definitely shot it with 3D in mind, with scenes of items projecting toward the viewer. And this effective 3D when added to the story, which to my 2nd surprise I found very compelling, creates a movie that entertained me from first frame to last.

Now it is not perfect by any means. The lead actor does an ok job, however he still seems like a strange choice for the titular character, and Scott Adkins, who I am always happy to see in a film, here is just such a scenery chewing stock villain… it is more than a bit of a caricature rather than a fleshed out character. So there is some storytelling/performance weakness to the film, but not enough to derail what is just a fun, and largely highly enjoyable action/adventure film.

I would say 3D for me really does add a ton to the viewing experience, and while 3D is not as essential to it as 3D is to THE LIFE OF PI, it is a film I would prefer to only watch in 3D.

Grade: A very good film with a reference quality 3D presentation. B- for the movie. A for the 3D.

 

Second watch is THE MAZE (1953).

Kino Lorber and the 3-D Film archive has been the champion for home 3D here in the 21st century, restoring classic 3D films for the home market. So at a time when US theaters have backed away from 3D releases, Kino Lorber and 3D Film Archive have been remastering classic releases for the home 3D enthusiast.

I am lucky enough to have an almost complete collection of their releases, and the ones I have seen, with one exception, are 3D reference quality releases. When I saw THE MAZE, was a B&W film, after issues I had with a DRAGONFLY SQUADRON (an Olive Films released film, also restored by the 3-D Film Archive) I was gunshy about another B&W restoration.

DRAGONFLY SQUADRON sports excessive noise and damage in the film, which is exacerbated and rendered difficult to watch in 3D. So given this I went into the B&W film THE MAZE, with some trepidation. Making assumptions that B&W because of its monochromatic nature, lends itself to a flattening of the image, that does not serve 3D.

Well, a few minutes into THE MAZE, I realize my error. THE MAZE is sumptuous, stellar, ‘Show-Off’ quality 3D Blu-ray! And the film, allowing for its cheap 1950s budget and special effects, is ultimately a fun, eerie, gripping film. Final grade: Film ‘B+’ and 3D effects ‘A’. A must own for any 3D fan!

Collection Overview: 3D Bluray Collection Marvel/Disney

Here is my complete Marvel/Lucas Films Blu-Ray/3D  collection. These are, in my humble opinon, must own releases.

 

All these releases have been selected and vetted by me. On top of which, for my personal collection all the tacky, bottom dweller blue cases that any of these may have come with, have been replaced with stylish, bookcase ready, clear or black cases.

Only thing worse than a person displaying Blue Bluray cases is… oh yeah, that’s right— there’s nothing worse. 🙂 .

 

Most of these are still, while getting pricey, available. You will need, at a minimum, a multi-region blu-ray 3D player, 3D projector and 3D glasses.

Check the Links, and best of luck!

KINO LORBER Boutique Blu-ray Label Overview PART 2: FIVE FOR FRIDAY

Last installment I covered some recommended titles from Kino Lorber’s ‘While Supplies Last’ sale. This time I just wanted to cover five titles in general that caught my attention and are on my ‘to buy’ list.

Without further ado, here they are!

p.s. As a hint I generally do not purchase films that do not offer special features. At a minimum I need a film commentary.  Physical media should give you more than you can get from just watching it on streaming, or why pay for it.

So yeah if I own it, or recommend it, it has special features. The only exception for that is titles that may not be available streaming, or 3D titles, or other scarce titles, where we are just lucky to still have the film.

Okay, now we get to it!

 

 

Very interesting sounding film from the Director of DUEL AT DIABLO. And since I have that film, I have to get this one.

This one just sounds bonkers in all the right ways. Not because the movie is going to be great, I have my doubts about that. But just the backstory behind it, namely getting relatives of famous stars to star in an exploitation movie. The commentary on this one seems poised to be full of amazing Hollywood anecdotes and backstory.

This movie sold me on its names. Name One: Director Budd Boetticher, I am now interested in seeing more of his films after picking up Arrow’s sold out FIVE TALL TALES boxset. Name Two: Jeff Chandler who has never given a bad performance and was great in a jaw dropping performance in TEN SECONDS TO HELL Name Three: Sidney Poitier. Hell you could have led with that. I have picked up every single Kino Lorber release with the great Sidney Poitier (DUEL AT DIABLO, almost sold out, Gals and Ghouls! 🙂 ). So yeah, this one is a must buy.

I love the films of John Sturges, and not only have I never seen this film, I have never heard of this film. And another film that is sold by its names: the aforementioned John (MAGNIFICENT SEVEN) Sturges! Richard (One of my favorite Movie and radio actors ever) Widmark! And Borden (I wrote two of the best westerns ever, RED RIVER and WINCHESTER 73) Chase!! What?!!! This is an easy must buy.

I did not love this film the first time i saw it, however it is possible i did not give it the attention it deserved. And considering this is one of the most ‘special feature’ rich releases, from the typically bare bones Kino Lorber, this is a must buy, for the special features alone.

Honorable Mentions:

I can not recommend this Blu-ray because it does not have any commentary or special features, but it sounds incredibly interesting. I’m going to look on streaming for this one. I really want to see if it is as good and interesting as it sounds.

 

I do not currently have an affiliate link with Kino Lorber, however you can click on the images above and they will take you to the item on Amazon. If you use the link you get a great item, and this blog gets a very appreciated couple of pennies. A win-win!

Intriguing Looking Movies catching my eye as we head into the 3rd Quarter of 2020!

Falling Movie PosterTwo great actors in Henriksen and Mortensen

Tenet Movie PosterI always want to like Christopher Nolan’s films, but more often than not I don’t. Not a fan of MEMENTO, BATMAN BEGINS, THE PRESTIGE, INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, INTERSTELLAR— not a fan of any of them. I like THE FOLLOWING but don’t love it. I’m looking forward to trying DUNKIRK eventually. The only film he has done that I think is a masterpiece is THE DARK KNIGHT. So as you can see, Nolan is far more miss than hit for me, but I’m hoping TENET is a hit. I don’t love the trailer, but I go into a film always hoping it is going to be great.

The New Mutants Movie PosterI would like it to be good, but none of the trailers I have seen fill me with confidence.

Books of Blood Movie PosterI read these books when they first came out (yes I am ancient) and absolutely loved them. I still remember the blurb on those grisly and beautiful paperbacks (which I am happy to say I still have). Stephen King’s quote on the cover of the book was ” I have seen the future of Horror, and his name is Clive Barker.” He was right.

The movies made from those books have been hit and miss, but I am always happy to see someone take a try. So really looking forward to seeing this, and seeing if they can do the books justice this time out.

.Murder in the Woods Movie PosterJazz on a Summer's Day Movie PosterSputnik Movie PosterBlack Is King Movie PosterThe King's Man Movie PosterCanción sin nombre Movie PosterThe Vigil Movie PosterThe Tax Collector Movie PosterDiabolik Movie Poster

Criterion Blu-Ray of the Day : George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968)

Night of the Living Dead

I’m watching George Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on Criterion’s beautiful newly released 2-Disc Edition.

 

DISC 1: THE FILM

I’ve seen the movie before, years ago, as well as other Romero films. And while understanding the significance of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I have never been a fan of the zombie/ghoul genre. Most likely due to its over-saturation by lesser filmmakers just regurgitating Romero’s novel approach, as well as simply not being a fan of gore.

Romero’s re-imagining of the Zombie as a flesh eating corruption never stood well with me. It was the myth of the ghoul, rather than the older Haitian mythology of the Zombie. A Zombie, as understood from Haitian lore, was something dead, that had been transformed into something beyond death and beyond corruption, more in common with the Jewish Golem, and seen most visually in the Val Lewton produced I WALK WITH A ZOMBIE

Romero’s flesh eating, rotting monstrosity, that was all corruption, could not be more different than the idea of the Zombi. However, to Romero’s credit he did identify the creatures accurately in NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD as ghouls, but for whatever reason ; the press or marketing latched onto calling them by the incorrect nomenclature of Zombie. If I had to guess, I would think the more exotic sounding Zombie, simply appealed to them more, than the more crude (but accurate) term of ghoul.

So while I appreciated NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, I was never the biggest fan of it. It’s a little too strident for me, and argumentative, filled with unlikable people, which may or may not be accurate in such a situation; but was for me, not what I wanted to spend time viewing, and was a bit plodding because of it.

However, re-watching the film, on this Criterion release I have a new appreciation for the film. 

First thing that strikes you is how stunning this film looks, in this Museum of Modern Art remastered edition. The Black and White cinematography is beautiful, and I see now exactly how stylish the film was in its use of camera angles and shadows. It may be Romero’s most beautiful film because of its noirish and dutch angle filled aesthetic.

2nd, the very structure of the film, while commonplace today, at the time the ‘house under siege’ motif was new, most notably seen in 1964’s Vincent Price vehicle THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD managed to build on that premise, and deepen it, by adding group dynamics to the mix, as well a claustrophobic ‘you are there’ intensity, in its cinema verite shooting style. Not to mention the creation of a whole new breed of monster.

NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, taken in context of when it was made, is ground breaking in terms of how it is filmed; the mixture of science fiction, horror, group dynamics and intended irony and unexpected social commentary, along with the running commentary of the media helping to tell the film’s back-story. And just the general bleakness of the film is astonishing, even watching it today. Given how truly threadbare and Indy this film was, in a time before the concept of Independent film even existed, its nihilism still has the power to impress.

Duane Jones gives a compelling performance as Ben, and is the bedrock upon which the film cements itself as a classic. But all the performances are surprisingly intriguing, from Russell Streiner and Judith O’Dea and William Hinzman (lead Ghoul) who effectively open the film in a now iconic sequence, to on-screen couples Keith Wayne and Judith Ridley and Karl Hardman and Marilyn Eastman, and Kyra Shon as their daughter.

A word on Marilyn Eastman who plays Mrs. Cooper, she gives, in a small role, one of the best performances of the film, up their with Dwayne’s work. You can not take your eyes off of her when she is on screen, she is so nuanced and compelling in a very contained performance, that plays all the more effectively in counterpoint to the histrionics and testosterone around her. She also was part of the crew and is on this commentary, and her insights are always an informative part of the commentary.

DISC 1 SPECIAL FEATURES

Regarding the Special Features, Co-producer Russell Streiner in the INTRO TO NIGHT OF ANUBIS feature, explains NIGHT OF ANUBIS was the working title for the film as it was under production. NIGHT OF ANUBIS was actually the 2nd title for the film, they originally wanted to title the film THE NIGHT OF THE FLESH-EATERS. However a cease an desist order from a studio with plans to release a movie called FLESH-EATERS led to Romero coming up with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS.

So the movie would go all through production with the title NIGHT OF ANUBIS, however once the film wrapped the distributors did not like the title ANUBIS, found it too esoteric no doubt, so the name was changed for the last time for its release, and the film NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was born.

FIRST COMMENTARY

Romero and select Crew- It’s not the most interesting commentary, one reason is because there are so many voices on the commentary, and they are all going in different directions, and largely they are discussing minutiae even by commentary standards. Whether eye-glasses were supposed to be half on or all on, and discussions like that.

It is initially a very pedantic, pedestrian, minutiae focused commentary. However the commentary does pick up in moments, and becomes quite incisive, such as about 25 minutes in as they discuss the actors, among them the lead Duane Jones. and the thoughtful changes he made to his character. One intriguing thing is, it was colorblind casting. The role was not written for a Black guy, they actually had another actor, a White Actor, they were going to go with, but then Dwayne Jones came in an auditioned. His audition impressed everyone and he got the part.

It was a threadbare Pittsburgh production, and for the character of Ben they just needed a big guy to play him, as initially he was supposed to be a Brutish trucker. So largely they lucked out with Duane, as they got an actor who brought so much more to that character, than was on the page.

Necessitating rewriting that character for the more erudite and thoughtful presence that Duane brought to that role.

That in hindsight the film is notable for a Black protagonist, I think overlooks the stronger blessing of that casting; which is that they were lucky enough to get a great actor for that role. Duane Jones ended up bringing a unique variable to that performance, that would have been lost –  not just by an actor of a different ethnicity, but an actor of lesser sophistication. By any actor that was not Duane Jones.

There is a humanity Duane brings to a brutish character, that careens it away from the facile, surface level histrionics— to instead explore someone captivating and heroic and flawed. The takeaway from NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is not that they cast a Black actor in the role, but rather that the best actor for that role, was a great actor, who was also Black. It is a subtle distinction but I believe an important one, that is still not quite embraced today.

Another interesting segment on the commentary, is an hour into the film, where they discuss the making of one of their more involved shots, the Washington DC based tv coverage, where the crew drove down to DC, and play the roles of reporters and military personnel. Involved, because for all intents and purposes this was just a very small Pittsburgh production, done by the crew, in any free time they could carve out, around their full time jobs.

The commentary than segues into discussion of Duane Jones before his passing. From this point to the end, the commentary gets far more intriguing. Overall, while not always fluid, this commentary gives you historic insights into the film and the performers that otherwise would have been lost to time. For this reason while not a great commentary, there are gems in here that make it an essential commentary.

 

SECOND COMMENTARY

Commentary Two has even more people involved, so lots of similar voices overlapping. Russell Streiner (producer/actor ‘He’s coming to get you, Barbara!‘), helping to sheep-herd this conversation, gets it off to a more compelling, entertaining start than the first commentary. And it places this commentary in time, to hear them discuss the upcoming laserdisc release. As someone who remembers laserdisc and still own some, it is a nice nostalgic touch.

And I like that, in this commentary, they reassert that NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was not made as a social message film, they were simply making a horror film, and Duane was hired simply because he was the best actor who auditioned for the role. Add to that a running gag about Marilyn Eastman and lumber, and it is just a fun, affable commentary.

 

DISC TWO : A WHOLE DISC FULL OF SPECIAL FEATURES

Holy cow. Is this a loaded, feature rich release. This disc includes over 12 special features. Including interviews with the cast, and new documentaries made just for this release. It is just  wonderful grab bag of content that you can revisit and dive into at your leisure.  Including just a wonderful 1987 audio interview with Duane Jones recorded with Tim Ferrante.

“That moment, the total surrealism of the racial nightmare of America, being worse than whatever we were doing as a metaphor in that film, lives with me to this moment.”

-Duane Jones, 1987

 

SUMMATION

All in all, is a must own physical media release. In terms of beauty of the product on your shelf, and the content itself, and booklet. I came to this release a bit hesitantly, because as I mentioned I was never a huge fan of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Revisiting this film, and listening to the commentaries, and going through the special features, I have to say this is one of the treasures of my collection. Highly Recommended.

 

Get your copy here!

 

Streaming Movies of the Day : Amazon Prime Hits and Misses!

NOT WORTH FINISHING:

Mark Heap, Sean Verey, Danny Kirrane, David Mumeni, and Timothy Renouf in Fubar (2018)

GOOD:

It stumbles in the 3rd act, but most of it keeps your attention, and plays initially like a smarter and less gory SAW.

GREAT:

Riveting and dangerous and endlessly surprising viewing experience. A great debut feature film by writer, director Marvin Choi, and marvelously performed by Darnel Powell and Joseph Price. All of these men, are talents to watch. Grade: B+. Highly Recommended.

MATEWAN By John Sayles – A masterpiece made in 1987 that is absolutely relevant in 2020

 

‘You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain’t a union, it’s a goddam club! They got you fightin’ white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain’t but two sides in this world – them that work and them that don’t. You work, they don’t. That’s all you got to know about the enemy.’

-MATEWAN [2 syllables, pronounced MATE(as in your spouse)- WAN (as in WAND)]

 

Matewan

Click on the above image to purchase.

 

People use words like masterpiece and great, and sometimes the true weight of what you may be getting across may be lost.

Let me therefore explain MATEWAN to you thusly, I just finished watching the film yesterday. And I’m watching and listening to the, newly cut 2019 Criterion interviews today. (quick aside, i really appreciate that criterion went to the expense of doing new interviews and features for this film, which is something i am critical of them not doing, in other films. These 2019 featurettes are really— stunning, and on top of the greatness of the film, make the blu-ray a must own purchase.)

 

This morning I watched the news of Resident Trump dressing up essentially unidentified strike breakers and thugs, and letting them loose in Portland Oregon, and calling it the law.

 

“If you have vacation benefits, if you have unemployment benefits, worker’s compensation— these things weren’t given to you; they were fought for by people throughout this country. And i’m passionate about the fact that people have actually made an effort to fight for other people’s rights.”

—Karen VuRanch, THEM THAT WORK (2004) Documentary/featurette on the Matewan Massacre

 

Watching MATEWAN, a stunningly beautiful film, referencing a caustic bit of American history,  from exactly 100 years ago, gives me, and I think it will give you, one of the greatest gifts art can can give— perspective. Perspective on the mistakes we have made, and the tyranny we have allowed.

And perspective helps us deal with the present, without ignorance, and if not without fear, without hopelessness. Because we can see others have seen these days of Gethsemane, and endured it, triumphed over it.

You can go many days of your life without gaining that type of perspective, that barest hint of —- grace. Looking at the world, many people go their whole life without finding the type of perspective, that glimpse of grace— that MATEWAN hints at.

For $30 to $40, Criterion’s MATEWAN blu-ray is one of the best purchases you can make. And ultimately, what it has left me with, like the best of true art, is priceless.

 

 

 

” The way she poured herself into her song— it can make a doubting man religious.”

—James Earl Jones on Hazel Dickens’ song in the film

Currently Watching : Criterion Blu-Ray KISS ME DEADLY (1955) by Robert Aldrich

Cloris Leachman, Marian Carr, Maxine Cooper, Ralph Meeker, and Gaby Rodgers in Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

There are a lot of GREAT film Noirs. From John Huston’s anointed ground zero of Film noir, 1941’s MALTESE FALCON to the works of Billy Wilder (1944’s DoUBLE INDEMNITY),  Edward Dmytryk (1944’s MURDER MY SWEET). Howard Hawks (1946’s BIG SLEEP), Orson Welles (1947’s THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI), Anthony Mann/John Alton (1948’s RAW Deal), Joseph H. Lewis (1950’s GUN CRAZY),  Jules Dassin (1950’s NIGHT AND THE CITY), Richard Fleisher (1952’s THE NARROW MARGIN) to name just a few, There is perhaps no genre to in so brief a time, create such a wealth of iconic films, and galvanizing films.

Going on 80 years after some of these films were made, they are as crowd pleasing and watchable as ever. You can’t say the same for many of the A films, or serious films of the time, that tend to creak under the manners and etiquette and issues of the day—of a passed time. Whereas the genre films, particularly film noir, lived in this short-hand, heightened Americana of Extremes; of lust and betrayals and passions, that remain timeless and relatable and incendiary. Film Noirs, though of their time, lived in a world of light and shadows, that felt always ever present, and indeed almost prophetic… almost ahead of its time.

And perhaps no Film Noir highlights this as much, as Robert Aldrich’s 1955 masterpiece… KISS ME DEADLY. From the opening sequence, which remains one of the best opening sequences of any film, to the last scene of a world put on notice, Aldrich’s KISS ME DEADLY, in a genre that is style codified, stands out as the most stylish, and yet does so while also being one of the most substantive Film Noirs.

There is so much in this film, from how it is shot, to its location, to its soundtrack by the great Nat King Cole, to its performances led by the great Ralph Meeker, to its wealth of diversity, showcasing a city peopled with a diverse range of colors, and nationalities and ethnicity. People of color, with speaking parts, not shown as stereotypes but just as intriguing people, to the wealth of memorable female roles, to its brutality, to its depiction of its protagonist— that continues to make KISS ME DEADLY, unique.

Even in a genre of morally ambiguous anti-heroes that people Film Noir, Ralph Meeker’s Mike Hammer takes the cake. He is mercenary, brutal, sadistic, a user of women, he is a thug and a cad, but despite that, there is also something still magnetic about him, Ralph Meeker plays him in a way that I’m not sure any other actor could have quite pulled off, that makes you see him, as reflected nin the great performances of the four women that pine for his attention throughout the movie:  a cad yes, but a cad with something Quixote like somewhere beneath the smirk. That here at the end of the day, is a man who would if he could, fight dragons. This realization that despite MIke hammer’s failings, the things he fights against— are worse.

And something that is lost, even to ardent fans of this film, and because of just how much happens in every moment of this film, is everything that happens from the protagonist’s release from the hospital till the conclusion, happens in just four days. The amount of horror and blood and beatings and ultimately loss that happens, is a whirlwind, and becomes even more impressive when you take the time to realize this is a 96 hour period, from him getting out of the hospital till the end of the film.

Robert Aldrich made a lot of acclaimed films, this is without doubt my personal favorite of all his films. It is a masterpiece, full stop, owing its revolutionary plotline less to the source novel by Mickey Spillane, and by all reports (including the included 2011 alex Cox featurette) almost entirely to the groundbreaking changes and innovations introduced by screenwriter A.I. Bezzerides.

And Criterion has released this game changing film, in a definitive Blu-Ray presentation, from the mastering, to the extras, to the packaging and art design, it is a work of art, worthy of the film.

Yes you can purchase it on streaming. But for a few dollars more you can own it in a format, that does honor to your book shelf or media center, or living room.

Grade: A+. Highest Recommendation, for the movie and for the Blu-Ray.

And no, I won’t be upgrading this to 4K, or 8K, or 16K. I’ve got an up-scaling multi-region Blu-ray player, 20-20 vision, on a less than 65″ screen, this Blu-ray satisfies the needs of my TV, and of my eyesight. Beyond a certain point the search for more is a game of pixels and real estate, and moving the newest shiny model (to use car talk), and not quality.

Click the image below to get your copy, while still in stock.

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