Movie of the Day : SOMETHING WILD (1961) Criterion Blu-ray — not on Streaming!

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Something Wild (1961 — not the two decade later Melanie Griffith comedy vehicle)- Is a Criterion film I have heard virtually no one mention or talk about, Which is odd given it stars Carroll Baker and Ralph Meeker (one of my favorite actors) , and sporting some of the legendary Saul Bass’ best and most effective title credits.

Indeed the title sequence alone sells me on the film, and I’m worried once its over the film will not live up to the succinct but powerful storytelling in that credit sequence, as it tells wordlessly the fast paced, regimented, almost automaton like, lacking real connection, breakneck race on a rat wheel… that industrialized life has been broken down to.

It infers, the title sequence, of the individual being lost in the unending grinding of the wheels of industry and progress and the masses.

So I’m worried the film will falter from the title sequence.

Thankfully it doesn’t.

The opening sequence is as effective, and giving the time period, as groundbreaking and striking and shocking a bit of film-making as you can think of.

So to wrap up the non-spoiler section, I highly recommend seeing this film. Carroll Baker gives a raw, game changing performance, in a convoluted, messy, masterfully directed tale.

Special Features are limited but are excellent.

A rich, vibrant, informative, moving 2016 interview with Director Jack Garfein conducted by film critic Kimberly Morgan.

“I programmed it in 2010 on Turner Classic Movies, and never have I received so much email from viewers. And then we showed it in Telluride, and I spoke to you at Telluride and the  audiences there were really taken aback, really, in fact, shocked by the film in many ways.” Kim Morgan

‘So was I, you remember?” Jack Garfein

“Yes, I do remember.” Kim Morgan

“I was sitting next to you, and almost had a breakdown. Because, I suddenly… I looked at that film… I made that film, but any kind of real creation is a subconscious process. The artist himself doesn’t quite understand. I didn’t realize that this film… is me. This character of the girl… is me.

When I arrived here in Manhattan I feel the same pain, the complete isolation, in the sense I tried to connect but it was very difficult to connect. I had to keep everything in myself and go on. When I was liberated in Bergen-Belsen I weighed 48 lbs, I couldn’t walk. I was 14 years old.”

A riveting, must watch interview, about a Director I was unfamiliar with, and unfortunately he would not do another film after SOMEWHERE WILD failed to make an impact at the theater.

The loss is cinema’s.

And then a wonderful, deeply entertaining and humorous 2016 audio interview with star, the effervescent and lovely Carroll Baker. I am now on the lookout for all her films.

 

And lastly a video interview with Historian Foster Hirsch who breaks down the history of the Actor’;s Studio and Roots of Method Acting.

Watch the Blu-ray then come back and read the rest of this review.

You’re back… good.

Minor spoilers follow.

It’s a film about assault, about a rape. And you have to understand the time period this film was made against, for the protagonist behavior to be… properly framed. In an age where rape was something that happened to other people, not good girls from a good upbringing, was not talked about in polite company, much less admitted to or shared or confronted or reported, SOMETHING WILD tackles the assault in a frank, and in your face way, that no film before and very few since, have really captured.

Again, wordlessly, like the title sequence, in Baker’s performance, we see someone having been robbed of their own sense of their body… as their own; portrayed in the way she lays down and is afraid to even touch herself.

It is a striking bit of direction and an even more striking performance, of a woman in a world where there was no concept of ptsd, or believed avenue for redress for such a violation, that this was something to be hidden and buried, and you see the effects of this unrelenting trauma, like a fissure running through her, breaking everything apart.

The subway scene, again a master class in direction, and performance, as it imbues in the viewer a sense of that press of human bodies, the rising panic, the nausea. It is really powerful film-making. And then at about the hour mark or so, it deviates from where I thought the film was going (I do not read descriptions when blind buying a movie, just so I can walk into surprises like this film had for me), and becomes something different.

Something unexpected,

Something strange.

And something that just keeps getting stranger. It’s a deeply morally problematic film, especially viewed from a modern lens, I can see this film being… taken to task for its choices. They are not admirable or sensible choices, and arguably that is the point. Trauma breeds trauma, and damaged people make imperfect choices.

It’s a deeply troubling film, but I have to say, while I watched the latter half of the film slack jawed and disbelieving, not agreeing with any of the choices made, I found it a captivating, daring, incredibly strange, movingly performed and strikingly filmed movie about broken people caught in regimented, grinding wheels from within and from without.

I can understand, particularly if you are a victim of trauma, not jibing with this film. It does not give us the resolution we want, all of the people in this film have feet of clay, but maybe that is why I do, appreciate it. It shows us people in the way we seldom see them, or ourselves, as victims of our unfaced traumas.

It is a horror film of a sort. But it is the horror of real life.

A deeply interesting film, that I am very glad I have viewed.

THE LAST HURRAH : Ten Greatest Film Noirs of the 20th Century and their best physical releases here in the 21st Century!

I have not put CASABLANCA or THIRD MAN on this list, because although they have noir elements, there is an A picture scope to them in terms of not just budget but aspiration, that transcends the conventions of the noir, they ultimately tell larger tales than the fall or redemption of a single man, which is the heart of the noir aesthetic.

With that caveat aside, onto the list.

  1. MALTESE FALCON (1941)

  2. DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944)

I don’t love the cover art for the Eureka release of Billy Wilder’s DOUBLE INDEMNITY (I think they should have gone with the art used for DVD and other releases) , but the film itself is magnificent, one of the greatest film noirs of all time. And a very good Blu-ray release. It is currently the must own version of this film.

3. MURDER MY SWEET (1944)

4. KISS ME DEADLY (1955)

5 DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS (1995)

Walter Mosley’s DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS remains a watershed book, in many ways improving on the pulp noir and film noir roots laid by writers like Hammett And Chandler. As someone who has read the book, listened to the audio book, and seen the film, Director and Screenwriter Carl Franklin’s take on DEVIL IN A BLUE DRESS is just as watershed a film. With a stellar cast, the film is Noir distilled, while being one of the most beautiful color films, and is endlessly watchable and compelling. Indicator Films finally releases this film on Blu-ray, with Booklet and one newer special feature… a charming 2018 Interview– Carl Franklin: DANCING WITH THE DEVIL. That said I do wish they had sprung for new interviews and commentaries to go along with the ported features from the original 20 year old DVD; but that aside this is a must own limited-special edition release, that is  25 years in the making.

6. LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1947)

7. THE BIG HEAT (1953)

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8. THE BIG SLEEP (1946)

9. I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)

While ostensibly 1941’s MALTESE FALCON is recognized as the first FILM NOIR, this film, I WAKE UP SCREAMING, made at the same time as MALTESE FALCON, actually is the first film to put together all the iconic elements we would later associate with film noir.

In addition to the Femme Fatale, and the morally challenged protagonist, this film adds the heavy use of shadows, the Venetian blinds, the stylish dutch and off-center shooting angles, in essence the visual language of film noir shows up first in this least heralded of films. And with a winding script that keeps you shifting your belief of “who done it” from one character to another, and some strange and compelling performances and laudable direction, you end up with a film that deserves to be better known.

 

10. RAW DEAL (1948)

Being the single best of Anthony Mann’s and John Alton’s magnificent collaborations makes RAW DEAL a must for any top ten list. This special edition, complete with booklet  is a must own release.

Well, that’s it my top 10 list.

2020 saw all ten of these films available on quality, feature rich Blu-Ray releases (eff barebone, questionable quality 4K releases — I despise the “no interior artwork, lacking new artwork” 4k releases. I also blame 4k for the further fragmentation and dwindling of a market, that can not survive anymore fragmentation. If you are going to do UHD releases, release them with the Blu-Ray and/or DVD in multi-packs. You eliminate having to have a DVD market and a Bluray Market and a UHD market, and the associated expenses of trying to package for 3 different formats ) for the first time in the relatively short history of physical media. And arguably by the end of 2021 these ten movies will never again all be available in quality, feature rich, physical media versions.

I hope that will not be the case, but hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

If you want these films in physical media, pick all ten up today, while they are still in stock. Click the images to be taken to the movies in question.

If  you have enjoyed this post, then like, subscribe and come back for more of our coverage of physical media and the… Last Hurrah.

BOOK OF THE DAY: The Big Book of Noir

The Big Book of Noir

True to its name the Ed Gorman edited THE BIG BOOK OF NOIR covers all things Noir, from books to film… and especially offering sometimes striking insight from the creators, on the art and the business… of Noir. Definitely recommended.

‘When Bob [Robert Aldrich] was directing and he wanted me, he knew the best thing was to let me alone. He gave me the Mickey Spillane book KISS ME DEADLY (to adapt into a screenplay/movie) and I said, “This is Lousy. Let me see what I can do.” You give me a piece of junk, I can’t write it. I have to write something else. So I went to work on it. I write if fast, because I had contempt for it. It was automatic writing. You get into a kind of stream and you can’t stop.’
— A.I. B
ezzerides, Screenwriter of KISS ME DEADLY

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

The Mike Hammer Collection, Volume 2: One Lonely Night, The Big Kill, Kiss Me Deadly

I’m a huge fan of the film, and could never get into the Spillane novel. Spillane’s writing to me always seemed a ‘by-the-numbers’ take of the square jawed tough guy (and that might be an unfair assessment looking at his work from a 21st century perspective, perhaps his work just does not age as well as some other writers, however the movie is also of this period and I find it timeless), and what I like about the film is, between script and direction, it subverts all those tropes.  However, try both film and book for yourself… and decide.

More Great Movie Opening / Title Credit Sequences!

My previous tirade on public domain abuse and Shakespeare 🙂 made me think of a few more incredible opening credit sequences.


WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE’S ROMEO AND JULIET- Brilliantly directed by Baz Lurhmann (the only one of his four films I’ve seen all of, the other three I’m not positive are for me) this is a great film, great trailer, and…. Great opening credit sequence.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (Special Edition)


PAT GARRET AND BILLY THE KID- You could hold up any of Pekinpah’s films, but even for a Pekinpah film this credit sequence stands out. It’s amazing. And not something PETA would approve of.

Sam Peckinpah’s Legendary Westerns Collection (The Wild Bunch / Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid / Ride the High Country / The Ballad of Cable Hogue)

PISTOL WHIPPED- Seagal’s movies of the last decade or two have been of questionable quality. PISTOL WHIPPED is a surprisingly good film, that I actually enjoy more, every time I watch it. And one of the impressive things for me with this film was that opening credit sequence. Bullets and Gravestones, a nicely done combination.

Pistol Whipped


MENACE II SOCIETY- Doesn’t actually have a credit sequence, it has a title sequence. But what a sequence. It is a horrific, horrific film, that remains almost 20 years later brilliantly directed, and wrenchingly performed. To think this is someone’s debut film is amazing. Offensive, vulgar, sad, twisted, and unfortunately still too accurate a portrait of generational ignorance, lost souls, and man made hells. But the film is also quite engrossing, with moments of levity and even fleeting moments… of love.

Menace II Society [Blu-ray]
I’m a DVD guy, I really don’t care for Bluray. The packaging sucks (The moronic blue bar, was it designed by a blind guy? Cheap materials, poorly designed. Everyone I own (METROPOLIS, WATCHMEN Director’s Cut) looks like crap on my shelf, compared to the simple, functional design of a DVD case), and the quality difference between DVD, for me isn’t enough to justify paying more. So, I only recommend Blu-rays over DVD, if they offer special features not found on the DVD, and the price is right. This Blu-Ray qualifies.

Kiss Me Deadly (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

KISS ME DEADLY- Sports one of the most striking and haunting credit sequences. The Scrolling text, with the woman panting inconsolably beneath it.


FRACTURE- Is a very good thriller, with a quiet, understated credit sequence that is, like the film itself… endearing, and sticks with you long after you’ve seen the movie.

Fracture (Widescreen Edition)

That’s all for now!