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

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.

Streaming VOD Movie Review of the Day : THE GREAT WAR (2019)

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

THE GREAT WAR (2019)- I was very impressed with the trailer for this film and after seeing it was excited to finally see this movie. I guess this is yet another example of a great trailer, being no barometer of the actual movie.

The film has finally made it to streaming, courtesy of Amazon Prime, and I have to say, unfortunately from frame one Director/Writer Steven Luke’s THE GREAT WAR is not good, much less great. It is clumsy, awkward just forced, heavy handed and even boring storytelling. The movie wants to say something, but lacks either the script or direction to say it, and this is ground covered more competently in numerous other films.

35 minutes in and I’m looking at the clock. Neither the performances on the screen, nor the efforts behind the camera particularly impress (the notable exception being the intriguing pairing between Ron Pearlman and Billy Zane). It is filmed more like a reenactment staging, than a film. 49 minutes in and it is feeling way too long, and still not interesting. The fast-forward button is calling me. But I stick with it, hoping it finds its level.

56 minutes in and I am finally intrigued by the conversations on screen, between actors Hiram A. Murray and Edgar Damatian, they begin showing the chemistry the film to this point has dearly needed, but it may be too little too late. As 66 minutes in, it is still so contrived and simplistic and heavy handed in its telling. With another 43 minutes to go, it is feeling like a chore to sit through the remainder of this movie, rather than a benefit. Life is too short  I am thinking, to give this film another 43 minutes.

Moving this review to UNDER CONSTRUCTION. I might come back and finish the last 43 minutes later, but right now with over half the movie watched I have to say… this is a big AVOID. Even if this movie were to stick the landing it would not compensate for the arduous and unsatisfying majority of the film. There are a 100 better war movies, and a 1000 better movies period that you can spend your precious time on.

If my opinion changes if and when I finish this movie, I will update this review, but for now… avoid.

 

 

Get your action fix at the excellent site ACTION-FLIX!

 

 

JM Jerva’s excellent ACTION FLIX is always one of the sites I visit regularly for its top notch coverage of all things Action related, from theatrical films, to streaming bone breakers, to the best in short films. I always discover new titles to try, and new filmmakers to be on the lookout for,whenever I drop in on this site.

And so will you, use the below link to visit, subscribe leave great comments and tell em HT sent ya!

Visit ACTION FLIX here!

 

SHAW BROTHERS classic Martial Arts film of the Week : FIVE SUPERFIGHTERS

Tang shan wu hu (1979)

Currently watching the Shaw Brothers fun FIVE SUPERFIGHTERS, that starts typically enough, with a  guy who styles himself THE CORRECTOR OF BAD KUNG FU :), and he just goes around picking fights with every martial arts school, he comes across.

It is a common plot in these movies, but this one wastes no time getting to it. Nicely filmed, well staged fight scenes, and good editing. And there are nice little flourishes in this film from 40 years ago that I haven’t seen before. One of the Kung Fu teachers is a woman, and she makes tofu for a living. It is nice to see the traditional steps of making Tofu, which is very much still relatively new in the west.

Add to that these widescreen remastered prints on Amazon, look WAY better than these films ever looked in the theaters or on TV back in the day, and you have an enjoyable streaming watch for the day.

 

Very enjoyable. Grade: B/B+.

******

SPOILER: Read only after viewing the movie…. The ending of this film there is a bit of a revelation that raises the film up a notch for me. Initially through most of the run-time, the ones seeking revenge come off as petty and mean-spirited as the antagonist of the film. Particularly the Teacher, who devolves into a drunk after back to back losses to the Antagonist. Going so far as to attack his friend when he is drunk.

However in the end fight you realize that  (again huge SPOILER) all throughout the movie he was devising a new style… DRUNKEN BOXING, to beat his unbeatable nemesis. This film tackles the origins of Drunken Boxing. A nice little twist, so that ending and the beautifully choreographed fight scenes, and the almost painterly use of color, moves this up to a solid B/B+.

Currently Watching : WINTER KILLS via Streaming/VOD

‘God, has made a way for you, you unalterable fool.

And all you have to do, is walk the path.’

WINTER KILLS (1979) Movie Review

I’ve been toying for some time with buying this 1979 film on DVD/Blu-Ray, based on its description alone. On paper it boasts a stacked cast (Jeff Bridges, John Huston, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Tomas Milan, Sterling Hayden, Toshiro Mifune, the list goes on) and an intriguing premise.

Finally viewing it today courtesy of Streaming (believe it is on both KANOPY and AMAZON PRIME) and it is not a crowd pleasing film, but I like it despite itself. It is awkward, and spastic, and off kilter, and more than a little strange, this take of a family and nation marred by an assassination, which obviously reverberates with writer/director Richert’s theories on the Kennedy Assassination.

I like the way the film thinks, the way it breathes, patient and without hurry, the morose wit of the film, of a nation lost, slowly rolling, longing and loathing, in its sin.

I like the odd view it gives of power and the absence of privacy, and though the technology is outdated, the gist of it, over 40 years later is prophetic (or perhaps timeless is the better word), in its viewing of the lie of democracy in an age of Robber Barons.

It is compelling viewing, that I am richer for having seen. And yeah this is one to own in Physical media, because I can not wait to listen to the commentary by Writer/Director William Richert. This was Mr. Richert’s first feature film, and,while not a hit at the time, is an intriguing debut, and the cast alone make this a must own. Unfortunately  it would be followed by only 3 more films by Richert, and they would be progressively less well received.

But we still have his debut fan, WINTER KILLS.

Get your copy HERE!

Amazon Item of the Day : Multi-region Bluray Player

 

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51%2ByjmI9JWL._AC_SX425_.jpg

LG BP175 Region Free Blu-ray Player – If you need an affordable multi-region Blu-Ray that also supports  3D discs, than this is a solid, well rated option.

 

Now regarding 4K.

I personally find very little need for 4K, as I do not have a 70″ or larger screen and I’m not sitting 2 feet away from it inspecting pixels. And the difference between 4K and 1080p, while substantial in pixels (ie inreal estate), in real world picture quality is minuscule. It is not the kind of quality jump that you got from DVD to Blu-Ray.

I have 20/20 vision, and see better than most people I know, ie I don’t need glasses or contacts, so at 1080p on a 60″ or less screen, from a recommended 8 feet or more viewing distance you are talking the threshold of what the human eye can differentiate in regards to pixel count/real estate.

That is where other considerations such as how well the source is mastered ( a huge consideration, I have some DVDs that provide a better picture than Blu-ray simply because they were well mastered and the Blu-rays were not) , and contrast and dynamic range and brightness, and frame rates all come in to play to provide you a superior picture.

But as far as chasing real estate, resolution, HD to 4K to 6K to 8K to 16K, that is a meaningless numbers game in a consumer setting. Unless you are projecting on a movie theater sized screen this chasing of resolution/real estate it just so manufacturers can continue to sell you the new hotness. The new player, the new tv, the new discs.

However if you are somone who has the disposable cash, and want the latest and greatest, so a 4K player to go with your 4K tv, well then the following is the one to get.

Sony X800 – UHD – 2D/3D – SACD – Wi-Fi – Dual HDMI – 2K/4K – Region Free Blu Ray Disc DVD Player – PAL/NTSC – USB – 100-240V 50/60Hz for World-Wide Use & 6 Feet Multi System 4K HDMI Cable

This one will do 4K (if you have a 4K tv as well), Bluray, Super Aucio CD, and 3D (If you have a 3D TV or Projector).

 

If you found this post informative, then would definitely appreciate a like, subscription, or using the included links.

Thanks and have a great day! See you next installment!

The last movie that… terrified me : ALONG CAME THE DEVIL II

ALONG CAME THE DEVIL II – I put this film on my Amazon Prime watch-list the other night, never having seen the first film, the poster image on Amazon looked interesting, and the 3.5/5 rating looked promising.

Along Came the Devil 2 (2019)

It was late when I watched it, or early.

And first I must admit, I am not now that force that had in days gone by moved heaven and earth, but what I am… I am. To roughly paraphrase Lord Tennyson.

Meaning I am of a milder temperament today, than of my reckless youth. And I am easier moved. I seek now in my old age, in my facts and my fictions, that no one dies badly, and that there always be a hero, to right wrongs.

So take that softness to note, and the hour, when measuring my feelings on this film.

I felt this film, was terrifying.

Much of horror, like in comedy, is setup and timing. And this film is not without failings, as portions of it seems to be telling of that unseen first movie, but those scenes never unhinge the central strengths of the film.

Namely it is well cast, convincingly even passionately performed, and I thought the Director/Writer Jason Devan and Editor Evan Algren masterfully used setup and timing, to create a chilling and effective movie. It is the work of a filmmaker, who understands viscerally the places in us that throb to the quick and the dead.

Is it a masterpiece? No. But not everything needs to be.

It is an effective, impressively made little chiller, that has more genuine chills in it than you’ll find in far bigger budget films, ala SINISTER, etc.

I went into this film, not having seen trailer or review, knowing nothing more than its title, and it rewarded me.

Go in likewise and you too may be, rewarded.

Grade: I’ve seen a lot of this type of film. Most are not very good, this one I hesitate not to call great. It is right up there with THE LAST EXORCISM PART II (far better than the first film); which I think is this type of film done, as well as I’ve seen it done. I guess the best thing you can say of a movie to really sell it, is having just finished watching it a few days ago, I want to see it again. That is in my book, the sign of an entertaining or compelling movie. B+.

 

Ulysses

Alfred Lord Tennyson – 1809-1892

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Matched with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Through scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known—cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all,—
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
   This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle,
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and through soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centered in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
   There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toiled, and wrought, and thought with me,
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

 

Deal of the Day!