Best of the 2nd Quarter 2022 : Best Classic TV Show – ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR’s ‘RIDE THE NIGHTMARE’

ALFRED HITCHCOCK HOUR was a followup to the far more well known ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, except true to this revival’s name it offered hour long tales of mystery and suspense.

Rarely seen, or referenced, this series tends to languish in obscurity in comparison to its far more popular and well remembered sibling, AHP. Which is unfortunate because, for the most part I am finding the hour long time-frame (that could easily feel padded) being effectively used by the host of talented writers, directors and stars involved. Not in all cases of course, some episodes do fail or feel overlong, but so far the majority of the ones I have seen, are satisfying and compelling additions to the output of the great Alfred Hitchcock.  

While few of these are directed by Alfred Hitchcock, the best of them live up to the high bar of cinematic mystery and suspense that Alfred Hitchcock helped set.

Case in point, RIDE THE NIGHTMARE.

Directed by Bernard Girard (an unknown to me Director, who seemingly spent the bulk of his career directing various Television shows, the movies that are credited to him at the end of his directing career, seem poorly received critic wise, but all sound intriguing to me, and worth a look, especially based on how impressed I am with the visuals in RIDE THE NIGHTMARE) and with a screenplay by the great Richard Matheson, that he adapted form his own novel, RIDE THE NIGHTMARE is a gripping, exciting, amazingly directed episode of television.

Beautifully lensed by cinematographer William Marguiles (a relatively prolific DP in late 50s thru the early 70s, primarily in television) , from the first shot I was asking myself, “who the heck directed this? It looks stunning!”

From evocative low angle shots, that make the ceilings loom above us like the hand of doom, to 270degree close-up pan around an embracing couple, to a series of doorways the character walk through as they quietly discuss their relationship’s immolation (the doorways at dutch angles to represent a world no longer reliable and steadfast, but rather menacing and predatory)… the episode enthralls.

And for an unknown tv episode from 1962, to invoke those impressions on someone watching it for the first time, 60 years later in 2022… I think says much about the visual language of the episode. It also says much about its star, Gena Rowlands.

Known for her later lauded pairings with her husband and paramour (their relationship had that type of oxymoronic duality, and iconoclastic fire, both on and off screen, that he could at once be her husband, and at once be the seducer who swept her away) John Cassavetes; Gena Rowlands, who at the time of this writing is still with us, in this episode (the first of three yearly episodes she would do for ALFRED HITHCHCOCK HOUR) commands the screen with her beauty and her presence. In RIDE THE NIGHTMARE she offers a beguiling performance, that well foreshadows, while giving us a less damaged version, of those later legendary pairings with Cassavetes.

Also with great performances by genre stalwarts Hugh O’Brian and John Anderson — this is a brutal little bit of unheralded television noir, that builds to a [mild spoiler, skip to next paragraph to avoid it] surprisingly near apocalyptic ending.[end spoiler]

The plot has in the 60 years from there to here, been reused countless times, even in 1962 was slightly formulaic, but what was not and is not formulaic… is the craft that it is told with. That had, and still has, the power to rivet.

These shows can be viewed via streaming. Either free if you can deal with the criminal # of commercials (I can not), or via purchase on (typically) an episode by episode basis. I chose neither of those routes and purchased the entire series on DVD to watch at my leisure.

To get your copies go here:

Thanks for looking, and click the image above to purchase. you get a great item, and this blog earns a few appreciated pennies to keep the proverbial lights on.

a win, win!

that’s it for this segment. Oh, and for those of you staying for my rant… read on. The rest of you come back next time, and be well!!

 

*********

“What did he say “DVD”? HaHa!! What a geezer!! Wake up Grand-pa! There’s this thing called streaming!! Ha! Ha!”

Yes, thank You.

Very enlightening. I happen to be a big fan of digital and streaming… In its place.

I like streaming for discovering things I want to revisit or own (if ownership by individuals is not a forbidden word in this new age of solely corporate ownership and corporate freedoms), however for revisiting these things, or owning these things, or enjoying these things, I want it in a format where I can enjoy it whether or not I have an internet collection, whether of not a corporate site is down, whether or not that corporate gatekeeper has decided to stop serving that particular show or episode or album or video game.

As the whole world races to embrace ever more gatekeepers on everything the individual touches, it increasingly becomes clear that you can not buy, or sell, or read, or watch, or listen to something whether in your house or your car, without a log of what you have consumed and when you consumed it being stored somewhere, approved somewhere. Something about that does not agree with me.

Something about not being able to buy or sell without having the mark, whether the mark digital or the mark proverbial, something biblically off-putting about that :).

I tend to like being off grid for my entertainment when I can, when I choose. It is the iconoclast in me. I resist the religion of hegemony and the glory of social media in all things.

 

Here Endeth the Recommendation and the Rant!

 

:).

 

Streaming TV Guide of the Day : Youtube Video Discovery of the Day.

 

If you have never watched THE RICH REBUILDS channel, which at its heart is about the love of getting the most out of your cars, this is arguably not the episode to start with. But for us long time fans, this is Rich at his most irreverant and funniest. I laughed and cringed all the way through this one. Comedic gold.

 

Streaming TV Guide of the Day 4 Aug 2021- Youtube Edition!

MOVIES AND PHYSICAL MEDIA RECOMMENDATIONS AND INSIGHTS

 

GREAT MOVIE TRAILERS OF THE DAY

Sports and Competition

AUTO AND HOME IMPROVEMENT NEWS AND INSIGHTS

INSIGHT AND NEWS YOU CAN USE

ART BOOKS AND COMIC BOOKS

 

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.

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!

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!

 

Currently Watching : TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949) courtesy of KANOPY Streaming!

 

What a great film noir. And the lead actress is in the running for one of the most fatal… Femme Fatales. However watching this on streaming tonight, was a bit of a pain, The Picture kept losing quality and buffering. See this is the reason, for all the people screaming the death of physical media, that my physical media collection is not going anywhere.

I’m actually stockpiling the must have movies and TV series, that I do not want to rely on streaming, or licensing agreements, to be able to view.

Streaming when it works is great. But you have so many gate-keepers and potential points of failure and degradation between the supposed high quality 4K presentation you are paying for, and the actual variable picture quality you end up getting.

Streaming is absolutely fine for discovering new things and trying new films and TV shows, but as far as enjoying or re-watching a beloved film or tv show in a satisfying and quality manner, when and where and how you want, there simply is no replacement for having physical media at your fingertips.

And on top of that one reason streaming is as good as it is, is because it has the standard of physical media (Dvd, Blu-ray, 4K) to compete with, to keep it honest.

What happens when physical media is not an option, when studios have a captive audience, that has no alternative to the variable and at times disappointing real world quality of streaming?

You get the same kind of inferior presentation as you get from over the air Digital tv/Antennas.

Yes you get the benefits of far more channels than the old analog over the air television gave you, but you get less reliable quality then what you got from Analog tv. And anyone who has spent anytime watching Digital over the air tv sees the variable quality I speak of.

Business is happy to give us more, but better? In the absence of true choice and alternatives, better, is a cost that increasingly companies do not want to pay.

So to that end, if you decide you love this movie, you might want to get the Blu-Ray 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.