Roger Corman was recently honored with a special Academy Award, and a new 3-D remake of his 1978 production Piranha is heading for theaters this year. So it makes sense that Corman’s “B” movie classics from New World Pictures have found a new home at Shout Factory!/Vivendi.
The Corman library has been out of circulation for a few years, and the company is welcoming such water-logged monstrosity movies as the original Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, Up from the Depths, and Demon of Paradise back in April. They will be followed by the likes of Rock ‘N’ Roll High School, Suburbia, Death Race 2000, Deathsport and others. We say it’s about time the Academy recognized Corman’s contributions to cinema, as a producer, director and mentor to young talent. It’s just a shame his award will not be part of the telecast this year.
If We Had a Hammer
Sony is prepping a third set of vintage Hammer goodies for DVD release. This one is called Icons of Suspense: Hammer Films, and it’s a three-disc, six-film collection of thrillers from the British studio. Among the titles are:
Stop Me Before I Kill (1960): Also known as The Full Treatment, this film tells of a race car driver who suffers a concussion during a collision. The after-effects of the accident lead him to try and kill his wife. When a psychiatrist enters the picture to try and help him, bizarre complications ensue. Claude Dauphin, Diane Cilento and Ronald Lewis star.
Cash on Demand (1961): One of Hammer’s best non-horror outings is a gripping suspense yarn with studio star Peter Cushing as a bank manager who finds his family held hostage, and never to be seen again unless he empties the vaults of his establishment.
Never Take Candy from a Stranger (1960): An audacious look at the evils of pedophilia concerns a British family who moves to Canada and encounters a local pervert who asks their nine-year-old daughter to undress. When the family tries to press charges, they discover why the suspect seems to have immunity.
Maniac (1963): Kerwin Mathews is an American on tour in Europe who gets involved with a young woman with a tragic past and her stepmother, who seduces Mathews for a scheme she has planned to spring her unstable husband from institutionalization.
The Snorkel (1958): A teenager suspects her stepfather of killing her mother and her real father using a snorkel in this devious thriller.
These Are the Damned (1963): Also known as The Damned, Joseph Losey’s chilling suspenser centers a couple who, while fleeing a violent motorcycle gangleader, stumble upon on a group of children brought up in a radioactive environment. The children are trained to kill whoever approaches, but the couple attempts to save them. MacDonald Carey, Shirley Ann Field and Oliver Reed star in this much-requested effort.
Go Ask Alice
With its theatrical release imminent, the new Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland has opened a floodgate of DVD titles based on Lewis Carroll’s story. The most intriguing one, to us, however, is the 1933 feature version of Alice in Wonderland, produced by Paramount back in the day and released in the here and now by Universal. The film has never issued on home video in any format, but we’re happy to report the wait is over. The all-star affair is chockfull of screen greats, including W.C . Fields as Humpty Dumpty, Cary Grant as the Mock Turtle, Gary Cooper as the White Knight, Edward Everett Horton as the Mad Hatter, and Charlotte Henry as Alice. This fascinating production is actually culled from two of Carroll’s stories: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.
After many false starts, John Huston’s The African Queen finally rolls onto DVD and Blu-ray. The 1951 adventure classic offered the first and only screen paring of Humphrey Bogart (his sole Academy Award-winning performance) and Katharine Hepburn. The tale is set in WWI-era German East Africa, where hard-drinking scow skipper Charlie Allnut (Bogie) finds himself taking missionary Rose Sayer (Hepburn) through waters teeming with danger. The two encounter German forces, flooding, leeches and each other during their memorable journey. The movie, which underwent a long restoration process, is offered on DVD and Blu-ray in single-disc editions, and in special double-disc editions on both formats. The special editions include a reprint of Hepburn’s book about the making of the film, postcards, audio of a radio adaptation, and a collectible film frame Senitype.
The always impressive folks at Criterion are expanding their repertoire in a big way, issuing some recent titles from IFC along with the foreign, art, indie and classic titles they have licensed from different sources. So their latest lineup includes a nifty mix, all filled to the brim with great extras per usual.
Ride with the Devil (1999): Ang Lee’s sadly overlooked Civil War epic looks at the altercation through a different perspective, that of four people who band together to fight for the Confederacy, each for different reasons. Tobey Maguire, Jeffrey Wright, Skeet Ulrich and Jewel star in this absorbing drama that takes you away from the big confrontations and allows viewers to see a side of the War Between the States they never witnessed before. This DVD includes a new director’s cut of the film that runs 12 minutes longer than the theatrical running time.
The Fugitive Kind (1959): Dramatic sparks fly as Marlon Brando’s drifting nightclub entertainer lands in a small Mississippi town where he tries to get his life in order, but runs into good-gal corner store owner Anna Magnani and bad-gal rich tramp Joanne Woodward. Sidney Lumet directs this powerful adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ Orpheus Descending.
Bigger than Life (1956): Overlooked when first released but later heralded by French New Wave critics Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut, Nicholas Ray’s magnificent melodrama stars James Mason as an overworked suburban schoolteacher who takes cortisone for a health ailment and soon finds behavior becoming more and more erratic. Barbara Rush and Walter Matthau also star in this powerful look at nuclear family dynamics, wonderfully captured in widescreen by “the man,” Ray.
Summer Hours (2008): Acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas is behind this bravura drama in which family members gather and eventually unveil secrets after their matriarch passes away.
Dillinger is Dead (1969): Guns, gas masks and girls play important parts in iconoclastic filmmaker Marco Ferreri’s bizarre tale of an engineer, his sickly wife, his libidinous maid and a pistol that may have belonged to gangster John Dillinger.
Yojimbo (1961): Akira Kurosawa’s classic was the basis for A Fistful of Dollars and Last Man Standing. Toshiro Mifune plays both sides against each other when rivals war in a Japanese village.
Vivre Sa Vie (1962): Godard’s landmark film stars Anna Karina in a tale that mixes elements of classic gangster films with a documentary-like study of a woman who becomes a Parisian streetwalker.
Woo Is Him
John Woo is best-known as the director of such classic action sagas as The Killer, Hard-Boiled and Face/Off. But with Red Cliff and Red Cliff: Director’s Cut, he gets to realize his dream project, a sprawling tale of the Battle of Chibi in 208 A.D., a legendary victory in Chinese history. Tony Leung stars in this years-in-the-making $80 million event film, which was presented in just one part in American theaters, but can now be seen in its entirety, amazing battle scenes and all.
Two highly esteemed films of Jewish interest are on their way to DVD. The Chosen (1981) details the bond that develops between two teens, one a Hassid (Robby Benson), one modern Orthodox (Barry Miller), in 1940s New York City. When their fathers (Rod Steiger, Maximillian Schell) disagree on how Israel should handle its affairs, the boys’ friendship is threatened. Based on a book by Chaim Potok and directed by Jeremy Paul Kagan, the film has won favor over the years for its authentic atmosphere and powerful acting.
And out for the first time is Lies My Father Told Me (1975), directed by Czech maestro Jan Kadar, and centering on the relationship between a young boy and his ragman grandfather in the 1920s. The movie is touching and boasts a superb performance by Yossi Yaden as the grandfather who is at odds with his entrepreneur son.
Paging Dr. Z
David Lean’s gorgeous epic Doctor Zhivago gets first-class treatment in a 45th Anniversary Edition coming to DVD and Blu-ray. Set against the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution and to the haunting “Lara’s Theme,” this sweeping historical drama offers an all-star cast that includes Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rita Tushingham, Rod Steiger, and Alec Guinness. Along with a load of special features and a gorgeous transfer, the Blu-ray version will include a separate 44-page book with a disc sampler of eight selections from the movie.
Two “M” movies are arriving on DVD for the first time from Universal. In 1993’s Matinee, John Goodman plays a William Castle-like producer attending the premiere of his new film at a Key West, Florida movie theater just as the Cuban Missile Crisis is hitting the news. Joe Dante’s film is a horror/sci-fi tale called Mant and both the opening and the nearby crisis have the neighborhood whipped into frenzy. The DVD includes the mini-feature of “Mant,” too. As for 1999’s The Muse, Albert Brooks wrote, directed and stars in this inside satire of Hollywood, in which he plays a faltering screenwriter introduced to a real live demi-goddess (Sharon Stone) for the inspiration to resurrect his career. Jeff Bridges, Andie McDowell, Cybil Shepherd (and in funny cameos, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and Rob Reiner) also appear in this witty Hollywood affair.
Before he was Sheriff Andy Taylor of Mayberry, Andy Griffith starred in a series of films showcasing his acting abilities in both comedic and dramatic turns. There was A Face in the Crowd and Onionhead, and now the much-requested No Time for Sergeants (1958) arrives on DVD. Griffith plays a country bumpkin who joins the Air Force, and whose simple, homespun manner doesn’t always jell with his bunkmates (including Nick Adams) and commanding officer (Myron McCormick). Helmed by Mervyn LeRoy and based on a play by Ira Levin, the story had been adapted for TV’s U.S. Steel Hour three years earlier. The screen version of No Time for Sergeants also features future Griffith collaborator Don Knotts in a supporting part. It also served as the basis for a short-lived 1964 TV series, and the unofficial inspiration for Gomer Pyle USMC, which Griffith produced.
Attention Middle Earthlings!
Decades before Peter Jackson’s much-celebrated Tolkien trilogy came Ralph Bakshi’s relatively unknown animated feature adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. This 1978 epic didn’t catch on at the box office, but remains quite an accomplishment for the innovative animator Bakshi (Fritz the Cat, American Pop) and producer Saul Zaentz (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest). The film uses traditional animated techniques and rotoscoping (tracing over live action sequences) to introduce such characters as Frodo Baggins, Sam Gamgee and Sauron, and take its audience on a wild, often thrilling adventure. The big rub on the film is that it ends abruptly, with a promise of a sequel that never came to be. Still, this title—available on DVD and Blu-ray– is well worth seeing for its approach to J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved mythos and as a comparison to Jackson’s later work.
Rockin’ All Over The World
Two of rock music’s most desired films are finally hitting the DVD market. The T.A.M.I. Show from 1964 is an amazing cinematic document of some of the top acts of the era, including the Beach Boys, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, Jan and Dean, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and many more. Music rights have kept this one previously unseen on DVD, with only an edited version available on VHS many years back. Also on the way is Elvis, John Carpenter’s 1979 epic TV movie bio of Elvis Presley, with Kurt Russell impressive as “the King.” Season Hubley, Bing Russell, Pat Hingle and Shelley Winters also star in this superb overview of E’s life and career.
Video Killed The Radio Star
One of the great, undiscovered cult films of the 1980s (can a movie be undiscovered and still become a cult film?), Tapeheads is a rollicking affair, produced by none other than Michael Nesmith of the Monkees fame. The film stars John Cusack as a quick-talking hustler and Tim Robbins as a tech wizard who work as security guards. After losing their jobs, they get into the music video field and all sorts of adventures unfold along with cameo appearances by Weird Al Yankovic, Ted Nugent, Martha Quinn and Lyle Alzado. Some of the funniest moments in this quirky film involve the music videos Cusack and Robbins film, featuring the likes of King Cotton and The Swanky Modes (Sam Moore and Junior Walker).