‘Touch of Evil’ on Blu-ray, times 3

Orson Welles in Touch of Evil Blu-ray

The three faces of "Touch of Evil" make their U.S. debuts on Blu-ray in Universal's "limited edition" rerelease of the dark Orson Welles classic. The Blu-ray release is essentially a rerun of the October 2008 "50th Anniversary Edition," complete with director Welles' pleading and cajoling notes to the studio that took the editing away from him. They're reproduced here in the same sturdy brown booklet. The film was the subject of a "festival tribute" at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival, … [Read more...]

‘Foreign Correspondent’: Hitch at war

foreign-correspondent-hitchcock

The Brits excelled at propaganda movies, an awkward genre that nonetheless produced a handful of classics -- say, Noel Coward's "In Which We Serve" and the Archers' "The 49th Parallel." MIA from the brisk U.K. propaganda effort was one Alfred Hitchcock, the director who'd found fame combining dark British sensibilities with German Expressionistic aesthetics. Hitchcock moved to Hollywood as WWII began, producing as his first American film the apolitical romance "Rebecca" (1940). Hitchcock … [Read more...]

‘Throne of Blood’: Madness & ‘Macbeth’

Criterion Collection Throne of Blood Blu-ray 2014

Shakespearean hearts of darkness pump the lifeforce into "Throne of Blood," one of Akira Kurosawa's greatest films. Loosely based on "Macbeth," the movie is a blood-soaked tragedy set in feudal Japan of the 16th century. "Throne of Blood" is widely regarded as one of the most successful film adaptations of a Bard play. Kurosawa dares to edit Shakespeare's story lines, adding back stories and deleting major characters, but the motivations and emotions remain true. The work contains a … [Read more...]

A trio of Halloween treats from Criterion

Criterion Collection horror movies on Blu-ray

When it comes to classy horror, everything looks better in black in white. See "Dr. Caligari." "Psycho." "Vampyr." "Night of the Living Dead." "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." ... And "Eyes Without a Face." Georges Franju, director of that French horror classic, once was asked why he preferred his chills in black and white. He pointed to his first film, the poetic slaughterhouse documentary "Blood of the Beasts": "If it were in color, it would be repulsive." The Criterion … [Read more...]

Miyazakis’ ‘Poppy Hill’ in bloom

Poppy Hill scene from Studio Ghibli

"It's like some cheap melodrama," the teen says to the girl he loves, who may or may not be his long-lost sister. It's teen melodrama all right, but hardly cheap. "From Up On Poppy Hill" is another handsome and touching film from Japan's Studio Ghibli, factory of animated masterpieces. Hayao Miyazaki, the director of "Princess Mononoke," "Spirited Away" and several dozen other fantasy films, came up with the concept and adapted the story. Surprisingly, there are no talking animals or … [Read more...]

Criterion takes ’3:10 to Yuma’

Glenn Ford the bad guy in 3:10 to Yuma

A plain-speaking western hero makes a lonely stand against a gang of outlaws. The clock ticks down. The townsfolk cower. A train steam-bellows down the tracks, its arrival presaging a shootout and near-certain death for the hero. That's "High Noon" all right, one of the most famous American westerns. But it's also "3:10 to Yuma," a lesser-known film that came five years later. "High Noon" seems to have suffered a critical downgrade over the past decade or so, perhaps due to its … [Read more...]

Fritz Lang’s ‘Ministry of Fear’

Ray Milland in Fritz Lang's "Ministry of Fear"

Funny thing about the wrong man: He never, ever did it. This lack of mystery never held back the thriller subgenre, in large part because of Alfred Hitchcock's fondness for tales of the unjustly accused on the run. The German director Fritz Lang also worked cases of mistaken identity, notably in "Fury" (1936) and "Ministry of Fear" (1944). The Criterion Collection has revived "Ministry of Fear" in a no-nonsense Blu-ray/DVD presentation of the Graham Greene adaptation. Lang made several … [Read more...]

‘Ripper Street’: Victorian evil at large

Matthew Macfadyen of Ripper Street

The shadow of wicked olde Jack hangs heavy over "Ripper Street." Is this a specter, or a warning of the Ripper's return? The creators of this terrific BBC One series wisely keep Jack the Ripper sidelined, at least in the first season, which just wrapped season 1 on BBC America. Good move. We didn't need another Ripper procedural. Think of it as a U.S. series looking at LAPD after the Nightstalker murders, or New York cops after Son of Sam. Life goes on, but with a clinical case of the … [Read more...]

Pasolini’s ‘Trilogy of Life’

Pasolini in Trilogy of Life

In retrospect, "Trilogy of Life" seems an odd and ironic title for any work credited to Pier Paolo Pasolini. The director's grisly murder in 1975 still haunts Italians. Pasolini's notorious work "Salò" is a study in death and depravity -- a sick work of art, but an essential work of art nonetheless. His was dubbed "the cinema of despair." In the U.S., Pasolini is most remembered for this darkness, when he is remembered at all. "The idea that death defines a person has seldom been more … [Read more...]

‘Jaws’ emerges from deep Blu sea

three shark hunters in Jaws the Blu-ray

Reports surface now and then that the original "Jaws" is being remade. A modern production, perhaps even directed by Steven Spielberg, would take advantage of the huge advances in film special effects since the mid-1970s. But computer graphics would ruin the fun, the director says on Universal Home Entertainment's Blu-ray edition of "Jaws." Back in 1974, the endlessly problematic mechanical sharks of "Jaws" couldn't be used for most of the filming -- a "blessing in disguise," Spielberg … [Read more...]

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