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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Chatting With Kim Novak, Who Brings Vertigo to SF Symphony This Weekend

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 1:30 PM

  • Universal

Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo is now considered the great auteur's masterpiece, with some arguing that the 1958 romantic thriller is superior even to the groundbreaking and still terrifying Psycho. Vertigo was shot on location in a San Francisco which no longer exists — locales included Nob Hill, Telegraph Hill, the Palace of the Legion of Honor and underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. The city has never looked more ghostly than in the haunting tale of mystery and dual-identities that is Vertigo. 

On Friday and Saturday, Feb. 12-13, Vertigo will screen at Davies Symphony Hall at 8 p.m. This is Vertigo as you've never seen it before — the venerable San Francisco Symphony will perform Bernard Herrmann's haunting score along with the film. And, as the icing on the cake, screen legend Kim Novak will appear on the Davies stage at 7 p.m. for a pre-screening conversation with Steven Winn. 

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

New On Video: Sea Serpents and She-Creatures in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIV

Posted By on Tue, Dec 8, 2015 at 12:00 PM


It’s alive: Joel Hodgson’s Kickstarter to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 has surpassed its initial $2 million goal. It’s currently at the $3.5 million needed to produce six episodes, and if it can reach $5.5 million by Dec. 11, there’ll be 12 new episodes altogether. The new cast has also been announced: Jonah Ray is in the new host, Felicia Day will be the new baddie Kinga Forrester (granddaughter of Pearl and daughter of Clayton), and Patton Oswalt will be TV’s Son of TV’s Frank. I’ve always had mixed feelings about Jonah Ray; I had to stop listening to the Nerdist Podcast because he always dominated conversations with stories about how much he was into punk rock as a kid — among my pet peeves is straight guys droning on about how punk rock totally saved my life, maaaaaaaaaaan — but I’m excited that the new Mad is female, and Patton Oswalt rocks my world.

So it’s a transitional time for MST3k, making it appropriate Shout! Factory released Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume XXXIV last week, which captures the show in a similarly transitory period in 1997.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

New on Video: Simmering Czech Sexuality in Valerie and Her Week of Wonders

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 11:00 AM


Jaromil Jireš's 1970 film Valerie and Her Week of Wonders is legendary, and not just because it has a terrific name. I believe I first read about Danny Peary's Cult Films books in the early 1990s, and when I worked at Le Video in the late '90s, the manager was more than a little proud of the fact that we had a low-gen VHS dub, which was the closest it had ever come to getting a domestic video release. It finally got appeared on DVD a decade ago from Facets Video, and now the Criterion Collection is releasing a 4K digital restoration on Blu-ray on June 30. It's the best that this lo-fi Czech New Wave film will ever look, all the better to luxuriate in its oddness.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

New on Video: Decades of Despair & Decadence in The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 4:00 PM


I'm not a big punk rock fan. I like it on a song-by-song basis, and I respect the original punk scene for having birthed the goth aesthetic which informs my sartorial elegance to this day — that is, I look good in black clothing with dark eyeliner — but I've never identified with/as or been inspired by punk in any way. But I've always admired the work of Penelope Spheeris, particularly her Decline of Western Civilization documentary trilogy, and Shout! Factory is releasing the entire series in a Blu-ray box set on June 30.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

New on Video: Winsome Robin Williams in The Fisher King

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 6:00 PM


1991's The Fisher King has always been my favorite Robin Williams film, as well as my favorite Terry Gilliam movie. Sure, as anyone who claims to be into movies must, I have a deep love for Brazil — though my mother still hasn't forgiven me and my brother for insisting that she take us to see it at Fresno's Tower Theatre in the mid-1980s, especially after she learned that it had already been released on VHS by that point — as well as a healthy respect for Time Bandits and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas features the best use of CGI in the 1990s, in that it actually comes close to replicating what low-level hallucinations on acid look like (not that I would know such as thing). But The Fisher King has always been my favorite on a purely emotional level, closely followed by Tideland, which nobody else but me seemed to like.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New on Video: Retro-Rourke in The Pope of Greenwich Village and Desperate Hours

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2015 at 2:00 PM


Look, I'm not going to say Shout! Factory has a crush on Mickey Rourke, 'cuz quite frankly, I don't need to say it. Hot on the heels of their Blu-ray release of Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man comes a "Mickey Rourke Double Feature" of Stuart Rosenberg's 1984 The Pope of Greenwich Village and Michael Cimino's 1990 Desperate Hours, which Shout! Factory is releasing on a double-disc Blu-Ray set on June 2. That's right, each movie is getting its own disc, unlike their recent single-disc double-features of the Breakin', Ghoulies, or Eddie and the Cruisers films, all of which had more extras crammed onto their single discs than these do across two discs (which is to say, nothing but the trailers). And was the Eddie set branded a "Michael Pare Double Feature," or the Breakin' films as a "Michael 'Boogaloo Shrimp' Double Feature?"

They most certainly were not. Shout! Factory and Mickey Rourke, sittin' in a tree

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Friday, May 22, 2015

The Golden Age of TV Movies: Maybe I'll Come Home In the Spring

Posted By on Fri, May 22, 2015 at 2:35 PM

Opening Credits Screen Grab - ABC TV
  • ABC TV
  • Opening Credits Screen Grab

Welcome to The Golden Age of TV Movies, a monthly column about the many wonderful made-for-TV movies that were produced during the 1960s and 70s.

Oscar winner Sally Field was a popular sitcom star who had yet to prove her acting chops when Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring was broadcast as an ABC Movie of the Week in February 1971.

Field had become a popular teen idol after starring in the 1965 beach party sitcom Gidget, followed by the silly if enjoyable The Flying Nun a few years later. With Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring she proved herself to be an acting force to be reckoned with, perhaps even leading to her acclaimed, award winning portrayal in Sybil (1976) and her Oscar-winning roles in Norma Rae (1979) and Places in the Heart (1984).

Which means they liked her, they really liked her!

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New on Video: Eco-Kill Classics Food of the Gods and Frogs

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 11:09 AM


The Golden Age of the Eco-Kill genre, in which animals attack humans either due to mysterious mutations or just because they're pissed off, was the 1970s. It would have been even if not for Steven Spielberg's Jaws, which both legitimized and signed the genre's death warrant, since there were just so damn many of them produced, likely because of the loosening in what you could get away with in terms of ickniess onscreen, and the increased hunger for that sort of product at the drive-ins.

Two of those pieces of grindhouse filler, Bert I. Gordon's 1976 The Food of the Gods and George McCowan's 1972 Frogs, are being released on a double-feature Blu-Ray by Shout! Factory on May 26.

In Food of the Gods, the credits for which say it's "Based on a Portion" of the H.G. Wells novel — an accurate but surprisingly honest way to put it, since I'm pretty sure the book was in the public domain by that point — a group of people on a small Canadian island do battle with super-sized animals, from ferret-sized maggots to horse-sized rats. Various effects techniques are used to bring them to life, and while they looked more convincing on a drive-in screen through a windshield or on a crappy VHS tape, the mostly-okay HD transfer allows one to savor director Gordon's work.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'd rather see a fake giant rooster that's actually on the set than a fake giant rooster that was added later via pixels. (I've said that before, haven't I? I think it was in my review of Left Behind.) Also, this gives me the excuse I'm always looking for to post one of my favorite frames from 1972's giant-rabbit film, Night of the Lepus.


Frogs came out the same year as Night of the Lepus, and is the the more classical Eco-Kill work: normal-sized animals attack, including but certainly not limited to frogs, though the frogs are set up as the Big Bad. If anything, Frogs' theme of a rich old man who distrusts the natural world foreshadows the roach attack of the "They're Creeping Up On You" segment in Creepshow.

Though Food of the Gods pays off on its promise of ginormous animals, mostly because that was director Bert I. Gordon's primary schtick — some of his past giant-animal-or-person films included The Amazing Colossal Podcast, War of the Colossal Beast, Beginning of the End, and Village of the Giants, all of which were done on Mystery Science Theater 3000, not-coincidentally — Frogs does not feature frogs big enough to swallow a human, or at least a human arm. That was a common poster gimmick for Eco-Kill films; see also the Kingdom of the Spiders, which features only regular-sized spiders, even though the poster implies otherwise.


That said, Frogs the movie does sort of pay off on its poster. In a way. You just gotta make it all the way to the end of the credits. It's not exactly the Avengers eating shawarma, but it's still a pretty good easter egg.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New on Video: Female Firepower in Gun Woman

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 2:00 PM


The primary cover art of Kurando Mitsutake's 2014 extreme action-horror movie Gun Woman, which Shout! Factory is releasing on both DVD and Blu-ray on May 26, is not entirely representative of the film's contents. There is indeed a woman who uses guns, but not quite in the badass-shooting-rampage manner that this image suggests. She does it in a far more badass way, and though it's a revenge picture, we're into more disturbing and physiological (and Japanese) territory here, more Planet Terror than Kill Bill — and anything that's more Robert Rodriguez than Quentin Tarantino is all right in my book.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

New on Video: Riot-Grrrl Religiosity in Stigmata

Posted By on Mon, May 18, 2015 at 11:00 AM


Remember when we had it on good authority that the world would end, or Jesus would return, or that there would be some kind of big spirituality-tinged shakeup on Y2K, along with the lights going out and the machines all turning on their masters? Oh, those were the days. That anxiety was represented in many of the films of the time, and while Rupert Wainwright's 1999 Stigmata (which, as they do, Shout! Factory is releasing on Blu-ray on May 19) isn't apocalyptic per se, and in fact harkens back to films from a decade earlier such as the 1998 Seventh Sign and William Peter Blatty's underrated 1990 Exorcist III, it's still very much a product of its millennial era, and not just because of the "Music by Billy Corgan" credit.

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