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  1. Top News Stories

    • The Complete Hitchcock at NYC's Film Forum

    • THE COMPLETE HITCHCOCK, a retrospective including every one of director Alfred Hitchcock's extant films - from the silent The Pleasure Garden (1925) to Family Plot (1976) - will run at NYC's Film Forum from Friday, February 21 through Thursday, March 27.

      The festival kicks off with a dazzling new restoration of North by Northwest (1959), the director's ultimate innocent man on the run movie, starring Cary Grant. Legendary for its quintessential Hitchcockian set pieces, including the iconic crop dusting scene and a nail-biting climax on Mount Rushmore, North by Northwest was written by Ernest Lehman, who aimed to make it "the Hitchcock picture to end all Hitchcock pictures."

      The series includes Hitchcock's early talkies Blackmail (not only Hitchcock's first talkie, but Britain's - adapted for sound from his already-in-the-can silent), Murder!, The Skin Game, Rich and Strange, Number 17, Waltzes in Vienna, and even the all-star British revue Elstree Calling, on which Hitchcock was one of four different directors; the 1930s classics The Lady Vanishes, Sabotage, the first version of The Man Who Knew Too Much, and The 39 Steps, prototype for all of his innocent-man-on-the-run pictures; the 1940s Hollywood classics Rebecca (his only Best Picture Oscar winner), Lifeboat, Suspicion, Notorious, Spellbound, Saboteur, Rope, and Shadow of a Doubt (often cited by Hitchcock as his own personal favorite); and the string of iconic hits of the 1950s and 60s: Strangers on a Train, The Man Who Knew Too Much, To Catch a Thief, The Birds,Dial M For Murder (Hitchcock's only 3-D movie), Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo, voted the greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound's 2012 critics' poll, bumping Welles' Citizen Kane to second place for the first time in fifty years.

      The festival also includes "The Hitchcock 9," the director's surviving silents (one silent feature, The Mountain Eagle, is lost), all in new restorations from the British Film Institute, including The Pleasure Garden, his directorial debut; the boxing drama The Ring; Downhill, with matinee idol Ivor Novello; The Farmer's Wife, a rare rural comedy based on a West End smash hit; Easy Virtue, based on a Noël Coward play; screwball comedy prototype Champagne; and The Manxman, stunningly filmed on the Cornish coast (substituting for The Isle of Man).

      "The Hitchcock 9" also includes the two films that carry many of the trademarks of his later work: The Lodger, with Novello as the Jack the Ripperesque title character, dubbed by The Master himself as "the first true Hitchcock movie;" and Blackmail, with Czech actress Any Ondra as a woman who murders a lecherous artist.

      All silent films in the series will feature live piano accompaniment by Steve Sterner.

      "The Complete Hitchcock" has been programmed by Bruce Goldstein, Film Forum's Director of Repertory Programming. The series includes archival 35mm prints from the major Hollywood studios, as well as The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Harvard Film Archive, and the BFI in London. Previous comprehensive retrospectives of Hitchcock's work have been presented by the Harvard Film Archive and the British Film Institute.

      Special events in the series include:
      • A Conversation with Norman Lloyd: Following the 8:15 screening of Saboteur on February 27, legendary actor/producer/director Norman Lloyd, who plays the title role (he's the man who falls off the Statue of Liberty), will be interviewed from Los Angeles by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz via Skype - a first for Film Forum and Mr. Lloyd, now 99, who also appears in the earliest extant television program (1939). Mr. Lloyd also appeared in Hitchcock's Spellbound and later went on to become associate producer of Hitchcock's weekly television program, as well as director of 22 episodes. The interview will be followed by a transcontinental Q&A with Film Forum's audience.

      • Documentarian Robert Fischer's Multilingual Murder, an excerpt from the famous 1962 Hitchcock/Truffaut interview, detailing the making of the 1930 Murder! and its alternate German-language version Mary (see below) will screen following Murder! (to avoid spoilers) on March 6. (Mr. Fischer's Monsieur Truffaut Meets Mr. Hitchcock, which traces the genesis of the famous book, will screen during Film Forum's "Tout Truffaut" festival)

      • White Shadow: three surviving reels of perhaps Hitchcock's earliest known work - as assistant director, art director, editor, and writer - discovered in New Zealand in 2011. It will be screened along with two wartime shorts made by Hitchcock, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache, shot-behind-the-line thrillers intended as morale boosters for the Free French.

      • Mary: perhaps the rarest film in the series: the simultaneously-shot German-language version of the 1930 Murder!, with Alfred Abel (star of Fritz Lang's Metropolis) in the Herbert Marshall role.

      "The Complete Hitchcock" has been programmed back to back with the 3-week series "Tout Truffaut," opening Friday, March 28. The pairing evokes the 1966 book Hitchcock by François Truffaut - commonly referred to as Hitchcock/Truffaut - Truffaut's legendary interview with The Master. Hitchcock/Truffaut (still in print from Simon & Schuster) will be available at Film Forum's concession during both festivals.

      For more information, links and showtimes, visit

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  1. New Books

    • Vanessa: The Life of Vanessa Redgrave

    • By Dan Callahan

      "She has made mistakes, but there is a case for her as the best actress alive, ready for further challenge." -Biographical Dictionary of Film , David Thomson

      Vanessa Redgrave has never taken the easy path. She has played formidable women, has been outspoken about her political beliefs, has followed her heart and been criticized throughout her career for the choices, both personal and professional, that she made. Now, Dan Callahan has written the first-ever biography of the woman some have called our greatest living actress.

      Vanessa was born into a distinguished acting family (her father, Michael Redgrave, was co-starring with Laurence Olivier in Hamlet at the Old Vic, when Olivier announced her birth to the audience during a curtain call) and made her motion picture debut in 1966's Morgan!, receiving an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

      Fiercely independent, she protested the war in Vietnam, marched to ban the bomb and became involved in various human rights and left-wing causes. In 1962 she married director Tony Richardson and they had two daughters, Natasha and Joely. When Richardson fell in love with French actress Jeanne Moreau a few years later, Redgrave divorced him. While filming Camelot (1967), she fell in love with her co-star, Franco Nero, and had a son out of wedlock with him in 1969, creating a scandal in the press both in Britain and America.

      Against this backdrop of changing social mores and dissenting political beliefs, Redgrave continued to lead her life the way she wanted, not the way others expected.

      She won an Academy Award for her supporting performance opposite Jane Fonda in Julia (1977). Prior to winning the award, she had been outspoken in her support of the Palestine Liberation Organization and the audience audibly booed political remarks she made during her acceptance speech.

      Despite the career ups and downs (often attributed to her political outspokenness), Redgrave was not one to focus on the past or wonder "What if?" She kept working and found success on Broadway and in the London Theater.

      She also found happiness later in life, reuniting with Franco Nero and marrying him in 2006. But she has had tragedy as well, as her daughter Natasha Richardson died in 2009 due to a tragic skiing accident, and a year later, she lost her brother Corin and her sister Lynn.

      Now in her seventies, Redgrave continues to live life on her terms and continues to act, proving that talent like hers knows no age limits. Dan Callahan is the associate editor at Siman Media Works. He wrote Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman and has published theater and film reviews in Time Out New York, Sight and Sound, The L Magazine and Slant Magazine. He lives in New York.

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    • Roadshow! The Fall of Film Musicals in the 1960s

    • By Matthew Kennedy

      When The Sound of Music was released in 1965 it performed so well at the box office that studios rushed to duplicate its success, part of which was attributed to its roadshow platform. Roadshow films were wide-screen experiences complete with an overture and an intermission. These films included reserved seating in spacious, comfortable theaters as well as higher ticket prices for those seats. Handsomely printed programs and cast soundtracks were for sale in theater lobbies. Studios quickly put numerous musicals into production with the intention of giving them roadshow releases, including Paint Your Wagon, Doctor Doolittle, Star!, Camelot, and Hello, Dolly!.

      The critical response to these productions was almost universally bad, and their box office performances were unimpressive compared to The Sound of Music. What went so disastrously wrong?

      Film historian Matthew Kennedy explores the rapid decline of this beloved genre in an era fated to reinvent American art and culture. Roadshow! is the story of deeply talented but often misguided men and women who went in search of "the next Sound of Music " and glutted the American film market with a spate of appallingly expensive and financially ruinous musicals between 1967 and 1972.

      The successful titles, including Oliver!, Funny Girl, Fiddler on the Roof, and Cabaret, could not mitigate the disaster. "It would be difficult not to come to the conclusion that the American film industry is coming apart," wrote Vincent Canby in The New York Times, addressing these musicals' contribution to the Hollywood recession beginning in 1969.

      Rather than deride the failures of all involved, Kennedy offers an alternative view of a time too often reduced to love beads and sit-ins. Though routinely overlooked by cultural and film historians, these films matter in the story of America and the history of American film of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

      Equal parts "making of" film history, character studies, and critical analysis, Roadshow! is a cautionary tale of blind faith, artistic misjudgments, the cruelties of bad timing, changing tastes, and the occasional ray of sunlight in an industry where creativity and commerce live in uneasy harmony.

      Matthew Kennedy is a writer, film historian and anthropologist. He has written biographies about Marie Dressler, Joan Blondell, and director Edmund Goulding. He is a film and book critic for Bright Lights Film Journal and teaches film history at the City College of San Francisco.

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    • Alice Adams: Vintage Movie Classics

    • By Booth Tarkington

      Brand new from Vintage Books comes the Vintage Movie Classics collection--new editions of great American novels that inspired classic films, in a handsome trade paperback format with new forewords from today's leading scholars of film and literature.

      Among the first titles to be released is Alice Adams.

      In a small Midwestern town in the wake of World War I, the Adams' family enjoys a modicum of respect, while at the same time trying to deal with personal setbacks that threaten what small social standing they have within their community.

      Young Alice Adams dreams of love and marriage beyond her family's social standing. When Alice finds herself being pursued by Arthur Russell, a wealthy young man about town, she enlists her mother's help in planning an elaborate dinner that hides the family's lower-middle-class status so Arthur will be suitably impressed.

      The realities of her situation eventually reveal themselves and her relationship with Arthur fizzles. With admirable resiliency, Alice's acceptance of this loss inspires her to help support her family. An enchanting and authentic tale of a family's aspirations to seek more out of life, Alice Adams reveals the strength of the human spirit and its incredible ability to evolve.

      Originally published in 1921, this bestselling Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Booth Tarkington was adapted into film twice, in 1923 and 1935, and its heroine still resonates with readers today.

      This edition includes a new foreword by author Anne Edwards.

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    • Back Street: Vintage Movie Classics

    • By Fannie Hurst

      Brand new from Vintage Books comes the Vintage Movie Classics collection--new editions of great American novels that inspired classic films, in a handsome trade paperback format with new forewords from today's leading scholars of film and literature.

      Among the first titles to be released is Back Street.

      In Cincinnati, at the turn of the last century, charming and beautiful Ray Schmidt is surrounded by her admirers and friends. When Ray first meets Walter Saxel, their attraction is instant and everlasting.

      As their bond deepens, Ray finds herself envisioning a future with Walter, until one fateful day when the settling of her family affairs interferes with their plans to meet. Not knowing what happened, Walter forms a relationship with another woman soon marries her.

      Heartbroken, Ray manages to start a new life in New York City--though Walter is never far from her thoughts. A chance encounter rekindles their feelings and sets into motion the sacrifices the devoted Ray will make--living in the shadows, available whenever Walter calls, loving a man who never fully loves her back.

      Originally published in 1931, this bestselling classic novel about the heartbreak of living along the "back streets" of a man's life was adapted into film three times--in 1932, co-starring Irene Dunne and John Boles; in 1941, co-starring Margaret Sullavan and Charles Boyer and in 1961, co-starring Susan Hayward and John Gavin.

      This edition includes a new foreword by film historian Cari Beauchamp.

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  1. DVD Reviews

    • Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV on DVD

    • For its fourth film noir volume, the TCM Vault Collection has licensed five more titles from the Columbia back catalog. It's an interesting batch: an artsy mystery from Joseph H. Lewis, an excellent romantic thriller from Robert Rossen, one police procedural melodrama and two anti-Commie spy hunt pictures. As is typical with Sony product, the transfers and restorations are nearly flawless. Columbia's Torch Lady logo stands like an optimistic beacon to greet five more tales of murder, revenge and traitorous skullduggery. Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV may all but exhaust the studio's holdings on titles remotely suggesting the noir style.

      The aptly titled So Dark The Night is an atypical, ambitious picture from the creative Joseph H. Lewis, who had already scored big with Columbia's sleeper success My Name is Julia Ross. Its leading player is actor Steven Geray, a very non-leading man type perhaps being rewarded for his fine supporting turn in Charles Vidor's Gilda. It's Geray's only starring role but he's excellent as a master detective.

      Reteaming with cameraman Burnett Guffey, Lewis makes a minor masterpiece from a script by the mostly underachieving writers Martin Berkeley and Aubrey Wisberg. Inspector Henri Cassin (Geray) is an eccentric but brilliant sleuth sent to a French countryside Inn for a fortnight's rest. There he meets young Nanette Michaud (Micheline Cheirel), a small town girl engaged to local farmer Leon (Paul Marion). Nanette's advances overcome Henri's misgivings about taking a much younger wife, and he allows himself to be swept up by romance. But when their plans are interrupted by a series of murders Henri vows to catch the killer. Despite his inspired sleuthing, he soon runs out of leads.

      So Dark The Night sees Joseph H. Lewis directing at his peak powers, making the most of a not extravagant budget: a patch of the San Fernando Valley becomes a credible substitute for rural France. Lewis's camera is always on the movie. He introduces characters with fast details, like feet on a sidewalk, and fingers on clothesline. "Wagon Wheel Joe's" predilection for foreground objects is in full force in many shots composed with dramatic depth indicators. Lewis does a fine job of distributing suspicion between several cast members. Is the killer the unhappy maid? (Helen Freeman) The angry father? (Eugene Borden) The hunchback? (Brother Theodore)

      Concentrating on Steven Geray's marvelous performance, Lewis contrasts the man's gentle decency with his dogged determination to identify the murderer, complete with Sherlock Holmes- style clues and theories. Meanwhile, the director adds expressionist touches -- deeper camera angles, strange pauses -- to indicate something unsuspected is amiss. A surprise revelation is accompanied by a radical lighting effect cued by emotion alone. The film presents visual hints of "memory sensations", but no tiresome formal flashback to explain the mystery. A doctor's final theory reminds us of the finish of Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. A definite film noir for its dark mood and stress on psychological chaos, So Dark The Night is a bold departure from the Hollywood norm.

      A front-rank noir, 1947's Johnny O'Clock is the first directing job by the talented Robert Rossen, who would proceed to the classic Body and Soul and earn the Best Picture Oscar for 1949, All the King's Men. The title character is none other than Dick Powell, who here tempers the tough-guy hardboiled talk as he negotiates a path through various intrigues, including murder. The movie also features a trio of notable noir beauties, each in fine form.

      Womanizing Johnny O'Clock (Dick Powell) lives a risky life. His partner in a swank nightclub is Pete Marchettis (Thomas Gomez), and a crooked, ambitious detective is trying his best to elbow Johnny out. Worse, Pete's wife Nelle (Ellen Drew) still has a yen for Johnny, and recklessly displays her affections. One murder leads to the apparent suicide of Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch), the club's hatcheck girl. When Harriet's sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes) arrives, Johnny finds himself seriously falling for her. Meanwhile, Detective inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) is sizing up Johnny as a main suspect in the deaths, and Pete Marchettis finds evidence that Nelle and Johnny are a secret item. No matter how Johnny looks at it, he's in a solid frame. His only choice is to try and get Nancy free of the trouble.

      Suave and unflappable, Dick Powell's Johnny does daily business with crooks and knows better than to be totally honest with anyone. Catching a poker dealer stealing money, Johnny lets him stay on with the reasoning that the next man hired might be smarter with his thievery. Johnny's personal assistant Charlie (John Kellogg) is an ex-con who otherwise wouldn't have a job; we can't tell if Johnny has a soft heart or likes having somebody willing to break the law for him. Johnny makes a strong contrast with his partner Marchettis, an unschooled brute frustrated that he can't hold on to Nelle, his trophy wife. Given his poor standing with the police, Johnny is surprised that the intelligent and caring Nancy should choose to stick with him. Women are O'Clock's stumbling block, but also his salvation. The film builds to a suspenseful finish.

      Johnny O'Clock benefits from fine low-key B&W cinematography by Burnett Guffey, a true noir stylist. Guffey and director Rossen manage a moody tone even in bright cafes and swank sitting rooms. Evelyn Keyes never looked lovelier and Ellen Drew is irresistibly seductive. Nina Foch's role is much smaller, yet she makes a sympathetic impression. In his second film appearance, actor Jeff Chandler has a nice bit as a gambler from out of town.

      Columbia must have liked the title Walk A Crooked Mile as they later released a noir entitled Drive a Crooked Road. But it plays like a re-run of Fox's wartime classic The House on 92nd Street, in which FBI agents infiltrate a Nazi spy ring and discover that they are smuggling top scientific secrets. Now Russian spies are stealing newer formulas out of the high-security Lakeview Laboratory by hiding them in oil paintings. F.B.I agent Dan O'Hara (Dennis O'Keefe) and Scotland Yard 'exchange agent' Scotty Grayson (Louis Hayward) infiltrate the spy network. They barely escape from the murderous Krebs (Raymond Burr), before sorting the innocent from the guilty back at the lab.

      The film affects a semi-documentary style that's constantly on the movie, hopping from city to city and from surveillance stakeouts to places as mundane as a laundry service. Director Gordon Douglas gets good footage on the streets of San Francisco. He also manages an exciting FBI shoot-out of the kind that never happened in real Cold War confrontations. The scene reminds us of John Dillinger's mob caught in the fishing lodge in the 1935 Cagney movie G-Men.

      The frequently repeated message is that only dedicated F.B.I. agents can save us from the communist conspiracy menacing us from all sides. One loyal immigrant woman sacrifices her life to protect our heroes, as she'd do anything to help America crush the evil she witnessed back in Eastern Europe. The movie also considers scientists as potential enemies. One is an outright traitor and another (Carl Esmond) is blackmailed into espionage work. Curiously, the movie seems to find a woman who did the physical smuggling (Louise Allbritton) innocent because her motive was love. Walk A Crooked Mile's impersonal semi-docu style, with narration constantly explaining everything, prevents us from getting too involved in the characters.

      The poetically named Between Midnight And Dawn is really just a straightforward police story. The original title Prowl Car better describes a pro-police storyline that sees two cops on the graveyard shift take on a dangerous underworld figure. Director Gordon Douglas delivers a handsomely assembled thriller, filmed on permanently wet nighttime streets. But the script's idea of a compelling conflict is to make one cop a softie and the other a cynic about criminals and women.

      Policemen Dan Purvis (Edmond O'Brien) and Rocky Barnes (Mark Stevens) go after the slimy racketeer Ritchie Garris (Donald Buka) while romancing Kate Mallory (Gale Storm) the dispatcher whose voice they hear on their squad car radio. Kate's cop father was killed on the job, so she avoids romantic attachments with them. But her mother purposely rents an apartment to the eager Romeos. Intuiting that a gang war is beginning, Dan and Rocky are able to arrest Garris and make the charge stick. But one jailbreak later, the gangster takes bloody retribution, and threatens innocent citizens. Only Danny is in a position to stop him.

      The story plays as if it were written in 1935. The police force is predominantly Irish in makeup. The cops marry cops' daughters and an independent girl who wants to break the pattern is humored and harassed until she gives in. The sexism is complete when Kate's meddling mother refuses to let her make her own choices. Dan is secretly angry when Kate chooses the handsome Rocky, but tries to be magnanimous.

      The attitude toward organized crime is equally dated. Two lowly patrolmen on the night shift are the spearheads of a major anti- organized crime bust, without really reporting to anyone. What's more, they parade their favorite girl in front of the gangsters, oblivious to the obvious notion that the criminal might strike back at them through her. Interestingly, the woman most threatened is Garris's own girlfriend Terry Romaine (Gale Robbins).

      A fresh pace, lively acting (Edmond O'Brien could get any film up on its feet) and sharply directed action make Walk A Crooked Mile an exciting show, even if little or no noir content is evident. The only real concession to postwar thriller conventions is an uptick in violence. The final confrontation sees the rotten Ritchie Garris dangle a young girl from a high window, and threaten to drop her unless the cops back off.

      Walk East On Beacon! is a second anti-communist spy drama, released near the end of the cycle in 1952. None of Hollywood's twenty or so contributions to Cold War propaganda were big successes. This one was sourced from an article by J. Edgar Hoover himself, and shapes up as a semi-documentary account of yet another spy ring using an overly complicated system to steal atomic secrets. The noted atom spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg found it so easy to spirit secret formulas away from the U.S. that the aggressive government prosecution of their case can be attributed to a need to cover up gross deficiencies in the F.B.I.'s security policies. Hoover's account of a different case makes it look as if the F.B.I. has battalions of crack agents in reserve, ready to watch and track hundreds of suspects on a 24-hour basis. The story also stresses the importance of informing on one's friends and relatives in the name of National Security.

      F.B.I. operative James Belden (George Murphy) handles a major spy investigation mostly by telephone. An anonymous phone tip soon leads agents to a Soviet spy ring. The ruthless mastermind Alex Laschenkov (Karel Stepanek) secretly directs dozens of deep-cover agents, two of whom steal information that leads the gang to math genius Dr. Albert Kafer (Finlay Currie) of a secret government scientific think tank. They motivate the old man into coughing up secrets relating to a special project called Falcon, by kidnapping his son Samuel in Berlin. The loyal Kafer instead informs the F.B.I., putting in motion a slow process to identify and capture all of Laschenko's many embedded spies.

      Columbia's film hews closely to the semi-documentary form but director Alfred Werker isn't as adept as was Gordon Douglas at instilling ordinary street scenes with drama and tension. With its many locations and dozens of characters (some with double identities), the film's twisting plot must have left many audiences behind. Characters are seen just once or twice and disappear, but their names keep popping up later. One of two deep-cover husband and wife teams runs a florist shop, and an undertaker is also useful because he has a small printing press. There are far too many characters to keep straight.

      British actor Finlay Currie's brave old professor becomes an unlikely double agent for our side. He takes a personal risk to deal personally with Vincent Foss (Jack Manning), a thuggish taxi driver working as a courier-spy. Foss turns out to be an anguished fellow coerced into spying "because of his foolish earlier associations with student radicalism". His own wife informs on him, as do many people in J. Edgar's version of events. Hoover's 'true' story also manages to finish with a standard action scene as the Navy helps nail the atom spies on the high seas.

      Obscure trivia hounds take note: future director George Roy Hill (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) and his wife Louisa Horton play husband & wife traitors, but have only a few seconds of screen time together. Director Alfred Werker is credited on the superb docu-noir He Walked by Night. He actually left that film early to work on a film for producer Louis de Rochemont, who produced Walk East On Beacon! as well.

      The title, by the way, is part of Dr. Kafer's instructions when he's sent on foot to turn over documents to the Soviet blackmailers.

      The TCM Vault Collection's Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV DVD set gives each title a separate disc. As with most all Sony transfers, the films are immaculate and have beefy, clear audio. The only drawback is that TCM discs normally do not carry subtitles for the deaf or hearing impaired. The viewing public for these 60 year-old movies skews a little older than that for contemporary films, and many older folk need the subs.

      TCM's good extras include galleries of film stills and posters and occasional text essays. Martin Scorsese offers a relaxed video introduction for the collection, while Eddie Muller's essay dodges definitions of film noir by encouraging that we debate the status of films not immediately recognized as part of the style. Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics IV presents two top-notch thrillers, a good police drama and two unusual Cold War relics. Fans of the noir style will definitely want it.

      By Glenn Erickson

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    • George Raft in Red Light on DVD

    • "Don't give me all that malarkey about 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Sure, Jess went for that stuff and what did it get him? A bunch of lilies and six silver handles!" -- George Raft, in Red Light

      Red Light (1949) is a rather obscure film noir from United Artists, newly released on DVD by Warner Archive in a nice-looking transfer. Fans of film noir and George Raft will enjoy it.

      Raft, playing a trucking company owner named Johnny Torno, spends the movie trying to track down a bible that was taken from the hotel room where his brother Jess (Arthur Franz), a former army chaplain, was murdered. Before dying, Jess was able to tell Johnny that he'd written something in that bible, presumably the name of the killer.

      Raft becomes a vengeful man on a mission, unwilling to share any information with the police as he seeks out the various people who registered for the hotel room in the time since his brother's death. One of them, Carla (Virginia Mayo), eventually helps him in his quest.

      Meanwhile, the audience is aware from the get-go that a former inmate named Rocky (Henry Morgan) is the killer, and that he was hired by Nick Cherney (Raymond Burr), who's in prison for embezzling funds from Torno when he worked at Torno's company.

      The plotting is simple enough, but for some reason it is at times rather muddled as told on screen. (Examples: Raft looks through a bible right away after the murder, but it is not, as we assume, the hotel room bible. It's also strange that so many people could have used the hotel room by the time he figures out which bible he needs to read.) Additionally, the picture develops a religious message, especially toward the end, which does not really feel of a piece with the film as a whole. Perhaps Raft's wooden acting has something to do with this -- he's not very adept at expressing deeply felt inner change -- but mostly it just isn't nearly as interesting as the grim, violent parts of the film. Red Light contains some brutal scenes of violence, including a tour de force suspense sequence in a freight yard at night, in which a character is stalked and killed in a most memorable way.

      There's also the great "noir" pleasure of images like Raft at his desk one night, cigarette in hand, semi-automatic and bottle of bourbon on the desk, as he slowly leafs through a bible. Or the fantastically entertaining image of Raymond Burr and Henry Morgan plotting nefariously in a prison's movie projection booth. Or, for that matter, of Raymond Burr bowling before getting roughed up in the men's room. Producer-director Roy Del Ruth's fine comedy background permeates a few funny sequences here, like the one in which Raft barges into a couple's hotel room demanding to see their bible -- never mind that the couple was in bed!

      Del Ruth had directed Raft before in the Fox film It Had to Happen (1936). (Raft also had uncredited bits in two earlier Del Ruth pictures at Warner Brothers: Gold Diggers of Broadway [1929] and Taxi! [1932].) And Del Ruth had just directed Mayo in Always Leave Them Laughing (1949), and would work with her twice again. The beautiful and feisty Mayo, unfortunately, is wasted in Red Light, although she is convincing in the few scenes that she has.

      Incidentally, the title has nothing to do with the movie, which is actually based on a short story entitled This Guy Gideon. Del Ruth snapped up the rights to another story, Red Light, simply because he liked the title better.

      Red Light is beautifully shot and scored by Bert Glennon and Dmitri Tiomkin respectively. It maintains a dark, gloomy atmosphere throughout, mixing gritty location shooting and high-contrast interiors for a satisfying "noir" look and feel. It's hardly among the best noirs, but is certainly worthwhile. Warner Archive's DVD looks and sounds fine, and contains no frills.

      By Jeremy Arnold

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    • The Puppetoon Movie on Blu-ray

    • Anyone unfamiliar with the name George Pal -- or who knows him only from the sci-fi films he produced, directed, or designed the effects for in the 1950s and '60s -- is in for a true discovery with the recent Blu-ray of The Puppetoon Movie (1987). The title is a bit deceptive, for while this sublime release does indeed contain a re-mastered hi-def version of The Puppetoon Movie, that movie is mostly made up of eleven of Pal's Puppetoon short films from the 1930s and '40s. The "extras" on this double-disc set actually contain far more material than The Puppetoon Movie itself: 19 additional Puppetoons, a feature-length documentary, interviews, featurettes, stills, home movies, a commentary, trailers, and even an entire additional feature. The net result is that The Puppetoon Movie comes across as simply one ingredient of many in what is really an extensive tribute to George Pal.

      This is not to downplay the significance The Puppetoon Movie or of its director, Arnold Leibovit, in maintaining Pal's legacy. Leibovit deserves a huge amount of credit and gratitude for keeping this work alive; in fact, it's very possible that without Leibovit, Pal's Puppetoons would still be forgotten or even lost.

      George Pal was a Hungarian animator who developed a groundbreaking technique of puppet animation similar to stop-motion. But instead of using single puppets and figures that could be manipulated ever so slightly from frame to frame -- as per usual in stop motion -- Leibovit laboriously built hundreds of hand-carved puppets (or parts of puppets, like attachable heads and limbs) in slightly different poses, so that for each frame of film, a separate, new puppet (or puppet part) would be used. This was called replacement animation, and the resulting short films were called Puppetoons, which Pal described as "color cartoons in three dimensions."

      Working in Europe in the 1920s and '30s, Pal honed his techniques while working as a commercial artist before arriving in Hollywood in 1939 and securing a deal at Paramount. As animation authority Jerry Beck writes in his liner notes, Pal was immediately embraced by Hollywood's animation community, who knew instantly what a visionary artist he was: "His techniques were so different from what the traditional screen cartoonists had been doing that no one thought of him as a rival or competitor. He was simply a colleague, and a beloved one at that."

      Pal's techniques were and still are incredibly significant, influencing luminaries like Ray Harryhausen (whose first job as an 18-year-old was at the Puppetoon Studio), Tim Burton and Henry Selick (whose A Nightmare Before Christmas [1993] was heavily inspired by Pal), and Steven Spielberg. Today's Pixar films continue the chain of influence.

      In the 1950s, Pal moved into live-action science fiction and fantasy movies, working on classics like Destination Moon (1950), When Worlds Collide (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), The Time Machine (1960), and The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962).

      He died in 1980, but in 1987 director Arnold Leibovit worked with Pal's widow to compile eleven of the original Puppetoon shorts into a new tribute feature, The Puppetoon Movie. Leibovit created a framework to introduce and conclude the film, with animated characters Gumby, Pokie and Arnie the Dinosaur reminiscing over Pal's legacy, but the bulk of the movie is simply eleven of Pal's Puppetoons strung together, with no narrative through-line.

      Among the best in the film are Philips Cavalcade (1934), Tulips Shall Grow (1942), Jasper in a Jam (1943), and Tubby the Tuba (1947), four shorts that demonstrate an impressive diversity of subject matter. Philips Cavalcade, full of puppet characters performing jazz music and dancing, boasts an astonishing amount of detail and multiple moving parts in every frame. Tulips Shall Grow is a powerful anti-Nazi parable in which a young couple survives wartime destruction of their windmill.

      Jasper in a Jam is one of many Puppetoons featuring the character of Jasper, a young black boy who is usually steered toward naughtiness by a scarecrow. The Jasper shorts contain racial stereotyping that would not be acceptable in modern-day entertainment, but Jasper in a Jam is one of the finest Puppetoons of them all, with objects and musical instruments coming to life in a pawnshop to play jazz. The music of Charlie Barnet and the vocals of Peggy Lee join with incredible puppetry to make this a unique and moody piece.

      Tubby the Tuba, Pal's last Puppetoon, is probably the best known and most beloved of them all. The story of a tuba who longs for the chance to play the melody for once in his orchestra (rather than just doing repetitive underscoring), it's so poignant and affecting that one wishes Pal had stuck with his Puppetoon-making for a few more years to come.

      In addition to these eleven shorts, the Blu-ray package contains twelve more Puppetoons on standard definition (they still look very good), and seven more in hi-def, restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive and released for the first time on home video. Among the best of these are the masterful Date With Duke (1940) and Rhapsody in Wood (1947), which feature Duke Ellington and Woody Herman in person, interacting with the animated puppets. In fact, many of the Puppetoons include a mix of live action, replacement animation, and traditional two-dimensional animation. Some also mix color and black-and-white, illustrating Pal's experimental and inventive mind. And of course, these two (and others) incorporate jazz and big band music in such a way that the music becomes the subject of the piece itself. Pal's instincts for combining image and music were pitch perfect, and do a great deal to keep these pieces feeling so timeless.

      The "extra" shorts here also include two early adaptations of Dr. Seuss stories, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1943) and And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street (1944), as well as the great Jasper entries Jasper and the Beanstalk (1945) and Jasper's Derby (1946).

      All seven of the hi-def entries were nominated for Academy Awards. None won, but Pal did receive a special Oscar in 1943 for his imaginative techniques. He promptly incorporated the statuette into the opening credits of all his subsequent Puppetoons, which is why some of the ones on this Blu-ray begin with that image.

      It should be noted that Pal never intended for his Puppetoons to be consumed all at once. This collection is best seen slowly, a little bit at a time -- ideally as a prologue to seeing a feature movie. Watching the Puppetoons today, one marvels at the astonishing amount of work that went into their creation, as well as at the splendid Technicolor on display (which is beautifully served by the Blu-ray technology), but above all one is simply charmed by the pieces themselves. In their commentary for The Puppetoon Movie, Arnold Leibovit and Jerry Beck enhance one's appreciation by explaining Pal's animation techniques in great detail and with immense passion. In addition, Leibovit's 1985 documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal explores Pal's entire career and includes interviews with Pal himself. There's also an interesting vintage interview with animator Bob Baker, who worked in Pal's studio.

      On the second Blu-ray disc is a newly re-mastered print of Pal's first feature film as producer, The Great Rupert (1950), which is directed by Irving Pichel and stars Jimmy Durante, Tom Drake, Jimmy Conlin and Terry Moore, as well as a stop-motion-animated puppet squirrel devised by Pal. This little film is no great classic, but it does have some charming moments. The disc also contains a myriad of further extras: interviews with the likes of Disney animator Ward Kimball, Gene Roddenberry, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury and Roy Disney, among others; an entire (and fascinating) episode of an old Los Angeles TV show called City at Night, in which reporters visit the set of Pal's Destination Moon (1950); footage from a premiere of The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm (1962); and more. Through it all, a portrait emerges of George Pal not just as a visionary innovator but as a genuinely nice person.

      The boutique distributor B2MP has done an outstanding job working with Leibovit and Beck to put this all together in such a comprehensive and loving way -- a fitting salute to an all-too-forgotten movie pioneer. The package is limited to a pressing of 3000 units and is available on Blu-ray only.

      By Jeremy Arnold

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    • Lon Chaney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) on Blu-ray

    • Lon Chaney was the most unlikely of Hollywood superstar actors. Talented and ambitious, he fearlessly took on roles of tortured victims, twisted villains, and misshapen outcasts, parts that he brought to life with a mix of elaborate make-up, physically demanding incarnations, and emotionally intense performances. In some ways, you could see him as the De Niro of the silent era, sinking himself into each role so deeply he loses himself in it, at least as far as the viewer in concerned. In an industry that celebrates physical beauty and charisma, Chaney won over audiences by playing characters that looked or acted like monster while communicating their inner drives and torments with his eyes and his face and his body language. The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1923 was his first major production, a lavish period drama based on a classic novel and created at a cost of over $1 million by Universal, at the time a second-tier studio with ambitions to compete with the majors in the blockbuster realm. It made him one of Hollywood's biggest screen stars.

      This adaptation largely hews to the narrative of Victor Hugo's novel. Chaney plays Quasimodo, the horribly misshapen, deaf and half blind bell-ringer at Notre Dame, nominally raised by Don Claudio (Nigel De Brulier), the Archdeacon of Notre Dame. He lives in the bell tower of the cathedral and watches the revelry in the public space below the parapets of the church, where he becomes fascinated by Esmeralda (Patsy Ruth Miller), the gypsy dancer and daughter of Clopin (Ernest Torrence), the King of the Beggars. When she shows him kindness, he becomes a devoted protector even while the scheming Jehan (Brandon Hurst), brother to Don Claudio, plots to take Esmeralda as his own.

      Wallace Worsley, who previously directed Chaney in four features (among them the twisted 1920 crime thriller The Penalty), dutifully (if flatly) directs this massive production (he wasn't Chaney's first choice... or second... or third). The major characters get their introductions in turn before Quasimodo's story even begins and the mechanics of the relationships are spelled out in headlines that suggest where the story is heading, even if it turns out a bit misleading. When the dashing womanizer and king's guard Phoebus (Norman Kerry) sweeps the innocent Esmeralda off her feet with pretty words and gallant displays, the scene dissolves into an image of a moth in spider's web, a visual metaphor that is a charming as it is obvious. It's a momentary truth, however, as Phoebus is somehow transformed by her innocence and trust and escorts her home untouched. Esmeralda has that effect on everyone, it seems, except Jehan, who sets Quasimodo to kidnap her and then abandons the wretch when he's caught by the royal guards and sentenced to the lash in front of a cheering crowd.

      The most glaring change from the novel is splitting the character of Claude Frollo, the Archdeacon of Notre Dame, into two roles, each incarnating on one of the conflicting halves of his character. Don Claudio is the Archdeacon here, a true, moral man of the church and kindly protector of Quasimodo, while his lustful, corrupt side is spun off into the character of Jehan, his secular brother who keeps up the façade of upper class morality while working with the underworld. One wonders if the change was made to placate the church. In this version, the religious authority is nothing but pure and holy. And, quite frankly, impotent. Where Frollo was keenly aware of everything happening outside the doors of his cathedral, Don Claudio is oblivious to even the wildest revelry, wandering out of his cloistered church only when it fits the dramatic needs of the script. And where Quasimodo's devotion to Frollo arises from his debt to his caretaker and creates a powerful conflict when he takes on the role of protector of Esmeralda, there is no such relationship to bond him to Jehan or explain why he agrees to do the dirty work for this ne'er do well.

      The storytelling is mix of the grandiose and the clumsy, with Chaney largely anchoring the film and the size and scope of the spectacle elevating production. The sets are magnificent, the biggest that Universal had built to date (the giant exterior of the cathedral and surrounding building remained standing for decades and were reused for Universal's defining horror classics of the thirties), and the Cathedral exterior is extended by a hanging miniature so it towers over the public square in in front of the church, where the cast of thousands is gathered for the opening festival sequence and again for the climactic uprising as Clopin leads an assault on the cathedral. It was convincing enough to make some believe that Universal actually shot on location rather than on their backlot.

      Chaney's make-up is spectacularly grotesque, with a gargoylish face of distorted cheekbones, a distended eyeball, and teeth broken to nubs, mats of coarse hair across his chest and shoulders like a werewolf, and of course his hump and bent stance (the strap he designed to hold his plaster hump in place also kept him from standing upright). But the make-up is only the surface. Chaney gave Quasimodo a dynamic physical life, scrambling down climbing ropes (he was at times doubled by a stunt man) or hanging from the bell rope like a big kid, and a childlike innocence that gave every emotion a purity and intensity that drove his loyalties. He's less beast than arrested child in a deformed adult body, treated like an animal for so long he's become accustomed to it, yet still longing for contact. His affection for Esmeralda may begin with sexual attraction but her kindness to him in the face of abuse from everyone else makes him loyal and dedicated, like an animal bonded to its human.

      Patsy Ruth Miller manages to keep her innocence even while dancing for the crowds, becoming the conscience of the underworld, and Ernest Torrence is superb as the King of the Beggars, reluctantly giving in to her pleas of charity. Torrence moved freely between villains and heroes and between serious and comic roles in the silent cinema. He was a physically towering man with a big personality that he wielded well in his character turns and he plays Clopin as a man so powerful he doesn't need to make a show of physical intimidation. The immediate response of the criminal hordes to his orders, his gestures, even a quick glance, confirms his authority.

      Lon Chaney created a lot of twisted wretches, vengeful villains, and criminal masterminds, but Quasimodo remains his most sympathetic screen character. He gives a big, broad performance befitting the film and the character, a simple creature with the look and strength of a beast and the innocence and loyalty of a child.

      According to the liner notes, there are no existing original 35mm prints of the film and no camera negative (not that uncommon for a 1923 feature), so this edition was mastered for Blu-ray from a 16mm reduction print struck in 1926 from the original camera negative, a restoration produced by David Shepard and Serge Bromberg. It's the same source used for the 2007 DVD release from Image (titled The Hunchback of Notre Dame: Ultimate Edition) and apparently the closest to the original release that is known to archivists. The wear on the print is evident in a steady rain of minor surface scuffs and light vertical scratches down the image, but the trade-off is an improvement in sharpness and image from the earlier Image release (which was already far and away better than the other public domain editions on the market). It also features the orchestral score compiled by Donald Hunsberger and adapted and arranged by Robert Israel, conducting a small orchestra in the Czech Republic, from that earlier DVD release. The recording is bright and full, a lively and varied piece that draws in the viewer but ultimately lacks the dramatic scope and darkness that the story calls for.

      New to this edition is a slideshow gallery with over 100 original production and publicity stills set to selections from the score (it runs about 14 minutes) and a digital reproduction of the original souvenir program (both mastered in HD). Carried over from the Ultimate Edition DVD is the commentary track by Lon Chaney biographer and professional make-up artist Michael F. Blake, the (incomplete) 1915 short Alas and Alack featuring Chaney in two roles (one of them a hunchback) but missing the final act of the story, and newsreel footage of Chaney (out of costume) on the Cathedral set of Hunchback. The accompanying booklet features an informative (and well-illustrated) essay on the production of the film written by Michael F. Blake written for the earlier DVD release.

      by Sean Axmaker

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    • Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1 on Blu-ray

    • If you're arriving late to class, here's the recap: director / producer / modern B-movie legend Lloyd Kaufman directed the original Class of Nuke 'Em High, a flamboyantly grotesque parody of high school movies and radioactive mutant horror, in 1986. The premise: a high school in Tromaville, the most toxic city in America, is located right next to a nuclear power plant and the students gets contaminated when a dealer sells drugs irradiated from the plant. It spawned two sequels (produced and co-written but not directed by Kaufman), the last one released in 1994. Twenty years later, Kaufman revives the franchise with a new micro-budget epic so sprawling that it was split into two parts (ostensibly upon the recommendation of Quentin Tarantino, a la Kill Bill). Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1 was shown at film festivals and played limited runs and special midnight screenings across the country before landing on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital platforms, which is still the primary mode of distribution for Troma's cult movies.

      In Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1, the old nuclear plant and its giant cooling towers (which loomed over the old high school thanks to cheap optical effects) have been bulldozed under (that's what passes for environmental clean-up in the Tromaverse) but a new business has sprung up in its place. As guest narrator Stan Lee explains over the opening montage of clips from the earlier trilogy, "Tromorganic Foodstuffs, Inc, was built right over the old Tromaville Nuclear Power Plant. What could go wrong?"

      Kaufman himself has a supporting role as the clownish and crooked Tromorganic CEO Lee Harvey Herzkauf, whose so-called organic food is filled with human body parts and glowing radioactive sludge, which is not exactly what we mean by the term "going green." He sells his slop to Troma High and the students don't think twice about scarfing down tacos that glow green and ooze slime, even the school genius, who shoots goop from his ears, spontaneously combusts, and finally explodes in a gooey mess. The Troma Poofs Glee Club, a tone-deaf collection of misfits, finds its harmony when the sludge mutates them into Cretins, a violent gang of post-punk bullies who sing a cappella numbers during their hyperactive reign of terror. Even our two heroes, social activist blogger Chrissy (Asta Paredes) and rich girl Lauren (Catherine Corcoran), are eventually mutated, but only after their instant antagonism transforms into passionate love and lots of gratuitous topless scenes. Yup, Kaufman makes his heroic romantic couple two girls in love. Call it "Green is the Grossest Color." While any resemblance to Blue is the Warmest Color is surely coincidental (both films debuted at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival), Kaufman would appreciate the connection. His films are farces, not satires, but he plucks targets and references from culture around him, high and low alike. Here he tosses mortgage foreclosures, Obamacare, and insistently tasteless Jerry Sandusky gags in a film where Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead is the American President and the members of the mutant glee club are named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

      Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 1 delivers the Troma brand of production value: a madcap collection of slapstick comedy, outrageously over-the-top gore gags, gratuitous nudity, dimwitted characters, aggressively corrupt and / or incompetent institutions and authority figures, an unending stream of fart jokes, and a general level of obliviousness to the most obvious signs of bad news. Kaufman has a fondness for old-style slapstick, the sloppier and stupider the better, and will throw in anything that he thinks might get a laugh or a reaction--Kaufman himself resorts to physical schtick that was old before he was even born--but it's his gleeful embrace of bad taste and political incorrectness that really defines his sensibility.

      Even the best Troma films are a little schizophrenic but this one is notably unfocused, rambling from scene to scene without any sense of direction and letting the film get cluttered with repetitive jokes and slack scenes. Maybe that's because Kaufman decided to split the film into two feature-length parts rather than trim the fat away and hone in on a rapid-fire film. It's hard to accuse the film of being self-indulgent--that's the Troma style--but this is one film where a little more discipline would have been appreciated. And yes, as the title suggests, this isn't the end of the story. The conclusion isn't so much a cliffhanger as a promise of even more outrageous complications and affronts to good taste to come in Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 2, coming sometime in 2014 to a midnight screening or a home video format near you.

      Troma never fails to fill the disc releases of its signature releases with worthy extras. This one is a little light compared to special editions of the oft-rereleased Toxic Avenger films or the recent Poultrygeist but impressive by any other measure. There are two commentary tracks--one fielded by actors Catherine Corcoran, Asta Parades, Zac Amico, Clay von Carlowitz, and Stuart Kiczek, the other by writer / producer / director Lloyd Kaufman with his production team: producer Justin A. Martell, executive producer Matt Manjourides, associate producer Regina Katz, and co-writer Travis Campbell--and three featurettes (each under ten minutes).

      While there is a self-deprecating sense of humor to many Troma supplements, their featurettes and documentaries are always worth watching for their honest acknowledgement of the effort it takes to get a Troma film made on its model, the practical solutions to production problems, and the mistakes that get made because of the large number of inexperienced crew members and / or performers involved. They demand a lot of commitment from their cast members and "Casting Conundrum" shows how the casting process finds not just the most talented and charismatic actors but those willing to commit to the demands of role. "Pre-Production Hell with Mein-Kauf(Man)" shows Kaufman the director, who is a very different person than Kaufman the showman and onscreen goofball. "Special (Ed) Effects" offers behind-the-scenes footage of the effects crew preparing for their big scenes. Also features the brief clip reel "Cell-U-Lloyd Kaufman: 40 Years of TROMAtising The World," a music video and, of course, the trailer for the upcoming Return to Nuke 'Em High Volume 2.

      by Sean Axmaker

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  1. Press Release

    • Dick Dinman Explores the Mystery of Carole Lombard's Tragic Last Flight

    • DICK DINMAN EXPLORES THE MYSTERY OF CAROLE LOMBARD'S TRAGIC LAST FLIGHT: Producer/host Dick Dinman's guest is Robert Matzen whose new book FIREBALL: CAROLE LOMBARD AND THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 3 explores the mystery of superstar Carole Lombard's tragic last flight and is one of the most exhaustively researched, compelling, and beautifully written edge-of-your-seat Golden Age Hollywood-related books we've read in a long time.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only weekly half hour show (broadcast every Friday 1:00-1:30 P.M. EST on WMPGFM) devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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    • Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me - Now in Limited Release

    • The first thing one thinks after just a few minutes of Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is, why is this fantastic woman not more famous? Fans that follow Stephen Sondheim reunions soon learn about the high regard given the performer who sang "The Ladies Who Lunch" from 1970's Company. The woman is a ball of brash energy and winning charm. Some stars and divas are always 'on' and require an entourage to make themselves seem more important. Elaine plows through the world mostly on her own and her version of being "on" is being herself. In one clip John Turturro explains what makes Stritch unique. She has no defensive shell to cover her feelings. The real Elaine is all up front, on top, in your face. She can be brassy and profane, but nothing she says sounds phony. Riding home from a TV taping, Elaine expresses her doubts about the constant hugs and kisses among show people: "Everybody is just loving everybody too much for my money."

      The cameras of producer/director Chieme Karasawa follow Elaine Stritch through busy days of activity, beginning with her walks from her apartment at the Hotel Carlyle. She's courteous to well wishers, hugs their dogs and yells like Ratzo Rizzo when a car tries to cut her off in a crosswalk. At lunch with friends, she explains that she was alcohol-free for 22 years, but now that she's in her '80s she's back to taking one drink a day. She also has a diabetes problem, which in stressful situations makes her lose her temper and forget lyrics. Her sometimes-sharp outbursts in rehearsals and on TV stages are not pleas for pity or attention. On the "30 Rock" show, Tina Fey remarks that Elaine's energy keeps everyone on their toes.

      The documentary makes use of a handful of effective clips from old TV shows and movies, but most of the work of showing the scope of Ms. Stritchs's career is handled directly through the performer herself. Loyal assistant Maeve Butler spreads an enormous number of framed stills around a bedroom, and Elaine finds a great story in each. One of them is about her dates with John Kennedy. She asked him to take her to dinner, and she met his family. When it came time to say goodnight, Elaine chose not to sleep with him. That is the story of a lady in control.

      The way Elaine tells it, she came into show business with the morals of a convent school graduate. Now at least sixty years later, we hear her say a prayer before a demanding concert. She finishes it off with a burst of profanity. Nothing fake about this woman.

      The photos place Elaine Stritch in the center of Broadway culture from the late '40s forward. She's seen caricatured in scores of Al Hirschfeld cartoons. Other photos place her with dozens of Broadway greats. She's candid about the details of her career, and offers that she was fired from her first stage role for inexperience, not because star Kirk Douglas was after her. Later on Nöel Coward became so enamored of Elaine's performing that he wrote a musical for her. Elaine appeared in several movie roles, but few major parts.

      One very effective clip is from the 1970 documentary Company: Original Cast Album. Producer Hal Prince praises Elaine, saying that she's not often difficult but even when she is she's well worth it. We see her recording the song "Ladies Who Lunch" with Stephen Sondheim. Prince notes that she's more vulnerable than people think. A little later she is greeted at the famed Stella Adler Acting Studio, which wants to solicit Elaine's choice of a rehearsal room to be named after her. We're impressed when she asks for a small room -- she reasons that she was a student there, not a superstar. She certainly qualifies now -- Ms. Stritch is one of few remaining performers with a continuity link to old-time Broadway.

      The motivation to perform is the only possible explanation for Elaine's seemingly limitless personal energy. Yet she has a couple of bad spells and health scares in the show, when she suddenly seems more like a frightened, needy 86-year old. She remains well aware of the camera and doesn't mind letting it film her sudden difficulty in speaking. On the road, Elaine's music director and accompanist Rob Bowman is there to help raise her spirits, if needed.

      She also keeps the cameramen on their toes. At one point Elaine is discussing a contract when she notices the camera: "Don't you think you're awfully close, Shane?" The camera promptly retreats. Later on, while being filmed making a snack of English muffins, Elaine suddenly stops what she's doing to ask the cameraman why he's not following her around more closely. She openly admits that she tends to intimidate directors, and even in the old Company footage we don't see Stephen Sondheim contradicting her on camera. Her younger fan-associates sing her praises but without the usual gushing silliness; Elaine wouldn't put up with fawning for a minute. Yet she collects good friends like a soul magnet. One met Elaine at an AA meeting, and has a ready description for her: "She is a Molotov Cocktail of madness, sanity and genius."

      Getting set for a singing gig in East Hampton, Elaine wakes up feeling terrible. She asks to be left alone, and buries her head in a pillow. But she pops awake when Rob Bowman reports that the show's been cancelled: "Do we get paid?" Rob nods and Elaine clasps her hands in joy. "Aaooohhh, Brava! Sometimes you get the breaks."

      Elaine commits to a multiple city tour requiring her to sing a long playlist of Stephen Sondheim tunes, and throws herself into rehearsals not knowing if she'll be strong enough to finish. Mild diabetes attacks can impair her memory of all those difficult lyrics. On opening night Rob Bowman has a terrific set of arrangements prepared, but her memory comes unglued during rehearsal. Trying not to worry, she says she and Rob have no choice but to trust all those hours of rehearsal. It seems hopeless until Elaine reaches the stage, at which point she seems to cast off 25 years, pick up new energy and show her audience what real show business moxie is all about. If she does go up on a lyric or two, she pushes through in good humor. But most of the time she nails the complicated Stephen Sondheim songs. We feel her joy and triumph more than ever.

      Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me can be described as a backstage documentary about a star nearing the end of her performing career. Producer/director Chiemi Karasawa found the perfect documentary subject in Stritch, whose personality repels all hints of show biz baloney. Soon after filming started Elaine embraced the project whole-heartedly. If she suddenly felt chatty during the night, Karasawa would have to wake a cameraman and rush over to film Elaine in her bed. She doesn't tell stories out of school yet smiles as she remembers the men in her life. When talking about her alcoholism she can be evasive or fiercely self-critical. Just the thought of finding the next loving audience often lights up her face, bringing out her beauty. When she's tired out from traveling, the idea of retiring can sound equally attractive. Shoot Me brings us so close to Elaine Stritch that it's difficult not to fall in love with her.

      Attractively filmed and decorated with well-chosen music, Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me is a fast paced show composed almost completely of privileged moments. Notables with substantial on-screen input include James Gandolfini, Tina Fey, Nathan Lane, Tracy Morgan, John Turturro and Alec Baldwin. The late James Gandolfini appears on camera looking like a schoolboy, to admit that he formed a crush on Elaine Stritch the moment he met her. "If we had both met when we were 35, I have no doubt that we would have had a torrid love affair which would have ended very badly."

      By Glenn Erickson

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    • BROADWAY TO HOLLYWOOD, a new CD by Richard Glazier, Available Now

    • Recording this CD brought back many wonderful memories from my childhood. I have loved movies, movie music and Broadway musicals my entire life. I discovered a lot of this music for the first time when my parents bought me a 16mm Bell and Howell sound projector in the early 70s. It was one of the machines made out of metal from the 1950s and had to be manually threaded. In those days one could go to the public library and check out pristine prints of all the classic films for 2 days at no charge. Since my mom was an actress and a page at CBS in New York during the golden age of radio, she encouraged my passion for music, movies and Broadway. We spent countless hours in our basement where I shared a love, a wonderment, a passion for the American Popular Song with my mom as she told me all sorts of behind the scene stories. Her older sister (my Aunt Esther) was like my grandmother and we spent every Saturday together. She also fueled my passion and ultimately helped me write a fan letter to Ira Gershwin. Little did I know that would be a life defining moment for me. Although my Aunt Esther and my beloved mom have passed on I think about them every day and am reminded of many happy memories when I perform and hear this music. It is my wish that when you listen to this recording many happy memories will be brought to you as well.

      Richard Glazier

      For more information, please visit: or

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    • Dick Dinman Salutes the "Giant" Talents of Earl Holliman

    • DINMAN SALUTES "BIG COMBO" CO-STAR EARL HOLLIMAN (Part One): Olive Films has just distributed a stunningly restored Blu-ray incarnation of the brutal and steamily sensual film noir classic THE BIG COMBO which is famous for its explicit visualization of a seamy underworld that oozes with seediness and lowlife characters and one of it's co-stars Earl Holliman joins producer/host Dick Dinman to share his intriguing early career experiences that led to his participation in this unrelentingly dark, violent and erotic masterwork.

      DICK DINMAN SALUTES THE "GIANT" TALENT OF EARL HOLLIMAN (Part Two): Classic film Blu-ray fans are raving about the massive JAMES DEAN ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION (which includes EAST OF EDEN, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and GIANT) whose co-star Earl Holliman shares with producer/host Dick Dinman his experiences with director George Stevens and stars Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean as well as his personal dissatisfaction with his own performance in the sci-fi classic FORBIDDEN PLANET and also reveals how he beat out a legendary "king" of rock and roll for a coveted (and Golden Globe winning) role in THE RAINMAKER.

      DINMAN SALUTES THE VERY FIRST "TWILIGHT ZONE" STAR EARL HOLLIMAN (Part Three): Star Earl Holliman's last of three visits with producer/host Dick Dinman includes revelatory details about his starring role in the very first episode of Rod Serling's TWILIGHT ZONE series, his affectionate observations about POLICEWOMAN co-star Angie Dickinson and his 34 year association with Actors and Others For Animals.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only weekly half hour show (broadcast every Friday 1:00-1:30 P.M. EST on WMPGFM) devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to the online archive.

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    • Ennio Morricone Postpones Concerts in US to June 2014

    • UPDATE:
      Ennio Morricone has suffered a back injury that has forced the postponement of his US concerts, originally dated March 20 and 23, to June 13 at Barclays Center in New York and June 15 at Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. Maestro Morricone has undergone an operation to repair a slipped disc, and his doctor has advised him not to travel long distances in the immediate future to ensure a full recovery.

      Morricone remarked, "Dear Friends, it saddens me deeply to have to postpone these concerts. I am very much looking forward to my first Los Angeles performance and only my second New York City performance, both of which are almost sold out. Hollywood has been instrumental in bringing my work to American audiences, and my 2007 performance in New York was one of the high points of my career to date. I'm grateful and sorry to my fans for having to delay these shows. I'll miss you, and I look forward to seeing you in June."

      Tickets to the original performance will be honored at the rescheduled performance. A full refund is available to those who cannot attend the rescheduled performance via the original point of purchase through May 1st.

      Ennio Morricone, who celbrated his 85th birthday on November 10, will be conducting an ensemble of 200 musicians and singers, for a single performance at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on Thursday, March 20, 2014 at 8 pm. This concert marks the legendary Morricone's first Los Angeles performance. Morricone has composed the scores for more than 450 films including five of Sergio Leone's westerns -­ A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly; Once Upon a Time in the West and A Fistful of Dynamite - and The Battle of Algiers; Sacco and Vanzetti; Cinema Paradiso; 1900, Malena; The Untouchables; Once Upon A Time in America; The Mission; U-­Turn; The Unknown Woman; and The Best Offer, among hundreds of others.

      Tickets priced from $45 go on sale Friday, October 25 at 10am through, and by phone at (888) 929-­7849. Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE is located at 777 Chick Hearn Ct., Los Angeles, CA 90015. For more information please visit enniomorricone-­usa-­ The concert is presented by Massimo Gallotta Productions and AEG and also will be scheduled in New York at Barclays Center Cushman and Wakefield Theatre on March 23, 2014.

      Born in Rome on November 10, 1928, Ennio Morricone started his film-­composing career in 1961 with Il Federale directed by Luciano Salce. Morricone then became famous worldwide with his scores for Sergio Leone's westerns. Since that time, Morricone has composed music for films by directors including Pedro Almodovar, Warren Beatty, Bernardo Bertolucci, Brian De Palma, Roland Joffè, Adrian Lyne, Giuliano Montaldo, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roman Polanski, Gillo Pontecorvo, Oliver Stone, Giuseppe Tornatore, Margarethe Von Trotta, Henry Verneuil, and Lina Wertmuller.

      Morricone is the recipient of the honorary award from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for his "magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music" (2007), nominated for five Academy Awards, induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame for the soundtrack album of The Good The Bad and the Ugly, two Grammy Awards for Once Upon a Time in the West and The Untouchables, two Golden Globe awards for his scores for The Mission and 1900; the ASCAP lifetime achievement award, the career achievement award by the Film Music Society, and 27 Gold and 6 Platinum records.

      Morricone has composed over 100 pieces of concert music since 1946 including Concerto per Orchestra n.1 (1957); Frammenti di Eros (1985); Cantata per L'Europa (1988); UT, per tromba, archi e percussioni (1991); Ombra di Lontana Presenza (1997); Voci dal Silenzio (2002); Sicilo ed altri Frammenti (2006); Vuoto D'Anima Piena (2008); and Una Messa (2013).

      Since 2001, Morricone has engaged in intense concert activity, and has conducted more than 100 concerts in Europe, Asia, the United States, and in Central and South America of his film music and concert works. On February 2, 2007, Morricone conducted Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra in a major concert at the United Nations General Assembly to celebrate the appointment of UN General Secretary Ban Ki-­Moon, followed the next day by his historic United States debut at Radio City Music Hall, in a concert produced by Massimo Gallotta, who is producing the current Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE and Barclays Center concerts.

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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca