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by Michael Barrett

1 Feb 2017


Carroll Baker in Something Wild (1961)

Something Wild is an unusual independent drama that blipped briefly below the public radar in 1961, then largely disappeared apart from occasional TV appearances. In the last few years, this restored item has resurfaced for sightings at art houses and on TCM, thanks partly to the efforts of critic/programmer Kim Morgan, and was issued in MGM’s on-demand Limited Edition DVD series.

Now it’s elevated to the ranks of Criterion Blu-ray for the widest possible access to curious connosseurs. More than 50 years after it bewildered critics, it remains a strange and provocative button-pusher.

by Michael Barrett

30 Jan 2017


Rugged, weatherbeaten, conventionally unhandsome, even funny-looking enough to play his own comic sidekick to his own manly hero, William S. Hart was justifiably the most famous western star of the silent era. Now on Blu-ray as a welcome surprise is Wagon Tracks, one of at least half a dozen features he made in 1919 and among his most popular epics, in a tinted Library of Congress print in beautiful shape.

The visual style is entirely modern, with the action cutting between concurrent scenes in different locations and lots of close-ups to showcase Hart’s camera-ready command of expression, always vivid and direct without overplaying. Hart’s paradox is that although he’s a very expressive actor, it’s at the service of his character’s essentially taciturn, isolated image of “true manhood”.

by Imran Khan

16 Jan 2017


Vana Rambota in Medusa (1998)

Audacious and knotty as it is viewer-friendly, Greek filmmaker George Lazopolous’ first and (seemingly) only film mines a territory at once strange and familiar. A wry tale which takes in Greek mythology, punk-rock rebellion and the influences of the American suspense-drama, Medousa is an effective and curious little thriller about myth and obsession. For such a low-budget effort, it shouldn’t be nearly as entertaining as it really is. Lazopolous, however, manages a fine balance with the many disparate elements he has at his disposal.

by Michael Barrett

6 Jan 2017


Leon Bary, Eugene Pallette, Douglas Fairbanks, George Siegmann

Douglas Fairbanks was one of the greatest stars of silent cinema and one of its most astute in taking control of his career and molding his own image with the co-founding of United Artists. He shared these qualities with his wife, Mary Pickford. In this way, he transformed from a magnetic actor in comedies into a genuine superstar who became Hollywood’s first real action hero in stunt-based epics. One of his early hits in this new mode is now available as a print-on-demand DVD from Undercrank Productions.

Based on the senior Alexandre Dumas’ oft-filmed novel, The Three Musketeers is the familiar tale of D’Artagnan (Douglas Fairbanks), a lad from the provinces who goes to Paris and instantly makes friends with the three best swordsmen: Athos (Leon Bary), Porthos (George Siegmann) and Aramis (Eugene Pallette). They work as a kind of securitiy force for Louis XIII (Adolphe Menjou) and are known as Musketeers, even though they don’t display any muskets.

by Michael Barrett

21 Dec 2016


John Howard in The Undying Monster (1942)

These Blu-rays upgrade and preserve the contents of two DVDs from a box called Fox Horror Classics, reviewed by PopMatters back in 2007. You needn’t exert yourself to the clicking of links, however; your tireless reviewer has no compunction about recapitulating his erstwhile insights here.

Both films are directed by John Brahm, an expressionistically gifted stylist who emigrated to Hollywood from Hitler’s Germany and whose career flowered in TV, where he directed episodes of a virtual encyclopedia of classic series. His visual talent might be why he was tapped for the B-picture The Undying Monster, one of 20th Century Fox’s few attempts to cash in on the horror genre that was making so much money for Universal and RKO in the ‘40s, especially with movies about people who transform into animals.

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