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Wednesday, Mar 4, 2015
As the silent era was ending, Hollywood turned out slick, predictable, pleasingly made entertainments punched out of perfect formulas. Two examples, The Cossacks and Why Be Good?, are newly available from Warner Archive.

The Cossacks is allegedly based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel, but Frances Marion’s adaptation is pure Hollywood. The Cossacks are described as “simple as children”, a society where the men go off to fight Turks and come home to carouse while women work the fields. The chief, called the Ataman (Ernest Torrence), is ashamed to have a “woman man” for a son. Lukashka (John Gilbert) lounges at home with his shirt open, helps his mother lift heavy burdens, and doesn’t bother going to war. It’s just a phase. When his manhood is humiliated sufficiently by the whole village, he proves himself in the latest skirmish by killing ten Turks and discovering blood isn’t so bad.


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Wednesday, Feb 25, 2015
This quietly kinky and off-the-wall horror flick is one of the late, great Boris Karloff's last times in front of a camera.

“Aren’t you overdoing the local color bit?” asks a pretty woman of the French reporter as he poses a mute housekeeper in picturesque Spanish peasant garb before a log on the beach. The answer is “yes”, but you work with what you’ve got, and this American-Spanish co-production had four things to its credit.


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Tuesday, Feb 24, 2015
From luxurious estates (The Long Hair of Death) to mental asylums (Slaughter Hotel), these two Italian scare flicks depict women fighting against institutional power and sexism.

RaroVideo has released excellent discs of two very different types of Italian horror: the ‘60s black and white period gothic melodrama of The Long Hair of Death and the gaudy, contemporary ‘70s giallo Slaughter Hotel. Both are excellent examples of their types, and they’re united by a vision of how women are victimized by men in powerful institutions—royalty, the church, the medical establishment. The former is explicitly about the rage and revenge of women against these power systems.


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Thursday, Feb 12, 2015
This movie, which mines the dated territory of professor/student relationships, trivializes education while looking swank.

Abby Abbott (Loretta Young) is a chic widow on New York’s Fifth Avenue, beyond the means of her dividend checks. So that she can continue to pay bills, including her 17 year old daughter’s college tuition, Abby decides to take advantage of a $3,000 scholarship endowed to the college by her own grandmother for students called Abigail Fortitude, Abby’s maiden name. Having married at 16, Abby hadn’t taken up the chance, and neither had her mother, who married at 17. Now her grandmother’s desire to provide for her female descendants’ education will finally bear fruit, if only for temporary financial reasons.


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Tuesday, Feb 10, 2015
This Alain Robbe-Grillet film can get under the skin of anyone susceptible to its languid spell.

Last year, several of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s surreal erotic puzzles were released on DVD and Blu-ray by Redemption. Now, Olive Films has released one of his last films, La Belle Captive, which harks back to his debut with L’immortelle 20 years earlier. The male leads are similar, and both involve the hero’s obsession with a woman who might be a ghost, with both having a traffic accident motif. One of the main differences is that the later film opens the possibility that the hero might also be a ghost, perhaps one of those he’s told walk the streets disguised as the living.


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