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by Michael Barrett

15 Jun 2015


In an interview on the DVD to one of his personal triumphs, The Party, director Blake Edwards says he decided to make that film after finishing another project that wasn’t very successful. Here is the one that wasn’t very successful, but it’s sure a great-looking widescreen print on Blu-ray.

What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? is one of the mildly satirical, mostly slapstick WWII comedies that came out in the spate of ‘60s war dramas. A lot of movies were about special teams with difficult assignments, and many of these adopted at least a partly insubordinate tone about ragtag misfits, such as Steve McQueen’s character The Great Escape  or the cast of The Dirty Dozen. The ideas are that regular officers are incompetent and war is hell, but rugged individuals can have a grand time. No movies were mentioning Vietnam yet (The Green Berets was 1968), but the shadow of its restless, unspoken presence looms dimly.

by Michael Barrett

12 Jun 2015


In the interview that accompanies the new DVD edition of The Escapees, the late filmmaker Jean Rollin explains that he considers it a failure, too long and too talky, and that basically it went unreleased until he let it show on TV. His assessment is fair in comparison with his more ethereal accomplishments. However, fans of his style and obsessions will appreciate even this minor glimpse of what’s clearly a Rollin film.

by Michael Barrett

11 Jun 2015


Premature Burial (1962)

The Premature Burial is the third in Roger Corman‘s series of Edgar Allan Poe stories, although the screenplay by Charles Beaumont and Ray Russell elaborates a darker and more complicated story than Poe’s original. It’s an anguished, clammy, claustrophobic chamber piece that never leaves the property of Guy Carrell (Milland), whose mansion abuts a permanently fogbound cemetery. Because of his morbid obsession of being buried alive, he wants to break off his engagement to the strong-minded Emily (Hazel Court), but she won’t hear of it. After the wedding, he grows increasingly obsessed and irritable, and Emily brings in a doctor friend (Richard Ney) and her haughty father (Alan Napier) for advice.

by Michael Barrett

9 Jun 2015


The Hired Gun opens with a shot of a noose hanging over a scaffold in the early morning of a dusty “one-horse town” as the voice of Ellen Beldon (Anne Francis) informs us that today, for the first time in Texas, they’ll hang a woman for murder—herself. She assures us she’s innocent, and hardly are her words finished when a tall, black-suited preacher (Chuch Connors) comes to offer solace… by busting her out and racing her across the border into New Mexico.

by Michael Barrett

8 Jun 2015


Perhaps a personal approach is best. I’ve followed all of Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s movies since a critics’ preview of Clouds of May at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1999. My memory is that not many attended that screening, and many others left before the ending of that character study of a disaffected writer. I realized it was “slow” (always a relative judgment, but we know what it means), but somehow it clicked, or I did. I thought, “This is made by someone who loves Chekhov”, and was gratified to learn later that what seemed so obvious also happens to be true.

In case we hadn’t already figured out the debt to Chekhov, a poster on the wall of the main character’s study in Winter Sleep is for The Seagull.  At three and a quarter hours, this is Ceylan’s most hefty—yet always delicate—salute to the master of petit bourgeois psychology, as he explores the impulses that prod comfortable people to make themselves miserable.

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Ten Great Criterion Titles: What to Watch and Why

// Short Ends and Leader

"As the Criterion Collection's ever-growing roster shows, there are simply too many great pictures out on home video to know what to do with.

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