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by Michael Barrett

14 Sep 2016


How do you make a movie called Cat People? That was the question faced by producer Val Lewton when put in charge of his own RKO unit with a mission to make B horrors from titles provided by the studio. He had the freedom to crank out a movie attached to whatever cheesy moniker was handed to him, as long as he stayed under budget.

He rose to the challenge with a series of atmospheric wonders that saved his effects budget in favor of suggestions and shadows. The first of these, Cat People, became a surprise hit, cannily (or uncannily) exploiting the nation’s wartime jitters.

by Michael Barrett

13 Sep 2016


Remy Marko (Broderick Crawford) was a successful businessman: he sold bootleg hooch during the Prohibition. The legalization of alcohol was catastrophic to his affairs, but his wife (Claire Trevor) convinces Marko to go legit despite the fact that his beer is basically undrinkable and no longer sought after. Sliding into debt and repossession by the bank, Marko finds that good honest work is not for the faint of heart.

Winking and nodding somewhere in the background of Stop, You’re Killing Me is a satire of capitalism and the cut-throat world of debt and consumption. It all comes to a head one weekend at Marko’s Saratoga mansion when he throws a big party just as his barely reformed goombahs (Charles Cantor, Sheldon Leonard, Joe Vitale) discover the bodies of four murdered robbers in an upstairs bedroom.

by Michael Barrett

12 Sep 2016


This documentary of Ingrid Bergman’s life could be called “In Her Own Images”, because most of the footage is from her own home movies. Even when she was an ambitious Swedish teenager who fully intended to become a great actress, as she told her diary, Bergman had already picked up the photography bug from her father. He filmed her all the time before he died when she was 14, her mother having died when Ingrid was two. 

Throughout her life, Bergman took still photos and 8mm and 16mm movies of her life on and off the movie sets. As her loved ones speculate, she related to the camera as a source of love, and it’s one she learned to control as well as hungered to receive. She also saved her many diaries and letters, with the result that we have a fully documented life of this major star of film and theatre.

by Michael Barrett

8 Sep 2016


The Spiders (1919)

As part of their ongoing Blu-ray upgrade of their silent film DVD collection, Kino has released two more German classics from Fritz Lang. One is identical to its previous DVD, and the other adds something substantial.

The unchanged item is The Spiders, a two-part adventure from 1919 written and directed by Lang in direct emulation of Louis Feuillade’s French serials, from a plot full of senseless running around and hair’s breadth escapes to the manipulations of a beautiful villainess—an anti-heroine admired for her strength and intelligence as much as her glamour. Feuillade cast Musidora in these roles, while Lang uses the exotically named Ressel Orla as the equally exotically named Lio Sha.

by Michael Barrett

7 Sep 2016


Daniel Auteuil in On Guard

This Blu-ray offers two gorgeously remastered films directed by Philippe De Broca from more than 35 years apart. While they don’t make much sense as a double-feature, each is an aesthetic pleasure on its own.

De Broca was associated with the French New Wave because he worked with Claude Chabrol and Francois Truffaut, and the former produced his first feature. Unlike that movement, however, De Broca quickly established his interest in classical aesthetics and unabashed mass entertainment that drew on French tradition, often with great success. Indeed, as PopMatters pointed out in a previous review, the international splash of That Man From Rio (1964) directly influenced Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and all it spawned. Such vulgar success likely prevented him from being taken as seriously as he might have been.

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