That's the alliteration for when another zoom-happy shot in a Mario Bava film (okay, in his later films) stop the narrative dead so we can revel in the excess of a zoom lens cranked back-and-forth, and so the cult director can tell us the lava is hot-Hot-HOT! or the evil Baron is bad-Bad-BAD!

Unlike the visual touches in Bava's films, the music scores tend to reflect a peculiar mélange of horror, black humour, and cheeky melodrama that often make it clear Bava knew his work was supposed to be fun and shocking, and that we should celebrate some of the ridiculous horror conventions.

A genre pioneer, a clever and instinctive editor (just watch the breakneck pacing of Caltiki), and master cameraman, even a lesser film like Five Dolls for an August Moon is worth a peek because there's always a moment that's clever, and transcends the ridiculousness for a short few beats.

The sound of Bava's world was conveyed by a large body of composers, many some of the finest Italian underdogs who never reached international acclaim, but whose musical contributions couldn't be separated from their films. Some ideas might not have worked too well, but their scores are great little horror gems that deserve a release for connoisseurs of horror film music.

To close out 2006, we've assembled an eclectic mix of titles, with Bava as the sonic headliner. In the revamped soundtrack section, we've added reviews for DigitMovies' must-have volumes in their Mario Bava Soundtrack Anthology: Volume 1 (La Mashera del demonio / Black Sunday + La ragazza che sapeva tropp / The Evil Eye), Volume 2 (La Frusta Ell Corpo / Whip and the Body + Sei Donne per l'assassino / Blood and Black Lace), Volume 3 (Ecologia del Delitto / Bay of Blood + Gli orrori del castello di norimberga / Baron Blood + Cani arrabbiati / Rabid Dogs), and Volume 4 (I Vampiri + Caltiki + Lisa e il Diavolo / Lisa and the Devil "To Mirna" theme).

To enhance these titles, we've also added DVD reviews of The Girl Who Knew Too Much, and I Vampiri to our archives, with more Bava titles to follow.

Additionally, to contrast my recent MFTM column regarding Stelvio Cipriani films on DVD, a review of Gianni Ferrio's score for Luciano Ercoli's nutty Death Walks at Midnight / La Morte accarezza a mezzanotte (1972) has also been added. Ferrio's music, released by Easy Tempo/Right Tempo on CD and LP, matches Ercoli's crazy giallo to a T, and the composer's work has slowly crept into the soundtrack market, albeit a bit too quietly. Ferrio's Midnight theme shares some striking similarities with the Quincy Jones-Alan & Marilyn Bergman song "Maybe Tomorrow," written for the 1969 Peter Yates drama, so we've added a review of the original LP to our archives.

We've also added a CD review for David Julyan's chilling score for The Descent (released by Cooking Vinyl) to compliment our DVD review of Maple's special edition DVD, which features all of the goodies from the 2-disc UK release of Neil Marshall's terrifying cave-CHUD film from 2005.

Also newly uploaded are reviews for the funny buddy cop riff Bon Cop, Bad Cop, which Alliance-Atlantic released on DVD in a 'bilingual version'. (The soundtrack has the actors exchanging surreal theories, semantics, and insults in chunks of English and Quebecois argot, which elevated Eric Canuel's actioner from mundane to pretty fun.)

Hopefully the success of Bon Cop, Bad Cop will convince distributors to make French-language films more widely available in Canada, since the country's peppered with film fans, Anglophone and bilinguals, who get pretty annoyed when a title that's generated some buzz beyond la belle province is ignored. The search for a French language flick becomes equally frustrating when it's available online in the U.S., and local merchants haven't a clue as to who carries it in Canada. (Oh, it happens.)

Sometimes, however, it's Alliance-Atlantis, Christal, or Maple that carry some of the high-profile titles, and Maple's recent disc of Luc Jacquet's dual penguin docs in Once Upon a Time in Antarctica pairs two titles even the IMDB hasn't yet listed.

Jacquet, whose March of the Penguins became a hit doc in 2005 (and ignited a wave of penguin-themed flicks), also directed a series of shorter docs set in the planet's freezer, and Maple's DVD contains Rush Hour in Antarctica/ Antarctic Printemps Express, and Topsy-Turvy Penguin, both of which we've covered.

Also in tune for the Christmas holiday season is the Raymond Briggs classic, The Snowman, which Sony fleetingly released as a standalone DVD. Featuring a depressingly beautiful score by Howard Blake, it'll either move or annoy viewers with its charm and cutesiness, and the gorgeous animation that earned it an Oscar Nomination in 1982.

Coming shortly: Part 2 of our detailed profile of filmmakers Carl Schmitt & Mark Cairns, and their doc Das Leben geht weiter/Life Goes On !

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Soundtrack Reviews

Das Leben geht weiter / Life Goes On

A few months ago, we reviewed Kolberg (1945), the last completed film that made it to the theatres during the final months of the Third Reich. Linked to that production was Das Leben geht weiter/Life Goes On (1945), another epic that would have been the first attempt by the Ministry of Propaganda to actually show the country suffering from Allied bombing, and surviving long enough to see victory - which of course, didn't really happen.

Leben was never completed, and the film has become a kind of Magnificent Ambersons for some German film historians, except it's every frame instead of a series of missing reels that's at the top of their list, because the footage disappeared during the post-war chaos.

Curious? Intrigued? Of course you are! The best thing to do is read our review of the German DVD of Carl Schmitt and Mark Cairns' Emmy Award-winning documentary (filmed in German, but accompanied by optional English subtitles), and then check out the first part of our really long & detailed interview with the filmmakers. It's a great mystery, and our discussion covers several aspects of propaganda filmmaking during WWII.

Part 2 will debut Jan. 1st, and will be larded with several mini-reviews of iconic propaganda flicks that appear in the 2002 documentary. The Leben DVD also includes some intriguing interviews with Wilfried von Oven, former Personal Assistant to Dr. Goebbels, and one of the last Q&A's with Dr. Fritz Hippler (yes, him), who discusses the ins and outs of working at the Ministry of Propaganda, and some of Goebbels' favourite films. As an added bonus, we've included a sidebar review of Hippler's first film, Wort und Tat / Word and Deed (1938), a newsreel/documentary that wields its message of national progress with an indelicate sledgehammer.

Also newly uploaded is Dante Tomaselli's latest horror film, Satan's Playground, which integrates the legend of the Jersey Devil into a linear tale of bickering folks trapped on an isolated forest road, and a creepy old lady who lures them into her home of death. Tomaselli's prior works include Desecration, and Horror - the latter released by Elite Entertainment, which we also reviewed.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews

The New Rock Docs

Back in the fifties, indie studios and film producers realized that dropping a hot rock n' roll act into a wafer-thin, romantic teen narrative was a great means of creating a concept film for the youth market, and in the sixties, studio AIP picked up the baton and featured guest appearances by names such as 'Little' Stevie Wonder in their Annette Funicello-Frankie Avalon Beach franchise, but it took filmmakers like D.A. Pennebaker and the Maysles brothers to show us that rock bands, as feature-length subjects, could drive a film's dramatic line instead of being reduced to peppy filler material in low-concept teen vehicles.

From concert documentaries like Don't Look Back and Gimme Shelter, it became clear - even to the Rolling Stones, who often funded their own productions - that the lifestyle and personalities of a band offered another kind of compelling drama that could be more interesting than the concert itself.

Eighties band Mission of Burma folded after four years on the road, and just footsteps from what critics and fans contend would've been a great, creative wave; the Pixies closed shop after bickering and frustrations drained the fun and pleasure from performing and writing as a group.

In both cases, band members didn't end up as clichés, and when they reunited, the cameras were there to capture a wholly different view of iconic musicians living under, or far away from, the shadows of their intense music careers.

There's something heartwarming about aging rockers who've matured into great musicians, and because of the demands of a family life and secondary careers, treat their musical performances with a level of sobriety and discipline younger bands are likely to eschew. Not a Photograph: The Mission of Burma Story, and loudQUIETloud - a film about the Pixies, are significant documents from MVD Visual that show music icons as accessible personalities experiencing the same challenges and roadblocks of downsized professionals; it's not the careers and music that's up-front, but the private lives, except without the usual sensationalism and sleaze.

Also reviewed this week is the film debut of WWF headliner Kane (Glen Jacobs) in the youth slasher flick See No Evil (2006), released by Maple in Canada, and Lions Gate in the U.S., and featuring a hook, a chain, and very wet gore.

Also of note is DigitMovies' CD of Ennio Morricone's complete score for Addio fratello crudele / Tis a Pity She's a Whore (1971). Based on a play by Shakespeare's contemporary, John Ford, the film (still unavailable on DVD) is much more than a sleazy tale of incest during the Middle Ages (although Charlotte Rampling and her hunky lovers do get very nekkid). Photographed by Vittorio Storaro, and featuring art direction that must have inspired Julie Taymor's stylistic design of Titus, Addio features an extraordinary, beautiful score by Morricone, written during one of the composer's busiest periods.

Stay tuned for more goodies!

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Mission of Burma, The Pixies, Kane, Soundtrack Reviews, Ennio Morricone

The Naughty Fifties

The release of the film The Notorious Bettie Page was an ideal opportunity to rekindle an interest in vintage Irving Klaw shorts that have been largely tough to find on tape, let alone in complete form on DVD. Along with their prior Page offerings, Cult Epics has released the Irving Klaw Classics box, which culls material from 8mm sources, and groups them into four themed volumes: The Bettie Page Films, The Wrestling Films, The Fetish Films, and The Dance Films. We've reviewed the set, and noted what's new, and what's appeared in prior sets, such as Bettie Page: Pin-Up Queen.

Also from Cult Epics is All Ladies Do It / Cosi fan tutte (1992), the last title in the label's first Tinto Brass boxed set. Along with an excellent transfer, the DVD comes with a director interview, stills, and once again demonstrates there's no limit to the use of macro lenses when you're a bum-obsessed lunatic. All Ladies Do It isn't set during the fifties, but it showcases the frilly things and primary colours that are part of Brass' surreal, erotic wonderland.

Visitors might notice the main page has been tweaked, so there's more room for the wave of reviews that'll follow straight through this holiday season. Lotsa documentaries, classics, and weirdness - because we like that stuff.

And if you visit Music from the Movies, you'll be able to read my lengthy assessment of Tony Palmer's epic composer biographies on DVD: Testimony (1988), starring Ben Kingsley as the long-suffering Dimitri Shostakovich; and Wagner (1983), with Richard Burton in his final role... for almost eight hours.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Irving Klaw, Tinto Brass, Dimitri Shostakovich, Richard Wagner

Forbidden Goodies

Forbidden Planet actually enjoyed a decent release history on the home video front, making it to VHS, DVD, laserdisc and CED before Warner Bros. eventually assembled a proper special edition for the film's 50th anniversary.

Packed with above-average extras (including an outstanding doc on sci-fi in fifties cinema), the 2-disc set also comes with Robby the Robot's appearances in The Invisible Boy and a Thin Man TV episode, both of which we've reviewed in addition to Forbidden Planet, and all the extras.

As a tie-in to the DVD release, we've also added a review of Louis & Bebe Barron's original soundtrack album, plus loads of links to related Forbidden Planet materials (including a life-size Robby you too can own for the price of a Honda).

Also new is a review of SAE's new disc of Alfred Newman's score for The Razor's Edge, from 1946. In spite of the age, audio whiz Ray Faiola was able to use the various mike angles Twentieth Century-Fox used to record the score, and mix a true-stereo album in 2006. Produced with the label's usual top quality, SAE's booklet is equally notable for lots of historical details, cue examinations, and lots of archival stills.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Soundtrack Reviews, Robby the Robot

To Have and To Hold

One aspect of being any kind of a collector is the physical relationship that's reinforced by having, holding, and re-examining that rare collectible, but with music, the need to possess a physical CD has become less important, as portability has become a major criterion: to fit 10-20 MP3 albums on a credit card-sized digital media player is way more advantageous to the average music listener than dragging a bag-full of standard audio CDs.

So how does the collector contend with MP3s when there's no pretty booklet, art, or potential of rareness and future investment in a purchase?

Ultimately, the collector has to reason why he/she started to pick up albums, and for most, the key is the music. That's certainly why so many soundtracks continue to enjoy CD releases and re-issues and premiere editions after collecting dust for decades; but can the collector return to the roots of the music?

Whether downloadable film soundtracks - actual scores, not those delete bin 'music from and inspired by' clutter - can co-exist with standard CDs is still something the market has to tackle, but little by little, riding on the success and popularity of the MP3 format, film music is appearing as legal, affordable, downloadable albums, and one of the pioneers in the field is Mikael Carlsson, and his label MovieScore Media.

Carlsson, a longtime contributor to Music from the Movies, ultimately branched out as a soundtrack album producer, and we felt his success with MovieScore Media [MSM] deserved a profile, because his 13+ releases are the result of some unique advantages when a label stays in the digital realm; the music released so far by MSM proves there's a lot of great stuff major labels can't keep up with. Just click HERE to read the complete interview & profile.

We've also added a review of the label's MP3 album for Brett Rosenberg's great thriller score, Half Light (2006).

Technorati Tags: MP3 Albums, Soundtrack Reviews

Jazz, Brass, and Criminal Delights

Picking up where Rock Fresh left off, we've got a review of the new edition of Style Wars, the iconic documentary from 1983 that captures a pivotal period in New York City's transit history when it was trying hard to deal with the constant graffiti splattered on the inside and outside of transit cars.

Incorporating kinetic editing with rap music and break dancing, Style Wars also showed the creative designs that had started to evolve by the mid- to late-seventies, and for the new DVD, the filmmakers interviewed many graffitists in 2005 who reflect on their youth, and current careers in the art field. Previously released by Plexifilm in a 2-disc edition, MVD has streamline the menus and added new interviews, plus retained the extras from the first release, including a very cool looped stills gallery of long-gone graffiti from subway trains.

Also from MVD are the first two volumes of the Jazz Shots East and West Coast series, which assemble a broad mix of rare live TV appearances of veteran jazz masters from the fifties and sixties.

From high art to, well, Brassian art, we also dig into the first volume of Cult Epics Tinto Brass Collection, and review the first two films in the set, Miranda (starring the pneumatic Serena Grandi), and The Key, which stands as one of the director's best and most accessible erotic films (albeit larded with plenty of popos and deltas).

Also from the label is Vintage Erotica Anno 1920, which skips back over prior decades in the series and showcases the inventive narratives, mis-en-scene, costumes, and silliness of vintage XXX shorts largely made in France by rich naughty people who had other ideas for their first home movie camera.

Next-to-last is a review of Miami Blues, George Armitage's superb 1990 adaptation of Charles Willeford's first Hoke Moseley novel, starring Alex Baldwin, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and the colours of Miami. The tail-end of our review also comes with several Willeford links, so the curious can learn a bit more about this underrated crime author.

Finally, at the Music from the Movies website there's my detailed review of Vol. 4 in Scarecrow Press' ongoing and very excellent Film Score Guide series, with James Wierzbicki examining Louis and Bebe Barron's landmark electronic score for Forbidden Planet (1956). With Warner Bros.' 2-disc set of the classic sci-fi film coming out this month, the book functions as a perfect appendix to anyone keen on learning more about the composers, their influential score, and a concise history of electronic instruments.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, New York Graffiti, Tinto Brass, Charles Willeford, Louis & Bebe Barron

Still More Poseidon

I'm sure disaster fans were wondering what happened to that other Poseidon film which failed to earn a DVD release in the wake of the 2006 remake, but their prayers for mediocrity and melodrama par excellence have been answered - though not completely.

With less money and Michael Caine returning as Irwin Allen's main hero, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure is back in circulation from Warner Bros. in a pretty anamorphic transfer, with a vintage promo featurette and trailer - but none of the deleted scenes that appeared in the longer TV broadcast version. Sure, Beyond is not the finest film within Allen's oeuvre, but it deserves a definitive release, much in the way Fox' Towering Inferno SE came with its TV scenes.

Also reviewed is Rock Fresh, Danny Lee's snappy documentary on California graffiti artists who have progressed beyond tagging, and are now adults with real-life career hurdles, families, and a need for stable income. Find out if reality bites.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Poseidon Adventure, and California Graffiti.

The Return of Bigfoot

One would think few movies about a hairy humanoid creature exist - but a quick IMDB check says we've been blessed by quite a few, not to mention cousin Sasquatch, who appeared (through Ted Cassidy's stature) in The Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman episodes and cross-over shows.

Newly reviewed is Ryan Schifrin's feature film debut, Abominable, about Bigfoot traumatizing a paraplegic and nekkid girls in their respective mountain cabins. Anchor Bay's DVD is loaded with informative extras, while the orchestral soundtrack by Lalo Schifrin is also out on CD. (An audio interview with Ryan and father Lalo is available HERE, or at the director's myspace site.)

Also from Anchor Bay is The Norliss Tapes, derived from the same Kolchak/Night Stalker template that spawned two successful TV movies and a short-lived series. Norliss was designed by producer/director Dan Curtis as a pilot, but still works as a tight B-movie, with Invaders star Roy Thinnes as the supernatural debunker facing real-life weirdness.

Lastly, we've added a review of James Cameron's own feature film debut, Piranha 2: The Spawning. It's silly and amusing for all the right reasons, and years after The Abyss, one can see some familiarities between the marital discord shared by the lead characters in both films. Stelvio Cipriani's score for Piranha 2, released by DigitMovies on CD, is also reviewed HERE, as is a sidebar piece on Cameron's short film, Xenogenesis (which is viewable via a Film Threat link).

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Ryan Schifrin, Bigfoot, Dan Curtis, Piranha, and James Cameron.

Bits & Bites with a Brador

Our next pair of reviews is Roots Daughters:The Women of Rastafari from MVD, which was co-produced by the NFB, and examines the role of women within the Rastafari movement and religious ceremony. Director Bianca Nyavingi Brynda interviewed a balanced selection of women in Jamaica, and provides a brisk and informative intro on the roots of Rastafarian religion and customs.

Also of note is director Robin Neinstein's documentary and film version of Douglas Coupland's popular nostalgia books, Souvenir of Canada. It's a tough film to market beyond those not privy to the Canadian Experience (Smarties, Brador beer, bilingual packaging, and no right turns on a red light in Quebec) during the sixties and seventies, but Barry Stevens' adaptation and the plethora of archival images and film clips enhance this trip through 'pre-nostalgia,' as Coupland's efforts to showcase icons of our collective past are slowly being forgotten and eclipsed by more cultural ephemera.

Released by Maple, and co-produced by several entities (including the CBC and the NFB), it's a Canadian co-production that isn't afraid to show affection for national icons - so while it'll jar the memories of true Gen X's, it also explains why we're a bit goofy, too. Click on the title link to read about the extras, which also include a funny commentary with the film's director, producer, and Coupland.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Rastafari, and Douglas Coupland

Do You Like Argento?

While Dario Argento's last feature, The Card Player/Il Cartaio failed to achieve the fun of Sleepless/Non Ho Sonno, his TV movie (apparently a hope to ignite a new TV series) Do You Like Hitchcock?/Ti piace Hitchcock? went in an altogether different direction by weaving a narrative out of standard conventions and plot twists from the best Hitchcock films.

Not an easy task, and it's a bit surprising to see Argento having great fun in making us believe one Hitchcockian nod will follow through as the source did... and then take another amusing turn and twist to another convention. Pino Donaggio's synth/orchestral score is fairly restrained, and the location work is first rate, including the residential street that places a self-adoring babe in sight of a bespeckled film geek.

As with prior Argento films, there's adoration for fine architecture, and his camera lovingly exploits the lines and curves of old world apartments and their rickety elevators, plus the sleek glass and steel upgrade to the babe's apartment that allows the geek to survey her comings and goings. Anchor Bay's DVD brings Argento's playful film to Region 1 audiences, and beefs up the label's existing catalogue of the director's many titles. (Someone should release his Door into Darkness/Porta sul buio in a Region 1 set, now that the limited German release of the four-part TV series from 1973 is long gone.)

We've also uploaded our review of Wolfgang Petersen's Poseidon, which is now rumored at DavisDVD.com to appear in a longer version on HD-DVD in December. That news is hardly a surprise, as the film's pacing was frankly a mess. We'll upload a review of the '72, version in the coming weeks, but you can read our reviews of Poseidon and the 2005 cash-in TV movie, where we compare characters, stupidities, and structural flaws of the two recent attempts to turn Paul Gallico's classic novel into a blockbuster.

Now when will Columbia release Goliath Awaits on DVD? You'd think the studio would've exploited the disaster-in-H20 wave of the past year, since this goofy but inventive drama of survivors living in the underwater wreck of a luxury liner for 40 years deserves a DVD release in its original TV length format. (The two-part series was later edited into a 110 min. version, and popped up on VHS and laserdisc.)

Lastly, we've extensively updated all of the Links sections, with new composer sites, more DVD labels, and resource sites we think are very cool and handy.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Dario Argento, and Poseidon Adventure

Jazz Shots, Jazz Schifrin, and Brassian Jazz

We're in the process of establishing a less formal updating process, which will ensure new stuff appears every few days instead in one big weekly upload, so bear with our oddball schedule.

Our first offerings for the month of September includes an interview with Elia Cmiral, who discusses his work on the American remake of Pulse. Part electronic and modern orchestral, Cmiral's Pulse is another smooth blend of two disciplines to create a creepy horror score, although his best entry remains the brutal music for Wrong Turn. Cmiral talks about Pulse, the aesthetics of horror music, and working with different orchestras around the world.

Also of interest to film music fans is EFORFilm/ MVD's latest four-volume wave of Jazz Shots. Divided into East and West Coast branches, the series is an anthology of very rare jazz performances by legends during the Golden Years of live TV, and later shows, like Jazz Casual, and Jazz Scene USA.

Jazz Shots from the East Coast Vol. 3 includes a bouncy rendition of Elmer Bernstein's Walk on the Wild Side theme, while Vols. 2 and 3 have clips of Dizzy Gillespie's group with Lalo Schifrin at the piano. Also from the Jazz Casual series is the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the archived performances on Vol. 2 have the group playing the main theme from John Lewis' Una Storia Milanese / Milano Story.

The West Coast volumes are just as fun, and Vol. 2 also features three meaty sets with Shorty Rogers and pianist Lou Levy. Really sweet stuff.

Also new to DVD is Tinto Brass' latest film, Private / Fallo! from Cult Epics. Available in a rated Producer's Cut, we've reviewed the unrated edition that beholds more Brassian silliness, and retentive production design.

We've also updated the WKME feature on our review of Kolberg to reflect a sidebar piece on the related title, Das Leben geht weiter / Life Goes On - one of the best documentaries on the making of a feature film.

Planned by Goebbels as the next epic after Kolberg's 1945 theatrical release, production was halted after the allied forces entered Berlin, and the film's status as the last work under the Third Reich became a legendary tale of sublime, Kubrickian folly.

The fate of the missing footage was slowly pieced together by author Hans Christoph Blumenberg, whose book subsequently became the basis for this Emmy Award-winning documentary by producer/co-writer Carl Schmitt, and co-writer/director Mark Cairns. Just click on the Kolberg link, scoot down to the bottom, and click on the doc's review link for more details!

Lastly, we've added CD reviews for Craig Armstrong's World Trade Center, and Aleph's packed CD of Lalo Schifrin's Magnum Force soundtrack.

As related material, we've also reviewed Motor's 1996 Schifrin anthology, Mission: Impossible... and More!, produced by Frank Jastfelder and Stefan Kassel, who also authored the soundtrack art compendium, The Album Cover Art of Soundtracks. Being a bit retentive ourselves, we've reviewed that 1997 book, too!

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Tinto Brass, Pulse remake, Elmer Bernstein, Lalo Schifrin, WWII Propaganda, and Modern Jazz Quartet

How Uncle Joe won the war and saved planet Earth

Although IHF's DVD of The Fall of Berlin/Padeniye Berlina (1949) has been out for a while now, not many know it exists, let alone know where to pick up a copy, as its distribution has yet to reach the broad arm of the Amazon.com empire. (Some specialty online retailers do carry the title, and if you're in Toronto, it is available at Bay Street Video - one of KQEK.com's advertisers.)

We don't normally write epic reviews, but Fall is one fascinating artifact from the Stalin era, and it's impossible to cover such a surreal gem in 500 words since so much effort went into creating this monster, which concludes with the Red Army's Reichstag assault - staged on location in war-ravaged Berlin, using the pock-marked, skeletal remains of the actual edifice, with masses of Soviet soldiers, and plenty of war toys. Then there's the propaganda content that should have war movie buffs salivating for more - although this may be the apex of the Stalin genre and Uncle Joe's Deification on Film.

Fall was also scored by the great Dimitri Shostakovich, and while it's not really his best work - the libretto for the finale is laughably over the top - the film's notable for epitomizing the kind of ideological 'social realism' fodder the composer had to stomach and score after he fell into disfavor with Uncle Joe. (In coming weeks, I'll feature an examination of Shostakovich on DVD, which will include some unique documentaries and dramas recently released on disc.)

As a contrast, we also have the first title that's part of KOCH Vision's new agreement to distribute classic NFB (National Film Board of Canada) documentaries. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen is a 1965 follow-along from directors Donald Brittain and Don Owen, and while previously released under the Winstar banner, the reissue from KOCH replicates the same content, including four Cohen-related shorts: "I'm You're Man," "Poen," "A Kite is a Victim," and "Angel."

This week there's also a unique music slant, as we cover the latest rock-docs from Music Video Distribution/Sexy Intellectual: Led Zeppelin: The Origin of the Species, and The Rolling Stones Under Review: 1962-1966. These are solid and highly informative docs using many interviews and rare clips - worth a peek for fans and novitiates curious about the early years of each band.

We're also continuing in covering every film music DVD out there - and there ain't many - like Michael Kamen: Concerto for Saxophone. The late Kamen will forever be associated with the greatest action score of all-time (Die Hard) and music for the iconic 1980s/90s buddy cop satire & franchise (Lethal Weapon), and it was in 1990 that he recorded his first original concert album. Kamen was the ultimate bridge between the worlds of classical music and rock - largely because he played instruments and wrote music for both camps - and his involvement with Metallica, Eric Clapton, and Roger Waters, to name a few, resulted in lots of great music before he passed away in 2003.

In the imminent print issue of Music from the Movies, I've chosen to use the handful of available film music DVDs to single out some key production aspects that would make a perfect concert DVD - something fans came close to receiving with the must-have releases of Morricone Conducts Morricone and Arena Concerto.

DVDs are the perfect venue for fans who simply can't drop a few hundred dollars (or more) to visit a country and catch Morricone in concert, but it takes skill and substantial funds to craft a DVD that evokes the sounds and spirit of a live event.

(The teaser image above is a rear ad from an old 1988 Soundtrack! - Vol. 7/No. 26 - which trumpets a concert that never happened: Jerry Goldsmith with the Toronto Symphony. It's the closest T.O. ever came to enjoying what New York, London, Los Angeles, Montreal, and much of Europe experience with some frequency: live film music.)

Lastly, do check out our interview with Christophe Lennertz, the Emmy-nominated composer of TV's Supernatural who may become the Emmy-winning composer of Supernatural, if Sunday night's telecast on August 27th favors this talented composer of scores such as Clive Barker's Saint Sinner, and the upcoming features Tortilla Heaven, and Shark Bait/Pi's Story.

Coming next week: an unnecessary remake, refreshing Argento, and the latest cheekiness from popomeister Tinto Brass.

Technorati Tags: DVD Reviews, Stalin Propaganda, Shostakovich, Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, Supernatural TV


Olympia's North American Debut & Frizzell Talks Horror

Summertime's often been a period where the studios release wartime flickers - dramas, soap operas, actioners, and the rare comedy - and this year's a bit more surprising for the documentaries and little-seen epics that have surfaced. Granted we've been dipping backwards to visit some titles as leads for the recent wave, but a big surprise was the appearance of Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia - the classic documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

The re-militarization of Germany under Hitler was in plain view throughout the doc, particularly the opening ceremonies, and the film's release in 1938 as an example of new film technique developing under the Third Reich kinda makes it tangential to the summer wartime wave.

Although a director-supervised transfer of the film appeared on laserdisc from Criterion, Pathfinder Home Entertainment is the first North American label to commercially release the film on DVD, and the results are very mixed. Our review deliberately checks out the extras, particularly the rare newsreels archived on the 2-disc set, with some comments about the overt wartime propaganda therein.

The review is also the first to use our WKME feature - basically hyperlinked text that loads a fresh page of sidebar comments, footnotes and reviews - which in Olympia's case, offers a review of the rarely seen 1940 film, Wunschkonzert. Released on VHS PAL in Germany, the film is unique - and perhaps largely forgotten - for using footage from Riefenstahl's film as cleverly intercut background footage to launch a wartime romance between two distanced lovers later separated by war.

(Many unique titles are mentioned in our Olympia review, and over the coming weeks we'll add capsule reviews for some that are still unavailable on DVD; while not actual DVD reviews, they'll offer brief WKME overviews, and we'll mention those new additions in this column.)

Olympia, from our end, is also the key culprit in our delayed July update, which includes a pair of reviews: Les Dalton, the grandly blundered live action version of the famous Morris-Goscinny comic book, released by Chrystal in a gorgeous DVD; and Maroon, Andre Gladu's latest installment in his three-part history of the Creole in Louisiana, and their influential music.

This is one title that, as of this writing, hasn't popped up in the IMDB, but is another fine example of the great documentaries made by the NFB (National Film Board of Canada), whose works are slowly (and finally!) making their way onto broadly distributed commercial DVDs. This 2-disc edition from Music Video Distribution also contains Gladu's prior entries, Zarico and Liberty Street Blues, and is worth checking out.

Lastly, we continue with our interviews & profiles, and offer a breezy conversation with film composer John Frizzell. With Lucky McKee's The Woods finally getting theatrical and planned home video play, and Stay Alive arriving on DVD September 19th, Frizzell talked to KQEK.com about the stylistic opportunities the horror genre frequently gives adventurous and skilled composers.

Coming next: vintage Leonard Cohen and The Rolling Stones, The Fall of Berlin in appropriated Agfacolor, and some exploitive trash to balance out the coming week.

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Good music, WWII, and cheap goodies (plug, plug, plug)

Before we run our John Frizzell interview, we've put up a candid chat at KQEK.com with Film Score Monthly's Lukas Kendall about the label's most ambitious project - Elmer Bernstein's 13-album series, the Film Music Collection.

Never heard of it?

Well, longtime platter collectors will probably have a few of the treasured albums that the late Oscar-winning composer produced from 1974-79, all out of his own pocket. Along with music from his peers & idols - namely Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Miklos Rozsa, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Franz Waxman - Bernstein also re-recorded material from his own canon, and the albums were sold by mail order until a number of factors brought the ongoing project to a close.

The deluxe boxed set hasn't streeted yet, so read our piece to get some background info, and decided whether you're willing to work every Sunday and a few graveyard shifts for the next month to buy what's more than a standard collectable. The music's good, and it marks the composer's first major effort to preserve a chunk of film music history in his own inimitably modest way.

This will be the first of a few Bernstein pieces which will appear over the next few months, as I had the good fortune to interview him in 2000 about some specific albums and projects. (His jazz music was previously profiled in a two-issue spread in FSM, which is reproduced in complete form at http://www.elmerbernstein.com/news/filmscore_jazz.html.)

In the DVD department, we've also added new reviews for Allan Dwan's nutty 1957 'scope noir, The River's Edge, which is the strangest choice for Fox to include in their Studio Classics line (no Oscars or awards of any kind), but a pleasant surprise, since most TV prints were pretty beat up, and ruined the smooth 2.35:1 ratio.

We've also got our second installment in IHF's trio of fascist propaganda epics from WWII. This time it's Joseph Goebbels' infamous exercise in folly: Kolberg. Directed by the Reich's favoured helmer, Veit Harlan, Kolberg exploits the town's known stands against Napoleonic invaders as a not-too subtle rallying cry for 1940s Germans to fight the Allied forces - except the film barely premiered in a functional theatre while bombs and troops seethed deeper into Germany in 1945. It's a fascinating document that's worth a peek.

Lastly, from Polart comes another lost gem - Border Street/Ulica Graniczna - Aleksander Ford's amazingly frank and powerful social snapshot of the curbside racism that made it a little easier for the invading Nazi army to segregate Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto during WWII, and cart whole families off to the death camps.

Made in 1949 and banned by Polish Communist authorities for a while, the film uses some shocking language and images, and Ford's drama is an edifying film that's lost none of its power and importance.

In our next update we'll take a peek at IHF's The Fall of Berlin, and the usual mix of eclectic releases. We're also in the process of clearing out a lot of stuff from the personal archives, and some collectors of soundtracks and cult flicks might want to take a peek at out directory. To complete this shameful plug, look for the add banner at KQEK.com (or just go HERE), and help us buy more rare goodies so your morning coffee binge has more time to eat another frosty cruller.

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A taste of jazz, a poke of teen terror, and a spoonful of fascism

The latest DVD reviews at KQEK.com involve three films I've wanted to see for several years, and are now available in their own unique releases.

Bert Stern's name is perhaps best-known today by Marilyn Monroe fans for one of the actresses' final stills sessions, but during his lengthy career, he's been involved in some stellar commercial and publicity campaigns, like the iconic snapshots of Sue Lyon with those red heart-shaped sunglasses for Stanley Kubrick's Lolita.

Prior to that assignment, Stern had produced, directed and co-photographed the impressionistic documentary, Jazz on a Summer's Day, shot over a weekend during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.

New Yorker's DVD has been available for a few years now, but we've added a comparison review for the Region 0 release from Charly that offers different extras, and an expanded soundtrack album to boot.

Also falling under the domain of cult movie is Terror Train, the second teen (well, collegiate level) slasher film starring Jamie Lee Curtis that was shot in Canada, after Paul Lynch's Prom Night. Terror Train also co-stars Hart Bochner, Vanity, veteran character actor Ben Johnson in his twilight years, and magician David Copperfield in his one-time acting stint.

Released in the U.S. by Fox, TVA's Canadian disc sports English and French pseudo-stereo 2.0 tracks, and some extras: a stills gallery, and trailers. It's not the special edition fans have been hoping for, but at least the transfer flatters John Alcott's gorgeous cinematography.

It's another high-profile example that, going back to Bob Clark's Black Christmas in 1974, Canada contributed a lot of slasher flicks that (well, part of) a generation regards as their equivalent to the old Universal monster and teen drive-in schlockers many Baby Boomers cherish. (Well, a good portion, since these flicks continue to emerge on DVD from obscurity on studio, indie, and specialty labels.)

We've also got the first of three rare WWII propaganda epics from International Historical Films [IHF] that have been on my Want List for more than 20 years.

Scipio Africanus was Benito Mussolini's attempt in 1937 to instill pride, nationalism, and re-ignite a native film industry, but making a Fascist Heaven's Gate wasn't the best way to make the dream a reality. Chronicled at length in the Medved brothers' Hollywood Hall of Shame book from 1984, Scipio isn't what the Medveds characterized as a lumbering, extravagant epic, with visible gaffes like toga-clad citizens wearing wristwatches, and telephone poles rising behind the Roman troop ship. (Maybe if you went through the film in slo-mo those aberrations might show up.)

Read the first of our IHF wave, as we dip into vintage propaganda, and some intriguing WWII documentaries in the coming weeks.

And coming real soon: a conversational interview with John Frizzell, composer of Lucky McKee's upcoming and long-awaited thriller, The Woods. We discuss at length some of the sounds and sophisticated musical concepts used to scare audiences in the horror genre.

McKee's movie has been delayed for a few years now, and after a screening at the Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival this spring, the director's preferred version will get its North American debut at Montreal's Fantasia 2006.

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Laying out the Wilkommen mat

Marksworld or Mark's World were the preferred monikers, but I've decided to opt for a blog title that's still tied to the eclectic areas in film, video, and film music that I generally write about in several venues.

In the DVD realm, I contributed a hefty wad of reviews for Told You So Productions [TYS], which maintained a strong & steady mandate to review the extras and assorted goodies on meaty DVDs, until its closure in the fall of 2005.

From TYS sprung KQEK.com, which I designed as a media site that embraces film books, films on DVD, and film music. We're still going through our own growing pains, but since May of 2006, we've started to establish a review pattern and interest for rare & unusual classics, foreign films, recent flicks, and weirdo stuff (hence the affectionate and justified use of mondo in this blog).

Part of this page's purpose is to function as the main index to all the new articles, interviews, retrospectives, and reviews in print & web venues to which I've contributed.

For KQEK.com, it'll offer a few more details on new updates and items than the more concise capsules we're sending via RSS feeds & Usenet posts - just to give you a better idea of why we think our stuff is more neat than the larger (but still invaluable) major sites.

KQEK.com's mandate is to be an information bridge, and visitors to this blog will also find links to some of the intriguing and/or oddball sites & pages we find when scouring for material for our reviews and articles. (You'll see what I mean as we move further into July.)

The same goes for related news & reviews that would have crowded an already heavily linked interview (via our interactive WKME wetboarding experience for web-watchers, which adds a cool shade of "wow" to every reading. Ahem).

Having hands in the DVD and film music camps, Mondo Mark will also announce when the latest DVD column for Music from the Movies [MFTM] is up & running. As the current intro to July states, the focus will no longer be on those mere mentions composers have pretty much had to settle for during the past 2-3 years; we're going for a more selective and broad angle, but MFTM's column will still be the key site where you'll find out what DVD releases contain material of special interest to the film music aficionado - be it a composer commentary track, meaty interview, isolated score, or bonus CD.

If you haven't checked out MFTM, please do; and I'm not saying this as a longtime contributor. Both Film Score Monthly [FSM] and Soundtrack (plus the fondly remembered CinemaScore) magazine each had their own character and scope while in their old print format, and MFTM in print & web formats hasn't received wider familiarity among readers.

The mag began as From Silents to Satellites with a unique British/European angle, and like the aforementioned pioneers, it evolved into a thick, high-gloss, international-themed periodical, with seriously detailed articles by some devoted writers, and ultra-special issues on the Matrix films, Sergio Leone, and the Lord of the Rings flix.

Most should find that FSM's transition as an online subscription magazine in January has gone very well. I still miss holding a physical magazine, but a print format is a huge undertaking, and I think the new FSM's done well by also adding more of its huge back catalogue of prior issues to subscribers.

I'm a big proponent of making archival info online, as old reviews, interviews and articles eventually become the only footnote for a release, a person, a style, or a body of work that will eventually slip away from the consciousness of older aficionados, and be less sexy to newer fans. The mags, sites, and CD labels collectively keep the work of film composers old and new alive, and the reward in digging through older articles is sometimes a wonderful informational discovery.

Anyhoo, stay tuned for the next update, and feel free to add one of our RSS feeds to your reader. Just click on the appropriate logo to subscribe to this page directly. You can also choose from our menu at feedburner.com the MFTM DVD Column, updates to KQEK.com, or for this page, which covers everything Mondo Mark (but without footage of facelifts, a hippo hunt, or ty-dyed chickens set to Riz Ortolani's "More").
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