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.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


Copyright © mondomark