Sundry News & Soundtrack Reviews

Before I get to the latest soundtrack reviews, this past Black Friday La-La Land Records revealed their year-end limited releases, and it's a pretty alluring quartet: Michael Kamen's Die Hard (2CDs), Ennio Morricone's Fat Man & Little Boy (2CDs), Danny Elfman's Scrooged, and Jerry Goldsmith's Tora Tora Tora.

Of the 4 releases, Die Hard should sell out really, really soon, since the prior Varese release came out in 2002 - that's 9 years one of the best action scores ever written has been off the market, which has undoubtedly spawned high eBay sales, and bootlegs.

The Hitchhiker – The (In)Complete Collection

Over the past year, Alliance has re-issued parts of their TV catalogue on DVD in budget-priced lines, but a major headache for fans of eighties CanCon TV includes some very elemental questions:

What’s in the damned set?

Is it in stereo?

What are the specific episodes?

The reason these questions are frustrating are really quite elemental: Alliance rarely sends out review screeners of their catalogue material, and more crucial, the packaging is often bereft of any substantive details.

Festivals-a-Go-Go: Nov. 24 – Dec.1, 2011

"It STILL swings!"

Before we get to this week's tally of festivals, series, etc., it seems Hot Docs have set Wed. Dec. 7 as the official opening of the Bloor Cinema. As recounted back in September at Torontoist, the Bloor was in the midst of a major interior / exterior overhaul, and had just added KinoSmith founder Robin Smith as Hot Doc's chief programmer.

Samuel Bronston, Part I

---CHARLTON HESTON thinks: 'How the blazes do I get away from this drunken bitch?' 
--- AVA GARDNER aspires: 'If I run RIGHT NOW, neither Nick nor Sam will see me escape this mess!'
--- DAVID NIVEN fantasizes facetiously : 'There must be some way to feed Yordan a slice of broken glass pizza for making me sound like Heston.'

The career of Samuel Bronston may be short and tragic, and while many might not recognize the name, the handful of titles that bore his imprimateur represent the top historical epics ever made: King of Kings (1961), El Cid (1961), 55 Days at Peking (1963), The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964), and Circus World (1964).

Yes, Kings is bizarre, El Cid has a cadaver saving Spain, Peking killed its director’s career, Roman Empire killed the Bronston empire, and Circus World tests the mettle of audiences who found Cecil B. DeMille’s The Greatest Show On Earth (1952) an interminable melodramatic bore, but these are epics in the fullest sense of visual scope, physical production values of extreme nature, a cast of the best actors around, and thousands of extras on the payroll.

This past Sunday, as part of the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s series Hollywood Classics: The Cinema is Nicholas Ray, a print of Peking was screened to a small but generally appreciative audience. Most seemed to know what they were in for; a few took extra w.c. breaks, and a handful seemed to walk out, perhaps thinking Peking was supposed to be an epic drama about the origins of soylent green.


"It swings!"

There never seems to be a shortage of film festivals, series, retrospectives, and assorted cineastical things happening in Toronto, so here’s a quick tally of the current / imminent events of things to see (and in my case, write about).

Swan Songs

Sorry folks, but this tender moment NEVER HAPPENS in the film.

Twilight Time’s latest DVD release  - The Left Hand of God [M] (1955) - (limited to 3000 and available only via Screen Archives Entertainment) features a really lovely transfer of this extremely peculiar drama that isn’t wholly satisfying, but maintains a strange aura of sadness because it marked the career swan songs of its two leads, Humphrey Bogart and Gene Tierney. Both actors still appeared in a few films, but certainly for Bogart, the sadness is being aware he was a mere two pictures away before cancer stole him from the art form that gave fans so much pleasure.

Maniac Cop, and The Devils!

Before I get to William Lustig’s sublime exploitation hit from 1988, some may have heard reports that Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971) is slated for a DVD release in the U.K., courtesy of the BFI.

Word has it the film isn’t the recently restored version that included newly found nasty footage, but the original British X certificate version which still runs longer and is more faithful to Russell’s edit than the American cut.

Charlton Heston

Charlton Hestion (vers. 1.0)

It’s a shame that the mention of Charlton Heston brings forth not thoughts of his significant body of work (vers. 1.0), but a crazy old actor raising a rifle able his head, growling “From my cold, dead hands” like the pivotal moment in a drama where a tolerant man snaps, and stands up against the bully that’s massacred everything he’s ever held dear (vers. 2.0).

The video footage of Heston at the NRA conference remains an indelible image, and it undoubtedly tarnished his image as an actor, filmmaker, and gifted voice to that of a right wing extremist – that’s if one sides with the ‘liberal’ angle.

One can theorize that as people age, their views and stances change, perhaps drifting to extremes of right or left, or perhaps mellowing out, but what was so striking about Heston’s change was the drama he invested in that particular appearance, which rendered him more of a political figure than just an actor who worked hard all of his life in theatre, film, and TV.

Raoul Ruiz

I'm sorry, but she's not the star...

With very rare exceptions in North America, serial productions made for TV in Europe are on occasion released to cinemas in easier to digest morsels for international audiences, of which Ingmar Bergman may be king of the mini-series.

Nicholas Ray: Part II

Just uploaded are a pair of documentary reviews that are really two parts of a three-film arc covering Nicholas Ray’s final years, as seen through the eyes by very different filmmakers.

In 1975, David Helpern constructed a doc around Ray as a maverick, back at work again. He visited the set of Ray & his students at the farm they called home after Harpur College wasn’t too crazy about the total immersion design of the film class, causing them to set up shop far away from the school campus and indulge in 'all filmmaking, all the time.'
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