New DVDs 7-1-2008

This week in the New York Times, a look at two interrelated releases from Criterion, Paul Schrader’s “Mishima” (1985) and Yukio Mishima’s “Patriotism” (1966), plus a tribute to Phil Karlson’s devastating final noir, “Framed” (1975), out this week in a budget edition from Legend Films, available for the moment only through Best Buy.

45 comments to New DVDs 7-1-2008

  • That Best Buy exclusive thing is so aggravating – they’d better undo that soon. Netflix also doesn’t seem to have any of the July 1 wave of Legend/Paramount titles, although some of them (not “Framed” though) seem to be available from other on-line retailers.

    Since a lot of classic TV fans seem to check in here, it’s worth pointing out that Jack A. Marta was also the primary cinematographer for “Route 66″ during its entire (1960-64) run.

  • Brian

    Stephen/Dave,

    I just checked, and Netflix is in fact carrying “Framed.” I just added it to my queue (with no wait time, even). So I guess Best Buy has relaxed their stranglehold at least that much.

  • Okay, I stand corrected: a few, but not all, of Legend’s June Paramount titles (“Framed,” “Phase IV,” “The Man Who Could Cheat Death”) were Best Buy exclusives but, somehow, Netflix got rental copies of them. Meanwhile, none of their July 1 releases (“Desperate Characters,” “Money From Home,” “The Pied Piper,” etc.) have turned up on Netflix yet, even though you can buy them anywhere. So some of them are difficult to buy, and others are difficult to rent. Dave, can you add me to the NYT screener list? Thanks, pal!

  • Alex Hicks

    “Mishima” is impressive work. It is certainly the most ambitious and elaborately structured and designed of Schrader’s directorial effort. Perhaps a work on Mishima’s sometimes “exhibitionistic” life warrants Schrader’s gonzo style in “Mishima,” but I prefer the moderation and humanism of the less exhibitionionistic “Afflicted.”

    Also, although it’s hardly appropriate to refer to Schrader’s Mishima as “a compromised saint” and to “his saintly ambitions,” associating Mishima with “would-be heroes into monsters,” is a bit much when we’re partly talking about the young fascist Shinto heroes of the film’s “Runaway Horses” segment, a “fascist” Mishima in, at least, the mode of 1935-45 Japanese Axis fascism and the Schrader –not to make to much of the moment’s “f word”— of Rosenbaum’s “Hell on Wheels” and Robin Wood’s Schrader/TAXI DRIVER” piece in Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan.

  • Griff

    I liked Dave’s strong review of MISHIMA as well as his good words in support of FRAMED, but I had to chuckle when I saw that he wrote about both pictures in the same column. In an interview in the mid-’70s, Paul Schrader excoriated the Canadian film magazine Take One for having few standards… citing the magazine’s favorable review of FRAMED as an ideal example. [Afterward, the magazine would occasionally (and hilariously) describe Schrader as "a big Take One fan."]

  • c mason wells

    In the almost-too-good-to-be-true file:

    http://daily.greencine.com/archives/006330.html#more

  • The too-good-to-be-true news — that several missing scenes from “Metropolis” have been discovered in Buenos Aires — appears to be both true and slightly disappointing. The Murnau Foundation, at http://www.murnau-stiftung.de/en/04-00-00-news.html, confirms the discovery but notes that the “quality of the picture is in deplorable condition,” and a post by Martin Koerber, the Deutsche Kinemathek curator responsible for the 2001 restoration, on the Association of Moving Image Archivists listserv, says, “the material is terribly banged up, being a 16mm dupe negative made from a no longer extant nitrate print, which was destroyed some decades ago after many years of heavy use.” This diagnosis is born out by the frame enlargements on the site of the German newspaper Die Ziet — http://www.zeit.de/online/2008/27/metropolis-vorab-englisch — which broke the news yesterday. Nonetheless, as Koerber notes, “one can now see the director’s cut of ‘Metropolis,’ 80 years after we all believed the original version was destroyed.”

  • nicolas saada

    will the marvel of digital frame to frame restoration do something about it ?
    Framed sounds interesting. The composition of that shot, and its mood remind me of karel Reisz “The gambler”.

  • Still, this is going to give a glimpse of missing footage from a masterpiece by Lang. The still of a Metropolis newspaper is fascinating. Lang’s films have a deep interest in mass media: here is a newspaper in the future.
    Phil Karlson’s “Framed” also sounds exciting. I love Karlson’s 1950’s films. This will be a chance to see a noir from a much later period in Karlson’s career.

  • Julian Pearce

    Dave, I was a bit startled when I read your review of the Mishima DVD…you pretty much excoriated the movie years ago in the Chicago Reader. Any reason for the about-face? Maturity?
    Bribery? Alzheimers?

  • Julian Pearce

    P.S. Dave: Love you long time, man.

  • Alex Hicks

    Closest I can come to a great, cinephilic 4th of July quote: “Forward with General Jackson! The Union forever!” (Young CFK.)

  • @Julian: Alzheimer’s is of course the only real explanation, but I had a very different response to it this time around, probably because I’ve learned to differentiate between Fascist films and films about Fascists (thank you, Clint Eastwood). But if Schrader wants to send me a check, he knows where to find me.

  • David Boxwell

    If the rest of “Metropolis” can be found, I have this fantasy that the last 5 reels of the preview version of “The Magnificent Ambersons” are somewhere in Pomona, California. Maybe in 5 reel cans marked “Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost” sitting in a kitchen pantry…

  • Steve Elworth

    I still have not found the DVD of Framed. Out at Best Buy on line and not at any local stores. I can not wait to see it again. I amy have seen it since it’s original run and that would be over twenty five years. I saw it on the day it opened, a Wenesday on 42nd street on a double bill with a late William Castle film, I think that he was producer only, Bug. Framed blew me away with paranoia. violence and humour and the career as a star of small As for Joe Don that never hapenned, what a film to end a career on. I do agree with Dave that it is the last original style film noir, 15 years after Breathless and eight years after Point blank and the begining of American Re-visionary post noir.
    One more thing about Joe Don Baker in at least one of the reviews of Charlie Varrick, Sarris???, likened him to Fred Thompson’s performance in the Watergate hearings but of course it was filmed before. So is Fred Thpson’s acting career as Fred Dalton Thompson a second rate actor and fifth rate politican borrowing performance ticks from a first rate actor that could only be a star in a cinema that no longer existed in the 1970’s.

  • jbryant

    I found several copies of “Framed” at the Best Buy in Burbank, but they’re charging a dollar above their own online price. So I may be a cheap bastard and order it online with a couple of other things instead (free shipping above a certain amount, I believe). I really need to get “Day of the Outlaw” and “Daisy Kenyon,” too.

    Haven’t been buying much lately – got out of the habit while waiting for the Blu-Ray vs. HD thing to play out. Last week I picked up a twofer set of Freddie Francis’ “Tales from the Crypt” and Roy Ward Baker’s “Vault of Horror.” The former was a favorite of my youth; haven’t seen the latter. Probably nothing more than cheesy fun, but I’ve quite liked some of these guys’ films, particularly Francis’ “Paranoiac” and “Nightmare” and Baker’s “Inferno.”

  • Richard von Busack

    jbryant, I hope you’re not sorry about Tales…. Ralph Richardson gives his all as The Crypt Keeper, and the variation on The Monkey’s Paw and Peter Cushing’s makeup in his final scene are still loads of fun. Horror omnibuses are always scarier than full length horror films; there isn’t enough time for disbelief to set in.
    I’m looking forward to seeing Mishima again. Hands down, it’s Philip Glass’s most paranoiac score; it may have as much to do with the impact of the film as anything Schrader does.
    There’s an incident in The Great Railway Bazaar, where Theroux is discussing Mishima’s attempted coup with a Japanese lit professor. Theroux opines that Mishima did what he did because he felt certain of reincarnation. The professor replies, “I certainly hope he stays where he is!”

  • nicolas saada

    A great “omnibus” horror film is Asylum, directed by Roy Ward Baker. Has anybody seen it ? And of course, I have a fondness for “Dr Terror’s house of horrors”.
    The original Universal “House of…” (Dracula, Frankenstein… )were a forereunner of the “horror omnibus”.

  • Alex Hicks

    Differentiating between “Fascist films and films about Fascists” has a nice ring, but the two aren’t mutually exclusive, for fascist films can be “about” fascist, even in the sense of enlightening us about fascists. The Nazi “Munchausen” enlightens us about Nazi cynicism, “Jew Süss” about the similarities across racist ideologies (e.g., how, as in “Birth of a Nation,” defense of the railer sex from beast is a key trope). Furher, a fascist work like Mishima’s own “Runaway Horses” or “Patriotism” can be masterly, as well as more illuminating about fascism, than just about all the “non-fascist” competition.

    Bringing in Clint Eastwood is an okay touch if the nobly empathetic “Letters from Iwo Jima” is meant as the key reference, but it’s not all that telling. Eastwood’s empathy goes out to a whole people under fascist rule/command. So far as fascism goes, Mishima’s empathy is mostly with the fascist extremist of the Kodo-ha group whose wave of assassination and failed coup attempt of February, 1936, is widely credited with having advanced the cause of Pan Asian Japanese militarism despite (because of?) being crushed by Hirohito and Tojo. The Eastwood allusion is less effective if one has, to use Rosenbaum’s judiciously term, the “quasi-fascist” Travis Bickle in mind or his similarities to West-Coast vigilante Harry Callahan. (I frequently revisit Bickle and Callahan but have learned that most student viewers of their tales have zero moral reservations about the actions of such cool action heroes.)

    On the other hand, maybe a film as ornately designed and constructed and thematically charged a film as “Mishima” deserves a second look.

  • Brad Stevens

    “Roy Ward Baker’s “Vault of Horror.”…Probably nothing more than cheesy fun”

    Unfortunately, the Region 1 DVD of THE VAULT OF HORROR is heavily censored. The ending of the first story barely even makes sense now – ironically, you can see one of the images missing from this segment in the black and white trailer included on the disc! An uncut DVD was released in the UK by Vipco.

  • jbryant

    Richard: I don’t think I’ll be sorry about Tales; I have vivid memories of some scenes, and the nostalgia factor alone should give me my money’s worth. But I feel confident that Francis will deliver more than that.

    nicolas: I saw “Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors” earlier this year (my local library had the DVD) and enjoyed it a great deal. In fact, that’s what motivated me to look for the Tales/Vault DVD in the first place.

    Brad: Shame about the “Vault of Horror” Region 1. I wonder if the full screen version shown on the cable channel Chiller has any of the missing footage. It’s sitting in my DVR, so I guess I’ll find out. I almost deleted it after buying the DVD, but maybe it’s a good thing I waited.

    Now if I can just find time to watch the damn things!

  • jbryant

    Back to Phil Karlson: His excellent and rarely seen “Five Against the House” will air on Turner Classics on August 12th at 6:45 p.m. PST. It’s from one of his most prolific years, 1955 (The Phenix City Story, Tight Spot, Hell’s Island).

  • Brad Stevens

    There’s German television report here…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vq2Uc61YRMY

    …which includes some cips from the rediscovered print of METROPOLIS.

  • nicolas saada

    There were two page sin the morning paper liberation today about this new metropolis version. It’s such a miracle that one wonders if the greatest treasure of”the lost continet of cinephilia” are not all in the vaults of the Latin american film archives. Remember in 1987, when the head of the sao paulo film archive discovered two lost fritz lang films “Vier um di Frau” and “Madame Butterfly” ? Which means that perhaps other treasures are somewhere hidden in either Rio, Buenos Aires or Santiago ! The complete version of “Greed” ? THe complete “Ambersons ” ?

  • Brad Stevens

    More than almost anything I would love to see the lost films of Mizoguchi and Ozu – though my guess is that these would not have made it to Latin America.

  • seanflynn

    The “complete” versions of Greed and Magnificant Ambersons never left their respective studios (other than possibly the latter for a preview/research screening. Unfortunately, the chances that either is still around in some vault are virtually zero.

  • Dave K

    Actually, it has been documented that Welles was sent a print of “Ambersons” to review during his time in Brazil, but in spite of much frenzied searching, the copy has never turned up.

    In related news, the Marx Bros. website Marxology — http://www.marx-brothers.org/marxology/index.htm — has an item on a variant version of “A Night at the Opera” supposedly found in the Hungarian film archives. We shall see . . .

  • david hare

    A propos of nothing I feel obliged to refer to Universal’s PR for their reissue of a 3 disc SE of Touch of Evil in October which will contain all three (58, 78 recut and 98 reconstruction) versions. All three will however be masked to 1.85. I don’t feel I need to go over the aesthetic vandalism that attaches to this masking again (but will if pressed), and I’m sure other cinephiles everywhere while welcoming a 3 version SE will be aghast at no Academy ratio options.

  • seanflynn

    Curious about a print having been sent to Rio for Welles to view – had not heard that. What’s the story on this?

    For what it’s worth, here is the only reference I could find about this (from Bogdanovich’s This Is Orson Welles):

    “Dick’s file will show that I only agreed to the Brazilian junket on the firm guarantee that the moviolas and all the film would immediately follow me. What happened instead? The film never came.” (Orson Welles)

  • Michael Dempsey

    With regard to the possibility that a print of the complete “Magnificent Ambersons” might exist somewhere in South America, here are two quotations from the highly detailed book “It’s All True: Orson Welles’s Pan-American Odyssey” by Catherine L. Benamou (University of California Press, 2007):

    “…Welles…had completed all of the necessary shooting for “The Magnificent Ambersons” prior to his departure from the United States [for Brazil, where he was to film part of “It’s All True”]. Not only did that film have a detailed shooting script, a rough cut, and detailed notes that editor Robert Wise could use as a guide, but Welles had already arranged with Wise to complete the final cut of “Ambersons” in Rio. Granted, this was an ambitious plan for 1942, and when, due primarily to wartime logistics, it did not com about, Welles immediately began cabling Hollywood once he had viewed the first final cut (technically, a fine cut), which arrived safely in Rio de Janeiro.” (Page 250.)

    End Note 74 (page 350) adds: “To this day, researchers have been trying to locate this lost print, since it is believed to contain the scenes that were reshot or cut from the film.”

  • seanflynn

    Thanks Michael – I assumed Dave was referring to something as solid as that.

    Curious about the contradiction between Welles’ own recollection and this report, and what, if anything, Bogdanovich has ever said on the subject.

  • Brian Dauth

    David:

    Maybe we can start a movement of cinephiles who, upset over aesthetic vandalism, tell Universal that they will blog and write against this edition, and also encourage people to disdain it and not purchase it.

    Film publications will be harder to bring around since they will want Universal advertising dollars no matter how puny, but cinephiles should agree to shun any offers to write on Universal’s latest bastardization of TOUCH OF EVIL.

    We can call the effort TOEJAM: TOUCH OF EVIL Just As Meant (I am very open to a better acronym).

  • seanflynn

    Speaking of framing (and going back to TCM issues), why are they showing clips of 1.33 movies like A Place in the Sun (as part of the Sydney Pollack/Elvis Mitchell interview) matted? They know better – it looks ridiculous.

  • david hare

    Hiya Brian

    as you obviously also realize Uni just did the press release for this as posted don today’s dvdtimes.co.uk. It’s two discs not three ( my bad) with the 58 and 78 versions on a single DL WITH commentary by JR and Naremore. I am assuming the commentary track was recorded a while ago and before either JR or Naremore knew of Schmidlin’s designs to reissue all three versions in 1.85. I agree anyone concerned enough, given this prime opportunity for a more or less “definitive” edition of Touch (short of a BluRay of course) should be howling about the framing issue. As you know Schmidlin refuses to concur with the Academy ratio for any version of it, and in the process I feel he is totally ignoring all the arguments that have come from cinephiles and fans of the films alike for several years now regarding Metty’s own very specific lighting and composition of the headroom, the use of the wide angle lenses to pack in both depth and height of frame and so on. (As I said I dont’ want to go into all this again, at least right now) but it concerns me that they’ve already done the telecine. It should be of some interest to Schmidlin at least that when the first “restoration”/”Preview” version surfaced in 1978 (and when I first saw it in NYC that year) it was routinely screened everywhere thereafter in Academy. Apart from my concerns about the increasing amount of revisionism in reissues over matters of AR, color timing and total misjudgment of reproducing Technicolor IB print qualities (etc etc etc) we are simply being presented with some sort of supreme arrogance from Homve Vid producers of this material who simply deny the reality of the forms in which these films were presented more than 20 years ago. (Yes Im feeling old. And angry.) If Jonathon Rosenbaum is reading here I hope he picks this up as I am sure it’s not too late to revisit at least one of the telecines (say for the 78 version) assuming these are already done and dried.

  • J.R. Jones

    A few months back there was an item intimating that F.W. Murnau’s “Four Devils” had been recovered. Did that ever pan out?

  • Kent Jones

    I think this is an ongoing situation. But whenever something like this is “announced” and then doesn’t show up immediately, it means one of two things: either it’s a hoax, or someone involved smells money and is holding out. Janet Bergstrom is the one to contact.

  • seanflynn

    You want some unjustified optimism? Try out Netflix – if you type in The Patriot (Lubitsch) and The Way of All Flesh (Fleming), a listing comes up implying that they are forthcoming, although with availability dates.

  • david hare

    The Four Devils thing was first ventilated at crtierionforum and ended up getting Janet Bergstrom involved, at which point the jerk who posted it turned out to be a fraudster. His IP address also vanished from the forum database.

    On Films Maudits, Im wondering if anyone will ever dig up the missing 40 plus minutes from Gremillon’s Dainah la Metisse! Gaumont themselves butchered it for prem in 1932 and Grem took his name off the credits. Despite which – and having lost its entire exposition and literally shaving every remaining scene down – it still retains a kind of inxeplicable magic which the picture itself formally expresses in an astonishing scene (even for Gremillon) of the black actor Habib Benglia (he plays a bathhouse attendant in Les Enfants du Paradis if anyone is unsure) who performs a magic act aboard an Ocean liner during a masked ball in which all the passengers wear gargoylesque masks in parodies of their apparent personalities. Only Dainah, the “half caste”/metisse herself and Habib’s wife is absolved from the masks but instead wears an imprisoning steel contraption resembling an art deco ribcage around her face.

    By way of nothing!

  • Kent Jones

    Thanks for clearing that up, David. And I echo your sentiments on DAINAH LA METISSE.

  • … and in retrospect, the “4 Devils” hoax at the Criterion Forum wasn’t even a particularly GOOD hoax. The hoaxster began by inquiring, “Hey, what’s a real holy grail lost film?”, somebody ventured “4 Devils,” and the guy replied, “Well, it just so happens THAT’S THE ONE I FOUND IN MY ATTIC!!!” Thus taking particularly cruel advantage of the credulity of hopeful cinephiles.

  • Kent Jones

    Didn’t Lenny Lopate do an April Fools show a few years ago on which he claimed that AMBERSONS had been recovered?

  • Brad Stevens

    “Didn’t Lenny Lopate do an April Fools show a few years ago on which he claimed that AMBERSONS had been recovered?”

    London’s National Film Theatre announced an April 1st screening of the uncut MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS at least once, I think in the late 80s. It was even mentioned in the London listings magazine TIME OUT (though I have no idea if they were in on the joke).

  • Kent Jones

    Yes, I’m sure it’s happened many more times in many other places. A cruel way to get a cheap laugh.

  • I kind of feel like forum wienies (such as myself) deserve to be punked every once in a while, but the “4 Devils” number was out of line.

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