The Riled West

A little-seen but integral part of the Jacques Tourneur universe, 1956’s GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING, one of the weirdest westerns to come out of Hollywood, makes its Blu-Ray debut, courtesy of The Warner Archive Collection.

Filmed as RKO was accelerating its rapid demise (the studio would be smoldering in the Rosebud fire by the following year), GREAT DAY carries all of the director’s trademark themes:  ambivalent looks-are-deceiving “heroes,” the bridge between sexuality and death, the punishment of trust…; in short, the evil that men (and women) do.

Into a society of degenerates (aka, early Civil War Denver, Colorado), rides disgraced Southerner Owen Pentecost.  Saved from an Indian attack (probably provoked), the outcast son of Dixie is offered a safe passage into town by working as an additional bodyguard for tough merchant Ann Merry Alaine.  It’s not an easy trip, as her other protectors comprise a gang of lowlifes who despise all things Southern.

And here’s the rub.  Zeff, leader of the deviant loudmouths, is a character western fans know all too well.  He’s even played to the hilt by renowned heavy Leo Gordon.  Nevertheless the typical trademarks of such vermin – jealousy, pure sociopathic tendencies, greed – are replaced by an aversion to the South due to their persecution of African-Americans, their cracker vehement adhesion to slavery.  Zeff, in short, considers it an honor to spit on white trash that supports owning people they can’t afford to buy (to work land they don’t have) – shackled, suffering separated families who are better in every way than their persecutors.  Why is this thug saying these things?  We’re supposed to NOT like him.  His cohorts are no different.  Like Pentecost, the few other Southerners in Denver are, not surprisingly, shunned and bastardized as well.  But they’re no innocents either.  They harbor ambitions to steal gold for their cause – and kill anyone who stands in their way.

Pentecost, on the surface, appears conflicted, but he’s actually in his element – thriving in a corrupt, festering growing community where he can do what he does best, playing both sides.  His attraction to the beautiful Ann is one-sided; she’s practically frigid – thawed only by the thought of accumulating more power.  Adding to the toxicity is Kirby, a rock-jaw Union officer who is smitten by her, but can never dishonor himself enough to make a permanent impression.  Then there’s Gary, an orphaned teen, adopted by Pentecost – not out of affection, but because he secretly killed the boy’s father.  Secrets don’t stay buried long in GREAT DAY‘s Denver, their holders do.  Soon, the once-adoring Gary learns to hate Pentecost, and seek revenge.

All of this is overseen with glee by the town’s manipulative “boss,” the psychopathic Jumbo Means (his size complements his name, along with his penchant for collecting elephant art), who buys everything and everyone, and enjoys pitting factions against one another.  He sides with the Union, only because it seems the easier route to become a war profiteer.  Pentecost, meanwhile, leans toward the band of his “home boy” rebels (whom he plans to screw out of the gold smuggled to the Confederacy).

Indeed, the only reputable and admirable character in the show is Boston, the town’s leading whore.  The contradictory fact that the most obvious immoral person is also Denver’s most moral, takes its toll.  Even if this wasn’t a movie made in 1956, you can well imagine what fate awaits her.

Speaking of contradictory, a key word in Tourneur’s celluloid lexicon, GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING, with its cynical title, looks gorgeous in the Technicolor and SuperScope Silverton, Colorado location cinematography of William E. Snyder.  The script by Lesser Samuels (from Robert Hardy Andrews’ novel) is, as indicated, infuriating, as some of the pic’s highest verbal valiant patriotism comes from the mouths of human pigs.  A typical era score by Leith Stevens compliments the proceedings.

The cast, led by a recently A-list upgraded Robert Stack is aces.  Stack, who won praise for his role as pilot on the verge of a nervous breakdown in 1954’s The High and the Mighty, followed in 1955 with a great turn as a faux scumbag in Sam Fuller’s House of Bamboo.  In GREAT DAY, he’s the real deal (and later that year he would give another outstanding performance in Sirk’s Written on the Wind).  Supporting Stack is female lead Virginia Mayo (Ann), Ruth Roman (Boston), Raymond Burr (Jumbo) Alex Nichol (Kirby), Donald MacDonald (Gary), plus Regis Toomey, Carleton Young, Peter Whitney, William Phipps, Burt Mustin, and such genre regulars as Lane Chandler, Pierce Lyden, Kermit Maynard, Frank Mills, Buddy Roosevelt, and Syd Saylor, .

The Warner Archive Blu-Ray of GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING is sumptuous to the max.  I mean, it looks spectacular in 1080p High Definition.  Furthermore, there’s the added supplemental perk of four Jacques Tourneur MGM shorts from his salad days (The Ship that Died, Strange Glory, The Face Behind the Mask and The Magic Alphabet).

Truly, a western that’s hard to place, but one that’s fun to try, GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING is a strange, but thoroughly engrossing journey into the darker side of humanity.

GREAT DAY IN THE MORNING. Color. Widescreen [2.0:1; 1080p High Definition] 2.0 DTS-HD MA. The Warner Archive Collection/Warner Bros. Entertainment.  CAT # 1000750095SRP: $21.95.

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Ziggy Stardust

Another hen’s tooth log on the “things I  never thought I’d ever see” celluloid pile, 1929’s GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL, an embryonic talkie, gets a dazzling 2K 35MM restoration from Kino-Lorber and the collaborative efforts of UCLA, the AFI, Universal Pictures and Paramount Pictures.

Now, many knowledgeable movie folk may be scratching their heads, wondering “WTF is wrong with this guy?”  GtAG is a public domain title that has been around forever.  True that, BUT it’s been edited and (often) culled from tenth generation 16MM dupes, making it unwatchable (if not, “bacon frying” inaudible), and thus, unceremoniously tossed into the surviving nitrate landfill of godawful early talkers (and, heaven knows, there are plenty of those).  But this ain’t one of ’em.

In a complete, restored, gorgeous 35MM print, AMERICAN GIRL works.  Easily categorized at first glance (the old chestnut about a beautiful young ingénue, hoping to be one of those bright lights on the Great White Way), GtAG is usually compared to and overshadowed by the phenomenally successful Broadway Melody, made the same year at MGM (and renowned for being the first musical to win an Oscar…for Best Picture yet!).  In actuality, Melody is more worthy of the creaky rep that pics like AMERICAN GIRL get; it’s frequently difficult to sit through, let alone imagine what Hollywood could have been thinking, giving the Metro flick an Oscar.  That said, in 1929, talking pictures were all the rage – and musical talkers were (at least for a short while) what we in the 1990’s called “da bomb.”

The cardboard characters and dialog of Melody pale next to GtAG’s script by J.P. McEvoy (from a story by Millard Webb) which is remarkably snarky and sporadically vicious – correctly targeting the predators who victimize the innocents in the show business (usually girls and women).  In fact, GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL is a lot closer to Rouben Mamoulian’s brilliant Applause (also made in 1929, by Paramount and, like AMERICAN GIRL, at the New York Astoria Studio) than to Broadway Melody.

Okay, as indicated, while the plot of GtAG is firmly etched in the familiar groove of the go-getting wannabe dancer/singer/actress, it veers off early-on into darker territories.  Gloria Hughes, happily involved with her high school sweetie Buddy and besties with Barbara, (another beauty, who nevertheless harbors no real footlight aspirations) believes she can manage it all.  The flip flapper quickly finds she can’t.  Talented, but naïve, she disses her dedicated paramour for the road – experiencing the creeps and awful conditions that go along with it.  Worse, unlike Broadway Melody, which focused upon two loving sisters trying to crash the Biz, Gloria is saddled with a classic mooching, monstrous show business mother from hell.  Practically pimped by her parent, Gloria is taken under the wing (in the worst possible way) by Miller, a minor name on the circuit, whom both daughter and mother see as a rung to the top.  As far as he’s concerned, it’s vice versa (accent on the “vice”).  A competent performer, Miller is unfazed when their act is caught by a scout for Ziggy (Florenz Ziegfeld to you), who wants Hughes but not Miller.  This is okay by him, as the seedy hoofer sees it as a way to glide by doing nothing but collecting a hefty paycheck; he previously connived a legal contract for Gloria (witnessed and signed by Mommy Dearest), entitling him to half of all they make (back when he was considered the bread winner).  It’s here that Gloria’s worm turns, revealing herself to be a quick study, perfectly amenable to making this leech’s life a living hell 24/7.  Formerly naïve, the hardened woman’s growing partner-hatred coupled with that eternal lust for fame embellishes her with a warehouse of “the smarts,” and, as the song says, “she knows how to use it.”

Meantime, Buddy and Barbara, following their pal’s rise with glee, have now become a couple, a relationship forged out of their being abandoned by Gloria’s selfishness and Barbara’s recovering from a near-fatal traffic accident. With Gloria’s backburner chances for physical and emotional happiness ruined, the picture concludes with “regular” folks Buddy and Barbara deliriously in love while the “glorified” American girl is forever doomed to the loneliness of success, and addicted to an industry swarming with vipers and users.

I guess at first glance, GtAG doesn’t sound like “the happy one for the holidays,” but it really is entertaining.  There are some excellent performances in the pic and some nicely paced comedy (bourgeois mom trying to manipulate a stubborn lorgnette).  The lead star, Mary Eaton, took me by shock; I mean that as a compliment.  The only other title I had ever seen the (mostly) stage-trained actress in was as one-half of the useless love interest in the Marx Brothers pic The Cocoanuts (yet another 1929 Paramount filmed at the Astoria facilities).  In AMERICAN GIRL, she really gets to dance, belt out some numbers and act up a storm.  Who knew?

GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL was directed by the story’s writer, Millard Webb, who deserves the proverbial tip of a hat.  Unlike most primitive talkies, this one moves way better than the competition (including the oft soggy Cocoanuts).  Webb completes a nifty behind-the-camera trio with Paramount’s East Coast producer Monta Bell and d.p. George Folsey (both of whom were likewise on the Marx Brothers show).  The supporting cast, too, is of note, and includes quite a roster: Edward Crandall (Buddy), Gloria Shea (Barbara), Sarah Edwards (Mom-from-Hell), Dan Healy (Miller), plus Bull Montana and Kay Renard.  Having merchandised Ziggy’s name, the iconic Broadway showman used his clout to throw the production some extra prizes:  the participation of Helen Morgan (who sings “What Would I Do for My Man?”), Rudy Vallee (giving us a taste of “Vagabond Lover”) and guest appearances by Billie Burke (aka, Mrs. Ziegfeld), Mayor Jimmy Walker, Charles Dillingham, Noah Beery, Irving Berlin, Texas Guinan, Otto Kahn, Tony Sansone, Ring Lardner, the Ted Shawn Ballet, Flo Ziegfeld, Jr., 75 Glorified Beauties, and a young swimming star named Johnny Weissmuller (Paramount head Adolph Zukor turns up on his own).  Best of all is a revue segment featuring Eddie Cantor and Louis Sorin (Abie the Fishman from the Marx Bros. Animal Crackers, another Paramount Picture that would be shot at Astoria the following year) as two Lower East Side tailors trying to snare a rube tourist into purchasing garbage garb.

As for the musical numbers, once again, GtAG beats out Broadway Melody.  Producer Bell (with Ziggy’s help) was able to snare John W. Harkrider to create Ziegfeld-esque tableau show-stoppers that were shot in two-strip Technicolor.  Here’s where the public domain prints failed – giving us B&W washed out copies, or missing these sequences entirely (not cool for a musical).  Long thought lost, ALL of the Technicolor footage has now been re-discovered and re-inserted back into the print.  To call these scenes exquisite would be an understatement.  They’re also bizarrely complex.  Rather than just unveil a reel or two in this process, the producers thought better to keep the on-stage stuff in color, but the audience cut-a-ways and response (including Buddy’s and Barbara’s approval) in standard monochrome (unlike, for example, the all-color finale in 1930’s Florodora Girl).

Kino has additionally appended the 95-minute feature with a number of terrific clips and shorts, including Hearst Newsreels of Ziegfeld rehearsing his dancers, and the 1934 three-strip Technicolor short, La Cucaracha. The plum supplement is audio commentary by Richard Barrios, author of A Song in the Dark: The Birth of the Musical Film, perhaps the finest book ever on the period and the genre.

As mentioned earlier, the 35MM presentation is outstanding in 1080p.  At last rescued from public domain purgatory, GtAG has transformed back to the 1929 jaw-dropper it was been meant to be.  As one astute viewer (pre-social distancing) at The Neuhaus Bijou noted, AMERICAN GIRL solemnly reveals that industry sexual rights and rites have not progressed much in nearly a century; indeed, the title itself is a cynical one. Here’s to better times.

GLORIFYING THE AMERICAN GIRL.  Black and white w/Technicolor sequences.  Full frame: 1.20:1; 1080p High Definition.  DTS-HD MA.  Kino-Lorber/UCLA Film Archive/AFI/Universal Pictures/Paramount Pictures.  CAT # K24183. SRP: $29.95.

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Ko K.O.

The landmark 1984 Chinese adrenalin classic (released here in 1986) HEROES SHED NO TEARS, starring Eddy Po, arrives on Blu-Ray in a spectacular new 2K restoration, thanks to the chop-sockin’ team at Film Movement Classics and Fortune Star Media.

Produced by the legendary Raymond Chow for his Golden Harvest company, HEROES is actually the pic that began iconic director John Woo’s ascension up the international celluloid ladder.  The director, who until this point, had been mainly known for comedies, re-channeled and ratcheted up his outrageous energy in this sanguinary tale of mercenaries taking on the illicit drug trade.  Yep, it’s HEROES, an 89-minute exercise in balletic violence, that laid the groundwork for Woo’s later celebrated works, A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Hard Boiled, Bullet in the Head and Once a Thief; influencing many that followed, primarily Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, Woo, himself took the baton from the likes of John Ford, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, Sergio Leone and, most notably Sam Peckinpah (down to the slo-mo sequences of carnage and destruction).  HEROES is, in short, a cinematic textbook of stuntwork coordination and unhygienic blood Bathory (as in Elizabeth) that had never (at least in Hong Kong grind epics) been achieved in quite such an artistic or technically impressive way – all the more startling for the modest budget.

The narrative concerns top commander Chan Chung (Ko) and his soldiers of fortune who accept a mission from several Thailand politicos to quell the flow of illegal drugs in the mountains, not fully anticipating the sophisticated operations the ruthless crimelords run via money, sadism and fear.  Added to the equation is the demand that they capture the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia) cartel’s leader General Samton.  Furthermore, the enemy is aided by the unexpected participation of a communist Vietnamese colonel (Lam Ching-ying), his troops and the superb village trackers who essentially function as the evil military’s slaves.

From fade-in to fade-out, there is barely one moment this isn’t filled with bone-crushing splatter and tension, thanks to Woo’s unflinching direction and the tight script by Woo, Peter Ho-Sun Chan and Leung-Chun Chiu.  Ko’s powerful presence fuels the proceedings, allowing for several subplots, featuring the relationship with his young son and pretty sister-in-law guardian and a reunion with an American buddy from Nam (Philppe Loeffredo), who now lives in the rugged terrain with a bevy of beauties/hookers (who also are trained for combat).  A stunning French reporter (Cecile Le Bailly), raped and tortured by the colonel’s brigade, is rescued and also joins the ragtag group in their mission that ends in a surprisingly moving way.  I suspect many Hollywood producers who helped Woo gain a foothold in the West Coast moviemaking community (Face/Off, Mission Impossible 2, etc.) likely missed this pic, as it certainly portrays a downbeat view of America.

It should be noted that Woo’s trademark techniques are already evident in this embryonic but key work: the poignant relationship between father and young son (the latter who defiantly displays his father’s stubborn attitude), women who take no shit from their male counterparts, dark lowbrow humor (a dice game and “cookout”) plus the aforementioned expertly composed bravura demonstrations of ferocity and savagery.

As indicated, HEROES SHED NO TEARS looks fantastic in this new widescreen 1080p transfer (giving fans a new appreciation of d.p. Kenichi Nakagawa’s excellent work), and sounds just as good in stereo-surround (either 5.1 or 2.0, your choice), available in Cantonese, Mandarin (each w/English subtitles) or an English dub.  A suitable score by Siu-Lam Tang caps the audio.

A wonderful recent interview with star Eddy Ko makes for a terrific supplement, revealing the veteran action star’s astute observations regarding the Asian film industry then and now, working with Woo, plus a treasure trove of other marvelous reminiscences.  FYI, the title is a cynical one, leaving audiences to ponder a choice since a) heroes DO shed tears or b) that there simply are no heroes.

HEROES SHED NO TEARS. Color. [1.85:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 or 2.0 DTS-HD MA [Cantonese or Mandarin w/English subtitles; English dub]; Film Movement Classics/Fortune Star Media, Ltd.  CAT # B-DHEROESSHEDNOTEARS.  SRP: $29.95.

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High, Wide and Then Some

With social distancing becoming a temporary mandatory norm for our fragile planet, it’s nice to know that some much-needed respite is available via two movies that were definitely NOT for the small crowd audience (unless you are referring to the kiddie contingent, for whom at least one of these pics was made).  I’m talking about the recent Flicker Alley releases of two 1960s Cinerama extravaganzas, 1962’s FLYING CLIPPER (aka Mediterranean Holiday) and the super-rare 1965 Disney-on-steroids opus THE GOLDEN HEAD, each now available in dazzling Blu-Ray restorations from Flicker Alley, in conjunction with The Busch Media Group (CLIPPER) and Cinerama, Incorporated (GOLDEN).  It should be enthusiastically noted that the former is also in 4K Ultra, an obvious incentive for “big screen”/Cinerama fans.

Since I grew up with a copy of The Four Aspects of Cinema under my pillow (sound, color, 3-D, widescreen), ANY Cinerama-hyped production piqued my interest.  Truth be told, that outside of This is Cinerama, in 1952, and some other feature-length travelogues that followed, most movies brandishing the process were actually 70MM releases (most notably It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World); yet, 70 worked just fine, when projected in the format and in the right venue.  Only TWO narrative pics were ever actually shot in the 3-panel process:  The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and How the West Was Won (both looking spectacular).  The Hallelujah Trail, Custer of the West, Krakatoa – East of Java, Battle of the Bulge, 2001, etc. were all 70MM – and often not even available to enjoy in the giant film versions.  Indeed, by 1962, when FLYING CLIPPER debuted in Europe (we wouldn’t see it in the States until 1964), it, too, was 70MM only in a handful of “selected theatres.”  The charm and awe of the experience was, thus, lost upon many of its viewers who watched it in a standard 35MM hardtop.  This new 4K/Blu-Ray combo offers a compromise that big screen fans won’t be able to (and shouldn’t) pass up: it was mastered from 70MM elements.  So let the mammoth curtains part, hunker down and prepare to keep manually closing your bottom jaw.

 

To my knowledge, THE FLYING CLIPPER is the first High Definition Cinerama home video platter restoration NOT done by David Strohmaier and Cinerama, Inc.  The release comes to Flicker Alley via The Busch Media Group.  There are some notable differences.  While the red velvet curtain Overture (parting to begin the show) is retained, the use of SmileBox (that optically curves the image to assimilate the envelopment of the presentation) isn’t.  To me, that’s a major disappointment.  Of course, the pic IS in extreme widescreen, so, I suspect, most fans won’t complain.  The movie, a 1962 German production (codirected by Hermann Leitner and Rudolf Nussgruber), follows the narrative (written by Gerd Nickstadt, Arthur Elliott, and Hans Dieter Bove) of the earlier 1958 success Windjammer (also available from Flicker Alley): a group of young men are chosen to man a 19th century vessel.  Upgrades in equipment and technology helped make the production less of a burden, although it’s never easy to schlep 70MM cameras around a film shoot, let alone a 158-minute travelogue promising lots of action.  And action there is!  We climb the pyramids, get a driver’s seat to the Grand Prix, participate in various international festivals, and even go skiing in Damascus (who knew!!??).

The movie, released here as Mediterranean Holiday, was re-scripted (by William Lovelock) with a narration by Burl Ives (who also segues into several folk ballads during his on-going commentary).  I never saw it in the original release, but recall friends who had – and they loved it, and raved about the dizzying effects. Both the Ives track and the German audio are accessible; the disc also contains dubbing options in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Slovenian (oy!) and Japanese.

The movie was shot in Eastman Color, a (literal) red flag, that faded quickly (diminishing the work of a sextet of excellent d.p.s, Tony Braun, Siegfried Hold, Heinz Holscher, Heinrich Schafer, Klaus Kong and Bernhard Stebich).  Flicker Alley and Co. certainly must bow to the heroic efforts of the man who probably loves this pic more than anyone else, Herbert Born.  Born, a renowned 70MM fan/expert/collector (and owner of the famed Schauberg cinema in Karlsruhe, home of the annual 70MM Film Festival), personally tracked down the existing elements and initiated and oversaw the new restoration.  For the most part, CLIPPER looks pretty good, never quite achieving a Technicolor effect, but pleasing nonetheless.  The clarity, particularly on the daylight sequences, is just fine; the darker segments are a bit less defined, especially if you’re viewing the show in 4K Ultra.  That’s the 4K curse; yeah, it’s twice the definition of Blu-Ray, BUT, unless you’re really watching on a big screen and in pitch black surroundings, you’re gonna miss out.  The Blu-Ray might be the better way to go for the majority of collectors (as indicated, BOTH are included in the package).   The soundtrack, in whichever option you choose, is a surround delight.  You can play the movie in either 1962 stereo, or in a newly recorded edition in Dolby Atmos (I went with the latter).  A stellar audio booster is the wonderful score by Riz Ortolani (a popular Decca soundtrack LP in ’64).

Flicker Alley and Busch Media have packed the program with enticing, genuinely fascinating supplementary material, including a facsimile roadshow program booklet, several documentaries on the audio and visual restoration, interviews with Herbert Born, and a truly amazing session with Marcus Vetter, a projectionist specializing in 70MM presentations.  Adult Sixties kiddies will relish basking in the nostalgic glow, while contemporary sprouts will should find interest in witnessing exciting, fun global sights in High Definition and “living” stereo sound from a different world, and from a different time.

 

1965’s THE GOLDEN HEAD is yet another title I’d never thought I would see in anything close to its intended presentation.  Thanks to David Strohmaier and the Cinerama Incorporated team, I was once again (happily) proven wrong.

The movie, first and foremost, transcends the mere travelogue aspect of super widescreen fare, and offers a narrative alternative for the kiddie trade.  Yep, it’s a children’s mystery-thriller, much in the line of the live-action stuff Disney was producing at this period (The Moonspinners immediately comes to mind).  Ironically, Buena Vista had recently filmed a version of Emil and the Detectives (1964), which this living large ride resembles in several ways (it was based upon the novel Nepomuk of the River by Roger Pilkington, and features a screenplay by Stanley Goulder and Ivan Boldizsar).

That said, to me, the plot is more like a tiny tot’s version of the 1954 noir Witness to Murder, and even features the same villain, George Sanders.  GOLDEN revolves around the British Stevenson children (Jess Conrad, Lorraine Power, Denis Gilmore), who are excited to join their detective father (Douglas Wilmer) when he is transferred to Budapest. Harold, the youngest of the bunch (Gilmore)) happens across a seemingly kindly fellow countryman, Basil Palmer, who is actually a master criminal, working in cahoots with a bungling sidekick, Lionel (Buddy Hackett, possibly heir to the title of Mr. Cinerama, having already costarred in The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World).  When a series of “run through” robberies are committed with the juicy piece de resistance prize to be the golden bust of St. Laszlo, no one believes the urchin’s claims that respected businessman Palmer is the mastermind.  Save, of course, the villain himself, who continuously tries to paint the lad as a boy-who-cried-wolf liar.

Eventually, this all changes and the kids track the crooks across the landmarks and natural beauty of Hungary.  Sure, it’s all played for laughs (and lowbrow ones at that); nevertheless, while I wouldn’t have shown much interest in seeing the pic in a standard 35MM release, I would have eagerly lined up to view it in 70MM Technirama.  Sadly, it rarely played that way in the States (or anywhere else).  Insult to injury, the movie was pulled from playdates in 70MM, and replaced by…wait for it, Mediterranean Holiday (aka THE FLYING CLIPPER), now in a simultaneous home vid release (from a different company) with GOLDEN HEAD.  Small world for big pictures!

It’s certainly a treat to see George Sanders in Cinerama (or in anything), if not gobsmackingly bizarre to watch the consummate actor paired with Buddy Hackett.  While an unlikely duo on-screen, I suspect off-camera, the two got on rather well  (try and check out Hackett’s uncensored Vegas recordings and you’ll get what I mean).  It’s additionally a hoot to see the suave thesp cavorting across the Land of the Gabors, in places he no doubt had often heard about.

The movie was directed by veteran craftsman Richard Thorpe (Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table) and James Hill (who replaced Thorpe late in the production), and luxuriously photographed by Istvan Hildebrand.  The boundless vistas and POVs are often overwhelming (in the best definition of that term), and, all in all, THE GOLDEN HEAD is a lot of fun – certainly a diverting afternoon at the movies for the pre-school and elementary school crowd.

Unlike CLIPPER, THE GOLDEN HEAD gets the David Strohmaier SmileBox treatment, an automatic seals-the-deal B-D must!  The restoration of the Technicolor pic (from 65MM elements) is up to par with Strohmaier’s previous efforts, and detailed in a techno-documentary, included as an extra along with a number of cool assorted goodies.  Best of all is the original 22-minute Cinerama short that preceded GOLDEN HEAD, a thrilling Swiss Army propaganda short, Fortress of Peace.  This outstanding supplement alone makes it worth purchasing GOLDEN HEAD for one’s collection.  Furthermore, the gang has sweetened the pot by enclosing A Tale of the Old Whiff, a John Hubley 70MM cartoon that went out with Scent of Mystery (the Cinerama pic in Smell-O-Vision).  Finally, there’s gallery of Cinerama trailers containing other titles the company offers, another entertaining excursion in and of itself.  An appropriate score by Peter Fenyes fills the stereo-surround audio, alongside the “coming-at-you” sound effects.  In addition, there’s “The Golden Head” and “Things I’d Like to Say,” songs (composed by Mitch Murray) sung by adolescent lead Conrad, then being groomed as a pop star.  Conrad is even given a Hungarian girlfriend (Cecilia Esztergalyos) to bait the teen audience.

THE FLYING CLIPPER. Color. Widescreen [2.20:1; 1080p High Definition OR 2100p 4L Ultra]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Dolby Atmos. Flicker Alley/The Busch Media Group. CAT # FA0060. SRP: $39.95.

THE GOLDEN HEAD. Color. SmileBox Widescreen [2.20:1; 1080p High Definition]; 5.1 DTS-HD MA. Flicker Alley/Cinerama, Inc. SRP: $39.95.