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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: It's All Black And White

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, April 30, 2019 06:24pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Recently we've been treated to an avalanche of new Blu-ray releases of classic fifties black and white movies. In this article, I'm going to focus on a couple of recent sci-fi and horror classics. In the 1950s, Hollywood turned America’s fear of atomic bombs and their fallout into drive-in movie gold. An endless stream of radioactive monsters invaded movie screens and the public ate them up with a seemingly insatiable appetite. Now, decades later, many of these drive-in classics are being remastered and released on Blu-ray. There are too many to review in one month so I’ll just focus on a couple of the best of them:

The Creature From The Black Lagoon Legacy Collection, Universal:
It looks like The Creature From The Black Lagoon has finally been fixed. This Legacy Collection actually Creature From The Black Lagooncame out in the fall of 2018, but it was one of the most screwed up Blu-ray releases in recent history. The first Creature film has been out on Blu-ray for years but everyone has anxiously been awaiting the remastered sequels. Everything else in the Legacy series had been released on Blu-ray and the Creature set was one of the last two to be put out. The first Creature film looked just fine, but the sequels were a disaster. Universal had completely screwed up the mastering on the disc to the point where the entire run eventually had to be recalled. Here at the store we've had this Legacy set on backorder for months, but we just started getting new copies in the past three weeks. These are finally the corrected discs. There's still some griping online about the quality of the sequels though. I can understand the complaints, some of the scenes still look a little soft, but I'm pretty sure the blurriness one sees here and there was in the original film elements. The majority of the scenes are crystal clear and finally in hi-def. The underwater scenes look especially immaculate and you can see details of the creature costume that were never discernible before. The Creature From The Black Lagoon has always been my favorite Universal monster movie. It's just a perfect little story that is well told. The sequels are pretty great as well even though they kind of retread the original. The gill man has one of the best designs in monster history, he's fearsome yet still slightly human. The story is a simple straight to the point narrative: a team of scientists travel to the depths of the Amazon in search of a fossilized missing link between humans and sea creatures. Instead, they find the still-living real McCoy and all hell breaks loose as they fight for their lives. The film is kind of like the ultimate distillation of man verses nature.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Art & Zombies

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, March 5, 2019 07:30pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. I figured I’d make things a little more highbrow this month, so I’m starting off with a recent Criterion Collection edition of a classic Orson Wells film:

The Magnificent Ambersons, Criterion Collection:
The Magnificent Ambersons is not a magnificent movie; it's a mediocre movie magnificently made. Orson Magnificent AmbersonsWells was such a genius that he could polish a turd even as weak as this script. As a result, we are just carried along from the beginning of the movie by one beautifully filmed and staged deep focus set piece after another. The cinematography is breathtaking and inventive and flawlessly sharp in this new Criterion Collection remaster. The only problem is that if you stop and think about the movie there isn't much "there" there. The whole thing comes off as the best filmed episode of Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous. Wells was trying to create another definitive American myth of wealth and power but unlike his masterpiece Citizen Kane, the central characters of this film are just not that interesting or likable. The main protagonist George Amberson is especially unlikeable -he's really just a spoiled brat and a jerk. Kane at least had obsessions and demons that drove him to memorable scenes of pathos and drama, George Amberson on the other hand is just kind of a dick. The film follows the ups and downs of the Amberson clan, who were the richest family in Indianapolis, Indiana at the turn of the last century. Some of the most engaging scenes are where Wells examines the changing fashions and technology of those long gone times. After describing the city, the era, and the other family members, Wells focuses his attention on spoiled brat and only child George. Unlike the people around him, George is a hedonist with no goals in life. The only career he aspires to is "yachtsman." George treats everyone around him like shit and views money as an endless resource, but times change and fortunes fall. When things start to go bad, this clan of aristocrats are particularly unprepared for it.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: Two British Classics

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, February 19, 2019 07:35pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray releases. This month I look at two fantastic British films.

The Horror Of Dracula, Warner Archive:
There have been some nice recent releases of Hammer horror films and this is one of the best of them. The Horror of DraculaThis was the first of many vampire movies that Hammer produced and in many ways it is a template for the horror films that came after it. The Hammer dream crew worked on this: screenplay by Jimmy Sangster, produced by Anthony Hinds, and directed by Terence Fisher. These three men were behind the very best Hammer films. But it's the movie's two central stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, who really make this work. Their dynamic was at the core of Hammer's best films and anything that the two of them star in is worth watching.

When this was released in 1958, it was a huge commercial and critical success and, along with 1957's Curse Of Frankenstein, led to Hammer reinventing the classic Universal monsters in lurid modern technicolor. The plot of this sticks pretty close to Bram Stoker's original novel, but where it radically departs from the source material is in its tone. One of the most unsettling things about this movie is Terence Fisher's decision to portray vampirism as a sexualized form of addiction. The victims of Dracula are overcome with a lust where they can't wait for him to come each night and suck their blood, and the portrayals of this behavior are truly disturbing. Christopher Lee's acting is central to this vision; his Dracula can be handsome and charming or an unrelenting sexual predator whose frenzied hunger is almost animalistic. Other than possibly Bela Lugosi, I think that Christopher Lee is the best actor who has ever donned Dracula's cape. Peter Cushing is like the other half of the circle. His vulnerability and humanity are the perfect foil for Lee's undead villain. Watching the two of them playing off each other is pure pleasure. This film works on every level. Even the cinematography is marvelous with every scene soaked in rich gothic colors, which look fantastic in this hi-def remaster. If you have never watched a Hammer horror film, this is a perfect one to start with. It is one of the five best vampire movies ever made.

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Sunken Continent Mental Vacation Needed

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 31, 2019 06:05pm | Post a Comment

By Kai Wada Roath
Ambassador of Confusion Hill and host of the Super Shangri-La Show

"Knowing her fate, Atlantis sent out ships to all corners of the Earth,
On board were the Twelve: The poet, the physician, the farmer, the scientist,
the magician and the other so-called Gods of our legends.
Though Gods they were...
And as the elders of our time choose to remain blind,
Let us rejoice and let us sing and dance and ring in the new...Hail Atlantis!"
~ Donovan, "Atlantis," 1968

Were you too thwacking the side of your head to get the salt water and crummy dialogue out of your brain after seeing the new DC AquaDude movie? Good grief, give me a 1966 Marvel Sub-Mariner cartoon on VHS any day over that overload of computer-graphic garbage...for nothing beats the fear of being trapped in the Quagmire of Doom!

Not to mention, the fear of being killed by a giant man-eating clam, much like the lyrics to "Leah," my favorite Roy Orbison song.



Like many, my first introductions to Atlantis as a kid were from watching In Search of with Leonard Warlords of AtlantisNimoy and Arthur C. Clarke giving his theory on the lost continent while twirling a rainbow parasol and strolling on a beach in Sri Lanka. It was not till I was in my mid-20's that I discovered such breathtakingly "beautiful" films as Beyond Atlantis (1973), The Giant of Metropolis (1961), Warlords of Atlantis (1978), and the George Pal classic Atlantis, the Lost Continent (1961) with the menacing Giant Death-Ray Crystal! Mind you, what takes my breath away may just give you bad breath...but it's worth it, much like chewing on Riley's delicious Jalapeno beef jerky.

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Having A Movie Moment with Jon Longhi: The Genius of Dan Curtis

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, January 15, 2019 07:00pm | Post a Comment

By Jon Longhi

Welcome to this month’s Having A Movie Moment With Jon Longhi, where I review recent Blu-ray Trilogy of Terrorreleases. This month I review three movies created by the brilliant Dan Curtis.

Dan Curtis was one of the most successful director/producers in the history of television. History will always remember him as the creator of the long running TV show Dark Shadows but that was just one of many major achievements. He also produced and/or directed some of the biggest movies in the history of television. Three of these films just got deluxe Blu-ray releases. One of his two biggest films was Trilogy Of Terror, (Kino Lorber Studio Classics). This is a fun little horror flick but no one could have predicted that it would be one of the most watched TV movies of all time. It held the record until Roots was televised later that decade. The movie tells three horror stories that are connected by the main star of the film, the magnificent Karen Black. She pretty much makes this movie. She is the main character in all three vignettes and chews up the scenery so mightily that everyone else in the picture is little more than a bit player. In the first segment she plays a mousy professor exploited by a blackmailer, in the second she's a pair of polar opposite sisters, but it's her role in the third segment, "Amelia," that history will remember her for. "Amelia" is one of the best little horror movies ever made and it scared the viewing public to a degree that few could understand in this jaded day and age. Karen Black's portrayal of the vulnerable, psychologically fragile Amelia makes the horror she suffers even more visceral. The story is fairly simple and all takes place in one tiny apartment. Amelia finds a Zuni fetish doll in a second hand store and buys it as a gift for her anthropologist boyfriend. The doll comes with a curse and, when she gets back to her apartment, Amelia unwittingly brings it to life. What ensues is one of the scariest things I've ever seen on television. This segment really holds up even after all these years. It's tense, harrowing, and genuinely scary. Being attacked by a doll could easily have been laughable, but in Curtis's skilled hands the story becomes utterly terrifying. This was one of the most memorable movies of the seventies and it left an indelible mark on everyone who saw it.

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