May 15, 2021

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE Remains Every Homeowner's Nightmare

MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (Blu-ray Review)
1948 / 94 min

FROM WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is one of those films with an idiot proof concept. Mining humor out of every homeowner’s greatest fears is sort-of like shooting fish in a barrel...simply turn every unexpected repair and expense into a worse-case scenario. Hell, the gags practically write themselves.

Which is why even the worst remakes or variations of the same theme - such as Are We There Yet? - manage to briefly resonate with anyone whose floor ever collapsed, or were slapped with $urprises by shady contractors who act as though everyone has a few thousand extra bucks tucked in their wallets. As someone whose furnace and water heater both crapped out less than a year after buying my own dream home, I can sure as hell relate.


But no film depicted a new homeowner’s plight quite like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, partially because it one of the first, but mainly due to good old fashioned star power. Few actors had the unique comic timing of Cary Grant. As the titular character, his reactions to each new predicament are perfect. And even though he’s sometimes his own worst enemy - stubbornly determined to finish the house, regardless of the personal cost - Blandings remains someone we empathize with. 


"If this one isn't quite right, there's a place in Amityville I can show you."
Considering her own considerable comic gifts, Myrna Loy (as wife Muriel) seems underused, though she’s a congenial foil to James' misguided resolve...and occasional jealousy of family friend & lawyer Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas). Speaking of which, Cole serves as not-only the film’s narrator, but the bemused, beleaguered observer of Blandings’ folly. As such, Douglas has some of the film’s funniest lines.

It’s how the characters respond & react that make Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House work, not the catastrophes themselves, which is ultimately what raises it above the remakes and ripoffs that followed over the years. Neither self-consciously clever nor swimming in slapstick, it remains one of those simple pleasures you enjoy with a perpetual smile on your face. And even seven decades later, Mr. Blandings is someone a lot of us homeowners can relate to.


EXTRA KIBBLES

LUX RADIO THEATER BROADCAST - From 1949, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne.

SCREEN DIRECTORS PLAYHOUSE BROADCAST - From 1950, with Grant and Betsy Drake. Runs about 30 minutes.

MGM ANIMATED SHORT - “The House of Tomorrow,” directed by Tex Avery.

RE-RELEASE TRAILER

KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...

May 14, 2021

SON Travels a Familiar Path

SON (Blu-ray Review)
2021 / 96 min

FROM RLJE FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😾

Almost from the get-go, we can kinda see where Son is heading.

The prologue has Laura (Andi Matichak) on-the-run and in labor, giving birth in her car after managing to lose her pursuers. She screams that she doesn’t want the child...at least until she finally sees him. If the moment brings-to-mind the final scene of Rosemary’s Baby, you aren’t alone. So even though she lovingly embraces the newborn, we already suspect there's something wrong with him.


Eight years later, her son, David (Luke David Blumm), appears to grow violently ill, shortly after their home is invaded by a creepy batch of folks who hover over him as he sleeps. He’s in constant pain and his skin is festering with open wounds. However, doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with him. This is also when we learn Laura once escaped from a cult, whom she believes are now coming for David. 


But David’s pain and complexion are staved by eating other people, which Laura horrifyingly discovers after he chows down on a family friend. She ends up on the run from both the mysterious cult and Paul (Emile Hirsch), a sympathetic cop and obligatory love-interest. He wants to believe her story, but the trail of eviscerated bodies makes that increasingly difficult.


Mom walks in at an awkward moment...David is scarred for life.
The performances are decent and would-be thrillseekers will certainly enjoy a couple of gruesome death scenes. However, Son is partially undone by an overly-familiar plot which holds few surprises. There is, of course, a major late-inning plot twist which reveals this cult is even more widespread than Laura initially believed, but it feels like an obligatory red herring. 

Son is occasionally atmospheric and efficiently constructed, but treads awfully familiar ground. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker, especially in the horror genre. However, none of the characters are particularly interesting and the narrative lacks any real punch. Ultimately, it’s a movie destined to be forgotten shortly after watching.


EXTRA KIBBLES

CAST & CREW INTERVIEWS

DELETED SCENE

KITTY CONSENSUS:

MEH.

May 13, 2021

THE POOP SCOOP: Upcoming Summer Kibbles!

SPACE JAM Arrives on 4K Ultra HD 6/6 
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the beloved classic, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment announced today that the perennial family film Space Jam will be released on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital on July 6th. Six-time NBA champion Michael Jordan and Looney Tunes linchpin Bugs Bunny star in the family comedy classic that introduced a whole new dimension of entertainment. The film also stars Wayne Knight, Theresa Randle, and the voice of Danny DeVito. Bill Murray, Larry Bird, Charles Barkley, and Patrick Ewing appear as themselves. Space Jam was produced by Ivan Reitman and directed by Joe Pytka. It received an Annie Award for Best Individual Achievement: Technical Achievement and a Grammy® Award for Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television (1997). Space Jam will be available on Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and includes an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc with the feature film in 4K with HDR and a Blu-ray disc with the feature film and special features. Fans can also own Space Jam in 4K Ultra HD via purchase from select digital retailers beginning on July 6th.  



GODZILLA VS. KONG on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 6/15
Witness a spectacular battle for the ages when “Godzilla vs. Kong” arrives for Premium Digital Ownership at home on May 21. From Legendary Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures, the film is directed by Adam Wingard (“The Guest,” “You’re Next”) and stars Alexander Skarsgård (“The Legend of Tarzan,” TV’s “Big Little Lies”) and Millie Bobby Brown (TV’s “Stranger Things”). The film will also be available on 4K, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and DVD beginning on June 15. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc of “Godzilla vs. Kong” will also feature a Dolby Atmos® soundtrack remixed specifically for the home theater environment to place and move audio anywhere in the room, including overhead. To experience Dolby Atmos at home, a Dolby Atmos enabled AV receiver and additional speakers are required, or a Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar. Dolby Atmos soundtracks are also fully backward compatible with traditional audio configurations and legacy home entertainment equipment. “Godzilla vs. Kong” will also be available on Movies Anywhere. Using the free Movies Anywhere app and website, consumers can access all their eligible movies by connecting their Movies Anywhere account with their participating digital retailer accounts.

H.P. Lovecraft's THE DEEP ONES on DVD & Digital 6/15
A married couple rents a beachside cottage only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and strange occurrences. They soon discover themselves in the grips of a mysterious cult and their ancient sea god. Winner of Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best FX – Anatomy Crime & Horror International Film Festival, and winner of Best Film – Arizona Underground Film Festival, H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones is written and directed by Chad Ferrin (Parasites, Someone’s Knocking at the Door) and stars Gina La Piana (Stay With Me, Ali G Indahouse, Our Bnb Life), Johann Urb (“Arrow,” Resident Evil: Retribution, “Californication”), Robert Miano (Fast & Furious, Donnie Brasco, Get Done), and Jackie Debatin (“The Office,” “Kroll Show,” “According to Jim”). H.P. Lovecraft’s The Deep Ones is distributed by 123 Go Films and Distribution Solutions, a division of Alliance Entertainment.

 


ANYTHING FOR JACKSON - Available on VOD, Digital, DVD & Blu-ray 6/15
In ANYTHING FOR JACKSON, after a tragic car accident that took their grandson’s life, Audrey and Henry are unable to go on without him. Following the guidance of their ancient spell book, the elderly couple decide to abduct a young pregnant woman with the intention of performing a "reverse exorcism” to channel their grandson’s spirit inside her unborn child. But when it becomes clear the ritual has called upon more than one spirit, the couple realize they have summoned more than they bargained for and must put an end to the evil entity they’ve invoked. Directed by Justin G. Dyck (Christmas With a Prince) and written by Keith Cooper (A Witches’ Ball), ANYTHING FOR JACKSON stars Sheila McCarthy (The Broken Hearts Gallery, Die Hard 2), Julian Richings (Spare Parts, Man of Steel), Konstantina Mantelos (“Miss Misery”, “Paranormal 911”) and Yannick Bisson (“Murdoch Mysteries”).  

May 12, 2021

Rest in Peace, Norman Lloyd

MAN WITH A CAMERA: Bronson Does a Different Kind of Shooting

MAN WITH A CAMERA: THE COMPLETE SERIES (DVD Review)
1958-1960 / 765 min

FROM MPI HOME VIDEO

Review by Carl, the Couch Potato😽

If you’ve ever spent an appreciable amount of time on this site, you may have noticed we generally don’t spend much time covering television shows. But when we do, it's usually for one of three reasons: 1) The show has certain cinematic qualities; 2) It draws inspiration from a particular film, or vice versa; 3) It features a Hollywood legend.

And hey, they don’t get much more legendary than Charles Bronson, who’s always made us purr. Though he previously appeared in a lot of supporting roles, Man with a Camera marked the first time he was the unequivocal star. Originally airing on ABC, the show came-and-went on ABC with little fanfare. If not for Bronson’s subsequent international stardom, it would earn little-more than a footnote in the annals of TV history.


To be honest, I was largely unaware the show even existed until recently, and maybe some of you Bronson fans are, too. As such, this two-disc set of the complete series is a fascinating curio.


"We'll start with one of your best wines...something grape flavored."
The title pretty-much says it all. Bronson plays Mike Kovac, a hotshot freelance photographer who doesn’t let anything get in the way of a high-paying gig. He finds himself in a variety of adventures...turning the tables on gangsters, solving various mysteries, resolving conflicts, working with local police and protecting the innocent. Kovac relies on intuition, skill, a variety of high-tech gadgets (for the time) and of course, the occasional fist.

Speaking of fists, we’re so accustomed to Bronson as a stoic, stone-faced tough guy that it’s kinda surreal seeing him expressive and chatty. And the only shooting he does is with a camera. Still, he’s engaging enough to carry the show through most of its 29 episodes, which vary in consistency. Some episodes are suspenseful and intriguing, while others get dragged down by heavy-handed sermonizing. By the latter half of season two, they’ve pretty-much run out of interesting things for Kovac to do.


But while Man with a Camera isn’t what anyone would ever mistake for classic television, it did give Charles Bronson his first stab at being a leading man. That-alone gives it a certain level of historical importance.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD.

May 11, 2021

DAY OF THE ANIMALS: Leslie Nielsen's Bare Bear Battle

DAY OF THE ANIMALS (Blu-ray Review)
1977 / 98 min

FROM SEVERIN FILMS

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😸

Revisiting Day of the Animals decades later, I can’t help but wonder what kind of director William Girdler might have become if he wasn’t tragically killed less than a year after its release. He probably wasn’t destined to be the next Hitchcock, but getting better with every picture. Though laughably derivative, his biggest film, Grizzly, was well-made and entertaining...a far cry from his Three on a Meathook days. 

Day of the Animals, Grizzly's sorta-spiritual sequel, may not be as much goofy & gory fun, but it’s more skillfully directed and doesn’t play like it was written by a photocopier. If not the next Hitchcock, I think being the next Wes Craven was certainly within Girdler’s grasp.


But even if you don’t agree, where else can you see a maniacal, shirtless Leslie Nielsen take-on a grizzly bear with his bare hands?


Similar to other nature-run-amok horror films of the era, Day of the Animals boasts an environmental message, with just a dash of old school nihilism thrown in for good measure. A hole in the ozone layer appears to be frying the brains of critters living above 5,000 feet (you know...closer to the sun and all), rendering them homicidal. 


At the same time, tour guide Steven Buckney (Christopher George) leads a group of city folks on a two-week hike in the mountains, including fellow Girdler alumni Richard Jaeckel as a nebbish professor, George’s real-life wife Lynda Day as a vacationing reporter, Michael Ansara playing yet-another Indian, former starlet Ruth Roman, a young Andrew Stevens and none-other than Susan Blacklinie, most famous as the first victim in Jaws (and fittingly the first victim here).


The Naked Gun Spear

But the pièce de résistance is Leslie Nielsen as mean-spirited ad exec Paul Jenson, who’s continually locking horns with Buckney. Jensen is enjoyably unlikable from the get-go, but trust me, watching Nielsen take his character from zero-to-batshit in a single scene - the aforementioned bear battle - is something to behold. This was 1977, a few years before Airplane! made him synonymous with parody. But even with all his scenery chewing, Nielsen seems well-aware of the scene’s utter ridiculousness, which makes it the campy high-point of the entire film.


Elsewhere, Day of the Animals is slickly made, and with the exception of a goofy sequence featuring high-flying rats, the animal action is well-executed. Mountain lions, bears, wolves, snakes and buzzards all take their shots at picking-off the cast. However, unlike the fiery climax of Grizzly, the final act is kind-of a let-down, with a tacked-on resolution that suggests no one knew quite how to end it. 


But like Grizzly, the story behind Day of the Animals is just as interesting as the film itself, especially the backstory & unknown fate of producer Edward L. Montoro, the subject of lengthy discussion in some of this disc's many new bonus features (along with a great archival making-of doc). Nicely remastered, this disc makes a nifty companion piece to Severin Films’ simultaneous release of Grizzly


As for the late William Girdler...he’d go on to make just one more film - a bonkers debacle called The Manitou - before dying in a helicopter crash. Though not quite the endearing cult classic that Grizzly became, from a technical standpoint, Day of the Animals ended up being his most accomplished film.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“NIGHTMARE USA” AUTHOR STEPHEN THROWER - Whereas he discussed Girdler’s short career on the Grizzly release, this time Thrower focuses his attention on producer Edward L. Montoro, a pretty shady character who had a habit of screwing people over.

“NATURE BOY” - Interview with actor Bobby Porter.

“AGAINST NATURE” - Interview with actor Andrew Stevens, who certainly has no love for Montoro!

“LYNDA AND THE ANIMALS” - Very brief interview with actor Lynda Day George.

“MONTY COX UNLEASHED” - Interview with animal wrangler Cox.

“SOMETHING WAS OUT THERE: DAY OF THE ANIMALS 30 YEARS LATER” - Vintage making-of featurette. Pretty interesting.

2 AUDIO COMMENTARIES - 1) By actors Lynda Day George & John Cedar; moderated  by Scott Spiegel; 2) By author Lee Gambin.

ALTERNATE OPENING TITLE SEQUENCE - With the alternate title, Something is Out There.

TRAILER, RADIO & TV SPOTS

REVERSIBLE COVER - Includes the original poster art.


KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...

May 10, 2021

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO and the Archaic Enemy

ESCAPE FROM FORT BRAVO (Blu-ray Review)
1953 / 98 min

FROM WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Review by Mr. Paws😼

Even though John Sturges is one of my favorite directors from the classic era, I’ll be the first to concede he was sometimes inconsistent and Escape from Fort Bravo doesn’t rank among his best. He knows his way around a horse and as westerns go, it’s certainly watchable, but we sure ain’t talkin’ The Magnificent Seven, here.

Time hasn’t been quite so kind to this one, either, and not just because of its depiction of Native-Americans as screaming, bloodthirsty savages. Plenty o’ westerns are guilty of that, though this one tends to abuse the practice more than most. Serving ‘em up as a common enemy for Union and Confederate armies to team-up against is a pretty archaic concept. If this were remade today, the South would likely be the bad guys.


But hey...context...I get it. What really dates the film is primarily aesthetic. There are some fine Death Valley locations (especially during the final act), but all-too-often, it’s obvious much of the film was shot on studio sets and the visual disparity between the two is jarring. I dunno...maybe that’s partially due to the Blu-ray transfer, or that it was shot in “Ansco Color.” Whatever the case, it sometimes sucks our attention from the story, which actually ain't half bad.


"Shootin' blanks again, honey?"

William Holden plays Captain Roper, a hard-nosed Union commander of a Civil War prison camp who generally treats his captured Confederates pretty well...unless they try to escape, of course. However, escape is exactly what Captain Marsh (John Forsythe) has in-mind. Part of his plan involves using ex-lover Carla Forester (Eleanor Parker) to distract Roper with her wares, which sort-of makes her a western femme fatale. 

Though the two end up falling in love, Eleanor, Marsh and a few other Confederate soldiers manage to escape to the desert....a monumentally bad idea because - all together now - it’s Indian Country! Roper sets-out to bring them back, but once he finds them, they all become trapped in a small gully, surrounded by gobs of whooping, hollering Indians (who are mostly just faceless cannon fodder).


The resulting stand-off is the highlight of the film, mainly because we’re never sure who’s gonna live or die. Elsewhere, the performances and direction are decent, though everyone on both sides of the camera have done far better work elsewhere. Ultimately, Escape from Fort Bravo is a product of its era...watchable, but not particularly memorable.

KITTY CONSENSUS:

NOT BAD.

May 9, 2021

GRIZZLY (1976): Nostalgia for the Stupidly Stricken

GRIZZLY (Blu-ray Review)
1976 / 91 min

FROM SEVERIN FILMS

Review by Mr. Paws😺

Kids are stupid. I know because I was one.

Like a lot of kids growing up in the ‘70s, I was stricken with Jaws fever. But I was hit harder than most, feeling compelled to see it again and again. There was a brief time in 1976 when I thought I was over it, but relapsed soon after. Ever since, Jaws has topped my list of the greatest films of all time.


The inevitable rip-offs started popping up in theaters about a year later, Grizzly being one of the first. Still afflicted with the fever but thinking a cure was at-hand, I had no choice but to be there opening night. It was even playing in the biggest auditorium at the Southgate Quad where Jaws first changed my life. And no way was I gonna pass-up any movie that touted “18 feet of gut-crunching, man-eating terror!


I thought Grizzly was awesome, even briefly declaring it better than Jaws, mainly because “Teddy” the bear was brand new and Bruce the shark was becoming a distant memory. In 1976, when they didn’t show-up on DVD or VOD a few months later, movies became distant memories really fast, especially when you’re 12. Kids at that age are generally pretty stupid, many equating the best thing they saw with the last thing they saw. Of the two films, Grizzly was the shinier penny. 


Finally, it seemed I was cured! 


But as it turned out, there is no cure for Jaws fever. Movies like Grizzly are more like a symptom, which I realized when it aired on ABC a few years later, retitled Killer Grizzly (presumably to avoid confusion with the huggable ones). It was the same old film, only this time I saw it for what it was: A budget-conscious knock-off of a modern classic. Deep down inside, even my stupid 12-year-old self probably always knew that.


"Oh, yeah? Well, let's see your cape!"
Then a funny thing happened over the years. While Jaws continues to be revered as one of the greatest films of all time, Grizzly became something of a cult classic in its own right. Of course, part of that is due to how shamelessly it copies the Jaws blueprint, right down to the narrative structure, characters, perspective shots and most of the attack scenes. But as rip-offs go, it’s extremely well made. The late William Girdler may not have had the talent or resources of a Spielberg, but he knew how to deliver a lot of bang for the buck. Here, he directs a decent B-list cast with workmanlike skill and has no illusions over the film’s intended audience: Stupid 12-year-olds still afflicted with the fever. As such, Grizzly delivers exactly as promised. Can you honestly say the same thing about Jaws’ own sequels?

REVERSIBLE COVER!
I’m certain there are plenty of other formerly-stupid kids similarly bowled over by Grizzly’s imitative earnestness back then. For them, the nostalgic value of this Severin Films release is irresistible. The film has been released on Blu-ray before, but in addition to a beautiful transfer, this disc comes loaded with a new batch of comprehensive, entertaining bonus material (in addition to a few archival features). It turns out the story behind Grizzly is as interesting as the film itself.

And even though I’m no longer as stupid as I used to be, Grizzly is still a lot of throwback fun.


EXTRA KIBBLES

“NIGHTMARE USA” AUTHOR STEPHEN THROWER - The best of the bonus features, author Thrower discusses William Girdler’s career at-length, with a lot of emphasis on Grizzly. Especially interesting is his career leading up to it.

“MAKING MOVIES WITH GIRDLER” - This is an audio interview with J. Patrik Kelly III, who knew Girdler well. He was also a production manager and assistant director on some of Girdler’s films.

“THE TOWERING FURY” - Interview with actor Tom Arcuragi (the guy in the tower).

“THE GRIZZLY DETAILS” - Interviews with producer David Sheldon & actor Joan McCall.

AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Digital) and writer Troy Howarth. A good listen, these guys not-only discuss the film itself, but most of the actors involved, Girdler’s filmography, exec. producer Edward l. Montoro and the era of exploitation films when this was released.

VINTAGE FEATURETTES - “Movie Making in the Wilderness”; “Jaws with Claws.”

TRAILERS & RADIO SPOTS

REVERSIBLE COVER - Includes the original, semi-iconic poster art.


KITTY CONSENSUS:

PURR-R-R...