Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Santa Stakeout (2021)

It's hard to believe it's already been a month since Christmas!

The Christmas season is always so busy that there's never enough time to watch as many Christmas movies as I'd like, so I usually watch more in January and, indeed, all year long.

I just watched THE SANTA STAKEOUT (2021), a new film which aired on the Hallmark Channel this Christmas season.

THE SANTA STAKEOUT stars Hallmark regulars Paul Campbell, whose most recent prior Hallmark Christmas film was CHRISTMAS BY STARLIGHT (2020), and Tamera Mowry-Housley, who appeared in CHRISTMAS COMES TWICE (2020).

Campbell and Mowry-Housley play Denver police detectives Ryan Anderson and Tanya Morris, who are assigned to investigate a series of art thefts just before Christmas.

Ryan and Tasha have recently met for the first time and initially don't get along. When they're assigned to move into a house to keep tabs on the prime suspect (Joe Pantoliano) next door, they gradually reveal more about themselves and become friends, and perhaps something more...

Meanwhile, is ex-con Francis (Pantoliano) just a nice guy caught up in some bad circumstantial evidence, or is he masterminding an impressive series of burglaries?

I found this film very enjoyable. It's a little bit different from the typical Hallmark Christmas film in that the bickering leads are fairly snippy with one another at the outset, and each has lost a significant previous relationship due to commitment to their careers.

That said, even when they are pretty antagonistic early on they made me chuckle, and I was impressed by the way Gregg Rossen and Brian Sawyer's script believably develops the characters and transitions their relationship into something warmer.

Pantoliano's Francis touched me so that I was really worrying that he was the bad guy right along with Ryan and Tasha. Again, the writers came up with a believable resolution to the story which had me smiling.

Incidentally, seeing Pantoliano in this caused me to remember the first time I ever saw him -- playing Maggio in the 1979 TV remake of FROM HERE TO ETERNITY. That was a lot of years ago!

Campbell is excellent as a guy who initially seems to be a bit of a jerk but who is revealed to have hidden interests and talents as he lets down his guard with Tasha; he stops deflecting everything with sarcastic humor and becomes "real" and more thoughtful.

The snappy dialogue was such that I checked early on to see if Campbell had written the script, as his screenplay for CHRISTMAS BY STARLIGHT was quite funny. While he didn't write this one, I was surprised to learn that he wrote not one but two 2021 Hallmark Christmas movies: CHRISTMAS AT CASTLE HEART (2021) starring Lacey Chabert and AN UNEXPECTED CHRISTMAS (2021) with Bethany Joy Lenz. I've heard from friends that the latter film is particularly good and look forward to checking it out.

I thought Mowry-Housley was charming as the ebullient Tasha, and I was also delighted by a brief moment where she beautifully sang. (I think it's probably also her singing on the soundtrack as the movie comes to an end.) Mowry-Housley has been acting since her teens, including starring with her twin sister, Tia Mowry-Hardrict, on SISTER, SISTER (1994-99); Tia has appeared in Christmas movies on both the Hallmark and Lifetime Channels. Mowry-Housley, a Pepperdine University graduate, is married to former Fox News Channel correspondent Adam Housley.

THE SANTA STAKEOUT was directed by Peter Benson and filmed by Geoff Wallace, with Vancouver, British Columbia, standing in for Denver. The running time is 84 minutes.

THE SANTA STAKEOUT was quite enjoyable and will go on my "buy" list when it's released on DVD. Hallmark fans looking for a film which is both funny and genuinely touching should give it a try. It left me with a big smile on my face, and as I've said here before, you can't ask for more than that from a Hallmark Christmas film!

Monday, January 24, 2022

Four Aces Movie Ranch, Them! (1954), and Red Rock Canyon

Last fall we made a couple of interesting stops at movie locations while on our way to the 2021 Lone Pine Film Festival.

We first took a look at the 4 Aces Movie Ranch in Palmdale, an interesting little corner in the middle of nowhere which features a retro-style motel and diner.

IMDb has a list of some of the projects which have filmed at this location; most of them I've not heard of, but there are a couple of familiar titles, such as RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN (2009) starring Dwayne Johnson.

Of greater significance to us was the desert immediately across the street from the motel, seen to the right in this photo:

The giant ants of the sci-fi classic THEM! (1954) roamed the desert here in the '50s!

The hills in the distance above match up with the background of this screen shot from the movie. Click on any photo to enlarge it for a closer look.

Further north, we pulled off the highway briefly at Red Rock Canyon State Park, where countless Westerns and other shows have filmed.

One of the most notable Westerns to film out here was William Wyler's THE BIG COUNTRY (1958).

A look at a locations list shows dozens more familiar titles which were partly made at Red Rock Canyon.

Information on hiking in the Red Rock Canyon area may be found here or here.

For more photos of movie locations which may be visited between Los Angeles and Lone Pine, please visit my 2020 post on Halfway House Cafe and Vasquez Rocks.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Two of my very favorite film festival screenings of 2013 were REPEAT PERFORMANCE (1947) and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948).

The movies, which were originally released within roughly 18 months of each other, share otherworldly stories and themes regarding what might be called "second chances." Both films were long missing from home viewing; as far as I know neither was ever released on either VHS or DVD. And amazingly, both films are being released on Blu-ray within weeks of one another!

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES came out from Kino Lorber's Studio Classics line in November, and REPEAT PERFORMANCE is scheduled for a Flicker Alley release this week. (Update: Flicker Alley has announced a slight delay for REPEAT PERFORMANCE, with the release now scheduled for February 1st.)  It's a great time to be a classic film fan with beautiful Blu-rays of movies like this now available for the first time!

I first became acquainted with NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES in 2011, thanks to a friend providing a "grey market" copy to watch. The movie really rose in my estimation when I saw it in 35mm at the 2013 Noir City Film Festival and then topped off that experience with a remarkable 35mm nitrate screening in 2017 at UCLA. I was thrilled to see the movie on a big screen once more just last October, at the 2021 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Fest.

Clearly it's a film which not only holds up to repeat viewings, it has become more special to me each time, thanks to the performances, the excellent script by Barre Lyndon and Jonathan Latimer, and the stunning black and white photography of John F. Seitz. (The script was based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, whose works provided an impressive list of noir inspiration in the '40s.) John Farrow directed this spellbinding 81 minutes, scored by the great Victor Young.

Edward G. Robinson plays John Triton, who once had a vaudeville act as a clairvoyant, only to suddenly find that his "visions" weren't just a clever entertainment routine -- they were actually coming true.

Triton's visions allow his partner Whitney (Jerome Cowan) to make financial investments which will secure their future, but Triton becomes distraught when he is powerless to prevent tragedies he foresees. He disappears and becomes a recluse, leaving behind his love Jenny (Virginia Bruce), who eventually marries Whitney.

Triton only reappears after many years to attempt to save the life of Whitney and Jenny's grown daughter, Jean (Gail Russell). I'll leave off describing any more of the plot, which I think is best discovered while watching this very unusual, moving film.

The performances of the entire cast, in roles large and small, make the viewer willing to suspend disbelief and "buy in" to the story. Robinson is excellent, and the ethereal Russell makes a perfect Jean. The underrated John Lund plays Jean's steadfast fiance, who supports her throughout a very strange experience.

William Demarest, playing the skeptical police detective, stands in for the audience questioning Triton's story and provides a nice light touch in an otherwise moody film.

The cast also includes John Alexander, Roman Bohnen, Onslow Stevens, Richard Webb, and Douglas Spencer.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is lovely, showcasing the movie's deep, rich blacks. It's not completely perfect, but I was more than pleased, especially given how long the film has been unavailable.

Blu-ray extras are the trailer; a trailer gallery for five additional films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by the excellent Imogen Sara Smith.

I put together a gallery of photos from the film when I saw it a few years ago; the pictures are all different from the illustrations seen here, and I invite readers to click over to that post for a look.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES is a special film which has become an all-time favorite. Most highly recommended.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...An interesting Blu-ray screener from ClassicFlix arrived in my mailbox today: A restored print of BLACK MAGIC (1949), starring Orson Welles and Nancy Guild. I first mentioned it here last summer; it was originally due out last fall but was pushed back to a January 25th release date. I'm particularly curious about it as it's one of a small handful of films starring Guild, who starred in SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946) and THE BRASHER DOUBLOON (1947). Be watching for a review here at a future date.

..."Coming soon" to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics: BY CANDLELIGHT (1933), starring Elissa Landi and Paul Lukas, directed by James Whale, and THE LAST TRAIN FROM MADRID (1937), with an impressive cast including Dorothy Lamour, Lew Ayres, Gilbert Roland, Anthony Quinn, and Robert Cummings, directed by James P. Hogan.

...Happiest birthday wishes to Piper Laurie, who turns 90 today, January 22nd.

...There's lots of interesting release news this week! Flicker Alley will be releasing THE WHISTLE AT EATON FALLS (1951), which was shown during last year's virtual TCM Classic Film Festival. Lloyd Bridges and Carleton Carpenter star, directed by Robert Siodmak. The supporting cast includes names such as Ernest Borgnine and Anne Francis. Alan K. Rode provides a commentary track, and there are a number of other interesting extras. It will be released on March 15th.

...The Film Detective has put out a number of interesting Blu-rays in the last few months which include lots of extras. Coming in February: DANCING PIRATE (1936), starring Charles Collins, Steffi Duna, and Frank Morgan; Rita Hayworth and Marjorie Reynolds appear as dancers, and future first lady Pat Nixon had a bit role. It was directed by Lloyd Corrigan, familiar to many for his work as a character actor. Media Play News says it will be a restoration from 35mm archival material.

...Coming from the Criterion Collection in April: Jayne Mansfield, Edmond O'Brien, and Tom Ewell in THE GIRL CAN'T HELP IT (1956), directed by Frank Tashlin. The movie features an array of performances by musical stars including Julie London, Fats Domino, and the Platters.

...Raquel Stecher has reviewed a new biography of Charles Boyer by John Baxter at her blog Out of the Past.

...I was disappointed to hear that the next installments of Tom Cruise's MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movie series have been delayed. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 7 (2023), which was scheduled to come out this September, has been pushed back to a July 2023 release, with MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 8 (2024) coming out in June 2024.

...Netflix has raised prices for its streaming service this month.

...As mentioned here last September, Disney has scheduled its next D23 Expo for September 2022. I was happy to purchase my three-day Gold membership pass during a Visa presale on January 19th; tickets sold briskly both that day and when they went on sale to the general public on January 20th, with some pass levels already sold out.

...Disney's excellent animated film ENCANTO (2021), which I reviewed last November, will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 8th.

...Last week Leonard Maltin wrote an intriguing review of EVENINGS FOR SALE (1932), a 61-minute film he said reminded him of a Lubitsch comedy. The cast includes Herbert Marshall, Charlie Ruggles, and Mary Boland, directed by Stuart Walker. It can be streamed online via the Internet Archive.

...Silent film accompanist and DVD producer Ben Model is having a Kickstarter fundraiser for a release of the Marion Davies film BEVERLY OF GRAUSTARK (1926). It will be restored and scanned from a 35mm nitrate print, with a 2-color Technicolor ending. Model will provide a new score. It will be released in late 2022 by Model's Undercrank Productions.

...Like many others, I began playing the online word game Wordle a few days ago. The L.A. Times ran a column on the very simple and wildly popular game, which is also what I think of as a great "brain sharpener." (Update: The creator has an MFA from the University of Oregon.)

...Dennis Seuling has reviewed the new 75th anniversary Blu-ray release of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) at the Digital Bits...Glenn Erickson's latest CineSavant reviews at Trailers From Hell include LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL (1959), an all-region Blu-ray release from Viavision, and ALL MY SONS (1948), on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber. LAST TRAIN FROM GUN HILL stars Kirk Douglas and Anthony Quinn, while ALL MY SONS stars Edward G. Robinson and Burt Lancaster...James L. Neibaur reviewed Kino Lorber's new Dark Side of Cinema set; I also enjoyed perusing his alphabetical list of all the movies he watched last year!...Rachel reviewed the 1995 Harrison Ford version of SABRINA at Hamlette's Soliloquy; I haven't seen it since shortly after it came out but recall it fondly...Colin has reviewed WHIRLPOOL (1950) with Richard Conte and Gene Tierney at Riding the High Country...and I was intrigued by Jessica's review of the 59-minute "B" film WATERFRONT (1939) at Comet Over Hollywood. WATERFRONT stars Dennis Morgan and Gloria Dickson.

...Sunday, January 23rd, Karie Bible will host Wyatt McCrea, the grandson of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee, on her Facebook program Hollywood Kitchen. The live show will be at 1:00; there will also be a tour and interview on YouTube debuting at noon that day.

...Speaking of McCrea Ranch, my friend Annette Bochenek has a photo-filled column now up at her site Hometowns to Hollywood about her visit to the ranch last September. We were so glad to be able to organize the gathering of a number of bloggers that day; two of them, including Annette, flew in from out of state for the event!

...Notable Passings: I was sorry to learn of the passing of Yvette Mimieux at age 80. She was very special in LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA (1962), seen here with Olivia de Havilland, and she was also memorable in WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960). Mimiuex was also known for THE TIME MACHINE (1960), JOY IN THE MORNING (1965), and Disney's THE BLACK HOLE (1979). Variety and Deadline published obituaries...Hardy Kruger has died at 93. His films included HATARI! (1962) and THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX (1965); he played Rommel in TV's epic WWII miniseries WAR AND REMEMBRANCE (1988-89)...Gloria McMillan, known for playing Harriet in OUR MISS BROOKS on radio and television, has died at 88. She also had a small role as Mrs. Brumbaugh in the TV miniseries CENTENNIAL (1978-79)...Longtime Los Angeles talk radio host Michael Jackson has passed away at 87. Of note for classic film fans: He was married to Alan Ladd's daughter Alana. They were in the audience at a Noir City screening of her father's THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) in 2012. Here are obituaries from the Los Angeles Times, Variety, and Deadline.

...Another Notable Passing: I was sad to learn of the death last month of former child actress Sharyn Moffett at the age of 85. Sharyn was extremely talented; her films reviewed here included MY PAL, WOLF (1944), THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO (1945), THE LOCKET (1946), BANJO (1947), THE JUDGE STEPS OUT (1948), and MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948). She was also in the very creepy THE BODY SNATCHER (1945) with Boris Karloff. I always enjoy her work and am grateful for the wonderful performances she has left us to enjoy. As an adult Sharyn served as a minister for decades. Sharyn's brother, former child actor Gregory Moffett (SADDLE TRAMP), is among her survivors.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my January 15th roundup.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Because of You (1952) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last month Kino Lorber released the fifth volume in its Dark Side of Cinema series.

The films in the set are BECAUSE OF YOU (1952), OUTSIDE THE LAW (1956), and THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957). Of these movies I've previously only seen THE MIDNIGHT STORY, at the 2019 Noir City Film Festival.

BECAUSE OF YOU stars a trio of actors I love, Loretta Young, Jeff Chandler, and Frances Dee.

Young plays Christine Carroll, who as the film begins is a bleached blonde about to marry Mike Monroe (Alex Nicol).

Unknown to Christine, Mike is Really Bad News; because he hands her an envelope to put in her purse, Christine is arrested as an accessory to his crimes and sent to prison along with Mike.

In prison Christine trains in nursing; when she gets out -- now her natural brunette -- she goes to work at the veterans hospital in Long Beach, California, where she meets Steve Kimberly (Chandler). Steve was a pilot who is wounded both physically and mentally; his wartime trauma is layered on top of having witnessed his parents' death when he was a child.

Steve and Christine fall in love, but Christine avoids telling Steve about her past, fearful he can't handle it, and when the truth comes out some years later, after Mike reappears, Christine and Steve's marriage goes off the rails.

Christine and Steve are separated for a number of years, with Steve's twin sister Susan (Dee) helping to raise Steve and Chris's unhappy little girl, Kim (Jeri Weil and later Gayle Reed).

Will Christine and Steve ever find their way back to one another?

Given the cast this is a movie I really wanted to like, and portions of it are wonderful. Chandler and Young give sensitive performances, especially in the early going, and are beautifully filmed in black and white by Russell Metty. The film also has a series of attractive exterior locations, making it a very nice-looking movie.

When the movie is focused on Christine and Steve's swoony romance, it's great, but as Christine resists the instructions of her parole officer (Helen Wallace) that she must tell Steve the truth and get permission before marrying, things start to go off the rails. A secret marriage in Mexico before Christine's parole date and not cluing Steve in to her past will lead nowhere good.

It would be one thing if there were a brief period of misunderstanding and then reconciliation, with the couple dealing with any resulting issues together, but instead the lead characters are miserable for at least half of the 95-minute running time.

The screenplay by Ketti Frings, based on a story by Thelma Robinson, wrings every possible melodramatic twist from the story and seems determined to torture the characters, keeping Young and Chandler from sharing much screen time. A section where Christine goes on the road as an entertainer is such a detour that it's downright annoying, and it's simply not that enjoyable to watch them suffering, singly or together. We also spend time with their sad little girl.

Dee is good, as always, as Steve's blunt-talking but sympathetic sister. It's something of a unique role as she never hesitates to tell Chris exactly how things are, even if it's bad news, but she also wants Chris and Steve to be happy. Unfortunately Susan's straight talk doesn't extend to little Kim, who grows up not knowing the full truth about her parentage...

The solid supporting cast includes Alexander Scourby, Lynne Roberts, Morris Ankrum, and Mae Clarke.

BECAUSE OF YOU was directed by Joseph Pevney, who made many films I've really enjoyed. He had the elements of a good movie here, with a fantastic cast doing their best with the material, but there was only so much he could do with this script.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks and sounds very good. Extras are the trailer, a gallery of four additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Samm Deighan.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has recently released two other films in which Young gives strong performances, THE ACCUSED (1949) and most recently CHINA (1943). I'll be reviewing both here at a future date, as well as the other two films in this Dark Side of Cinema set.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray collection.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Golden Earrings (1947) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

GOLDEN EARRINGS (1947), starring Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich, has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

GOLDEN EARRINGS is an unusual World War II era adventure film directed by Mitchell Leisen. Leisen, whom I've come to really appreciate due to his consistently entertaining films, worked with Milland numerous times over the years, including on ARISE, MY LOVE (1940), a Kino Lorber release I reviewed just a few weeks ago.

As GOLDEN EARRINGS begins, it's a foggy night in London in 1946, and a group of men at a club are gossiping about one of their members, Colonel Ralph Denistoun (Milland). Why, they wonder, does he have pierced ears?

The discussion is timely as just at that moment a small package containing golden earrings arrives for the colonel, who immediately books the next flight to Paris.

On the plane the colonel tells an American (Quentin Reynolds) who he had met at the club the long, strange story of how he came to have pierced ears...it transpires he was on a secret mission in Germany before England entered the war. The mission went awry and he and his colleague (Bruce Lester) were captured. They managed to escape and then split up, at which point the colonel happened to meet a Gypsy woman, Liddie (Dietrich).

Liddie, whom the colonel dubs Lydia, believes that the colonel is fated to be her man and sets about to help him escape through the countryside so that he can complete his mission.

It's a very different film, blending suspense, comedy, and even a touch of fantasy, but I found it quite engaging. I've always been a fan of Milland's, and I've come to really enjoy Dietrich, thanks in large part to seeing so many of her films on Kino Lorber Blu-rays. I felt they were a well-matched team as the colonel and the gypsy.

This is a really different role for Dietrich in dark makeup as the gypsy, but her character, who seems strange at first, proves to be quite admirable. She's incredibly loyal, a quick thinker, and finds joy in life despite the stresses of Nazis constantly hovering in the background. (Indeed, it adds an air of poignancy to a generally upbeat film knowing that many real gypsies were killed by the Nazis during the war.)

Milland's character begins as a bit of a stuffed shirt, but one of the men in the club notes that something happened due to wartime experiences which caused him to loosen up. That, of course, was his time with Lydia, where he experiences unexpected happiness despite the constant risk.

I really liked the framing of the story, which lets the audience know from the outset that, despite the ongoing suspense, Colonel Denistoun will survive; the opening also hints at the possibility of a happy ending to come. Given that the film goes to some pretty dark places, albeit fairly briefly, the structure of the script was most welcome.

The dark moments are also balanced out by quite a bit of humor, between some of Liddie's behavior and the colonel's surprised reactions.

A side note: Given the lapse of time between the colonel's time with Liddie and 1946, wouldn't the holes in his ears have closed up?

The screenplay of this 95-minute film was by Frank Butler, Abraham Polonsky, and Helen Deutsch, based on a novel by Yolanda Foldes. The black and white cinematography was by Daniel L. Fapp.

Murvyn Vye, who played Jigger in the original Broadway cast of CAROUSEL (1945), made his film debut as Liddie's ex-brother-in-law. It's a good part, as he and the colonel begin as enemies and part as blood brothers; he also sings the title song by Victor Young, Jay Livingston, and Ray Evans.

Watch closely for John Dehner in a fairly early role as a Nazi officer. The cast also includes Dennis Hoey, Ivan Triesault, and Reinhold Schunzel.

An interesting note: the movie begins with the Universal Pictures '40s logo, and at the end it concludes with the Paramount Pictures logo.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray, as is typical for this line, is an excellent print with a strong soundtrack.

Blu-ray extras consist of the trailer; a gallery of eight additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by David Del Valle.

I had no idea what to expect from GOLDEN EARRINGS and am pleased to say I found it quite entertaining. It's a film I'll happily return to in the future for a repeat visit.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Tonight's Movie: The Bitter Stems (1956) - A Flicker Alley Blu-ray Review

THE BITTER STEMS (1956), known in its native Argentina as LOS TALLOS AMARGOS, was recently released by Flicker Alley in a terrific Blu-ray/DVD combo set.

Flicker Alley released the film simultaneously with another Argentinian noir, THE BEAST MUST DIE (1952), which I reviewed last night.

I first saw THE BITTER STEMS almost half a dozen years ago, at the 2016 Noir City Hollywood Film Festival, and enjoyed returning to it with a fresh eye.

It's a surreal tale, even more so than the melodramatic THE BEAST MUST DIE; when I first saw it I described it as "dreamlike." Some have described it as THE TWILIGHT ZONE meets film noir, and that's not wrong.

Briefly, the story concerns reporter Alfredo Gaspar (Carlos Cores) and bartender Liudas (Vassili Lambrinos), who join forces to create a fake mail order journalism school. They rake in the dough but provide nothing in return.

Gaspar gives Liudas a larger share of the money to help him bring his family from Hungary to Argentina, but as time passes Gaspar begins to suspect his partner is cheating him. The disturbed Gaspar slips further and further away from reality as he begins to plot his revenge...which boomerangs as Gaspar then finds himself haunted by what he's done.

As with THE BEAST MUST DIE, I'm not sharing a great deal about the plot; it's an unusual story which viewers should discover for themselves. Also like THE BEAST MUST DIE, it builds to an extremely memorable conclusion.

THE BITTER STEMS is admittedly my least favorite Argentian noir seen to date; in fact, in 2016 I said I wasn't quite sure whether I liked it, though I acknowledged it was memorable and worthwhile. I think the movie's exceptionally dark tone, especially toward the end, contributed to my hesitation, along with the lack of someone to be "rooting for" in the movie.

I also wrote in 2016 that I suspected my appreciation for the movie would grow with closer acquaintance, which is one reason I wanted to revisit the film via the new Blu-ray, and my guess was correct. I often find that knowing what to expect going in helps me to enjoy a film more -- for the most part I'll never be someone who avoids "spoilers" -- and that was the case here.

There's just something about being mentally prepared for what a film is or isn't which helps me to relax and spend more time noticing things like the craftsmanship and performances, and indeed, this 90-minute film is well made and acted.

Incidentally, while Laura Hidalgo of THE BEAST MUST DIE made me think of Yvonne De Carlo, BITTER STEMS lead actor Cores rather reminds me of an American film noir star, Zachary Scott.

It was directed by Fernando Ayala and filmed in black and white by Ricardo Younis. The screenplay by Sergio Leonardo was based on a novel by Adolfo Jasca.

I watched the Blu-ray from the combination set, which has a beautiful print and excellent sound. It's a real thrill that this long-unseen film, a joint restoration project of the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive, is now available for home viewing.

Like Flicker's Alley's release of THE BEAST MUST DIE, the physical set itself is appealing, with attractive contrasting colors on the Blu-ray and DVD discs; there is also reversible case cover art featuring a Spanish-language poster. The glossy booklet in the case features photographs and an essay by Maria Elena de las Carreras.

Extras consist of an introduction by the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller; a commentary track by the always-excellent Imogen Sara Smith; an 18-minute profile of composer Astor Piazzolla narrated by Max Steiner biographer Steven C. Smith; and a 12-minute conversation between Eddie Muller and Argentine film archivist/historian Fernando Martin Pena. 

I still need to hear the commentary, which I will definitely be doing soon, but the rest of the extras helped further develop my appreciation of an unusual movie and its history.

Thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray/DVD set.

THE BITTER STEMS may be purchased through the Flicker Alley website as well as through retailers such as Amazon.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...Last week I mentioned a few film festivals which had recently cancelled or were in danger of cancellation. Since then the Noir City Film Festival scheduled to take place in Oakland from January 20th through 23rd has been indefinitely postponed. Festival producer and host Eddie Muller hopes to reschedule sometime this spring.

...Following up on another story from last week, here's a Variety article, "Why Does Disney Keep Sending Pixar Movies Straight to Streaming?"

...Happiest birthday wishes to Margaret O'Brien, born January 15, 1937. Here is my 2010 birthday tribute, updated with more recent movie review links.

...From Glenn Erickson, a review of A WALK IN THE SUN (1945) starring Dana Andrews and Richard Conte. It's being released on Blu-ray this month from Kit Parker Films and MVD Entertainment Group.

...Farran Smith Nehme, aka the Self-Styled Siren, has written about the wonderful SISSI movies starring Romy Schneider. I reviewed a couple of the films here back in 2010.

...Here's information from the It's a Wonderful Movie site on how to stream Christmas and other movies from the new GAC channel. Some of the movies star actors familar from the Hallmark Channels, including Danica McKellar and Jen Lilley.

...Karen Burroughs Hannsberry has shared five of her all-time favorite noir films in her Noir Nook column at Classic Movie Hub.

...The Metzinger Sisters of Silver Scenes have a fun post up on the real-life Josie and the Pussycats band, which included Cheryl Ladd, then known as Cherie Moor. The band was created to coincide with the cartoon series, which debuted in 1970.

..."Coming soon" to Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, from a brand-new 2K master: IF I WERE KING (1938) starring Ronald Colman, Frances Dee, Basil Rathbone, and Ellen Drew. What a cast! Frank Lloyd directed.

...Kino Lorber has confirmed BLUE SKIES (1946) and BACK STREET (1941) for March 22nd release, with SHAKEDOWN (1950) coming on March 29th.

...On January 18th the Film Detective will be releasing THE CAPTURE (1950), starring Teresa Wright and Lew Ayres, directed by John Sturges.

...The UCLA Film & Television Archive has rescheduled several January screenings at the Billy Wilder Theater, including a double bill of THE DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1928) and THUNDERBOLT (1939). Those films will now play on March 26th. Coming to the Billy Wilder Theater in February: A screening of STORMY WEATHER (1943).

...Notable Passing: I was saddened to learn of the death of critic, author, and playwright Terry Teachout on January 13th. He passed away in his sleep at the age of 65, less than two years after the death of his wife Hilary following a double lung transplant. Terry was a friend to all on Twitter who shared his passions, and over the last few years we had many enjoyable chats about our love for Westerns, in particular; among other things, Terry was a big fan of Audie Murphy's NO NAME ON THE BULLET (1959). This past year Terry shared with his readers the unexpected joy he felt thanks to a new love, which makes the abrupt ending of his life all the sadder. Here are tributes by his friends, mystery writer Laura Lippman (who incorporates a reference to some of my favorite books, the Betsy-Tacy series) and JazzWax's Marc Myers. I also loved a story at Ricochet about Terry's kindness to a soldier stationed in Afghanistan. Terry will be very much missed.

...More Notable Passings: Dwayne Hickman, star of TV's THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS (1959-63), has died at 87. Like his older brother Darryl, who survives him, Dwayne began as a child actor in 1940s Hollywood. He also appeared on THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW (1955-59). Here are additional obituaries from Variety and Deadline...TV director Dick Carson, the brother of Johnny Carson, has passed on at 92...I learned from Alan K. Rode that Lee Server, author of highly regarded biographies of Robert Mitchum and Ava Gardner, has passed away. He was 68. (Update: Here's an obituary for Lee Server from Shelf Awareness.)

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my January 8th roundup.