Recent Reviews

Shivers (Blu-ray)

They came from within.

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With as audacious and assured as Shivers is, it's in some ways difficult to believe that this was David Cronenberg's first commercial film. And his gifts as a storyteller and embrace of the horrific are apparent from its very first moments.

After swiftly introducing its self-contained, isolated backdrop of Starliner Towers, Shivers cuts between a couple politely inquiring about an apartment and the nightmare unfolding just a few floors above them. A middle-aged professorial type – silently consumed by some unknown drive – violently tears the clothes off a teenaged girl, slices her down the middle nearly from sternum to sacrum, and pours some kind of acid across her exposed innards. Then, with his grisly task complete, he fatally slices his own throat open.

There is no foreshadowing hinting at what has just transpired. We do not meet these characters beforehand, nor, at this point, are we made aware of how they relate to one another. All that is clear is that this is just the beginning – that the unspeakable horrors we'd just witnessed will soon spread virulently throughout this hopelessly remote tower.

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Despite being such an early work of Cronenberg's, so many of the concepts he'd explore throughout his career emerge here fully-formed. The "body horror" label invariably associated with the filmmaker certainly applies to Shivers, with victims' minds dominated by the parasites nesting within their bodies – the creatures' movements visible underneath their hosts' skin all the while. The enclosed ecosystem of Starliner Towers is itself an organism of sorts, located on an island just far enough away from civilization to require everything from its own delicatessen to a medical...[read the entire Blu-ray review of Shivers]

Spawn of the North (Blu-ray)

"Years ago, the vigilantes forced a respect for law upon the desperadoes of the Old West. The same struggle took place against the fish-pirates of the Alaskan frontier. This is the story of that struggle."

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Reunited for the first time in a great while, Tyler (George Raft) is bursting with excitement to tell his lifelong friend Jim (Henry Fonda) about his new venture – a schooner all his own. Nevermind that he doesn't have nearly enough money as yet to make this a reality; it's neither hope nor dream but, to his mind, an imminent certainty. Jim doesn't have so adventurous a spirit, likely to the chagrin of his forefathers. Rather than follow in their footsteps, he's reconfigured their whaling legacy into a cannery. It's not the most thrilling path, no, but it's the one that Jim has chosen for himself, and he's put far too much into this to possibly change course now.

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There are a great many conflicts throughout Spawn of the North – between man and the untamed Alaskan frontier, between hardworking fishermen and thieving pirates – and yet its most critical one is between its two lifelong friends. Tyler is willing to take exceptionally risky shortcuts to realize his wide-eyed aspirations, while Jim is compelled by responsibility and practicality. That's what ultimately drives the action that inevitably awaits. And that this conflict is so deeply rooted in its characters and their relationships helps to set Spawn of the North apart from most any other film I've seen.

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Spawn of the North refuses to settle into some comfortable, well-trodden formula. Though the threat of fish-pirates is made apparent in the earliest moments of the film, it's not an...[read the entire Blu-ray review of Spawn of the North]

Cary Grant Collection (Blu-ray)

KL Studio Classics has already been celebrating the early years of Cary Grant's filmography, having brought The Eagle and the Hawk and Alice in Wonderland to Blu-ray over the past few months. But why stop there? They've collected three of Grant's earliest comedies – all produced for Paramount in the 1930s – for the first time ever in sparkling high definition.

Ladies Should Listen (1934)

Okay, things may have been looking pretty dicey for a minute there for penniless Parisian playboy Julian de Lussac (Cary Grant). But now he's on the verge of something big! Julian stands to make a fortune if he can cash in on those Chilean nitrate options by Monday. Along with too many other inventions to count, he and valet Albert (Charles Arnt) have cooked up some kind of proto-"Baby, It's Cold Outside" thing with a Fake Thunderstorm Machine to keep the ladyfolk from taking off early. And Julian's devised the perfect scheme to send exotic beauty Marguerite (Rosita Moreno) running right into his arms – suicide! Well, kind of.

Ladies Should Listen
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Pretending to shoot himself over the phone can't help but get the attention of his South American sweetheart. Alas, it's not love at first sight so much as it is a love triangle, with nosy switchboard operator Anna (Frances Drake) rushing in first for the rescue. Or I guess it becomes a love pentagon when the impish, jilted Anna rings up accident-prone millionairess Susi (Nydia Westman) – who fawns over Julian, despite kinda-sorta-not-actually being engaged to his best friend (Edward Everett Horton, natch). Oh, and did I mention that Marguerite is married to a murderously jealous husband, and they're pursuing devious motives all their own? Well, if I didn't before, I guess I have now.

Ladies Should Listen[read the entire Blu-ray review of Cary Grant Collection]

More reviews...

Stuff I've Watched Recently

  • 5/7: Promising Young Woman (Blu-ray)
  • 5/3: Perdita Durango (Uhd)
  • 4/30: Bombshell (1933) (Hdtv)
  • 4/30: Rush Week (Blu-ray)
  • 4/29: Another Thin Man (Blu-ray)
  • 4/28: Who Let the Dogs Out (Hdtv)
  • 4/28: Hell on Frisco Bay (Blu-ray)
  • 4/27: Jasper Mall (Hdtv)
  • 4/27: Bad Day at Black Rock (Blu-ray)
  • 4/27: Roman Holiday (Blu-ray)
  • 4/26: Spaceballs (Uhd)
  • 4/26: The Day of the Beast (Uhd)
  • 4/25: Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Uhd)
  • 4/25: Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Uhd)
  • 4/24: The Mole Agent (Hdtv)
More of my boring video log...
Movies I've Acquired Recently

  • 5/7: Promising Young Woman (Blu-ray)
  • 4/29: Another Thin Man (Blu-ray)
  • 4/28: Minari (Blu-ray)
  • 4/28: Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (Blu-ray)
  • 4/28: He Knows You're Alone (Blu-ray)
  • 4/27: Santa Sangre (Uhd)
  • 4/18: Wonder Woman 1984 (Uhd)
  • 4/15: The Day of the Beast (Uhd)
  • 4/15: Perdita Durango (Uhd)
  • 4/15: Spaceballs (Uhd)
  • 4/15: Roman Holiday (Blu-ray)
  • 4/11: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Arte Originale) (Uhd)
  • 4/8: Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Blu-ray)
  • 4/4: The Final Countdown (Uhd)
  • 4/4: Batman: Soul of the Dragon (Uhd)
More stuff I've bought or been sent to review...

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