Airplane! (David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, 1980)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Airplane!

In this zany masterpiece written and directed by the trio of David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker of The Kentucky Fried Theater, a traumatized fighter pilot (Robert Hays) boards an airliner to win back his flight attendant girlfriend (Julie Hagerty) and becomes the plane’s last hope when the crew and half of the plane succumb to food poisoning. Loaded with surreal humor and rapid-fire gags, Airplane! parodied the popular disaster films of the 1970s and took audiences by storm in the process, a breath of fresh air that turned into a massive box office hit. With an iconic cast that includes Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! is one of cinema’s most quotable films and an all-time, off-the-wall, comedy classic.

Disc Features:

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The Romance of Transportation in Canada (Colin Low, 1952) and City of Gold (Colin Low and Wolf Koenig, 1957)

NFBIf anything has made my immersion in the NFB worthwhile, it is my newfound appreciation for Colin Low, Wolf Koenig, and Roman Kroitor. These men were prolific contributors to the NFB, working together and apart on seemingly countless productions as directors, animators, producers, and writers and acting as pioneers working in the art of Direct Cinema, developing the IMAX format, and directly influencing the work George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, and Ken Burns. Presented here is Colin Low’s humourous The Romance of Transportation in Canada (1952), animated by Wolf Koenig and Robert Verrall. Romance won the Short Film Palme d’Or and a special BAFTA Award, and holds the distinction of being the NFB’s first Oscar-nominated animated film and the first international nominee in the Animated Short category. Also offered here is Low and Koenig’s City of Gold (1957), winner of the Palme d’Or, recipient of an Oscar nomination as a documentary short, and boasting narration by beloved Canadian historian, journalist, and television personality Pierre Berton. American documentarian Ken Burns has acknowledged City of Gold as a foundational film to his own work, and the debt owed to Low and Koenig’s use of archival photographs is obvious. Low, Koenig, and Kroitor should be widely know in film circles given their contributions to cinema and we’ll have more on them tomorrow and as our tribute to the NFB continues!

As per the NFB:

A light-hearted animated short about how Canada’s vast distances and great obstacles were overcome by settlers. The story is told with a tongue-in-cheek seriousness and takes us from the intrepid trailblazers of long ago to the aircraft of today and tomorrow. A 1953 Cartoon Short Subject Oscar®-nominee.

As per the NFB:

This classic short film Pierre Berton depicts the Klondike gold rush at its peak, when would-be prospectors struggled through harsh conditions to reach the fabled gold fields over 3000 km north of civilization. Using a collection of still photographs, the film juxtaposes the Dawson City at the height of the gold rush with its bustling taverns and dance halls with the more tranquil Dawson City of the present.

Canada Carries On, Twice

NFBWith the establishment of the National Film Board of Canada in 1939, John Grierson, the British documentarian and the NFB’s first commissioner, set upon a project to foster and shape the national identity, and the outbreak of World War II was a timely context for Grierson’s nationalist aims.  One of the NFB’s first efforts was Canada Carries On, a series of theatrical shorts aimed to boost morale during wartime.  Its producer, British documentary filmmaker Stuart Legg, found early success in the endeavour when he received two Oscar nominations for the new documentary short category.  Relying heavily on stock footage and “voice-of-God” commentary, Legg’s Churchill’s Island (1941) and Warclouds in the Pacific (1941) are remarkable documents of their periods.  Churchill’s Island won that first documentary Oscar, but Legg has failed to garner the kind of recognition given to his close colleague Grierson.

As per the NFB:

This film won the NFB its first Oscar® and was also the first documentary to win this coveted award.  It presents the strategy of the Battle of Britain, showing with penetrating clarity the relationships between the various forces made up the island’s defences.  Here is the Royal Air Force in its epic battle with the Luftwaffe, the Navy in its stubborn fight against the raiders of sea and sky, the coastal defences, the mechanized cavalry, the merchant seamen and behind them all, Britain’s tough, unbending civilian army.

As per the NFB:

This short film examines the Japan that emerged at the beginning of the 1900s and was firmly established as an industrialized nation by the outbreak of World War II.  Facing the greatest threat in their history, the democracies of the Pacific took careful stock of this new Japan and its strength, and erected a vast system of defence across the world’s greatest ocean.

The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin with Evan Johnson, 2015)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Forbidden Room.

criterion logoOverwhelmed with narrative and fearful that their brains might explode under its pressure, Canadian cult filmmaker Guy Maddin and his co-creator Evan Johnson offer the ultimate epic phantasmagoria from the ectoplasmic residue of early cinema’s lost films.  Two-Strip Technicolor havoc is created with the assistance of master poet John Ashbery, actor Udo Kier, and a host of French and Québécois stars who filmed on public sets at Paris’ Pompidou Center and Montreal’s Phi Center.  The Forbidden Room is a kaleidoscopic viewing experience borne from cinema’s past, present, and future where flapjacking eating submarine crews, forest bandits, skeleton women, and vampire bananas await!

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital master, with 5.1 digital DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary with Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
  • Interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the Phi Center shoots
  • Endless Ectoloops
  • Living posters
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Seven-episode series on Guy Maddin’s Seances from the Phi Center
  • New interview with cinematographer Benjamin Kasulke
  • New interview with production designer Galen Johnson on his design of the film’s more than 400 intertitle screens
  • La chambre interdite, French version of The Forbidden Room with French intertitle screens
  • The 1000 Eyes of Dr. Maddin, Yves Montmayeur’s 65-minute documentary on “the Canadian David Lynch”
  • Once a Chicken, a séance with László Moholy-Nagy
  • Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton, Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Galen Johnson’s short film on the making of Paul Gross’s Canadian war film, Hyena Road, with introduction by the filmmakers
  • Footage from the Toronto Film Critics Association’s awards ceremony naming The Forbidden Room 2015’s Best Canadian Film
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by Guy Maddin and film critics Jonathan Rosenbaum and Hillary Weston

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A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Matter of Life and Death.

criterion logoAs his plane is going down in flames, doomed World War II pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) meets over the radio the love of his life, an American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter).  He miraculously survives the crash and the pair commence their romance, but Carter is troubled with a life-threatening brain injury treated by a village doctor (Roger Livesey) and a heavenly collector (Marius Goring) intent on escorting his errant soul to the other side.  Originally designed as a propaganda piece to promote better relations between Britain and the United States, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death became an English classic featuring delightful performances by its cast, accomplished Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and spectacular production design by Alfred Junge.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie
  • Martin Scorsese on A Matter of Life and Death
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell and Grover Crisp on AMOLAD and its restoration
  • Interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • A Matter of Fried Onions, Diane Broadbent Friedman on the medical foundation of AMOLAD
  • Behind the scenes footage, filmed during a visit to Denham Studios by Canadian soldiers
  • “The King and the Stars,” a Front Page newsreel by British Pathé on the 1946 Royal Command Film Performance screening, along with unused and unissued footage of the event and the press reception
  • New interview with author J. K. Rowling and actor Daniel Radcliffe in appreciation of the film
  • Two Lux Radio Theatre productions from 1947 (starring Ray Milland, Ann Blyth, and Nigel Bruce) and 1955 (starring David Niven and Barbara Rush)
  • The Hedda Hooper Show – This is Hollywood‘s 30-minute radio adaptation, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, and Vincent Price
  • Screen Director’s Playhouse radio production from 1951, starring Robert Cummings and Julia Adams
  • Kinescope of the “Stairway to Heaven” TV adaptation for Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Richard Green, Jean Gillespie, and Bramwell Fletcher
  • Parody sketch from Big Train, featuring Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Amelia Bullmore
  • Gallery of sketches and stills of Alfred Junge’s production designs
  • Sequence shot for Powell and Pressburger’s unmade The White Cockade, starring David Niven and Pamela Brown
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring behind the scenes photos, the script, and new essays by film critics Dave Kehr, Robert Horton, and Mark Kermode

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The Deadly Invention (Karel Zeman, 1958)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Deadly Invention.

criterion logoCalled “the Czech Méliès” and “the Walt Disney of Czechoslovakia,” Karel Zeman created worlds of fantasy that seemed to pre-date cinema’s invention.  His masterpiece, The Deadly Invention, loosely adapts Jules Verne’s Facing the Flag, bringing to life the etched illustrations of Verne artists like Edouard Riou and Leon Bennett.  Mixing real actors and sets with stop-motion animation, cut-outs, mechanical props, and other visual effects, Zeman produces a monochromatic world of steampunk imagination that transcends notions of reality and unreality at the same time.  A forgotten classic in science fiction cinema, Zeman’s 1958 version is presented here, along with the 1961 American version of its release, The Fabulous World of Jules Verne.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Isolated score by Zdenek Liška
  • Introductions by filmmakers Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton
  • The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, the 1961 American reworking of the original film, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Inspiration, Zeman’s 10-minute stop-motion short featuring blown glass figures
  • The Magical World of Karel Zeman, Zdenek Rozkopal’s 1962 documentary on Zeman
  • The Special Effects of Karel Zeman, a 1980 documentary on Zeman’s ingenious techniques
  • Video tour of the Karel Zeman Museum with museum director Jakub Matejka and a video essay from the museum on the making of The Deadly Invention featuring Zeman’s daughter Ludmila Zemanová
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film archivist and Jules Verne Scholar Brian Taves and journalist Andrew Osmond

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