A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Face in the Crowd.

Before he brought Mayberry, North Carolina, into American homes and became an icon of moral rectitude as Sheriff Andy Taylor, Andy Griffith burst onto cinema screens as Lonesome Rhodes, a charismatic drifter with a canny, down-home wit and an avaricious taste for status and influence. After charming Arkansas radio reporter Marcia Jeffries (Patricia Neal) and becoming a local media star, Rhodes leverages his growing popularity into national television fame and a trusted position among political and industrial power-brokers. Gradually Rhodes is corrupted by his own success and his laid-back attitude gives way to a monstrous off-camera personality. With stand-out supporting performances by Walter Matthau, Anthony Franciosa, and Lee Remick, director Elia Kazan and screenwriter Budd Schulberg create a roaring statement against grassroots fascism, advertising fakery, and the pernicious influence of television on the political process.

Disc Features:

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teeth (Daniel Gray and Tom Brown, 2015)

Mouths are strange places as every horror fan knows. They are full of hard, piercing weaponry set amid wet, fleshy muscle and sensitive, waiting nerves. It is also the main portal to our insides, a place where good things should go in and bad things should not come out (but sometimes do anyways). Daniel Gray and Tom Brown’s teeth (2016) is not just preoccupied with mouths, but also with dead things and dissection – a combination not designed for the squeamish. Richard E. Grant‘s narration offers a sense of dignity to this rather ghoulish short, ably offering some misdirection to the thud of the film’s ironically deadpan, matter of fact conclusion.

The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 1953)

Ted Parmelee’s beautifully decrepit adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story is a wonder, full of decay and madness in the mid-century modernist animation style typical to UPA. The Tell-Tale Heart was the first cartoon to receive an X rating (compliments of the BBFC); garnered an Academy Award nomination for Animated Short; counts Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and Guillermo del Toro among its admirers; and was admitted to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2001. James Mason’s narration and the film’s final, unexpected POV shot are remarkable.

(I probably should have saved this for October, but why deny ourselves this impressive film? It deserves to be better known.)

The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon (Yugo Serikawa, 1963)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon.

criterion logoA landmark animated film, the Toei Doga studio’s sixth feature The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon reimagines a Shinto myth and casts the storm god Susano’o as a headstrong, young child on a fantastic journey to find and save his dead mother.  The boy adventurer, aided by Akahana the rabbit and the giant Titan Bo, travels to the crystalline land of night, faces the god of fire, and battles to save a princess from the Yamata no Orochi, a legendary Japanese dragon.  Memorable for animator Yasuji Mori’s break from the established Toei house-style and a rare score for an animated film by famed composer Akira Ifukube, The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon is a modernist treasure from one of the world’s great animation studios, presented here in its original Japanese version.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored high-definition transfer in full Fujicolor and 2.35:1 Toeiscope, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Isolated score by Akira Ikufube
  • New video piece with animator Genndy Tartakovsky on The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon and its influence
  • New video piece with animation critic and historian Charles Solomon on Toei Doga
  • New interview with animator and historian Takashi Namiki on animator Yasuji Mori, including an extensive gallery of Mori’s illustrations
  • Kitty’s Graffiti (1957) and Kitty’s Studio (1959), two short animated films by Mori
  • Trailers for The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon and other Toei Doga animated features
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring a new essay by animation historian Jerry Beck

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5 Fingers (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1952)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents 5 Fingers.

criterion logoBased on the true story of a World War II spy in neutral Turkey, 5 Fingers follows an ambitious and extremely clever valet (James Mason) who tires of being a servant and forms a plan to promote himself to rich gentleman of leisure by selling top-secret information from the British embassy to the Germans, including details about D-Day’s Operation Overlord.  The Nazis, his British employers, Allied intelligence, and a Polish refugee Countess are all manipulated by the valet code-named Cicero, even as agents and counter-agents close in around him.  One of the best war thrillers made, 5 Fingers is woven with patriotism, weariness, passion, and greed, spearheaded by the critically acclaimed script and direction of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, a suspenseful score from Bernard Herrmann, and a magnificent performance by Mason as the tightly controlled spy maintaining his cool ambitions even as his plans deteriorate.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • The music of 5 Fingers, an interactive essay by Christopher Husted of Bernard Herrmann’s estate
  • 1952 and 1955 Lux Radio Theatre performances of 5 Fingers with James Mason and his wife Pamela Mason
  • Operation Cicero, the 46-minute Hour of the Stars TV version starring Ricardo Montalbon and Peter Lorre
  • Inside Cicero, a new 30-minute feature on the real life Cicero, Elyesa Banza
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Philip Kemp, 1952 reviews by Bosley Crowther of the New York Times and Hollis Alpert of the Saturday Review, and behind-the-scenes photos of the film’s production

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