People of the Cumberland (Robert Stebbins, Eugene Hill, Elia Kazan, and William Watts, 1937)

In anticipation of our next proposal for the Criterion Collection, MMC! will lead the way a series of “Son of Wholphin” posts focusing on a group of short films that will set a path to and through our next feature subject. We start with People of the Cumberland, a documentary short from 1937 directed by Elia Kazan, William Watts, Eugene Hill (credited as Jay Leyda), and Sidney Meyers (credited as Eugene Hill). The film concerns a progressive adult education project, Myles Horton’s Highlander Folk School, located in the mountain community of Monteagle, Tennessee. Demonstrating the School’s impact on the impoverished coal mining region, the short pivots toward the growing labour movement and advocates for a “new kind of America” free from economic exploitation and privation. The film was made under the auspices of the Work Projects Administration, a New Deal agency, and as part of the Federal Arts Project program. Written by Erskine Caldwell and Ben Maddow (credited as David Wolff), the short is an excellent document of its time and a rousingly populist essay thanks to the narration of Richard Blaine and the footage shot by Ralph Steiner.

The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Phenix City Story.

Corruption, brutality, and vice plagued Phenix City, Alabama, for 100 years, so who would dare to change it? Based on real-life events and filmed on location in what was called Sin City USA, director Phil Karlson’s semi-documentary tears this jolting tale from its Pulitzer Prize-winning headlines and tells the story of those citizens who risked their lives to bring down the burg’s syndicate of thugs and murderers. Signalling the end of stylish film noir and pointing to the crime-busting exposés that followed, this classic B-noir remains indelible for its shockingly transgressive violence, its unsettling authenticity, and its subtextual awareness of the struggling civil rights movement.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Phil Karlson: The Core of Fact, a short appreciation featuring writer/film historian Alan K. Rode
  • New interview with critics and one-time Alabamans Jonathan Rosenbaum and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Historic photos of Sin City-era Phenix City
  • PLUS: An essay by critic R. Emmet Sweeney

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SFFF Day 2 – Chillin’ with the Villains

The Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival went globe-trotting to start Day 2. The “Drawn from Around the World” block of animated shorts offered some enthralling works. Many conveyed a sad or lamenting poignancy. Keiro (Tatiana Jusewycz, Benoît Leloup, Franck Menigoz, Zoé Nérot, and Charlotte Poncin, 2016) traced a girl’s journey to adulthood and its effect on the giant creature that accompanies her, Beyond the Books (Jérôme Battistelli, Mathilde Cartigny, Nicolas Evain, Maéna Paillet, Robin Pelissier, and Judith Wahler, 2017) envisioned the highly detailed collapse of an impossibly immense library, the Spanish short Dead Horses (Marc Riba and Anna Solanas, 2016) revealed the brutality of war from a child’s perspective and amid fabric devastation, and the Indian film Schirkoa (Asian Shukla, 2017) imagined political strife in a world where citizens wear bags and boxes on their heads. Others brought the funny, like Daniel Sterlin-Altman’s Hi, It’s Your Mother (2017), about motherhood, blood loss, and middle class living told in crude claymation, and Deuspi (Megacomputer, 2017), a very short work about a pair of astonishingly inept stick-up men and their hilarious fates.

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The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)

HE SELLS DEATH TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAfter his iconic role as Sergio Corbucci’s Django, Franco Nero teamed up once again with the Spaghetti Western’s “other Sergio” to become The Mercenary.  Nero plays Kowalski, a Polish mercenary who sells his expertise to a band of Mexican outlaws led by Paco Roman (Tony Musante), and aids them as they seek to support the revolution and themselves.  When the Federal Army closes in, loyalties and political philosophies become strained between Kowalski, Paco, and their beautiful revolutionary ally Columba (Giovanna Ralli).  Jack Palance joins Corbucci’s fabulous cast as Curly, Kowalski’s dandified rival and cutthroat villain.  With a memorable score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, The Mercenary is a political statement with loads of commercial appeal, presented here in an exclusive high-definition restoration from the original Techniscope negative.

Special Features:

  • Brand new restoration from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in uncompressed PCM mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new interview with star Franco Nero
  • How to Make a Revolution – featurette on the film’s production including interviews with Franco Nero, Tony Musante, Sergio Corbucci, Nora Corbucci, Luciano Vincenzoni, and Eugenio Alabiso
  • US, European, and international trailers
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Austin Fisher and Howard Hughes

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200 (Vincent Collins, 1975)

Patriotism has never been as trippy as it is in Vincent Collins’ 200 (1975), a psychedelic commission from the US Information Agency for the American bicentennial.  We were lucky enough to see the short in Kier-La Janisse’s latest Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat Cereal Cartoon Party and the audience loved it (particularly the moment when hamburgers come sailing from the Horn of Plenty).  So salute the flag and check yourself for epilepsy, just as the founding fathers intended!

200 coincidentally marks MMC!‘s 200th post!  Big thanks to you crazy kids (both of you) who stop by MMC!‘s tiny corner of the worldwide inter webs, and thanks in advance to that lone reader who will see us to 400!

Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Children of Men.

criterion logoNo children.  No future.  No hope.  In the year 2027, eighteen years since the last baby was born, disillusioned Theo Faron (Clive Owen) becomes an unlikely champion of the human race when he is asked by his former lover Julian (Julianne Moore) to escort a young pregnant woman out of Britain as quickly as possible.  In a thrilling race against time, Theo will risk everything to deliver the miracle the whole world has been waiting for.  Employing stunningly long takes filmed by the great Emmanuel Lubezki, Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men presents a politically charged, near-future dystopia that is all too recognizable from the present day.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 2K digital film transfer, supervised by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and approved by director Alfonso Cuarón, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • A new piece on the making of Children of Men, featuring new interviews with actors Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Clare-Hope Ashitey, co-writer Timothy J. Sexton, Cuarón, and Lubezki
  • The Possibility of Hope, Cuarón’s 27-minute documentary on the issues and theories behind Children of Men
  • Comments by Slavoj Zizek, an extended interview on the film and its adaptation from P. D. James’s novel
  • Theo and Julian, interviews with Clive Owen and Julianne on the development of their characters
  • Under Attack, a behind-the-scenes look at shooting the film’s complicated action sequences
  • Futuristic Design, a review of Children of Men‘s outstanding art direction and world-building
  • Visual Effects: Creating the Baby, an examination of the film’s digital effects
  • A new video piece with scholar James Udden on Children of Men and the long take
  • Quietus “You Decide When” commercial
  • Deleted scenes
  • Gallery of production photos, posters, and promotional art
  • Trailers and TV spots
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring extensive production design artwork, Zizek’s essay “The Clash of Civilizations at the End of History,” and a new essay by film critic Charles Taylor

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