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Robert Badgley (St Thomas,Ontario,Canada)
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Pound of Flesh / Risquer sa peau (Bilingual)
Pound of Flesh / Risquer sa peau (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jean-Claude Van Damme
Price: CDN$ 14.88
9 used & new from CDN$ 11.39

3.0 out of 5 stars JCVD is back., Aug. 2 2015
Pound of Flesh(released May/15)stars,among others,Jean-Claude Van Damme as Deacon,Darren Shahlavi as Drake,Aki Aleong as Kung and John Ralston as George.I found this to be s step up from JCVD's most recent efforts such as Alien Uprising and Enemies Closer.This film, like Six Bullets and Assassination Games,was directed by E.Barbarash,who is a good director for Van Damme.Unlike Peter Hyams, who was involved with his misfiring's of the aforementioned Enemies Closer and the more recent Universal Soldier films.
The story finds JCVD as a former agent who specialized in K&R(kidnap and recovery).As the story opens he has come to Manilla to see his estranged brother.After a sex romp with a prostitute he rescues from being beaten up by her "handler",he wakes up the next morning in a tub of ice...less a kidney.He calls his local buddy Aleong, who had been involved in Manilla street crime for decades.He has the connections to help JCVD get his organ back.But things have changed since the two last met and Aleong's reach does not extend as far as it once did.This means that things are going to get a little rougher than hoped for.
JCVD meets his brother as he and Aleong are plotting their next moves.The meeting doesn't go as amiably as it should,due to Jean Claude's obvious impairment.However he agrees to reluctantly tag along and help him in any way he can.First they head to the local hospital where George's daughter is awaiting a kidney donation.The kidney we find out is being donated by JCVD....his reason for the visit and why he desperately wants his kidney back.
From here they head back to a bar where JCVD confronts the waitress that served both he and the prostitute the night before.After a fight with bouncers he extracts the info he needs.This then leads him to a local fight arena where he finds the prostitute.She talks to JCVD and regrets what she did,saying the money was just too good.She tells him who it was: Shalavi.And on cue he shows up, and gives JCVD the opportunity to be paid more to just walk away or face the consequences.Of course JCVD isn't going to cave in and a struggle ensues with JCVD getting out with the prostitute.
From this moment on she sticks with the JCVD crew.When Aleong runs short of cash she gives them her share of what she was paid, in atonement.The prostitute,Aleong,George and JCVD decide to regroup and head out to a cottage George has in the country.While there we learn some truths.It seems JCVD has been a naughty boy in the past.He first met George's wife(who has since past away from cancer)while she was at med school in Europe, and they had a thing.She went to the States and JCVD followed and she met up with George,who she eventually married,not JCVD.But about 10 years before this present time George and his wife were having marital difficulties.She and JCVD met up again and she became pregnant with his child.It all came out eventually, but George forgave her.Thus the reason JCVD is the only match to donate a kidney.During the group`s stay a bomb has unknowingly been planted in the fridge.When Aleong opens the door the explosion kills him,thus depriving JCVD of contacts and an old friend.
The three now head to the estate of a local businessman who himself is apparently dying,and whom they believe to be the one who absconded with JCVD's kidney.Through some explosions and alot of firefights JCVD makes his inevitable way to the bedroom of his target,with George at his back.However they discover there are no scars on the man and realize it is a descendant of his that they are looking for.At this moment Shahlavi enters the room and has JCVD at a definite disadvantage...for a time.When it breaks the two battle to the death.Shahlavi dies with a slash to a femoral artery by JCVD.But the latter is also slowly dying,from a deep knife wound to his stomach,but keeps chugging along.
The two do not have to look too far for the real recipient of the kidney.He lies in the next room awaiting JCVD's kidney....the businessman's 11 year old grandson.George wants to shoot the boy, but JCVD talks him out of it.They leave the kidney packed in ice and walk out.
The two head back to George's daughter at the hospital.JCVD walks in and sits opposite George,who cradle's his sleeping daughter in his arms.JCVD is obviously now feeling his wound and is not in good shape.George let's JCVD hold his daughter for the first time.She wakes up and the two have a touching scene/meeting.George sees a pool of blood on the floor and takes his daughter to the washroom.As the brothers talk JCVD tells George to take his kidney for her, as he is dying.And die he does as George runs for a nurse.
Fast forward a year and the film ends as George and his now healthy daughter visit his wife's and JCVD's gravestones...sitting together.
The film I found was able to keep the action/story flowing along at a good pace.The fight scenes were well choreographed and much tighter than previous Van Damme outings...which is a good thing.The acting was good all around and the story was believable.The only negative was the director treating the viewer as if they were a brick too short....two times.The first happens when JCVD discovers an Ace of Spades card at the cottage just before Aleong opens the door to get killed.There is a quick flash back to JCVD the morning he woke up after his kidney kidnapping and discovers an Ace of Spades card sitting on a shelf.The second is as JCVD sits at the hospital dying, there is another quick flash back to the knife stab that caused the fatal wound.If the director and/or editor had been in the room,I would have strangled the both of them.Yes,we know the oh so OBVIOUS connections,don`t treat us like we have zero memory.Bad judgement on their part.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 1:85:1 and is clear ad crisp.Extras include the trailer and a featurette.
All in all the best thing JCVD has done since The Expendables Two.The pace was good and I was able to get into the story quite easily.3 1/2-4 stars.

Samsung All Region Free Multi Zone Progressive Scan DVD and CD Player
Samsung All Region Free Multi Zone Progressive Scan DVD and CD Player
Offered by E-TRONIX
Price: CDN$ 44.99
9 used & new from CDN$ 40.54

1.0 out of 5 stars A must to avoid!, July 18 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
I certainly have to scratch my head at this one.I ordered this and it arrives with Spanish ONLY instructions.From what I could gather it was made for Mexico and countries farther south.While it may function properly for U.S. and Canadian customers,unless you are fluent in Spanish,it is totally useless.Needless to say I have returned it for a refund.

Chaplin's Mutual Comedies [Blu-ray] [Import]
Chaplin's Mutual Comedies [Blu-ray] [Import]
Price: CDN$ 89.83
9 used & new from CDN$ 63.63

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The newest Chaplin benchmarks!, July 9 2015
This release of the newly restored Chaplin Mutual films is a must have for all Chaplin fansand film historians.Years ago I bought the "Charlie Chaplin Short Comedy Classics: The Complete Restored Essanay & Mutual Collection".It was a misnomer if ever there was one.I reviewed it at the time and pointed out more than a few of its flaws in the Mutual film department.A thing like the ending of The Rink, where the crowd chases him out of the rink.The old set ended there, instead of going on to Charlie holding on to the back of a car and the crowd tumbling down together in their fruitless effort to catch him.It and others were inexcusable mistakes/blunders that compiler David Sheppard should have known better to let pass.Apparently there was a re-issue but I wasn't forking out another bundle.
Well fast forward to this set and there is no comparison.What one notices right away when playing them is that each film is letter boxed on all four sides to get the entire original a/r in to view.If you want to see it like you are used to, just press the "zoom" button or equivalent on your remote one notch in,and voila...you have full screen with no degradation of film quality! The cover says from the Blackhawk Film Collection but that is misleading.These films have been restored using elements from multiple source world wide;something I have been championing for years.It now seems many are finally coming around to the concept of restoring films to get them to original release length and quality.Thank you Lord.After watching these restored marvels I can say each one has something I have never ever seen before.
The set has two BD's and three DVDs.There is a nice 27 page booklet with liner notes by Jeffrey Vance included.The entire set is in a steel box.
All in all a gem of a release by Flicker Alley which includes production/restoration help by Lobster Films,Blackhawk and Cineteca Bologna.These newly restored Chaplin Mutual's are now the current benchmarks for these films.If like me all you have been use to seeing are poor dupes made from 20s re-releases or worse,these films will blow you away.Sure there are still imperfections in the films visible but considering the sources,it is a wonder they have gotten them this good.One day the technology will be able to clean these to a mint look,just like new.Until then enjoy this set to the fullest.

Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show: Season 2 [Import]
Sgt. Bilko - The Phil Silvers Show: Season 2 [Import]
DVD ~ Harvey Lembeck
Price: CDN$ 26.18
22 used & new from CDN$ 22.43

1.0 out of 5 stars Get your Bilko on,but with a price that is just too high!, July 2 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
I,like many of you, have learned over many years to be suspicious of companies that produce products that are not consistently of good quality.In the DVD media world, Shout Factory is right near the top of the list.Their products have been hit and miss for years,and this, Season Two of the Phil Silvers Show,is one that is a definite miss.
Season one of this series saw CBS and Paramount teaming up to produce the end product.The eps were grainy and had just the bare bones remastering.For the second,it seems Paramount has dropped out of the equation and Shout Factory has come in to fill the void.And the reason I am advising against buying this product may be one of the reasons why.On the first disc,second ep,about 10 minutes in where Bilko is talking to the chaplain,a video line appears and disappears.I had to go back to see if I had somehow mistook what I saw.Unfortunately it was all too true.Then later on in Bilkos War on Culture,there is yet another tape line crossing the screen near the end of the ep.The last ep, Bilkos Wedding, also has some tape anomaly.About the worst ep is on disc two,called Where There's a Will.Not only are there tape lines about half way through,but the entire ep has a terrible sound distortion problem.Absolutely pathetic.How many more will I find in this season,not to mention those in the future?On top of Shout Factory taking the reigns, something else has changed.Unlike Season One,Season Two,at the end of each ep,shows the Viacom syndication logo.That means instead of newer prints,we are stuck with the old Viacom syndication tapes for a source of the shows.It wouldn't be so bad if any anomalies were corrected in transferring them to DVD.But no.
I was going to contact Shout for comment but I immediately stopped myself.In a Season of McHales Navy the exact same thing occurs during one of those eps.When I contacted them then they explained that they just used what ever they were given.One doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to figure out what they would say this time.8
Well I stopped buying any further sets of McHales Navy because of that and I am going to do the same now with this series.How sad that in this day and age that if source anomalies crop up that need correcting,companies like this don't have the guts to say "No" and to ask for other prints.What has happened to quality control?What has happened to a word called"integrity"?
Shout Factory should be utterly ashamed for releasing a show in this condition.The Phil Silver Shows is one of my fave shows of all time(and obviously for many others)and to see it released with no regard for the buying public is a real kick in the pants.Another black mark to Shout Factory and a BIG thumbs down to CBS for releasing these eps via the old Viacom syndication tapes.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 [DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 [DVD + Digital Copy] (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jennifer Lawrence
Price: CDN$ 15.00
7 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best one yet!, June 28 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
The Hunger Games:Mockingjay Part 1,stars,among others,Jennifer Lawrence,Josh Hutcherson,Liam Hemsworth,Woody Harrelson,Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks,Julianne Moore,Philip Seymour Hoffman,Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.This is a great and suspenseful sequel as the franchise runs down to what should be a very exciting climax of a film in the next installment.
The story finds Katniss rescued by the leaders of the rebellion.Peeta,her"love"from the televised Hunger games,has been captured by President Snow's troops.The rebels want her to become the cause's symbol,something everyone can rally around, but since Peeta is not around she has no desire to do so,despite numerous requests.After a visit to District 12,,which has been leveled,and after seeing Peeta broadcasting telling the rebels to lay down their arms,she changes her mind.One of the conditions being Peeta is rescued at the earliest opportunity.
During a visit to District 8,when Katniss visits a makeshift hospital there,it is attacked.They manage to bring down two ships but the hospital is all but destroyed.She gives a rousing speech which is filmed and broadcast to all districts.This causes the movement to begin in earnest as more districts now join in.During yet another Peeta broadcast,he suddenly yells out a warning to the rebels that an attack is imminent.As their headquarters prepares for the worst,they also prepare a retaliatory attack.At the last minute however they realize that the Capitol has no idea exactly where the rebels base is,so they stand down.With this they launch a rescue of Peeta in the Capitol,and it succeeds.When Peta is well enough Katniss joins him in the infirmary but he suddenly attacks her,almost killing her.It seems Peeta was mind washed to act as a weapon.
The film ends as the rebels try to bring Peeta back to normal,and it is announced that their next attack will be at the military stronghold/heart of District 2.
The film engages you right from the start and the excitement ebbs and flows with each step the rebels take against the Capitol.It is certainly a worthy successor to the other films and it portends much of what is to come in the final installment of the franchise.Juliann Moore makes a good rebel leader while all the core group is back once again assisting Lawrence through her journey like Harrelson,Hoffman and Banks.Tucci is also on hand in his great role as the games announcer.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1 and is clear and crisp.A digital copy is enclosed but no extras are available,but there are no extras.
All in all the franchise just gets better and better, and the tension is definitely building to the finale of the series.This film is the best of the bunch yet and if this is any indication,the last one is going to be a real bombshell.I cannot wait.4 -4 1/2 stars.

Bob Hope: The Tribute Collection Double Feature (College Swing / The Big Broadcast of 1938)
Bob Hope: The Tribute Collection Double Feature (College Swing / The Big Broadcast of 1938)
DVD ~ W.C. Fields
Price: CDN$ 14.88
21 used & new from CDN$ 10.28

4.0 out of 5 stars Two late 30s gems., June 21 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
This is a double feature DVD featuring College Swing(released April/38) and The Big Broadcast of 1938(released Feb/38).These films are both gems.Not only are they of their time but they include some super talents:some up and coming and others well established.
College Swings stars,among others,George Burns,Gracie Allen,Martha Raye,Bob Hope and a young up and coming dancer Betty Grable.To top this is the lead singer of the Hal Kemp band Skinnay Ennis,a young and up and coming John Payne,an older Jackie Coogan(Uncle Fester),comedian Ben Blue,loud mouthed Jerry Colonna,a young Bob Cummings and established screen supporting veteran Edward Everette Horton.The plot is loosely based around Gracie Allen whose direct ancestors have never graduated college by passing the final exam.An old relative states that if one of his offspring can pass an exam within 200 years,they will inherit a fortune.If not,all the money will go to the college.Well Gracie is the last in line and Hope signs a contract with her to be her manager and help her pass.She passes initially and the college becomes hers to run.But eventually they re-test her and all the chicanery comes out.But she gives the college back to the faculty and all is well.This is a great vehicle for Gracie Allen who excels here at her crazy mixed up nut humour that we all adored.Payne and Grable were just up and coming actors at this stage and both would hit it big in no time over at 20th Fox.Grable and Coogan were still married during the shooting of this film.Hope was also a big radio star and he would keep on at Paramount and become one of its biggest stars.Horton ends up "marrying"Gracie in this film.One of the few times,that he ever got the girl! Along with all the musical numbers,and Martha Raye belting out some humdingers in her usual wacky style,this film is a feats for the eyes and ears.An FYI:Boris Morros was the musical director here.He would soon be off to direct the Laurel and Hardy classic The Flying Deuces..4- 4 1/2 stars.
The Big Broadcast of 1938 stars,among others,W.C. Fields,Martha Raye,Dorothy Lamour and Shirley Ross,Bob Hope and Leif Erickson.The plot here is based on a trans-Atlantic ship race between the Collosal and the Gigantic.The owner of the Gigantic sends his bumbling twin brother(Fields in both roles) to sail on the Collosal.He feels his brother will sabotage the ship doing nothing but being himself.However,after a quick 18 holes of golf the brother flies off on a small motorcycle turned aircraft and lands on the Gigantic by mistake.He does indeed sabotage the race but eventually the crew rebounds and they come back to barely take first place right at the finish line.Fields is one hand to bring alot of comic relief to the proceedings in his usual inimitable style.Raye is also there to do her zany loud mouthed schtick.Lamour and Erickson end up being the love interests in this one(you may recall Erickson as the boys father in the 50s Sci Fi classic Invaders from Mars).Lamour was still an ingenue at this point and like Hope,still up and coming in pictures.Of course one cannot talk of this film if one doesn't mention the fact that it produced Bob Hope's theme song"Thanks for the memories",as he sings it with Ross,one of his three ex wives in the film!!(don't ask,just watch!).And speaking of music watch for the then popular Shep Fields and his Rippling Rhythm big band.
4 solid stars here.
Technically speaking the films are in full screen mode and both are generally crisp and clear.Extras include the trailers,production notes and photo galleries.This is a single one sided DVD.Both films are approximately 90 minutes long,give or take.
All in all two little gems from the late 30s when swing was all the rage and geared for the younger audiences(Yes,Hollywood was thinking demographics even back then!).It is comparable to the 50s rock and roll films to come later.Both are wonderful time capsules with some great established stars and a lot of up and coming ones.I highly recommend both.4-4 1/2 stars.

The Expendables 3 / Les sacrifiés 3 (Bilingual)
The Expendables 3 / Les sacrifiés 3 (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Sylvester Stallone
Price: CDN$ 16.00
12 used & new from CDN$ 16.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Yet another winner!, June 20 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
The Expendables Three(released Aug/14)stars,among others,the core group w/ Stallone at its head along with Antonio Banderas,Kelsey Grammer,Wesley Snipes,Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford.I don't know how long Mr.Stallone is going to be able to continue to get the high calibre of talent he has amassed over three films,but all I know is I LOVE it.Keep it coming.
The story opens as Stallone and the guys are liberating Snipes from a train on the way to a foreign prison.Snipes is "Doc",an old member of Stallone's team.Once rescued they all fly off to Somalia where they must stop a shipment of bombs from falling into rebel hands.However they find another old member of the team, in Gibson, there.He has long since gone rogue and sells anything he can to the highest bidder.They try and take Gibson down but Gibson manages to almost take out Crewes permanently,instead.
Back in the States,we find Ford taking Willis' place as Stallone's boss(there was a much publicized public feud between Stallone and Willis over matters concerning the film-needless to say Willis won't be returning).Harrison dresses Stallone down for not taking out Gibson and for almost getting Crewes killed.He orders the guys to bring Gibson back alive for trials in the Hague.Stallone returns to his posse and formally disbands the group.To get some fresh blood for his mission to retrieve Gibson,he seeks out Grammer, who is in the business of supplying new personnel for wherever and whatever.
With a new team he heads off to Romania and in swift time his new team has captured Gibson and are heading back to the Hague.However Gibson has a GPS on him which no one detected, and in due course their van has been over turned by a missile fired from Gibson's hired thugs in a helicopter.They capture Stallone's team, while he barely escapes by jumping into a river and floating down stream.He is later found by more of Gibson's men but he kills them with his patented pistol, from behind his back.Back home Stallone receives a video from Gibson from Uzmenistan daring him to come and get him and his team.Banderas,unsuccessful in joining Stallone's team during his perusing with Grammer,now manages to weasel his way aboard.As the two start to fly off the plane is stopped by Stallone's old team.They hop aboard and it's off to the rescue.In Uzmenistan Stallone and company find their targets in an abandon building.As the group is cut down Gibson bursts in on a small TV screen to say the place has been rigged with explosives and is set to go off in a minute.One of the young team manages to jam the signal to stop the building from exploding with a wrist device of Lundgren's.But it is only temporary, as it has less than six minutes of juice left.To top this the building becomes a killing ground as wave after wave of Uzmenistani army troops(paid off by Gibson)assault the building, delaying any swift departure.
Ford,who ordered this mission of Stallone's in the first place,has personally flown a helicopter to the scene to assist,accompanied by Li and Schwarzenegger.They land on the roof and everyone but Stallone manages to get aboard.Stallone is busy with Gibson who,fed up with the army's inability to get the job done,has personally intervened.In a knock down,drag out fight,Stallone barely manages to pull a victory out of his hat against his foe.As Lundgren's wrist device's power runs out,the building starts to blow up.Stallone rushes to the roof as Ford is pulling away to avoid being pulled down with the explosion.In a real nail biting sequence,Stallone makes a literal leap of faith in mid air towards the helicopter many feet away.The concerned guys in the helicopter peer over the side and at first see nothing but dust,then Stallone swings into sight at the end of a long rope.
Back in the States,the old and new team celebrate as they become all one unit now,with both having a lot to learn from the other.
Stallone and company follow the same winning formula as the first two films, with the opening heart pounding,action intense sequence.This time around they have added some new blood to the film and it seems this is where the future of the franchise will go,with the old crew stepping aside for the newer folks.As long as they maintain the high quality of action,acting and pace the first three have always exhibited,there is no where to go but up.This time around Ford makes a wonderful(and better)substitute for Willis.Gibson made a surprisingly GOOD bad guy in this film.Grammer makes a nice go-to guy for fresh"bodies".And it was a great pleasure to see Wesley Snipes back in his acting seat after too long an absence.And in Expendables style they reference his real-life cause of imprisonment with his fictional one(tax evasion).
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1.There is some commentary and deleted scenes.
All in all yet another winner in the Expendables franchise.Mr.Stallone is to be commended for the hard work he has put into this series,along with having the creds to attract and get some fabulous talent to wander in front of the camera for all of our benefit.The action doesn't get much better than this.4-4 1/2 stars.

Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies
Mary Pickford: The Muse of the Movies
DVD ~ Charles Chaplin
Price: CDN$ 21.98
6 used & new from CDN$ 21.98

4.0 out of 5 stars And it works wonderfully. Secondly, June 19 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
Mary Pickford:Muse of the Movies is a 2008 documentary,released now to home video.It tells the story of the life and career of the most influential star that has ever appeared on film.....period.It is narrated by Michael York with bridging sound clips from Mary herself throughout.
There are two falsehoods being touted by other reviewers(whom I usually ignore),but in this instance felt compelled to rectify.First off it is said Mary is narrating the film herself.No.As I just said the prime narration is by Mr.York.They interject various sound bites from interviews done with Mary over many years to bring a more immediacy to it all.And it works wonderfully.Secondly,it is said that a good portion of the film is religious in nature.Nothing could be further from the truth.Towards the end there are some very short sound bites in which Mary waxes philosophically about the world,God and our place in the grand scheme of things,but nothing major.She was after all Catholic and she did write a religious book,so not to include at least a thought or two on her views would be negligence on the producers part.But,as I say,they are short and take up a miniscule part of the entire documentary.
The only fault I can find was the length.It comes in around 101 minutes and it has a tendency to drag in parts.
There are some extras also which include a photo gallery and an audio dissertation on Mary,among others.
All in all a good documentary on Ms.Pickford and her rise in filmdom.As it says in the DVD,her rise parallels the rise of the movies themselves,so this is important stuff for those novices wanting to learn more about early film and the important movers and shakers of the day.For the more seasoned and informed,this documentary is a feast for the eyes, as it contains some rare clips of Mary from her movies and elsewhere.4-4 1/2 stars.

The Val Lewton Horror Collection with Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton Documentary (Cat People / The Curse of the Cat People / I Walked with a Zombie / The Body Snatcher / Isle of the Dead / Bedlam
The Val Lewton Horror Collection with Martin Scorsese Presents Val Lewton Documentary (Cat People / The Curse of the Cat People / I Walked with a Zombie / The Body Snatcher / Isle of the Dead / Bedlam
DVD ~ Various
Offered by eplayplay
Price: CDN$ 73.51
8 used & new from CDN$ 63.36

4.0 out of 5 stars Val makes a mountain out of a molehill...in a good way!, May 18 2015
Achat vérifié(Quest-ce que cest?)
The Val Lewton Collection features nine of Vals wonderful works for RKO pictures in the 40s.Generally speaking,Val was just a small cog in a very big wheel,but his influence and sophistication on celluloid continue to this day.I cannot say I am a Lewton aficionado in any way.What little I know is that he came from working with Selznick to RKO to helm their newly made "horror"unit to compete with Universal.He was given the task of taking the most mundane and ridiculous script titles(the molehills),with the lowest budgets possible, and making something big out of them(the mountains)to produce some money making hits.RKO was not in good financial straits at this time(early 40s) due to Welles box office debacles of Citizen Kane and The Magnificent Ambersons.
That's the real extent of my knowledge.Now,after having watched all nine of the films(out of order),I can tell you Lewton was definitely someone with a totally different mindset for 1940s Hollywood.He didn't have a bunch of guys dressed up in monster suits running around terrorizing the towns folks.Instead each film became a set piece working on many levels,creating moods and through clever manipulation of sight and sound(or lack thereof),getting the audience to fill in the gaps with their own imaginations,much like the lost art form of the "silent" movies.He created some beautiful psychological melodramas whose influence can be seen in later films on the big and little screen.The Caine Mutiny owes a lot to the captain of Lewton's The Ghost Ship,and many of the later Twilight Zone eps were shot using the Lewton style,The Jungle with John Dehner being a prime example.Now let's look at the films themselves.For this occasion I will dispense with my usual rating of each one,but instead opt for an overall grade.
The first disc has Cat People and The Curse of the Cat people.The Cat People(released Dec/42)stars Simone Simon,Kent Smith and Tom Conway.This has Smith falling for Simon and marrying her.But he soon finds that her fears from her past in a small Serbian town get the better of both of them.When he is forced to divorce her the heat ramps up and in the end Simon commits suicide by opening a panther cage.This is a film that "plays"with the audience.Is the old town "curse"Simon speaks of real or just in her mind? The wonderful use of shadows and well placed sound effects drive this picture and it remains one of his most powerful today.
The Curse of the Cat People(released March/44)stars,Simone Simon,Kent Smith and Jane Randolph.Smith and his wife from the last film are here again.They now have a young daughter who is very introverted and loves to play alone,in fact making up fictional play friends.When her newest friend becomes Smith's ex from the first film(Simon), everyone gets worried.Is she real or just in the imagination of the girl? This film beautifully explores the mind of a young child and her realistic reactions to every day stimuli.
The second disc has I walked with a Zombie and The Body Snatcher.I Walked With a Zombie(released Mar/43)stars,James Ellison,Frances Dee and Tom Conway.This story concerns a young Canadian nurse who gets a job to care for a lady in the Caribbean.The lady in question appears to be in a constant trance.Before long the nurse is involved with local voodoo superstitions,something she was ill prepared to handle.This film is another Lewton set piece and his lighting and music creates a beautiful and deliciously somber mood.
The Body Snatcher(released May/45)stars,Boris Karloff,Bela Lugosi,Henry Daniell and Edith Atwater.Karloff shines as the unwanted thorn in the side of Daniell.Karloff is the man Daniell has relied on for years to get bodies for teaching purposes.But there is more to this sour relationship than meets the eye.When Daniell can take no more the characters spin wildly out of control until the last terrifying moment.This film works on many levels and Karloff does a superb job as the wretched body snatcher
The third disc finds Isle of the Dead and Bedlam.Isle of the Dead(released Sept/45) stars Boris Karloff and Ellen Drew.This is a tale set during the Greek wars of 1912.Karloff is a well known,but not well liked,general in the Greek army.Because of the amount of dead the plague has broken out all around the battle field.While visiting an island where he wife was buried to pay his respects,he finds the grave has been despoiled.He inquires at a nearby house and he and the occupants soon find out that they are now under quarantine for the plague.There is also some evil presence afoot.Will it take their lives before the plague does? And who or what is this evil? The last question is definitely what keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout most of the film.Another Lewton specialty-misdirection.
Bedlam(released May/46)stars Boris Karloff and Anna Lee.Karloff is the keeper of the local insane asylum.He has the favour of a local society man but his consort is not as kind in her thoughts and actions towards him.When the chance comes Karloff has her committed and she must somehow survive amongst the lunacy and degradation around her.The inmates manage to capture Karloff and put him on "trial".When they set him free he is killed,but not by one you expect. Again misdirection rules the day here,as does the superior script and Karloff's presence.
The fourth disc has The Leopard Man and The Ghost Ship.The Leopard Man(released May/43) stars Dennis O'Keefe and Margo.A local talent manager persuades his client to bring a leopard on a leash into a local nightclub as a publicity stunt.The animal escapes and is soon responsible for the death of one young lady.However the deaths don't end there.When they find the body of the leopard outside of town they realize that the leopard has had nothing whatsoever to do with the deaths ,other than the first.Who is it? Will they catch him/her? Again the title has little to do with what you think the plot will consist of.The acting is solid and tension builds beautifully throughout until the climax and the real killer is caught.More of the Lewton touch as the judicious use of sight and sound permeates this film.
Ghost Ship(released Dec/43)stars Richard Dix.Dix welcomes a new third mate onto his ship.Both men have much in common in their background,however Dix's bonhomie and fatherly advice begins to slowly but surely break down over time.When the third mate realizes the captain has a screw loose and men are dying at his hands,he cannot get anyone to help him.Eventually he becomes the captains target.Will he live to tell the tale? This is a Lewton mood piece once again.The title has nothing to do with ghosts of the spiritual kind but of men becoming ghosts within their own skins.The entire cast is running on all eight cylinders.
Disc five contains The 7th Victim and the documentary Shadows in the Dark:The Val Lewton Legacy.The ninth and final film is the 7th Victim(released Aug/43),starring Tom Conway,Jean Brooks,Isabel Jewell and Kim Hunter.This one finds a woman who lives at a boarding school.However her sister who pays the tuition has not done so for the past six months.Something has happened to her sister and she cannot find her.Through a lot of hardship she eventually manages to track her down but it is a sister who has changed and is involved with a devil worshiping society.When the sister wants out of this society they insist she kill herself;the seventh only to do so in the history of the sect.Will her little sister save her in time? Another Lewton mood piece and the clues/red herrings mount up considerably.There is more to every character we come across in this film than meets the eye.
The documentary Shadows in the Dark on this disc is 7l minutes long.I have not watched it yet but look forward to it after I write this.An FYI.This has always been my way,as I do not want documentaries or featurettes to influence my thinking on my reviews whatsoever.
Finally there has been a sixth disc added, and it is the documentary Val Lewton:The Man in the Shadows.This one is about 87 minutes long and is narrated by Martin Scorsese.Again.I look forward to watching it.It seems they have taken the original 2005 release of this set and have just added this disc in on top of it.They have a cream coloured wrap around piece that partly imitates the outside of the original box and holds the extras disc in place.
Technically speaking all films are in full screen mode and are clear and crisp.However many do exhibit periodic defects throughout.Considering their age,this is not unexpected.Each disc is in a separate snap case with two films per disc.
All in all we have a wonderful collection of the major films of a little known producer/writer at RKO.His influence continues to extend to writers ,directors and producers to this day.Lewton made sophisticated and smart "horror" films on a shoe string budget.He elevated the most mundane material to a level that had never been done before,or since.And he appears to have put a cadre of talented people around him;directors,writers,actors,etc,to accomplish just that.He used many of this same staff on most of his pictures he did and they worked wonderfully together.There are very few folks in the industry that could be said to have had such an impact as Lewton,with such little recognition.This set will hopefully change that.4-4 1/2 stars.

Taken 3 (Bilingual)
Taken 3 (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Liam Neeson
Price: CDN$ 13.88
9 used & new from CDN$ 9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A franchise shaken up with satisfying results., April 25 2015
Ce commentaire est de: Taken 3 (Bilingual) (DVD)
Taken 3(released Dec/14)stars,among others, Liam Neeson,Forest Whittaker,Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace.This film is a definite improvement from the derivative and poor one that #2 was.In fact it could be considered the best of the bunch.
The story starts with a group of Russian thugs kidnapping a man and taking him to an office tower.They force him to open a big safe to obtain money that is owed them,but there is nothing inside.They phone the man who owes them the money and shoot the man they kidnapped,leaving him in the safe.
Breaking to another scene, Neeson is taking a giant stuffed panda over to his daughter's flat.Doing something "unpredictable".He doesn't quite get the reception he thought he would as,unbeknownst to him,she has just discovered she is pregnant by her live-in boyfriend.He leaves and meets up briefly with his ex Lenore.He invites her to his place for supper but she declines.He goes home and is preparing his feast when in she walks;the front door was left open.They talk about their daughter,then about her marriage which she has been unhappy in for sometime.Neeson tells her he is going away with his old team for about a month and gives her his apartment key,to use if she needs time alone.
Next day he gets a text message from Lenore saying to meet him at his place and bring some bagels.He does this but discovers her lifeless body in his bed when he arrives.Soon after the police show up to arrest him.It is an obvious set up,but by whom?He escapes from the cops who give chase through yards and home.He manages to elude them and he heads for his team safe house.Retracing his wife's steps leads him to a remote gas station where,posing as a cop,he views the security tapes.He discovers his wife was kidnapped by men in a van.Again the police arrive but this time he gives himself up.Along the way to the station he gets loose and commandeers the police car.Before ditching the car he is able to download precious intel from the police computers onto a small drive.
Lenore's funeral goes ahead as scheduled and Neeson is there in spirit at least ,as his buddies attend with a small camera attached to one of their lapels.His daughter is made wise to the set up, as the police are there in a surveillance van.Next day he manages to meet his daughter at her school in the womens washroom.It's a tearful reunion but short as the police,who are tailing his daughter,arrive on cue.She manages to tell him she's pregnant,and that her step father is acting strangely,hiring bodyguards.Neeson barely eludes the cop cordon that is made and sets his sights on his daughter's step father.
He follows him by car but is pounced on by a group of Russians who manage to push his car over a steep incline.Shaken but unscathed,Neeson follows the Russians to a liquor store,kills most of them ,but manages to interrogate one before he is forced to kill him also.He heads straight to the step dad who confesses that he owed money to the Russians and that they killed his wife in revenge.Neeson cooks up a plan to storm the pad of the Russian mobster with the help of his teammates and using the step dad as bait.This they do, and Neeson and the head mobster finally meet and fight face to face.Neeson has him down and the mobster confess,just before he dies,that it looks as if the step dad played them both.It seems he got Neeson to take him(the Russian)out for him,and that the kidnapping/killing of Lenore was all a scheme on the step dad's part to collect $12 million in insurance money,framing Neeson in the process.
The step dad is back at the team's hideout and he soon overpowers one of Neeson's team and takes Neeson's daughter along as insurance.He flees to the Santa Monica airport and is fleeing in a private jet,when Neeson,driving the Russian mobsters Prosche,slams into the planes wheels sending it back onto the runway.Neeson gets to the step dad who confesses all.Just as Neeson is about to kill him his daughter persuades him not to.Neeson tells him that he will probably get a good lawyer and be out in a few years,but that he will be waiting for him when he does.
The film ends as the Neeson,his daughter and her boyfriend sit in the Malibu Pier restaurant telling Neeson that if the baby is a girl,it will be named Lenore,in her mothers memory.Neeson approves.
The producers/writers did,but really HAD,to shake this franchise up to get it moving again.After the disaster that was #2,it was swim or sink,as they say.And thankfully this time they swam,and what a swim.The film is action packed and rarely stops to catch its' breath.Between the police on Neeson's case constantly,the Russians and the step dad intrigue, Neeson's daughter getting caught in the middle of it all and Lenore's death(gasp!...I didn't see that one coming),it's a winner all the way.All the characters are true to the series core, which helps keep everything on an even keel in looks and feel.Neeson really plays his his role of the former operative,now retired,but now becoming a crisis driven individual,to a tee.All the actors play it solidly,along with an understated performance by Forest Whittaker.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:35:1 and is clear and crisp.There are no extras,continuing with the industry trend of putting those mostly on the Blu Ray editions.Just like they did when converting us all from VHS to DVD,remember? You gotta love their tactics don't you? They're so...er....subtle.
All in all a thankful and welcome step up from #2.This is an action packed film which moves from beginning to end.They have shaken the franchise up....they HAD to,and the results are excellent.Kudos go to the entire cast.4-4 1/2 stars.

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