Sex, violence, interracial romance and corn-fed song-and-dance Americana: that’s your crazy-quilt cocktail shaken and stirred by the mixmasters at Twilight Time for this month. Where else could you get a summerfun mashup of Samuel Fuller, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Woody Allen and Mark Twain in one hi-def Blu-ray release slate? Preorders open today at 4 PM EDT/1 PM PDT for the July 18 TT premieres of The Crimson Kimono (1959), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* *But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair (1962) and a special double feature of the Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman musical adaptations of Tom Sawyer (1973) and Huckleberry Finn (1974). As Ann-Margret kittenishly croons, “Isn’t it kinda fun?” Visit www.screenarchives.com and www.twilighttimemovies.com and see what she means.
Another type of film that largely figures in the American movie vernacular is the “all-star disaster epic.” But, roaring down the tracks to open in theaters in its native Japan 42 years ago today came an exciting and surprising offshore variant, Toei Studios’ nerve-wracking The Bullet Train (1975, aka Shinkansen daibakuha), headlined by two iconic actors who became long identified with intense action and brooding cinematic cool, Ken Takakura and Shin’ichi (Sonny) Chiba. The former plays the cunning leader of a ragtag band of terrorists who secretly rig a modern, computerized high-speed commuter train to explode if it slows below 80 kilometers, and the latter portrays the veteran engineer who has to keep the hurtling locomotive loaded with 1,500 passengers on track while government and rail conglomerate officials negotiate the ransom demand and try to defuse the bombs before the unthinkable occurs. As with the then-concurrent Hollywood output of producers Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno) and Jennings Lang (Airport 1975, Earthquake), all strata of society – police, the criminal underbelly, corporate and civic bureaucrats – are caught up in the desperate race against time and complicated multiple-location logistics to head off a potential catastrophe. Unlike the Hollywood crowd, a thoughtful and probative amount of screen time is given to what drives a once respectable man, personified by ruined manufacturer Takakura, to hatch such a scheme. Firmly at the controls, director/co-writer Jun’ya Satô weaves all the narrative strands – the unexpectedly tight camaraderie of the conspirators, the chilling calculations of the boardroom moneymen, the sweaty tensions in the railway’s central control room, the dogged cops probing city streets and rural byways following up leads in tracking down the badmen, the growing panic among the trapped passengers as the locomotive rolls on past station stops – into a gripping 152-minute ride. On Twilight Time’s subtitled hi-def Blu-ray of The Bullet Train, Satô speaks fondly and frankly about how he and his collaborators executed such a high-stakes undertaking in an exclusive on-camera interview that also touches on the very American notion of making a genre film personal.