November Preorders / Killer Burt

November Preorders / Killer Burt

Posted by Mike Finnegan on Nov 2nd 2016

On this All Souls Day of 2016, Twilight Time offers a startling assortment of new hi-def Blu-ray November 15 debuts that peer inside the dark, deadly minds and moods of the obsessed and the homicidal, plus a hopeful, still quite topical seriocomedy about the immigrant experience. You can take your pick of a startlingly raw Oscar®-winning Susan Hayward performance, an adaptation of a literary classic precisely presented in the filmmaker-intended way moviegoers saw it 60 years ago, the late, great Robin Williams in peak form, and Tony Curtis, Tuesday Weld and an Italian-voiced Shelley Winters portraying cold-blooded murderers in movie (re)discoveries that will shock, surprise and ultimately haunt, including a dual role for the great Max von Sydow that’s a particular revelation. Preorders open today at 4 PM EDT/1 PM EDT for The Boston Strangler, Gran Bollito [aka Black Journal], I Want to Live!, Moby Dick (1956), Moscow on the Hudson and Pretty Poison, so don’t miss out on your chance to make a killing on quirky, quality film viewing.

Today Academy Award® winner Burt Lancaster (1913-1994) would have marked his 103rd birthday, and it’s interesting to note this charismatic star’s three memorable roles represented on Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray are that of men who deal in death, whether in a righteous cause or out of nasty circumstances, and the dark consequences of their actions.

In producer/director Stanley Kramer’s riveting all-star courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg (1961, available here:, he plays stern, defiant Prussian judge Ernst Janning, one of four jurist defendants in one of many controversial post-World War II war crimes trials, chillingly scoffing at the superiority of those who would try him and their ignorance of the turmoil National Socialism wrought upon the German legal system and his insistence that he was, in his insufficient way and acceding to change, a moral bulwark on behalf of his culture. According to Burt Lancaster: An American Life author Kate Buford, “Although both Kramer and [screenwriter Abby] Mann said privately at the time that Lancaster was miscast, the director later came to think that the actor did ‘one hell of a job making a Nazi into a universal character.’’’ From a Nuremberg court and jail cell, Lancaster next went back to prison, portraying real-life, unrepentant killer Robert Stroud, serving a life sentence, largely in solitary confinement, and becoming a expert on birds and their diseases, in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962, directed by John Frankenheimer). It was a rare, interior-focused Lancaster performance that humanized the reputation of a hardened criminal and, Buford observes, the movie (which earned Lancaster the third of his four career Best Actor Oscar® nominations) “is Lancaster’s secular bow to the Christian ideal of redemption he had been brought up with.” Returning to a World War II milieu in bravura form following the disappointing reaction to his Sicilian prince in Luchino’s Visconti’s The Leopard (1963), a role he’d gotten on the strength of his aristocratically tinged Ernst Janning, Lancaster next incarnated a common man of uncommon resourcefulness: Labiche, a railway inspector and part-time French resistance operative reluctantly drawn into a mission to recover Nazi-confiscated national art treasures in the spectacular action classic The Train (1964, also directed by Frankenheimer). As a man forced to weigh the value of cultural heritage against the sacrifice of valiant human lives, the athletic Lancaster (in real life an art aficionado himself) becomes a lean, mean machine of deterrence – and bloodshed when called for. Writing in 1994 for the Dallas Observer, Matt Zoller Seitz asserts: “Unlike too many current action movies, The Train doesn't throw elaborate setpieces in your face, then try to halfheartedly justify them through crude plotting and last-minute character developments. Every stretch of track that's dismantled, every body that's gunned to pieces, and every piece of railway equipment that's incinerated in this picture enriches the narrative. Every sooty frame illustrates the movie's timeless theme…But we're always aware that the locomotives and motorcycles and bicycles and single-engined Spitfires on display aren't just hunks of metal. They are driven by flesh-and-blood human beings pushed to the brink of their endurance; the issues they fight and die for are as real to them as incoming mortar fire.” And Lancaster’s stoic, rock-hard Labiche, in the film’s devastating final scene of countryside-spoiled death and destruction, makes the decisive, lethal fine gesture with, Seitz concludes, “only a turn of his head and a single motion of his index finger.” So we hereby dedicate today’s November Preorder Opening Day to the birthday celebrant who shows us three powerful instances of – to employ another Lancaster movie title – brute force with shimmering hi-def black-and-white intensity, in Judgment at Nuremberg, Birdman of Alcatraz and The Train on TT Blu-ray discs.