On Valentine’s Day, romance may be in the air, but comedy, action and family drama light up home entertainment screens courtesy of four Twilight Time hi-def Blu-ray releases arriving February 14. They include two acting showcases for screen newcomer Mary Beth Hurt, who gives a couple of memorable performances as the love-confused leading lady of Chilly Scenes of Winter from screenwriter/director Joan Micklin Silver and the love-deprived sister (one of three) in the dysfunctional family at the chilly heart of Interiors from writer/director Woody Allen. One of the most sensational screen debuts of all time is spotlighted in the now-essential 1940s noir Kiss of Death, introducing Richard Widmark as a psychopathic gangster out of your nightmares under the direction of veteran Henry Hathaway. Among the little-known discoveries to mine from deep inside studio vaults is director Don Siegel’s marvelous crime caper Edge of Eternity, starring Cornel Wilde, Victoria Shaw and the awesome expanse of the Grand Canyon in the grandeur of Cinemascope, all playing critical parts in the white-knuckle suspense that results. Preorders open today at 4 PM EST/1 PM EST for this powerhouse quartet that will supplement the delights that hearts, flowers and candy boxes can’t supply.
At this writing during the first week of the new Presidential administration, Intelligence Committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives advised they were engaged in investigating into Russian cyber-hacking efforts that led to information leaks affecting the 2016 election. These efforts will require time, perseverance and technological knowhow way beyond what was available to the creative team behind the international espionage thriller that opened theatrically 47 years ago today: the screen version of Noel Behn’s complex novel The Kremlin Letter (1970), directed and co-written (with Gladys Hill) by John Huston. This all-star attempt at depicting the gritty, unglamorous aspects of spycraft deals with a certain paper document that, if leaked to a particular third party, could trigger explosive global consequences. The arsenal of acting talent caught up in this dangerous game, scenically shot (in captivating widescreen Panavision) in New York, Mexico, Rome and Helsinki locations doubling for Russia, includes Bibi Andersson, Richard Boone, Nigel Green, Lila Kedrova, Micheál MacLiammóir, Patrick O’Neal, Barbara Parkins, Ronald Radd, Raf Vallone, Max von Sydow and Orson Welles, certainly an ensemble worth anyone’s investigation. In Jonathan McCalmont’s view at the Ruthless Culture website: “It is telling that Huston neither shows us the letter at the center of the plot, nor spells out what the letter means. The letter, like any mcguffin, exists purely in order to drive the plot, but can the same not also be said for the ‘information’ sought by real spies? How can a letter ever hope to justify the racism, misogyny, homophobia and outright savagery of the spies? In truth, the letter is but a fig leaf allowing the spies to pursue old professional rivalries and line their pockets at government expense. There is no justifying what spies do…no ‘information’ is worth such savagery, particularly when this is a war in which no shots are ever fired and where military muscle is only ever for show.” He concludes: “Despite the failure of the post-WWII intelligence apparatus to predict either the fall of the Berlin War or the attacks of 9/11, it is still largely unheard of for someone to call into question the need for an intelligence service. For Huston to do the same at the height of the Cold War shows not only remarkable character but also a rare amount of political and historical insight. As unpleasant as it is, The Kremlin Letter remains an astonishing film that deserves to be considered alongside Huston’s greatest cinematic achievements.” While we monitor – and stay vigilantly attuned to – the progress of the inquiry into our secretive and damagingly selective 21st-century information breaches and their repercussions, check out the ruthlessly brutal and cruelly devious machinations of an earlier time by opening The Kremlin Letter on Twilight Time DVD, offered here: http://screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/14942/THE-KREMLIN-LETTER-DVD-1970/.
Note: This essay features excerpts from Daniel Kremer’s forthcoming book Joan Micklin Silver: From Hester Street to Hollywood.It’s no wonder the studio didn’t know what to do with it back in 1979. Silver, who fought the proposed Head Over Heels title change, and so decried it for sounding like a Walt Disney movie, recalls, “The crew, bless them all, were as [...]
Chilly Scenes of Winter and the Comedy of Sentimental Pessimism ~ Part 2 of 3: John Heard's Heroic Nature and the Movie's True Identity
Note: This essay features excerpts from Daniel Kremer’s forthcoming book Joan Micklin Silver: From Hester Street to Hollywood.It is difficult to imagine the role of Charles in the hands of the role’s other early contenders, as John Heard is so quintessentially forlorn as our heroic schlemeil. United Artists initially suggested Robin Williams, Treat Williams, John Ritter, Richard Dreyfuss and [...]
Note: This essay features excerpts from Daniel Kremer’s forthcoming book Joan Micklin Silver: From Hester Street to Hollywood.Charles arrives for Thanksgiving dinner at his vampy, neurotic mother Clara’s house. In tow is his best friend, the “unemployed jacket salesman” Sam. The kooky, usually bathtub-ridden Clara has somehow managed to emerge all gussied up in a rather lavish party gown. Considering her [...]
“What this sad, sweet and delicately humorous film emphasizes is that falling in love can be an act of unflinching madness, with the potential to drive those involved far, far over the edge.” Writing for New West earlier in his career before becoming the venerable film critic of the Los Angeles Times, Kenneth Turan was analyzing Chilly Scenes of Winter [...]
Warm winter nights around the hi-def Blu-ray home theater hearth are in order as Twilight Time kicks off 2017 with an array of eight distinctive movie marvels showcasing prime pairings of acclaimed actors (Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney, John Heard and Mary Beth Hurt, Jane Fonda with both James Caan and Robert De Niro), menacingly iconic turns by Vincent [...]
In director Joan Micklin Silver’s Between the Lines (1977), actor John Heard, still going strong and celebrating his 71st birthday today, played an award-winning investigative reporter for an alternative weekly (in the era when there were a ton of them) who has become worn at the edges, dismayed by what he perceives as the dying embers of social activism at [...]