Category Archives: Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Harper (1966).

Directed by Jack Smight
Director: Jack Smight
Producer: Jerry Gershwin, Elliott Kastner
Screenplay by William Goldman,
based on the novel The Moving Target by Ross McDonald
Cinematography: Conrad Hall
Film Editor: Stefan Arnsten
Music by Johnny Mandel

Cast: Paul Newman (Lew Harper), Lauren Bacall (Elaine Sampson), Julie Harris (Betty Fraley), Arthur Hill (Albert Graves), Janet Leigh (Susan Harper), Shelley Winters, Robert Wagner


For my money, Harper (1966) is the ultimate Paul Newman movie. He’s cool, funny and tough — and like all of his best films, his character’s got a little loser in him. He’s also got a cool car — a Porsche Speedster with the driver’s door sprayed in brown primer and the hubcaps missing. (Bet Newman had a lot of fun with that thing between takes.)

Harper is also a near-perfect 60s movie, touching on the mounting weirdness of the latter half of the decade, especially in Los Angeles, without going overboard in trying to be hip. Harper (Newman) is hired by a Lauren Bacall to locate her wealthy husband, who disappeared the night before. Harper’s investigation drags him through all sorts of stuff — kidnapping, smuggling illegal immigrants, heroin addiction, torture and crackpot religion. Along the way, he gets beaten up time and time again.

Elaine Sampson (Lauren Bacall): Los Angeles is the big leagues for religious nuts.
Lew Harper (Paul Newman): That’s because there’s nothing to do at night.

And it does all this while carrying on the tradition set by earlier private detective pictures like The Big Sleep (1946). You could say that this vibe was taken to the next level, a logical progression, by Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1971).

Strother Martin is terrific as the weirded out holy man. Shelley Winters is a hoot as the washed up actress involved in the whole mess. Arthur Hill is perfect as Harper’s nerdy lawyer friend. And as I’ve already stated, cool just oozes out of Newman in every frame.

I am deeply indebted to this movie for two things. First, it introduced me to Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer books. I’ve read them all, they’re great. Next, the shot underneath director Jack Smight’s credit — looking over Harper’s shoulder as he approaches Lauren Bacall’s house in his Porsche, it (and The Love Bug) helped kick off my fascination with Ferdinand Porsche and his vehicles.

Director Jack Smight and Paul Newman between takes.

Harper was shot in Technicolor and Panavision by the great Conrad Hall. The Blu-Ray from Warner Archive is near perfect, as good a presentation of original Technicolor as I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s not the eye candy of something like Singing In The Rain (1950), but it shows us all exactly what the color process looked like in the 60s. Watch those reds — the cars, the waiters’ uniforms, etc. That’s dye transfer Tech — and it’s beautiful. Harper looks better than I’ve ever seen it look (and I’ve seen a 16mm IB Tech Scope print, the letterboxed laserdisc and the DVD). Essential.

At the same time, Warner Archive has brought the second Newman/Harper film, The Drowning Pool (1975), to Blu-Ray. It’s not as good — for one thing, the plot is really complex, but any movie featuring Murray Hamilton, Paul Koslo, Andy Robinson, Linda Haynes and Richard Jaeckel is worth seeing. This time, Harper winds up in Louisiana (the book kept Archer in California) to help out an old flame (Joanne Woodward) and people start winding up dead.

The scene with Newman and Gail Strickland trapped in a flooded hydrotherapy room, where the title comes from, is really cool.

The great Gordon Willis (The Godfather) shot this one, and it’s beautiful — and presently flawlessly on Blu-Ray by Warner Archive. Newman and all those character actors make The Drowning Pool worthwhile. Recommended.



Filed under 1966, 1975, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Murray Hamilton, Paul Newman, Robert Wagner, Strother Martin, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #158: The Black Scorpion (1957).

Directed by Edward Ludwig
Special Effects by Willis H. O’Brien and Pete Peterson
Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday, Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro

Warner Archive has announced that they’re getting The Black Scorpion (1957) prepped for Blu-Ray. Their DVD from a few years back was terrific, and I think the leap to high definition will be a real treat. More on this as the infestation takes shape.

Thanks to John Knight for the tip.

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Filed under 1957, DVD/Blu-ray News, Mara Corday, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #153: Harper (1966) And The Drowning Pool (1975).

Directed by Jack Smight
Starring Paul Newman, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Arthur Hill, Janet Leigh, Pamela Tiffin, Robert Wagner, Shelley Winters, Strother Martin

Warner Archive has announced the upcoming Blu-Ray release of the two Lew Harper movies, Harper (1966) and The Drowning Pool (1975), that featured Paul Newman as the (renamed) Lew Archer of Ross Macdonald’s terrific series of novels.

Harper was based on Macdonald’s first Archer novel, The Moving Target (the film’s title in the UK). It’s terrific, bringing the private detective into 1960s LA with ease and putting Newman’s wiseass detective Lew Harper up against an array of cheaters, crooks, losers and weirdos. William Goldman wrote the script.

Lew Harper (Paul Newman): “Your husband keeps lousy company, Mrs. Sampson, as bad as there is in LA. And that’s as bad as there is.”

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Starring Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Anthony Franciosa, Murray Hamilton, Gail Strickland, Melanie Griffith, Linda Haynes, Richard Jaeckel, Paul Koslo

William Goldman made an attempt to adapt another Archer novel, The Chill. Newman backed out and Sam Peckinpah was attached to it for a while. Nothing happened. In 1975, Newman and Harper were back in The Drowning Pool, with things heading to New Orleans.

Paul Newman: “It’s great fun to get up in the morning and play Harper.”

And that’s exactly what makes The Drowning Pool as good as it is. Newman as Harper is a hoot, and that’s enough. Consider that Gordon Willis shot it and it features the great character actors like Murray Hamilton, Richard Jaeckel and Paul Koslo, and you’re set.

There’s no way for me to recommend Harper enough. It’s one of my favorite movies, from one of my favorite authors, and I’d love to drive a Porsche Speedstar with the driver’s door sprayed in brown primer. And while The Drowning Pool isn’t as good, the character fits Newman so well, he’s a blast to watch. Who cares if it’s any good.

A key attraction for these Blu-Rays will be the hi-def treatment given to cinematographer Conrad Hall’s work on Harper and Willis’ on The Drowning Pool. These are choice releases, folks!


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Filed under 1966, 1975, Andy Robinson, DVD/Blu-ray News, Janet Leigh, Murray Hamilton, Paul Newman, Strother Martin, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Written by William Finger, Tom Rowe, Charles Sinclair

Cast: Robert Horton (Commander Jack Rankin), Richard Jaeckel (Commander Vince Elliott), Luciana Paluzzi (Dr. Lisa Benson), Bud Widom (Gen. Jonathan B. Thompson)


A group of intrepid astronauts, lead by Robert Horton and Richard Jaeckel, visit an asteroid (and destroy it before it collides with Earth). One of them returns to space station Gamma 3 with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into dozens of nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Commander Jack Rankin (Robert Horton): “Wait a minute — are you telling me that this thing reproduced itself inside the decontamination chamber? And, as we stepped up the current, it just… it just grew?”

The men and women (including Luciana Paluzzi of Thunderball and Muscle Beach Party) stationed on Gamma 3 soon find themselves in a battle to the death with these wretched things — all in Panavision and Metrocolor. (It’s a little embarrassing to admit that, as a kid, I was genuinely frightened by the scenes on the asteroid, as the titular green slime attached itself to the astronauts and their equipment.)

Filmed in Japan, with a Japanese crew and American cast, The Green Slime is slightly related to the four sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti about space station Gamma 1 — Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The Planets, War Between The Planets (all 1966) and Snow Devils (1967). Those films, which share some of the same screenwriters as The Green Slime, were produced by MGM as TV movies but sent to theaters instead. Margheriti made all four in just three months! (Maybe it’s time to cover the entire Gamma 1 saga. Three of the four are available from Warner Archive.)

Thanks to 2001: a space odyssey (1968), The Green Slime oozed into theaters woefully behind in the special effects race. That’s not a complaint, as I’m a big fan of spotty practical effects, rubber monsters and cheesy miniatures. Fact is, everything in this movie is absolutely perfect for what it is. Writing, acting, sets, effects, music — they all suit each other. I love that the lighting rig is clearly reflected in the space helmets as our heroes explore the surface of the asteroid. I would’ve been disappointed if a wire wasn’t visible on a spaceship somewhere along the way. If the monsters were something other than Japanese guys in rubber suits, well, that would’ve ruined it for me. And the terrific theme song — from Richard Delvy of the surf band The Challengers — is the cherry on top of the whole gooey mess.

The green slime doesn’t show up green in this faded old 35mm publicity slide.

Believe it or not, I was a little concerned that the improved detail, contrast, color, etc. of the Warner Archive Blu-Ray would take away from the cheesy enjoyment packed into every frame of The Green Slime. But I was wrong. The silver-painted plywood grain of the space station is clearer than ever. The wires on the space ships are easier to spot. And the colors really pop, though I think the tint was a little truer on the old DVD. The audio’s clean and crisp — and there’s an original trailer to marvel at.

The movie’s a gas, and the Blu-Ray’s a real beauty. Essential to those who dig this kinda stuff.

One last thing. Given the perils of Gamma 3 and considering the giant slug hiding in the asteroid in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), there’s an important lesson to be learned: stay the hell away from asteroids.



Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, MGM, Warner Archive

Blu-Ray Review: Night Moves (1975).

Directed by Arthur Penn
Written by Alan Sharp
Director Of Photography: Bruce Surtees
Film Editor: Dede Allen
Music by Michael Small

Cast: Gene Hackman (Harry Moseby), Jennifer Warren (Paula), Edward Binns (Joey Ziegler), Harris Yulin (Marty Heller), Kenneth Mars (Nick), Janet Ward (Arlene Iverson), James Woods (Quentin), Anthony Costello (Marv Ellman), John Crawford (Tom Iverson), Melanie Griffith (Delly Grastner), Susan Clark (Ellen Moseby)


The Seventies were an interesting time for film noir and private eye movies. Surprisingly, there were plenty of them — pictures like Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973), Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Stuart Rosenberg’s The Drowning Pool (1975) and Arthur Penn’s Night Moves (1975). They all seemed to drag the genres into a decade they seemed very much at odds with. By this time, both noir and PI movies had seen their conventions spoofed time and time again — and each director headed in a different direction.

But with the 70s a decade marked by cynicism, doesn’t it make sense that noir would emerge from the shadows?

In Penn’s case, with Night Moves, it looks like he decided to make his football-player-turned-detective (with a gorgeous 1967 Mustang), Harry Moseby (Gene Hackman), every bit as messed up as the dysfunctional family he’s hired to help sort out. He turns out to be just as lost as the young girl (Melanie Griffith) he’s trying to track down. And that’s what sets this one apart — Moseby’s investigation and introspection get all twisted together before it’s over with. Alan Sharp’s wonderful script juggles this effortlessly.

Hackman’s really terrific in this. His Moseby is a burned out guy you somehow can’t help but care about, even as you question a number of the choices he makes along the way. This is one of Hackman’s better performances, and he isn’t lacking for great performances.

You hear a lot about this being Melanie Griffith’s first movie (and that she’s naked quite a bit), but it’s Jennifer Warren that stands out to me. Paula’s a long way from the femme fatale we’re used to, but just as dangerous. Warren also played Paul Newman’s wife Francine in Slap Shot (1977). She didn’t have a tremendous amount of screen time in that one, but she was really good.

In a lot of PI movies, the plot sort of meanders along, often a bit incoherently, towards a conclusion that tries to wrap up (almost) everything. Night Moves weaves its lost girl/murder plot and character study together seamlessly, waiting for just the right moment to do so. Arthur Penn really amazes me sometimes. This is one of those times.

Night Moves didn’t do well upon its original release. Something called Jaws opened about the same time. Maybe it was too downbeat, maybe it was just too good, to be successful. Feel good hit of the year it ain’t.

But there’s plenty to feel good about with the new Blu-Ray from Warner Archive. It’s splendid. Seventies movies have a look all their own, and that’s preserved here flawlessly. This one has the added benefit of having been photographed by the great Bruce Surtees (who shot a number of my favorite films, from Dirty Harry to The Shootist). The disc includes a trailer and a production short from back in the day.

It’s easy to recommend Night Moves. And for fans of the movie, I can’t imagine you not springing for this Blu-Ray.


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Filed under 1975, Arthur Penn, Bruce Surtees, DVD/Blu-ray Reviews, Gene Hackman, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

DVD News #147: Porky Pig 101.

This is the way I’ve been hoping they’d get around to these wonderful Warner Bros. cartoons — big fat sets in chronological order. And it makes sense that they’d get the ball rolling with Porky Pig, the first of their big “stars.” There will be 101 shorts on five discs, all unedited. Man, I can’t wait.


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Filed under Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies, Warner Archive, Warner Bros.

Blu-Ray News #139: The Green Slime (1968).

Directed by Kinji Fukasaku
Starring Robert Horton, Richard Jaeckel, Luciana Paluzzi

With Kubrick’s 2001: a space odyssey (1968), MGM took science fiction, and filmmaking in general, a huge leap forward. With The Green Slime, later that same year, they took it backwards just as far. The result, a wonderfully cheesy Japanese/US co-production, is coming to Blu-Ray from our intergalactic friends at Warner Archive later this year.

Some astronauts visit an asteroid (and destroy it), and one of them comes back with some kinda green goo on his spacesuit. The goo soon transforms into nasty-looking green monsters with tentacles and a single red eye.

Filmed in Japan by a Japanese crew, with an American cast (and script), it’s slightly related to a series of sci-fi pictures from Italian director Antonio Margheriti (Wild, Wild PlanetWar Of The PlanetsWar Between The Planets; and Snow Devils, all from 1965).

Green Slime 45.jpg

If you have one of these, please consider leaving it to me in your will.

The title tune is terrific. And if all that doesn’t promise an hour-and-a-half of cheesy goodness, note that it features Luciana Paluzzi, an actress with one of the greatest 60s and 70s filmographies of them all: Bonanza, Muscle Beach Party (1964), Thunderball (1965), Hawaii Five-O and more.

The Green Slime announced for Blu-Ray — this is a red-letter day.



Filed under 1968, Antonio Margheriti, DVD/Blu-ray News, MGM, Warner Archive