For the second part of our top 10 Signal One films we see police action, Satanic body horror, censored films that caused a stir then and now and jewel theft crime writ large! From the Mediterranean, via LA and the psychedelic 60s. It is a feast of cinema for one and all!
5 – DEADFALL
As caper pictures go, this Bryan Forbes film is above average. When you dig deeper, you have more than just a Michael Caine centred crime drama. Post war history with its arching, monstrous shadow is centre stage. Harry Clarke (Michael Caine) is a cat burglar. He is a smooth operator and having booked himself into a sanitarium, is working on a new target, Salinas (David Buck). After being discharged and planning the next move he meets Fe Moreau (Giovanna Ralli). She is an enigma. Married to an older man, Richard (Eric Portman). Living in a large house and seemingly awash with money. She never works. Never has to lift a finger and Clarke is in love with her. So, when he is propositioned by her husband to steal a safe, it seems logical to do it. However, what he wants from it, is not the contents of the safe but the contents of Richard’s marriage…
Bryan Forbes and Michael Caine were pillared on the release of this film. Treated like it was an awful, simplistic caper yarn, DEADFALL fell out of favour with its audience. This is where great labels like Signal One come into their own. The film is far more than that tidy genre notation would allow. Its subversive, sex, scandalous and intelligent. Director Forbes was known for complexity in subject matter and here he excels himself. Maintaining a stunning performance from Caine, while also holding the piece together with skilled eye for visual narrative and tension. Directors Brian De Palma most probably saw this film when constructing films such as Obsession. Its themes of incest and sexual destruction are obvious to anyone who has seen both.
I must note that the transfers are both lovely. Rich colours for the warm Mediterranean settings are enhanced more on the Blu than DVD but both look great (I forgot to mention it is a dual release!). When you look at the disc like this you often will start with the booklet contained within! Here Christopher Bray evaluates Caine in the period but even more importantly, we are given the Caine response to his acting and choosing of roles. The score is a thing of beauty. John Barry was one of the great film composers and with the likes of Bond, made film music that lives on. So, I was utterly over joyed at the inclusion of an isolated score for the film. Now top and tail this with the very informative (if not a little dry) documentary The John Barry Touch: The Music of a Master. Barry’s work becomes what it really is, a work of a genius. A man who transposed the visual image for the audio one.
Booklet by Michael Cain expert Christopher Bray
Interview with film Expert Chris Poggiali
Featurette: The John Barry Touch: The Music of a Master
Isolated score and Soundtrack
Optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature
4- THE MEPHISTO WALTZ
Satanism was a favourite of American cinema after the success of Rosemarys Baby. In this body switching nightmare however, it is not the fear of internally allowing evil to manifest but instead its external influence. Myles Clarkson (Alan Alda) was a skilled pianist and music school graduate. Now he is far more comfortable interviewing those in the industry rather than playing. When he gets the opportunity to interview an idol of his, Duncan Ely (Curd Jugens) he is over joyed. During the interview, Ely takes an interest in Myles career as a pianist. When Paula Clarkson (Jacqueline Bisset) finds out about this, she is concerned. When Myles becomes drawn to Ely and his daughter Roxanne (Barbara Parkins), her suspicions move to other matters.
Jerry Goldsmith might just be the greatest genre musician of his generation. After all he scored some of the most significant horror films of the 1970s. The Omen and The Other are two of his standouts. One is a bold and big score underlining the cataclysmic battle between good and evil. The other is subtler. Playing to the slow building tensions, simple framing and child like innocence diffusing into horror. With Memphisto Waltz he uses another style entirely. It mixes classic performance with its strong high notes and low inflections. Then crashes 70s styled party sounds, modern music and incidental sounds that arch and sway the screen. The film is about music in a way. The demonic exchange or a Faustian transfer is about the power to be what you aren’t. Here that takes another level. An amazing level.
The disc and its extras. The HD transfer hasn’t lost that rather delightful 70’s stock diffusion. The one where the image seems to be almost living in a haze of smoke and drugs. Now the score zings around because of the transfer and as you might of guessed is my reason for loving this release so much. The commentary is another high point with DVD Deliriums Greer and Thompson chewing over the films contextualisation of Bisset, the brilliant Alan Alda as a villain and that dog mask sequence which is very funny and also very on the ball. My other high point is the visual essay by the excellent Michael Mackenzie. Exploring history of the genre, images in the film and the demonic centre of body swap and power share. It is very, very good.
High Definition Transfer
Audio Commentary by DVD Delirium s Nathaniel Thompson and Tim Greer
Dancing With The Devil a brand new visual essay by Michael Mackenzie
Promotional Materials Gallery
Original Theatrical Trailer
3- THE SEVEN UPS
Featuring possibly the second greatest car chase in film history, you have in your hands (I hope that you have bought this in truth) a masterpiece of action and police on the edge. A film that inspired and still inspires it’s a fine thing to watch and an even finer thing to own! Buddy Manucci (the acting masterclass that is Roy Scheider) leads a team of renegade cops. The Seven ups (as they are known) rough and unorthodox methods get results but also leave a swathe of violence and death in its wake. When a series of kidnappings lead to a member of the team being murdered, its revenge they have in mind.
Based on real life cases of Buddy ‘’Cloudy’’ Russo and his various exploits with dirty tactics. So much can be said about this film and its relationship with The French Connection. Though that film is a better all-around film, The Seven ups holds its own. How? Well for three reasons. Firstly, we have the superbly edited action scenes (from editor Jerry Greenberg Oscar winner for The French Connection). They crash and zip along. Scenes are paced with such craft that you are pulled in. Compelled to watch every scene as it flows and spills out to a thrilling end. Secondly is the direction by D’Antoni. He directs the whole film without wanting to over blow scenes. Action is central but so is impact. Emotion and intellectual. Thirdly is that screenplay. This heightens the real over the artifice. I love when writers actually write real dialogue and not moving quotes to propel the story forward.
To the disc and its extras are a thing of beauty. Not much can be said for the transfer. The print was in very good condition and so its not evolved. My top 3 are very hard to pin down but here goes. The Anatomy of a Chase (1973): vintage behind-the-scenes documentary is excellent. Watch Bill Hickman literally build the chase along a route and with an eye to how the audience will be thrilled. Cut to the Chase (2016): new documentary on the film’s iconic car chase is a must for film fans who love or want to understand editing. Its a process of mental as well as physical construction. Audio commentary with writer and film expert Richard Harland Smith fills in the story of the creation and reception of the film, its coming up against the big features and its back story.
Philip D’Antoni Introduction (2016)
The Seven-Ups Connection (2016): new interview with director Philip D’Antoni
A Tony Lo Bianco Type (2016): new interview with actor Tony Lo Bianco
Real to Reel (2016): new interview with technical adviser Randy Jurgensen
Cut to the Chase (2016): new documentary on the film’s iconic car chase
The Anatomy of a Chase (1973): vintage behind-the-scenes documentary
Audio commentary with writer and film expert Richard Harland Smith
Super 8 version (1973): original cut-down home cinema presentation
Randy Jurgensen’s Scrapbook
Lobby cards and stills gallery
Original theatrical teaser
Original theatrical trailer
2 – STAGECOACH
Sometimes a remake can be considered just as good as its original. From Carpenters The Thing to Batman, from Hitchcock’s remake of his own film to this remake of 1939s Stagecoach. It feels like an American Western that has ripped Italian cinema and Euro cinema. Travellers one and all take the stagecoach from small town to Cheyenne. Some have problems that only getting there can fix, others are trouble. They need to be put in jail and fast. One is a doctor (Bing Crosby) who likes the drink too much. Another is an embezzling banker (Bob Cummings). We have the Ringo Kid (Alex Cord), Lady of the night Dallas (Ann-Margaret), Marshall (Van Heflin), Buck the wagon rider (Slim Pickins) and many more….
How can I argue that one of the greatest directors, most well known and regarded film, has a comparable remake? Well I cannot really. What I could say is this. Bing Crosby makes this film. Crosby was known as an entertainer, but he was much more. He was a great personality that understood performance over simple playing. He was a lead actor and singer with much success. He had already won an Oscar for acting and had little to play for in terms of proving his weight or his worth. So I feel he could then find a rhythm with a cast that meant he was not the centre of a film but could play the role for what it is. Bringing the acting to the front, without making it very overt or hampering the film. He has a swaggering charm here that makes it hard not to enjoy. He is a doctor and healer with a touch of wit about him. This is played with a touch of laconic flair. He flails conversation and trumps this with a pursuit of a drink. He bats back snipes and snubs with comedic grace. For an actor like him to play it like this would have been sensational at that point.
What stands out for me here are the HD transfer and that commentary. The HD transfer lets the cinematography which is a stunning study of exterior light and interior sensation. The gun fight scenes let the action take place basked in sunlight and shine in water, dust and mud. The interiors are all gas lamp lit. They flow with colour and flicker which is delightful to see. The commentary does many things which are excellent. It gives a comparison to the original, discusses the use of light, lets us see the techniques used to make the films actions scene’s work. They name the devices used at the time and how film pinched these. Then finally it is that knowledge of film technique, camera placement and direction which are informed.
- High Definition Transfer
- Audio Commentary with C. Courtney Joyner And Henry Parke
- Promotional Materials Gallery
- Still Gallery
AND THE NUMBER ONE CHOICE IS….
Directed by Roger Corman, Produced by Roger Corman, Written by…Jack Nicholson! This drug fuelled dream has been a cult favourite for many years. It also has a censorship history in the UK second to none (even having its own case study https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNj6Z3oafy8). Paul Groves (Peter Fonda) is a TV man. After a very hard divorce, from his over sexed wife (Susan Strasberg). He wants to open his mind and tune in to LSD. So he searches out a connection to the source of pleasure and that mysterious liquid dream called acid. Nightmares and dreams wash over him as he progresses in his trip. Black cloaked figures chase, Adverts rip into his psyche and that nod to film makers young and old. Here we live a trip. An experience that both delights the watcher and makes one that after doing many trips, find this the closest yet to getting it right.
It is hard not to mention the censorship history that proceeds this film. 4 times it was refused a certificate. It was even rejected a VHS certification. Finally in 2004 we were able to see a film that was uncut. Its not something to wallow in to much however because the film is more than empty sadism or excess. Seen as drug propaganda because it maturely handled the subject. Put more simply it showed that if you dropped acid, the likely response was not to implode but actually to walk through a surreal dream of light and colour. Jack Nicholson written piece isn’t a compassionate device for the sponsorship of drug taking. It is more truthfully a frankly bold, blackly humorous experimental take on the experience, wrapped up in a simple story. The trip sequences are hallucinatory ad often are exactly how the brain jumps around. This is from both a great piece of editing and the rather wide use of LSD among the films makers. The disc! Oh the disc is the reason it gets this billing! The HD transfer must be seen to be believed. Forget that awful DVD which was bland, translucent and colour sapped. This is neon, bright ad 60s shock waves of flashes. Its a thunder storm which finally constructs the acid dream we experience. The top 3 extras are hard to form but here we go…
Number 3 – Tune In, Trip Out (2003): documentary featuring interview with the cast and crew of The Trip. The well worth documentary captures the casts thoughts on the film. Their drug experience makes the piece more interesting then yo would expect.
Number 2 – Psychedelic Light Box (Film effects montage) I would direct anyone to watch this either inebriated or otherwise. Magic, flashes, blast, light, wash….
Number 1 – Audio commentary with director Roger Corman. Yes Corman gives us something that we often forget. How a film is made by the film maker but with those little details. The filming in the streets of LA. Those light and magic scenes and how it played out. That wonderful idea of the cloaked menace. Its all packaged into a very detailed piece.
High Definition transfer
Audio commentary with director Roger Corman
Original prologue (with optional director commentary)
Alternative ending (with optional director commentary)
Tune In, Trip Out (2003): documentary featuring interview with the cast and crew of The Trip
Allen Daviau, ASC on Psychedelic Film Effects (2003): interview with the celebrated cinematographer
Psychedelic Light Box (Film effects montage)
Poster and stills gallery
Original theatrical trailer