Archive for May, 2015

1860 2

by Allan Fish

(Italy 1934 75m) DVD2 (Italy only)

Aka. 1860 – I Mille di Garibaldi; Gesuzza the Garibaldian Wife

Waiting for Giuseppe

p  Emilio Cecchi  d  Alessandro Blasetti  w  Gino Mazzucchi, Emilio Cecchi, Alessandro Blasetti  novel  Gino Mazzucchi  ph  Giulio de Luca, Anchise Brizzi  ed  Ignazio Ferronetti, Giocinto Salito  m  Nino Medin  art  Vittorio Cafiero, Angelo Cannavale

Giuseppe Belino (Carmelo Trau), Aida Bellia (Rosuzza Trau), Gianfranco Giachetti (Father Costanzo), Maria Denis (Clelia), Mario Ferrari (Colonel Carini),

It’s one of the most famous paintings in the world.  Goya’s ‘The Third of May 1808’.  The title may not be familiar, but the painting will be.  Is there a more potent depiction of the oppression of the working class than Goya’s masterpiece?  It depicts the brave but failed resistance of Spanish rebels to Napoleon during the peninsular war.  A group of peasants are placed against a wall while a firing squad prepares to give out improvised ‘justice’.  Among the huddled few awaiting their fatal bullets, a man in a white shirt pleads with arms outstretched.  It’s become an icon of resistance to tyranny everywhere.  It’s also the painting that comes to mind whenever I think of Alessandro Blasetti’s 1860(more…)


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hlemmur 3

by Allan Fish

(Iceland 2002 86m) not on DVD

Aka. Last Stop


Gerd Haag  d/w  Olafur Sveinsson  ph  Halldór Gunnarsson  ed  Olaf de Fleur Johannesson  m  Sigur Rós

Childhood memories are always somewhat hazy with me, but one thing I remember is regular trips to Lancaster on the bus and, while the journey itself is depressing enough, taking over an hour to wind its way through all the places it can when a car would do the journey in twenty minutes, what lay at the end was more depressing; Lancaster bus station.  I loved Lancaster itself; its old railway station, the castle then and now half converted into a prison, the little priory next door with its tiny café, the long since gone shops where I would pick up VHS tapes; Our Price and Andy’s Records.  Against all that was a bus station on an island that felt marooned, a triangular shape with over-hanging flat roof, dilapidated offices which no-one seemed to occupy and foul-smelling toilets.  The Sally Army probably never bothered to go there on their Christmas soup runs.  After seeing Olafur Sveinsson’s truly heart-rending documentary, one can be sure such terminuses exist through the known world. (more…)

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thief-1 (1)

 © 2015 by James Clark

      Each film of Michael Mann is arrestingly sown with overtures bearing close resemblance to those salient in many of his cinematic inventions. This singularity has led more than a few viewers to conclude that though he might be a fine filmic “stylist” he must still be regarded as a “hack,” a manipulator of a grab bag of clichés in the service of giving structure to intrinsically shallow titillation. One of the recurrent choices pertains to remarkable craftsmanship in the course of breaking the law. Mann demonstrates an inordinate fascination with those performing physical tasks welling up from preparatory discernment of riches to be unlocked (sensuous payoffs). His protagonists are precise and resolute laborers immersed in resolute navigational considerations. We could say that he sees the world as a fabulous, monstrous and lethal creative power demanding fantastic discipline to derive what it offers. His sagas are structurally similar because only a sucker would imagine mastering those tests at one fell swoop, or even a million fell swoops.

Mann’s closest professional kin, Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-1973), often referred to as “Poet of the Underworld,” was similarly discounted, in his case by that noisy power bloc of self-congratulatory contrarians who came to be known as the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave). Melville chose his nom de plume in recognition that American novelist, Herman Melville, in his piece de resistance, Moby Dick, could see the lucidity within the action of tackling a dangerous kinetic force informed by rare and necessary verve and grace. As with Mann, Melville’s was an undertaking of wild and often violent endeavors. However, for the disclosures of both of those individualistic figures there also comes to pass a high premium upon amicable, even loving, relations with an unlovely, largely unlovable, but also lovely and lovable historical agitation. Implacable rejection and good-will. That’s the task of harmonics both these artists struggle with. And for the better part of the rest of this year, that’s the scene I’ll be hopefully revealing to be, when all is said and done, most enjoyable. (more…)

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woman in gold

Screen cap from underrated WOMAN IN GOLD with Helen Mirren

by Sam Juliano

Memorial Day 2015.  Barbecues, backyard swimming pools and relaxation are on most of the personal itineraries, as the weather in these parts cooperates gloriously.  Around the corner are proms and graduations, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  Here at Wonders in the Dark, the resident cineastes are gearing up for the Greatest Childhood Films Countdown, which is projected to launch sometime around June 15th.  Ballots have been flying in all week (well over 20 to this point) and will be accepted until May 31st at 11:00 P.M.  Any WitD reader is welcome to submit their Top 60 at TheFountain26@aol.com.

Lucille and I took in young Sammy’s final high school Spring concert at Cliffside Park High School on Wednesday night.  Sammy plays the baritone, and after the instrumental numbers we stayed on for the chorus and ensemble.  A great night in music.

You really have to question what is going on in the professional film critics’ ranks these days. Granted print media is on the decline, but when nearly 100% of the fraternity rates a movie like MAD MAX -utter trash that is surely one of the WORST films I’ve seen in years -good for those who are action and loud noise addicts, but no redeeming value whatsover- among the highest of the year, and issues divided reviews on WOMAN IN GOLD, a lovely film with Helen Mirren that is far better than many of these people give it credit for, you know something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Why engage in a thoughtful film, when we can sit and have our brains fried with meaningless drivel? Right. Of course. Makes perfect sense. But we know many of these publicans need ad revenue, so the ratings are inflated. Sad.


Mad Max   *     (Friday night)     Secaucus Multiplex

Woman in Gold   **** 1/2  (Saturday night)   Montclair




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ghat 1

by Allan Fish

(India 1977 108m) DVD0 (India only)

Aka. The Ritual

Outcast of the agrahara

Sadananda Suvarna  d  Girish Kasaravalli  w  Girish Kasaravalli, K.V.Sabanna  novel  Ananthamurthy U.R.  ph  S.Ramachandra  ed  Umesh Kulkarni  m  B.V.Karanth

Ajith Kumar (Nani), Meena Kuttappa (Yamuna), Naraya Bhatt (Shastri), Ranaswamy Iyengar (Udupa), Shanta Kumari, Janganath, Suresh, H.S.Parvathi, Ramakrishna,

Girish Kasaravalli’s Ghatashraddha should be better known in the west.  It was voted one of the ten greatest Indian films ever made by critics in 2007 and its viewpoint, that of a child’s view of adult hypocrisy and injustice, it a familiar one in the west.  The reason for its neglect isn’t entirely clear, but language may have had something to do with it.  While very much in the tradition of great Hindi humanist cinema, it isn’t actually a Hindi film.  Kasaravalli’s film, and Kasaravalli himself, speak another language; Kannada.  The only DVD of the film as yet released advertises the fact in typically intrusive Indian style in the form of a bright logo running through the top right of the screen and a Kannada text logo below it.  Some sources have it running over half an hour longer than the running time of the DVD and quoted above; even now it seems elusive.  (more…)

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Daylight 1

by Sam Juliano

Though much of his picture book output was produced in collaboration with some exceedingly high profile award winning authors, Wendell Minor sometimes traversed his outdoor habitats solo.  The inspiration for his latest solitary foray has produced an uncommonly beautiful book, one that focuses on the animals that live around us while we engage during the day and also while we sleep.  There is nothing obscure or geographically specialized in Minor’s new work, rather he seeks to sponsor an open house tour – a zoo without physical parameters that is dictated only by what terrain the readers reside in.  Excluding those living in the urban centers or the desert, most would readily identify Wendall’s benign array of wildlife wonderment, either because they encountered some of the animals or were long familiar with the sounds they make.  The renowned author-illustrator enticingly broaches how a day turns into night (and vice-versa) and how motherhood is at the center of activity for all mammals.

     At the very start Minor sets up the different cast of players that inhabit the diurnal and nocturnal landscapes of chosen locations.  His opening spread depicts a wooded clearing framed by a fence, tree trucks and a flat stone pathway.  There is pictorial continuity in the design, yet the left panel, subtly lit, shows the creatures we might see in the daylight, while the right shows the ones only seen or heard when the stars are twinkling.  Minor asks his young readers to identify those who inhabit his ravishing tapestries, by posing an innocuous inquiry.  No wildlife artist captures the soaring majesty of a hawk in flight like Minor, and the bird is promptly presented  in detailed close-up that is as arresting as it is radiant: (more…)

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We’ve got the totals and the winners of the prizes.
We raised $1,700. The prize winners are as follows:
Choice of Betty Jo Tucker’s print book CONFESSIONS OF A MOVIE ADDICT or Kindle version of her autobiography IT HAD TO BE US: Aesha Williams
Winners of a DVD set of NFPF’s Treasure of the New Zealand Film Archive: Lynnette Fuller, Buckey Grimm, and Lois Palmer
Winner of autographed copy of Farran Smith Nehme’s MISSING REELS: Mike Smith
Winner of hardbound copy of Mike Smith’s FLICKERING EMPIRE: Rachel Herman
Winner of Flicker Alley’s DVD set 3-D Rarities: Susan Reynolds
Winner of Milestone’s DVD Land of the Head Hungers: Bob Fergusson
Winner of script for Jerry Lewis’ film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED: Gail Sonnefeld.
I’ll put up a short post on FonF tomorrow and on FB. You might want to do the same.
Thanks, fellas!

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cinema of childhood

by Sam Juliano

For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon has officially concluded, but latecomers are more than welcome to avail themselves of both the donation links under every submission, and can still send on science-fiction film reviews for the rest of the week.  I will diligently post any received under the home post, which presently sports 21 reviews.  I don’t know the final figures, but I do know that both Marilyn Ferdinand and Roderick Heath were delighted by the manner in which the five-day venture proceeded and like myself have evinced the philosophy that the assets will help towards the goal of restoring the 1918 silent Cupid in Quarantine.  Speaking for myself I must say I had a whale of a time serving as host for the final official day (Sunday) and was astonished at the high-quality of each and every submission.   Needless to say the posts sent on from both Ms. Ferdinand and the renowned writer and critic Farren Smith Nehme were to put it mildly – stupendous.  But so were all the others, including a late entry on the politics of Doctor Who by the guest writer Varem Mehta at Andrew Hartmann’s US Intellectual History blogsite.  The numbers recorded at Wonders in the Dark were the highest in about two years.  The home post attracted 401 page views yesterday, while overall the 1,700 plus total for the day was similarly the most impressive over the same period.  Just today another 112 page views are registered under the home post, meaning well over 500 for a two day period of live activity.  I don’t mean to boast, but I’m just saying…..To repeat: It ain’t over till its over, and anyone still wishing to help out the cause with donations or reviews (right now the former is begging for some serious attention!) get on the bandwagon!  A great big thank you to all those who made this project such a resounding success!!!

Venture Number 2 is also moving forward.  Best Films About Childhood polling and countdown is officially in gear today, when Top 60 ballots will be accepted and sent on to the e  mail chain during the course of the day.  The window for accepting ballots will run till Sunday evening, May 31st at 11:00 P.M.  At that point the results will be in the hands of Voting Tabulator extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr., who will spend a week with them, announcing the figures on or around June 6th.  After that assignments will be gobbled up by the writers, and the countdown will launch at Wonders in the Dark on Monday June 15th.  The Top 60 Greatest Childhood Films Countdown will run Monday through Friday for twelve (12) weeks, meaning it will conclude sometime in the middle of September.  So far ballots have been received from Allan Fish, Shubhajit Lahiri and Pat Perry.  Allan’s was sent out to the chain two months ago, while the latter two will go out to the group today.  My own ballot will also be sent out tonight to said fraternity.

Lucille, young Sammy, Jeremy and I spent Friday night at Joey’s Restaurant in scenic Hewitt, New Jersey listening to the incomparable guitarist/soloist Gene Focarelli do his thing on the occasion of Sammy’s 18th Birthday.  We wanted to celebrate that watershed in some manner of style and in the company of good friends, and we managed both with much room to spare.  Gene even performed his own song “Five Minutes More” which frankly has long deserved release in the professional circuits.  Focarelli’s guest musicians did a fabulous job as well, but nothing to match his soulful virtuoso work. (more…)

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For the Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon is nearing its five day conclusion, but here at Wonders in the Dark – final day host site, we still think there is plenty of time to both make your voice heard and add to the growing total of financial proceeds aimed at restoring the silent film Cupid in Quarantine.  At the time of this post’s publication it is almost 10:30 P.M. EST, but the blogathon won’t actually end until 1:00 A.M. (CST), meaning we still have two-and-a-half hours left folks.  This is the time to step up to the plate, and help bring a long lost gem to resurrection.

This is the time.

Donation link:




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by Sam Juliano

For the first time ever, the much admired and successful Film Preservation Blogathon -the brainchild of Ferdy-on-Film’s Marilyn Ferdinand- has set up camp here at Wonders in the Dark, a few months after this astounding honor was set in place after a series of e mail exchanges with my dear friend from the Windy City, Ms. Ferdinand.  Our site replaces the previous third position occupied by the venerated Farren Smith Nehme, “the Self-Styled Siren,” a New York Post film critic, who has written numerous essays for Criterion’s DVD booklets, and has delighted the film community with her lovely personality and incomparable erudition.  Those are shoes impossible to fill, but the very idea that we at this six-year-old cinematic outpost have been selected to serve as host for the final day provides us with one of the greatest honors we’ve ever been graced with.  The previous four days of the renowned venture were staged at Ferdy and at This Island Rod (with the redoubtable Roderick Heath as host)  for two days each.  Many banner science-fiction film reviews were linked up on the home posts at both sites, and here at Wonders in the Dark we are really hoping to maintain the torrid pace.  Please remember to link up the donation icon (to be found on the sidebar here) at the end of your reviews.

Marilyn Ferdinand beautifully offers these specs:  “Our film is Cupid in Quarantine (1918), a one-reel Strand Comedy that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak. The amount we’re shooting for is $10,000 to go to the National Film Preservation Foundation to cover laboratory costs for the film’s preservation as well as a new score for the film’s web premiere. The streaming film will be available free of charge to everyone online at the NFPF website. (more…)

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