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The writers of “Blade Runner” and “The Fugitive.” The director of “Rambo: First Blood Part II.” A cast comprised of Peter Weller, Richard Crenna and Hector Elizondo. Music by Jerry Goldsmith. Cinematography from Oscar-nominee Alex Thomson. Creature design by Stan Winston. Add it all up and what do you get? The water-logged 1989 MGM release LEVIATHAN (98 mins., R), which surfaces from the depths from Kino Lorber in a great looking new 4K UHD remaster.

One of three big-studio “underwater movies” to hit theaters in 1989, “Leviathan” was second out of the gate, following producer Sean S. Cunningham’s not-bad winter release “Deepstar Six,” and prior to James Cameron’s big-budget fantasy “The Abyss.” A straight-ahead monster movie, “Leviathan” is a shameless pastiche of “The Thing” and “Alien,” following a group of deep-sea miners – including Weller, Elizondo, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson and Amanda Pays – who talk like truck drivers (sound familiar?), are comprised of men and a pair of women (getting warmer?), and who encounter an unknown terror that slithers its way onboard, just in time to infect the crew before they reach the surface. Gooey special effects lifted from Rob Bottin’s work on John Carpenter’s 1982 favorite and Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic are bottom of the barrel for Stan Winston’s studio, with a final creature that – in Hudson’s own words – resembles a chicken that ends up being blown apart by Weller in unquestionably the picture’s highlight.

“Leviathan” had so many talented artists involved in its production – including Ron “Conan” Cobb’s set design – that it’s truly surprising the finished product, while watchable, is still so utterly limp. The script doesn’t have an ounce of originality, with stock characterizations giving the actors little to work with. You never care about the characters or their predicament, and most of the film is dull as George P. Cosmatos – not exactly instilling the picture with the crackling pace of “Rambo II” – does little but move from one clunky monster or gore effect to the next while upping the body count.

Visually, at least, the film is polished courtesy of Thomson’s sleek scope lensing, Cobb’s sets, and Goldsmith’s score – a solid offering given the picture’s limited dramatic component (his end title is especially nice). What a shame then that, once the movie’s creature surfaces, the film flops over with dreadful staging of its tentacles and limbs chasing after the movie’s characters, a sign Cosmatos was phoning it in and seemingly hoping the movie could be saved in the editing room.

Still, I have to be honest here: I enjoyed “Leviathan” a lot more on Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD than I ever have before. Perhaps it’s because this 4K scan of the 35mm interpositive (2.35) results in one of KL’s strongest UHD’s of the last few months, offering effective Dolby Vision HDR implementation that truly shows off the film’s Rome-shot sets and visual design. Warmer colors and textures make the overall look of the film far less murky than any prior home video transfer, with the original Dolby Stereo SR track provided on a 2.0 DTS MA track (there’s also an inferior 5.1 remix that I did not especially care for, diminished by comparatively muddy dialogue).

Special features include a Steve Mitchell/Nathaniel Thompson commentary and, on the similarly remastered Blu-Ray, extras culled from the out of print 2014 Shout release. These include “Monster Melting Pot,” a 40-minute interview with members of Winston’s production team, including Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr. The talk is lively and fun, with the participants more or less admitting to the creature’s shortcomings and working with the larger-than-life Cosmatos. Ernie Hudson and Hector Elizondo also contribute some entertaining comments in separate interview sessions, with Elizondo detailing Stern’s general anger on the set and Hudson skirting around Cosmatos’ politically uncorrect behavior. The trailer is also on-hand in a slipcover-encased release sure to appeal to creature feature fans despite the film’s issues.

A much bigger success during the 1990 Christmas movie season, KINDERGARTEN COP (111 mins., PG-13) was the second of three collaborations superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger produced with A-list comedy director Ivan Reitman.

Arnold’s middle Reitman picture, sandwiched between two outings with co-star Danny DeVito (the 1988 hit “Twins” and 1994 disappointment “Junior”), “Kindergarten Cop” is pretty much the best of the trio as it mixes a dash of Arnold’s specialty – action, albeit of the PG-13 variety – with an irresistible comedy premise, finding detective Arnold going undercover as a kindergarten teacher in order to protect the ex-wife of a notorious, on-the-run L.A. drug dealer (Richard Tyson from “Three O’Clock High”).

This is a polished ‘80s/early ‘90s piece of studio filmmaking with Arnold in top form, obviously excited to make this film as a change of pace in between a pair of Verhoeven/Cameron sci-fi blockbusters (“Total Recall” and “Terminator 2”). He’s at his best here working off a game supporting cast — most especially Pamela Reed as his ailing partner and Linda Hunt as the school principal, who becomes a surprising surrogate — along with over 20 elementary school kids. The combination of domestic thriller and comedy seems to have been mostly intended as a launching pad for Arnold vehicles outside the R-rated action crowd, and the script by Murray Salem and the prolific tandem of Herschel Weingrod and Timothy Harris (“Trading Places,” “Twins”) is effective in achieving that goal. More over, Reitman knew the right buttons to press in order to satisfy both Arnold’s usual fans as well as more general audiences looking for romance/laughs, and while “Kindergarten Cop” was too strong for young kids (and wasn’t nearly the wan comedy its marketing campaign suggested), it struck the right balance to hit box-office paydirt for Universal over the ‘90 holiday break.

Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD of “Kindergarten Cop” is highlighted by a dynamic new Dolby Vision HDR master (1.85) via a new 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. Colors, details and contrasts are all a big leap over Universal’s old HD master, with both 5.1/2.0 sound provided (I preferred the 2.0 track). Special mention should go to Randy Edelman’s score – one of his most tuneful and enjoyable outings with some lovely thematic material. Kino Lorber’s extras include the trailer and two new historian commentary tracks (one by Samm Deighan, another by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson) plus a newly remastered Blu-Ray.

Also debuting on 4K UHD this month from Kino Lorber, THE LAST CASTLE (131 mins., 2001, R) is something of a surprise release for the format, given the movie’s fizzled box-office performance. Robert Redford plays a military hero who disobeyed orders and is sent to a stifling military prison presided over by James Gandolfini in one of his major lead roles he took early in “The Sopranos”’ run. The duo spar while Redford attempts to overcome “the system” and its horrendous treatment of his fellow inmates in a Rod Lurie-helmed movie that’s well crafted and acted, yet suffers from the same “over-written”, unfocused quality as much of the director’s other works (i.e. “The Contender”).

A high-profile Dreamworks production that failed to find much of an audience shortly after 9/11, “The Last Castle” does include a superb Dolby Vision HDR 4K scan here (2.40, 5.1) from the OCN courtesy of Paramount. Jerry Goldsmith’s low-key score adds an unobtrusive assist with extras including Lurie’s commentary; an HBO First Look, alternate ending, a featurette, the trailer, and deleted scenes, plus a remastered Blu-Ray.

John Sturges’ classic GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (122 mins., 1957) rounds up Kino’s latest UHD releases and it provides yet another marvelous package for movie buffs. The Dolby Vision HDR grading via Paramount’s 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative is just sublime here, offering up warmer colors and finer details than the movie’s last Blu-Ray appearance.

It benefits one of the sturdiest of the many screen realizations of the Tombstone legend with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas his troubled “Doc” Holliday, who, together, take on the Clanton gang in a full-color Paramount production that’s ripe with veteran support: Rhonda Fleming and Jo Van Fleet essaying the female leads with John Ireland and a six-pack of young, soon-to-be-familiar faces in support (these incude Dennis Hopper, Lee Van Cleef and a pre-”Star Trek” DeForest Kelley). Memorably scored by Dimitri Tiomkin and shot by Charles Lang, this “Gunfight” benefits from its excellent lead performances and a solid script by Leon Uris, a year shy from the publication of his bestseller “Exodus.”

Kino Lorber’s great-looking 4K UHD (with a 5.1 stereo remix) is accompanied here by a standard Blu-Ray and a new commentary by C. Courtney Joyner and “True West” magazine’s Henry Parke – a fine commentary discussing the production as well as its fidelity with the historical record.


40s & ‘50s Headliners

One of Jimmy Cagney’s more highly regarded films of the late ‘40s, BLOOD ON THE SUN (94 mins., 1945) was also one of the star’s own productions: a taut and absorbing story of a hard-nosed American newspaper writer working in Tokyo prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor. When he ends up uncovering information related to Japan’s future military plans, Cagney’s Nick Condon tries to warn the world outside the continent he’s on in a well-acted picture from director Frank Lloyd, co-starring Sylvia Sidney, Robert Armstrong, Wallace Ford and Porter Hall. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W, mono) hails from a new 4K scan of 35mm nitrate materials and is complimented by a new commentary from Julie Kirgo and Peter Hankoff.

The great Broadway composer Frank Loesser provided the songs for the Fred Astaire/Betty Hutton vehicle LET’S DANCE (112 mins., 1950). Astaire plays a song-and-dance man (naturally) whose partner (Hutton) is a war widow attempting to gain custody of her son, and away from the clutches of the boy’s obnoxious great-grandmother. Roland Young and Ruth Warrick lend support with veteran Norman Z. McLeod lending a sure hand behind the camera – it’s formulaic stuff but the musical numbers are solidly crafted and choreographed, and the movie quite likeable in spite of its relative obscurity, especially considering Astaire’s filmography. Lee Gambin is on the commentary here with Paramount’s capable HD master (1.37, mono) faring well in Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray.

A pair of ‘40s B-adventures also premiere on Blu-Ray this month from Kino Lorber.

Movie buffs might enjoy watching Robert Ryan and Brian Keith in ALASKA SEAS (77 mins., 1954), a minor Paramount production about an Alaskan salmon fisherman (Ryan) who regrets hiring on his old pal (Keith), especially after he tries to take away Ryan’s fiancee (Jan Sterling). Utterly unbelievable melodramatics permeate this loose remake of “Spawn of the North,” but thankfully Jerry Hopper’s fast-paced feature is undaunted by its silly script, and Ryan and Keith are quite enjoyable to watch here in early lead roles. Stan Shaffer provides a commentary in Kino’s now-available Blu-Ray (1.66, mono), with a perfectly serviceable Paramount HD master on-hand.

One of Sabu’s attempts to parlay his stardom into Hollywood success, MAN-EATER OF KUMAON (79 mins., 1948) is a superior genre exercise. Wendell Corey co-stars as an American doctor-hunter who injures a tiger but doesn’t kill it, leading to tragedy for a local village. Trying to subsequently hunt it down, he enlists a couple (Sabu, Joanne Page) for help in a film based on a novel by Jim Corbett and helmed by capable genre director Byron Haskin (“War of the Worlds”). The B&W cinematography looks solid in Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W, mono) with a new commentary by David Del Valle and fellow historian Dan Marino on-hand.


New Kino Classics, Cult & Foreign Releases

The latest release in Kino Classics’ Ernest Lubitsch Collection, MADAME DUBARRY (114 mins., 1919) features silent film superstar Pola Negri as the Countess of Barry, whose relationship with King Louis XV (Emil Jennings) catapults her into power – and possible slaughter at the guillotine. “Madame Dubarry” showcases Lubitsch’s early work as a technician of historical epics and the film – released as “Passion” in the U.S. — offers ample spectacle, sets and extras for historical aficionados. Kino Classics’ Blu-Ray includes a commentary from Joseph McBride and a color-tinted restoration by the Muranu Stirftung. The stereo sound is courtesy a 2007 score from Carsten-Stephan Graf von Bothmer.

Jean Renoir’s THE GOLDEN COACH (102 mins., 1952) has been remastered in 2K from the original Technicolor trichrome negatives on Raro’s new Blu-Ray. This is a vibrant costume drama set in 18thcentury Peru where a hot-blooded star of a traveling commedia dell’arte performance group (Anna Magnani) is granted a golden coach by a viceroy who’s just one of three men – a torero and a Spanish officer the others – interested in her. Renoir’s and cinematographer Claude Renoir’s visual eye is underscored by Vivaldi music for this film which was championed by Francois Truffaut and regarded by critics as one of the French director’s key works. Raro’s Blu-Ray offers a 1.37 transfer, English audio, alternate French track, and a commentary by critic Adam Nayman.

From Zeitgeist and Kino Lorber, SOPHIE SCHOLL: THE FINAL DAYS (120 mins., 2005) features an acclaimed performance from Julia Jentsch as the co-ed turned anti-Nazi activist in a drama by director Marc Rothemund that utilized historical records of the incarceration that precipitated Scholl’s death. Superb performances abound in this compelling drama newly remastered in 4K (1.85, 2.0 German with English subtitles) with Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray also featuring a Making Of, deleted scenes, and historical interviews with Scholl’s relatives and friends.

LA SYNDICALISTE Blu-Ray (121 mins., 2022): Isabelle Huppert plays Maureen Kearney, a union rep for a French nuclear firm who becomes a whistleblower about its suspicious dealings, only to be sexually assaulted as she attempts to get her story out. This French docu-drama based on true events is new on Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber (2.39, 5.1/2.0 French with English subtitles) featuring an interview with director Jean-Paul Salome and an interview with the real Maureen Kearney.

DRIFTER Blu-Ray (98 mins., 1974, R): Cult filmmaker Pat Rocco’s works were ahead of their time, as evidenced by the lack of distribution for his 1974 feature “Drifter.” A low-budget tale of a bisexual hustler (Joed Adair) trying to make connections in southern California isn’t just a cash-in on “Midnight Cowboy” with Rocco’s movie being more appealing in terms of its warmth and overall character sensibilities – yet its subject matter made it too hot for a studio to distribute. This Kino Cult Blu-Ray (1.37) includes a 2K restoration preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, with a commentary by historian Finley Freibert and a quartet of Rocco shorts included on the supplemental side.

OSS 117 FIVE FILM COLLECTION Blu-Ray (1963-68): A long-running film series that was relaunched over the last decade via a pair of lighter Jean Dujardin vehicles, “OSS 177” was a French creation that predated Ian Fleming’s 007, and was first seen in a late ‘50s movie that never made it to American shores. While the majority of these “OSS 177” films also never saw a domestic release (two of the later sequels eventually did), their relaunch in the early ‘60s — in the wake of “Dr.No” and the rise of Bond-mania – led to a series of colorful widescreen romps throughout the decade, and it’s these loosely connected entries that Kino brought to Blu-Ray in a multi-disc set that’s been newly reissued by the label.

Included here are OSS 117 IS UNLEASHED (103 mins., 1963) with Kerwin Matthews in the title role. This B&W shot (1.66) production was quickly followed by the full-color, widescreen OSS 117: PANIC IN BANGKOK (118 mins., 1964), also with Matthews, who was replaced by Frederick Stafford in OSS 117: MISSION FOR A KILLER (102 mins., 1965) and OSS 117: MISSION TO TOKYO (100 mins., 1966). The particularly intriguing OSS 117: DOUBLE AGENT (103 mins., 1968) stars John Gavin, who was one of Eon’s leading candidates to replace Sean Connery as Bond, along with “Thunderball” vet Luciana Paluzzi and future “Spy Who Loved Me” villain Curt Jurgens.

These films are leisurely paced but their location lensing is impressive, the scores of Michel Magne varied and enjoyable, and the Gaumont-licensed 1080p (2.35 on all except 1.66 on “Unleashed”) transfers all offer exceptional clarity. All soundtracks are in French with English subtitles as well. Very recommended for those with an appetite for ‘60s spy adventure (and missed the initial release).


TV on Disc

MONK Season 4 Blu-Ray (640 mins., 2005-06): Tony Shalhoub is back in the fourth season of the USA hit cable series as the OCD-plagued but brilliant police “consultant” who tackles a group of cases in and around the Bay Area, the fourth season once again teaming Shalhoub’s Monk with Traylor Howard’s sidekick, Natalie Teeger. “Monk” was a runaway hit for USA, in its later seasons ranking as the highest rated scripted cable series with millions of viewers tuning into Monk’s familiar goofy antics, mixed with a formulaic but sturdy assortment of crime procedural plots. Yet it’s Shalhoub’s performance that made “Monk” the success that it became, his performance anchoring a show that managed to mix comedy and crime with equal aplomb. Kino Lorber’s Season 4 Blu-Ray includes all 16 episodes with guest stars Jason Alexander, Jon Favreau, Malcolm McDowell and John Turturro plus two featurettes culled from the DVD release and 1080p (1.78) transfers with 2.0 DTS MA sound.

THE BRIDGE: The Complete Series DVD (2201 mins.., 2011-15): MHz Networks brings U.S. viewers a complete series set of the acclaimed “Bridge” (“Bron” or “Broen” in its native tongue) series. Sofia Helin plays Saga Noren, the dogged investigator who works with fellow investigators Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) and Henrik Sabroe (Thure Lindhart) to solve crimes along the bridge separating Sweden from Denmark. Taut, well-performed and acclaimed, “The Bridge”’s DVD box includes 11 discs with 16:9 transfers and original Swedish/Danish language tracks and English subtitles. English dub tracks are also available throughout the course of the series’ four (2011-15) seasons. Note that MHz has also released a separate Season 4 DVD package this month as well.


New DVD & Special Interest Releases

GODARD CINEMA (100 mins., 2022) offers aficionados of Jean-Luc Godard a glimpse into the director’s chair as documentarian Cyril Leuthy profiles the auteur’s works, life and times. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray of “Godard Cinema” also includes Godard’s final work, TRAILER OF A FILM THAT WILL NEVER EXIST: PHONY WARS (20 mins., 2022), plus an interview with his assistant editor, Lila Lakshmanan, 1080p (1.33/1.78) transfers and French sound with English subtitles.

KING: A FILMED RECORD…MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS (181 mins., 1970) debuts this month from Kino Classics. This 1970 documentary by Ely Landau is comprised of interviews (Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, James Earl Jones, Paul Newman, Anthony Quinn, Burt Lancaster among them) and, of course, archival footage following MLK’s work from 1955-68. Two trailers, a 1080p (1.33) transfer are all included in Kino Classics’ Blu-Ray…New from Cinephobia is Olivier Peyon’s French import LIE WITH ME (98 mins., 2022), the story of a novelist who returns to his hometown decades after leaving his teenage lover. Upon arrival he meets his son, which stirs up old feelings in this adaptation of Philippe Besson’s novel (2.35, 16:9), newly issued on DVD.

NEXT TIME: William Shatner’s IMPULSE on Blu-Ray at last! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

NEXT TIME: William Shatner’s IMPULSE on Blu-Ray at last! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!
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Comments (1):Log in or register to post your own comments
Re Leviathan, I saw this at the National Film Theatre, when it was a new release, as part of a Jerry Goldsmith mini season, which also coincided with a Goldsmith Film Music Society seminar at the NFT. I like Leviathan a lot and have it on DVD. But I don't like Alien or The Thing, which it's said Leviathan is a rip off of but funny I like Leviathan, it's not easy to explain. I think the cast were more relatable and the score more accessible, perhaps.

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