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  • The Wanderers (1979) Blu-ray Review

    The Wanderers (1979)

    Director: Philip Kaufman

    Starring: Ken Wahl, John Friedrich, Karen Allen & Toni Kalem

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Based on Richard Price’s novel, The Wanderers centers on a Bronx gang of teens whose experiences growing up in the mid 60s provide a rich canvas for youthful decadence and eventual maturity against an ever-changing world.  Philip Kaufman (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Right Stuff) directs this coming-of-age wonder.

    Depicting a time and place in New York City all but lost to time, The Wanderers fascinating depiction of universal themes plaguing directionless street dwellers during the final stretch of their teen years rings with pure sincerity nearly four decades later.  Set in the radically changing year of 1963, high school gang, The Wanderers, spend their days less worrying about their futures than defending their turf against rival hoods and chasing tail.  Sporting identical jackets bearing their squad name and greased up hairdos, the Italian teens find themselves embroiled in a racially tense standoff against the black Del Bombers while losing a fellow member to leather-bound baddies the Fordham Baldies.  Leaning on his girlfriend’s mafioso father for assistance, Wanderers leader Richie (Ken Wahl, Wiseguy) simultaneously falls for new girl on the block Nina (Karen Allen, Raiders of the Lost Ark) in a controversial move that puts him on the outs with best friend Joey (John Friedrich, The Final Terror) and the rest of his gang.  Upholding their tough guy personas through violent brawls and chauvinism, The Wanderers manages to break through these shell casings as friendships are tested, hearts are broken and unexpected responsibilities are sprung upon them.  As the nation reacts and changes following the assassination of JFK, a high stakes football game against their African-American foes spirals into an all out war, finding the once divided units battling a shared enemy.  Beautifully aided by a soundtrack of doo wop hits and other golden oldies, The Wanderers is the perfect bridge between other youth centered pictures like American Graffiti and The Warriors.  While its setting may be a thing of the past, The Wanderers speaks a language firmly rooted in the tender years of youth that is as unforgettably beautiful and painful as our own memories.

    Newly restored in 2K, KL Studio Classics proudly presents The Wanderers with a 1080p transfer, preserving its original 1.85:1 (1:78:1 for its included Preview Cut edition) aspect ratio.  Sporting a wonderfully cleaned up appearance free of unsightly scratches or tears, skin tones are warmly inviting while, filmic quality is as organic as can be.  Furthermore, the dingy city alleyways and storefronts are excellently presented with colors and textures found in the wide variety of gang jackets and the Del Bombers’ loud football uniforms popping nicely.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix that does a fine job relaying dialogue recorded on busy New York streets, the film’s period soundtrack cuts make for the strongest enforcements on the otherwise healthy track.  

    Divided over two discs featuring both its Theatrical Cut (1:57:09) and rare Preview Cut (2:03:50), Disc 1’s special features kicks off with a Director’s Statement (1:56) followed by an Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director Philip Kaufman.  Also included, Back in the Bronx with Richard Price (35:18), The Wanderers Forever!: Live Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganias & Richard Price (16:35) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (1:52).  Meanwhile, Disc 2’s offerings feature an Introduction with Stars Karen Allen, Toni Kalem, Tony Ganias (0:40), an Audio Commentary with Columbia University Film Professor & Author of Philip Kaufman Annette Insdorf, The Wanderers Q&A at The Cinefamily with Philip Kaufman, Alan Rosenberg & Peter Kaufman (31:59), an Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Philip Kaufman (19:46), an Audio Q&A at NYC’s Film Forum with Richard Price (16:41), the Re-Release Trailer (1:40) and a TV Spot (0:33).

    A continually growing cult classic and a high-water achievement in coming-of-age cinema, The Wanderers recalls the struggles and fears common in most teens attempting to make sense of the big world surrounding them with a palpable relatability few films capture.  In one of their standout efforts of the year, KL Studio Classics reinstates this golden oldie back into the public eye with a gorgeous 2K restoration, hefty supplements and dual cuts of the film that make joining up with this particular gang a splendid life choice.

    RATING: 4.5/5

    Available now from KL Studio Classics, The Wanderers can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.

  • I Could Go On Singing (1963) Blu-ray Review

    I Could Go On Singing (1963)

    Director: Ronald Neame

    Starring: Judy Garland, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Klugman, Aline MacMahon & Gregory Phillips

    Released by: Twilight Time

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    In her final film appearance, Judy Garland (The Wizard of Oz) lights up the stage as American singer Jenny Bowman in I Could Go On Singing.  In London for professional engagements, Jenny’s loneliness leads her to reconnect with her lost lover David Donne (Dirk Bogarde, The Damned) and the teenage son she left behind years ago.  Jack Klugman (12 Angry Men), Aline MacMahon (Gold Diggers of 1933) and Gregory Phillips (The Pumpkin Eater) co-star in this musical melodrama from Director Ronald Neame (The Poseidon Adventure).

    Stripping layers of fictional pretenses away, Judy Garland’s curtain call performance in I Could Go On Singing boldly presents the icon in a state that hardly shies from the real world heartache that plagued her career while, reminding viewers of the magical talent that continued to surge through Garland until her untimely death.  Riding high on a tremendous wave of popularity, American singer Jenny Bowman’s arrival in England for a series of concerts at the esteemed London Palladium finds her reconnecting with former flame David Doone following his wife’s passing.  Rattling a sensitive can of worms, Jenny’s desire to see the now 14-year-old son she abandoned with David years earlier is understandably faced with resentment before David’s own kindness gives in.  Informed at a young age that he was adopted, Matt’s (Phillips) introduction to the adored singer is met with excitement and genuine affection as the two strike up a bond that David fears will ultimately be damaging.  Surrounded by agreeable colleagues at all times, Jenny’s insistence to see more of her unaware son fuels the “ask and you shall receive” climate common amongst celebrities in addition to mirroring the all too true reality of Garland’s own situation with two of her children from a failed marriage.  Sincerely charming in her hopes to be rejoined with the loves she should have never left, Garland’s fearless depiction as she drowns her sorrows in Scotch during an especially emotional climax further illustrates the warts and all approach lifted from the star’s own life into her at times heart-wrenching performance.  While Garland’s chemistry with co-star and real-life friend Borgarde (who was also essential in the film’s making) is quiet beautiful, I Could Go On Singing wraps up their turmoils too simply to be considered memorable.  Regardless of its predictable love story conclusion, Garland’s powerful singing sequences bring the film to several halts as viewers marvel at her dazzling showmanship.  Although the film may not achieve the heights of some of Garland’s earlier classics, I Could Go On Singing is a powerful swan song for the eternally loved beauty.

    Twilight Time presents I Could Go On Singing with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  Arriving with natural grain present, skin tones are generally strong while, Garland’s glitzy onstage apparel shines nicely against bolder colors found in the bright red stage curtain.  Furthermore, black levels are steady with a generally clean picture free of harsh age-related damage.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is consummately handled in this rather speech-driven feature with Garland’s staged singing performances, backed by a lively band, showcasing the finest moments of the mix.  Special features include, an Audio Commentary with Producer Lawrence Turman and Film Historians Lem Dobbs & Nick Redman plus, a second Audio Commentary with Film Historians David Del Valle & Steven Peros.  Both tracks are enjoyably lively with behind the scenes information and unquestionable appreciation for Garland making both essential listens.  In addition, an Isolated Score Track (with some effects), the Original Theatrical Trailer #1 (3:47), the Original Theatrical Trailer #2 (3:06), a TV Spot (0:57) and the MGM 90th Anniversary Trailer (2:06) are also included.  Finally, a 6-page booklet featuring stills and another deeply researched essay from Film Historian Julie Kirgo concludes the release’s bonus content.

    Blurring the lines between fact and fiction more so than most stars would ever dream, I Could Go On Singing shines a revealing spotlight on Garland who stands tall in a performance worthy of applause.  Attempting to tower above such gems as The Wizard of Oz or Meet Me in St. Louis seems grossly unfair yet, Garland’s troubled last effort delivers a role on par with some of her best.  Meanwhile, Twilight Time’s high-definition treatment is rewarding with its film buff centered supplements, capably provided by the wildly knowledgeable efforts of Nick Redman, Julie Kirgo, David Del Valle and others offering Garland fans with invaluable insight into the film’s making and beyond.

    RATING: 3.5/5

    Available now in a limited 3,000 unit edition from Twilight Time, I Could Go On Singing can be purchased exclusively via ScreenArchives.com.

  • X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963) Blu-ray Review

    X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes (1963)

    Director: Roger Corman

    Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt & Don Rickles

    Released by: Kino Lorber Studio Classics

    Reviewed by Mike Kenny

    Director Roger Corman (Tales of Terror, The Haunted Palace) sets his shocking sights on X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes, starring Academy Award winner Ray Milland (The Lost Weekend) as Dr. Xavier.  In an attempt to improve human eyesight, the daring doctor concocts a formula for X-ray vision.  Impressed with his achievement but ignored by his peers, Xavier successfully tests the experimental drug on himself before aftereffects of terror emerge.  Diana Van der Vlis (The Swimmer), Harold J. Stone (The Wrong Man), John Hoyt (Gimme a Break!) and Don Rickles (Toy Story) co-star.

    In arguably one of Corman’s most profound efforts of the 1960s, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was unsurprisingly produced quickly and cheaply while supporting impressive, if not dated, visual effects.  Following their collaboration on 1962‘s The Premature Burial, Ray Milland headlines as the curious Dr. Xavier, determined to see beyond normal human standards.  Discovering a formula for X-ray vision and finding little support from his fellow professionals, Xavier chooses to experiment on himself.  After witnessing humorous situations of party guests booging in their birthday suits, Xavier’s abilities begin to waver forcing the doctor to unwisely increase his dosage.  After a moment of pressure costs a colleagues life, Xavier evades law enforcement by joining the ranks as a sideshow performer.  Comedy legend Don Rickles co-stars as a seedy carnival barker who realizes Xavier’s true powers and greedily uses them to his advantage.  In addition, Corman camp regular Dick Miller (A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors) makes a brief appearance as an obnoxious audience member convinced Xavier’s powers are a ruse until proven wrong.  With his vision and sanity on the brink, Xavier’s loyal and beautiful assistant, Dr. Diane Fairfax (Diana Van der Vlis), attempts to ease his situation to no avail.  Offering little hope, Xavier sees into a future of dark despair before leading to a startlingly grim finale with staying power.

    Scripted by Robert Dillion (The Old Dark House) and Ray Russell (Zotz!) respectively, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes was originally released as a supporting feature with American International Pictures’ Dementia 13.  Ray Milland commands the picture with his performance of a rebellious doctor overtaken by his own experiment.  In addition, Don Rickles shines in one of his better roles as the villainous carnival barker while, Diana Van der Vlis is competent, if not forgettable, as Xavier’s assistant and suggested love interest.  Delivering a noted sci-fi shocker for its time, Director Roger Corman’s tightly paced story and visual guidance allows X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes to stand the test of time with a terrifying ending of despair.

    Kino Lorber Studio Classics presents X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes with a 1080p transfer, sporting a 1.85:1 aspect ratio.  Supporting healthy, natural grain levels, mild instances of flakes and speckles are on display while skin tones are nicely detailed and colors, most noticeably in wardrobe and Xavier’s POV sequences, pop accordingly.  Equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mix, dialogue is satisfactory with no intruding signs of distortion and Composer Les Baxter’s score relayed effectively.  Special features are a plenty with an Audio Commentary with Producer/Director Roger Corman, Audio Commentary with Film Historian Tim Lucas, Terror Vision!: Joe Dante on X (6:07) finds Corman protégé Dante offering his first encounter with the X-ray thriller and his encyclopedic film knowledge on the film’s lasting impact.  In addition, a Rare Prologue (4:59), Trailers from Hell with Mick Garris (2:34) and the Original Theatrical Trailer (2:19) round out the disc’s impressive supplemental package.

    Suspenseful and still shocking, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes offers a glimpse into a doctor consumed by his own nightmarish creation.  Ray Milland steers the picture wonderfully with a strong supporting cast, highlighted by Rickles‘ delightfully unsavory performance.  Meanwhile, Kino Lorber Studio Classics treats this Corman gem like gold with a vastly improved video transfer and appreciable special features that shine a well-deserved light on this quality sci-fi effort.

    RATING: 4/5

    Available May 12th from Kino Lorber Studio Classics, X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes can be purchased via KinoLorber.com, Amazon.com and other fine retailers.