Just like another week, all my releases for this week come from Kino Lorber. Up first is Dark Intruder starring Leslie Nielsen as a Sherlock Holmes type. It was originally shot as a TV pilot, but when it wasn’t picked up to series, it was extended and released as a film in 1965. It’s about 1890 San Francisco and some grueling murders that Nielsen is asked to help with by the police. A friend thinks he might be the one doing the killings because he keeps zoning out and the victims all have ties to him, but Nielsen isn’t so sure. As the friend’s wedding day approaches, Nielsen puts together more of the pieces. When I think of Nielsen I think of 1980s and 1990s versions of him so seeing him as younger and the more mainstream leading man is funny. I definitely think they were going for that Sherlock murder mystery vibe and hoping it would be a weekly show, but even cut together as a film it’s not bad. I’m sure it’s long forgotten to most people, but I liked it and if you are a fan of Leslie Nielsen, pick it up.
Second we have The Norseman from 1978 starring Lee Majors. Since this movie was released we’ve become more aware of Norse history and mythology. At the time of this film, people thought Vikings wore horned helmets (they didn’t) and that they were giant crazed warriors that raped and pillaged. Ok part of that is true, but we’ve grown to know that the Norse were also great farmers, sailors, tradesmen and had governments and strong religious beliefs. This being 40 plus years old, the portrayal of the Norse is very stereotypical of the time. Lee Majors plays the leader who goes on a quest with his brother to find his king father who was lost in America. I will give it credit for telling people the Norse hit North America hundreds of years before Columbus. The king had been taken by Indians and you get a Vikings vs. Indians story. The movie is historically a mess with Indian arrows being centuries wrong, the Norse wearing armor that wouldn’t have been available for centuries later, using crossbows that they would have never had, pronouncing Norse names like Bjorn wrong and so much more. It’s not a great movie but most of the Norse films back then weren’t. It’s a mess, but it’s so much of a mess you have to keep watching. I swear the first Viking that is killed by the Indians you can see padding where the arrows hit him. If you like watching MST3K type movies, give it a try.
Third we have Survival Skills. Despite it looking old, it’s the only new film on the list. It’s sort of a spoof dark comedy about a lost training video from the 1980s. The “character” of the training video is the perfect cop who gets in over his head with a domestic abuse call. He wants to help the wife and do what’s right, but the other cops including his partner think he’s going too far. Stacy Keach is the narrator of the training video. Overall it’s pretty good, but the problem with gimmick films is, the gimmick wears out pretty quickly. It’s under 90 minutes, but about 60 minutes into it you’re kind of over the gimmick. The lead actor is pretty great though playing a sort of plastic, generic training video guy. The ending is pretty surprising as well.
Next we have The Kiss Before the Mirror. This 1933 film sees a lawyer defending his friend who killed his wife. The wife was having an affair and the lawyer wants to get the friend off because the affair drove him to it. He also wants to win because his own wife is having an affair and he wants to kill her and know how to get away with it. Pretty dicey for the 1930s. I wasn’t familiar with it, but I liked it. I could definitely see it being updated and remade today in a sort of Gone Girl way. The cast is very good, the set design and costuming are top notch. Nice little film
Sammy Davis Jr. has two new Blu-rays out this week. First is A Man Called Adam where Davis plays a jazz musician whose wife and child were killed in an accident and he’s never been the same. He drinks too much. He’s bad to people watching him and his band and is even bad to to his bandmates and agent. He starts to fall for Cicely Tyson and goes on the road with a young white musician and his life starts to get better. Of course he’s his own worst enemy and life as a musician pays a toll on him. Davis is good in the role and is chaotic and over the top. Tyson plays a tremendous reserved role and the cast also includes Louis Armstrong, Ossie Davis and Mel Tormé.
Davis is more of a supporting character in Anna Lucasta which stars Eartha Kitt. Kitt plays a woman, Anna Lucasta, thrown out of her family because her father didn’t approve of her lifestyle. When her family finds out a family friend’s well off son is coming to town looking for a wife, they bring Anna back to try to get him to marry her. Davis plays a Navy man she hooks up with when he’s in town and who throws a wrench into her possible marriage. Kitt is great in the role and despite coming out in 1958, the story feels timeless.
Last we have Nationtime, a documentary on the 1972 National Black Political Convention held in Gary, Indiana. Famous black celebrities, political leaders and people like Jesse Jackson got together to shed light on black issues that the Republican and Democratic conventions weren’t bringing up. Jackson spoke and the documentary is narrated by Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. This new 4K remastered Blu-ray is the full 80 minute version of the film, that doesn’t seem to have seen the light of day in decades. Many of the issues in the film exist today with Jackson and others trying to get blacks across the country to register to vote, vote and take political seats locally.