Betty Boop: The Essential Collection Vol. 1
'MADE of pen and ink, she can win you with a wink."
So goes the theme for Betty Boop, who was probably the most sexualized cartoon character in animation history... at least before Jessica Rabbit arguably stole that concupiscent crown.
The Depression-era kewpie doll -- voiced in succession by Mae Questel, Bonnie Poe and Ann Little -- was given to titillating undressing (Betty Boop's Rise to Fame), near-topless hula dancing (Betty Boop's Bamboo Isle) or showering in a garden sprinkler in her rooftop abode (Betty Boop's Penthouse).
The films likewise featured gags of an distinctly adult nature. The scary Frankenstein-like monster in Betty Boop's Penthouse is transformed into a campy ballet-dancer with just a spritz of Betty's perfume. And you sure didn't hear songs about "kicking the gong around" (slang for opium-smoking) in Disney's Silly Symphonies of the era.
Alas, Betty's frequent collaborator, the great Cab Calloway, is hardly seen in this first collection of 12 shorts, although the Calloway-inspired cartoon The Old Man of the Mountain is excerpted in Betty Boop's Rise to Fame.
The first of a series of Blu-ray collections from Olive Films are newly remastered in high-definition from 4K scans of the original negatives. The results are not entirely as pristine as you might expect, but the beauty of producer Max Fleischer's cartoon creations (also including the original Popeye the Sailor cartoons) is that a little visual shabbiness is in keeping with Fleischer's lived-in, threadbare esthetic.
The Blu-ray has no extras, and the collection seems pretty random, with the series' most hallucinogenic entries -- such as Betty Boop's Snow White and Minnie the Moocher -- unaccountably absent. (There was a reason Betty enjoyed a resurgence in popularity in the druggy '60s and '70s.) Presumably, they'll be showing in later collections. ****
ACTOR Pete Postlethwaite died in January 2011, and his presence in this action-fantasy should give you an idea of how long this movie has lingered on the shelf.
Completed in 2009, Solomon Kane probably deserved a better release than it got.
The character of Kane, a soldier of fortune-turned-Puritan pacifist, was hatched by Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, and Kane initially shares a talent for supernatural ass-kicking with that famed Cimmerian freebooter.
But upon learning he is destined for a berth in hell from the devil himself, Kane (James Purefoy) undergoes a change of heart, leading him on the path to the New World in the company of Postlethwaite's Puritan patriarch. But when their party is set upon by the cult of a demonic sorcerer named Malachi (Jason Flemyng), and the family's winsome daughter Meredith (Rachel Hurd-Wood) is kidnapped, Kane is obliged to pick up the sword again.
It's debatable if the movie was worth the wait, but it does have a distinctive dynamic uncommon to other movies in the Robert E. Howard oeuvre: imagine Conan with guilt. **1/2
No One Lives
IN the lightning-strikes-twice premise of this horror thriller, a backwoods family of psychopathic crooks inadvertently kidnap a man who turns out to be far more violent and scary than they are.
Basically, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre family invokes the wrath of Jason Voorhees.
Admittedly, this thriller from the wrestlemaniacs at WWE Studios is a little more grounded than either TCM/Friday the 13th properties, and in the bargain boasts a decent cast, fronted by Luke Evans as the victim-turned-killer credited as "The Driver" and Adelaide Clemens (Silent Hill: Revelation) as an heiress who knows the full extent of his homicidal abilities. The film is directed by the talented Ryuhei Kitamura (Versus).
But if the movie demonstrates a little more talent than you would expect in the average psycho-horror movie, a scene near the beginning comes close to derailing the whole project.
Remember the scene in The Silence of the Lambs when Hannibal Lecter disguises himself with the uniform and face of a dead cop? Let's just say The Driver goes him one better utilizing the hulking corpse of his first victim.
Whatever the savage merits of the rest of the movie, this bit is as unforgivably stupid a scene as you'll ever see in a genre film. **