Tuesday, August 4, 2020
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (also known as SAVAGE GRINGO, NEBRASKA JIM, RINGO DEL NEBRASKA, and a few other titles) is a 1966 Italian-Spanish Western. The movie's direction is credited to Antonio Roman, but according to Troy Howarth's book THE HAUNTED WORLD OF MARIO BAVA, Roman was removed from the production after only about one week of filming. Producer Fulvio Lucisano then hired Mario Bava to finish the film. Bava did not receive any official credit on it whatsoever, but many other sources state that he did work on the picture.
So RINGO FROM NEBRASKA (or whatever you choose to call it) can be considered, for the most part, a Mario Bava film. Bava had already made a Euro Western before this--the mediocre THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO--and he would make one later--the truly bizarre ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK. RINGO FROM NEBRASKA, while certainly not a great film, is the best entry in Bava's Western output.
The movie stars American actor and Eurocult veteran Ken Clark as a mysterious stranger named Nebraska. (Clark also played the lead role in THE ROAD TO FORT ALAMO.) Nebraska happens to arrive at a remote ranch owned by a man named Marty Hillmann. Marty hires Nebraska to help him defend his spread against Bill Carter, a vicious fellow who happens to be Hillmann's archenemy. Complicating matters is Marty's wife Kay, a young, buxom redhead who is desired by Carter. Kay is also tired of being with the middle-aged Hillmann, and she makes a play for Nebraska. The stranger, however, feels a sense of loyalty to Marty....so he rejects Kay's advances while doing his utmost to stop Carter from killing Hillmann.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is not one of the wild & wooly entries in Spaghetti Western cinema. The story is very basic, and the characters are one dimensional. Nebraska is quite proficient in the use of firearms, but he's nowhere near as amoral as most Euro Western lone gunmen. One expects Nebraska to give some background on himself or his situation, but that scene never happens (at least it didn't in the version of the movie I watched). Ken Clark definitely looks heroic, and he handles himself well in the action sequences, but he has a stoic, almost bland presence.
Yvonne Bastien as Kay is able to get the viewer's attention, mainly due to the fact that she has the only major female role, and also because her cleavage is one of the film's biggest highlights. Piero Lulli is very effective as the villainous Bill Carter. A few of the supporting players I recognized from their work in other spaghetti westerns, such as those from Sergio Leone.
RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is enlivened by a major plot twist near the end, which reveals that the relationship between Marty, Kay, and Carter is far more complicated than Nebraska was led to believe. This is followed by another twist which actually caught me by surprise. These twists enable the movie to be a bit more than an average Western tale.
One has to wonder, though, how different the film would have been if Mario Bava had been involved in the script from the beginning. (I have a feeling that Bava would have spiced up the character of Nebraska somewhat.) RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is competently made, and it isn't a slog to get through...but it lacks that certain creative spark that Mario Bava brought to almost all of the films he worked on. There's nothing here that automatically marks it as a Bava entry, except for a few striking shot compositions. The action scenes (although there isn't a lot of them) are well done, particularly two drag-out knock down brawls between Nebraska and Bill Carter. Nino Oliviero contributes an effective music score, which I would describe as "Morricone Lite".
I viewed this movie on YouTube (the actual title on-screen was RINGO DEL NEBRASKA). The version I saw was dubbed in English, and it had a running time of 83 minutes (IMDB lists multiple running times for this film). The print was in widescreen, and it was in decent shape.
The most notable thing about RINGO FROM NEBRASKA is Mario Bava's involvement in it. The movie lacks the over-the-top flourishes that one associates with the most notable Euro Westerns, and it has very little in common with Bava's most renowned films. (If you didn't know that Bava had worked on it, you wouldn't have come to that conclusion on your own just by watching it.) In the end this film is more of a curiosity than an entertaining story.
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Director Jacques Tourneur is best known for making film noirish black & white thrillers such as CAT PEOPLE and NIGHT OF THE DEMON, but he also worked on a number of colorful Westerns. Tourneur directed genre star Joel McCrea multiple times, and one of their collaborations was WICHITA, a 1955 production in Cinemascope concerning Wyatt Earp.
Earp is played by Joel McCrea, although it's more accurate to say that McCrea is really playing another variation on his typical heroic Westerner role. This Wyatt Earp is one of the most virtuous and clean-cut versions of the man in movie history.
The film starts out with Earp arriving at Wichita, Kansas, hoping to start his own business with money he's saved up from hunting buffalo. The town of Wichita is trying to establish itself as a railhead for cattle drives, and an attitude of "anything goes" is in the air. Wyatt just wants to stay out of trouble and keep to himself, but he winds up stopping a bank robbery. The leading citizens of Wichita attempt to convince Earp to become town marshal, but he wants nothing to do with the job. When a wild group of drovers kill a five-year old boy while shooting up the town, Earp changes his mind. The new marshal immediately bans all firearms within the city limits, and makes it known that he will not tolerate any violence, even if it means hurting the local economy. The same leading citizens who wanted Earp to take the job now want him out, but he refuses to back down.
WICHITA is a okay Western, but it's quite predictable. As soon as Wyatt starts talking about how he doesn't like violence, you know exactly what is going to happen. McCrea uses his quiet determination and his solid as a rock persona to lay down the law in Wichita. There's more talk here than action. The subplot about what ordinary citizens are willing to accept to obtain order and security is a good one, but it isn't developed enough. The incident of a hero taking up a badge due to the killing of a young boy is very much like what happens to Errol Flynn in DODGE CITY.
WICHITA is enlivened by the supporting cast. Vera Miles plays Earp's love interest, a prim and proper young lady who is the daughter of one of the town's leading businessmen. (The real Wyatt Earp's personal relationships were far more complicated.) Mae Clarke plays Miles' mother, and there's a number of other notable character actors, such as Lloyd Bridges, Wallace Ford, Edgar Buchanan, Robert Wilkie, and Jack Elam.
Joel McCrea as Wyatt Earp in WICHITA
Keith Larsen plays a very young (and hot-headed) Bat Masterson, who in this film Wyatt Earp becomes a mentor to. (Ironically Joel McCrea would play Masterson a few years later in THE GUNFIGHT AT DODGE CITY.) Peter Graves plays Morgan Earp, and the unexpected way that Wyatt's brothers are introduced is one of the highlights of the story.
For those interested in Jacques Tourneur, there's nothing in the film that I would say is particularly significant. WICHITA is very much a standard Western, specifically designed for McCrea. In my opinion Tourneur's best Western is the dark and moody CANYON PASSAGE, a film I highly recommend.
Sunday, July 26, 2020
In my post on the new Shout Factory Blu-ray of THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, I mentioned that the disc includes a version of the film prepared by Universal for American network television. This TV version not only has added scenes (to lengthen the film to fit into a two-hour time slot with commercials), it also has several changes to the original material. The TV version is so different, I thought the best way to discuss it would be to write a separate post on it altogether.
The biggest change is the title--KISS OF EVIL. Taking the word "vampire" out of the title seems silly, since that's what the movie is about--but just about every instance of blood shown onscreen was removed as well. For those who have seen the picture, you might be asking, "How did they take out any appearance of blood and still have the story make sense??"
The story is still coherent, but the highlights of the original movie are watered down. The fantastic opening sequence of THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, where the brooding Prof. Zimmer thrusts a shovel into the closed coffin of his stricken daughter, is curtailed. The scene where Gerald (Edward de Souza) is to be "initiated" by the sultry Tania (Isobel Black) winds up being strange instead of thrilling, due to the removal of Gerald using his own blood to fashion a cross on his chest. The original climax, in which Dr. Ravna's coven of vampires is destroyed by a flurry of bats, is drastically changed. There are a number of stock shots added of swarms of actual bats, but we are not shown the pests attacking the undead group. We hear screams, and we are shown the original last shot of bodies laying about the castle hall....but we don't get to see the attack whatsoever, ruining the climax.
One would think that Universal was trying to convince viewers that the movie wasn't about vampires at all....but the TV version leaves in all the dialogue about vampirism, and there's still some quick shots of characters with fangs. Whatever Universal was trying to do with it, the result is a strange concoction.
The added scenes, which are about 15 minutes total, concern a middle-aged couple from the nearby village and their attractive young daughter. The couple is played by character actors Virginia Gregg and Carl Esmond, and the daughter is played by Sheliah Wells (who I though greatly resembled Hammer starlet Suzan Farmer).
The middle-aged couple are at odds, since the woman has taken on the job of making the ceremonial robes for Ravna and his followers! (Apparently this makes her the equivalent of long-time Hammer wardrobe mistress Rosemary Burrows). The added scenes explain various plot points, and they also reveal the fate of Prof. Zimmer's daughter much earlier than the original film does. These scenes hurt the mystery and the flow of the film, since they in no way have the same excellent production design and cinematography of the theatrical version of the story.
What's even worse is that the TV version ends with one of these added scenes, in which the couple discuss how things are normal again with the vampire cult gone, and the daughter is reunited with her boyfriend. This added ending even features a few shots from the original theatrical version of Hammer's THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN!
This TV presentation of KISS OF EVIL that is featured on the Shout Factory Blu-ray of THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE is in full-frame, and it runs about 93 minutes. It appears to have been recorded from an old Sci-Fi Channel showing. The quality is okay, but it is much better-looking than the TV version of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN that Shout Factory included on their Blu-ray of that film.
Shout Factory has provided an audio commentary for KISS OF EVIL. featuring cult movie experts Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth. It's an entertaining and lively conversation, and the duo were obviously enjoying themselves during it. They cover details about both KISS OF EVIL and THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, and they go into the somewhat obscure history of special American network TV versions of certain theatrical films. Their discussion of this reminded me of something I had totally forgotten--it was quite common in the 1970s and early 1980s for the American TV networks to take unused and edited footage from theatrical films, add them to the running time, and show the result as a two-night "special event". Most of these alternate TV versions of movies no longer exist, or are not on official home video.
That's why it's important that Shout Factory has decided to present the American TV versions of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE on home video. (They are also going to include the TV version of Hammer's THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA on their upcoming Blu-ray of that title.) These are certainly not the best versions of the films, nor are they the way to properly experience these titles.
But they do exist, and they are a part of the history of Hammer Films. Watching these TV versions, in full-frame and in degraded quality, is how most folks experienced Hammer in the first place. I personally find the idea of different and alternate cuts of movies fascinating--they might not be any good, but it gives one plenty to chew on when it comes to story and content analysis. For me, the more info and material on a movie, the better.
So let's give thanks to everyone involved at Shout Factory for providing these TV versions of Hammer features.
Saturday, July 25, 2020
The latest Hammer film to be released by Shout Factory on Region A Blu-ray is THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. This 1963 color Gothic is one of Hammer's best productions.
THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE was not directed by Terence Fisher, and it does not star either Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee. Nevertheless, it is one of Hammer's best productions, with plenty of atmosphere and intriguing characters. Production designer Bernard Robinson always did stellar work for Hammer, but he really outdoes himself here, and Alan Hume's striking cinematography takes full advantage of the exquisitely dressed sets. James Bernard provides one of his best scores, which features a memorable piano concerto.
The underrated Don Sharp directed THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, and he turns out an effective tale, while still being able to make some subtle twists to the Hammer formula. Producer Anthony Hinds (under his pseudonym John Elder) provides one of his best scripts.
The movie stars Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel as a young English couple traveling through Central Europe on their honeymoon in the early 1900s. Their motorcar breaks down, and they encounter a vampire cult led by the sinister Dr. Ravna (Noel Willman). Thankfully they are helped by the mysterious Professor Zimmer (Clifford Evans).
Usually the young romantic leads in any English Gothic film wind up being dull, but De Souza and Daniel come off as intelligent and likable. Noel Willman's Ravna is one of Hammer's best villains, and Clifford Evans steals the film as the rough-and-ready Zimmer. Special mention must be made of Isobel Black, who gives a very spirited performance as Tania, a young woman who quite enjoys being one of the undead.
Shout Factory goes all out on this release, with three different versions of the film and three audio commentaries.
The featured version of the movie has a 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and it looks stunning (just check out the magnificently vivid red dress Jennifer Daniel wears during the ball sequence). The commentary on this version has Edward de Souza and Jennifer Daniel, moderated by Peter Irving. The track was recorded a few years ago (Daniel has since passed away). The two stars of the film sound like they are having a great time, reacting to the movie at various points and telling plenty of stories about what it was like working on it and at Hammer in general.
There's also a version of the film in a 1.66:1 aspect ratio, which looks gorgeous as well. The audio commentary attached to this presents Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, and they go into detail on how the script for THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE was developed.
The third version of the film included on this disc is a cut prepared for American TV by Universal in the late 1960s. This has new sequences shot for the film, and plenty of changes to the original material. It also has a very entertaining commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and Troy Howarth. There's so much that needs to be said about this TV version that I'm going to write a separate blog post on it, like I did for the TV version of THE EVIL OF FRANKENSTEIN that was also released on a Shout Factory Blu-ray. (If you don't want to watch the entire TV version--and I honestly think you should, even if only for curiosity's sake--the added scenes can be accessed separately.)
The extras include two new entries in "The Men Who Made Hammer" series, one on James Bernard and the other on Bernard Robinson. It's fitting that both men are talked about on this disc, since they did some of their best work for THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE. Richard Klemensen from LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS magazine provides info and stories on both programs, and they will be greatly enjoyed by Hammer fanatics. There's also a few trailers and TV spots.
Those who ordered this Blu-ray direct from Shout Factory received another glorious 18 x 24 poster showcasing the artwork of Mark Maddox (see picture above). The Blu-ray itself has a slipcase with this artwork, and the disc cover has the original American poster artwork for the film on the reverse side.
This is another simply outstanding Shout Factory Hammer Blu-ray release--in fact I think it is one of the best-looking transfers in the entire series. The multiple versions, the multiple commentaries, the two "The Men Who Made Hammer" entries, another great poster....I know re-buying the same movies over and over can be a pain, but Shout Factory is giving Hammer fans very legitimate reasons to go to the well again.
Sunday, July 19, 2020
There have been many filmed adaptations of the historical events concerning the notorious murderers Burke & Hare, but the best by far is the 1959 British film THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS. The movie was produced by Robert Baker and Monty Berman (who also did the cinematography), and co-written and directed by John Gilling. It was re-released several times in the 1960s under different titles such as THE FIENDISH GHOULS and MANIA. Kino's new Region A Blu-ray of the film features two different versions of it.
In 1828 Edinburgh, the brilliant and acerbic Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) is the head of a medical academy, where corpses to be used for study are in short supply. Knox has no qualms in dealing with grave robbers, and soon he starts to be supplied by a couple of seedy characters named Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasence). The duo skip digging up graves altogether by murdering lower class folk from the squalid part of the town. Burke & Hare's greed and capacity for violence gets the best of them, and Knox becomes implicated in their crimes. The haughty doctor is forced to reexamine his attitudes about his profession and humanity in general.
THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS is a black & white film, with no supernatural elements whatsoever. Yet it is far more disturbing than the color shockers made by Hammer during the same period. The story isn't set in a Gothic fairyland, and it deals with people that actually existed and incidents that actually happened. The hardscrabble, poverty-stricken dark alcoves of Old Edinburgh are expertly realized by art director John Elphick and Monty Berman's stark photography. The entire production has a grim and gruesome tone to it. The various killings are not stylized, or staged to seem exciting--the taking of life here is presented as messy, vulgar, and pathetic.
Peter Cushing is, as expected, excellent as Dr. Knox. It's simple to put Knox in the same category with Cushing's Baron Frankenstein--but the men are quite different. Cushing's Knox is a stuffy, almost prissy fellow, who seems more interested in talking about surgery than doing it. One can't imagine this Knox wiping blood on his frock coat, the way Cushing's Baron would. (Cushing's Baron would also rather go out and get his own corpses than deal with people like Burke & Hare). Unlike the Baron, Knox is still able to be affected by the consequences of what has happened around him.
Despite the greatness of Cushing, I must state that he still winds up getting upstaged by Donald Pleasence as William Hare. Pleasence's sardonic cruelty, low-class cleverness, and unnerving smirk make his Hare become one of the most memorable characterizations in English Gothic cinema. He's ably supported by George Rose as the brutal simpleton Burke. Burke & Hare in this film are basically the equivalent of modern American rednecks.
There's also standout performances by two actors playing eventual victims of Burke & Hare--Billie Whitelaw as a feisty prostitute and Melvyn Hayes as Daft Jamie.
John Gilling would later work for Hammer Films in the mid-1960s, but THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS is his best overall horror film. There's an underlying sense of depravity in this picture, along with a very dark and understated tinge of humor.
Kino's Blu-ray of THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS presents a 95 minute "Continental" version of the film, which has a few nude scenes. The overall quality of this version is inconsistent at times, with parts of the film looking softer and brighter than others. It is in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
The disc also includes an American version of the film, released later in the 1960s, with the title THE FIENDISH GHOULS. This cut is only 74 minutes long, with no nudity. This version does Peter Cushing no favors...much of his role has been edited out, and it doesn't even include Dr. Knox's change of attitude at the climax. The 74 minute cut does I think have better overall visual quality than the longer version.
Other than some trailers, the main extra on the Blu-ray is a new audio commentary (on the longer cut) by Tim Lucas. He starts out by admitting that the movie actually made him sick when he first saw it on TV as a youngster. Lucas believes the film fits into the category of film noir, and he compares it with Ken Russell's THE DEVILS.
There's plenty of public domain versions of THE FLESH AND THE FIENDS out there (usually carrying one of the film's alternate titles). The Kino Blu-ray is the one to get, due to the longer, more complete cut and the Lucas commentary. This is the one adaptation of the Burke & Hare story that truly matches the duo's horrific actions, and it contains exemplary work from Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence.
Saturday, July 18, 2020
Al Adamson (1929-1995) was the son of a B movie cowboy who appeared on screen under the name of Denver Dixon. The young Adamson tried a number of ways to break into the movie business, but his career really got going when he teamed up with producer Sam Sherman. Under the Independent-International Pictures banner, the duo made a series of off-the-wall, disjointed exploitation films that have achieved cult status.
Adamson and Sherman would do just about anything to get their product out (except spend more money on the pictures). They used multiple titles and cut multiple versions of the same films. The movies they came up with were perfect for the late 1960s-early 1970s drive-in/grindhouse era.
The drive-in market began to fall off in the late 1970s, and Adamson drifted away from film making. His name resurfaced again in 1995, due to the circumstances of his bizarre murder, a crime that was made much of in the tabloid press.
BLOOD & FLESH: THE REEL LIFE & GHASTLY DEATH OF AL ADAMSON is a fine documentary that covers all of this and more. It was produced by Severin Films and directed by David Gregory. I viewed it through the Tubi streaming channel.
I must admit that I haven't seen a lot of Al Adamson's cinematic work. What I have viewed didn't impress me, even from a camp aspect. I feel that it's more entertaining to discuss Adamson's movies than to watch them.
Nevertheless, this documentary does prove that the man certainly made his mark. (Severin has recently released a mammoth box set of Adamson movies on Blu-ray). The various titles Adamson used, such as BLOOD OF GHASTLY HORROR, are well-known to film geeks. The director worked with the likes of John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., and Russ Tamblyn. Adamson also gave renowned cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond some of his earliest job opportunities.
Tamblyn and Zsigmond talk about their experiences with Adamson in this documentary, along with several others who worked regularly with the director. Sam Sherman gets plenty of screen time as well, along with cult film experts Michael Weldon and Fred Olen Ray.
Despite the wild and wooly nature of his film career, Adamson himself comes off as a regular guy, unpretentious and unassuming. (The only major complaint about him throughout the documentary was that he was cheap.) The film discusses Adamson's loving relationship with his wife Regina Carrol, who acted in most of his films. Carrol died of cancer in the early 1990s. (If she had lived, Adamson might have avoided his own tragic fate.) There is mention made of Adamson's involvement with various UFO cults near the end of his life.
There's plenty of stuff here for the bad movie buffs to chuckle over, including a look at Adamson's most famous (and infamous) film, DRACULA VS. FRANKENSTEIN. There's also plenty of clips from Adamson's cinematic universe--and in all honesty that's probably the best way to appreciate his work. Among the subjects who pop up in BLOOD & FLESH are Charles Manson and Colonel Sanders!!
BLOOD & FLESH is very enjoyable. It doesn't totally degrade Adamson's low-budget weirdness, and it doesn't make him out to be some sort of underappreciated genius either. The tone of the film takes a very sharp turn at the end when it comes to Adamson's murder--it starts to feel like one of those true-crime programs one sees on the A & E channel.
BLOOD & FLESH isn't a quickie promo reel for the Al Adamson flicks released by Severin. It's a thorough, 100 minute documentary that more than adequately covers its subject in an entertaining and interesting manner. Despite the tawdry nature of the films Adamson made, and the tragic circumstances of the man's death, there's almost an old-fashioned quaintness about BLOOD & FLESH. Al Adamson didn't seem interested in the trappings of big-time Hollywood fame and wealth, and he wasn't trying to make any sort of statement with his work. He just wanted to make movies that entertained or caught the attention of the audience, and that he most certainly did.
Sunday, July 12, 2020
THE LAST VALLEY is a somewhat obscure historical drama released in 1971. The movie was produced, written, and directed by James Clavell. It has been recently released on home video by Kino Studio Classics.
The story is set during the Thirty Years' War, a time of religious persecution and cruelty. A motley group of mercenaries, led by a no-nonsense German Captain (Michael Caine) comes upon a remote village nestled in a picturesque valley in Central Europe. A man of learning, who has been trying to stay one step ahead of the wars for years (Omar Sharif) convinces the Captain that he and his men should take shelter in the village and protect it, instead of despoiling it. The Captain comes to an uneasy understanding with the locals, including the town leader (Nigel Davenport). But the mercenaries and the villagers can't help but follow their own agendas, while the Captain realizes he can't truly escape the war.
THE LAST VALLEY is another film that I don't ever remember being shown on TV. It wasn't successful at the box office, and it's easy to see why. The Thirty Years' War was not exactly a popular subject among English-speaking audiences (and it still isn't). The movie, despite being rated PG, does not shy away from the brutality and militant religious attitudes of the period. (The opening scene shows a small settlement attacked by Caine's men, and the people who live there are either killed or raped, simply because they just happen to be in the way.) There are no "good' or "bad" characters--each person deals with the situation of the Captain's group staying in the valley in their own way, putting survival over morality.
Michael Caine is a revelation here. This isn't the Caine of ALFIE or GET CARTER. Here he speaks with a clipped German accent, avoiding his usual dialogue patterns. His Captain doesn't have to shout or scream to get his point across. The man is a professional killer, but he's also rather cunning, and he's able to take advantage of whatever situation he may come across. The Captain is not a likable person, but he's not supposed to be. Caine makes it believable that this man could survive such a violent time and still be able to control a bunch of bloodthirsty soldiers. I think this is one of the best performances Michael Caine ever gave.
Most of the supporting cast is made up of European actors. Omar Sharif does very well in his role--he plays a man who is constantly straddling the fence at all times, but avoids making the character seem weak or fawning. Nigel Davenport is excellent as the village leader, a man who in his own way is just as cunning and brutal as the Captain.
The outdoor locations for THE LAST VALLEY were filmed in Austria, and they are spectacular. James Clavell and cinematographers Norman Warwick & John Wilcox take great advantage of the terrain. The action sequences are few, but they all have a Kurosawa-type of grittiness to them. (The Captain and his men do participate in a major battle near the end, but it's quite short--it could have been the basis of an entire movie itself.)
The transfer of THE LAST VALLEY that Kino has used for this Blu-ray is not good. There's visible damage spots on it, the frame jerks a bit at times, and the day-for-night scenes are very murky. I had never seen THE LAST VALLEY before, so I certainly can't compare it to any other version that might be out there. But it is disappointing that this Blu-ray does not look better, especially with all the visual splendor presented in the film. The sound quality, on the other hand, is very bold, and it does justice to John Barry's magnificent music score. (I was so impressed with Barry's work on the film that I went on Ebay and ordered the movie's soundtrack album.)
The only extra for this Blu-ray, other than some trailers for other Kino product, is a brand-new audio commentary with Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson. The trio analyze various aspects of the production, but they have a tendency to wander away from it when they discuss the careers of the people who worked on it.
THE LAST VALLEY is not a rousing epic filled with exciting battles. It's a thinking man's historical tale, dealing with a time and a society that most will not be familiar with. There's no sense of closure, or of right triumphing over wrong. What one does get from this movie is how each person's religious and political beliefs are only as deep as their immediate situation (organized Christian religion does not come off well here). This film is worthy viewing, especially when one considers what's going on today, with "cancel culture" and "Agree with me 100% or else" politics. THE LAST VALLEY also contains one of Michael Caine's best (and unusual) performances.