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Death Valley Days: The Full Initial Season

Judge P.S. Colbert burns green when his Irish temper is up.

There’s Borax in them there hills!

“Howdy! I’m the Old Ranger, and Death Valley’s my stampin’ ground. Many’s the tale of adventure I’m going to tell you about the Death Valley nation. True stories, mind you—I can vouch for that!”—The Old Ranger (Stanley Andrews, It really is A Great Life)

That folksy introduction opens each and every one of the eighteen episodes incorporated in Death Valley Days: The Full Season.

• “How Death Valley Got Its Name”
• “She Burns Green”
• “The Death Valley Kid”
• “The Lost Pegleg Mine”
• “The Little Bullfrog Nugget”
• “Self-Made Man”
• “The Chivaree”
• “The Small Dressmaker Of Bodie”
• “Cynthy’s Dream Dress”
• “The Rival Hash Homes”
• “The Lady With The Blue Silk Umbrella”
• “Swamper Ike”
• “The Bell Of San Gabriel”
• “Claim Jumpin’ Jennie”
• “The Bandits Of Panamin”
• “Sego Lillies”
• “Little Oscar’s Millions”
• “Land Of The Totally free”

The initial tale goes way back to Autumn1849, when a wagon train of pioneers veer off the trail in their eagerness to reach California, then in the heat of a gold rush. Alternatively of a brief reduce to riches, nevertheless, the travelers find themselves on a life-threatening, barren stretch of wasteland that appears to stretch into eternity.

Positioned in Eastern California, close to the Nevada border, Death Valley represents the lowest, hottest and driest spot in North America. Its rocky floor is set 282 feet under sea level, and on July ten, 1933, the temperature was measured at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest in the continent’s history.

Yup, that initial traveling band had a mighty grim ride, all appropriate, but by 1882, as the Old Ranger tells it, that seemingly barren stretch of wasteland became “much more crucial than a goldmine,” as soon as Borax deposits had been discovered there.

The multi-functional mineral compound, located in dry lake beds, came in chunky white “cottonball” clusters, and a miner could decide no matter whether he’d gotten hold of the genuine thing—as opposed to some similar searching sun-blanched rock—by performing a simple test. Pour on a bit of alcohol and a bit of sulfuric acid, then light it.

Take it from grizzled ol’ prospector Fye Jones (Hank Patterson, Petticoat Junction): “If she burns green, she’s Borax!”

As a matter of reality, this Western anthology series was sponsored by the “20 mule team” Pacific Borax Company when it began its fifteen year run as a CBS radio show in 1930, and once more when the program hopped mediums, beginning its eighteen year run as a syndicated tv program in 1952.

Surprisingly, the brains behind the outfit was a Vassar-educated native New Yorker named Ruth Cornwall Woodman. Ms. Woodman was functioning as a copywriter for an advertising business when she was assigned to the Pacific Borax account, and went on to write effectively over a thousand scripts (including each episode in this set) for the series until she retired in 1963.

The stories incorporated in Death Valley Days: The Complete Initial Season run the gamut, featuring desert rats, city slickers, con artists, highway bandits, bank robbers, dirt farmers, saloon singers, saddle tramps, dance hall girls and even a lepidopterist all the way from Boston, with an equal quantity of juicy roles for men and women alike—not to mention burros. More importantly, the material—which usually displays a wry, comic wit—is uniformly sturdy, and regardless of an clearly shoestring budget (occasional takes feature actors muffing their lines), these half-hour segments are properly acted and exceedingly entertaining.

I did not see any budding superstars among the cast, but I did spot a quantity of beloved character actors and cult favorites, such as Lyle Talbot (Program 9 From Outer Space), Gail Davis (Annie Oakley), Hal Smith (The Andy Griffith Show), Joyce Jameson (The Comedy of Terrors), Denver Pyle (Welcome To L.A.), Phyllis Coates (I Was A Teenage Frankenstein), Jock Mahoney (Tarzan Goes To India) and even Hopalong Cassidy’s ol’ buddy Andy Clyde.

Timeless Media Group deserves best marks for this DVD collection. There’s no mention of restoration being carried out, but these ancient, complete-frame black and white episodes look and sound nearly pristine. The set includes no extras, but if the audio-visual good quality of Death Valley Days:The Comprehensive Initial Season is any indication of factors to come, classic Western television fans are going to really feel like they’ve struck gold. Just keep in mind to fill your canteen and do not forget the sunscreen.

DVD Verdict

Pray For Death (Blu-ray)

Sho Kosugi is arguably to ninja films what Shintaro Katsu was to the “Zatoichi” series. Whilst Kosugi didn’t make a profession playing the identical character, he did feature prominently, most usually as lead hero in numerous 1980s-era ninja films. “Pray for Death” was Kosugi’s fifth nina-centric film of the decade, following up such cheesy, but delightfully entertaining nonsense such as “Enter the Ninja” and “Ninja III: The Domination” (a third entry in the vague sense, it was his third ninja film in a row). “Pray for Death” would be one particular of his last main roles, as his part in the 90s seemed to take him behind the camera, prior to re-emerging in 2009 as the villain in the ultraviolent, CGI-infused contemporary ninja spectacular, “Ninja Assassin”.

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“Pray for Death” is a film in contrast to Kosugi’s preceding efforts, trading the really critical enterprise of non-stop ninjitsu for a melodramatic narrative of ninja turned businessman/family man, Akira Sato (Kosugi) searching for in a new life in Los Angeles with his wife and two suns (one particular of whom is played by Kosugi’s own son, Kane). Unbeknownst to Akira and kin, the internet site of their new restaurant was also a drop point for crooked cops and creepy crooks, and a straightforward underworld doublecross results in Akira’s youngest son kidnapped by the psychotic Limehouse Willie (James Booth), enforcer for Mr. Newman (Michael Constantine), the regional mafioso. Naturally, Akira makes use of his coaching in the secret arts to rescue his son, but that only makes matters worse as tragedy strikes the loved ones, major to a final 30-minutes of ninja mayhem.

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No one particular getting into “Pray for Death” ought to anticipate high-art or even the most competently made melodramatic thriller. “Pray for Death” is a solution of its time by means of and through, lingering a painful 100-odd minutes (in its unrated reduce, presented here on the Blu-Ray as the major feature). Although Kosugi fans do get to see their favourite star show no mercy and yes…actually declare his enemies will…”pray for death,” the journey to all these hokey shenanigans is preceded by a painful road of bad cliches in a poorly paced, anorexic narrative. The film hammers residence the point that Akira loves his household in the initial act an unnecessary amount, nearly as much as they establish Limehouse Willie and his crew are genuine heels. The film also takes on an increasingly sinister and sadistic tone in the violence perpetrated against Akira and his family members there’s a reasonably non-explicit but nonetheless disturbing rape scene that feels like comprehensive overkill and added solely for shock value (I am not positive if this is one particular of the additions of the unrated cut) that sours the mood going into what ought to some visceral, corny ninja action.

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Kosugi is not significantly of a major man emoting and playing the loved ones man, even so, after he does don his qutie magnificent ninja outfit and rain retribution on dozens of hapless mob goons, his athleticism and martial arts prowess command the screen. It’s a reminder of how practical stunts and skilled performers can make the most cheaply shot action sequence worth watching not just when, but several instances. The film’s action sequences do lack a normal level of bloody mayhem (there is some clear inserts that have been likely excised in the R-rated reduce) and at occasions, the action cinematography, undermines Kosugi’s physical efforts. Still, “Pray for Death” works moderately nicely as a various spin on the common 80s ninja entry.

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As the disc sent to me for assessment was not the final street product, I cannot make an objective, accurate assessment of the video good quality. Ought to a retail copy be offered, this section will be updated accordingly.

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As the disc sent to me for overview was not the final street solution, I can’t make an objective, precise assessment of the audio good quality. Must a retail copy be provided, this section will be updated accordingly.

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In addition to the principal feature, an R-Rated edit of the film is integrated. The extras largely consist of two interviews with star Sho Kosugi, a single of which is centered around the film’s debut.

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“Pray for Death” does not genuinely hold a candle to Kosugi’s earlier efforts it tends to make an earnest work at getting a little more than just a martial arts spectacle, but is undermined by a poorly crafted script, inconsistent tone, and generally faulty acting. Kosugi fans and ninja aficionados (I’d think about these groups are 1 and the identical), will absolutely want to check this 1 out, all other folks proceed with caution. Rent It.


What Do You Believe?&#13

Blu-Ray Reviews

Death by Hanging (1968) (Blu-ray) Criterion Collection

Judge Clark Douglas is opting for death by chocolate.

“A dream seems genuine, reality appears a dream.”

Nagisa Oshima’s 1968 film Death by Hanging opens by noting that 71% of the Japanese population supports capital punishment. “But how numerous of you have noticed an execution?” the film asks. We then watch as the film gives a grim documentary-style appear at the execution process. Brief meetings are carried out, prayers are presented, final rites are performed and the prisoner—a man known only as R (Do-yun Yu)—is blindfolded. The prisoner is led into a room, where he is placed directly above a trap door and a noose is place about his neck. The order is given, the trap door opens, the prisoner falls. It really is bleak stuff, and we brace ourselves for an intense, unforgiving message film (which certainly seems like a decent possibility given Oshima’s filmography).

Ah, but the film has a curveball in shop for us: R is not dead but. Following twenty minutes of swinging from a rope, he’s unconscious but nevertheless breathing. The males responsible for conducting the execution begin to panic. Did they do anything wrong? What’s the protocol here? Do they preserve waiting? Do they begin the complete method more than again? Eventually, they decide that the ideal course of action is to take R down and revive him. As soon as they do so, they are dismayed to learn that R has no memories of the crimes he’s committed. A priest (Toshiro Ishido) offers a theory: “His soul has left his physique.” It really is against the law to execute a man who isn’t in mentally sound condition, so the assorted officials overseeing things should find a way to support R don’t forget what he’s accomplished. Following some debate, they conclude that the best way to do this is to stage elaborate re-enactments of the crimes R committed.

In the blink of an eye, Death by Hanging transforms into a surprisingly hysterical black comedy, as a host of stuffy government officials and prison staff join forces in an try to support R recover so they can take another shot at killing him. It is virtually tough to believe that the film’s ominous opening scenes exist in the exact same movie as the scenes in which dignified men recreate scenes from R’s life as outlandish bits of improv comedy. Lacking any genuine understanding of the pondering that led to R raping and murdering folks, the men offer you crude guesses about his motivation in the kind of farcical performances. The film descends rapidly into gleeful madness, as well-respected public officials enthusiastically hump every other while frantically seeking at R and bellowing, “Don’t forget undertaking this?”

This is undeniably ridiculous (and undeniably funny) stuff, but it’s far more purposeful than it appears. Oshima begins the film by demonstrating what significant, weighty company an execution is, but then moves on to reminding us that the folks in charge of conducting it are ultimately just flawed, ordinary human beings who possibly aren’t actually capable of regularly demonstrating the wisdom and discernment such an intense action requires. The film does not attempt to make the case that R may possibly really be innocent—there’s plenty of evidence to the contrary—but as an alternative finds an off-center way to make the case that we are not capable of handling this significantly responsibility. In addition, the film blurs the lines among the condemned and those condemning him: in the chaos of the desperate theatrical functionality, the “innocent” males have a tendency to reveal their personal dark fantasies.

Even though the death penalty is the film’s most prominent (and most relevant) theme, the film also digs into the racial tensions of ’60s Japan. R is a Korean man, and as such is regarded as a secondary citizen by many of the Japanese-born folks charged with assisting in his execution method. Throughout some of the “re-enactment” scenes, some of the Japanese men encourage every single other to dumb their performances down: “Act more like a Korean!” Meanwhile, R begins to look increasingly respectable—even noble—in contrast to the crass, cartoonish ugliness of the “racially superior” males who appear down on him.

There’s a demented brilliance to a relatively massive chunk of Death by Hanging, but as the film gets closer to the finish line, it begins to sacrifice its deft satirical touch in favor of much more heavy-handed (and significantly much less powerful) sermonizing. Maybe fearing that the audience won’t completely grasp the suggestions it pushes through comedy, the film chooses to push them once more in the form of earnest speeches. The film’s moral opposition to the death penalty is a position I come about to agree with, but the film does not offer you a particularly nuanced version of the argument: “Isn’t killing incorrect even when you are killing a killer?” The film concludes the way it started, receding into grim sincerity and pointing a finger at the less enlightened members of the audience. This is a bold, special, challenging film with a conventional aftertaste.

Death by Hanging (Blu-ray) serves up an superb 1080p/1.85:1 transfer. The black-and-white imagery is crisp and clean throughout, and depth is strong. There are quite few scratches or flecks present, and the level of detail is exceptional. The film’s all-natural grain structure has been left intact. The LPCM 1. Mono score is on the simple side (this is a dialogue-driven affair), but there’s no crackling or hissing to contend with. Almost everything sounds sharp. Supplements include an interview with critic Tony Rayns (31 minutes), the Oshima-directed quick film “Diary of Yunbogi” (25 minutes), a trailer and a leaflet featuring an essay by Howard Hampton.

Death by Hanging could drop some of its energy in the closing stretch, but don’t let that preserve you from checking it out. Criterion’s Blu-ray release is solid.

DVD Verdict