Universal Pictures’ ‘Black Angel’ Is One Of Hollywood’s Most Underrated Film Noir Flicks

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group will resurrect Universal Pictures’ little-known 1946 film noir flick Black Angel later this month.  The movie, starring Peter Lorre (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Maltese Falcon, Arsenic & Old Lace), June Vincent (The Creeper, Shed No Tears, Can’t Help Singing) and Dan Duryea (The Flight of the Phoenix, Scarlet Street, Too Late For Tears) is scheduled for release January 28 on Blu-ray.  The movie’s central story proves that while it might not have been among the genre’s most well-known features in its initial debut, is still a work that every noir fan will appreciate.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s home release adds even more appeal to its presentation.  That combined primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point money well-spent by any classic movie buff and film noir aficionado.  Keeping all of this in mind, Arrow Video’s forthcoming reissue of Black Angel proves itself a presentation that is a must have for all of the noted viewers.

Movies today just are not what they were during Hollywood’s golden era.  Hollywood (and even so many independent studios) rely entirely too much on sex, violence and special effects than on anything with any real substantive content.   Thankfully, Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group are going to give audiences another alternative to all of that excess later this month when they reissue Universal Pictures’ 1948 noir flick Black Angel.  This movie is a work that classic film buffs and noir aficionados alike will welcome openly.  That is due in part to its story, which abounds in content.  The story, based on the novel by author Cornell Woolrich, centers on the murder of the fictional singer Mavis Marlowe and the search for her killer.  The man accused of her murder Kirk Bennett (John Phillips – 7 Men From Now, Heldorado, John Paul Jones) is accused of taking her life and is sentenced to death for the crime.  However, Kirk’s wife Catherine (played by Vincent) doesn’t believe her cheating husband is guilty, so she works with Marlowe’s estranged husband Martin Blair (Duryea) to prove Kirk’s innocence and save him from the gas chamber.  Female viewers especially will appreciate the story because as Martin and Catherine work to prove Kirk’s innocence, Kirk finds himself falling for Catherine, but she never gives into his charms, staying loyal (ironically) to her husband who himself had cheated on her with Mavis.  In the end, Kirk is proven innocent.  How he is saved will not be revealed here.  That will be saved for audiences to discover on their own.  During the course of the story, Roy Chanslor, who adapted Woolrich’s story for the screen, manages to keep viewers engaged and entertained as Catherine and Martin go undercover at a night club to investigate the crime.  He [Chanslor] does a good job with the use of his red herring in the investigation.  Viewers will agree that element adds even more enjoyment to the story since it does throw a bit of a proverbial wrench in the works.  As a matter of fact, it will leave eagle-eyed viewers to go back and recall a certain subtle element from earlier in the story that helps determine the identity of the true killer.  By the story’s end, audiences will know that they have taken in a story that even despite its changes from its literary source material (which is discussed in the movie’s bonus content), is still an enjoyable story in itself.

The story at the center of Black Angel does a lot to make it an enjoyable presentation for classic movie buffs and film noir aficionados.  It is just one part of what makes the movie’s forthcoming home release so appealing.  The bonus content included with the story builds on the foundation formed by the story to make the movie’s presentation even more appealing.  One of the bonuses featured with the movie’s reissue is a retrospective on the movie by film historian Neil Sinyard.  Sinyard has provided commentary for other reissues from Arrow Films and Arrow Academy.  He points out in this presentation’s commentary, Woolrich actually was not fond of Chanslor’s adaptation of his novel.  Maybe that is because of the changes that Chanslor made as he wrote the story’s screenplay.  This will be discussed a little more in-depth shortly.  Sinyard also makes note of the fact that Woolrich’s biographer ironically did like the movie.  Sinyard points out the reason for this was that it ‘caught something essentially about Woolrich’s personality both personal and artistic.”  The discussion on Black Angel as a possible reflection on Woolrich’s personality is just one of the interesting notes that Sinyard brings up in his roughly 20-minute retrospective.  He also goes into a discussion on the movie’s casting, noting that by the time that the movie came along, Duryea was already a very well-known actor, having played villains (or heavies as they are also known) in a number of films prior to this work.  Sinyard points out that Duryea is actually a presentation of Woorich himself, and that added to the reason for Woolrich’s biographer appreciating the adaptation.  Along with the note of Duryea and his possible connection to Woolrich, Sinyard also shares a funny anecdote about supporting actor Broderick Crawford (All The King’s Men, A Night Before Christmas, Born Yesterday), who portrays in this movie, Police Captain Flood.  He tells the story of an alleged run-in between Crawford, who also had a history of playing bad guys in cinema prior to this flick, and the late, great Frank Sinatra.  The story that Sinyard shares involves Crawford allegedly getting into an altercation with Sinatra and doing something peculiar with Sinatra’s toupee.  Lorre is also addressed by Sinyard, albeit briefly.  He jokes about not knowing how Lorre could deliver his lines while having a cigarette “dangling from his bottom lip.”  That in itself will bring its own share of laughs from viewiers.  Sinyard also addresses the movie’s soundtrack and its role in the story as well as director Roy William Neill, stressing Black Angel was actually Neill’s final film before his death.  He applauds (and rightfully so) Neill’s work behind the lens, citing specific examples for his praise of Neill in the process.

Writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode (pronounced roadie) adds even more enjoyment to the movie with his feature-length commentary.  Right off the bat, Rode does actually get one fact wrong, noting that Catherine is trying to save her husband from the electric chair.  It is clearly pointed out during the story that he faces the gas chamber, not the electric chair, but he [Rode] can be forgiven for this misstep.  It is the only item that is misspoken through the course of the movie.  Rode expands on Sinyard’s commentary, noting that Duryea was paid as an outsider for his part in this movie since she was not a contract actor for Universal Pictures.  At another point, Rode points out that Vincent was not the first choice for the role of Catherine.  In fact, Ava Gardner was the initial choice for the role, he points out.  Rode also points out that Duryea actually played the piano in this movie, rather than just playing against a tape.  He points out that Duryea learned five songs so that he could actually perform them here.  This is important in that it added to the story’s believability.  Along the same line, the song ‘Heartbreak’ was sung by Vincent.  This adds even more to the story, both for its irony and the realism.  An extensive background history of Neill is also presented by Rode during his commentary, including his earliest days.  Rode points out that Woolrich’s original book was told from a first-hand perspective from Catherine and that there were four characters included in the book that were omitted in the screenplay adaptation.  Maybe that played into Woolrich’s dislike of how his book was translated to the screen.  Rode also points out the fact that Duryea was completely different off screen than his characters.  He notes that some women were such fans of Duryea’s characters that despite those characters’ despicable nature, his female fans liked that aspect.  He states that Duryea was so concerned by the fan letters that he took them to a psychiatrist friend of his and asked what to do.  Rode adds in, he was so concerned about the reaction of his fans to his characters that he and his wife went over the top in every day life to make sure people knew the characters he played were just that.  This shows that crazy fans today are nothing new.  Everything noted here is discussed within the first half hour of Black Angel’s 80-minute run time.  The rest of the movie offers audience just as much, if not more, commentary to appreciate.  That includes a funny recollection of an off-screen interaction between Lorre and another actor in a movie and how it led to a bit of a scuffle in the movie in question.  When all of this is considered alongside Sinyard’s retrospective, the whole of the bonus content proves to be more than worth the watch.  It adds so much to the movie’s overall presentation and makes the movie’s average price point that much more worth paying.

The average price point of Black Angel is $32.20.  That price was reached by averaging listings at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-A-Million and MVD Entertainment Group’s store.  Considering that the movie’s reissue this time out is being handled by a British company, that makes it an import.  So to that end, that price is right about on par with most imports.  Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers each have listings below that average point.  Their listings do not even break the $30 mark as a matter of fact.  Walmart ($33.09), Books-A-Million $39.95) and MVD Entertainment Group (also $39.95) all break that average.  Again, audiences should keep in mind that this reissue is an import, so all of the prices are in line with most DVD and BD import prices.  Regardless of which retailer one chooses, the money paid is worth it considering everything that this presentation offers audiences.  Add in the general rarity of the movie’s release, it makes the price, which will not break anyone’s bank, that much more appealing.  Keeping this in mind along with the content, the whole of Black Angel becomes a presentation that lovers of classic film and especially film noir will enjoy.  It is also another example of why Arrow Films/Arrow Academy and MVD Entertainment Group are quickly becoming some of the leading names in home entertainment.

More information on Black Angel and other titles from Arrow Films is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

 

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Walt Disney Studios’ ‘Maleficent’ Sequel Saved By Its Visual Effects

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios

Walt Disney Studios’ latest entry in its Maleficent movie franchise Tuesday.  The property’s second (and hopefully last) entry in the property, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, is a visually impressive work.  This is the most notable reason for audiences to view the movie.  While the movie’s visual effects are impressive, the movie’s story does quite a bit to detract from its overall presentation, sadly.  The bonus content adds a little (and only a little) appeal to the presentation of the movie’s home release and is worth at least one watch, too.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the whole of the movie in its home release.  All things considered, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil falls just as short of expectations as its predecessor.

Walt Disney Studios’ Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a work that is worth at least one watch, but sadly little more than that.  It is not a total loss.  That is due in large part to its visual effects.  The special effects and visuals in general make the movie the proverbial “feast for the eyes.”  The rich, lush landscapes that are presented throughout the movie, and their bright colors give this otherwise brooding story a mood that will, in itself, ensure viewers’ engagement if not entertainment.    Even the scenes involving the dungeon laboratory have their own brightness so as to not make those scenes too foreboding for audiences.  Add to that the fact that many of the special effects used throughout were handled expertly.  It is known that the effects in question were computer generated.  However, even with that in mind, there was a certain balance in the live action and computer generated elements. That attention to detail made a moment such as the movie’s epic final battle fully engaging. It makes suspension of disbelief easier.  Even in a moment, such as when Maleficent is in the cave with the other Fae, there are clearly some CG elements set along with the live action elements.  Again, attention to detail here blurred the line between the computer and live action.  Even in the moment when Maleficent is making her way across the river, the creation of the bridge is clearly computer generated, but it never looks so computer generated that it looks cheesy.  Those behind the movie’s visual effects are to be commended for that attention to detail.  This is just one more of many examples of what makes the movie’s visual effects noteworthy.  All things considered, the visual effects overall go a long way toward making Maleficent: Mistress of Evil worth at least one watch.

While the visual effects featured in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil do their own share to make the movie worth at least one watch, the movie’s story detracts just as much from the movie’s presentation.  The story this time out finds Maleficent going toe –to-toe with an evil queen instead of an evil king.  This time the evil ruler happens to be the mother of Princess Aurora’s love interest, King Philip.  Right off the bat, the story is contrived.  Audiences are presented with two women who hate each other and are completely against their children marrying.  Of course with that in mind, the two mothers maintain a certain hatred towards one another.  Who hasn’t seen this plot line done dozens of times already in other movies from other studios?  It doesn’t take long for things to take a new course from there, with the evil queen (Ingrith) – Michelle Pfeiffer (Batman Returns, Dangerous Minds, What Lies Beneath) – tries to frame Maleficent for the attempted murder of her (Ingrith’s) own husband.  As it is later revealed by Ingrith in her monologue (yes, there is even a standard bad guy monologue here even though it’s not a superhero movie), she just has a deep seated hatred of the fae and all of the creatures of the moors.  It doesn’t take long for the story to take on a decidedly overly activist statement at this point.  Maleficent and the creatures of the moor essentially take on the underdog role – the victims – while Ingrith represents the evil imperialist ruler.  The underdog creatures take on the evil imperialists and end up winning.  Yes, the wedding between Aurora and Philip takes place in the end, and Maleficent even comes to terms with the fact that Aurora has grown up and become her own person.  While the story does have its happy ending, the original story of Sleeping Beauty certainly did not imagine any of what was in this story or even its predecessor.  What’s more, there were so many moments when unnecessary dialoguing could have been ended with immediate action by Aurora and/or Maleficent.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  At least in the final battle scene, there wasn’t a bunch of unnecessary monologuing.  Rather, those behind the lens allowed the action to do the talking.  To that end, at least there was that for the story.  Other than that element, the seeming social statement about the indigenous people taking on the imperialist invaders (which has been done how many times throughout Hollywood’s history?) and the element of the two queens fighting over their children marrying proves anything but original.  Rather, it makes the movie’s story quite boring and unoriginal.  Keeping that in mind, it becomes clear how this movie’s story detracts from its presentation and just how much it does just that.

The damage that Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’s story does to its presentation is fully evident from start to end.  It is undeniable.  Even with that in mind, it is not the last of the elements that is worth addressing.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s home release plays into its presentation, too.  It makes up – though only slightly at best – for the problems caused by the movie’s extremely porous story.  Audiences will enjoy the very brief behind-the-scenes look at how star Angelina Jolie’s flight scenes were created sing CG technology.  The extended scenes, of which there are only two, do create at least a slight appreciation for the content that was not featured in the movie’s final cut.  It is clear in watching those scenes that they were justifiably removed.  The scene in which Philip and Aurora dance prior to the dinner adds nothing to the overall story.  All it does is show another way in which the queen is trying to control everything.  The moment when the queen “comforts” Aurora and decides to approve of the wedding does just as little as the dance sequence to add to the story.  All audiences get is another view of the queen’s controlling nature and her distaste for Aurora.  To that end, it is clear why these two scenes were cut from the final product.

The bonus “Origins of the Fey” doesn’t actually explain the Fey’s origins, ironically.  Jolie talks about the Fey that inhabit the different parts of the world, but does not actually explain their origins.  All she does is explain that they exist everywhere in that magical world.  On a side note, the story never explains away why all the Fey stayed hidden and allowed Maleficent to get shot early on, nor does it explain the full link between her and the Phoenix.  Getting back on track, that brief extra actually does more bad than good as a bonus, keeping all of this in mind.

The movie’s bonus VFX Reel takes audiences behind the scenes of hwo the movie’s visual effect were created.  On the surface, this seems like something positive.  The reality though, is that the bonus is in fact extremely brief.  All it does is use a wipe effect to show how the scenes were shot against blue screens and the final product of that shooting.  Yes, there are some commentaries included with that presentation, but the bonus overall lasts only perhaps two minutes at the very best.  To that end, yes it is insightful, but only slightly at best.  Between that brief bonus and the other brief extras, the bonus content overall presents a little (emphasis on little) to appreciate.  There is some positive to the bonus content, but little at best.  When it is set alongside the movie’s visual effects, the combination of the two is just enough to make this movie worth at least one watch, but little more.

Walt Disney Studios’ latest entry in its Maleficent franchise is just as much of a disappointment as its predecessor.  That is due in large part to its story, which presents plot elements that have been used countless times prior in other movies from other studios.  The multitudinous plot holes that pock mark the story make it even more problematic.  Thankfully for all of the damage that the story does to Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, its visual effects and its bonus content combine to make it worth at least one watch.  All things considered, one can only hope that Walt Disney Studios will let this franchise die mercifully, and make it the last of the property’s entries.  More information on Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://movies.disney.com/malefficent-mistress-of-evil

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DisneyMaleficent

Twitter: http://twitter.com/Maleficent

 

 

 

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Arrow Video Announces Release Date For ‘Black Angel’ BD Re-Issue

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video will resurrect Universal Pictures’ 1946 crime noir flick Black Angel later this month.

The movie, starring Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon20,000 Leagues Below The SeaArsenic & Old Lace), June Vincent (The CreeperShed No TearsCan’t Help Singing) and Dan Duryea (The Flight of the PhoenixScarlet StreetToo Late For Tears), is scheduled for release Jan. 28 on Blu-ray.  It focuses on the death of singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling — Boston Blackie and the LawBlind SpotKnickerbocker Holiday) and the search for her killer.

Kirk Bennett (John Phillips — 7 Men From NowHeldoradoJohn Paul Jones) is convicted in Marlowe’s death, even though he is innocent. Knowing Bennett is innocent, Martin Blair (Duryea) joins Bennett’s wife Catherine (Vincent) and shady nightclub owner Marko (Lorre) to prove Bennett’s innocence.

Based on the novel by author Cornell Woolrich and directed by Roy William Neill (The Scarlet ClawFrankenstein Meets The Wolf ManMurder Will Out), the movie will feature a variety of extras to add to the package.  One of those new bonuses is a new feature-length commentary from writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode.  A new retrospective by film historian Neil Sinyard is also featured as a bonus to the movie.  The first pressings will feature a collector’s booklet that features new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.  Pre-orders are open now.

Bonus Materials

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
  • A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard
  • Original trailer
  • Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available online at:

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

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CNN Films, Magnolia Pictures’ Gilda Radner Bio Is The Best Of 2019’s New Documentary Field

Courtesy: CNN Films/Magnolia Pictures

Movies based on actual events and biased news from both sides of the aisle have done so much damage to the world.  The movies based on actual events are over embellished forgettable works that tell half the story if even that.  The biased news on both sides of the aisle tells just as little as the noted movies, if not less.  To that end, one can’t help but be very thankful for all the new documentaries that are released each year.  The documentaries released this year went a long way toward making up for the problems caused by the noted news and movies, so many that there were more than enough to fit on any critic’s list of the year’s top new documentaries, but this critic tried to assemble a fitting list.

This year’s list features documentaries centered on topics, such as the history of Country Music, the Apollo 11 mission and a famed movie star.  Each documentary brings its own important and enjoyable presentation for audiences thanks to its unique content and story.  From one to the next, each proves itself fully deserving of a spot on any critic’s list of the year’s top new docs.  This critic’s list features, as with previous lists, the top 10 titles from the year as well as five honorable mention titles for a total  of 15 titles.  This list’s titles come from PBS, Cohen Media Group, Magnolia Pictures and even Shout! Factory, so they are not just from one company.  In other words, there is some diversity here.  Without any further ado, here for your consideration if Phil’s Picks 2019 Top 10 New Documentaries

 

PHIL’S PICKS 2019 TOP 10 NEW DOCUMENTARIES

  1. Love, Gilda
  2. Bad Reputation
  3. American ExperienceChasing The Moon
  4. Buster KeatonThe Great Buster
  5. Ken BurnsCountry Music
  6. 8 Daysto The Moon and Back
  7. American ExperienceSealab
  8. NeverEnding ManHayao Miyizaki
  9. NOVAApollo’s Daring Mission
  10. Sinatra in Palm SpringsThe Place He Called Home
  11. NOVALast B-24
  12. NOVAPluto & Beyond
  13. NOVAFirst Horse Warriors
  14. NatureDogs in the Land of Lions
  15. Nature: A Squirrel’s Guide To Success

 

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CMG Bringing Swedish Dramedy Home To American Audiences Next Month

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Cohen Media Group is bringing a new overseas dramedy to American audiences in 2020.

The company recently announced it will release Britt-Marie Was Here Jan. 14 on DVD and Blu-ray.  The Swedish import made its domestic theatrical debut Sept. 20.  based on the best-selling novel by author Fredrik Backman, the story follows its titular character whose 40-year marriage to her husband has just ended after she discovered his infidelity.

In making a new start for herself, Britt-Marie finds herself having to coach a youth soccer team in her hometown of Borg, Sweden.  She has no experience in coaching and no knowledge of soccer, either.  Making things even more difficult is that the team is the pride and joy of Borg.  The result is a story that is both a journey of self-discovery for Britt-Marie and a familiar fish out of water tale in one.

Award Winner Pernilla August (Star Wars Episode I and II, the Best Intentions) stars in the movie’s lead role.

American audiences will be able to take in the movie thanks to English subtitles included in the Swedish-language movie.  the movie will retail for MSRP of $19.99 (DVD) and $25.99.

More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.cohenmedia.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

 

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Galactic Empire Debuts ‘The Rise of Shredi’ Video

Galactic Empire is celebrating the alleged final chapter in the Star Wars Skywalker saga.

The band debuted the video for its Star Wars music compilation ‘The Rise of Shredi‘ Thursday.  The mashup features music taken from both of the theatrical group’s albums  Galactic Empire and its follow-up Episode II.

Courtesy: Rise Records

The completely tongue-in-cheek video for ‘The Rise of Shredi’ opens with one of the band members dressed as everyone’s favorite hated Star Wars character Jar Jar Binks walking up to the center screen, playing his guitar, before being utterly destroyed by Emperor Palpatine and a slew of other characters from the franchise.  At one point, a pair of stormtroopers tries to calm Palpatine down before he decides to run back and continue his wrath against Binks.

From there, audiences are presented with various shots of the band in full costume performing numbers, such as ‘Kylo Ren Arrives at The Battle,’ ‘The Emperor’s Theme and ‘Rey’s Theme.’  It is during ‘Rey’s Theme’ that audiences get one of the video’s biggest laughs, as a muscle-bound Kylo Ren, clad in only his helmet, tights and gloves, challenges Rey to a “shred-off” before the pair goes toe to toe in front of Palpatine.  The victor will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  There is even a spoof of NBC’s karaoke contest The Voice incorporated into that scene.

The whole thing ends with a look back at the result of the attack on Binks, with Palpatine attempting (and failing) to play guitar next to Darth Vader as Binks lays lifeless on the ground.

More information on Galactic Empire’s new video is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/galacticempireofficial

Instagramhttp://www.instagram.com/galacticempireofficial

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Release Date Announced For New ZZ Top Documentary

ZZ Top’s new documentary is coming home.

That Little Ol’ Band From Texas is scheduled for release Feb. 28, 2020 through Eagle Rock Entertainment.  The documentary follows the career of the band’s members — Dusty Hill, Frank Beard and Billy F. Gibbons — from the band’s humble beginnings to its rise to fame complete with all of the highs and lows.

As an added bonus, the story is coupled with previously unreleased live footage of the band.  Another added bonus featured in the documentary is almost 20 minutes of live footage culled from the Ham Estate Archive takes audiences back to the band’s pre-Eliminator days.

Details on the bonus performances is noted below.

Extras:
Gruene Hall Bonus Performances (18 minutes):
Shuffle In C / Fannie Mae
La Grange
Brown Sugar
Blue Jean Blues

Ham Estate Archives Bonus Performances (17 minutes):
Thunderbird
Tush
Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers
I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide
Manic Mechanic

The release of the new doc is part of the band’s ongoing celebration of its 50th anniversary.  More information on this and other titles from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/EagleRockEnt

Twitter: http://twitter.com/EagleRockNews

 

More information on the documentary is available along with all of ZZ Top’s latest news is available online now at:

 

Website: http://www.zztop.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/ZZTop

Twitter: http://twitter.com/zztop

 

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