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Blindspotting from Lionsgate

Bold new movie BLINDSPOTTING was the film festival hit of 2018. A refreshing take on friendship and tension on the streets BLINDSPOTTING will be out to download and own on DVD and Blu-ray in the new year from Lionsgate.  Collin (Daveed Diggs), a parolee facing his final three days of probation, needs to stay clear of trouble. Miles (Rafael Casal), Collin’s hot-tempered best friend, can’t stay out of it. When Collin witnesses a police shooting outside of his curfew the two men’s friendship is tested, sending Collin and Miles on a collision course with each other in this thought-provoking film that bursts with energy, style and humour. Written by the actors Diggs and Casal and also starring Janina Gavankar (True Blood, Sleepy Hollow) this surprising film will open your eyes.

Arrow Noirvember Sale to include The Glass Key

Barry Forshaw writes: Arrow’s tempting ‘Noirvember’ sale includes the Film Noir classic The Glass Key (starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, from the Dashiell Hammett novel) — which includes a commentary by this writer!

MARVEL STUDIOS RELEASE “ANT-MAN AND THE WASP”

 

 

Marvel Studios are issuing Ant-Man and the Wasp in digital (November) and Blu-Ray (December) format. Exclusive extras include an up-close look at the making of the film, the tiniest Super Heroes in the world’s biggest film franchise, commentary, deleted scenes and more. Moviegoers are still buzzing about Marvel Studios’ “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” the follow-up to 2015’s “Ant-Man” and the 20th consecutive Marvel Cinematic Universe film to debut at No. 1 opening weekend and ranked in the box office top 10 for six consecutive weeks this summer. On Nov 25, fans can instantly watch the laugh-out-loud super hero adventure Digitally in HD; and on Dec. 3, take it home on 3D Blu-ray™, Blu-ray™ and DVD.

Widescreen Epics and a young Helen Mirren

KHARTOUM, Basil Dearden, director/Eureka Entertainment  While notions of political correctness may mean that we’ll never see an actor such as Laurence Olivier playing an Arabian character again (or, for that matter, a white actor playing Othello — as Olivier memorably did), here is a perfect chance to enjoy once again this neglected epic in which not only is Olivier utterly splendid as the ruthless leader The Mahdi, but Charlton Heston (as his opponent General Gordon) more than manages to hold his own against his own acting hero. What’s more, Basil Dearden, a director with films of distinctly varying levels of achievement to his name, shows that he is more than a measure for this kind of historical storytelling and keeps the relationships between the antagonists in perfect balance. This impressive historical epic is part of the Eureka Classics range in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition. The film’s forceful examination of British colonialism, religious fanaticism and the nature of heroism has not dated. The narrative describes the slaughter of British-led Egyptian troops by the forces of Arabic leader Muhammad Ahmad (Olivier), who considers himself to be the Mahdi, Mohammed’s elected fighter against Anglo-Egyptian rule. Khartoum was the final film to be shot using Ultra Panavision 70 (and screened theatrically in Cinerama) until Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight in 2015.

YANKS, John Schlesinger, director/Eureka Entertainment   While there were admirers at the time of its initial release for John Schlesinger’s Yanks, the general response to the film was underwhelming – even though the director made it known that it was a particular favourite of his among his own work. This impressive new Blu-ray allows us to reassess the film and it’s clear that Schlesinger’s positive take on it was justified. What strikes one now about the film is its perfectly judged understatement, allowing the film (and the expertly directed cast) to make their points without undue emphasis. A saga of love during WWII, Yanks stars Richard Gere and Vanessa Redgrave, and is a wartime-set drama that eschews scenes of battle to deal with the affairs between the stationed U.S. soldiers and the locals in a small town in Northern England in the 1944 period before the Normandy landings. Time for fresh look at a powerful (and underrated) piece of work.

Forthcoming Italian Suspense from Arrow FilmsThe enterprising types at Arrow Films continue to cherrypick some of the most intriguing of genre cinema, frequently straying away from the well-worn paths is to bring to our attention material which is not only neglected, but which may even be unknown to all but the most committed cinéastes. What’s more, the razor-sharp quality of the transfers (not to mention the copious and well-curated extras) make for some particularly tempting packages. So tempting, in fact, that the extras may push punters into buying mode, even if they are undecided as to whether or not to stump up for one of the films from the Arrow catalogue. A striking example may be found in the company’s forthcoming titles with Italian thriller The Fifth Cord, one of the many gialli that followed in the wake of the acclaim for Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. The film will be new to many admirers of the giallo genre, but director Luigi Bazzano is noted for his quirky sensibility and astute direction of actors. What’s more, the presence of the cult actor Franco Nero as an alcoholic journalist on the trail of brutal killer will guarantee interest. Admirers of Arrow’s catalogue, will have to be a little patient for this one – it’s due early 2019.

NEW FROM POWERHOUSE INDICATOR: CHARLIE BUBBLES, AGE OF CONSENT, GEORGY GIRL, THE WRONG BOX, Various directors/Powerhouse Indicator  An admirable sprucing up for some choice films that are now slightly neglected from a company which specialises in presenting vintage fare in spectacular new Blu-ray editions. This impressive December batch includes three really interesting items: Albert Finney’s exceptional debut as a director, the comedy drama Charlie Bubbles (with Finney himself in the title role as a Northern novelist in search of his roots, plus a scene-stealing performance as his secretary by Liza Minelli); one of the last films directed by the great Michael Powell, Age of Consent, with James Mason as exemplary as ever as a painter besotted by a beguiling young Helen Mirren (playing her part mostly nude — the film is a salutary reminder of an era before the new prudery), and the delightful Georgy Girl with Lynn Redgrave giving a career-best performance (not to mention, once again, the always reliable James Mason). If one of the films in this Powerhouse Indicator batch is something of a misfire, it still has great interest for its remarkable cast. Bryan Forbes’ The Wrong Box (based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s original tale) is a period-set piece with Michael Caine and (inevitably) Forbes’ wife Nanette Newman as the juve leads, with a stellar supporting cast including Ralph Richardson, John Mills, Peter Sellers and an underused Tony Hancock. Interestingly, the film is stolen by the always wonderful alcoholic actor Wilfrid Lawson, whose natural befuddled state is perfect for the eternally confused butler that he plays. Once again, with this varied quartet, Powerhouse Indicator has put lovers of British film in their debt.

WHEN A STRANGER CALLS, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS BACK, Fred Walton, director/Second Sight The tense When A Stranger was a particular favourite at the time of its original VHS release, even though the film did not share the gruesomeness of many of its competitors in the thriller stakes of the time. But in fact, the film’s reputation as belonging to the slasher genre is misplaced – this is, if anything, a steady slow-burning police procedural about the tracking of a psychopathic killer by a dogged, unglamorous detective (played by the corpulent but memorable Charles Durning). The film gets its first UK Blu-ray release alongside (on the same disc) its sequel When A Stranger Calls Back. A babysitter is terrorised by a psychopathic killer in Fred Walton’s suspenseful piece (The film opens with the babysitter receiving a chilling phone call from a killer – a scene that has often been copied, and provided the inspiration for the first scene in Wes Craven’s Scream). The disc also features the original, rarely seen, short film that was the genesis of the feature film, The Sitter newly restored, along with brand new interviews demonstrating how time has wrought changes on the actors.

BLOOD, various directors/Acorn Media International  With Adrian Dunbar as impressive as usual in a dark crime drama, Blood is a series that acquired something of following on its Channel 5 showing, but certainly deserves more exposure. A young woman, estranged from her family in rural Ireland, returns home after the sudden apparently accidental death of her mother. This new DVD from Acorn retains the format of the original six-part drama, and is a solidly acted and compelling piece of work.

 

The Dark Masters Trilogy by Stephen Volk

For aficionados of the macabre, this is industrial-strength catnip — a truly beguiling trilogy of novellas by a writer who has long been a master of the genre. What’s more, the sequence of three books — as well as functioning as atmospheric pieces in their own right — also serve as affectionate tributes from Stephen Volk to three British masters of the art of chilling the blood: Netherwood creates an adventure for the now-neglected black magic novelist Dennis Wheatley, while Whitstable is set in the town of the actor Peter Cushing, and Leytonstone is where Britain’s greatest film director, Alfred Hitchcock, grew up.

As a writer with a penchant for the uncanny, Volk’s considerable skills have occasionally been utilised in re-energising notions initially created by other hands, and finding new and fascinating territory to explore in previously explored paths (it’s a welcome and serendipitous predilection that the writer shares with Kim Newman, with whom Volk collaborated – along with other writers — on the portmanteau horror play The Hallowe’en Sessions, directed by Sean Hogan). Whitstable is a quirky novella that explores two of Volk’s favourite subjects, the great British Hammer Films and the latter’s most reliable actor, the late Peter Cushing (the title refers to the actor’s much-loved seaside home). The conceit here is to place the actor’s screen personality in a contemporary setting where the kind of supernatural evil he routinely battled is given a modern equivalent. The book works both as a tip of the hat to one of the British screen’s most imperishable icons and as a piece of utterly engrossing narrative of the kind that we customarily expect from this writer.

After his ingenious and winning homage to Peter Cushing, Volk turns his attentions to another much-esteemed Englishman who specialised in menace, the filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. Throughout his lengthy career in Hollywood, Hitchcock assiduously maintained his English identity, formed in the streets of his native Leytonstone — and it is this period in which Volk sets his elegantly written, always fascinating narrative. The author is one of the most ingenious practitioners of the horrific at work today, but this new speciality — inventing well-crafted narratives concocted around familiar British figures in the film world – has proving to be one of his most rewarding areas yet. This one is a piece to relish – even if you’re not an Alfred Hitchcock aficionado (although that certainly helps). The Dennis Wheatley section is equally winning in its off-kilter fashion, and admirers of all three subjects need not hesitate.

The Dark Masters Trilogy by Stephen Volk is published by PS Publishing

 

A Definitive Night of the Demon from Powerhouse

Night of the Demon, Jacques Tourneur, director/Powerhouse Indicator Blu-Ray box set   In a deluxe Blu-ray package with copious extras, Powerhouse Indicator have given us the definitive version of Jacques Tourneur’s Night of the Demon (1957), the finest supernatural film ever made in the United Kingdom. There is a debate that rages about the film to this day – even among those who would place the film securely in the pantheon. The famous image of the gigantic eponymous demon itself (much reproduced, as here) has made it well known even to those who have never seen the film: a hideous bestial visage with flaring nostrils, horns, pointed ears and basilisk eyes, open maw crammed with vicious fangs. And this monstrosity was a problem – not just for the critical establishment (who saw it as an emblematic, debased example of a certain kind of popular culture), but for the auteur director on whose film this iconically unpleasant image was imposed (and who was keen to keep his film’s supernatural manifestations off-screen). The film’s producer Hal Chester was certainly no Val Lewton in terms of taste and influence (Chester was undoubtedly closer to such fairground hucksters as Herman Cohen, of Horrors of the Black Museum fame), but the director’s loathing of the tampering he felt that Chester subjected the film to needs to be examined (and certainly not taken at face value). Tourneur was wrong (as this discussion will attempt to prove) to suggest that his producer’s crassness in adding explicit shots of the gigantic, horned demon discussed above (that the director was reluctant to show) had ruined his film. Traditionally, the serious press (both in broadsheets and magazines) has treated films utilising Gothic horror themes with an aloof combination of derision and distaste. The critical climate has changed recently (with more iconoclastic writers casting their nets wider than the standard literary or filmic canon), and become less allergic to genre. It might be said that there is a more serious attempt to examine such subjects on their own merits – even though there is still a basic assumption that this material is automatically suspect and has to establish its worth in a way that more respectable subjects are not obliged to do. The heavyweight literary antecedents cut no ice here, as it is considered that the popular cinema has often cheapened and tarnished such legacies. The corollary of this is the fact that the ‘quality’ bar for genre product is set much higher, and horror films, which may offer considerable rewards but are still perceived as endemically-flawed works, invariably judged from a jaundiced viewpoint. This negative perception kicks in before any secondary attempt is made to perceive the virtues of such films – and it frequently occasions a simple dismissal of the Gothic as a now-debased genre. Certainly many horror films which appeared as a corollary of Britain’s long fascination with the macabre are obliged to suffer from a variety of compromises (mostly because of commercial imperatives), even though the actual level of accomplishment is often considerably greater than that of more mainstream establishment fare. A good example of this qualified response is that accorded to the film which is generally considered to be the gold standard for supernatural work ever made in the UK (and the one referenced in the paragraph above), Jacques Tourneur’s astonishing Night of the Demon (1957). As a work of art, it undoubtedly has its flaws – and many viewers (even admirers of the film) might consider the imported American actor Dana Andrews to be one of these. But a lively defence might be made of his work in Tourneur’s adaptation of MR James’ story ‘The Casting of the Runes’. Film aficionados might be aware of the actor’s well-known alcoholism, fully developed by 1957, which often compromised his work and dulled the sharp edge that his performances had sported in his younger days (notably as the obsessed detective in Otto Preminger’s definitive film noir Laura (1944)), but such problems are not really evident in his performance in the Tourneur film. Admittedly, it is hard to accept him in the profession he is given the film – the academic Dr John Holden – as the actor was far more at ease playing tough guy heroes or no-nonsense reporters. But Andrews is always professional (if limited), and fulfils the function that is required of him in the film (not least being an American name utilised in order to sell a British film such as is the United States, where it was re-titled Curse of the Demon) and the virtues of the film lie elsewhere than in its slightly dull hero. There are so many aspects of Night of the Demon which are simply nonpareil (not least the most fully-rounded, nuanced villain in any British horror film) that its cult status is unchallenged – and Tourneur, very much a genre filmmaker, is undoubtedly a better director than many contemporaries who specialised in more ostensibly serious subjects. The director (the son of celebrated filmmaker Maurice Tourneur) had made his mark in the subtle, intelligent supernatural films produced by the urbane and civilised Val Lewton in the 1940s, and Tourneur’s oblique and subtle approach to eldritch subjects chimed with his producer in such poetic pieces as Cat People (1942) and, a year later, I Walked with a Zombie; the famous description of the latter film as ‘Jane Eyre in the West Indies’ is not a wry dismissal (as it might sound) but the suggestion of the level of ambition for producer and director.

Made a decade or so later in Britain, Night of the Demon is a valedictory work for the director in the Gothic genre, and one wonders if he was aware of this fact that he would not work in this field again. Certainly, this would account for the rigorous effort on his part to make this his Magnum opus and fill it with every facet of his considerable skills. In this endeavour, he accomplished his goal triumphantly. Even though he regarded the film as irredeemably compromised the unique status of the film is assured.

LUCKY, John Carroll Lynch, director/ Eureka Blu-ray  For the modern viewer, it’s fascinating to catch early glimpses of one of America’s great screen character actors, Harry Dean Stanton, in his first films. But now we can see what is, sadly, his swansong – and thankfully it’s an excellent grace note on which to end a distinguished career. John Carroll Lynch’s well crafted film (his debut) follows the journey of the curmudgeonly title character who has somehow outlived all his contemporaries but finds himself obliged to come to an accomodation with the life he’s lived. Stanton, as throughout his career, is matchless in this final curtain call role.