Final Season and Complete Set of The Bridge from Arrow TV

Admirers of the mesmerising Scandinavian crime drama The Bridge (and they are legion) had been on tenterhooks waiting for the final season of this most accomplished of Nordic Noir shows. And now those who did not see the recent showing of the BAFTA-winner on BBC TWO — or those who want a permanent memento of their favourite female Scandinavian detective (The Killing’s Sarah Lund notwithstanding) — will be pleased to hear of Arrow TV’s release the DVD & Blu-ray of Saga’s final outing.

Ill-matched partners – and sometime lovers — Saga Noren and her troubled police colleague Henrik find themselves engaged in a series of a series of macabre killings that begin when a high-ranking government officer, the director general of the Immigration Service, is discovered stoned to death – the method favoured in theocracies. Do the deaths have a personal connection with the Danish police team that Henrik (still seeking his missing daughters) is part of? The fourth series cleverly plays on elements that have been introduced in earlier series, building inexorably to the final poignant scene with the damaged Saga (and if you haven’t heard about it, I promise you will not be reading about it here). But now is perhaps the perfect time for revisiting the entire series, and Arrow have obligingly also issued a box of every season, starting from the first series from 2011.

The British taste for dramatised Scandinavian crime was piqued by The Killing, and, to a large degree, the momentum of this UK enthusiasm was maintained with this later cult series. The first season of Björn Stein’s The Bridge acquired a dedicated following, not least for its infuriating but likable sociopathic heroine. The series, with one caveat, is one of the quirkiest and most intriguing entries in the field, utilising familiar themes but giving them an idiosyncratic twist. A body is discovered on the Oresund bridge between Sweden and Denmark (two bodies, in fact – in gruesome fashion, the torso and legs belong to different victims) and the ill-assorted female/male cop duo with equal jurisdiction obliged to work together on the case (one Swedish, one Danish) are wonderfully played by Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia. Helin’s eccentric Saga Norén certainly possessed the capacity to become as much of a cult figure as The Killing’s Sara Lund – though she takes the latter’s lack of interpersonal skills to almost cosmic levels, sporting a hilarious inability to relate to other human beings; in this area, she makes Lisbeth Salander looked like an agony aunt. Saga, for instance, takes Erica Jong’s conception of the ‘zipless fuck’ to hilarious levels – sex for her is an itch that simply need to be occasionally scratched, with zero emotional commitment. There are a slew of mystifying plot strands thrown up in the early episodes which will kept viewers comprehensively hooked – for instance, who was the scarred, half-dressed homeless girl who is poisoned in the second episode? Sofia Helin, an actress whose own slight facial scarring points up her own powerful appeal balance the schizophrenic elements of her character with total understanding, while Kim Bodnia – functioning as the viewer’s eyes (though which we review his eccentric partner) – does quite as well with a far less showy part. The caveat? The super-intelligent, super-ingenious villain – when finally revealed – perhaps lack the final ounce of evil charisma his character calls for.

The Bridge: Complete Season IV & The Bridge I-IV DVD & Blu-ray, various directors/Arrow TV

 

 

Death Line by Sean Hogan /Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me by Maura McHugh/Theatre of Blood by John Llewellyn Probert/Martin by Jez Winship

 

There is now a sizeable library of books about films of the macabre that could rival the wildest imaginings of a Jorge Luis Borges, with every possible tributary of the genre examined in forensic detail. There is, however, one area which is yet to be explored in such profusion: books about individual films. But a remedy is at hand – the enterprising Midnight Movie Monographs from PS Publishing are to be commended for beginning to plug this gap, commissioning volumes on some of the most intriguing examples of the genre – and, what’s more, marrying the subject films to the perfect writers to address them. All of the books listed above are treated by their authors with enthusiasm (although, of course, you would expect nothing less), but also with a clear analytical frame of mind that addresses the subject with an appreciation of context: the background to the making of the films and the degree of intelligence (or ghoulish fun in the case of Theatre of Blood) with which the films are made. The contributors are from a variety of backgrounds (the writer Maura McHugh has done intriguing work in the comics field), but all are in command of their subject movies. In fact, one of the most striking entries is written by a filmmaker who works within this very genre…

 

Recently, British horror films and younger directors have touched on different sources of evil and menace than the Gothic. It is that an index of the low esteem in which both politics and big business are held in the early 21st century that there is often a metaphorical conjoining of evil with the great and good of society; it is a recurrent theme in the hybrid horror/crime films such modern British directors as Ben Wheatley and Sean Hogan. Evil in the modern age is no longer located in foreign aristocracy or supernatural creatures — but in the pillars of the establishment. Or – how about the London underground? Sean Hogan has chosen Gary Sherman’s cult horror film Death Line – and Hogan’s taste for urban horror in his own work as filmmaker makes him the perfect fit for this study. Hogan once said to me (when I was interviewing him for my British Gothic Cinema): ‘Certainly, if you’d have asked me what I wanted to emulate when I was first setting out to make films, I would have said the 70s new wave of US horror. Those films made a massive impact on me when I was younger, and I imagine that I might have dismissed a lot of the Gothic tradition as old hat at that point. But it’s all part of the same road you end up travelling along.’ Gary Sherman, an American in London, managed to synthesise the gothic tradition with a very modern urban setting, and produced (as the study notes) an anomaly in British cinema made on the slenderest of budgets, its critique of the English class system rendering the subject very British, as does its quotidian setting: the London underground plagued by cannibalistic monsters. Hogan is the perfect guide to Death Line (and produces his own metafiction inspired by the film),

 

Maura McHugh is a writer with a pronounced taste for the bizarre and the off-kilter; her books include Twisted Myths and Twisted Fairytales, while her comics work (sometimes co-authored with Kim Newman) shows a similar predilection for the pleasingly unorthodox. All of which makes her the perfect author for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, David Lynch’s cult film continuation of his groundbreaking television series. McHugh has the full measure of the director’s surrealistic vision, and in prose that is always cogent and expressive, she executes a double task: analysing material that resists analysis and obliging readers to pick up the DVD of Lynch’s film once again. And what more should a film book do?

 

A similar degree of commitment to the films they are writing about may be found in Jez Winship’s thorough study of George Romero’s neglected modern-day vampire project Martin and John Llewellyn Probert’s celebration of the camp Vincent Price favourite Theatre of Blood, a film that functions as a parody of the genre while delivering the requisite frissons.

 

The news that Tim Lucas (whose arm-straining volume on Italian horror maestro Mario Bava is absolutely definitive) has delivered a forthcoming volume on the underrated portmanteau movie Spirits of the Dead (with its delirious Fellini episode derived from Poe) is welcome news indeed. It goes without saying that this is a series that belongs on the bookshelves of every aficionado of the macabre.

 

Death Line by Sean Hogan /Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me by Maura McHugh/Theatre of Blood by John Llewellyn Probert/Martin by Jez Winship are all published by Midnight Movie Monographs/PS Publishing

 

Tempting New Blu-Rays from Eureka, Powerhouse, Arrow, Second Run

THE OLD DARK HOUSE, James Whale, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-Ray The Old Dark House was a film that the English director of Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, James Whale, was keen to make, persuading a reluctant Universal studios that they should purchase the rights to J.B. Priestley’s then-popular novel Benighted as a project for both himself and Boris Karloff (with whom he had earlier enjoyed such conspicuous success). As I wrote in British Gothic Cinema, the film’s theme – a diverse group of travellers (including a battle-weary World War I veteran) finding themselves in a secluded house, whose inhabitants are a truly bizarre group of misfits – drew from the director some of his quirkiest work, as the endangered visitors struggle to survive a night of horrific happenings. As always with Whale, darker undercurrents are present in the film (darker, that is, than the putative narrative menace) Despite the playful, blackly comic surface of The Old Dark House, Whale was able to infuse into even a piece of uncomplicated popular entertainment such as this a noting of Priestley’s observations about the grim consequences of World War I — and even issues of personal responsibility as embodied in the film’s soldier, Penderel (played by Melvyn Douglas). Inevitably, of course, Whale is fascinated by the film’s monsters, notably the demented, fire-raising Saul (played by Brember Wills), who is kept in a locked room. Whale’s audacious transformation of the lumbering psychopathic beast that the character was in the original novel into a twitchy reigned-in little man given to endless sinister quotations from the Bible renders Saul as actually the most sinister figure in a house not short of threatening presences. Particularly significant, of course, is the characterisation of the effete, precious English actor Ernest Thesiger (subsequently to be encouraged by Whale to shamelessly steal scene after scene in The Bride of Frankenstein), and the treatment of the character here is provocative, given the director’s own sexuality. The deeply effeminate, self-deluding character played by Thesiger invites both derision and fascination on the part of the viewer — inviting speculation on the way in which the director viewed himself. Karloff’s hulking butler, however, is a largely just a satisfying bogey man, but hardly stretches the actor in the fashion in which the Frankenstein monster had for the director. Exempary extras on this Eureka issue with genre stalwarts Kim Newmn and Stephen Jones.

THE SAMUEL FULLER AT COLUMBIA BOX SET/Powerhouse Indicator Blu-ray  This collectable boxed set includes the following striking films by the maverick director Samuel Fuller: Underworld USA, It Happened in Hollywood, Adventure in Sahara, Shockproof, Scandal Sheet and The Crimson Kimono. As these titles hint, this is a box for the dedicated cineaste: I provided one of the Blu-ray extras (for the tough gangster thriller Underworld USA) and in that piece I try to nail just why this director is held in such high esteem, despite the in-your-face, unsophisticated nature of his work. In fact – as in this impactful crime movie – it’s the very lack of polish that is part of the direct appeal of Fuller’s films. which have the kinetic vitality of the best tabloid journalism (somewhat different from the debased version that now obtains in this country). A particular pleasure of this set with its splendid transfers is the opportunity to finally catch up with some genuinely neglected Fuller films, which will just be names to many aficionados. Other directors working in the same idiom such as Don Siegel may have found more nuance in these genres, but Fuller is absolutely a law unto himself.

DEATH SMILES ON A MURDERER, Aristide Massacessi, director/Arrow Blu-ray  The Italian cinema’s fascination with both the macabre and the glossy murder thriller led to a series of intriguing hybrids in which both genres were spliced together to produce a variety of results from the excellent to the meretricious. Nothing more curious than Death Smiles on a Murderer, an atmospheric and slightly surreal piece which, while directed by one of the less respected talent in the genre (Joe d’Amato, under his real name of Aristide Massacessi), it is nevertheless made with some skill, and that is particularly evident in this new 2K restoration. Set in Austria the turn of the last century, the film has an actress whose star burned very briefly, the Swede Ewa Aulin (perhaps most famous in the title role of the misfiring Candy), here playing a young woman abused by her brother. Good turns on display from some of the most individual character actors in Italy.

NO WAY OUT, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray  Provocative treatments of issues of race in the cinema are hardly a new phenomenon, as Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s powerful drama reminds us. Given that more recent black directors such as Spike Lee tackle the subject in uncompromising fashion, one might have thought that earlier attempts by white directors might be dated and/or irrelevant. What, however, is remarkable about No Way Out this how contemporary the film still seems, with the racial divisions in US society still marked. What’s more, it showcases two commanding performances by Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark that demonstrate both actors’ understated mastery of the film medium. If the dialogue does not aim for the sardonic wit which is Mankiewicz’s stock in trade, that was only one part of the writer/director’s talent. The film appears for the first time on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series in a Dual Format (Blu-ray & DVD) edition. The narrative deals with a doctor whose ethics are put to the test when he comes into conflict with a racist criminal. Dr. Luther Brooks (Poitier) is assigned to treat two prisoners, the Biddle brothers, who were shot during an attempted robbery. Ray Biddle (Widmark) refuses to be treated by the black doctor, and when his brother John dies under Luther’s care, Ray becomes consumed with vengeance. His anger and hatred ignite racial tensions within the community, and events quickly spiral out of control.

THE DEFIANT ONES, Stanley Kramer, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray  Still dealing with racial issues, another valuable issue from Eureka Entertainment utilises the theme for what is essentially an accommodation of two genre themes: the ill-matched duo who move from resentment and dislike to mutual respect, and the danger-fraught road movie. Both elements are presented in forceful terms by a narrative in classic Stanley Kramer fashion, i.e. a ‘problem’ picture that dramatises (in unnuanced fashion) a serious issue. And there’s no denying that the technique works in cinematic terms. Nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture, Kramer’s The Defiant Ones dealt with racial tolerance through its thriller narrative in which. John “Joker” Jackson (Tony Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier – who else?) are two convicts on the run. Escaping from a Southern work gang, the two men are bound together by an unbreakable iron chain and separated by an unbridled hatred towards each other. Relentlessly pursued by a bloodthirsty posse, they must put aside their differences if they are going to survive. Poitier bagged a variety of awards for his role, including the Silver Bear for Best Actor. This is another Eureka Dual Format edition.

THE CHINA SYNDROME, James Bridges, director/Powerhouse Indicator  Over the years, the reputation of this tense thriller has grown – and deservedly so. Looking at the film in this splendid Blu-ray transfer is a reminder just what a professional job director James Bridges did with his narrative in which a nuclear plant controller spots a dangerous fault that his bosses wish to keep clandestine. Of course, that success is consolidated by the cast that the director was given to work with: Jack Lemmon as the reluctant whistleblower, Michael Douglas, Scott Brady and (in a key role) Jane Fonda. Now the Lemmon is retrospectively seen as a fine dramatic actor, it’s instructive to view once again a film that reminded audiences there was more to him than his comedy chops.

IRON MONKEY, Yuen Woo-ping, director/Eureka Entertainment. Those who remember earlier incarnations of this lively, tongue-in-cheek martial arts extravaganza will be taken aback by the remarkable visual restoration it has enjoyed here. On Blu-ray, this splendid transfer allows the viewer to see interesting detail in the fine wire work and furious (if highly unlikely) gravity-defying action from Yuen Woo-ping.

THE BLOODTHIRSTY TRILOGY, Michio Yamamoto, director Arrow Blu-ray  For aficionados of the more obscure vampire film, this extremely curious trilogy has been a collector’s item for some considerable time, and it’s fascinating to see the way in which the Oriental filmmakers took elements from the Hammer Dracula series (along with magpie borrowings from other genres) to create something that was frequently quite unlike its original models. Perhaps not to be taken too seriously, this trilogy nevertheless has its share of haunting surrealistic imagery.

RAWHEAD REX, George Pavlou, director/ Arrow Video Blu-ray  Generally dismissed on its first appearance (not least by its original creator Clive Barker himself), this new transfer of Rawhead Rex grants viewers a second chance to make a judgement on this lively and gruesome (if misfiring) monster movie with its ancient murderous demon. Adapted for the screen by the horror writer Barker from his short story of the same name, Rawhead Rex sees a hulking, ancient demon tearing a bloody swathe across the Irish countryside. When an unsuspecting farmer pulls up a stone column embedded in a barren field, he accidentally unleashes hell by freeing Rawhead Rex – a hulking monster that has been trapped there for thousands of years. With the seemingly unstoppable demon rampaging through the local village, American historian Howard Hallenbeck is faced with the task of putting Rawhead back in the ground for good.

BLACK PETER (Černý Petr), Miloš Forman, director/Second Run  If you only know the work of the director Miloš Forman from his American films such as Amadeus, you owe it to yourself to take a look at the work which first established his reputation in in his native Czechoslovakia. Second Run has done Forman admirers a great service by excavating a film (his debut) which many current film lovers will not have seen and, what’s more, in an exemplary new 4K transfer. It’s a comedy about a young man growing up in the eastern bloc during the early 60s. Forman achieved more success than his Czech contemporaries, and this study of Czech teenagers in youthful rebellion on the cusp of the Prague Spring is diverting and insightful. The Blu-ray/DVD edition also features a previously unseen interview with Miloš Forman, a new audio commentary by film historian Michael Brooke and a new interview with actress Pavla Martínková – plus 20-page booklet featuring a new essay by Jonathan Owen.

MANSFIELD 66/67, P. David Ebersole and Todd Hughes, directors/Peccadillo  Enjoying much curiosity-fuelled attention on its cinema release, this provocative documentary (featuring John Waters, Kenneth Anger, and Tippi Hedren) is a fascinating curio, with some bizarre missteps (such as the use of non-professional actors for some scenes). Jayne Mansfield was the blonde bombshell to rival Monroe and who constantly courted publicity. From ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ to her final cameo role in Gene Kelly’s ‘A Guide to the Married Men’ she was adored by the public. However, her personal life impacted on her career as she sought solace in drink, drugs and Anton LaVey, the charismatic leader of the Church of Satan. Her fatal car crash in 1967 led to many conspiracy theories. Made to coincide with the 50th anniversary of her death, the film is a Hollywood Babylon examination of the last two years of her life. It combines archive film footage and new drag routines specially created for the film. It’s a gloriously entertaining exploration of the lasting impact of myth, the rise of the Feminist movement of the 1960s and a celebration of ‘the first reality TV star’.

MODERN ROMANCE, Albert Brooks, director/Powerhouse Indicator  When Albert Brooks made this film, his name was not notably familiar as a supporting actor – and certainly viewers were unaware what a talented triple threat he was. Modern Romance is written, directed by and stars Brooks in a quirky sardonic comedy about a neurotic film editor was fixated on an actress played by Kathryn Harrold. The film also stars the director James L Brooks, who is no relation – and he was later to profitably cast Albert Brooks in another impressive performance for 1987’s Broadcast News.

FORTHCOMING FROM FINAL CUT  Some tempting items (several in the horror field) are en route from Final Cut Entertainment. These include the vintage chiller Night Monster from 1942 and a DVD release of the company’s Amicus Collection. Not yet scheduled but in the pipeline are The Guardian from 1990 and Michael Winner’s macabre The Sentinel from 1977.

The Films of William Castle Murray Leeder, editor

Barry Forshaw writes: In some ways, it is easy to talk about the work of 1950s/1960s filmmaker and huckster William Castle, as the memorable gimmicks he came up with for most of his films (such as the skeleton above the audience’s heads in House on Haunted Hill and the mildly electrified audience chairs for The Tingler) lend themselves to any lively prose discussion of Castle’s very successful career. But it might also be said that in another way they are self-defeating in any serious discussion, as talking about the films themselves rather than the sales gimmicks is usually a secondary corollary of such writing – and although many of the movies are subpar, there is most definitely a case to be made for the best of them. There have been previous books on Castle, but none have yet made a persuasive case for such discussions – until now. Murray Leeder’s collection is a truly perceptive study that examines the films from a variety of angles as well as including a commentary on the aspects of popular entertainment and audience appeal they represented. Unsurprisingly, given the provenance of the book – Edinburgh University Press — there is writing here of perception and ambition. Some will argue that Castle’s films do not merit such attention, but those of us who fell under the late director’s spell will find much to entertain and stimulate.

The Films of William Castle  Murray Leeder, editor, is published by Edinburgh University Press

ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE and other new Blu-rays

ST VALENTINE’S DAY MASSACRE, Roger Corman, director/Powerhouse/Indicator Blu-ray  A declaration of interest: I supplied one of the Blu-ray extras for this definitive gangster movie from Roger: Corman. But even if I hadn’t, I’d be extolling the virtues of this violent and kinetic piece as one of the director’s best and most ambitious movies. The film — as well as being one of the liveliest crime movies you are likely to see — carries out its various levels of ambition with great panache. While the story of Al Capone’s most famous crime (the wiping out of his rival’s gang) is dispassionately told in documentary fashion, the visceral impact of the film (not least the copious bloodshed — something Roger Corman was never one to shy away from), it has the impact and intelligence of a far less sophisticated piece of work. The slim Jason Robards Jr may not resemble the portly Al Capone, but he provides a persuasively operatic turn as the most famous of Mafiosi, and it’s fascinating to spot such actors as George Segal, Bruce Dern and Jack Nicholson in small roles before they achieved stardom

THE TOUCH, Ingmar Bergman, director/BFI dual format  The initial response to Bergman’s first (partly) English-language film was lukewarm, and it was felt that the most impressive aspects of the film did not involve its American star Elliott Gould, but Bergman stalwarts Bibi Andersson and Max von Sydow. And while it’s true that the latter are at their most impressive (but when were they ever less than superlative?), it must be conceded that Gould — as a damaged, self-loathing Jewish American — acquits himself very creditably. That initial reaction to the film may have been due to the audience responding in disbelief that Gould’s petulant, unattractive figure would lead the Bibi Andersson to destroy her dull but happy home life for an amour fou. The BFI have made available The Touch for the first time on Blu-ray and DVD worldwide, starring, along with its strong main cast, Sheila Reid in a telling cameo. Bergman’s first film made with an established Hollywood star was originally an entirely English-language release. This presentation of the film, restored by the Swedish Film Institute from the original negative, is of Bergman’s preferred Swedish-English version. It is available in a Dual Format Edition, alongside the BFI’s release of Bergman’s The Magic Flute (see below). Extras include new interviews with actors Liv Ullmann and Sheila Reid. Happily married mother Karin (Andersson) surprises herself by responding in kind to a sudden profession of love from David (Gould), an archaeologist visiting Sweden, whom her doctor husband (von Sydow) has befriended. But however exhilarating, love is seldom simple and deceit – and David’s volatile temperament – take their toll.

BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL, Takashi Miike, director/Arrow Blu-ray  The director Takashi Miike has long been known for both his blazing imagination and unfettered bloodletting – and both qualities are fully in evidence in this remarkable film based on the manga series of the same name. The central character Manji is a massively skilled samurai who finds himself cursed with immortality after a legendary battle. After the savage killing of his sister, he realises that a life of conflict is the only fashion which you can regain his soul. The staging of the martial arts scenes here is non-pareil, and Blade of the Immortal adds lustre to the director’s already successful career.

MARTY, Delbert Mann, director/Eureka Blu-Ray  The golden age of American television (when such dramas as Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty achieved massive audiences as well as critical plaudits) is long gone, but fortunately many of the plays were transferred very successfully to film — as in this case. What’s more, this very welcome Eureka release gives us a chance to compare the original television broadcast with Rod Steiger set against Ernest Borgnine’s superb performance in the film. A beloved classic of American cinema, Delbert Mann’s Marty was the first ever recipient of the Palme d’Or at the 1955 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, one of only two films to ever win both organisations’ grand prizes (the second being Billy Wilder’s The Lost Weekend). “I’ve been looking for a girl every Saturday night of my life,” says Marty Piletti (Borgnine). Yet, despite all his efforts, this 34-year old Bronx butcher remains as shy and uncomfortable around women today as on the day he was born. So when he meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a lonely schoolteacher who’s just as smitten with him as he is with her, Marty’s on top of the world. But not everyone around him shares his joy. And when his friends and family continually find fault with Clara, even Marty begins to question his newfound love… until he discovers, in an extraordinary way, the strength and courage to follow his heart. Adapted from an earlier teleplay written by renowned screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky (Network), the Special Features include the aforementioned teleplay broadcast on NBC in 1953, also directed by Delbert Mann and starring Rod Steiger in the title role.

SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director/Powerhouse/Indicator Blu-ray  There was a period when Tennessee Williams’ full-blooded, once-scandalous dramas fell from favour, with the notion that their view of repressed sexuality had come to seem overheated and melodramatic. But with the passage of time, such Williams plays as Suddenly Last Summer are achieving renewed critical acclaim once again, and this Powerhouse Blu-ray of Williams’ powerful treatment of homosexuality and suppressed secrets is given the best possible showcase here.

THE MAGIC FLUTE, Ingmar Bergman, director/BFI dual Format  There are many critics – including this writer – who consider that the best filmed operas ever made were Michael Powell’s Tales of Hoffmann and this charming Bergman take on Mozart’s imperishable masterpiece. While the music is given the best possible advocacy (even if some of the young singers are vocally unpolished – Bergman’s specific wish), it is very much a Bergman film, both in terms of its conception and execution. What’s more, it comes up as fresh as paint in this splendid BFI Blu-ray edition.

KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, Stephan Chiodo, director/Arrow Blu-ray  In the VHS days of yore, this was a film that acquired an accumulating cult following – principally for the bizarre, surreal imagination that had gone into this tale of a murderous invasion from outer space. The subject, of course, is one that has been done to death, but the Chiodo brothers managed to come up with some truly off-the-wall imaginings for their alien monsters that take the form of earthly clowns. In the new transfer, it looks better than it ever did when we first encountered this curio.

THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE MOON MARIGOLDS, Paul Newman, director/Powerhouse/Indicator Blu-ray  If you’ve heard of this film, then you are clearly a cineaste. Only real film buffs know just how good this drama is, as history has drawn a veil over its achievements (the unwieldy title, no doubt, didn’t help). In the 21st-century, it’s a reminder that Paul Newman could (like Clint Eastwood) have enjoyed a highly successful career as director had he so chosen. The performances here – as one would expect from an actor-turned-director – are top notch, not least Newman’s wife Joanne Woodward, superb as sluttish mother with aspirations for her daughters.

THEY CAME TO A CITY, Basil Dearden, director/ BFI dual Format  Ironically, the very aspects of this period piece that have unquestionably dated now give it a certain charm – even if its optimism seems misplaced in a contemporary Britain in which (for instance) class divisions remain as apropos as ever. Nevertheless, as it’s a film that few modern viewers will have seen, and it remains provocative – particularly in this spruced-up edition. Written by (and even featuring, uncomfortably) JB Priestley, this is a rarely seen classic of British cinema, Ealing Studios’ They Came to a City was directed by Basil Dearden (The Captive Heart, Victim) and stars John Clements, Googie Withers and Raymond Huntley. This is a new 2K transfer from the best surviving 35mm element. Special features include complementary films preserved in the BFI National Archive and an audio NFT Lecture by producer Michael Balcon.

CURE, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, director/Eureka Blu-ray  Enjoying considerable acclaim from its first appearance onwards, this was the breakthrough film for director Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a psychological thriller that exerts a considerable grip. After a series of killings are committed by ordinary people with no apparent control over their actions, detective Koji Yakusho begins to track down a sinister stranger who had contact with each killer. While the film’s reputation grew, it has had zero availability – a situation thankfully remedied by Eureka.

INTIMATE LIGHTING, Ivan Passer, director/Second Run Blu-ray  In the annals of arthouse cinema, Ivan Passer’s name is highly thought of, and Intimate Lighting is generally regarded as one of his most approachable pieces. Here is the perfect opportunity to view it afresh, and see just why this reputation was acquired. Presented from a new 4K transfer, Second Run Passer’s subtle comedy of provincial life, one of the key works of the Czech New Wave. This edition also features Ivan Passer’s short film A Boring Afternoon (Fádní odpoledne, 1964) presented from a new HD transfer from original materials.

NIGHT WALKER, William Castle director/Media Sales  Powerhouse Indicator is readying an impressive roster of the films of the much-loved 1950s/1960s huckster William Castle, but in the meantime, here’s a highly diverting example of the director’s approach to the horror genre, one little seen compared to such films as House on Haunted Hill and The Tingler, with the advantage here of two heavyweight (if fading) stars in Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. It’s essential viewing for fans of William Castle.

FrightFest and Arrow Video Sponsor Deal

London, 23 April 2018. Arrow Video and FrightFest have agreed a one-year partnership deal, which sees the leading UK independent film distributor become headline sponsor for the UK’s biggest and most popular genre film festival.

Mike Hewitt, Brand Marketing Manager for Arrow Video, said today: “As a long-time fan of FrightFest, Arrow Video are incredibly excited to be partnered with FrightFest for a year-long sponsorship.

The festival is without a doubt the UK’s premiere genre event and is a perfect match for our premiere genre label, especially since we have been recently expanding our output to include fresh, new genre and horror films to bolster our incredible catalogue of classics. We are hugely looking forward to working with the FrightFest team to bring some exciting elements to 2018’s main event.”

FrightFest co-director Ian Rattray added: “FrightFest is thrilled to welcome Arrow Video into the fold as our new headline sponsor. They have been a passionate supporter for many years, not just in terms of providing films and community support, but also as a key sponsor in recent years.

We are delighted to welcome Mike and the rest of the Arrow team onboard to celebrate the horror fantasy genre on an even wider canvas than before, something followers of both of our brands will appreciate”.

Arrow Video becomes the third headline sponsor in the festival’s history, following in the footsteps of Film4 and Horror Channel.

Arrow Video FrightFest 2018 will house its annual 5-day August Bank Holiday event at the Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema from Aug 23 – Aug 27. Programme details to follow.

News DVDS & Blu-Rays from Sony, Eureka, BFI, Arrow

BLADE RUNNER 2049, Denis Villeneuve, director/Sony 4K Ultra HD™, Blu-ray™, DVD and Limited Edition 2-Disc Blu-ray  Given the reputation — much burnished over the years – of Ridley Scott’s original Philip K. Dick adaptation, the bar was set high for any sequel, however belated. And although there were a few dissenting voices, the response to Denis Villeneuve’s modern riff on concepts taken from the original film has been remarkably positive, with the many admirers of the film pointing out its intelligence – and the best science-fiction customarily display that very quality. The film stars Ryan Gosling as K and Harrison Ford reprising the role of Rick Deckard. Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years. The package is loaded with extras, but the disc’s principal appeal lines in the film’s astonishing futuristic visuals.

THE HOUSEMAID, Derek Nguyen, director/ Eureka Blu-ray  While the accoutrements of this Gothic chiller are occasionally familiar, the imagination of the director Derek Nguyen frequently takes his narrative into territory notably underexplored by this genre — and to considerable effect. First-time director Nguyen makes a striking debut with The Housemaid [Cô Haû Gaí], a haunting gothic romance which blends bold eroticism with a pervasive sense of dread. Linh is a docile and hardworking poor orphaned girl who comes to Sa Cat seeking a housemaid job. Sebastien Laurent is a French captain and owner of the Sa Cat rubber plantation. For years, the massive mansion is rumoured to have ghosts, particularly those of Camille – Sebastien’s late wife—and the mistreated plantation workers. Once Linh comes to Sa Cat, she begins to hear strange sounds, have frightening dreams, and witness bizarre occurrences.

SCORE, Matt Schrader, director/Dogwoof  Anyone who knows the score (pun intended) will be aware that one of the reasons that movies can have such a mesmeric effect on audiences is the power of a film’s musical soundtrack – orchestral or otherwise.Music  plays an immensely persasive role in the total experience offered by the cinema. This fascinating documentary features virtually every important composer who has worked in the cinema, from the early days of Max Steiner’s King Kong through the more modern era of the matchless Jerry Goldsmith (Planet of the Apes and Chinatown) and up to the present with Hans Zimmer, who scored such films as The Dark Knight and Gladiator. Needless to say, the musician who is probably the best known of all film composers, John Williams, is given his full due – and we are even able to compare his score for Superman with Hans Zimmer’s later Man of Steel.

DOCTOR FAUSTUS, Richard Burton, Nevil Coghill, directors/Fabulous Films  While Richard Burton was the first to admit that he had somewhat squandered his talent in films unworthy of him, there are several filmic records of just what a remarkable actor he was — such as this 1967 adaptation of the performance by Oxford University Dramatic Society, with Burton in a powerful assumption of the title role (and a cameo by a wordless Elizabeth Taylor). It’s demanding fare, and not the easiest of viewing experiences, but Burton is always remarkable.

ORCHESTRA REHEARSAL, Federico Fellini, director/Arrow Academy  Mention Fellini’s name to most cineastes and they will be more likely to conjure visions of his earlier classics such as La Dolce Vita and 81/2. But hardcore admirers at the late Italian director have long made a point of tracking down everything he worked on, and this curiosity is well worth their efforts; it’s a quirky and enjoyable satire from Fellini, in collaboration once more with Oscar-winning composer Nino Rota. An Italian television crew visits a dilapidated auditorium (a converted 13th-century church) to meet an orchestra assembling to rehearse under the instruction of a tyrannical conductor. The TV crew interviews the various musicians who each speak lovingly about their chosen instruments. However, as petty squabbles break out amid the different factions of the ensemble, and the conductor berates his musicians, the meeting descends into anarchy and vandalism. Made in 1978 for Italian television, Orchestra Rehearsal, an allegorical pseudo-documentary, is possibly Fellini’s most satirical and overtly political film, This special edition features a new 2K restoration of the film, rare poster and press materials, and an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film.

WOODFALL: A REVOLUTION IN BRITISH CINEMA, Tony Richardson, Karel Reisz, Richard Lester, Desmond Davis/BFI (8-disc Blu-ray box set)  It’s difficult in the 21st-century to remember the impact that the 1960s British New Wave of filmmaking had in its day with one film company producing many of the most durable classics at a time when cinema was shaking off the over-comfortable (and rather stilted) trappings of middle-class drama which had held sway for so long. This new 8-disc set celebrates the 60th anniversary of Woodfall Films and includes eight iconic films (many newly restored and available on Blu-ray for the first time) that revolutionised British cinema and launched the careers of the likes of Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Rita Tushingham. These are: Look Back in Anger (Tony Richardson, 1959), The Entertainer (Tony Richardson, 1960), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960), A Taste of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (Tony Richardson, 1962), Tom Jones (Tony Richardson, 1963) (New 4K digital restorations of the original theatrical version of the film and the 1989 director’s cut), Girl with Green Eyes (Desmond Davis, 1964), The Knack… and how to get it (Richard Lester, 1965). With copious special features, this an unmissable set.

GOMORRAH – THE SERIES, various directors/Arrow TV DVD & Blu-ray  Slowly but surely, this Italian series – which boasts nary a sympathetic character — has built a reputation as one of the most powerful and unusual crime series, with its excoriating picture of the Latin criminal underworld. The series is based on the best-selling non-fiction investigative book by Roberto Saviano. Saviano infiltrated and investigated a Naples based Italian crime organisation called Camorra. Since the book has been published Saviano has to live in exile as he has been threatened by the Camorra. The series does full justice to Saviano’s dark vision.

THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, director/ Eureka Entertainment Blu-ray  If you are an admirer of the director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s wittily written and intelligent films (Mankiewicz was equally accomplished as writer and director), you owe it to yourself to track down this now little-seen drama which followed up his classic All About Eve, and features a scene- stealing performance by Humphrey Bogart. While looking every single one of his years, it’s hard to think of a contemporary actor who has anything like Bogart’s appeal, not to mention a luminous appearance by Ava Gardner in the title role. A high point in the already success-laden career of Mankiewicz (A Letter to Three Wives, All About Eve), and one of the most glamorous and extravagant films from Hollywood’s Golden Age, The Barefoot Contessa is a tragic drama about the tumultuous rise and fall of fictional Hollywood actress Maria Vargas (Ava Gardner). plays down on his luck writer and director Harry Dawes, reduced to working for an egotistical and abusive producer, Kirk Edwards (Warren Stevens)

THE WITCHES, various directors/Arrow Academy  For many years, this beguiling portmanteau film was hard to see, but sounded intriguing with its variety of directors and stars, including Clint Eastwood (and with the legendary and seductive Silvana Mangano at the centre of each episode), so this opportunity to finally catch it is not to be missed – even though one episode (the bizarre, would-be comic tale directed by Pasolini) tests the patience.

PROFESSOR MARSTON & THE WONDER WOMEN, Angela Robinson, director/Sony  This highly unusual piece deals with the curious sexual ménage involving the creator of Wonder Woman and his two female lovers. It is based on the extraordinary true story of the man behind of one of the most iconic super heroes ever conceived, and the seductive secret life he kept from his fans. Harvard psychologist Dr. William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans, Beauty and the Beast) was roundly criticized for the creation of his feminist superhero, but it was his personal life, with his polyamorous relationship with his wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall, The Gift) and their lover, Olive (Bella Heathcote), that was more provocative than any adventure he had ever written.
TANGO ONE, Sacha Bennett, director/Universal  Based on the novel by UK thriller author Stephen Leather (Murder in Mind, London’s Burning) and directed by Sacha Bennett (Get Lucky, We Still Kill the Old Way), Tango One is a fast-paced crime thriller about how far one man will go to rescue his daughter, and save his criminal empire from collapse. When three undercover recruits are assigned an impossible mission to take down one of the world’s most wanted men, notorious drug dealer, Den Donovan (Vincent Regan), they have no idea who they are dealing with. As the undercover recruits inch closer to their target, they are each drawn in by the charismatic criminal leader – too close, perhaps, to remember the rules.

 

Strike: The Silkworm on DVD

The second instalment of the acclaimed TV detective series based on J.K. Rowling’s best-selling crime novels written under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, Strike – The Silkworm will be available to own on DVD from 19th February 2018, courtesy of Warner Bros Home Entertainment.British actors Tom Burke as ‘Cormoran Strike’ and Holliday Grainger as ‘Robin Ellacott’ lead an all-star cast of acclaimed British actors, including Natasha O’Keeffe (Peaky Blinders, Misfits), Kerr Logan (Alias Grace, Game of Thrones), Monica Dolan (W1A, The Casual Vacancy, Wolf Hall), Lia Williams (The Crown, The Missing), Tim McInnerny (Spooks The Greater Good, Eddie The Eagle, Sherlock), Jeremy Swift (The Durrells, Downton Abbey) and Sarah Gordy (Holby City, Upstairs Downstairs) for the major BBC One series; Strike – The Silkworm. 

Tom Burke, who most recently starred in BBC’s epic War & Peace as ‘Fedor Dolokhov’ and in The Musketeers as ‘Athos,’ is Strike, a war veteran turned private detective operating out of a tiny office in London’s Denmark Street.  Following his success in solving the Lula Landry case, Strike’s detective agency has been busy. A new client Leonora Quine appeals to Strike’s sensibilities with the case of her missing author husband, that leads Strike into the depths of London’s literary world. 

Holliday Grainger, who most recently starred in BBC’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover as Lady Constance Chatterley, is Robin Ellacott, Strike’s assistant.  Robin’s beginning as a temporary secretary, has evolved into her current role as Strike’s indispensable assistant; working alongside him and delving deeper into the hidden meanings and concealed secrets of the Bombyx Mori case. 

Strike – The Silkworm is executive produced by J.K. Rowling (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Casual Vacancy), Neil Blair (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, The Casual Vacancy), Ruth Kenley-Letts (The Casual Vacancy, The Hour), Tom Edge (The Crown, Lovesick) and Elizabeth Kilgarriff (for the BBC) and is based on a script by Tom Edge. Directed by Kieron Hawkes (Fortitude, Ripper Street) and produced by Jackie Larkin (Stella Days, Kings)

 

The Silkworm was published to critical acclaim in 2014, building on the global success of its predecessor The Cuckoo’s Calling in 2013 and followed by Career of Evil in 2015.  All three books were number one Sunday Times bestsellers in both hardback and paperback and Little, Brown has sold in total over four million copies worldwide across all editions.

 

Cormoran Strike is one of the most memorable and distinctive detectives in crime fiction today and Robert Galbraith is among the genre’s most celebrated writers, shortlisted for the prestigious CWA Gold Dagger in 2015 and the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016.

 

 

CAT O’ NINE TAILS and other new Blu-rays

CAT O’ NINE TAILS, Dario Argento, Director/Arrow Blu-ray  Firstly: a declaration of interest: I contributed the booklet notes for this disc – so I’m obliged to say something different here! One of the greatest causes for celebration in the DVD/Blu-ray revolution has been the appearance of all the major films of the massively talented (if wildly inconsistent) Dario Argento – the ultimate giallo craftsman, as we reminded as his 1971 horror mystery Cat O’ Nine Tails gets a superb limited edition 4K restoration. In the early part of his career (as I noted in Italian Cinema: Arthouse to Exploitation), Argento’s s astonishing visual and aural assaults on the sensibilities of the viewer put the emphasis on the total experience of film rather than intellectual appreciation of a well-written script (his horror films are definitely not for those who demand carefully constructed, literate screenplays!). Usually to the throbbing, high-decibel accompaniment of the music of Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin (his long-time collaborator), the films of this energetic Italian are a breath-stopping rollercoaster ride of painterly visuals and graphic horror. Argento’s feature film debut, the poetically titled The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (L’Uccello dalle Piume di Cristallo, 1970), augured well for his career – a commercial success in 1970, it looks a fascinating dry run for many ideas to be more fully developed in later films. Tony Musante plays an American writer in Italy who witnesses a murderous assault through glass (prefiguring David Hemmings in the later Deep Red (Profondo Rosso, 1976); he is trapped between sliding glass doors while attempting to aid the bleeding victim (Eva Renzi) – and this sequence seems to be the one people remember over the years – probably because Musante’s subsequent tracking down of the black leather-clad murderer is handled with rather less panache than Argento was to develop in subsequent films. Deep Red is stunning evidence that Dario Argento’s delirious visual talents have been consistently in evidence from his earliest films to Inferno (1980). A tortuous Hitchcockian thriller (with a relatively unguessable denouement), it is better constructed than Suspiria (1977) – the film it has most in common with – and the plot-spinning between the big, operatic set-pieces is better throughout. Cat O’ Nine Tails, filmed in English in 1971 starred bland James Franciscus and the ever-reliable Karl Malden in a baroque and byzantine thriller that consolidated Argento’s reputation as a master genre director. A break in at a genetics lab leads to a spiralling vortex of bloody murder. The limited edition Blu-ray is packed with extras, and features a new audio commentary, new cover artwork and comes with a poster, lobby cards and a limited edition booklet with notes by this writer.

WIND RIVER, Taylor Sheridan, director/Sony  Taylor Sheridan’s film has been steadily acquiring something of a reputation for its effortless command of the material – not to mention its vivid sense of place. A gripping crime thriller set in the unforgiving snow plains of Wyoming. Elizabeth Olsen stars as a rookie FBI agent tasked with solving the brutal murder of a young woman in a Native American reserve. Enlisting the help of a local hunter (Jeremy Renner) to help her navigate the freezing wilderness, the two set about trying to find a vicious killer hidden in plain sight. The closer they get to the truth the greater the danger becomes with a town full of explosive secrets ready to fight back.

LEATHERFACE, Alexandre Bustillo, Julien Maury, directors/ Lionsgate Blu-ray   While this is a perfectly efficient horror prequel to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, delivering the requisite frissons, it curiously fudges one important possibility: characterising its monstrous chainsaw-wielding protagonist as a young man; there is not a great deal more to him here than in Wes Craven’s film. It didn’t matter in the latter, as he was just one of a group of memorable bogeyman, but the title here suggests we might learn a little more. The maniac is certainly unmasked in this gruesome prequel to Hooper’s original, exploring the origin of the fearsome horror icon, from the directors of the extreme French masterpiece Inside. A young nurse is kidnapped by four violent teens after they escape from a psychiatric hospital, and take her on a road trip to hell. Pursued by an equally deranged, trigger-happy lawman out for revenge, one of these teens is destined for tragedy and horrors that will destroy his mind – moulding him into the monster who becomes Leatherface. The directors – masters of horror Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury – are a perfect fit for the material, having shocked audiences with their 2007 Gallic debut Inside.

HOUNDS OF LOVE, Ben Young, director/Arrow Blu-Ray  Hounds of Love is proving to be something of a Marmite film, inspiring admiration and its opposite in equal numbers. But there is no denying the gusto with which director Ben Young tackles his lacerating material. The UK Blu-ray debut of this intense thriller showcases an Aussie gem, based on real life crimes. It stars Ashleigh Cummings as a young girl who must fight for her life, after being abducted by a dangerously deranged couple, Stephen Curry and Emma Booth. In the tradition of Wolf Creek and Snowtown, The Hounds of Love was a success from writer/director Ben Young. This is an unnerving psychological thriller.

NEW WORLD, Park Hoon-Jung, director/Eureka/Montage  The director Park Hoon-Jung was celebrated as a screenwriter for such films as I Saw the Devil but here makes an adept move into directing and proves himself to be one of South Korea’s most able directors. The head of South Korea’s biggest crime syndicate is murdered in mysterious circumstances, and a violent power struggle follows his death. This is a gangster film of some style and panache.

THE ZERO BOYS soundtrack, Hans Zimmer/Arrow  Arrow Records have issued their second release – the original soundtrack to Nico Mastorakis’ action-horror hybrid The Zero Boys. There will be a limited edition translucent blue vinyl (500 copies). This previously unreleased gem combines adrenaline pumping electronic compositions by the legendary film composer Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception) with tasteful orchestral cues by the renowned scorer of cult films Stanley Myers (Frightmare). This limited vinyl edition has been newly mastered from the original 1/4” analogue tapes by James Plotkin and is presented on 180 gram wax, housed inside a 350gsm sleeve.
BLACK SABBATH, Mario Bava, Director Arrow Blu-Ray. Those who caught this portmanteau chiller on its first British cinema release will not have realised that they were seeing a watered-down version of the Italian original (as were. of course, American audiences). But here is a chance to see one of the key works by Bava, the late master of macabre atmosphere, in uncensored form. The episode ‘The Drop of Water (theoretically – but mendaciously — based on a story by Chekhov) is the standout.