VAN VEETEREN Various directors/Arrow Following the welcome release of their Wallander ‘Original Films’ box set last year, Arrow Films have made available a less familiar Scandinavian detective for Nordic Noir admirers: Swedish crime maestro Håkan Nesser’s Van Veeteren. The first three Van Veeteren films have been released as a DVD box .Based on the much-acclaimed series of novels by the much-respected Nesser, Van Veeteren is an veteran detective in his sixth decade dealing uneasily with retirement (he has become an antiquarian bookseller), but unable to put aside his impeccable sleuthing instincts. Håkan Nesser has expressed himself pleased with the series (with the inevitable reservation or two), but like the books, characterisation is to the fore – and a particular asset of the films is the playing of Sven Wollter as the ageing detective – full of psychological nuance.
THE MURDERER LIVES AT 21 [L’ASSASSIN HABITE AU 21] Henri-Georges Clouzot, director/ Eureka Entertainment MASTERS OF CINEMA Blu-ray/DVD Eureka Entertainment have facilitated the long-awaited release of the debut film by director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s (responsible for the classic thrillers Les Diaboliques and The Wages of Fear), The Murderer Lives at 21 [L’Assassin Habite au 21]. The film is an intriguing is a brilliant hybrid of crime thriller and dark comedy. One of the key directors in world cinema, Henri-Georges Clouzot made a mark in 1942 with this sardonic thriller. A thief and murderer plagues the streets of Paris and is depositing a calling card from ‘Monsieur Durand’ at the scene of each crime. But then a cache of these cards is found by a burglar in the boarding house at 21 Avenue Junot, and Inspector Wenceslas Vorobechik (Pierre Fresnay) decides to stay at the address in a clandestine effort to solve the crimes, aided by his under-employed actress girlfriend Mila (played by Suzy Delair). The audacious shifts in tone (from light comedy to pitch-black noir) are handled with assurance by the director, as is as well as is understated but clear picture of tensions of France under German occupation.
TEXAS CHAINSAW John Luessenhop, director, Lionsgate Lionsgate’s Texas Chainsaw, a US #1 box office hit, picks up directly where the original 1974 Tobe Hooper movie, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, ended, with the repercussions of the grotesque Leatherface’s multiple murders. In the new film, the townspeople – some steps up the evolutionary chain from the debased rednecks of the murderous clan — take violent action against the Sawyer family. They had long believed that the family was responsible for a variety of unexplained disappearances, and a vigilante mob of enraged locals attack the Sawyer house, razing it to the ground and killing the entire family – or perhaps not. Years later, a young woman named Heather discovers that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew. A road trip with friends takes her back – and she discovers that is the sole owner of a large Victorian mansion. But there is a price; in the mansion’s subterranean cellar, another family member has survived: the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. All of this is handled with great exuberance, if without the blackly comic tone and welcome grunginess of Hooper’s original. Interestingly, despite the greater quotient of gore, the experience of watching the new film is not as disturbing as the original. Nevertheless, it’s a lively piece of work, although there is a problem – and perhaps this last sentence is something of a spoiler, so feel free to avoid it: the unlikely behaviour of one character in the final scenes of the film (whose friends have been bloodily slaughtered by the monstrous Leatherface) takes some swallowing, and is – frankly – only explicable in the context of allowing possibilities for more sequels. This caveat aside, aficionados of the horror film should take a look.
BARON BLOOD Mario Bava, director/Arrow Blu-Ray Arrow Video has released a never-before-seen Blu-ray & DVD premiere from the godfather of Italian horror, Mario Bava; a deluxe editions of Baron Blood. This dual format release incorporates a newly restored version of the film and a slew of special features and plentiful onus material. Originally entitled Gli Orrori del Castello di Norimberga on its first release in 1972, the film is a reminder of how Bava’s surrealistic, garishly-lit and mist-shrouded visuals greatly influenced the younger Argento and Fulci, and how Bava had to sometimes overcome an underwritten script. Baron Blood has a toothsome Britt Ekland being menaced by Joseph Cotton as a revived aristocratic corpse. The actor’s appearance and performance can only be charitably described as appropriate to the part, but the visuals are the thing, as ever with Bava.
THEOREM Pier Paolo Pasolini, director BFI DVD/Blu-Ray Following a recent theatrical release, the BFI has made available a splendid Blu-ray of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s enigmatic Theorem (1968) for the first time in the UK, in a complete and uncut in Dual Format Edition (including a DVD disc). The new high definition digital transfer has restored picture and sound. A seductive, mysterious stranger (played by a young and charismatic Terence Stamp) arrives at a bourgeois household in Milan and seduces in turn each family member, including the maid. The effect of his visit is seismic. The film is a visually striking and disturbing political allegory, examining the mechanics of family interaction, class and sex. Theorem bagged a prize at the Venice Film Festival, but was subsequently banned on an obscenity charge. However, Pasolini later won an acquittal on the grounds of the film’s ‘high artistic value’.
ARNE DAHL Various directors/Arrow After the success of their BAFTA-winning Scandi series The Killing and Borgen, and the newly BAFTA nominated The Bridge, Arrow Film’s Nordic Noir label have released a DVD & Blu-ray box set release of the Swedish TV series, Arne Dahl, based on the series of books by influential Swedish crime novelist Jan Arnald (Arne Dahl is Arnald’s pen name), with CID inspector Jenny Hultin (her gender changed from the novels’ male copper) putting together an elite police team to tackle difficult and dangerous crimes. The 10-part series adapts five of Arnald/Dahl’s novels, each with a different member of “A-group” at the fore. This is a highly enjoyable series, if demonstrably not in the class of such Scandicrime hits as The Killing (Arne Dahl himself is aware that certain elements of his books have — perforce — been obliged to be removed), but it remains a solid effort even if it doesn’t reach the Olympian heights of some of its Nordic stablemates.
MOTEL HELL Kevin Connor, director/Arrow Yet another example of cult 80s cinema makes it onto Blu-Ray – and when the production company calls this one ‘long awaited’, they aren’t just (as the American say) ‘whistling Dixie’. Acclaimed in its day as a clever and witty horror comedy, Kevin Connor’s tongue-in-cheek horror outing has worn well — and looks better than it ever did before in this Blu-ray restoration.