New Delights From Second Sight, Studio Canal, BFI and Arrow

Coogan Look of Love (2)

THE LOOK OF LOVE Michael Winterbottom, director/Studio Canal Blu-Ray Despite the (mostly tongue-in-cheek) sex and nudity, this is less confrontational, censor-baiting fare than we are used to from Michael Winterbottom. Starring Steve Coogan (who had appeared in the director’s 24 Hour Party People), The Look of Love is a lightweight but diverting treatment of the life of Paul Raymond, the controversial entrepreneur and property baron who made his fortune from the Raymond Revue Bar and Men Only magazine and went on to become Britain’s richest man by the early 90s. The tragic strain involving Raymond’s self-destructive daughter (Imogen Poots, excellent) changes the tone. 

 

THE TARNISHED ANGELS Douglas Sirk, director/Eureka MASTERS OF CINEMA Blu-Ray  The always-enterprising Eureka Entertainment have released cult director Douglas Sirk’s The Tarnished Angels, once neglected, now a highly regarded film of the 1950s, with Sirk himself a favourite director of Pedro Almódovar, Quentin Tarantino, John Waters, Todd Haynes, Kathryn Bigelow, and many others. This ambitious, uncommercial adaptation of William Faulkner’s Pylon, initially received sniffily, has been reassessed in recent years. Utilising the team that made the delirious melodrama Written on the Wind, Sirk is in more sombre mood, with Rock Hudson cast against type as alcoholic journalist Burke Devlin, fascinated by the sordid lives of a trio scratching out a living in carnival circuit daredevil airshows — Roger Shumann (Robert Stack), an ex-WWI fighter pilot, forced into races and parachute routines with the help of his wife LaVerne (Dorothy Malone) who does her parachute dives with her skirt flying above her waist, and mechanic Jiggs (Jack Carson). The exquisite black-and-white CinemaScope photography is a particular pleasure. 

 

THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES Derek Cianfrance, director/Studio Canal Blu-Ray  A certain success was almost immediately assured for this ambitious and challenging crime film from the director of Blue Valentine – not least for the presence of Ryan Gosling, making all the right career choices at present. If the bipartite structure means that the film’s second section (in which Gosling does not appear) is less achieved, it is still a remarkable piece of work.

CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, directors BFI Blu-Ray  Filmed in Paris during the summer of 1960 and released the following year, Chronicle of a Summer is the now-famous result of collaboration between anthropologist filmmaker Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin. Rouch and Morin’s mission was to chronicle the everyday lives of Parisians utilising a combination of frank interviews, debates and observation. The participants include artists, factory workers, office employees, students and others who unblushingly reveal the reality of other lives, The film (despite its frequently downbeat tone — there is much existential angst here) became a key text of the sixties, and remade the documentary form with its use of handheld cameras and observational techniques, inspiring Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Rivette and Roberto Rossellini, The accompanying booklet features a typically insightful essay by Professor Ginette Vincendeau.

 

THE LONG RIDERS Walter Hill, director/Second Sight Films Blu-Ray  In the doldrums till recently, the respected director Walter Hill is making films again. His classic revisionist take on the Western, The Long Riders, makes its Blu-ray debut courtesy of Second Sight Films. Hill’s kinetic film details the story of the infamous Jesse James/Cole Younger gang , the film’s famous gimmick was the director’s casting of real life brothers David, Keith and Robert Carradine, James and Stacy Keach, Dennis and Randy Quaid, and Christopher and Nicholas Guest. The Long Riders comes to Blu-ray for the first time, and is much better than the director’s recent Sly Stallone ‘comeback’ film. It sports an impressive slew of special features.

THE ABCS OF DEATH Various Directors/Monster Pictures Blu-ray  Monster Pictures have added a copious supply of extras to the UK DVD and Blu-ray release of The ABCs of Death, perhaps to compensate for the hit-or-miss nature of the anthology. The ABCs of Death was designed to be the most ambitious anthology film ever made, with segments covering fifteen countries and work from over 24 filmmakers, including the directors of House of the Devil, Hobo with a Shotgun, A Serbian Film, Tokyo Gore Police, You’re Next & four British Directors – Ben Wheatley (Sightseers), Simon Rumley (Red, White & Blue), Jake West (Doghouse) & Leeds based Lee Hardcastle, who with his claymation short, won a competition to be the final Director. As with Amicus’s anthology horror films, the results are mixed, but viewers will be prepared to weather the less successful segments for the ones that shine.

 

DRESSED TO KILL Brian De Palma, director Arrow Blu-Ray  The Hitchcock homage to end them all. Starring Michael Caine alongside Brian de Palma regular Nancy Allen (with Angie Dickenson doing Janet Leigh/Kim Novak duty), Dressed to Kill has been carefully restored and is finally available uncut and on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK. Arrow’s deluxe edition of the film boasts (as usual) an exclusive selection of special features and bonus material. Following Obsession and Blow Out, Dressed to Kill is the third film in Arrow Video’s “De Palma Collection”. Restored Blu-ray editions of Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise and The Fury will follow in 2013/14.

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BLOW OUT Brian DePalma, director/Arrow Blu-Ray  More in Arrow Video’s Brian DePalma series: the UK Blu-ray & Steelbook premiere of the director’s 1981 cult film Blow Out, starring John Travolta and Nancy Allen. This is not top-drawer DePalma (Allen’s air-headed heroine is mostly an irritant), but it nevertheless remains a highly unusual, ambitious film. This new release features a newly restored digital transfer – a process which was supervised and approved by De Palma himself.

 

THE SUN IN A NET Štefan Uher, director/Second Run  Frequently noted as amongst the most impressive films in the often-radical field of Czechoslovak cinema, The Sun in a Net is also considered to be the film that inaugurated the ‘Czechoslovak New Wave’, confronting the Draconian censorship of the time and melding social and political themes in a frank picture of ordinary lives that upset the authorities. 

 

STATE AFFAIRS Éric Valette, director/Arrow  A sure indicator of the success of the Nordic Noir genre was the growing familiarity that non-Scandinavian audiences acquired concerning the names of creative personnel involved in some of the key programs; first of all (inevitably) the actors, but then the directors and writers began to be namechecked as indicators of quality in any new program. A similar situation is beginning with the burgeoning Gallic Noir field, and it is hardly surprising that State Affairs is being sold with its director’s name: Éric Valette is also responsible for the tough and uncompromising French TV cop series Braquo. State Affairs features some of the most promising names among young French actors, along with the reliable André Dussollier, and this is a suspenseful and finely-honed piece built around three principal characters: a corrupt politician, his hard-bitten colleague and an equally hard-boiled female cop. Two violent events set the narrative in motion: a plane exploding above the Gulf of Guinea, and the murder of prostitute in a Paris park. Despite the thousands of miles separating these two events, single-minded Parisian policewoman Nora Chahyd ignores a lack of cooperation from her superiors in order to make the connections (which, of course, there are); soon, Nora finds herself in the middle of a labyrinthine government cover-up which extends to the upper echelons of French political influence. Highly diverting, though this is, the film is to some extent a victim of its own kinetic pace and the director’s obvious pleasure in the surprising narrative twists — Éric Valette was able to better balance such felicities against a forensic concentration on character in Braquo making the latter still his most impressive work. Nevertheless, this is still worthwhile stuff.

 

THE COMPLETE HUMPHREY JENNINGS VOLUME 3: A DIARY FOR TIMOTHY Humphrey Jennings director/BFI Blu-ray  Another fascinating collection of short films by one of this country’s greatest documentarists. Perhaps the jewel in the crown here is a short film best remembered – if at all — for its splendid score by Vaughan Williams (no less), ‘Dim Little Island’. But this is only one of the points of interest in a collection which offers a snapshot of some of the most fascinating periods in Britain’s history.

 

EVIL DEAD Fede Alvarez, director/Studio Canal Blu-ray  The initial reaction from aficionados when a much-loved horror classic is treated to a remake is almost invariably: why bother? And certainly recent cinema history is full of redundant reboots of earlier successes. But despite this, filmmakers are well aware of the continuing commercial potential of these properties and the fact that some of the remakes may be impressive pieces of work in their own right (take, for instance, the recent remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes). While Fede Alvarez’s remake of the classic Sam Raimi film Evil Dead (which once so bothered the censors in this country) is clearly not in the imaginative class of the original, it is still very lively and inventive piece of work and – what’s more — as satisfyingly and outrageously blood-drenched as any horror aficionado could wish. 

 

KURONEKO Kaneto Shindô, director/Eureka Blu-Ray  The classic 1960s Japanese ghost-story directed by Kaneto Shindô, has been released as part of Eureka Entertainment’s MASTERS OF CINEMA Series on Blu-ray. Kaneto Shindô was the director of Onibaba, another classic of ’60s Japanese supernatural cinema. Kuroneko (Yabu no naka no kuroneko, or The Black Cat Inside the Bamboo Grove) received glowing reviews in 1968, and is a delicate, atmospheric fable marrying its chills to notions of duty, conformity, and love. Based on a Japanese folktale, the film centres on a mother and daughter-in-law (Nobuko Otowa and Kiwako Taichi) who are raped and killed by bandits, but return from the dead as vampiric cat spirits with thoughts of revenge, seductively luring soldiers into the bamboo groves, until a samurai, Intake (Kichiemon Nakamura), is dispatched to deal with theme. Plusses here are Kiyomi Kuroda’s award-winning cinematography and Hikaru Hayashi’s memorable score, along with striking performances from many of Japan’s finest actors.

 

BLACK SABBATH Mario Bava, director/Arrow Blu-Ray  Arrow Video delayed this issue to make further picture and audio restorations, a sign of their commitment to making available the best possible products. The deluxe edition of Mario Bava’s classic features both the original Italian version of the film and the re-edited, re-dubbed and re-scored American version (which censored the Italian original), fully restored for the first time, along with a slew of special features, bonus material and exclusive artwork.

 

THE BROOD David Cronenberg, director/ Second Sight Films Blu-Ray  The Brood, one of David Cronenberg’s most provocative (and disturbing) finally merits a long-awaited UK Blu-ray debut courtesy of Second Sight Films. This early piece from the Canadian maestro stars a typically intense Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar and still packs a punch.

 

 

 

BFI to release unseen ghost and horror titles from the BBC archives

This autumn the BFI will make available on DVD a superb collection of rare and previously unseen ghost and horror titles from the BBC archives. Released as part of the BFI’s GOTHIC: THE DARK HEART OF FILM blockbuster project (www.bfi.org.uk/gothic), these long-unseen gems will delight many fans of British horror and classic TV drama. Highlights in October include: The legendary Play for Today drama Robin Redbreast (1970) – an unsettling tale of ‘folk horror’ that’s considered a precursor to 1973’s The Wicker Man (DVD) The three surviving, terrifying episodes of the long-unseen 1972 ghost story anthology Dead of Night (DVD) Classic Ghost Stories (1986), five spine-tingling tales from the pen of MR James, presented by Robert Powell (DVD)…

The Missing Million from Network

Network are releasing new Edgar Wallace Present title, The Missing Million, part of “The British Film” Collection. Silent-era star John Stuart, Linden Travers and Patricia Hilliard feature in this atmospheric British wartime thriller, adapted from a story by one of the twentieth century’s most prolific crime writers. The film will be presented  in a brand-new transfer from the original film elements on 22 July 2013,

Horrors of the Black Museum

horrors-of-the-black-museum

 Network have made available (remastered from original film elements) a key British horror film – one which is something of guilty pleasure for many. The till-ringing success of Hammer Films led other studios to enthusiastically emulate that studio’s money-making ethos and lurid ad campaigns. Any consideration of other producers and production companies hitching their wagon to Hammer’s star has to begin with a discussion of the once-notorious, now-cherished Sadean trilogy of films produced by Anglo-Amalgamated (Michael Powell’s classic Peeping Tom, Arthur Crabtree’s Horrors of the Black Museum and Sydney Hayers’ Circus of Horrors – three films sharing a colourful, sardonic relish for modern-day Grand Guignol cruelty and a glossy late-1950s eroticism, but differing wildly in individual levels of achievement (though the two lesser films in the trilogy are undoubtedly still collector favourites).
Long perceived as an unofficial trilogy (although actually united only by the film company that distributed them), the three Anglo-Amalgamated films of the late 1950s and early 60s came to define a sleek poster-coloured, alternative to the refulgent period-set dramas of market leader Hammer. What the Anglo films shared with that company’s product, however, was a full-throttle, sanguinary approach to their hideous set-pieces, but with their contemporary settings giving them a more dangerous edge, less distanced by nineteenth-century milieux. All three films occasioned a degree of nervousness about their enthusiastic indulgence in flesh-creeping effects, but vary massively in terms of their individual achievement.
The work of a journeyman filmmaker, Horrors of the Black Museum (1957, directed by Arthur Crabtree) is an often enjoyably ludicrous slice of Grand Guignol. Horrors sports some illogical plotting, and features a minor character who endures a totally meretricious Jekyll-and-Hyde style transformation into a ghastly-visaged killer in a film already overloaded with grotesque elements, such as a highly unlikely portable guillotine (to be installed above the beds of nubile starlets). It was produced by American huckster/showman Hermann Cohen (of I Was a Teenage Werewolf fame), whose skills lay in the creation of crowd-pleasing concepts rather than any more nuanced attitude to filmmaking, but Horrors still managed to produce one of the indelible Gothic images of the day. In modern-day London, two young women receive a pair of binoculars through the post, and as one of them adjusts the setting (off-camera) we hear horrendous scream accompanied by a loud dissonant chord courtesy of the composer Gerard Schurmann. There is a cut to the luckless girl sprawled on the floor, her hands clasped to her eyes with blood running between her fingers, and on the floor a pair of binoculars with bloodied spikes which have sprung from the apparatus. In fact, the gruesome object itself had actually appeared in the real-life black museum at Scotland Yard and figured in an early murder case.