The Killing/Killers Kiss Stanley Kubrick, director/Arrow Blu-Ray What would we do without Arrow films? Their excavation of quality cinema extends from the best of foreign TV and film crime dramas to Italian genre cinema, taking in classic American Film Noir along the way. What’s more, this material is given non-pareil Blu-ray spruce-up treatments which make the films look absolutely pristine – and they are shored up by some of the best extras in the entire DVD and Blu-ray field. Well, to quote the late Mandy Rice Davies, I would say that wouldn’t I? I’m sometimes commissioned to be a part of these extras — as I am with this exemplary double bill to which I contributed an essay on a neglected writer. Stanley Kubrick used on the basis for The Killing a novel by Lionel White; the writer’s books were successful enough to result in a variety of foreign translations, and, like so many pulp novelists, he wrote for a clutch of different publishers: initially the gritty crime specialists Gold Medal, but latterly for Dutton. His books, which included The Snatchers (1953, filmed 15 years later as The Night of the Following Day), The Big Caper (1955, filmed two years later under that title) and A Grave Undertaking (1961), all were written in a terse, stripped-down style which was the lingua franca of the hardboiled novel. The Killing is one of Kubrick’s signature early movies and one of the best heist films ever made with its pared-down, diamond-hard narrative and superb cast, including some of the best character actors in American cinema. If that (and my Lionel White essay, of course) were not enough to make you pick it up, there is the considerable inducement (surprisingly not mentioned on the front of the sleeve of Kubrick’s second feature, Killer’s Kiss, from 1955 also presented in high definition.
The Other Robert Mulligan, director/Eureka Blu-ray Over the years, Robert Mulligan’s deeply unsettling film about a terrifying child murderer (that is to say, the murderer is a child) has acquired a considerable reputation for its beautiful cinematography and characteristic grasp of the uncertainty of the adolescent world (a speciality of the director, also responsible for the film of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird). The Other comes over untarnished in this splendid Blu-ray transfer, considerably enhanced by Jerry Goldsmith’s perfectly judged score.
Sunflower Vittorio de Sica, director/Argent Films Sunflower has been a film which has sent out decidedly mixed signals over the years. Directed late in his career by one of the great neorealist directors, Vittorio de Sica, and starring two of Italian cinema’s most durable stars, Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni, viewers might naturally expect an arthouse film — but the fact that the film was scored by Henry Mancini (best known for light scores) muddies the waters somewhat, and its English-dubbed version also suggested something slighter. But here it is in the original language, finally given the kind of presentation it deserves, with the beautiful cinematography shown to advantage. Lorenplays a woman trying to track down her husband (Mastroiannni) lost in the war. The wash and rinse it now receives shows it is still not an undiscovered masterpiece, but the film boasts many virtues. Originally released in 1970, this newly restored version, is taken from HD elements, befitting its cinematography (by Giuseppe Rotunno, who shot such Italian films as Visconti’s The Leopard).