The Glass Key and Others Forthcoming from Arrow

Whether your love is for the comedies of Woody Allen, or the dark shadows of classic film noir, Arrow Academy has a Blu-Ray release for you this September. If your tastes delve into the darker side of cinema, Arrow Academy is bringing two classic film noirs to Blu-Ray. The Glass Key sees the second collaboration between Hollywood icons Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake (with an audio commentary by Barry Forshaw), while The Blue Dahlia sees them team up under director George Marshall to create their noir masterpiece. Three Woody Allen releases should be part of any fan’s collection. Woody Allen: Six Films 1971 – 1978 is a box set release that showcases six of the director’s earliest films, allowing you to chart his development from screwball comedies to mature humour and drama. It also includes a fabulous 100-page hardback book with writings from Allen himself as well as a host of critics. September also sees the stand-alone Blu-Ray release of Bananas, Allen’s hilarious comedy that sees his character kidnapped only to become the FBI’s most wanted man as he is made president of a Central American republic. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask, meanwhile, answers a host of important questions including “Do aphrodisiacs work?” and “What are sex perverts?” Arrow Academy Blu-Ray editions feature sumptuous high definition presentations of each of the films along with a host of special features, allowing cinephiles to explore the films further Continue reading

From Nordic Noir to Vintage Science Fiction

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FOLLOW THE MONEY, various directors/Arrow Nordic Noir and Beyond  As we see more and more Nordic Noir shows, we are starting to identify a variety of familiar fingerprints (Thicker than Water, for instance, plays almost as an actionable remake of The Legacy — with a divisive legacy from a dead woman pulling a family of siblings apart, with one son in hock to brutal creditors — the same plot, in fact). However, Follow The Money is something different with its financial finaglings and its lively mix of betrayal and moral choices (notably troublesome for the compromised heroine). The reliable Nikola Lie Klas is a particular plus of the series, suitably Machiavellian.

ENEMY MINE, Wolfgang Petersen, director Eureka Blu-ray This neglected science fiction outing – which plays like a remake of John Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific set in outer space — will have beed encountered by many viewers via its original panned-and-scanned video release, which did it no favours. Here’s a chance to see its splashy special effects in a spectacular Blu-ray, with the other-world clash between astronauts Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett Jr (the latter in Lizard make-up) looking better than it ever did before.

THE OX-BOW INCIDENT, William Wellman, director/Arrow Blu-ray  Its overt seriousness may now seem a touch over-emphasised, but this early entry in the ‘adult western’ field still carries considerable impact. Set in a small Nevada town where tensions are running high thanks to a spate of cattle rustling, things reach boiling point when cowboy Larry Kinkaid is murdered. With the sheriff out of town, the residents form a posse and head to Ox-Bow Canyon to find the three men they believe to be guilty – including Dana Andrews and Anthony Quinn in early major roles – and enact their own form of justice. A favourite of both Clint Eastwood and star Henry Fonda, who serves as the film’s moral centre, The Ox-Bow Incident is a tough, complex picture whose uncompromising starkness continues to astound to this day. One of Hollywood’s most prolific directors, William A. Wellman was responsible for more than 80 features and a string of masterpieces including Wings, the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar, The Public Enemy, which made a star of James Cagney, screwball classic Nothing Sacred, the original A Star is Born and this marvellous noir-inflected Western. This is new 4K digital restoration by Twentieth Century Fox.

DOOMWATCH, Peter Sasdy, director/ScreenBound  The history of screen adaptations of successful TV shows is a distinctly chequered one, but this version of the well-made British ecological science fiction show is one of the best, not least because of the director, Hammer alumnus Peter Sasdy, and a reliable imported star for the film version, Ian Bannen. After an oil tanker spill near a secluded island, Dr Gail Shaw (Bannen) of Doomwatch, the British government environmental monitoring organisation, is sent to investigate. He makes some horrifying discoveries.

ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA, Trevor Nunn, director/Network  I have memories of seeing this production on stage – and it was memorable indeed. Trevor Nunn co-directs Richard Johnson (The Haunting) and Oscar-nominee Janet Suzman (The Draughtsman’s Contract) in this landmark production of Shakespeare’s tragedy of power and passion in Ancient Egypt. First broadcast in 1974 and based on Nunn’s celebrated staging with the Royal Shakespeare Company, its intensity and originality raised the bar for small-screen adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Emphasising the futility of the protagonists’ unworldly love against the coldly calculating might of Octavian, adopted son of Julius Caesar, this intimately staged production earned a BAFTA for director Jon Scoffield, with Janet Suzman receiving a BAFTA nomination for her mesmerising portrayal of the doomed Egyptian queen. Antony and Cleopatra also features early appearances by Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), Tim Pigott-Smith (Gangs of New York) and Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) – who won universal praise in the role of Antony’s loyal, agonised confidante, Enobarbus.

THE TIME TRAVELERS/THE ANGRY RED PLANET/THE BEAST WITH A MILLION EYES/REPTILICUS, various directors/Fabulous Films  In an era when science fiction rules at the box office, it’s hard to remember a time when aficionados of the genre had to be content with SF items appearing at staggered intervals – although there was one era rather similar to our own: the late 1950s and early 60s, when the SF genre was highly popular, and audiences flocked to see both high and low budget movies. Fabulous Films puts aficionados in their debt by reissuing some famous titles (both good and bad) of the era. While the range of achievement is distinctly wide (with at least one stinker in the bunch), there are some unusual SF pleasures to be had here. The best film is one inspired by the man who (Jules Verne apart) could be said to be the father of so many science-fiction concepts, HG Wells. The Time Travellers is a lively science fiction B movie from 1964, directed by Ib Melchior (The Angry Red Planet, Robinson Crusoe on Mars), The Time Travelers is loosely based on Wells’ 1895 novel The Time Machine. Melchior, the son of the Danish opera singer Laurits Melchior, served in counter-intelligence for the U.S. during World War II, and claimed that his proposed ideas for TV shows and films were stolen by those he pitched to and were turned in to Star Trek and Lost in Space. He said that having consulted with lawyers “…they all advised me to let it go, I was still relatively new in Hollywood, and I was told that if I made waves I would never work in town. I would be blackballed.” The Time Travelers had a small budget of an estimated $250,000. Illusions were devised by a magician to serve as special effects although when sufficiently tall actors couldn’t be found to play the mutant characters, they hired the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team. In the film, a scientist steps through the portal, travels 107 years into the future and finds a barren underground post-nuclear war world, where a handful of “normal humans” are being attacked by mutants. Other films in the current Fabulous Films crop include a threadbare low budget effort produced by Roger Corman, The Beast with a Million Eyes, which is a triumph of imagination and ambition over limited resources, and Melchior’s The Angry Red Planet, with its memorable (if unconvincing) rat/bat/spider/crab marionette, which has become one of the defining images of genre cinema. SF fans will also be keen to see the notorious Reptilicus which genuinely has to be seen to be disbelieved – this Danish-shot effort has acquired a reputation over the years which would make it creators unhappy. However, almost everything in the batch has interest for SF fans, and Fabulous Films are to be applauded for their initiative.

THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS, Jack Hill, director/Arrow Blu-ray  If you’re in the mood for something both kitsch and enjoyable, this fondly remember Jack Hill movie will be will do the trick. Hill spent the seventies specialising in tough female characters. He made movies about girl gangs (Switchblade Sisters) and women in prison (The Big Doll House, The Big Bird Cage), turned Pam Grier a star with Coffy and Foxy Brown, and contributed to the Cheerleaders line of drive-in favourites with The Swinging Cheerleaders. Kate, an undergraduate at Mesa University, goes undercover as a cheerleader for her college newspaper in order to expose ‘female exploitation in contemporary society’. But instead of oppression she finds love, friendship and a bigger fish to fry: corruption in the football team, headed up by the coach and his pals. A favourite of Quentin Tarantino, who screened it at the very first Tarantino Film Fest.

THE WICKED LADY, Michael Winner, director/Second Sight  The original Margaret Leighton saucy melodrama (which upset the American censors because of the leading lady’s generously displayed cleavage) was already distinctly tongue in cheek, but that tongue is wedged even more firmly in cheek for this remake with a splendid cast (Faye Dunaway, Alan Bates, John Gielgd and Denholm Eliot) treating the material like an end of the pier pantomime. Nudity abound, but never that of a decorous Faye Dunaway. Let’s not be po-faced about it; the film provides some crass but not-so-innocent fun.

ALL NIGHT LONG, Basil Dearden, director/Network/The British Film Collection Patrick McGoohan is best remembered for his to iconic television series, Danger Man and the baffling futuristic show, which grew out of the latter, The Prisoner. The actors immensely charismatic presence combined with this difficult withholding personality (this Catholicism meant that the poor child any love scenes in his films was occasionally showcased to great effect in movies are used. This element his personality such as All Night Long. PATRICK McGoohan (The Prisoner) and Keith Michell (The Pirates of Penance) star in this powerful psychological drama which deftly re-interprets Shakespeare’s Othello via the beating, syncopated heart of East London’s early-sixties jazz scene. The film features outstanding performances from jazz legends Charlie Mingus, Dave Brubeck, Johnny Dankworth and Tubby Hayes. It is presented here in a brand-new High Definition transfer from original film elements in its original, as-exhibited aspect ratio. Wealthy music promoter Rod Hamilton throws an anniversary party for famous jazzman Aurelius Rex and his wife and musical partner Delia. Music and goodwill flow freely until ambitious rival Johnny Cousin – intent on poaching Delia to join his own band – plans to destroy the couple’s relationship over the course of a single night…

THE FACE OF EVE, director/Network is part of Network’s ‘The British Film’ collection. From low-budget producer Harry Alan Towers – a man who always seemed able to persuade Christopher Lee to appear in his maladroit films — is a misfiring but interesting curio. Lee, Robert Walker and Herbert Lom in this tale of lost treasure set deep in the Amazon jungle, but the undeniable star of The Face of Eve is Celeste Yarnall – later famous as the star of the cult horror piece The Velvet Vampire. Mike Yates, a pilot and adventurer searching for lost Inca treasure, is saved from savages by a beautiful white jungle goddess who wields a strange power over her subjects. Soon both Yates and the mysterious Eve are involved in a dangerous race deep into the jungle to locate the hidden treasure.

SATAN’S BLADE, L. Scott Castillo, director/Arrow  Dusted off and spruced up by Arrow, this obscure ’80s slasher film, Satan’s Blade is worth a look for curious horror aficionados. Arriving at a snow-capped mountain resort, a group of youngsters are met by the news that a double murder has taken place there the previous night. Despite this grisly revelation, they decide to stay on, unaware of the knife-wielding figure stalking the wintry landscape… Could the local legend about a vengeful mountain man have some truth to it? Shot in Big Bear, California in 1980 but not released until 1984, L. Scott Castillo, Jr.’s Satan’s Blade succeeds in establishing a thoroughly creepy atmosphere – helped in no small part by a freakish nightmare sequence that’s sure to inspire more than a few sleepless nights. This new 2K restoration of the film presented in both 1.85:1 and 4:3 (1.33:1) versions and boast a slew of extras.

SUTURE, David Siegel and Scott McGehee, directors/Arrow The fact that the film was inspired by John Frankenheimer’s masterpieces The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds does not mean that it can match the level of achievement of those films, but, Suture, with its ambition not quite matching its inspiration, is certainly well worth viewers’ time. Inspired by the paranoid visions of Frankenheimer’s films, the desert noir of Detour and the black and white widescreen beauty of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s The Face of Another and Woman of the Dunes, Suture is one of great feature debuts – by writer-directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee. The wealthy and self-assured Vincent (Michael Harris) meets his blue collar half-brother Clay (Dennis Haysbert) at their father’s funeral and is struck by their similarity. He decides to murder Clay and take his identity, only Clay survives the assassination attempt with no memory and is mistaken for Vincent. The fact that Harris is white and Haysbert is black only complicates a film that probes into the nature of identity. After viewing an early rough cut, Steven Soderbergh came on board as executive producer and enthusiastic patron. Suture went on to become a hit on the festival circuit, including Sundance where it deservedly won the award for Best Cinematography.

New McFarland Film Titles

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The Kaiju Film Jason Barr McFarland 9780786499632  Once a neglected area of film studies, books about fantasy and science fiction adventures featuring the city-levelling antics of gigantic Japanese film monsters — the word ‘Kaiju’ means strange monster or beast) were few and far between. But Jason Barr’s lively and fun study (subtitled ‘A critical study of the cinema’s biggest monsters’) is both an enthusiastic celebration of an often despised genre, written with both a fan’s indulgence and a scholar’s hard-core grasp of information. Ambitiously, Barr is not content to simply tackle the Japanese variety of destructive behemoth, but adduces American films such as the remarkable Kronos, with its bizarre Cubist-inspired robot machine and the much-loved British film Gorgo, with the title monster’s mother, no less, laying waste to such London landmarks as Tower Bridge. For aficionados of the genre, this is splendid stuff.

Yul Brynner: A Biography Michelangelo Capua  McFarland 9780786424610 Immensely charismatic, Yul Brynner was always more of a star than an actor but chose his vehicles well to showcase his virtues and is emblazoned on the consciousness of many a cinemagoer for such films as The Magnificent Seven and The King and I (the latter part tailored for him by Rogers and Hammerstein). Michelangelo Capua is the New York correspondent for Italian magazines has also written entertaining biographies of Vivien Leigh and Montgomery Clift, and here provides some fascinating insights into Brynner’s difficult and rebarbative personality. Attention is also given to some of the actors ventures into the crime or thriller genre such as The Double Man and The Saboteur, but it’s Brynner’s contribution to the epic which is central to his appeal — and is rightly celebrated here.