Very brief comments on several dozen disks viewed over the past few months.
An eclectic assortment of recent viewing, including an obscure short feature from England, a couple of westerns old and new, and a pair of Elmore Leonard adaptations.
Two recent Twilight Time Blu-ray releases – Roy Ward Baker’s Inferno (1953) and Don Siegel’s Edge of Eternity (1959) – place film noir narratives in bright desert landscapes, one in 3D, the other in panoramic widescreen.
Severin’s Blu-ray showcases the low budget art of independent filmmaker Frederick R. Friedel with excellent transfers of his two mid-’70s movies, Axe (aka Lisa, Lisa) and Kidnapped Coed (aka The Kidnap Lover).
Four Twilight Time releases showcase exceptional acting in a variety of styles: Spencer Tracy and Frederick March in Stanley Kramer’s Inherit the Wind (1960); Jeff Bridges, John Heard and Lisa Eichhorn in Ivan Passer’s Cutter’s Way (1981); Sean Penn and Christopher Walken in James Foley’s At Close Range (1986); and David Thewlis in Paul Greengrass’ Resurrected (1989).
With HMV Canada going bankrupt and closing down, a disk addict gets a couple of months of increasingly cheap deals, leading to some great and some not-so-wise purchases.
Three more black-and-white movies in excellent Blu-ray editions – Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die!, Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow and John Baxter’s Love on the Dole – offer yet another reminder of the richness of monochrome film art.
Although it’s impossible to keep up with all the disks from Twilight Time, I’ve recently been binging on some of their newer releases.
The pleasures of black-and-white cinematography are on full display in Ken Hughes’ The Small World of Sammy Lee; shot on the streets of Soho and the East End by the great Wolfgang Suschitzky, this story of a small-time entertainer and compulsive gambler desperately trying to raise cash to pay off a gangster is a finely observed depiction of the seedier side of pre-Swinging London, shot through with bleak humour and the tentative possibility of redemption.
Criterion’s release of a key but little-known feature by Jean Renoir, the conceptually and stylistically sophisticated La Chienne, is essential viewing.