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.
A recent trip to England produced stacks of new disks, some interesting books, and several in-flight movies.
With a three disk first volume, Arrow Video embark on an ambitious undertaking with the American Horror Project, which intends to gather together independent, fringe features from the ’70s and ’80s, surrounded by supplementary features which provide context and possibly a cumulative history of this genre niche. Set one gathers three movies of varying quality.
Criterion releases some high-end trash with an extras-packed edition of Valley of the Dolls, and a collection of journalistic reviews by Graham Greene offers interesting insights into movies in the ’30s.
Brief thoughts on some genre movies released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video, plus a couple of interesting books about the making of Cy Endfield’s Zulu and Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.
I recently unearthed a university paper I wrote almost 30 years ago in which I tried to explain why Frank Capra’s work rubbed me the wrong way. It’s a glimpse of where I came from as a writer about film.
Arrow releases yet another impressive limited edition box-set with their dual-format edition of Kinji Fukasaku’s Battles Without Honor and Humanity, a key work in the transition of Japanese cinema from the “classical” post-war period to a more transgressive critique of the nation’s history and culture.
Although I saw fewer movies in theatres than ever, this year offered a rich array of films on disk, belying continuing prophecies of the medium’s demise in the face of on-line streaming.
With an impressive Blu-ray of Speedy (1928), the Criterion Collection continue their project of proving that Harold Lloyd was the equal of Chaplin and Keaton in the art of silent comedy.
I recently gave a speech based on my documentary about the history of movie theatres in Winnipeg; this is the text.