The Infernal Affairs trilogy (2002-03): Criterion Blu-ray review

An undercover cop and a triad mole face off on a Hong Kong rooftop in Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak's Infernal Affairs (2002)

Soon after Hong Kong was handed back to China by Britain, filmmakers Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak embarked on an ambitious project to revitalize a film industry in disarray. The result was the Infernal Affairs trilogy, which has its roots in the HK action movies of the 1980s, using familiar narrative tropes as a springboard for a complex meditation on identity amidst new political and economic uncertainties. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set showcases the trilogy with an array of new and archival extras.

James Whale’s Show Boat (1936): music and race in Golden Age Hollywood

Black labour with echoes of slavery in James Whale's Show Boat (1936)

Although now he’s best-known for his four witty Gothic horror movies – Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein – Show Boat (1936) is arguably James Whale’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker. One of the decade’s great musicals, it is also one of the most complex and nuanced treatments of race and its impact on American culture produced at the height of Hollywood’s studio era. Criterion’s Blu-ray does full justice to the film’s intrinsic qualities and historical importance.

Two Mexican westerns from Vinegar Syndrome

The betrayed husband (Pedro Armendáriz Jr) channels Peckinpah's anti-heroes during the climactic battle in Rene Cardona's Guns and Guts (1974)

Mexico looms large in the Western genre, in both its Hollywood and spaghetti iterations, but until now it hadn’t occurred to me that Mexican filmmakers might have made their own Westerns; that unasked question is firmly answered by the recent Vinegar Syndrome release of a pair of movies which seem to straddle the boundary between the classical Hollywood and Italian versions of America’s defining myth of masculinity and violence.

George A. Romero’s The Amusement Park (1975)

Neglect, contempt, hostility and violence breed paranoia in George A. Romero's The Amusement Park (1975)

The rediscovery of a film commissioned by Lutheran Services from Pittsburgh’s The Latent Image company in 1975 shines a light on a transitional stage of George A. Romero’s career. The Amusement Park transforms a PSA about neglect of the elderly into a bleak nightmare of abuse and paranoia as Lincoln Maazel (Tata Cuda in Martin [1976]) is subjected to disdain, neglect and outright violence at a rundown amusement park.

The Pemini Organisation on Blu-ray from Indicator

John Drummond (Edward Woodward) expresses his grief through violence in Peter Crane's Hunted (1972)

Indicator unearth an obscure corner of ’70s British cinema with a box set of the three movies made by recent filmschool graduates who formed a production company called The Pemini Organisation. Despite extremely low budgets, director Peter Crane and writer Michael Sloan benefited from skilled technicians and high-profile casts who give the films professional polish; but the vagaries of commercial distribution made them disappear until this revival on disk fifty years later.

Blasts from the past

Kinji Fukasaku’s Yakuza epic

Julien Duvivier in the Thirties: Eclipse 44

Criterion Blu-ray review: The Killers (1946/1964)

Recent viewing: April & May 2016

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