Random viewing, short takes

Sennia Nanua gives a riveting performance as Melanie, The Girl with All the Gifts (Colm McCarthy, 2016)

A decidedly mixed bag of recent viewing; a pair of young adult zombie stories — the Maze Runner Trilogy (2014-18) and the small-scale The Girl with All the Gifts (2016); a taut ’50s prison escape noir (Crashout, 1955) and a polished new crime noir (Dragged Across Concrete, 2018); a minor, dull thriller (All the Devil’s Men, 2018); and a bloated, enervatingly pretentious remake of a genre classic (Suspiria, 2018).

Demons and vampires from the ’70s

The newly risen Caleb Croft (Michael Pataki) snacks on a suburban housewife in John Hayes' Grave of the Vampire (1972)

A pair of recent Blu-rays from Shout! Factory bookend ’70s horror with John Hayes’ Grave of the Vampire (1972), a too-little-known cheap exploitation feature which revitalizes vampire mythology and William Girdler’s The Manitou (1978), a low-budget studio movie with a better-than-average cast which plays a variation on demonic possession but fails to find an effective tone.

Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957): Criterion Blu-ray review

Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes (Andy Griffith performs in a smalltown Arkansas jail in Elia Kazan's A Face in the Crowd (1957)

The Criterion Collection presents a new 4K restoration of Elia Kazan’s best film, A Face in the Crowd (1957). The excellent image showcases two of the finest performances of the 1950s: Andy Griffith in his screen debut as the countryboy-turned-demagogue Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal as the smalltown radio reporter who discovers him and facilitates his rise to national stardom.

An evening with ’50s monsters

... and the mantis meets a traditional end amidst the trappings of urban civilization in Nathan Juran's The Deadly Mantis (1957)

Blu-ray technology is lavished on a pair of cheap 1950s sci-fi/horror movies with Shout! Factory’s The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Kino Lorber’s The Maze (1953), the latter is superbly restored 3D. Both movies get informative commentaries and other extras – and both probably never looked this good even in their original theatrical releases.

Giallothon!

A sadistic killer (Michele Renzullo) stalks Venice in Mario Landi’s Giallo a Venezia (1979)

Severin’s box set of Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Federico Caddeo’s documentary All the Colors of Giallo (2019) provides a masterclass in the poetically sordid Italian genre which flourished so briefly from the late 1960s to early 1980s. The collection of eighty-two giallo trailers with a four-hour commentary by Kat Ellinger are alone worth the price, but there’s a lot more – including two CDs of giallo scores and several informative interviews, as well as a supplementary disk which surveys the German krimi genre.

Hammer on Blu-ray from Indicator, part two

Tallulah Bankhead as Mrs. Trefoile, a religious fanatic obsessed with her son's purity in Silvio Narizzano's Fanatic (1965)

Indicator’s first box set of Hammer films on Blu-ray is an uneven selection of the studio’s mid-’60s output, including two of their best along with two of their weakest releases. Alongside Michael Carreras’ mediocre Maniac (1963) and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), we get The Gorgon (1964), on of Terence Fisher’s finest Gothic horrors along with Silvio Narizzano’s debut feature, Fanatic (1965, aka Die! Die! My Darling!), the best of Hammer’s psychological horrors, all sporting excellent transfers and informative special features.