Although I write regularly here about the movies I watch, there are a lot more I don’t get around to mentioning – the reasons for what write about or ignore are not entirely clear.
In Establishing Shots: An Oral History of the Winnipeg Film Group (University of Manitoba Press), Kevin Nikkel pieces together the fifty-year history of the WFG through a collection of interviews recorded for the documentary Tales From the Winnipeg Film Group (2017), which he directed in collaboration with Dave Barber.
Flicker Alley and the Film Noir Foundation have released another fascinating Argentine movie from the early 1950s on the heels of two revelatory releases last year. Román Viñoly Barreto’s El vampiro negro (1953) is even more intriguing than Viñoly Barreto’s The Beast Must Die (1952) and Fernando Ayala’s The Bitter Stems (1956), being a reworking of Fritz Lang’s M (1931) from a very different perspective – that of a mother whose daughter is at risk from the serial child murderer.
Several new (and a couple of slightly older ) releases restore a range of Italian horrors from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, including a pair of artless movies by Bruno Mattei, Hell of the Living Dead (1980) and Rats: Night of Terror (1984); one of Mario Bava’s finest (and most perverse) Gothics, The Whip and the Body (1963), as well as his final made-for-television work, La Venere d’Ille (1979), co-directed by his son Lamberto; and a 4K restoration of Lucio Fulci’s gore masterpiece City of the Living Dead (1980).
Although overshadowed by his hugely influential cycle of zombie movies, Martin (1976), George A. Romero’s treatment of vampirism, is his finest work, a complex and subtle meditation on myth, madness, violence and social collapse in mid-’70s America. Second Sight’s 4K restoration finally gives this masterpiece the release it deserves.
Small Axe (2020), Steve McQueen’s five-part film series for the BBC, corrects a glaring omission in British film and television’s treatment of the post-war history of social and political struggle and change; while the lives of the working class became increasingly visible in the ’60s and ’70s, issues of race remained largely unaddressed until this belated project created something like a parallel history to go alongside the classic work of filmmakers like Ken Loach and Alan Clarke. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set also includes Uprising (2021), McQueen’s powerful three-part documentary (co-directed by James Rogan) about the New Cross fire and the subsequent Brixton Riots, which gives added context to the stories told in Small Axe.
A new two-disk set from Vinegar Syndrome provides an impressive introduction to an unfamiliar Mexican filmmaker. Mexican Gothic: The Films of Carlos Enrique Taboada includes two atmospheric horror movies and a powerful drama about a man driven to extremes by the poverty that has trapped him his whole life.
A pair of recent Indicator releases resurrect a couple of all-but forgotten features with major stars. Richard Widmark plays a Western lawman whose time has passed in Death of a Gunfighter (1969), the first movie credited to phantom director Alan Smithee, while George C. Scott is a former New York judge dealing with grief by taking on the identity of Sherlock Holmes; his therapist just happens to be named Dr. Watson (Joanne Woodward).