Horror, drug-dealing surfers, women-in-prison, violent revenge, lab-created monsters, musical zombies and aliens crowd Vinegar Syndrome’s summer release schedule.
As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.
Cauldron Films casts a wide net with their recent releases: Contraband (1980), a violent thriller by Lucio Fulci, is joined by Eloy de la Iglesia’s homage to A Clockwork Orange, Murder in a Blue World (1973), Jordan Graham’s mysterious folk horror Sator (2019) and Karoly Ujj Meszaros wistful Hungarian fantasy Liza the Fox Fairy (2015).
Two new Arrow releases – and one older one – plunge into sexual confusion, insecurity, violence and romantic longing: Robert Day’s TV movie The Initiation of Sarah (1977) riffs on themes from Stephen King’s Carrie; Gérard Kikoïne’s Edge of Sanity (1989) gives Anthony Perkins a chance to unleash his inner demons in a career-topping dual performance as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Kathleen Turner is fearless as a businesswoman who moonlights as a prostitute inspires romantic passion in one man and murderous passion in another, the latter another ferocious, jittery performance from Anthony Perkins.
Taking its time, Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s award-winning Drive My Car (2021) begins with a sense of detached observation and gradually draws you into emotional depths as its characters come to know each other and themselves during the process of rehearsing a performance of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya in Hiroshima. Criterion’s Blu-ray presentation features a beautiful image, supplemented with a making-of, an interview with Hamaguchi and a press conference from Cannes.
A couple of things seen long ago have resurfaced on disk, tugging at vague memories: Network’s 11-disk set of all 52 episodes of the BBC’s classic series based on Georges Simenon’s novels about Superintendent Maigret (1960-63), and Brian Damude’s scrappy Canadian thriller Sudden Fury (1975) from Vinegar Syndrome reveal just how flawed my memory is.
Writer-director Zale Dalen made one of the most distinctive Canadian features during the tax shelter years, but Skip Tracer (1977) all but disappeared with the tide of low-budget disaster movies and slasher films produced by financial support from the government between 1975 and 1982. Dalen ended up doing mostly episodic television, though he did briefly return to features in the ’90s, culminating in the absurd but entertaining sci-fi martial arts potboiler Expect No Mercy (1995).
A pair of recent Blu-rays from Kino Lorber bookend the career of “King of the Bs” Edgar G. Ulmer, who began his off-Hollywood career with a social issues drama about syphilis called Damaged Lives (1933) and ended it with a pair of cheap sci-fi movies, The Amazing Transparent Man and Beyond the Time Barrier (both 1960), with one of the highlights between being The Man from Planet X (1951), the latter three included in KL’s Edgar G, Ulmer Sci-Fi Collection triple-bill.
Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.
I had to overcome numerous unforeseen difficulties to see Tears of Kali (2004), the first feature by German director Andreas Marschall (Masks, 2011), a stylish and artful collection of three loosely connected horror stories linked to a dangerous cult; each story centres on a couple of characters caught in psychologically tense conflict with occasional eruptions of graphic physical violence.