Rough Cut Blog

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.

More late winter viewing, part two

An experimental serum revives and mutates dead soldiers in Julius Avery's Overlord (2018)

Style trumps substance in several recently viewed movies: from Stefano Sollima’s troubling depiction of mythic threats on the U.S. southern border in Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018) to Julius Avery’s disappointing exploitation of World War Two horrors for cheap thrills in Overlord (2018), from Drew Goddard’s ersatz Tarantino-like narrative play in Bad Times at the El Royale (2018) to Kenneth Branagh’s glossy rehash of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express (2017).

More late winter viewing, part one

Be scared or laugh? Walking alien slime mold in Kinji Fukasaku's The Green Slime (1968)

Entertainment knows no bounds in terms of style or quality: recent viewing ranges from Walter Hill’s gripping Vietnam allegory Southern Comfort (1981) to Kinji Fukusaku’s pulp sci-fi The Green Slime (1968), from Richard Franklin’s Ozploitation horror Patrick (1978) to Robert Amram’s perplexing End Times “documentary” The Late Great Planet Earth (1979).

Agnès Varda 1928-2019

Agnès Varda in Faces Places (2017)

Agnès Varda, whose remarkable career spanned from 1955’s La Pointe Courte to the recently released Varda by Agnès (2019), has died at the age of 90. In six-and-a-half decades, she created a body of work rooted in a fascination with human beings and the social forces which shape them, in features and documentaries full of acute insights and humour.

British black-and-white fantasies

Members of a British Army bomb disposal squad inspect the interior of the alien craft in Nigel Kneale's Quatermass and the Pit (1959)

Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases illuminate different strains of British fantasy. They Came to a City (1944), written by J.B. Priestley and directed by Basil Dearden is a Utopian political fable proposing a new Socialist society for post-war Britain, while Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1959) spins an epic tale of human evolution and our innate propensity for violence through the story of an ancient spaceship discovered buried beneath London.

Adapting Clive Barker

Tony Todd's killer ghost schemes to destroy Helen (Virginia Madsen)'s complacent life so she'll have to join him in Bernard Rose's Clive Barker adaptation Candyman (1992)

Clive Barker’s distinctive prose style, while it creates vivid and highly visual stories, is difficult to transform into movies because the themes and meanings of the stories are strangely abstract. While Barker himself has been his own most successful adapter, there have been many attempts to capture his vision on film – some better than others. George Pavlou’s Rawhead Rex (1986) misses the mark, but Bernard Rose’s Candyman almost succeeds but is diverted by moving the story from Liverpool to Chicago.