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.
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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.
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.
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.
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).
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, 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.
Indicator lavish attention on four less well-known, non-Gothic Hammer Films productions in their second box set devoted to the company: Criminal Intent focuses on a range of bad behaviour from murder to bank robbery and child molestation in four films which, while not all entirely successful, illuminate the studio’s versatility.
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.