Cagey Films Blog

Early Mexican horror from Indicator

Cristina (Marta Roel) tries to overcome Alfonso (Enrique del Campo)'s reticence about betraying Eduardo (Carlos Villatoro) in Fernando de Fuentes’ The Phantom of the Monastery (1934)

Two new releases from Indicator illuminate the origins of Mexican horror (best known from the work of filmmakers like Chano Urueta, Fernando Mendez and Rafael Baladon in the 1950s and ’60s) in the early days of sound in the 1930s when filmmakers first strove to create an indigenous industry rooted in Mexican history and culture. Ramon Peon’s La llorona (1933), rooted in a local folk legend, was the country’s first sound horror movie, while Fernando de Fuentes’ The Phantom of the Monastery (1934) uses a Twilight Zone-like narrative to teach three characters a moral lesson. Both films have been impressively restored on disks which include a commentary and informative featurettes which illuminate their position and influenbce in Mexican cinema.

Budd Boetticher’s A Time for Dying (1969) from Indicator

Cass (Richard Lapp) tries to suppress his fear by feigning an equal determination in Budd Boetticher's A Time for Dying (1969)

Indicator’s recent Blu-ray of A Time for Dying (1969) resurrects the final feature of writer-director Budd Boetticher and actor-producer Audie Murphy, and odd, slightly crippled western made quickly to pay off some debts. Mixing the naivety of young, inexperienced characters with amoral brutality, it ends on a disturbingly note more in tune with end-of-the-’60s cynicism than the moral certainties of an earlier era’s westerns in which this movie superficially seems to have its roots.

Winter viewing 2: Vinegar Syndrome partners

Misanthropic scientist Herbert Von Krantz (Daniel Emilfork) invents an anti-nuclear device in Jean-Louis Roy's The Unknown Man of Shandigor (1967)

Recent releases from various Vinegar Syndrome partner labels offer a wide range of styles, from low-budget direct-to-video horror (Ronnie Sortor’s Sinistre [1995], Charles Pinion’s Red Spirit Lake [1993] and We Await [1996]) to a rediscovered slice of Cold War sci-fi/espionage from Switzerland (Jean-Louis Roy’s The Unknown Man of Shandigor [1967]).

Winter viewing 1: Vinegar Syndrome

Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) investigates a killer martial artist in Kelly Makin's Tiger Claws (1991)

A long cold winter, a working-from-home schedule and pandemic-induced malaise means I’ve been watching a lot of undemanding genre movies over the past few months. One of my primary sources in the past couple of years has been Vinegar Syndrome, a company whose dedication to unearthing obscure, often forgotten genre movies equals my own passion for watching them. Although by no means a complete account of my VS viewing, here are brief notes on two dozen titles.

Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse (1973) and other recent Indicator releases

Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) confronts an ancient religion on a remote Greek island in Kostas Karagiannis’ The Devil’s Men (1976)

Recent releases from Indicator have seemed oddly random – from an unexceptional genre movie (Kostas Karagiorgis’ The Devil’s Men [1076]) to an arthouse war film (Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse [1973]), a ghost story that comes across like a television play (Kevin Billington’s Voices [1973]) to an interesting if unsuccessful literary adaptation (Anthony Friedmann’s Bartleby [1970]) and a revisionist detective story which plays with the tropes of the English country house mystery (Chris Petit’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman [1982]).

Updating Cagey Films

CageyFilms new sister site FlickNotes provides additional tools for exploring our content

CageyFilms has added some new design features to aid visitors in exploring our large archive of content – a million-and-a-half words accumulated over eleven years – including a new sister site called FlickNotes which provides a searchable graphic index with metadata about the more than 2500 movies written about on the blog.

Harry Dean Stanton’s swansong: Lucky (2017)

Harry Dean Stanton contemplates the meaning and value of life in John Carroll Lynch's Lucky (2017)

John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky (2017) is a portrait of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, which is also a tribute to actor Harry Dean Stanton, on whose life much of the script was based. Generous and emotionally rich, the film surrounds Harry Dean with a flawless cast which forms a supportive community within which he comes to accept without fear or anger the idea of his own inevitable death.

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le cercle rouge (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Three unlikely partners come together to rob a Paris jewellery store in Jean-Pierre Melville's masterful Le cercle rouge (1970)

Criterion have re-released Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful heist movie Le cercle rouge (1970) in a new dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray edition based on a 4K restoration by StudioCanal. Although there are no new extras (supplements adding up to almost two hours date back to the company’s original 2003 DVD release), the film looks better than ever, its narrative stripped to essentials as a meditation on professionalism, fate and the moral ambiguity of characters on both sides of the law.

Blasts from the past

Looking back …

Nuclear war and the movies

Peter Yates (1929-2011)

Stanley Kubrick 8A: Male Anxiety and War
Full Metal Jacket (1986)