Italian Gothic horror on Blu-ray

Saint Simon (John Phillip Law) believes he's the reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh in Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988)

Arrow’s Gothic Fantastico box set gathers together four lesser-known Italian genre movies from the mid-’60s from the period when Gothic horror flourished between Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and the rise of the giallo later in the decade, while Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988) from Vinegar Syndrome is a garish throwback long after the Gothic had faded away.

James Whale’s Show Boat (1936): music and race in Golden Age Hollywood

Black labour with echoes of slavery in James Whale's Show Boat (1936)

Although now he’s best-known for his four witty Gothic horror movies – Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, The Invisible Man and Bride of Frankenstein – Show Boat (1936) is arguably James Whale’s crowning achievement as a filmmaker. One of the decade’s great musicals, it is also one of the most complex and nuanced treatments of race and its impact on American culture produced at the height of Hollywood’s studio era. Criterion’s Blu-ray does full justice to the film’s intrinsic qualities and historical importance.

George A. Romero’s The Amusement Park (1975)

Neglect, contempt, hostility and violence breed paranoia in George A. Romero's The Amusement Park (1975)

The rediscovery of a film commissioned by Lutheran Services from Pittsburgh’s The Latent Image company in 1975 shines a light on a transitional stage of George A. Romero’s career. The Amusement Park transforms a PSA about neglect of the elderly into a bleak nightmare of abuse and paranoia as Lincoln Maazel (Tata Cuda in Martin [1976]) is subjected to disdain, neglect and outright violence at a rundown amusement park.

The Pemini Organisation on Blu-ray from Indicator

John Drummond (Edward Woodward) expresses his grief through violence in Peter Crane's Hunted (1972)

Indicator unearth an obscure corner of ’70s British cinema with a box set of the three movies made by recent filmschool graduates who formed a production company called The Pemini Organisation. Despite extremely low budgets, director Peter Crane and writer Michael Sloan benefited from skilled technicians and high-profile casts who give the films professional polish; but the vagaries of commercial distribution made them disappear until this revival on disk fifty years later.

Edgar G. Ulmer’s Cossacks in Exile (1938)

Ivan meets the Sultan (Nicholas Harlash), who's travelling incognito in Edgar G. Ulmer's Cossacks in Exile (1938)

Thanks to the Provincial Archives of Alberta I’ve been able to fill in another small gap in my experience of Edgar G. Ulmer’s eclectic filmography; although scanned from a very ragged print, the Archives’ upload of the Ukrainian-language musical Cossacks in Exile (1938) reveals some interesting connections between the 18th Century history of Ukraine and what’s happening there today.

Aleksandr Ptushko’s epic fantasies

The magical stone dominates the cave of sorceress Louhi (Anna Orochko) in Aleksandr Ptushko's Sampo (1959)

Deaf Crocodile has released two of Aleksandr Ptsuhko’s epic fantasies in gorgeous Blu-ray editions which restore the films to their original form after decades of only being available in badly-dubbed, re-edited versions. Ptushko’s practical and optical special effects create impressive worlds which blend folk tales and historical events, clashing armies and fantastic creatures, romance and sorcery.

Recent releases from the BFI Flipside

Ian (Edward Woodward) goes off the road, just as he did in his dream in Lindsey C. Vickers' The Appointment (1981)

Two recent BFI Flipside releases unearth an odd assortment of movies from the fringes – the standalone feature The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981) and volume 2 of the Short Sharp Shocks anthology series which includes the allegorical horror of Ian F.H. Lloyd’s The Face of Darkness (1976), a mix of crime and ghosts in John Gillings Escape from Broadmoor (1948), horror as feminist thesis in The Mark of Lilith (1986), the proto-music video Jack the Ripper with Screaming Lord Sutch (1963), a couple of unsettling PSAs and other ephemera.

Blasts from the past

Pizza, beer and revenge

Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Recent Viewing 1

Late summer viewing 2014, part one

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