Lost films and alternative histories

A cultured ape (Zain Rahnat) teaches life lessons in Donn Greer's The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle (1975)

Film restoration is usually seen as an effort to preserve the canon, but there are vast areas of film history which may be less reputable, but still represent significant aspects of the past century’s most popular art form. In their recent six-disk, ten-movie set Lost Picture Show, Vinegar Syndrome highlight their own efforts to unearth and give new life to cheap, obscure, frequently disreputable examples of movies made far from the mainstream – sex. violence, politics and an occasional talking animal are on display in this ragged, sometimes enlightening, sometimes frustrating collection.

Movies and reality intersect in two recent releases

The sociologist (Flavio Bucci) grasps the metaphysical mystery in Giuliano Montaldo's Closed Circuit (1978)

Our relationship to movies is complex; we know that we’re watching illusions, yet the intellectual and emotional responses we experience are very real. Movies give us access to a seemingly infinite range of experiences which take us out of out immediate lives. Two recent releases delve into this phenomenon in visceral ways — Giuliano Montaldo’s Closed Circuit (1978) addresses the metaphysics of movie watching with humour and suspense, while Charlie Victor Romeo (2013) provides disturbing access to an aspect of real life we might prefer not to think about: the moments during which flight crews try to deal with catastrophic technical failures immediately preceding air crashes.

Fall 2023 viewing: Arrow Video

Cloistermouth (Nicholas Hoye) panics when he realizes his privileged position is threatened in John Mackenzie's Unman, Wittering and Zigo (1971)

A selection of new and slightly older Arrow releases range from ’70s Japanese gangster movies by Kinji Fukasaku to David Cronenberg’s icy adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s Crash (1996), from an early feature by John Mackenzie combining a satire of class with psychological suspense to a sampler of sci-fi and horror movies produced in the ’80s by Charles Band’s Empire International Pictures.

Fall 2023 viewing, part one

Detective Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel) and his cross-dressing partner Babette (Leonard Lansink) face an unusual foe in Martin Walz's Killer Condom (1996)

As always, writing falls behind viewing and I’ve missed mentioning some disks that deserved at least a comment – so here are some quick notes on recent releases from Arrow, Vinegar Syndrome and some smaller labels covering a wide range of genres from spaghetti westerns to East European animation, from low-budget sci-fi to documentary, from comedy to horror to exploitation.

The transgressive art of William Friedkin

Bad behaviour is attributed the Devil in William Friedkin's The Exorcist (1973)

William Friedkin’s death in August prompted a look back at his most significant work from the ’70s and ’80s, a run of movies which were controversial and only intermittently commercially successful. At his best, Friedkin’s cool, detached approach to dangerous subjects resulted in powerful movies which influenced the direction of popular genres and his work from that period remains challenging today.

Blasts from the past

The English-language invisibility of Alfred Döblin

Lost Soul: Richard Stanley vs Hollywood commerce

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman:
Criterion Blu-ray review

Three Films by Luis Buñuel: Criterion Blu-ray review

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