Back to the ’70s

Waldo and Axel (Bo Svenson) practive wing-walking in George Roy Hill's The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

Revisiting movies from the early 1970s, I recently watched Howard W. Koch’s rather ugly cop feature Badge 373 (1973), with Robert Duvall as a rule-breaking, racist misogynist NYC detective; Willard (1971), Daniel Mann’s adaptation of Stephen Gilbert’s dark horror novel Ratman’s Notebooks; and two features by George Roy Hill, his faithful adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and his most personal, and best, film The Great Waldo Pepper (1975).

Looking back …

A summer camp trick goes wrong in the prologue of Tony Maylam's slasher The Burning (1980)

A lot of my recent viewing has been catching up on a range of movies from the ’60s through the ’80s, some of which I saw when they were first released, while others weren’t accessible to me at the time. These include some foreign classics … and quite a bit of trash.

“Folk Horror”

A chilling image of religious belief in Robin Hardy's The Wicker Man (1973)

“Folk horror” is one of those categories which is hard to define – but you know it when you see it, like film noir.Two very different features and two dubious documentaries seem to fit the category – Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), Erik Blomberg’s The White Reindeer (1953), Malcolm Leigh’s Legend of the Witches (1970) and Derek Ford’s Secret Rites (1971) – all available in excellent Blu-ray editions.

Seeing in the New Year

Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) finds setting zombies on gangsters enormously amusing in Paul Maslansky's Sugar Hill (1974)

This year’s New Year’s Eve movie binge with my friend Steve spanned from ’50s 3D Red Menace sci-fi to ’70s blaxploitation horror to a political thriller about right-wing apocalyptic political paranoia which, while dating from 1972, suggested the atmosphere of the coming 2020 presidential election year.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.

Boxed In

The vampire curse spreads in Gerardo De Leon's The Blood Drinkers (1964)

From trash to art, boxed sets enhance the viewing experience by providing a broader context for individual movies – here, four more features from William Castle, The Trilogy of Life by Pier Paolo Pasolini, and a grab bag of five horrors from poverty row distributor Hemisphere.

Catching up on Arrow

Long hair and creepy eyes, key features of J-Horror ghosts: Hideo Nakata's Ringu (1998)

My collecting obsession leads me to Arrow’s Ring Collection — Hideo Nakata’s hugely influential Ringu (1998), two divergent sequels, George Iida’s Spiral (1998) and Nakata’s own Ring 2 (1999), plus the prequel Ring 0: Birthday (2000). While the three follow-up movies can’t match the effectiveness of the original, Arrow present them all in excellent transfers, with a lot of supportive extras.