Winter 2024 viewing, part three: Other labels

You don't have to be crazy to do this job, but it helps: Grant Page in Brian Trenchard-Smith's Stunt Rock (1978)

More recent viewing, with excellent restorations of classic fantasies by Arrow – Roger Vadim’s Barbarella (1968) and John Milius’ Conan the Barbarian (1982); a pair of impressive German film school projects – Tilman Singer’s Luz (2018) and Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa (2017); a couple of entertaining Australian features which mix fiction and documentary in interesting ways – Brian Trenchard-Smith’s Stunt Rock (1978) and Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce’s Top Knot Detective (2017): and Shredder Orpheus (1990), a low-budget indie version of the Orpheus myth made by Seattle musicians and skateboarders.

Johnnie To’s The Heroic Trio/Executioners (1993): Criterion Blu-ray review

Flights of martial arts fantasy in Johnnie To & Ching Siu-Tung's Executioners (1993)

Before attaining international critical success with a series of cool, formally precise thrillers, Johnnie To made a pair of wildly inventive superhero movies fraught with anxiety about the approaching hand over of Hong Kong to Chinese control in 1997. The Heroic Trio and Executioners (both 1993) mix fantasy, science fiction, traditional martial arts and modern action into a potent dystopian stew centred on three of Hong Kong’s biggest female stars – Anita Mui, Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung. Criterion’s three-disk dual-formal edition showcases stunning restorations by L’Immagine Ritrovata.

Arrow’s Savage Guns: 4 Classic Westerns on Blu-ray

Sole survivor Stubby Preston (Fabio Testi) heads back into the wilderness in Lucio Fulci's The Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

Arrow’s third collection of spaghetti westerns, Savage Guns, brings together another four movies which display the range and flexibility of the genre, from Lucio Fulci’s elegiac and mystical The Four of the Apocalypse (1975) to Mario Camus’ veiled political criticisms of the Franco regime in Wrath of the Wind (1970) and Paolo Bianchini’s intersection of personal motives and historical events in I Want Him Dead (1968). Edoardo Mulargia’s El Puro (1969), about a drunken gunfighter forced back into action, is the most conventional of the four features.

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.

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.

Interesting releases from Australia’s Imprint

Will Graham (Clive Owen) conbtemplates the futility of violence in Mike Hodges' I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (2002)

The Australian company Imprint has been releasing extras-laden special editions on Blu-ray of movies which strangely remain elusive in North America. Among some recent acquisitions are Mike Hodges’ I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2002), Barbet Schroeder’s Charles Bukowski-scripted Barfly (1987), a minor but interesting B-movie by prolific journeyman Lesley Selander, The Catman of Paris (1946), and Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), thankfully in a two-disk set which includes the superior theatrical cut as well as the misconceived “ultimate director’s cut” from 2005.

Blasts from the past

The art of silent film: Anthony Asquith’s Shooting Stars (1928)

Lars Von Trier’s Europe Trilogy (1984-1991): Criterion Blu-ray review

Damned Treason

Bias and preconception in movie-watching

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