Thanksgiving weekend brought an excess of eating and drinking (but no turkey!) and three great movies – plus one dud.
Severin introduces the work of Eloy de la Iglesia, a little-known Basque filmmaker with three releases spanning the period from the end of the Franco regime to the transition to democracy in Spain. Two thrillers with a satirical edge made in the early ’70s give way to a trilogy of violent, neo-realist depictions of youth crime and drug addiction in the early ’80s. Dynamic and visceral, these films are deeply empathetic to members of the underclass – workers and dispossessed adolescents – and unflinching in their treatment of addiction and homosexuality in a repressive society.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray presents Luchino Visconti’s darkly perverse The Damned in a new 2K restoration whose dense colours emphasize the gloom hanging over a powerful German industrial family collapsing under the weight of its own decadence as the Nazis consolidate their political power in the early 1930s.
Vinegar Syndrome distributes a number of smaller labels which offer a wide range of genre releases, from the ultra-low-budget Wakaliwood productions of Nabawana I.G.G. in Uganda to the impressively polished small-budget sci-fi of Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s Prospect (2018), from the gritty ’80s exploitation of Norbert Meisel’s Walking the Edge (1983) to the mythic spaghetti western-noir of Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970).
Cary Joji Fukunaga’s adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation (2015), a problematic depiction of child soldiers in Africa gets an impressive release on Blu-ray from Criterion. Fukunaga’s skills as cinematographer and director of actors are on full display, but the film falters in its treatment of of some of the moral issues it raises.
Three recent box sets from Arrow will satisfy a wide range of genre appetites with five thrillers from Italy in the ’70s, four spaghetti westerns from the ’60s, and Daiei’s 1966 trilogy of period fantasies featuring a statue which comes to life to punish various cruel warlords who oppress local peasants.
Director Bill Duke uses a mixture of film noir and blaxploitation tropes to explore the political complexities of being Black in the U.S. in Deep Cover (1992), his neon-tinted crime drama about an undercover cop (Laurence Fishburne) infiltrating the West Coast cocaine trade, now released in an extras-loaded 4K restoration by Criterion.
Eureka’s new two-disk Blu-ray release Karloff at Columbia is a real treat for fans of the iconic actor. Although it begins with Roy William Neill’s atmospheric period Gothic The Black Room (1935), the bulk of the set is devoted to what became known as the Mad Doctor Cycle, five extremely low-budget sci-fi tinged horrors in which Karloff plays scientists dabbling in research which the establishment frowns on; the authorities’ resistance tends to push him over into madness and murder and mayhem ensue. Long held in low esteem, these cheap movies are all entertaining and Karloff delivers sincere performances no matter how silly the trappings occasionally become.
With their third box set of Columbia Studios films noirs in just over half a year, Indicator again gather together six entertaining B-movies made in the shadow of Cold War paranoia; crime, violence and personal demons evoke a world destabilized by fear, betrayal and uncertainty. As before, the set is packed with commentaries featurettes and short films which illuminate the context from which the features emerged.