Truffles, a blood-fuelled car, zombies and a family in retreat from the modern world: recent viewing

Team members enforce their ideology off the field in Bill Milling's Wolfpack (1987)

Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.

Alex Cox’s Walker (1987): Criterion Blu-ray review

William Walker (Ed Harris) sees American expansionism as a mission from God in Alex Cox's Walker (1987)

Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Alex Cox’s masterpiece Walker (1987) revives this deconstruction of America’s self-mythologizing at a time when its themes are more pertinent than ever; imperial attacks on domestic and foreign societies driven by a toxic mixture of religious self-righteousness and unfettered capitalist greed have been on the rise for decades and Walker traces the roots back to the mid-19th Century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

Budd Boetticher’s A Time for Dying (1969) from Indicator

Cass (Richard Lapp) tries to suppress his fear by feigning an equal determination in Budd Boetticher's A Time for Dying (1969)

Indicator’s recent Blu-ray of A Time for Dying (1969) resurrects the final feature of writer-director Budd Boetticher and actor-producer Audie Murphy, and odd, slightly crippled western made quickly to pay off some debts. Mixing the naivety of young, inexperienced characters with amoral brutality, it ends on a disturbingly note more in tune with end-of-the-’60s cynicism than the moral certainties of an earlier era’s westerns in which this movie superficially seems to have its roots.

Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse (1973) and other recent Indicator releases

Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) confronts an ancient religion on a remote Greek island in Kostas Karagiannis’ The Devil’s Men (1976)

Recent releases from Indicator have seemed oddly random – from an unexceptional genre movie (Kostas Karagiorgis’ The Devil’s Men [1076]) to an arthouse war film (Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse [1973]), a ghost story that comes across like a television play (Kevin Billington’s Voices [1973]) to an interesting if unsuccessful literary adaptation (Anthony Friedmann’s Bartleby [1970]) and a revisionist detective story which plays with the tropes of the English country house mystery (Chris Petit’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman [1982]).

Harry Dean Stanton’s swansong: Lucky (2017)

Harry Dean Stanton contemplates the meaning and value of life in John Carroll Lynch's Lucky (2017)

John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky (2017) is a portrait of a man coming to terms with his own mortality, which is also a tribute to actor Harry Dean Stanton, on whose life much of the script was based. Generous and emotionally rich, the film surrounds Harry Dean with a flawless cast which forms a supportive community within which he comes to accept without fear or anger the idea of his own inevitable death.

Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le cercle rouge (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Three unlikely partners come together to rob a Paris jewellery store in Jean-Pierre Melville's masterful Le cercle rouge (1970)

Criterion have re-released Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful heist movie Le cercle rouge (1970) in a new dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray edition based on a 4K restoration by StudioCanal. Although there are no new extras (supplements adding up to almost two hours date back to the company’s original 2003 DVD release), the film looks better than ever, its narrative stripped to essentials as a meditation on professionalism, fate and the moral ambiguity of characters on both sides of the law.

The Coen Brothers’ Miller’s Crossing (1990):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Bernie Bernbaum (John Turturro) becomes a dangerous doppelgänger for Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) in the Coen Brothers' Miller's Crossing (1990)

With their new Blu-ray release, Criterion add the Coen Brothers’ third feature, Miller’s Crossing (1990), to the Collection. One of the darkest, most sombre films in the Coen canon, this moody gangster story updates hardboiled noir as a complex meditation on male fragility and violence. Sumptuously shot by Barry Sonnenfeld, it features a superb cast of great character actors.

Recent disks from England, part one

The climactic battle between Cyclops and Dragon in Nathan Juran's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Recent disks from England include Franco Parolini’s late spaghetti western Sabata Trilogy (1969-71), the classic Ray Harryhausen Sinbad fantasies (1958-77), Carl Franklin’s revisionist neo-noir Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Tsui Hark’s influential martial arts fantasy Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), and David Greene’s tense submarine disaster movie Gray Lady Down (1978).

Blasts from the past

Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen (The Celebration,1998):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Michael Powell’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946): Criterion Blu-ray review

Recent Arrow Blu-rays

Year End 2012

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