Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (1987):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Chan (Leslie Cheung) immerses himself in theatricality in Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1987)

Rouge (1987), Stanley Kwan’s meditation on romance, the passage of time and the imminent return of Hong Kong to China after almost two centuries of British colonial rule, gets a luminous restoration for Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition, which also includes an interview with Kwan and two documentaries by the director which explore issues of gender in Chinese cinema and his own identity as one of the first openly gay Chinese directors.

Winter 2022 Arrow viewing, part two

Gunfighter Manuel (director Robert Hossein) reluctantly comes out of retirement in Cemetery Without Crosses (1969)

More genre viewing from Arrow, including a bleak French Western, a silent film noir which recapitulates the history of Japanese cinema, a pair of low-budget ’80s slasher movies, a mash-up of anime and low-budget live-action post-apocalypse, and two box sets: Kenji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale and Battle Royale II and the Children of the Corn trilogy.

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]).

Tobe Hooper’s mangled career

Bill Gartley (Robert Englund), consumed by evil, is now barely human in Tobe Hooper's The Mangler (1995)

As a filmmaker, Tobe Hooper’s creative interests were not always in sync with audiences and critics. His mixture of theatrical performance and constructed-in-studio settings are on full display in the generally disdained Stephen King adaptation The Mangler (1995), whose uneven dramatic execution undermines an often impressively menacing horror-fantasy about the bloody appetite of capitalism, an inhuman force which devours those doomed to serve it. Hooper’s Spontaneous Combustion (1990), on the other hand, is a half-baked mess which mostly lacks any visual interest to make up for its many narrative inadequacies.

David Lynch’s Dune redux

The battle for Arrakeen in David Lynch's Dune (1984)

With a new 4K restoration of David Lynch’s Dune (1984), Arrow Films and Koch Media have given us pretty much the final word on this magnificent, yet almost fatally crippled, epic, surrounding it with hours of new and archival extras (including two commentaries on the Arrow, and Daniel Griffith’s feature-length making-of on the Koch). The Koch edition claims primacy, though, for including not only a soundtrack CD, but also the remarkable, unofficial fan-edit by the anonymous Spicediver, who has used all publicly available material to construct an intelligent, thoughtful three-hour version which reveals that so many of the theatrical cut’s acknowledged problems were the fault of Dino De Laurentis and Universal Studios, and not Lynch; there really is a coherent, comprehensible narrative in what was shot, yet it was ruined by idiots whose only concern was keeping the movie under 135 minutes.

Gordon Parks’ The Learning Tree (1969): Criterion Blu-ray review

Newt (Kyle Johnson) navigates growing up in a racist society in Gordon Parks' The Learning Tree (1969)

Criterion’s new Blu-ray revives Gordon Parks’ semi-autobiographical film The Learning Tree (1969), significant as the first movie produced by a Hollywood studio directed by a Black filmmaker. In this coming-of-age story set in a small Kansas town in the 1920s, the typical problems faced by a boy leaving childhood are complicated by the deeply embedded racist attitudes which surround him.

Columbia Noir 4 from Indicator

Kim Novak debuts as bank robber's girlfriend Lona McLane in Richard Quine's Pushover (1954)

Indicator add another volume to their series devoted to Columbia Studios films noirs, with an eclectic selection of six moves covering post-war espionage, the activities of organized crime and a cop easily turned to the darkside by an attractive woman. Excellent transfers are supplemented with commentaries, March of Time shorts, featurettes on key cast and crew members … and, of course, half-a-dozen Three Stooges shorts.

Hammer Vol. 6: Night Shadows from Indicator

Catherine Lacey appears briefly as wealthy, reclusive murder victim Ella Venable in John Gilling's The Shadow of the Cat (1961)

Indicator’s sixth box set of Hammer movies, Night Shadows, is a bit of a mixed bag, with a silly but entertaining Old Dark House throwback in John Gilling’s The Shadow of the Cat (1961), an overwrought psycho thriller in Freddie Francis’ Nightmare (1964), a historical adventure in Peter Graham Scott’s Captain Clegg (1962), and a pseudo-Gothic horror in Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962).

Blasts from the past

DVD (actually Blu-Ray) of the Week: Battle Royale (2000)

Late summer viewing: more short takes

Criterion Blu-ray review: In a Lonely Place (1950)

Genre play in Germany

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