The Criminal Acts of Tod Slaughter on Blu-ray from Indicator

James Dalton, the Tiger (Tod Slaughter) becomes desperate at the end of George King's The Ticket of Leave Man (1937)

Indicator closed 2023 with one of their finest offerings yet – a four-disk, eight film box set of blood-and-thunder melodramas produced, and mostly directed, by George King and starring the inimitable Tod Slaughter as a roster of heinous villains portrayed with gleeful enthusiasm by an actor who devoted his long career to preserving an art form incubated on Victorian stages and largely fallen out of favour by the time these films preserved it with such relish. With striking restorations, mostly from original nitrate negatives, supplemented with commentaries, interviews and Slaughter-related ephemera, this is definitely the highlight of the past year.

Monsters, killers and existential dread on Blu-ray

Fatma (Fatma Oussaifi) herself is drawn towards the flames in Youssef Chebbi’s Ashkal: The Tunisian Investigation (2022)

Recent releases cover a range of horrors, from a 4K restoration of the classic Canadian working class slasher My Bloody Valentine (1981) to a 4K restoration of Stephen King’s mad dog tale Cujo (1983) to a pair of low-budget ’70s monsters – Creature From Black Lake (1976) and Godmonster of Indian Flats (1973) to Ashkal (2022), a haunting Tunisian police procedural with supernatural overtones, and World of Giants (1959), an obscure, short-lived TV series about a six-inch tall secret agent.

Claude Chabrol’s La cérémonie (1995): Criterion Blu-ray review

Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) and Jeanne (Isabelle Huppert) become allies against the bourgeois Lalievres family in Claude Chabrol’s La cérémonie (1995)

Four decades into a career which began with the New Wave, Claude Chabrol delivered a masterpiece with La cérémonie (1995), a psychological mystery adapted from a Ruth Rendell novel. Sandrine Bonnaire and Isabelle Huppert play a pair of working class women whose bitterness and resentment drive them on a collision course with the bourgeois Lelievre family. Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition provides some illuminating supplements on the director and his two stars.

Cheap sci-fi and hardboiled noir in 3D

Members of the gang come down hard on Mike Hammer (Biff Elliot) and his secretary Velda (Margaret Sheridan) in Harry Essex's I, the Jury (1953)

A 3D restoration of Phil Tucker’s ultra-cheap Robot Monster (1953) doesn’t really help this oddly endearing slice of poverty row sci-fi, but Classicflix’s 4K restoration of Harry Essex’s adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury (1953) is a revelation of what a great cinematographer could accomplish with first-wave 3D technology; Spillane’s brutal noir was shot by John Alton, a master of light and shadow, and the sense of space and imagery which plays on multiple planes in almost shot makes this one of the most impressive looking 3D movies of its time.

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.

Dragons and ghosts, resurrected in 4K

Julia (Mia Farrow) welcomes her own doom as expiation for her guilt in Richard Loncraine's Full Circle (The Haunting of Julia, 1977)

A pair of new 4K restorations resurrect two neglected films which deserve to be better known – Matthew Robbins’ Dragonslayer (1981), one of the finest fantasy films ever made which has never fared well on home video, but looks wonderful in this new edition; and Richard Loncraine’s atmospheric Full Circle (The Haunting of Julia, 1977), adapted from Peter Straub’s first horror novel, featuring Mia Farrow as a mother traumatized by the death of her child, who becomes immersed in a decades-old mystery when she moves into a haunted house.

Action and politics in ’70s thrillers

Nice large-scale miniatures in Andrew V. McLaglen's North Sea Hijack (1980)

Thrillers may exploit real-world issues for story material, but often distort and trivialize reality in their quest to entertain. The terrorism which erupted and spread during the 1970s is used in quite different ways in Otto Preminger’s Rosebud (1975), John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday (1976) and Andrew V. McLaglen’s North Sea Hijack (1980).

Recent Severin viewing

Alice Campos (Florinda Bolkan) searches for her own past in Luigi Bazzoni’s Le Orme (Footprints on the Moon [1975])

It’s taken me a while to work through some of the many Severin box sets that have been piling up over the past year – the folk horror set All the Haunts Be Ours, House of Psychotic Women and the latest set of Italian movies Violent Streets: The Umberto Lenzi/Tomas Milian Collection – along with some 4K special editions of movies by Dario Argento and Alex de la Iglesia.

Blasts from the past

Titanic: a personal footnote

Brief viewing notes, Winter 2019

DVD Review: The Making of the President: The 1960s

Aspect Rati-woes

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