Getting serious

Jean Gabin embodies Georges Simenon's famous detective in Jean Delannoy's Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case (1959)

Another eclectic selection of recently watched Blu-rays, from two atmospheric French mysteries starring Jean Gabin as Maigret (1958-59) to the nightmarish horrors of war in Eastern Europe in an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s controversial novel The Painted Bird (2019), from violence tourism in near-future Brazil in Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau (2019) to tenderness and violence on the American frontier in Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow (2020) and children faced with the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War in Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug (1965).

Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Proud, ambitious Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power) has fallen as low as it gets in Edmund Goulding's Nightmare Alley (1947)

Continuing their recent run of classic Hollywood restorations, Criterion have released an excellent edition of Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947), a sordid story of madness and criminality starring Tyrone Power in his best role as an opportunistic carny who cons his way to the top of respectable society only to plunge back down to the lowest depths. A remarkably grim movie to have been made by a major studio on an A-picture budget, it still remains a potent glimpse of existential horror.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries on Blu-ray

The power of Alex Gregor (Lon Chaney)'s mind is deadly in Harold Young's The Frozen Ghost (1945)

Universal’s series of minor B-movies based on Simon & Schuster’s line of fiction and NBC’s long-running radio show called Inner Sanctum gave third-string horror star Lon Chaney Jr. a brief opportunity to get away from the monsters he played in the 1940s. Despite a low critical reputation, these atmospheric little movies are quite entertaining and receive a nice showcase in Eureka’s two-disk Blu-ray set.

Spooky

A creepy antique doll provides a link to an unhappy past in Stephen Weeks' Ghost Story (1974)

I can now say from personal experience that watching horror movies a week after having a heart attack (even a relatively minor one) may not be the smartest idea – but I did enjoy these five eerie features.

Indicator in a box

Killers Dancer (Eli Wallach) and Julian (Robert Keith), looking for smuggled drugs, terrorize a mother and daughter in Don Siegel's The Lineup (1958)

Indicator have done their usually exemplary job with a pair of recent box sets – one devoted to the five Fu Manchu movies written and produced by Harry Alan Towers in the late 1960s, all starring Christopher Lee in racial drag; the other showcasing six films from Columbia Pictures rather loosely gathered together and labelled film noir.

Ousmane Sembene’s Mandabi (1968): Criterion Blu-ray review

Ibrahim Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye) is at the mercy of a post-colonial society in Ousmane Sembene's Mandabi (1968)

Known as the “father of African cinema”, Ousmane Sembene’s films grapple with issues of identity in the complex social and political conditions of post-colonial Africa. His second feature (and first in colour) Mandabi (1968) is a tragi-comedy about a proud man clinging to an outmoded patriarchal role whose life is upended when a nephew working in France sends him a money order for 25,000 francs.

Recent Indicator viewing

Juliet Bristow (Gayle Hunnicutt) discovers a body in Pompeii in Richard C. Sarafian's Fragment of Fear (1970)

Indicator continue to release exemplary editions of a wide range of movies, from obscure genre titles to classics to exploitation and occasional failed experiments. Recent viewing ranges from Max Ophuls’ exquisite domestic noir The Reckless Moment (1949) to Blake Edwards’ taut thriller Experiment in Terror (1962) and Arthur Lubin’s surprisingly good Gothic romance Footsteps in the Fog (1955).