A few notes about disks from a couple of companies I’ve previously had little experience with – 88 Films and 101 Films, both from the UK – plus three box sets from Arrow.
Two new Arrow releases – and one older one – plunge into sexual confusion, insecurity, violence and romantic longing: Robert Day’s TV movie The Initiation of Sarah (1977) riffs on themes from Stephen King’s Carrie; Gérard Kikoïne’s Edge of Sanity (1989) gives Anthony Perkins a chance to unleash his inner demons in a career-topping dual performance as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Kathleen Turner is fearless as a businesswoman who moonlights as a prostitute inspires romantic passion in one man and murderous passion in another, the latter another ferocious, jittery performance from Anthony Perkins.
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.
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.
Arrow’s big pre-Christmas sale brought a wide range of titles, some old, some new: Juan Simon Piquer’s Spanish slasher Pieces (1982), Chelsea Stardust’s horror comedy Satanic Panic (2019), Giancarlo Santi’s spaghetti western The Grand Duel (1972), Lee Min-jae’s horror comedy Zombie for Sale (2019), Jill Gevargizian’s psycho horror The Stylist (2020),Nico Mastorakis incoherent first feature Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), a Japanese double bill of sci-fi crime movies, Nobuo Adachi’s The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and Mitsuo Murayama’s The Invisible Man vs the Human Fly (1957), Riccardo Freda’s mix of melodrama and giallo Double Face (1969), Jacques Tourneur’s late film noir Nightfall (1956), and Giorgio Ferroni’s atmospheric Gothic horror Mill of the Stone Women (1960).
It’s been a good year for movies on disk, with a remarkable range of releases from many companies which are devoting considerable resources to rediscovering, restoring and preserving movies in numerous genres. Ranging across nationalities and spanning cinema history, there was plenty to divert attention from a real world which has become so depressing and exhausting.
Asian martial arts and fantasy movies can be exhilarating in their strangeness and invention, unbound by Western insistence on rational explanations. Arrow’s new box set Yokai Monsters Collection presents a world in which supernatural presences exist alongside human reality, while in Eureka’s release of Ching Siu-tung’s Duel to the Death (1983) martial artists defy the laws of physics in elaborately choreographed sword fights.