Recent Arrow box sets

Three recent box sets from Arrow will satisfy a wide range of genre appetites with five thrillers from Italy in the ’70s, four spaghetti westerns from the ’60s, and Daiei’s 1966 trilogy of period fantasies featuring a statue which comes to life to punish various cruel warlords who oppress local peasants.

Weird Wisconsin: the movies of Bill Rebane

Railway man Ralph Meeker loses more than his mind in Bill Rebane's The Alpha Incident (1978)

A recent Arrow box set showcases yet another regional filmmaker who built a career on determination and very little money. Bill Rebane built his own studio in rural Wisconsin and beginning in the 1960s made a series of genre movies whose reputation echoes that of Ed Wood. The big surprise of the Weird Wisconsin set is that some of them are genuinely effective and entertaining.

Recent Arrow viewing, Part Two

Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) and sonar expert Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) are shocked by the Lake Michigan Monster (2018)

Yet another wide range of titles from Arrow Video from a restored silent classic to aliens over Tokyo, woods infested with zombies, food which consumes those who eat it, apocalypse in an alternate future Los Angeles, friendship destroyed by political conflicts, rich people facing the loss of their wealth and a naively admiring time capsule of the U.S. on the brink of the ’60s.

Life and Death in the films of George A. Romero

Peter (Ken Foree) has no patience for stupidity in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978)

With the release of Second Sight’s massive edition of George A. Romero’s genre-defining Dawn of the Dead – all three cuts restored in 4K, plus commentaries and a supplementary disk with almost seven hours of new and archival documentaries and featurettes, and no less than three CDs of music including the complete Goblin soundtrack and hours of library tracks – the late, great director is given his due. Arrow’s 2017 three-disk set of early features, Between Night and Dawn, illuminates how he got there.

Kaiju mania

... and giant space bugs in Gamera: Attack of Legion (1996)

Like a monumental battle between formidable rival kaiju, Criterion and Arrow have released competitive Blu-ray sets devoted to Japanese monster movies. Criterion’s Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films 1954-1975 and Arrow’s Gamera: The Complete Collection offer eight disks of monster mayhem in packages too big to fit on my shelves. Binging more than two-dozen of these movies dragged my brain blissfully back to childhood.

Cannibal feast

The Woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) offers Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers)' daughters an unexpected form of liberation in Lucky McKee's The Woman (2011)

In popular culture, and exploitation movies, cannibals are the disreputable cousins of the zombie; they have the embarrassing habit of eating unsuspecting people without any supernatural justification. There’s a distinct difference, though, between American and Italian cannibal movies – the former adhering to tropes related to serial killer stories, while the latter draw on anthropological ideas to provide a gloss of realism to graphic exploitation imagery. The contrast can be seen clearly between Andrew van den Houten’s Offspring (2009), Lucky McKee’s The Woman (2011) and Pollyanna McIntosh’s Darlin’ (2019) and Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and Umberto Lenzi’s Cannibal Ferox (1981).