Excellent Blu-ray editions from Criterion and the BFI respectively do full justice to Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944) and Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1953), two very dark examinations of the post-war crisis of masculinity.
Two recent BFI Flipside releases unearth an odd assortment of movies from the fringes – the standalone feature The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981) and volume 2 of the Short Sharp Shocks anthology series which includes the allegorical horror of Ian F.H. Lloyd’s The Face of Darkness (1976), a mix of crime and ghosts in John Gillings Escape from Broadmoor (1948), horror as feminist thesis in The Mark of Lilith (1986), the proto-music video Jack the Ripper with Screaming Lord Sutch (1963), a couple of unsettling PSAs and other ephemera.
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.
A pair of Blu-rays from England showcase the final works of major artists who were considered at the time to be in decline: Laurel and Hardy’s last feature, Atoll K (dir. Leo Joannon, 1951) is a bittersweet mess which captures the Boys’ enduring charm while making their mortality all too clear, while Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) comes full circle by reviving his Weimar criminal mastermind in a Cold War context which paved the way for James Bond’s high-tech thrills.
More random viewing: two obscure independent films from the BFI, Margaret Tait’s poetic Blue Black Permanent (1992) and Maurice Hatton’s gritty fake-umentary about the film business, Long Shot (1977); and three from Twilight Time – George Sluizer’s interesting Americanization of his existential thriller The Vanishing (1993), Terrence Young’s straightforward fact-based crime saga The Valachi Papers (1972), and D.W. Griffith’s monumental but deeply troubling Birth of a Nation (1915).