Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases illuminate different strains of British fantasy. They Came to a City (1944), written by J.B. Priestley and directed by Basil Dearden is a Utopian political fable proposing a new Socialist society for post-war Britain, while Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass and the Pit (1959) spins an epic tale of human evolution and our innate propensity for violence through the story of an ancient spaceship discovered buried beneath London.
Some comments about the past year’s DVD and Blu-ray releases.
The BFI Blu-ray release of Arthur Robison’s The Informer (1929) offers a fascinating glimpse of the sometimes rocky transition from silent cinema to sound, with restorations of the original silent version and the partial Talkie made simultaneously.
Three more black-and-white movies in excellent Blu-ray editions – Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die!, Robert Wise’s Odds Against Tomorrow and John Baxter’s Love on the Dole – offer yet another reminder of the richness of monochrome film art.
Two new BFI releases, Peter Hall’s Akenfield (1974) and Andrew Grieve’s On the Black Hill (1988), view the 20th Century through the relationships of people in rural Britain to the land, evoking physical hardship and timeless mystical connections.
Two excellent recent Blu-ray releases from the BFI illuminate the extremes of high and low art in British film of the early 1970s. Ken Russell’s version of D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love is exemplary literary adaptation, while Don Sharp’s Psychomania is … well, something else again!
After a two year hiatus, the BFI has revived the Flipside series with three notable releases: Val Guest’s musical satire Expresso Bongo, Edmond T. Greville’s juvenile delinquent exploitation movie Beat Girl, and Jose Ramon Larraz’s “lost” horror film Symptoms.
It’s remarkable that it’s still possible to discover a previously unknown yet major film from the silent era, but the BFI’s new release of Anthony Asquith’s first feature, Shooting Stars (1928) is a revelation; a fresh, self-aware film about filmmaking and the intersection of real and imaginary lives.
Although I saw fewer movies in theatres than ever, this year offered a rich array of films on disk, belying continuing prophecies of the medium’s demise in the face of on-line streaming.
In their Blu-ray set of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s first six features, the BFI provide a superb introduction to novelist and filmmaker’s radical and frequently controversial work which combines high art with lowly genre tropes in illuminating and surprisingly entertaining ways.