Criterion’s new Blu-ray revives Gordon Parks’ semi-autobiographical film The Learning Tree (1969), significant as the first movie produced by a Hollywood studio directed by a Black filmmaker. In this coming-of-age story set in a small Kansas town in the 1920s, the typical problems faced by a boy leaving childhood are complicated by the deeply embedded racist attitudes which surround him.
The Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society (1993), an aggressively stylish debut made when the twins were just twenty, is a nihilistically violent depiction of life in Watts in which kids grow up surrounded by violence and learn that there are few other ways to deal conflict. Criterion’s new Blu-ray, mastered from a 4K restoration, is vividly colourful, with a collection of excellent new and archival supplements,
New Blu-ray releases from Arrow revive an effective Satanic panic movie from the early ’70s and unearth a forgotten regional slasher from 1982. The former, Bernard McEveety’s The Brotherhood of Satan, is an atmospheric gem; the latter, David Nelson’s Death Screams, is kind of clumsy, though it does have a few effective moments.
Criterion showcase a key ’50s sci-fi movie with their extras-loaded Blu-ray of Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man. The 4K restoration makes this the definitive visual presentation of the film, while the numerous special features – commentary, interviews, documentary – cover the production and the critical importance of the movie in detail.
Indicator’s sixth box set of Hammer movies, Night Shadows, is a bit of a mixed bag, with a silly but entertaining Old Dark House throwback in John Gilling’s The Shadow of the Cat (1961), an overwrought psycho thriller in Freddie Francis’ Nightmare (1964), a historical adventure in Peter Graham Scott’s Captain Clegg (1962), and a pseudo-Gothic horror in Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962).