Cauldron Films, round three

Altair (Diana Bovio) stands in the midst of a bird storm in Victor Dryere's 1974: La posesión de Altair (2016)

The latest releases from Cauldron Films are a pair of little-known found-footage horror movies which both have their moments, but suffer from the genre’s frequent shortcomings. Mike Costanza’s The Collingswood Story (2002) was the first movie to use on-line video chat as a storytelling medium, while Victor Dryere’s 1974: La posesión de Altair (2016) goes back to pre-video times, using super-8 home movies to show a young married couple under supernatural attack in rural Mexico.

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation (2015):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Agu (Abraham Attah) hallucinates as he goes into battle in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation (2015)

Cary Joji Fukunaga’s adaptation of Uzodinma Iweala’s novel Beasts of No Nation (2015), a problematic depiction of child soldiers in Africa gets an impressive release on Blu-ray from Criterion. Fukunaga’s skills as cinematographer and director of actors are on full display, but the film falters in its treatment of of some of the moral issues it raises.

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.

D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Stephen Sondheim coaches a singer on pronouncing a single syllable in D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970)

Criterion’s new Blu-ray of D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970) is a fascinating glimpse of the intense physical and mental labour which goes into the process of artistic creation, closely observing the recording of the original cast performing the songs from Stephen Sondheim’s breakthough Broadway show Company in one long fourteen-hour session. Tense, exhausting and exhilarating, it depicts dedicated professionals doing their jobs under intense pressure to deliver under a near-impossible deadline.

Karloff at Columbia on Eureka Blu-ray

Dr. John Garth (Boris Karloff) is distracted by a murderer's impulses in Nick Grinde's Before I Hang (1940)

Eureka’s new two-disk Blu-ray release Karloff at Columbia is a real treat for fans of the iconic actor. Although it begins with Roy William Neill’s atmospheric period Gothic The Black Room (1935), the bulk of the set is devoted to what became known as the Mad Doctor Cycle, five extremely low-budget sci-fi tinged horrors in which Karloff plays scientists dabbling in research which the establishment frowns on; the authorities’ resistance tends to push him over into madness and murder and mayhem ensue. Long held in low esteem, these cheap movies are all entertaining and Karloff delivers sincere performances no matter how silly the trappings occasionally become.

Columbia Noir #3 from Indicator

Vince Ryker (Vince Edwards) escapes prison thinking he's going to be rich in Irving Lerner's City of Fear (1959)

With their third box set of Columbia Studios films noirs in just over half a year, Indicator again gather together six entertaining B-movies made in the shadow of Cold War paranoia; crime, violence and personal demons evoke a world destabilized by fear, betrayal and uncertainty. As before, the set is packed with commentaries featurettes and short films which illuminate the context from which the features emerged.