Crime, violence, sports, noir, international intrigue and political allegory from Kino Lorber and Arrow Video.
The Australian company Imprint has been releasing extras-laden special editions on Blu-ray of movies which strangely remain elusive in North America. Among some recent acquisitions are Mike Hodges’ I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2002), Barbet Schroeder’s Charles Bukowski-scripted Barfly (1987), a minor but interesting B-movie by prolific journeyman Lesley Selander, The Catman of Paris (1946), and Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), thankfully in a two-disk set which includes the superior theatrical cut as well as the misconceived “ultimate director’s cut” from 2005.
A couple of new releases and a pair of slightly older disks offer a range of fantasy and horror from Julian Duvivier’s made-in-Hollywood anthology Flesh and Fantasy (1943) to three movies from Spain in the early ’70s in Vinegar Syndrome’s Villages of the Damned box set, from the inventive low-budget sci-fi of Yedidya Gorsetman’s Empathy, Inc. (2018) to Ben Wheatley’s folk-horror-tinged pandemic movie In the Earth (2021),
Criterion’s new 4K restoration of Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963) provides an excellent showcase for this pitch-black satire about the collapse of the British class system after World War Two and the dissolution of Empire. Harold Pinter’s script (adapted from Robin Maugham’s novella), Losey’s direction, Douglas Slocombe’s rich black-and-white cinematography and and a superlative cast – Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles – combine to create one of the defining British films of the 1960s.
Small Axe (2020), Steve McQueen’s five-part film series for the BBC, corrects a glaring omission in British film and television’s treatment of the post-war history of social and political struggle and change; while the lives of the working class became increasingly visible in the ’60s and ’70s, issues of race remained largely unaddressed until this belated project created something like a parallel history to go alongside the classic work of filmmakers like Ken Loach and Alan Clarke. Criterion’s three-disk Blu-ray set also includes Uprising (2021), McQueen’s powerful three-part documentary (co-directed by James Rogan) about the New Cross fire and the subsequent Brixton Riots, which gives added context to the stories told in Small Axe.
Indicator start the new year with some impressive Blu-ray sets, including a massive 10-disk tribute to amateur filmmaker Michael J. Murphy whose five-decade career produced three dozen features in multiple genres; a two-disk set of the first two adventures of Mexico’s most famous masked wrestler, Santo, which includes a fascinating history of popular cinema in Mexico; and another two-disk set with three different cuts of Sergio Sollima’s first western, The Big Gundown (1967).
Network and the BFI deliver a potent mix of wartime propaganda and post-war crime in atmospheric black-and-white with Blu-ray releases of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) and Lewis Gilbert’s The Good Die Young (1954), and a massive 20-disk DVD set of B-movie thrillers from the early 1960s mostly adapted from the novels of Edgar Wallace.