Indicator’s first box set of Hammer films on Blu-ray is an uneven selection of the studio’s mid-’60s output, including two of their best along with two of their weakest releases. Alongside Michael Carreras’ mediocre Maniac (1963) and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), we get The Gorgon (1964), on of Terence Fisher’s finest Gothic horrors along with Silvio Narizzano’s debut feature, Fanatic (1965, aka Die! Die! My Darling!), the best of Hammer’s psychological horrors, all sporting excellent transfers and informative special features.
Indicator lavish attention on four less well-known, non-Gothic Hammer Films productions in their second box set devoted to the company: Criminal Intent focuses on a range of bad behaviour from murder to bank robbery and child molestation in four films which, while not all entirely successful, illuminate the studio’s versatility.
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.
Criterion have released an excellent Blu-ray of Ken Loach’s Palme d’or-winning I, Daniel Blake (2016), supplemented with a commentary track from Loach and writer Paul Laverty, an illuminating behind-the-scenes documentary, and a feature-length account of the director’s life and career. One of the best disks released so far this year.
Severin Films recent Blu-ray special edition of Robert S. Baker and Monty Berman’s Jack the Ripper (1959) is ambitious but compromised; the atmospheric horror film is presented in three different versions, all of which have serious issues with the transfers (print damage in one case and incorrect aspect ratios in the other two). More satisfying, technically and creatively, is Severin’s Blu-ray edition of Richard Stanley’s typically idiosyncratic documentary The Otherworld (2013).