As the winter turns cold, I take another plunge into the depths of horror, exploitation, sex and death with a range of releases which vary widely in style and nationality. I just can’t stay away from this stuff – maybe I need therapy?
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,
Indicator add another volume to their series devoted to Columbia Studios films noirs, with an eclectic selection of six moves covering post-war espionage, the activities of organized crime and a cop easily turned to the darkside by an attractive woman. Excellent transfers are supplemented with commentaries, March of Time shorts, featurettes on key cast and crew members … and, of course, half-a-dozen Three Stooges shorts.
Vinegar Syndrome distributes a number of smaller labels which offer a wide range of genre releases, from the ultra-low-budget Wakaliwood productions of Nabawana I.G.G. in Uganda to the impressively polished small-budget sci-fi of Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s Prospect (2018), from the gritty ’80s exploitation of Norbert Meisel’s Walking the Edge (1983) to the mythic spaghetti western-noir of Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970).
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.
Director Bill Duke uses a mixture of film noir and blaxploitation tropes to explore the political complexities of being Black in the U.S. in Deep Cover (1992), his neon-tinted crime drama about an undercover cop (Laurence Fishburne) infiltrating the West Coast cocaine trade, now released in an extras-loaded 4K restoration by Criterion.
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.
Continuing their recent run of classic Hollywood restorations, Criterion have released an excellent edition of Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947), a sordid story of madness and criminality starring Tyrone Power in his best role as an opportunistic carny who cons his way to the top of respectable society only to plunge back down to the lowest depths. A remarkably grim movie to have been made by a major studio on an A-picture budget, it still remains a potent glimpse of existential horror.