Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le cercle rouge (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

Three unlikely partners come together to rob a Paris jewellery store in Jean-Pierre Melville's masterful Le cercle rouge (1970)

Criterion have re-released Jean-Pierre Melville’s masterful heist movie Le cercle rouge (1970) in a new dual-format 4K UHD/Blu-ray edition based on a 4K restoration by StudioCanal. Although there are no new extras (supplements adding up to almost two hours date back to the company’s original 2003 DVD release), the film looks better than ever, its narrative stripped to essentials as a meditation on professionalism, fate and the moral ambiguity of characters on both sides of the law.

Folk horror and Argentine noir

Collage is used as an organizing principle in Kier-la Janisse's epic folk horror documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021)

The year gets off to an interesting start with a pair of excellent Argentinian films noirs – Román Viñoly Barreto’s The Beast Must Die (1952) and Fernando Ayala’s The Bitter Stems (1956) – beautifully restored by the Film Noir Foundation; Prana Bailey-Bond’s Censor (2021), a disturbing British psychological horror; and Kier-la Janisse’s Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched (2021), an epic documentary exploring the folk horror genre.

The Hughes Brothers’ Menace II Society (1993):
Criterion Blu-ray review

The police appear without warning in the Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society (1993)

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,

Columbia Noir 4 from Indicator

Kim Novak debuts as bank robber's girlfriend Lona McLane in Richard Quine's Pushover (1954)

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 Partners

Mr. Sunshine (Anthony Dawson) isn't interested in sharing the loot from a bank robbery in Roland Klick's Deadlock (1970)

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).

Recent Arrow box sets

Wronged man Gary Hamilton (Klaus Kinski) looks for revenge in Antonio Margheriti's And God Said to Cain (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.

Blasts from the past

Viewing notes, March-April 2015: part two

Stanley Kramer and the limits of liberalism

Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985): Criterion Blu-ray review

Hammer thrillers on Blu-ray from Indicator

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