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.
Indicator’s four-disk John Ford at Columbia 1935-1958 box set raises some interesting questions about the nature of auteurism and how the ways in which a filmmaker comes to be defined influence how different films are viewed. Two of the movies in the set – The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) and Gideon’s Day (1958) – tend to be seen as minor and extraneous to Ford’s core body of work, yet both are among his most entertaining even if they don’t advance his familiar thematic preoccupations.
Indicator’s Columbia Noir #2 box set presents another six movies, hovering between A and B pictures, from the late ’40s to late ’50s. Crime, romance and a society shaken in the aftermath of the Second World War provide a background for portraits of characters torn by guilt, paranoia, betrayal and moral uncertainty.
Bingeing has been my default viewing mode for some time, but it’s only more recently that it’s come to encompass indulging in multiple releases by a particular company – which in turn is a result of those company’s offering regular sales and discount packages of monthly releases. The most prominent examples of this are Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films, both of which specialize in genre and exploitation titles, pulling me into deep, often sordid, black holes.
Indicator have done their usually exemplary job with a pair of recent box sets – one devoted to the five Fu Manchu movies written and produced by Harry Alan Towers in the late 1960s, all starring Christopher Lee in racial drag; the other showcasing six films from Columbia Pictures rather loosely gathered together and labelled film noir.
We love stories about bad people; even better, we love stories about bad people who begin to have doubts about themselves and the lives they’ve lived. Two new releases from Criterion explore that self doubt in genres tailor-made for such characters – the western (Henry King’s The Gunfighter, 1950) and the gangster film (Stephen Frears’ The Hit, 1984).
With volume 3 of their World Cinema Project box sets, Criterion has released another treasure trove of largely unknown (in the West) features spanning five decades and six countries, from the Expressionist horror of Mexico’s Dos Monjes (1934) to the Neo-realist horrors of life on Brazil’s streets in Hector Babenco’s Pixote (1980), with stops in between in Indonesia, Iran, Mauritania and Cuba.
A couple of recent disappointments from Indicator – excellent editions of two mediocre movies (Guy Hamilton’s Force 10 From Navarone  and Paul Annett’s The Beast Must Die ) – are offset by the terrific French television series of adaptations from the Maigret novels and stories by Georges Simenon, fifty-four feature-length movies centred on a magisterial performance by Bruno Cremer as the famous detective.
We tend to feel superior to the styles, attitudes and behaviour of earlier generations, forgetting that we’ll probably look ridiculous to those who come after us. Two Kino Lorber Blu-rays, Julian Roffman’s The Bloody Brood (1959) and Robert Thom’s Cult of the Damned (1969), offer interesting time capsules.