Byron Haskin’s The War of the Worlds (1953):
Criterion Blu-ray review

The Martian war machines advance relentlessly in Byron Haskin's The War of the Worlds (1953)

With a spectacular 4K restoration from the original three-strip Technicolor negative, Criterion have reinstated George Pal’s The War of the Worlds (Byron Haskin, 1953) to its place at the pinnacle of 1950s science fiction. While Barre Lyndon’s script, updating the story to the present and relocating it to California, strips H.G. Wells’ novel to its bare essentials, Pal and his production team turned interplanetary destruction into a glorious visual spectacle which hasn’t looked this good since the original Technicolor prints played in first-run theatres.

One of these things is not like the others

The President (Henry Fonda) trapped in the pressure cooker of Mutually Assured Destruction in Sidney Lumet's Fail-Safe (1964)

In 1964, Sidney Lumet’s serious movie about nuclear paranoia, Fail-Safe, had a tough time competing with Stanley Kubrick’s manic black comedy Dr. Strangelove, but it holds its own today as a portrait of a particular moment in social and political history. Meanwhile, Franklin Adreon’s pair of no-budget time travel thrillers from 1966, Cyborg 2087 and Dimension 5, are empty-headed entertainment which offer a touch of nostalgia to genre fans.

Poetic noir from Criterion

Temple (Miriam Hopkins) suddenly finds herself in a world stripped of security in Stephen Roberts’ The Story of Temple Drake (1933)

Although separated by fifteen years, the Depression and World War Two, Stephen Roberts’ The Story of Temple Drake (1933) and Frank Borzage’s Moonrise (1948) have quite a bit in common, stylistically and thematically; each centres on an outsider character brought low by guilt, who ultimately finds redemption through self-knowledge, and each uses richly Expressionistic black-and-white photography to create a feverishly claustrophobic atmosphere to trap its protagonist in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman:
Criterion Blu-ray review

The Count's men head out to ransack a recently sunken ship in Karel Zeman's Invention For Destruction (1958)

A new three-disk Blu-ray from Criterion showcases three fantasies by the great Czech animator Karel Zeman, whose unique, inventive style creates a child-like sense of wonder in even the most jaded viewer. The superb restorations provided by the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague are supplemented with some terrific extras, including an excellent feature-length documentary about Zeman’s career and four of his early short films.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.

Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Claire discovers hidden memories through her recorded dreams in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991)

Wim Wenders’ most ambitious film, Until the End of the World (1991) was a huge commercial failure when released in 1991 in a severely truncated version; the almost five-hour director’s cut gets a stunning restoration on Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release – visually gorgeous, fascinating and frustrating, this sci-fi epic now looks prescient in its depiction of our solipsistic attachment to out personal electronic devices.