To mark our emergence from the Covid lockdown, my friend Steve and I ate barbecued bratwurst and watched a couple of movies which emerged from his big 3D TV screen: Owen Crump’s Korean war docudrama Cease Fire (1953) and John Brahm’s B-movie horror The Mad Magician (1954), Vincent Price’s threadbare follow-up to the hit House of Wax.
Ashley Thorpe’s Borley Rectory (2017) is an eccentric, hand-crafted “animated documentary” about the notorious “most haunted house in England”, using a small cast shot against green screen who are embedded in richly layered images reconstructed from old photographs. Calling up memories of silent film and spirit photography, Borley Rectory is a uniquely immersive spectral experience.
In the past few years Kino Lorber has become one of the most prolific disk producers with a remarkably varied catalogue representing every imaginable genre. Here, I look at a half dozen KL releases by a range of interesting directors – Robert Fuest, Ken Russell, Alain Robak, Harold Becker, Don Siegel and Sam Peckinpah.
More random viewing: two obscure independent films from the BFI, Margaret Tait’s poetic Blue Black Permanent (1992) and Maurice Hatton’s gritty fake-umentary about the film business, Long Shot (1977); and three from Twilight Time – George Sluizer’s interesting Americanization of his existential thriller The Vanishing (1993), Terrence Young’s straightforward fact-based crime saga The Valachi Papers (1972), and D.W. Griffith’s monumental but deeply troubling Birth of a Nation (1915).
Abbas Kiarostami’s multi-layered triptych of films dubbed The Koker Trilogy begins with a neorealist depiction of childhood in a small Iranian village and continues with an increasingly complex blend of documentary and fiction in which the director interrogates the nature of cinema itself through the impact of a devastating earthquake on the lives of the people who appeared in the first film. Criterion’s Blu-ray set showcases this masterpiece with excellent transfers and a substantial array of supplements.
The discovery of a previously unknown documentary, Robert Kaylor’s Derby (1971), plus a Blu-ray edition of Stephanie Rothman’s Terminal Island (1973), a rough-and-ready exploitation B-movie, are of much greater interest than Jack Cardiff’s Holiday in Spain (1960), a bloated mainstream Cinerama showcase which dresses its travelogue in a tissue-thin “mystery” plot.