Summer grab-bag, part one

An attempted robbery becomes a bloodbath in Javier Elorrieta's Night of Rage (1985)

As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.

Truffles, a blood-fuelled car, zombies and a family in retreat from the modern world: recent viewing

Team members enforce their ideology off the field in Bill Milling's Wolfpack (1987)

Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.

Miscellaneous May 2022 viewing

Would-be actress Stella (Susan Ermich) enrols in a prestige acting school in Andreas Marschall's Masks (2011)

Bertrand Tavernier’s epic eight-part documentary Journeys Through French Cinema (2017) offers a personal and idiosyncratic history rooted in the filmmakers personal passions; Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976) and The Heroin Busters (1977) showcase the cynical, violent action of Italian genre movies of the ’70s; Andreas Marschall turns homage into effective horror in the retro-giallo Masks (2011); and Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch Miller’s documentary Other Music (2019) captures an experience all-but-lost today with their account of the final days of a great independent record store in New York City.

Alien sex and the comedy of self-destruction: two documentaries

David Huggins remembers the pleasures of sex with aliens in Brad Abrahams' Love and Saucers (2017)

A pair of eccentric characters – a man who creates an alter-ego who performs dangerous stunts for a local cable access show, and a man who claims a lifetime of alien encounters (including intense sexual experiences) – are given sympathetic consideration in two strange and entertaining documentaries: Jay Cheel’s Beauty Day (2011) and Brad Abrahams’ Love and Saucers (2017)

David Lynch’s Dune redux

The battle for Arrakeen in David Lynch's Dune (1984)

With a new 4K restoration of David Lynch’s Dune (1984), Arrow Films and Koch Media have given us pretty much the final word on this magnificent, yet almost fatally crippled, epic, surrounding it with hours of new and archival extras (including two commentaries on the Arrow, and Daniel Griffith’s feature-length making-of on the Koch). The Koch edition claims primacy, though, for including not only a soundtrack CD, but also the remarkable, unofficial fan-edit by the anonymous Spicediver, who has used all publicly available material to construct an intelligent, thoughtful three-hour version which reveals that so many of the theatrical cut’s acknowledged problems were the fault of Dino De Laurentis and Universal Studios, and not Lynch; there really is a coherent, comprehensible narrative in what was shot, yet it was ruined by idiots whose only concern was keeping the movie under 135 minutes.

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.

Early winter viewing, part 2

A Chinese demon possesses a New York businessman in Barry Rosen's Devil's Express (1976)

I continue my cold-weather plunge into the cheap, cheesy and outre depths of exploitation, finding a few gems among the dross of low-budget horror, science fiction, fantasy and comedy, ending up with an unsettling documentary about someone who devoted his life to filmmaking at the expense of everything including his identity.

Year End 2021

The Count (Udo Kier) is worried about his blood supply in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974)

It’s been a good year for movies on disk, with a remarkable range of releases from many companies which are devoting considerable resources to rediscovering, restoring and preserving movies in numerous genres. Ranging across nationalities and spanning cinema history, there was plenty to divert attention from a real world which has become so depressing and exhausting.

D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Stephen Sondheim coaches a singer on pronouncing a single syllable in D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970)

Criterion’s new Blu-ray of D.A. Pennebaker’s Original Cast Album: “Company” (1970) is a fascinating glimpse of the intense physical and mental labour which goes into the process of artistic creation, closely observing the recording of the original cast performing the songs from Stephen Sondheim’s breakthough Broadway show Company in one long fourteen-hour session. Tense, exhausting and exhilarating, it depicts dedicated professionals doing their jobs under intense pressure to deliver under a near-impossible deadline.

Blasts from the past

Andrzej Zulawski 1940-2016

John Saxon 1936-2020

Recent viewing – video

Artsploitation Films and the boundaries of horror

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