A pair of recent Blu-rays from Shout! Factory bookend ’70s horror with John Hayes’ Grave of the Vampire (1972), a too-little-known cheap exploitation feature which revitalizes vampire mythology and William Girdler’s The Manitou (1978), a low-budget studio movie with a better-than-average cast which plays a variation on demonic possession but fails to find an effective tone.
Recently viewed Blu-rays from Severin films include a range of Italian horrors featuring zombies, necrophilia and Lovecraftian gods, a revisionist vampire tale from the golden age of Ozploitation, and an unsettling experimental adaptation of a Lovecraft story from Sweden.
Classic television horror, geriatric action and an off-the-wall Canadian horror from Kino Lorber and Severin; five recent disks present thrills, chills, strained comedy and some problematic post-colonial politics.
Winnipeg filmmaker and author Caelum Vatnsdal spent several years researching the life of everyone’s favourite ubiquitous supporting actor Dick Miller and the resulting biography is every bit as entertaining as the roles Miller has played through six decades in the movie business.
Sometimes something authentic can shine through the incompetence of a “bad” movie; that’s the case even in something like William A. Levey’s clumsy Blackenstein (1973).
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.
An eclectic assortment of recent viewing, including an obscure short feature from England, a couple of westerns old and new, and a pair of Elmore Leonard adaptations.
Arrow Video’s commitment to genre releases is on full display in a selection of recently viewed Blu-rays, each featuring informative supplements: the Japanese juvenile delinquent series Stray Cat Rock, Don Coscarelli’s epic Phantasm series, a pair of Gothic gialli from Emilio P. Miraglia, and Spanish director J.P. Simon’s adaptation of Brit author Shaun Hutson’s gross-out novel Slugs.
2016 was an impressive year for movies on disk, with a wide variety of new and classic releases, prestige productions and exploitation, and some interesting rediscoveries … too many to pick just a handful of “bests”.
Sex runs through the history of the movies as both spectacle and disrupter of narrative; Russ Meyer reveled in it, while Charlie Kaufman finds in sex poignant emotional depths.