Year End 2022

Marcel and Nana Connie gardening in Dean Fleischer-Camp's Marcel the Shell with Shoes On (2021)

It’s that time of year, and as usual coming up with a “best of” list – having seen somewhere around five-hundred movies in 2022 – seems impossible; so here are just a few which remained vivid in my memory, plus an unexpected and charming movie with which I ended a stressful year.

The Pemini Organisation on Blu-ray from Indicator

John Drummond (Edward Woodward) expresses his grief through violence in Peter Crane's Hunted (1972)

Indicator unearth an obscure corner of ’70s British cinema with a box set of the three movies made by recent filmschool graduates who formed a production company called The Pemini Organisation. Despite extremely low budgets, director Peter Crane and writer Michael Sloan benefited from skilled technicians and high-profile casts who give the films professional polish; but the vagaries of commercial distribution made them disappear until this revival on disk fifty years later.

Aleksandr Ptushko’s epic fantasies

The magical stone dominates the cave of sorceress Louhi (Anna Orochko) in Aleksandr Ptushko's Sampo (1959)

Deaf Crocodile has released two of Aleksandr Ptsuhko’s epic fantasies in gorgeous Blu-ray editions which restore the films to their original form after decades of only being available in badly-dubbed, re-edited versions. Ptushko’s practical and optical special effects create impressive worlds which blend folk tales and historical events, clashing armies and fantastic creatures, romance and sorcery.

Cauldron releases, summer 2022

Liza (Monika Balsai) and the spirit of dead Japanese pop star Tomy Tami (David Sakurai) in Karoly Ujj Meszaros' Liza the Fox Fairy (2015)

Cauldron Films casts a wide net with their recent releases: Contraband (1980), a violent thriller by Lucio Fulci, is joined by Eloy de la Iglesia’s homage to A Clockwork Orange, Murder in a Blue World (1973), Jordan Graham’s mysterious folk horror Sator (2019) and Karoly Ujj Meszaros wistful Hungarian fantasy Liza the Fox Fairy (2015).

Recent disks from England, part two: Arrow

A young woman's psychic powers make her a target of nefarious forces in Nico Mastorakis' Death Has Blue Eyes (1976)

Arrow’s big pre-Christmas sale brought a wide range of titles, some old, some new: Juan Simon Piquer’s Spanish slasher Pieces (1982), Chelsea Stardust’s horror comedy Satanic Panic (2019), Giancarlo Santi’s spaghetti western The Grand Duel (1972), Lee Min-jae’s horror comedy Zombie for Sale (2019), Jill Gevargizian’s psycho horror The Stylist (2020),Nico Mastorakis incoherent first feature Death Has Blue Eyes (1976), a Japanese double bill of sci-fi crime movies, Nobuo Adachi’s The Invisible Man Appears (1949) and Mitsuo Murayama’s The Invisible Man vs the Human Fly (1957), Riccardo Freda’s mix of melodrama and giallo Double Face (1969), Jacques Tourneur’s late film noir Nightfall (1956), and Giorgio Ferroni’s atmospheric Gothic horror Mill of the Stone Women (1960).

Recent disks from England, part one

The climactic battle between Cyclops and Dragon in Nathan Juran's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Recent disks from England include Franco Parolini’s late spaghetti western Sabata Trilogy (1969-71), the classic Ray Harryhausen Sinbad fantasies (1958-77), Carl Franklin’s revisionist neo-noir Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Tsui Hark’s influential martial arts fantasy Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), and David Greene’s tense submarine disaster movie Gray Lady Down (1978).

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.

Ghosts, Monsters and Swordplay

Agi (Chiaki Kuriyama) with one Kato's Yokai-machine hybrids in Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War (2005)

Asian martial arts and fantasy movies can be exhilarating in their strangeness and invention, unbound by Western insistence on rational explanations. Arrow’s new box set Yokai Monsters Collection presents a world in which supernatural presences exist alongside human reality, while in Eureka’s release of Ching Siu-tung’s Duel to the Death (1983) martial artists defy the laws of physics in elaborately choreographed sword fights.

Blasts from the past

Harold Ramis 1944-2014

David Cronenberg, now … and then

Antonio Pietrangeli’s I Knew Her Well (1965): Criterion Blu-ray review

The Pathology of Power:
Elio Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

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