Ghosts, demons and cinematic experiments

Cruel doctor Age Krüger (Udo Kier) returns from the dead to sire a son in Lars von Trier's The Kingdom (1994)

The new MUBI seven-disk set of Lars von Trier’s The Kingdom provides an opportunity to re-visit the original two seasons from 1994 and 1997 and finally see the elaborate blend of satire, soap opera and ghost story reach some kind of conclusion with the third season made in 2022; while it proves impossible to attain the unique energy of the original, which achieved a perfect balance between horror and comedy, The Kingdom: Exodus does tie up many of the loose ends left dangling for twenty-five years. An even stranger piece of experimental horror has been restored by Le Chat Qui Fume with their 4K edition of Leslie Stevens’ Incubus (1966) in which a pre-Kirk William Shatner confronts demons while speaking Esperanto.

Recent Asian releases from Eureka

Disillusioned Christians Shiro Amakusa (Kenji Sawada) and Hosokawa Gracia (Akiko Kana) return from the dead to seek revenge in Kenji Fukasaku's Samurai Reincarnation (1981)

Eureka, and their specialty label Masters of Cinema, continue to release a range of Asian films, from pulp action to classical tragedy. Among recent releases are a two-disk set of four sequels to Rickay Lau’s Mr. Vampire (1985), Cynthia Rothrock’s first lead role in Mang Hoi & Corey Yuen’s Lady Reporter (1989), and a pair of very different samurai epics: Tadashi Imai’s bleak dissection of the Bushido code in Revenge (1964) and Kenji Fukasaku’s mix of history and supernatural horror in Samurao Reincarnation (1981).

Dragons and ghosts, resurrected in 4K

Julia (Mia Farrow) welcomes her own doom as expiation for her guilt in Richard Loncraine's Full Circle (The Haunting of Julia, 1977)

A pair of new 4K restorations resurrect two neglected films which deserve to be better known – Matthew Robbins’ Dragonslayer (1981), one of the finest fantasy films ever made which has never fared well on home video, but looks wonderful in this new edition; and Richard Loncraine’s atmospheric Full Circle (The Haunting of Julia, 1977), adapted from Peter Straub’s first horror novel, featuring Mia Farrow as a mother traumatized by the death of her child, who becomes immersed in a decades-old mystery when she moves into a haunted house.

Italian Gothic horror on Blu-ray

Saint Simon (John Phillip Law) believes he's the reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh in Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988)

Arrow’s Gothic Fantastico box set gathers together four lesser-known Italian genre movies from the mid-’60s from the period when Gothic horror flourished between Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and the rise of the giallo later in the decade, while Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988) from Vinegar Syndrome is a garish throwback long after the Gothic had faded away.

Stanley Kwan’s Rouge (1987):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Chan (Leslie Cheung) immerses himself in theatricality in Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1987)

Rouge (1987), Stanley Kwan’s meditation on romance, the passage of time and the imminent return of Hong Kong to China after almost two centuries of British colonial rule, gets a luminous restoration for Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition, which also includes an interview with Kwan and two documentaries by the director which explore issues of gender in Chinese cinema and his own identity as one of the first openly gay Chinese directors.

Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse (1973) and other recent Indicator releases

Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) confronts an ancient religion on a remote Greek island in Kostas Karagiannis’ The Devil’s Men (1976)

Recent releases from Indicator have seemed oddly random – from an unexceptional genre movie (Kostas Karagiorgis’ The Devil’s Men [1076]) to an arthouse war film (Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse [1973]), a ghost story that comes across like a television play (Kevin Billington’s Voices [1973]) to an interesting if unsuccessful literary adaptation (Anthony Friedmann’s Bartleby [1970]) and a revisionist detective story which plays with the tropes of the English country house mystery (Chris Petit’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman [1982]).

Pandemic viewing, Part Three

A killer vehicle stalks the heroine of George Bowers' The Hearse (1980)

Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part three of four.

Blasts from the past

The martial arts of Joseph Kuo

Reading movies

Watching genre, in black-and-white

Recent Asian releases from Eureka

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