A few notes about disks from a couple of companies I’ve previously had little experience with – 88 Films and 101 Films, both from the UK – plus three box sets from Arrow.
Mexico looms large in the Western genre, in both its Hollywood and spaghetti iterations, but until now it hadn’t occurred to me that Mexican filmmakers might have made their own Westerns; that unasked question is firmly answered by the recent Vinegar Syndrome release of a pair of movies which seem to straddle the boundary between the classical Hollywood and Italian versions of America’s defining myth of masculinity and violence.
The rediscovery of a film commissioned by Lutheran Services from Pittsburgh’s The Latent Image company in 1975 shines a light on a transitional stage of George A. Romero’s career. The Amusement Park transforms a PSA about neglect of the elderly into a bleak nightmare of abuse and paranoia as Lincoln Maazel (Tata Cuda in Martin ) is subjected to disdain, neglect and outright violence at a rundown amusement park.
Two recent BFI Flipside releases unearth an odd assortment of movies from the fringes – the standalone feature The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981) and volume 2 of the Short Sharp Shocks anthology series which includes the allegorical horror of Ian F.H. Lloyd’s The Face of Darkness (1976), a mix of crime and ghosts in John Gillings Escape from Broadmoor (1948), horror as feminist thesis in The Mark of Lilith (1986), the proto-music video Jack the Ripper with Screaming Lord Sutch (1963), a couple of unsettling PSAs and other ephemera.
In addition to their own regular schedule of releases, Vinegar Syndrome serves as an umbrella for an eclectic (and seemingly ever-growing) collection of small labels, many of which specialize in titles so far out on the fringe that their appeal lies in their strangeness and sheer audacity — like Pathogen (2006), a zombie movie made by 12-year-old schoolgirl Emily Hagins, or Final Flesh (2009), an experiment in which copies of a script were sent to producers of on-demand fetish porn who were free to film Vernon Chatman’s absurd apocalyptic family drama however they saw fit. The latest batch I received includes these, plus a sordid made-in-Florida slice of exploitation called Satan’s Children (1975), the faux ’80s local TV broadcast WNUF Halloween Special (2013), and a pair of more polished movies closer to the mainstream: Out of Order (1984), a claustrophobic German thriller about four people trapped in an elevator, and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), about an isolated teenager seeking connection in a potentially dangerous on-line cult.
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.