Thanksgiving weekend brought an excess of eating and drinking (but no turkey!) and three great movies – plus one dud.
Severin introduces the work of Eloy de la Iglesia, a little-known Basque filmmaker with three releases spanning the period from the end of the Franco regime to the transition to democracy in Spain. Two thrillers with a satirical edge made in the early ’70s give way to a trilogy of violent, neo-realist depictions of youth crime and drug addiction in the early ’80s. Dynamic and visceral, these films are deeply empathetic to members of the underclass – workers and dispossessed adolescents – and unflinching in their treatment of addiction and homosexuality in a repressive society.
The latest releases from Cauldron Films are a pair of little-known found-footage horror movies which both have their moments, but suffer from the genre’s frequent shortcomings. Mike Costanza’s The Collingswood Story (2002) was the first movie to use on-line video chat as a storytelling medium, while Victor Dryere’s 1974: La posesión de Altair (2016) goes back to pre-video times, using super-8 home movies to show a young married couple under supernatural attack in rural Mexico.
Vinegar Syndrome distributes a number of smaller labels which offer a wide range of genre releases, from the ultra-low-budget Wakaliwood productions of Nabawana I.G.G. in Uganda to the impressively polished small-budget sci-fi of Chris Caldwell and Zeek Earl’s Prospect (2018), from the gritty ’80s exploitation of Norbert Meisel’s Walking the Edge (1983) to the mythic spaghetti western-noir of Roland Klick’s Deadlock (1970).
Three recent box sets from Arrow will satisfy a wide range of genre appetites with five thrillers from Italy in the ’70s, four spaghetti westerns from the ’60s, and Daiei’s 1966 trilogy of period fantasies featuring a statue which comes to life to punish various cruel warlords who oppress local peasants.
Wanting to see the new M. Night Shyamalan movie, I braced myself and went to a theatre for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half. The movie was effectively creepy, but the theatre was scarier – almost deserted, with a haunting air of the End Times about it. A staff person checked my vaccine status, but no one even bothered to look at my ticket and after the show I got an email from the theatre chain thanking me for going and pleading with me to come again soon.
Eureka’s new two-disk Blu-ray release Karloff at Columbia is a real treat for fans of the iconic actor. Although it begins with Roy William Neill’s atmospheric period Gothic The Black Room (1935), the bulk of the set is devoted to what became known as the Mad Doctor Cycle, five extremely low-budget sci-fi tinged horrors in which Karloff plays scientists dabbling in research which the establishment frowns on; the authorities’ resistance tends to push him over into madness and murder and mayhem ensue. Long held in low esteem, these cheap movies are all entertaining and Karloff delivers sincere performances no matter how silly the trappings occasionally become.