Another assortment of horror, fantasy, murder, madness and general mayhem from Vinegar Syndrome.
The Australian company Imprint has been releasing extras-laden special editions on Blu-ray of movies which strangely remain elusive in North America. Among some recent acquisitions are Mike Hodges’ I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead (2002), Barbet Schroeder’s Charles Bukowski-scripted Barfly (1987), a minor but interesting B-movie by prolific journeyman Lesley Selander, The Catman of Paris (1946), and Walter Hill’s The Warriors (1979), thankfully in a two-disk set which includes the superior theatrical cut as well as the misconceived “ultimate director’s cut” from 2005.
Indicator give a fine new polish to four classic Mexican Gothic horror movies from the late ’50s and early ’60s, ranging from the deranged invention of Chano Urueta’s The Brainiac (1962) to Fernando Méndez’s elegant masterpiece The Black Pit of Dr. M (1959), in an impressive box set featuring their usual thoughtful extras, plus a 100-page book of essays.
A couple of new releases and a pair of slightly older disks offer a range of fantasy and horror from Julian Duvivier’s made-in-Hollywood anthology Flesh and Fantasy (1943) to three movies from Spain in the early ’70s in Vinegar Syndrome’s Villages of the Damned box set, from the inventive low-budget sci-fi of Yedidya Gorsetman’s Empathy, Inc. (2018) to Ben Wheatley’s folk-horror-tinged pandemic movie In the Earth (2021),
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).
The film business being what it is, it’s not surprising that there are many odd corners still waiting to be explored – one of the oddest being the Ormond family, dad Ron, mom June and son Tim. After a successful career in vaudeville, June and Ron turned to independent production in the late ’40s with a string of poverty row westerns starring Lash LaRue, followed by a wide range of exploitation movies for the drive-in circuit – jungle adventure, hicksploitation featuring bootlegging, stock car racing, country music, spiced with sex and violence. Then in the late ’60s, they found God and made a series of evangelist movies, using all their exploitation skills to warn churchgoers about the evils of Communism and the inevitability of Hell. All of this is gathered together in Indicator’s box set From Hollywood to Heaven: The Lost and Saved Films of the Ormond Family, compiled in collaboration with filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn and biographer Jimmy McDonough.
Although I’ve so far only watched four of the ten disks in Indicators monumental Magic, Myth & Mutilation: The Micro-Budget Cinema of Michael J. Murphy 1967-2015, it’s time to say a few words about this remarkable English outsider artist whose ambition consistently outpaced limited resources; the set is an amazing act of recovery and preservation of a body of work which has survived only in compromised form, covering multiple genres and displaying the development of a genuine filmmaking talent. The most impressive release yet from one of the world’s finest companies.
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.
A recent trip to one of the last places in Winnipeg where you can actually buy movies on disk, armed with a bag full of DVDs and Blu-rays to trade, netted an interesting assortment of items, new and used, including some from the UK and Australia; it brought back the pleasures of in-store shopping and immediately being able to go home and watch what I’d just bought.