Recent Arrow box sets

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.

Not exactly back to normal

Surgeon Charles (Rufus Sewell) loses his tenuous grip on reality in M. Night Shyamalan's Old (2021)

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.

Karloff at Columbia on Eureka Blu-ray

Dr. John Garth (Boris Karloff) is distracted by a murderer's impulses in Nick Grinde's Before I Hang (1940)

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.

Weird Wisconsin: the movies of Bill Rebane

Railway man Ralph Meeker loses more than his mind in Bill Rebane's The Alpha Incident (1978)

A recent Arrow box set showcases yet another regional filmmaker who built a career on determination and very little money. Bill Rebane built his own studio in rural Wisconsin and beginning in the 1960s made a series of genre movies whose reputation echoes that of Ed Wood. The big surprise of the Weird Wisconsin set is that some of them are genuinely effective and entertaining.

Home-Grown Horrors

Monsters emerge from a student's dreams in Jay Woelfel's Beyond Dream's Door (1989)

Vinegar Syndrome’s Home-Grown Horrors box set presents three ultra-low-budget regional movies on Blu-ray, really entertaining and looking better than they ever deserved to, and accompanied by surprisingly substantial extras about the fun and frustration of making movies without sufficient resources.

The second coming of Cauldron

The Medieval dead awaken to deal with modern killers in Tomas Aznar's Beyond Terror (1980)

With their second pair of releases, the folks at Cauldron Films have again dug deep into the fringes of genre movie-making, this time unearthing Sergio Pastore’s The Crimes of the Black Cat (1972), an Italian giallo from the peak period of that genre, and Tomas Aznar’s Beyond Terror (1980), a Spanish film which begins as a nihilistic story about a gang of vicious criminals and morphs into a supernatural revenge narrative.

Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Proud, ambitious Stanton Carlisle (Tyrone Power) has fallen as low as it gets in Edmund Goulding's Nightmare Alley (1947)

Continuing their recent run of classic Hollywood restorations, Criterion have released an excellent edition of Edmund Goulding’s Nightmare Alley (1947), a sordid story of madness and criminality starring Tyrone Power in his best role as an opportunistic carny who cons his way to the top of respectable society only to plunge back down to the lowest depths. A remarkably grim movie to have been made by a major studio on an A-picture budget, it still remains a potent glimpse of existential horror.