The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.
Among recently viewed Arrow Blu-rays are a classic Italian political satire, a scrappy independent from Dayton, Ohio, a dark children’s fantasy, an end-of-the-world romance, and a violently stylish Japanese series of women-in-prison movies.
The late Peter Fonda briefly interrupted his acting career in the 1970s by directing three features, only the first of which is recognized now as a classic: The Hired Hand (1971). But the second, a no-budget science fiction movie called Idaho Transfer (1973), deserves to be rediscovered both for its sparely poetic treatment of time travel and its prescient vision of imminent ecological catastrophe. Unfortunately, it can now only be viewed as a lo-res, open-matte YouTube video.
Another eclectic week – Italian gore from Joe D’Amato, regional American exploitation, a pair of Amicus horrors from director Roy Ward Baker, a documentary about Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, and a glorious restoration of the Russian folk-horror Viy.
MVD Entertainment Group’s Blu-ray release of Ryan Schifrin’s ’80s horror homage Abominable (2005/2018) offers an exemplary treatment of a niche title, with excellent technical treatment and stacked with extras which honour the filmmaker’s respect for the genre.
Two Italian classics – Mario Bava’s Kill, Baby … Kill! (1966) and Pupi Avati’s Zeder (1983) – and an imaginative new movie – David Lowery’s A Ghost Story (2017) – offer differing thematic takes on survival after death.
Severin’s Blu-ray showcases the low budget art of independent filmmaker Frederick R. Friedel with excellent transfers of his two mid-’70s movies, Axe (aka Lisa, Lisa) and Kidnapped Coed (aka The Kidnap Lover).
Arrow Video’s commitment to genre releases is on full display in a selection of recently viewed Blu-rays, each featuring informative supplements: the Japanese juvenile delinquent series Stray Cat Rock, Don Coscarelli’s epic Phantasm series, a pair of Gothic gialli from Emilio P. Miraglia, and Spanish director J.P. Simon’s adaptation of Brit author Shaun Hutson’s gross-out novel Slugs.
A pair of made-in-Germany genre-bending thrillers are well-served by excellent Blu-ray editions: Sam Fuller’s Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) from Olive Films and Wolf Gremm’s Kamikaze ’89 (1982) from Film Movement.
With HMV Canada going bankrupt and closing down, a disk addict gets a couple of months of increasingly cheap deals, leading to some great and some not-so-wise purchases.