The Criminal Acts of Tod Slaughter on Blu-ray from Indicator

James Dalton, the Tiger (Tod Slaughter) becomes desperate at the end of George King's The Ticket of Leave Man (1937)

Indicator closed 2023 with one of their finest offerings yet – a four-disk, eight film box set of blood-and-thunder melodramas produced, and mostly directed, by George King and starring the inimitable Tod Slaughter as a roster of heinous villains portrayed with gleeful enthusiasm by an actor who devoted his long career to preserving an art form incubated on Victorian stages and largely fallen out of favour by the time these films preserved it with such relish. With striking restorations, mostly from original nitrate negatives, supplemented with commentaries, interviews and Slaughter-related ephemera, this is definitely the highlight of the past year.

The Exotic Ones: exploitation and religion from the Ormond family

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.

The amateur passion of Michael J. Murphy

Director Alistair (Patrick Oliver) assumes the identity of the killer in his own movie in Michael J. Murphy's Bloodstream (1985)

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.

Murder, robbery and paranormal activity: three new releases

Bank robber Milan (Johnny Hallyday) seems weary of his life choices in Patrice Leconte's Man on the Train (2002)

Three recent releases spanning nine decades offer radically different viewing experiences, from James Whale’s pre-Code courtroom drama The Kiss Before the Mirror (1933), rife with bourgeois misogyny, to Patrice Leconte’s Man on the Train (2002), steeped in existential weariness, to Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead’s Something in the Dirt (2022), in which the residents of a nondescript Los Angeles apartment discover a portal to cosmic horror.

Death and madness from Indicator

Marshal Frank Patch (Richard Widmark) keeps an eye on a small western town in Death of a Gunfighter (1969)

A pair of recent Indicator releases resurrect a couple of all-but forgotten features with major stars. Richard Widmark plays a Western lawman whose time has passed in Death of a Gunfighter (1969), the first movie credited to phantom director Alan Smithee, while George C. Scott is a former New York judge dealing with grief by taking on the identity of Sherlock Holmes; his therapist just happens to be named Dr. Watson (Joanne Woodward).

Universal Noir #1 from Indicator

Menace on the mean streets of film noir in Jerry Hopper's Naked Alibi (1954)

After five box sets devoted to film noir B-movies from Columbia Studios, Indicator have embarked on a follow-up covering Universal Studios crime films from the same mid-’40s to late-’50s period. The inaugural set of six titles covers a range of styles, from the classic noir of Michael Gordon’s The Web (1947), Norman Foster’s Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948) and Jerry Hopper’s Naked Alibi (1954) to the docu-noir of Joseph M. Newman’s Abandoned (1949) and the shot-in-Italy neorealist melodrama of Robert Siodmak’s Deported (1950). With a host of contextual and critical extras, Universal Noir #1 inaugurates another great series of releases from Indicator.

Blasts from the past

Twilight Time X 3

Trawling the Internet

Life and Death in the films of George A. Romero

DVD Review: Masaki Kobayashi Against the System (Eclipse)

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