A couple of Christmas movies showcase Barbara Stanwyck’s range in comedy and drama, while Indicator’s fifth Columbia Noir set focuses on Humphrey Bogart’s screen persona in several routine movies and one classic.
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.
Indicator unearth an obscure corner of ’70s British cinema with a box set of the three movies made by recent filmschool graduates who formed a production company called The Pemini Organisation. Despite extremely low budgets, director Peter Crane and writer Michael Sloan benefited from skilled technicians and high-profile casts who give the films professional polish; but the vagaries of commercial distribution made them disappear until this revival on disk fifty years later.
As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.
Two new releases from Indicator illuminate the origins of Mexican horror (best known from the work of filmmakers like Chano Urueta, Fernando Mendez and Rafael Baladon in the 1950s and ’60s) in the early days of sound in the 1930s when filmmakers first strove to create an indigenous industry rooted in Mexican history and culture. Ramon Peon’s La llorona (1933), rooted in a local folk legend, was the country’s first sound horror movie, while Fernando de Fuentes’ The Phantom of the Monastery (1934) uses a Twilight Zone-like narrative to teach three characters a moral lesson. Both films have been impressively restored on disks which include a commentary and informative featurettes which illuminate their position and influenbce in Mexican cinema.
Indicator’s recent Blu-ray of A Time for Dying (1969) resurrects the final feature of writer-director Budd Boetticher and actor-producer Audie Murphy, and odd, slightly crippled western made quickly to pay off some debts. Mixing the naivety of young, inexperienced characters with amoral brutality, it ends on a disturbingly note more in tune with end-of-the-’60s cynicism than the moral certainties of an earlier era’s westerns in which this movie superficially seems to have its roots.
Filmmaker Gerry O’Hara tackled the difficult subject of marital violence in the mid-’70s, at a time when such things weren’t discussed in polite company. His use of exploitation tropes offended critics at the time for “trivializing” a serious subject which almost no one else was examining in popular media. Actually, O’Hara’s treatment is quite intelligent and well-crafted.
Indicator add another volume to their series devoted to Columbia Studios films noirs, with an eclectic selection of six moves covering post-war espionage, the activities of organized crime and a cop easily turned to the darkside by an attractive woman. Excellent transfers are supplemented with commentaries, March of Time shorts, featurettes on key cast and crew members … and, of course, half-a-dozen Three Stooges shorts.
Indicator’s sixth box set of Hammer movies, Night Shadows, is a bit of a mixed bag, with a silly but entertaining Old Dark House throwback in John Gilling’s The Shadow of the Cat (1961), an overwrought psycho thriller in Freddie Francis’ Nightmare (1964), a historical adventure in Peter Graham Scott’s Captain Clegg (1962), and a pseudo-Gothic horror in Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962).
With their third box set of Columbia Studios films noirs in just over half a year, Indicator again gather together six entertaining B-movies made in the shadow of Cold War paranoia; crime, violence and personal demons evoke a world destabilized by fear, betrayal and uncertainty. As before, the set is packed with commentaries featurettes and short films which illuminate the context from which the features emerged.