Ghosts, Monsters and Swordplay

Agi (Chiaki Kuriyama) with one Kato's Yokai-machine hybrids in Takashi Miike's The Great Yokai War (2005)

Asian martial arts and fantasy movies can be exhilarating in their strangeness and invention, unbound by Western insistence on rational explanations. Arrow’s new box set Yokai Monsters Collection presents a world in which supernatural presences exist alongside human reality, while in Eureka’s release of Ching Siu-tung’s Duel to the Death (1983) martial artists defy the laws of physics in elaborately choreographed sword fights.

Chinese action and fantasy from Eureka

Yuen Wah as the distinctive Chinese hopping vampire in Ricky Lau's Mr. Vampire (1985)

Recent releases from Eureka/Masters of Cinema showcase a range of Chinese martial arts movies, from Sammo Hung’s traditional The Iron-Fisted Monk (1977) to Tsui Hark’s genre redefining Once Upon a Time in China trilogy (1991-92) to Ricky Lau’s horror-comedy Mr. Vampire (1985) and Ronny Yu’s visually ravishing fantasy The Bride With White Hair (1993).

Recent Eureka/Masters of Cinema releases

Hjalmar Poelzig (Boris Karloff) and the preserved body of the woman he loved in Edgar G. Ulmer's The Black Cat (1934)

Two recent two-disk sets released by Eureka in England provide two very different forms of popular entertainment. Two Films by John Woo contains a pair of top-notch martial arts movies from the first stage of Woo’s career, before he hit it big with the gangster films of the mid-’80s, while the three movies in their Bela Lugosi/Edgar Allen Poe set present some of the most deliriously perverse horrors of the pre-Code era. While the crown jewel is Edgar Ulmer’s expressionist masterpiece The Black Cat, the set’s revelation is the Easter egg inclusion of a “virtual director’s cut” of Robert Florey’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, which follows Tim Lucas’ suggestions, based on internal evidence, or what the film might have been before studio tampering made it a disjointed mess.

Year End 2018

Boriska (Nikolay Burlyaev) oversees the firing of the bell in Andrei Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev (1966) ...

Despite continuing rumblings about the demise of movies-on-disk, numerous companies continue to produce excellent editions on disk of a vast range of movies covering the entire history of cinema. Once again in 2018 there were far more releases than even an obsessive viewer could keep up with.

The wuxia epics of King Hu

Hsu Feng as Yang Huizhen, the imposing heroine of King Hu's masterpiece A Touch of Zen (1971/75)

Masters of Cinema have recently released two of director King Hu’s influential martial arts epics featuring excellent restorations commissioned by the Taiwanese government. The Blu-rays provide informative supplements to give context to Dragon Gate Inn (1967) and A Touch of Zen (1971/75).

Genre Viewing 2

Genre, of course, is not limited to the fantastic — science fiction, fantasy, horror. Contemporary and historical dramas can also fall within genre boundaries. Prisoners (Denis Villeneuve) Denis Villeneuve’s thriller was much-praised by critics and audiences alike, and yet it struck me as a genre movie desperate to convince its viewers that it was actually […] Read More