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).
Eureka’s Masters of Cinema honour Japanese filmmaker Ishiro Honda with two new releases, one showcasing one of his most appealing kaiju eiga – Mothra (1961) – the other a two-disk set of a pair of lesser-known movies – The H-Man (1958) and Battle in Outer Space (1960).
Two German emigre directors avoid Hollywood war movie cliches in a pair of Blu-rays from Masters of Cinema: Fritz Lang’s anti-nuclear Cloak and Dagger (1946) and Billy Wilder’s suspenseful character drama Five Graves to Cairo (1943).
A pair of Blu-rays from England showcase the final works of major artists who were considered at the time to be in decline: Laurel and Hardy’s last feature, Atoll K (dir. Leo Joannon, 1951) is a bittersweet mess which captures the Boys’ enduring charm while making their mortality all too clear, while Fritz Lang’s The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) comes full circle by reviving his Weimar criminal mastermind in a Cold War context which paved the way for James Bond’s high-tech thrills.
When my friend Howard came over for an evening of movie-watching recently, we ended up with a highly idiosyncratic double-bill of problematic features, one representing self-conscious art, the other polished commercial craft – neither entirely satisfying: Josej Von Sternberg’s The Saga of Anatahan (1953) and Sidney Gilliat’s Endless Night (1972).
New restorations of movies from early and late in the career of King Hu reconfirm his influential position in Chinese cinema as a master of martial arts and swordplay films: action and poetry blend seamlessly in Come Drink With Me (1966), The Fate of Lee Khan (1973) and Raining in the Mountain (1979).
A lot of my recent viewing has been catching up on a range of movies from the ’60s through the ’80s, some of which I saw when they were first released, while others weren’t accessible to me at the time. These include some foreign classics … and quite a bit of trash.
Recent viewing includes a stark western (compared to the work of Dreyer by Bertrand Tavernier), an entertaining adventure souffle from frequent collaborators John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, and a ground-breaking satirical drama from Robert Aldrich which dealt sympathetically with lesbianism in the late 1960s.
Film history is full of lost movies and forgotten filmmakers, but the case of Sadao Yamanaka is one of the saddest; a brilliant director in 1930s Japan, he died young and all but three of his twenty-seven features are lost. The three that remain are all great works of narrative art.
Masters of Cinema’s new Blu-ray of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Cure (1997) drew me back for another attempt to understand this maddeningly enigmatic horror film; like its mysterious killer, it exerts an almost hypnotic hold on the viewer.