Getting serious

Jean Gabin embodies Georges Simenon's famous detective in Jean Delannoy's Maigret and the St. Fiacre Case (1959)

Another eclectic selection of recently watched Blu-rays, from two atmospheric French mysteries starring Jean Gabin as Maigret (1958-59) to the nightmarish horrors of war in Eastern Europe in an adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski’s controversial novel The Painted Bird (2019), from violence tourism in near-future Brazil in Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’s Bacurau (2019) to tenderness and violence on the American frontier in Kelly Reichardt’s First Cow (2020) and children faced with the threat of nuclear annihilation during the Cold War in Frank Perry’s Ladybug Ladybug (1965).

Inner Sanctum Mysteries on Blu-ray

The power of Alex Gregor (Lon Chaney)'s mind is deadly in Harold Young's The Frozen Ghost (1945)

Universal’s series of minor B-movies based on Simon & Schuster’s line of fiction and NBC’s long-running radio show called Inner Sanctum gave third-string horror star Lon Chaney Jr. a brief opportunity to get away from the monsters he played in the 1940s. Despite a low critical reputation, these atmospheric little movies are quite entertaining and receive a nice showcase in Eureka’s two-disk Blu-ray set.

Recent Indicator viewing

Juliet Bristow (Gayle Hunnicutt) discovers a body in Pompeii in Richard C. Sarafian's Fragment of Fear (1970)

Indicator continue to release exemplary editions of a wide range of movies, from obscure genre titles to classics to exploitation and occasional failed experiments. Recent viewing ranges from Max Ophuls’ exquisite domestic noir The Reckless Moment (1949) to Blake Edwards’ taut thriller Experiment in Terror (1962) and Arthur Lubin’s surprisingly good Gothic romance Footsteps in the Fog (1955).

Carroll Baker and Umberto Lenzi on Blu-ray

Carroll Baker is seduced by brother and sister Lou Castel and Colette Descombes in Umberto Lenzi's Orgasmo (1969)
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Unhappy with her career in Hollywood, actress Carroll Baker moved to Italy in the mid-’60s where she starred in a number of genre movies, including four erotic thrillers by Umberto Lenzi which bridge the gap between classic women-in-peril mysteries and the giallo. All four are collected together by Severin in their lavish The Complete Lenzi/Baker Giallo Collection Blu-ray box set.

The good, the mediocre and the annoying

Calvin Lockhart as big game hunter Tom Newcliffe aims to bag a werewolf in Paul Annett's The Beast Must Die (1974)

A couple of recent disappointments from Indicator – excellent editions of two mediocre movies (Guy Hamilton’s Force 10 From Navarone [1978] and Paul Annett’s The Beast Must Die [1974]) – are offset by the terrific French television series of adaptations from the Maigret novels and stories by Georges Simenon, fifty-four feature-length movies centred on a magisterial performance by Bruno Cremer as the famous detective.

Shameless exploitation

Family retainer Isidro (Giuseppe Carbone) plays with the contents of the crypt in Mario Bianchi's Satan's Baby Doll (1982)

Shameless is a British label dedicated to exploitation movies (with a mission statement emphasizing sleaze and outrage) which has been issuing mostly Italian genre titles for more than a decade with mixed results in terms of quality; thanks to a recent on-line sale, I just binged some of their releases which cover the spectrum in terms of quality (both technical and creative).

A frustrating evening

Michael (Hywel Bennett) can't avoid the distrust, even contempt, of Ellie (Hayley Mills)'s relatives in Sidney Gilliat's Endless Night (1972)

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).

Perverse Families & Dysfunctional Kids

Girly (Vanessa Howard)'s eroticized immaturity is used to trap unsuspecting men in Freddie Francis' Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970)

While they form one of the main building blocks of society, families are often mysterious when viewed from the outside, providing opportunities for mystery, suspense and horror since we began telling ourselves stories. Outsiders who penetrate the strange membrane between community and family may be faced with codes and rituals which can turn dangerous … as in four recently viewed movies: Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide (1961) and Games (1967), Freddie Francis’ Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (1970) and Ted Post’s The Baby (1973).