Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963): Criterion Blu-ray review

Architecture reflects social divisions in Joseph Losey's The Servant (1963)

Criterion’s new 4K restoration of Joseph Losey’s The Servant (1963) provides an excellent showcase for this pitch-black satire about the collapse of the British class system after World War Two and the dissolution of Empire. Harold Pinter’s script (adapted from Robin Maugham’s novella), Losey’s direction, Douglas Slocombe’s rich black-and-white cinematography and and a superlative cast – Dirk Bogarde, James Fox, Wendy Craig and Sarah Miles – combine to create one of the defining British films of the 1960s.

Back to the multiplex

James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) undergoes the duplication process in Brandon Cronenberg's Infinity Pool (2023)

Two new movies by directors who interest me offer a mixture of pleasure and slight disappointment. Both Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool (2023) and M. Night Shyamalan’s Knock at the Cabin (2023) have a strong strain of psychological horror somewhat compromised by endings which are not fully satisfying.

Recent Arrow viewing, Part Two

Captain Seafield (Ryland Brickson Cole Tews) and sonar expert Nedge Pepsi (Beulah Peters) are shocked by the Lake Michigan Monster (2018)

Yet another wide range of titles from Arrow Video from a restored silent classic to aliens over Tokyo, woods infested with zombies, food which consumes those who eat it, apocalypse in an alternate future Los Angeles, friendship destroyed by political conflicts, rich people facing the loss of their wealth and a naively admiring time capsule of the U.S. on the brink of the ’60s.

Winter viewing: Severin Films

Graf Saxon (Howard Vernon) engages in gruesome medical experiments in Adrian Hoven's Castle of the Creeping Flesh (1968)

Bingeing has been my default viewing mode for some time, but it’s only more recently that it’s come to encompass indulging in multiple releases by a particular company – which in turn is a result of those company’s offering regular sales and discount packages of monthly releases. The most prominent examples of this are Vinegar Syndrome and Severin Films, both of which specialize in genre and exploitation titles, pulling me into deep, often sordid, black holes.

Asia extreme

Boxer Leo (Masataka Kubota) and prostitute Monica (Sakurako Konishi) face off against yakuza gangs in Takashi Miike's First Love (2019)

Although there are obviously differences from culture to culture, many Asian movies share a tendency to to ignore the kind of “realism” Western, and particularly American, movies so often feel is necessary – which is one reason so many U.S. remakes of Asian genre movies take on a pedestrian quality nowhere evident in the originals. Three recent Asian movies – from Korea, Japan and China – use different approaches to explore societies in which economic and social inequality engender violence and to some degree madness. One uses blackly comic satire, one pushes genre tropes to absurd extremes, and one pushes neorealism into the realm of nightmare.

Blasts from the past

Walter Matthau, man of action?

John Murray Anderson’s King of Jazz (1930): Criterion Blu-ray review

Terence Fisher and science fiction

Digital resurrection

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