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.

Pandemic viewing, Part One

Brigitte Lahaie serves the bloodsucking Count in Jean Rollin's La fiancee de Dracula (2002)

Social isolation and “working from home” mean a lot of time for movie-watching … and the volume far outstrips my ability to say anything substantive about many of the films I do watch: so here I mostly just acknowledge what I’ve been viewing in the past 4-6 weeks. Part one of four.

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.

Sinatra x 2

Angela Lansbury as the quintessential controlling mother in John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Frank Sinatra, a star and celebrity, could also be an impressive actor when he cared to make the effort: two of his best performances from the 1960s, in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Mark Robson’s Von Ryan’s Express (1965), reveal a willingness to play flawed characters and expose their weaknesses.