Trawling the Internet

Rats take on human form and infiltrate society in Krsto Papic’s The Rat Savior (1976)

With a little time and patience, it’s possible to dig up obscure and interesting movies on the Internet – some public domain, others no doubt illegitimate, some in pretty poor shape, others looking just fine. Here’s a collection of ones I recently discovered and generally enjoyed.

Smart Sci-Fi

The space elevator carries passengers and cargo to the transport ship Aniara in Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja's Aniara (2018)

Quiet, contemplative character-based science fiction movies feel like a refreshing oasis in a desert of big, loud, empty franchise blockbusters. James Gray’s Ad Astra (2019), Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja’s Ad Astra (2018), Sion Sono’s The Whispering Star (2015) and Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer (2008) provide satisfaction on many levels.

Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman:
Criterion Blu-ray review

The Count's men head out to ransack a recently sunken ship in Karel Zeman's Invention For Destruction (1958)

A new three-disk Blu-ray from Criterion showcases three fantasies by the great Czech animator Karel Zeman, whose unique, inventive style creates a child-like sense of wonder in even the most jaded viewer. The superb restorations provided by the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague are supplemented with some terrific extras, including an excellent feature-length documentary about Zeman’s career and four of his early short films.

Indicator’s Hammer Vol. 4: Faces of Fear

... at the perfect body (Michael Gwynn) the Baron (Peter Cushing) has fashioned for him in Terence Fisher's The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958)

With Hammer Vol. 4: Faces of Fear, Indicator continue to prove themselves one of the finest companies producing exceptional Blu-ray editions of a wide variety of genres. This new set includes three of the studio’s finest features, each very different from the others, plus an interesting misfire. As always, there’s an almost overwhelming quantity of supplementary material to provide background and critical assessments for each film.

Back to the ’70s

Waldo and Axel (Bo Svenson) practive wing-walking in George Roy Hill's The Great Waldo Pepper (1975)

Revisiting movies from the early 1970s, I recently watched Howard W. Koch’s rather ugly cop feature Badge 373 (1973), with Robert Duvall as a rule-breaking, racist misogynist NYC detective; Willard (1971), Daniel Mann’s adaptation of Stephen Gilbert’s dark horror novel Ratman’s Notebooks; and two features by George Roy Hill, his faithful adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut Jr’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and his most personal, and best, film The Great Waldo Pepper (1975).

Seeing in the New Year

Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) finds setting zombies on gangsters enormously amusing in Paul Maslansky's Sugar Hill (1974)

This year’s New Year’s Eve movie binge with my friend Steve spanned from ’50s 3D Red Menace sci-fi to ’70s blaxploitation horror to a political thriller about right-wing apocalyptic political paranoia which, while dating from 1972, suggested the atmosphere of the coming 2020 presidential election year.

Year End 2019

Ahmad (Babak Ahmadpour) searches for his friend in an unfamiliar village in Abbas Kiarostami's Where is the Friend's House? (1987)

The usual year-end round-up – not necessarily the best movies or disks, but some of the ones I most enjoyed, from high art to entertaining trash. The sheer range of what’s available should lay to rest any lingering rumours about the demise of physical media.

Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World (1991):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Claire discovers hidden memories through her recorded dreams in Wim Wenders' Until the End of the World (1991)

Wim Wenders’ most ambitious film, Until the End of the World (1991) was a huge commercial failure when released in 1991 in a severely truncated version; the almost five-hour director’s cut gets a stunning restoration on Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release – visually gorgeous, fascinating and frustrating, this sci-fi epic now looks prescient in its depiction of our solipsistic attachment to out personal electronic devices.