Winter viewing 2: Vinegar Syndrome partners

Misanthropic scientist Herbert Von Krantz (Daniel Emilfork) invents an anti-nuclear device in Jean-Louis Roy's The Unknown Man of Shandigor (1967)

Recent releases from various Vinegar Syndrome partner labels offer a wide range of styles, from low-budget direct-to-video horror (Ronnie Sortor’s Sinistre [1995], Charles Pinion’s Red Spirit Lake [1993] and We Await [1996]) to a rediscovered slice of Cold War sci-fi/espionage from Switzerland (Jean-Louis Roy’s The Unknown Man of Shandigor [1967]).

Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse (1973) and other recent Indicator releases

Father Roche (Donald Pleasence) confronts an ancient religion on a remote Greek island in Kostas Karagiannis’ The Devil’s Men (1976)

Recent releases from Indicator have seemed oddly random – from an unexceptional genre movie (Kostas Karagiorgis’ The Devil’s Men [1076]) to an arthouse war film (Clive Rees’ The Blockhouse [1973]), a ghost story that comes across like a television play (Kevin Billington’s Voices [1973]) to an interesting if unsuccessful literary adaptation (Anthony Friedmann’s Bartleby [1970]) and a revisionist detective story which plays with the tropes of the English country house mystery (Chris Petit’s An Unsuitable Job for a Woman [1982]).

Recent disks from England, part one

The climactic battle between Cyclops and Dragon in Nathan Juran's The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)

Recent disks from England include Franco Parolini’s late spaghetti western Sabata Trilogy (1969-71), the classic Ray Harryhausen Sinbad fantasies (1958-77), Carl Franklin’s revisionist neo-noir Devil in a Blue Dress (1995), Tsui Hark’s influential martial arts fantasy Zu: Warriors from the Magic Mountain (1983), and David Greene’s tense submarine disaster movie Gray Lady Down (1978).

Dario Argento in decline

Strange costume choice for Christine Daaé (Asia Argento) in Dario Argento's The Phantom of the Opera (1998)

Four of Dario Argento’s later movies reveal a filmmaker in decline – but they all get excellent Blu-ray releases with pristine transfers and lots of extras. This is a mixed blessing for fans of Argento’s great movies from the ’70s and ’80s, who can see the movies’ weaknesses, but nonetheless appreciate occasional flashes of visual and narrative invention.

Year End 2021

The Count (Udo Kier) is worried about his blood supply in Paul Morrissey's Blood for Dracula (1974)

It’s been a good year for movies on disk, with a remarkable range of releases from many companies which are devoting considerable resources to rediscovering, restoring and preserving movies in numerous genres. Ranging across nationalities and spanning cinema history, there was plenty to divert attention from a real world which has become so depressing and exhausting.

Hammer Vol. 6: Night Shadows from Indicator

Catherine Lacey appears briefly as wealthy, reclusive murder victim Ella Venable in John Gilling's The Shadow of the Cat (1961)

Indicator’s sixth box set of Hammer movies, Night Shadows, is a bit of a mixed bag, with a silly but entertaining Old Dark House throwback in John Gilling’s The Shadow of the Cat (1961), an overwrought psycho thriller in Freddie Francis’ Nightmare (1964), a historical adventure in Peter Graham Scott’s Captain Clegg (1962), and a pseudo-Gothic horror in Terence Fisher’s The Phantom of the Opera (1962).

The films of Eloy de la Iglesia

El Jaro (Jose Luis Manzano) turns to petty crime and drugs in Eloy de la Iglesia's Navajeros (1980)

Severin introduces the work of Eloy de la Iglesia, a little-known Basque filmmaker with three releases spanning the period from the end of the Franco regime to the transition to democracy in Spain. Two thrillers with a satirical edge made in the early ’70s give way to a trilogy of violent, neo-realist depictions of youth crime and drug addiction in the early ’80s. Dynamic and visceral, these films are deeply empathetic to members of the underclass – workers and dispossessed adolescents – and unflinching in their treatment of addiction and homosexuality in a repressive society.

Columbia Noir #3 from Indicator

Vince Ryker (Vince Edwards) escapes prison thinking he's going to be rich in Irving Lerner's City of Fear (1959)

With their third box set of Columbia Studios films noirs in just over half a year, Indicator again gather together six entertaining B-movies made in the shadow of Cold War paranoia; crime, violence and personal demons evoke a world destabilized by fear, betrayal and uncertainty. As before, the set is packed with commentaries featurettes and short films which illuminate the context from which the features emerged.

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).

Blasts from the past

A Poverty Row evening

Luchino Visconti’s The Damned (1969): Criterion Blu-ray review

Melodrama from Twilight Time

Vin Diesel: fitting in

>