Political thrillers, horror and metaphor

Three recent releases blend reality and fiction to explore political themes, with varying success. Alain Jessua’s Les Chiens (1978) is an allegory of Fascism, while Jean-Claude Lord’s Mindfield (1989) and Jayro Bustamante’s La llorona (2019) are both rooted in real crimes, the former turning history into pulp entertainment, the latter into a haunting exploration of national trauma.

Memories of monochrome England

The visit of a friendly policeman causes stress in John Kruse's October Moth (1960)

Network and the BFI deliver a potent mix of wartime propaganda and post-war crime in atmospheric black-and-white with Blu-ray releases of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) and Lewis Gilbert’s The Good Die Young (1954), and a massive 20-disk DVD set of B-movie thrillers from the early 1960s mostly adapted from the novels of Edgar Wallace.

Vinegar Syndrome closes out 2022

Fong Sai Yuk (Willie Chi) faces a Manchu army in Ringo Lam's Burning Paradise (1994)

Vinegar Syndrome wraps up 2022 with a very mixed bag of releases, including no less than four grubby, bottom-of-the-barrel slasher movies, a dynamic Hong Kong martial arts movie, and loaded special editions of Freeway (1996), Matthew Bright’s reworking of Little Red Riding Hood as serial killer black comedy, and Rowdy Herrington’s red-neck action-romance Road House (1989).

The Pemini Organisation on Blu-ray from Indicator

John Drummond (Edward Woodward) expresses his grief through violence in Peter Crane's Hunted (1972)

Indicator unearth an obscure corner of ’70s British cinema with a box set of the three movies made by recent filmschool graduates who formed a production company called The Pemini Organisation. Despite extremely low budgets, director Peter Crane and writer Michael Sloan benefited from skilled technicians and high-profile casts who give the films professional polish; but the vagaries of commercial distribution made them disappear until this revival on disk fifty years later.

Recent releases from the BFI Flipside

Ian (Edward Woodward) goes off the road, just as he did in his dream in Lindsey C. Vickers' The Appointment (1981)

Two recent BFI Flipside releases unearth an odd assortment of movies from the fringes – the standalone feature The Appointment (Lindsey C. Vickers, 1981) and volume 2 of the Short Sharp Shocks anthology series which includes the allegorical horror of Ian F.H. Lloyd’s The Face of Darkness (1976), a mix of crime and ghosts in John Gillings Escape from Broadmoor (1948), horror as feminist thesis in The Mark of Lilith (1986), the proto-music video Jack the Ripper with Screaming Lord Sutch (1963), a couple of unsettling PSAs and other ephemera.

Summer grab-bag, part three: Vinegar Syndrome partners

Casey (Anna Cobb) looks for validation and friendship on the Internet in Jane Schoenbrun's We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

In addition to their own regular schedule of releases, Vinegar Syndrome serves as an umbrella for an eclectic (and seemingly ever-growing) collection of small labels, many of which specialize in titles so far out on the fringe that their appeal lies in their strangeness and sheer audacity — like Pathogen (2006), a zombie movie made by 12-year-old schoolgirl Emily Hagins, or Final Flesh (2009), an experiment in which copies of a script were sent to producers of on-demand fetish porn who were free to film Vernon Chatman’s absurd apocalyptic family drama however they saw fit. The latest batch I received includes these, plus a sordid made-in-Florida slice of exploitation called Satan’s Children (1975), the faux ’80s local TV broadcast WNUF Halloween Special (2013), and a pair of more polished movies closer to the mainstream: Out of Order (1984), a claustrophobic German thriller about four people trapped in an elevator, and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), about an isolated teenager seeking connection in a potentially dangerous on-line cult.

Blasts from the past

DVD of the Week: Loving Memory (1970)

Victor Erice’s El Sur (1983): Criterion Blu-ray review

Claude Autant-Lara’s wartime romances: Eclipse #45

The Adventures of Tintin, boy reporter

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