Lost films and alternative histories

A cultured ape (Zain Rahnat) teaches life lessons in Donn Greer's The Rare Blue Apes of Cannibal Isle (1975)

Film restoration is usually seen as an effort to preserve the canon, but there are vast areas of film history which may be less reputable, but still represent significant aspects of the past century’s most popular art form. In their recent six-disk, ten-movie set Lost Picture Show, Vinegar Syndrome highlight their own efforts to unearth and give new life to cheap, obscure, frequently disreputable examples of movies made far from the mainstream – sex. violence, politics and an occasional talking animal are on display in this ragged, sometimes enlightening, sometimes frustrating collection.

Fall 2023 viewing, part one

Detective Luigi Mackeroni (Udo Samel) and his cross-dressing partner Babette (Leonard Lansink) face an unusual foe in Martin Walz's Killer Condom (1996)

As always, writing falls behind viewing and I’ve missed mentioning some disks that deserved at least a comment – so here are some quick notes on recent releases from Arrow, Vinegar Syndrome and some smaller labels covering a wide range of genres from spaghetti westerns to East European animation, from low-budget sci-fi to documentary, from comedy to horror to exploitation.

Recent fantasy and horror on disk

The arrival of wandering friar Fray Angel (Jorge Rivero) triggers violence and madness in Gonzalo Suárez’s Beatriz (1976)

A couple of new releases and a pair of slightly older disks offer a range of fantasy and horror from Julian Duvivier’s made-in-Hollywood anthology Flesh and Fantasy (1943) to three movies from Spain in the early ’70s in Vinegar Syndrome’s Villages of the Damned box set, from the inventive low-budget sci-fi of Yedidya Gorsetman’s Empathy, Inc. (2018) to Ben Wheatley’s folk-horror-tinged pandemic movie In the Earth (2021),

Vinegar Syndrome January releases

Dr. Pretorius (ted Sorel) returns very much changed in Stuart Gordon's From Beyond (1986)

Vinegar Syndrome begin 2023 by casting a wide net to gather a range of exploitation movies from Hong Kong, Mexico and the U.S. It’s a mixed bag encompassing Stuart Gordon’s classic H.P. Lovecraft adaptation From Beyond (1986); three extreme horrors featuring iconic actor Anthony Wong; a sordid Mexican movie about a psychopath killing and raping for Satan; Tom Chaney’s Frostbiter (1995), a derivative low-budget horror from Michigan featuring ambitious special effects, miniatures, stop-motion animation and Evil Dead-inspired excess; and Curt Siodmak’s minor oddity Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956), the first from a new sub-label, Vinegar Syndrome Labs, intended to gauge interest in this kind of obscure title.

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).

Italian Gothic horror on Blu-ray

Saint Simon (John Phillip Law) believes he's the reincarnation of Vincent Van Gogh in Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988)

Arrow’s Gothic Fantastico box set gathers together four lesser-known Italian genre movies from the mid-’60s from the period when Gothic horror flourished between Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) and the rise of the giallo later in the decade, while Sergio Bergonzelli’s Blood Delirium (1988) from Vinegar Syndrome is a garish throwback long after the Gothic had faded away.

Two Mexican westerns from Vinegar Syndrome

The betrayed husband (Pedro Armendáriz Jr) channels Peckinpah's anti-heroes during the climactic battle in Rene Cardona's Guns and Guts (1974)

Mexico looms large in the Western genre, in both its Hollywood and spaghetti iterations, but until now it hadn’t occurred to me that Mexican filmmakers might have made their own Westerns; that unasked question is firmly answered by the recent Vinegar Syndrome release of a pair of movies which seem to straddle the boundary between the classical Hollywood and Italian versions of America’s defining myth of masculinity and violence.

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.

Blasts from the past

CarFree premiere

DVD diary: another eclectic week – part two

Guest post: William K. Everson & British Film

Year End 2011: video

>