Winter 2022 Arrow viewing, part two

Gunfighter Manuel (director Robert Hossein) reluctantly comes out of retirement in Cemetery Without Crosses (1969)

More genre viewing from Arrow, including a bleak French Western, a silent film noir which recapitulates the history of Japanese cinema, a pair of low-budget ’80s slasher movies, a mash-up of anime and low-budget live-action post-apocalypse, and two box sets: Kenji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale and Battle Royale II and the Children of the Corn trilogy.

Alex Cox’s Walker (1987): Criterion Blu-ray review

William Walker (Ed Harris) sees American expansionism as a mission from God in Alex Cox's Walker (1987)

Criterion’s Blu-ray release of Alex Cox’s masterpiece Walker (1987) revives this deconstruction of America’s self-mythologizing at a time when its themes are more pertinent than ever; imperial attacks on domestic and foreign societies driven by a toxic mixture of religious self-righteousness and unfettered capitalist greed have been on the rise for decades and Walker traces the roots back to the mid-19th Century doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

One-Shot Wonders: samurai slaughter and zombies

Director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) wants to keep shooting when real zombies attack in Shin'ichiro Ueda's One Cut of the Dead (2017)

When filmmakers attempt to tell a story in a single sustained shot they encounter a number of technical issues because they have to abandon many of the tools developed over the history of cinema. Two recent Japanese movie approach the challenge in very different ways, one (Yuji Shimomura’s Crazy Samurai Musashi [2020]) succumbing to the inherent limitations, the other (Shin’ichiro Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead [2017]) interrogating those limitations with great comic effect.

Budd Boetticher’s A Time for Dying (1969) from Indicator

Cass (Richard Lapp) tries to suppress his fear by feigning an equal determination in Budd Boetticher's A Time for Dying (1969)

Indicator’s recent Blu-ray of A Time for Dying (1969) resurrects the final feature of writer-director Budd Boetticher and actor-producer Audie Murphy, and odd, slightly crippled western made quickly to pay off some debts. Mixing the naivety of young, inexperienced characters with amoral brutality, it ends on a disturbingly note more in tune with end-of-the-’60s cynicism than the moral certainties of an earlier era’s westerns in which this movie superficially seems to have its roots.

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]).

Winter viewing 1: Vinegar Syndrome

Detective Linda Masterson (Cynthia Rothrock) investigates a killer martial artist in Kelly Makin's Tiger Claws (1991)

A long cold winter, a working-from-home schedule and pandemic-induced malaise means I’ve been watching a lot of undemanding genre movies over the past few months. One of my primary sources in the past couple of years has been Vinegar Syndrome, a company whose dedication to unearthing obscure, often forgotten genre movies equals my own passion for watching them. Although by no means a complete account of my VS viewing, here are brief notes on two dozen titles.

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]).

Blasts from the past

Francoise Romand: The Camera I

Post-Op, week four

Alan Pakula’s Klute (1971): Criterion Blu-ray review

CageyFilms Documentaries now on Vimeo

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