Entertainment knows no bounds in terms of style or quality: recent viewing ranges from Walter Hill’s gripping Vietnam allegory Southern Comfort (1981) to Kinji Fukusaku’s pulp sci-fi The Green Slime (1968), from Richard Franklin’s Ozploitation horror Patrick (1978) to Robert Amram’s perplexing End Times “documentary” The Late Great Planet Earth (1979).
Classic television horror, geriatric action and an off-the-wall Canadian horror from Kino Lorber and Severin; five recent disks present thrills, chills, strained comedy and some problematic post-colonial politics.
More brief notes on recent random viewing choices; another mixed bag of classic fantasy, generic thrillers, dramas drawn form real life, spectacular martial arts and gritty war action, and a scattershot, off-the-wall satire by “the world’s worst living director”.
Recent viewing includes Mel Gibson as an angry father, Chinese marines fighting in Africa, cops tracking drug dealers and violent bank robbers, and a couple of American International horrors.
Criterion’s new Blu-ray of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946) uses a 4K restoration by Sony from the original three-strip Technicolor negative and the film looks absolutely ravishing.
20 years after the BBC commissioned and then suppressed The War Game, Peter Watkins’ devastating depiction of a nuclear attack on England, the Corporation produced Mick Jackson’s Threads, an even more powerful film on the theme. Synapse has released Threads on an impressive new Blu-ray.
Frank Sinatra, a star and celebrity, could also be an impressive actor when he cared to make the effort: two of his best performances from the 1960s, in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Mark Robson’s Von Ryan’s Express (1965), reveal a willingness to play flawed characters and expose their weaknesses.
In his early work, Sydney Pollack explored various genres from a distinctly literary perspective before becoming a maker of prestige, middlebrow Hollywood entertainments; excellent Blu-ray presentations of his best features – Castle Keep (1969), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) and Jeremiah Johnson – reveal a promise not entirely fulfilled in a long career.
Some recent Twilight Time releases showcase the value of melodrama as social critique and character study.
Very brief comments on several dozen disks viewed over the past few months.