Movies and reality intersect in two recent releases

The sociologist (Flavio Bucci) grasps the metaphysical mystery in Giuliano Montaldo's Closed Circuit (1978)

Our relationship to movies is complex; we know that we’re watching illusions, yet the intellectual and emotional responses we experience are very real. Movies give us access to a seemingly infinite range of experiences which take us out of out immediate lives. Two recent releases delve into this phenomenon in visceral ways — Giuliano Montaldo’s Closed Circuit (1978) addresses the metaphysics of movie watching with humour and suspense, while Charlie Victor Romeo (2013) provides disturbing access to an aspect of real life we might prefer not to think about: the moments during which flight crews try to deal with catastrophic technical failures immediately preceding air crashes.

Arrow’s Savage Guns: 4 Classic Westerns on Blu-ray

Sole survivor Stubby Preston (Fabio Testi) heads back into the wilderness in Lucio Fulci's The Four of the Apocalypse (1975)

Arrow’s third collection of spaghetti westerns, Savage Guns, brings together another four movies which display the range and flexibility of the genre, from Lucio Fulci’s elegiac and mystical The Four of the Apocalypse (1975) to Mario Camus’ veiled political criticisms of the Franco regime in Wrath of the Wind (1970) and Paolo Bianchini’s intersection of personal motives and historical events in I Want Him Dead (1968). Edoardo Mulargia’s El Puro (1969), about a drunken gunfighter forced back into action, is the most conventional of the four features.

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.

Death and madness from Indicator

Marshal Frank Patch (Richard Widmark) keeps an eye on a small western town in Death of a Gunfighter (1969)

A pair of recent Indicator releases resurrect a couple of all-but forgotten features with major stars. Richard Widmark plays a Western lawman whose time has passed in Death of a Gunfighter (1969), the first movie credited to phantom director Alan Smithee, while George C. Scott is a former New York judge dealing with grief by taking on the identity of Sherlock Holmes; his therapist just happens to be named Dr. Watson (Joanne Woodward).

January releases from Indicator

Santo confronts a smuggler in Joselito Rodríguez' Santo vs Infernal Men (1961)

Indicator start the new year with some impressive Blu-ray sets, including a massive 10-disk tribute to amateur filmmaker Michael J. Murphy whose five-decade career produced three dozen features in multiple genres; a two-disk set of the first two adventures of Mexico’s most famous masked wrestler, Santo, which includes a fascinating history of popular cinema in Mexico; and another two-disk set with three different cuts of Sergio Sollima’s first western, The Big Gundown (1967).

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.

Blasts from the past

Recent Arrow viewing, Part Two

Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ ethnographic satire:
How Tasty Was My Little Frenchman (1971)

Random thoughts: May 2017

Recent viewing: April & May 2016

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