Ho, and Ho-Ho. It’s been quite a year here, but that’s not why I’m here babbling on my keyboard. You need some more movies to watch, I’m sitting on a stack of them that needed to get written up and this post is my way of attempting to get you to spend some of that disposable income you’re trying to hoard in that mattress. Anyway, I see your quiver is half empty there, Robin Hood. Here are six Arrow Video Blu-Rays of note to nab either direct from MVD Entertainment or your favorite video selling emporium. Lock up the kids for most of these because it’s the birds and the bees plus some bloody good and badness going on below.
Requiescant (MSRP: $39.95): Carlo Lizzani’s 1967 spaghetti western (also known as Kill & Pray) gets a ton of mileage from its religiously-raised orphan turned dead-shot gunfighter (Lou Castel), but it’s also working a political agenda that’s somewhat fitting in this current climate of careless Trumpeting. Kicking off with a massacre of border-bound Mexicans (one of whom survives to become Castel’s priest/gunman), the movie switches gears to a rescue mission that doesn’t go exactly as planned before it drops back into weightier territory.
While mostly bloodless and only slightly comical, the film lets Castel carry the picture despite the presence of director Pier Paolo Pasolini in what’s an extended cameo as a revolutionary leader of sorts. He’s got a memorably manly visage, but Castel’s more innocent good looks and his ways with a firearm are going to keep your eyes on him throughout the film. You can choose from Italian or English versions of the film (both impeccable 2K restorations) with two interviews and a trailer rounding out the special features. Like Arrows other westerns released in the US in the past, this one’s a cult classic that comes highly recommended.
Wake Up and Kill (MSRP $29.95): I’d never heard of Carlo Lizanni’s 1966 film based on the brief but prolific criminal career of Luciano Lutring (who ‘d never heard of either) until this Blu-Ray showed up in my mailbox, so I was pleased to see the film was pretty cool on a few fronts. Featuring handsome Robert Hoffmann as Lutring easing and sleazing his way through his robbery spree, the film makes for a fine slice of mid-60’s true crime drama, Italian style.
He’s not so nice at all to his lovely wife, so if a bit of spousal brutality works your nerves, you’ll want to keep an eye peeled whenever lovely Lisa Gastoni’s Yvonne is on screen. As fun as the film is to watch, it seems Arrow couldn’t find much in the way of special features at all. You get two versions of the film, a trailer (and find out amusingly enough that the film was released in a truncated form as Wake Up and Die) and that’s it. Well, the cover art above is beautiful addition, but other than this great and hot little number where crime doesn’t pay and Lutring finds this out the hard way (as every would-be gangster should).
Immoral Tales (MSRP $ 39.95): Absolutely NOT for the kiddies or prudes looking to poke at anything with an exposed boob as “pornography”, Walerian Borowczyk’s adults-only films are a blend of titillating gorgeousness, controversial perversions galore and a dash of snooty artfulness some love while others despise.
The remastered Blu-Ray wraps two cuts of the film (4 and 5 chapter versions) and a slew of bonus features that are well worth watching either before or afterwards. For all the nudity, intentionally pompous dialog in some segments and yes, that eyeball-loosening original version of The Beast (see below for more on the final film), the special features are an excellent way to peek into Boro’s mind and see what made his creativity flow.
Some of the segments are more successful than others, but it’s probably the dip into horror with the chapter on Countess Elizabeth Báthory and her blood-soaked ways that will suck you in. Paloma Picasso (!) plays the countess here and she’s mesmerizing even fully clothed. Granted, you’ll need to turn off any puritanical and religious views before you hit “play” on that remote as the entire film pulls no punches and will sear out your eyes and ears if you’re easily offended. But that’s exactly what Boro wanted to happen in the first place, so if this sort of content is in your wheelhouse, you’ll savor every second and come back for more.
The Beast (MSRP $39.99): When your movie opens with two horses making baby horses the old fashioned way, you know you’re in for a wild ride and Borowczyk’s 1975 film piles on the arty raunch in spades. A bizarre take on Beauty and the Beast as well as an extension of that chopped chapter from Immoral Tales, this one’s hard to take your eyes off of even when it drags a bit in the middle.
The film’s infamous erotic dream sequence gets split into parts but is still just as controversial and yes, hilarious as ever. In fact, you may find yourself chuckling a wee bit too much at the film at certain points and it’ll be a mix of nervous laughter and getting what Boro wants you to get here. Basically it’s the old “Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl” routine but with some eye hair and skirt-raising twists to the formula. You’ll probably look like that lass on the cover art above at some point during this film, guaranteed.
The extras are immense and also great and hilarious, specifically an interview where we see footage and stills of Boro trying to “direct” a cat into some sort of performance (they both win, I guess). As with the above Blu-Ray, you’ll want to keep the kids and the prudes far away from this fractured fairy tale for obvious reasons.
What Have You Done To Solange? (MSRP: $39.95): Massimo Dallamano’s great and disturbing 1975 giallo comes home, this time on Blu-Ray in excellent form and with a nice set of extras. The plot, about a bunch of secretive schoolgirls being disgustingly dispatched by a mysterious killer isn’t anything revolutionary. But the film dips into controversial subject matter and general nastiness enough to sink under your skin like a freshly sharpened knife blade.
The finale might not sit well with some viewers expecting 100% closure, but it’s part of the film’s pull because it fits the generally gloomy tone perfectly. Also, if you’re squeamish about straight pins and makeshift operating tables in action, there’s one scene in particular that will have gals and guys jamming their legs shut and holding that pose even after the film is over.
The aforementioned extras include a few actors talking about their experiences making the film (of course, you get differing opinions about what went down), a look at Dallamano’s other schoolgirl in peril flicks (where the law of diminishing returns was in full effect) and some other fun stuff. Fabio Testi’s interview is pretty awesome because of that deep voice booming out memories of his offbeat career where he started as a stuntman and ended up a key leading man in a number of Italian genre films.
Tenderness of the Wolves (MSRP $39.95): While director Ulli Lommel’s career has taken a turn for the direct to video worse, his gorgeous, haunting 1975 horror film shows a master at work. No doubt thanks to screenwriter/lead actor Kurt Raab, a contentious set of battles with producer Reiner Werner Fassbinder (who has a great cameo here) and a general sense of “we’re making art here!”, all of which make for a frightening but intensely compelling experience. Based on the exploits of notorious German serial killer Fritz Haarmann (aka the Butcher of Hanover or the Vampire of Hanover), who also inspired Fritz Lang’s classic M (M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder), Wolves seeps with atmosphere and dread as Raab’s clean-shaven killer does his post-war dirty work. The setting was moved up from post-WWI to post-WWII Germany partially for financial purposes (it’s easier to costume a film from a later war than an earlier one), but the change works in the film’s favor
Killing young men, disposing of their bodies in a particularly disgusting way (guess what’s on the menu at the neighbor’s? Yum!) and passing on their belongings to those in need, Haarman is instantly unlikable, but the film also suggests his lover may have known what he was up to and didn’t contact the authorities. While the violence onscreen is limited to two scenes of gory excess, the film shows enough of the killer on the prowl for, coercing and catching enough new victims to be more than a little effective as a powerful horror experience. The mix of beautifully lit but rundown and grimy real locations add a layer of weirdness to the film that keeps your eyes glued to the screen. But if you’re squeamish, the build up to the icky stuff is easy to spot and telegraphed enough so you can look away if you prefer. Extras are great as well, the director and director of photography each get an interview segment and there’s an appreciation of the film that features a discussion of some of Lommel’s other work past to present.
It’s tough flick to sit through, but overall a must for horror genre fans who also love a bit of true crime elements to their movies. That said, the opening credits are still fantastic (the film pays homage to Lang’s classic here and later in a brief scene with a little girl) and everyone in the cast is superb. Look for some black humor in a few areas, particularly the ending that’s tense as hell, but may elicit a chuckle or two as justice comes a-calling for the killer when he least expects it. As you can probably guess, you want to lock up the wee ones before popping this disc in and pressing that play button.