No Turkeys Or Stuffing In Arrow Video’s November Feast

While it’s a small selection this month, everything Arrow is shipping next month has my seal of approval. Your dinner is spread out across the month of November and includes an appetizer of murder and mayhem, while the main course gets you a somewhat Gothic mystery, a classic western and a spicy side of 70’s horror. As for dessert, how does TWO scoops of a great sci-fi/action film suit you? Well. I’m starving now, so let’s see what’s coming next month:

Here a bit about each film (in case you’re scratching your head on a few of these):

Apprentice To Murder (11/05/2019)

Flowers In The Attic (11/12/2019)

The Far Country (11/12/2019)

Hitchhike To Hell (11/19/2019)

RoboCop (Limited Edition) (11/26/2019)

RoboCop (Steelbook) (11/26/2019)

Hmmm… I wonder if that RoboCop Steelbook is ED-209 proof? All those special features will definitely have me watching this film again, that’s for sure. I’ve actually seen everything here back in the day except Hitchhike To Hell. The Far Country I think I recall from a TV edit many years back, so it’ll be interesting to see the remastered version. This selection from Arrow and Arrow Academy is definitely making me quiver in anticipation.

-GW

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Review: Terror in a Texas Town (Blu-Ray)

Terror in a Texas Town coverI sure wish director Joseph H. Lewis got more a lot more respect these days. Granted, his career spanned 41 mostly B-movies spread across different genres that it was hard to shoehorn him into a box (but that’s a good thing for those who love variety and surprises). You could say he was a journeyman with quite a vision, as some of his films were memorable and considered classics by those some film lovers who’ve seen his work and appreciate it. He took some chances in his time in the director’s chair, but also made the some pretty generic titles between the brilliant ones.  While some of the results might have gone over the heads of some viewers at the time, it’s worth tracking down some of his work to see a quiet master in action when the results were really good.

In 1958, Lewis planned to retire from movies and go to TV, but opted out to make one final film, the B-quality, but memorable for a few reasons western, Terror in a Texas Town. While it’s no epic (hell, it opens right off the bat with part of the ending sequence and also uses some ancient stock footage a few times, clearly as a means to kill time and save money during its tidy 81 minutes) and the story is a bit weathered (until you know certain things about its genesis), it’s worth a watch because it’s an intriguing B-grade flick on a few fronts. Is it a “good” movie? Well, one could say where it counts it is despite its budgetary limitations.

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“No, I don’t like your tie. Besides, I’m married to the man who’s going to try and kill you, sooo…”

Sterling Hayden plays George Hansen, a Swedish immigrant, who after almost 20 years at sea, comes to America to live and farm alongside his dad, Sven, who’s been waiting for him to arrive. Unfortunately, Sven is murdered in cold blood while trying to defend his land from Crale (Nedrick Young) the steel-fisted and black-clad killer hired by McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who it turns out, would probably rather have paid Sven off or burned him out instead of having him killed. But, gone is gone, McNeil gets his ill-gotten land and Crale quite enjoys what he does. Protests from his weary wife, Molly (Carol Kelly) who warns Crale the law could close in any moment, go ignored by Crale and it seems he’s due for a fall at some point. He’s not exactly in his prime and his former gun hand was shot off and replaced with a steel one (it’s too bad more isn’t made of this, though). McNeil’s plan is to grab all the land in the area for its newly found oil and the film opens (after the titles) with a literal barn burning as a elderly couple gets one of McNeil’s less violent choices of treatment.

(Thanks, HD Retro Trailers!)

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Arrow Brings a Few Juicy Pumpkins for an October Surprise

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Yum! Here are next months Arrow and Arrow Academy releases to ogle. Expect some really nice surprises to add to your libraries. as usual:

KILLER NUN[Blu-ray] (10/15)
THE DEAD CENTER [Blu-ray and DVD] (10/22)
RINGU [Blu-ray] (10/29)
RINGU COLLECTION [Blu-ray] (10/29)
MAN OF A THOUSAND FACES [Blu-ray] (10/29)
Oh, yes indeed, it’s guaranteed to be a scare-packed Halloween with this lineup.
-GW

Review: So Dark the Night (Blu-Ray)

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How do you say “bleak as hell” in French?

So Dark the Night coverDeceptively beginning as a charming budget flick, Joseph H. White’s 1946 film noir So Dark The Night becomes so much its name as it devolves into sheer bleakness despite a fairly cliché-filled script. Without spoiling too much, its tale of a defective detective is a lot less Clouseau and a lot more Hitchcock as time goes on. But on a second viewing, it’s clear that the cheery tone the film begins with is a perfect setup to what’s to come.

When happy go lucky but weary Parisian detective Henri Cassin (Steven Geray) takes a much-needed vacation to a peaceful French village, a series of murders occur that has him using his years of well-honed skills to solve the crimes, but a proper solution escapes him until he realizes the shocking truth.

This corker of a thriller is expertly directed and shot, clocking in at a tidy 71 minutes has a few issues, but considering them in a film that looks so polished when judged in today’s terms, it’s a hidden gem that deserves a second look. Yes, some of the “Frenchiness” is stereotypical Hollywood and parts of the third act seem as if they come out of thin air. But when you realize what’s taking place earlier may be the results of a deluded mind (and excellent score), it all makes sense.

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Review: My Name is Julia Ross (Blu-Ray)

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Don’t get pushy. mister. It looks bad to the hired help.

mynameisjuliaross_coverClocking in at a taut 65 minutes 2 seconds, Joseph H. Lewis’ (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo) excellent low-budget sort of gothic noir My Name is Julia Ross will keep you guessing until its very end. There’s a feeling of immediate regret for its lowly heroine (played by Nina Foch) as the down on her luck expatriate ends up taking a secretarial job that puts her life at risk as as she’s taken in by a crooked family that means to do the poor girl in. Why this is happening to her is a little mystery the film will have you wrapped up in for its entire running time and the conclusion closes a tight thriller in just about perfect form.

Julia wakes up with a new name and location wondering what the heck is happening and why she’s wearing monogrammed clothing with someone’s initials. We previously see all her items being trashed by her new “family”, so it’s a case of dread for her fate a few minutes in. Her sole out is perhaps a local gal who works in the mansion she’s trapped in who works as a maid, but even she’s not as sharp as Julia turns out to be at the end. Julia is initially a bit addled from the “medicine” forced into her tea every morning, but her determination keeps her from losing it despite her “mother” (Dame May Whitty), “husband” (George Macready) and a few others making her life a living (albeit luxurious) hell. Living there isn’t the worst thing for Julia… except for the dying part her kidnappers want her to play for real.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Smash Palace

Smash PalaceThanks to a few oddball decisions (some made by people connected with his first film) Roger Donaldson’s second feature film, 1981’s Smash Palace almost didn’t get made. I’ll let you go check out the excellent making of feature on the Arrow Academy disc for the full story, but let’s just say everything worked out in the end and we have a strong followup to Sleeping Dogs to chat about for a spell. Donaldson’s film is a wrenching, raw look at a marriage fallen apart thanks to a lack of communication and what happens when decisions made by the adults in the room spiral past the point of reasonable discourse.

Al Shaw (Bruno Lawrence), a former race car driver looking to restart his career is married to Jacqui (Anna Marie Monticelli), a former nurse he met while recuperating in France after an accident that took him off the track. They eventually wed and moved to a remote spot in New Zealand where Al runs the titular wrecking company. Jacqui despises the run-down location and dull (to her) lifestyle, berating Al for not taking  a solid ongoing offer to sell the business. Despite the tension, love for couple’s daughter, Georgina (Greer Robson), or Georgie, keeps things mostly in check. Unfortunately, Al’s best friend, local cop Ray Foley (Keith Aberdein) catches Jacqui’s eye and ear (Al talks a lot, but tends to ignore his wife because he’s happy in his work) and the two get romantically involved. When Al discovers this, he lashes out (in a hard to watch scene) and yes, Jacqui leaves him for Ray, taking Georgie with her.

 

(Thanks, Arrow Academy!)

 

Things go sideways and downhill from that point on even though Al gets back on the race track with a car he spent a year building. Recklessly, he makes a series of somewhat terrible decisions, some of which where his hand is forced and others where he just reacts out of pure but flawed human instinct.

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: Sleeping Dogs

Sleeping Dogs ArrowBased on the novel Smith’s Dream by C.K. Stead, director Roger Donaldson’s 1977 film Sleeping Dogs is not only a remarkable first feature film, it’s shockingly prescient on a number of fronts. Before I get to the film proper, I’ll note that I chose neither this nor Donaldson’s outstanding second feature, 1981’s Smash Palace because of their implied or direct relevance to some of today’s often depressing news. My movie backlog is just so huge that I decided to grab two films off the top of the stack and these Arrow Academy releases were right on top of that stack. Boo-yah, I guess? Additionally, I’d heard good things about both a while back from a few people who didn’t spoil the stories for me other than to note that both were important films from New Zealand that would be well worth watching. Those people were correct, as these two films are simply superb despite their less than Hollywood budgets.

The government in New Zealand is under chaos after oil talks break down, gas is severely rationed and it seems civil unrest is brewing partly as a result of a rather stubborn prime minister determined to keep the peace (or what he sees as peace) at any cost. Meanwhile, rudderless after breaking up with his wife, a man named Smith (Sam Neill) is driving down a highway when he spies a small island in the distance. At a tiny village’s tinier restaurant, he inquires about the ownership of the island and is given directions to a house owned by two Maori men and is told to bring a bottle of whiskey with him. Smith trades the bottle for the island and run-down house on it, but the motor boat he needs to get there? That costs him his car. Well, at least he gets a free cute dog out of that part of the deal, as it’s forced on him during the trade.

 

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Blu-Ray Review: Cinema Paradiso

Cinema Paradiso_AA001Movies that make you want to see lots of other movies are a very good thing, especially if those movies you end up seeing are plenty you’re going into cold knowing you’re going to like them thanks to that one film that introduces you. Speaking of cold, guess who’s laid up with a bad one and is banging out his work from a partially prone position? Anyway (*cough!*), Cinema Paradiso is one of the all-time greats for such a cinematic education because it’s such an excellently crafted film that it’s worth watching a few times because of all the note taking you’ll very likely end up doing. I’ll save you a tiny bit of time and point you to this IMDB listing which should open up quite the rabbit hole to disappear into for a bit.

Arrow Academy’s solid restoration of the original 124-minute Cannes cut and the extended 174-minute Director’s Cut will fit nicely into your collection and as you can probably tell, is absolutely worth a purchase. Writer/director Giuseppe Tornatore’s film is one where every shot is effortlessly composed and there are moments where you’ll find yourself mildly to moderately in awe at the perfect camera placement that fits in flawlessly with the music (by Ennio and Andrea Morricone). The film is mostly told in flashback as a famous director Salvatore Di Vita (Jacques Perrin) returns to his childhood home after 30 years away upon hearing an elderly friend has passed away. We learn that Alfredo (Philippe Noiret) was a projectionist at the titular theater as well as a mentor to the younger Salvatore (or Toto, as he’s called) from the age of six (Salvatore Cascio) to his teens (Marco Leonardi).

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Blu-Ray Review: Zoology

Zoology_AA018Sometimes, being way, way out of the loop on a film is the best thing that can happen because when you miss all that buzzing and screeching, you get to go in totally cold and be nicely surprised by the results. This is exactly what happened when I finally sat down to watch Ivan I. Tverdovsky’s wonderful, bleak deadpan fantasy Zoology, another solid Arrow Academy release (also available on DVD). This is one of those films with a standout role for a “woman of a certain age” that’s somewhat remarkable until you realize your going into the film with that sort of prejudice might also make you not enjoy it if you think too hard about stuff like that.

Anyway, right off the bat, you’re made to feel sorry for poor Natasha (Natalya Pavlenkova), a sad-looking middle-aged put-upon employee at a dreary Russian zoo. Her somewhat nasty co-workers openly make fun of her frumpy looks and lack of a social life, she lives with her elderly mother and a dying old cat and just as you’re about to throw yourself out the window from the gloom of her daily routine, she faints at work one day and later finds out she’s grown a tail. The doctor she sees sends her off to get an X-ray and Natasha meets radiologist Peter (Dmitriy Groshev), who initially seems nonplussed about her extra appendage. The pair strike up a fast friendship which leads to more, but that’s (almost) all you’re going to get out of me because you kind of need to see how this one plays out.

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Blu-Ray Review: The Witches

The Witches_AANot at all to be confused with the exact same titled Hammer Film Productions horror flick released in 1966, The Witches (aka Le streghe) is a very fine and very unusual surprise from Arrow Academy that’s worth a look if you like oddball Italian film anthologies that just so happen to feature the lovely Silvana Mangano. Yeah, Clint Eastwood is on the cover as well. But trust me, he’s not why you’ll be watching this hidden gem at all.

Producer Dino De Laurentiis had the idea to bring together five top directors (Luchino Visconti, Mauro Bolognini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Franco Rosso, Vittorio De Sica) and set them the task of crafting am anthology film themed around Mangano portraying a different type of witch in each chapter. The results range from bizarre to compelling, but title aside, this isn’t a horror film at all. It’s more a showpiece of Mangano’s acting talents as well as a not so subtle look at some of the actress’ struggles with fame and fortune (be it up or down)throughout her career.

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