More Hammer Blu-rays for October!

As wel as the previously announced Blu-ray of THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN Hammer have now announced 3 more titles to be released as dual format packages featuring both Blu-ray and DVD formats in the same set.

THE MUMMY’S SHROUD, RASPUTIN THE MAD MONK and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT are ready for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk now and will street on October 22nd

 

Redemption announce more upcoming titles from Kino Lorber

Redemption have announced further titles via their Facebook page :- Mask of Satan, Lisa and the Devil / House of Exorcism, Hatchet for the Honeymoon, Black Magic Rites, Au Pair Girls, Zeta One, Female Vampire, Exorcism, A Virgin Among the Living Dead, House of Whipcord, The Comeback, Die Screaming Marianne, Burke and Hare, The Blood Beast Terror, The Living Dead Girl, Two Orphan Vampires, & Visions of Ecstasy / Sacred Flesh / Axel / Faustine

More details will be posted once available.

More Hammer Horror Bowing on Blu-ray This Autumn from Studiocanal

Studiocanal is set to unleash more Hammer goodness in the UK this autumn when it issues RASPUTIN: THE MAD MONK as a Blu-ray + DVD combo. Considered one of the British studio’s most enduring classics, RASPUTIN stars Hammer stalwart Christopher Lee as the Russian mystic and was directed by Don Sharp (THE VIOLENT ENEMY). Barbara Shelley, Richard Pasco, Suzan Farmer and Joss Ackland co-star.

RASPUTIN will street on 10th September along THE MUMMY’S SHROUD which will also be released as a combo pack. Directed by John Gilling (THE REPTILE, PLAGUE OF THE ZOMBIES), THE MUMMY’S SHROUD was the third of four Egyptology horrors from Hammer, following THE MUMMY and CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, and followed by BLOOD FROM THE MUMMY’S TOMB. The film stars André Morell, David Buck and John Phillips.

News source: Blu-ray.com

Image source: Hammer Films

Eden Lake

Eden Lake (James Watkins, 2008)

Arriving in cinemas last year amid an influx of films in which the representation of violence has hit new heights–or depths, depending on your particular point of view–James Watkin’s EDEN LAKE would appear to be the latest in a succession of films that has rolled off an “assembly line” and cater for little more than those seeking a quick fix of gore. But, no, Watkins’ film is a triumph of British genre film-making and one that is akin to a rollercoaster ride; although one that also packs one hell of an emotional punch.

The film’s premise is hardly original; smug career man Steve (Michael Fassbender – who appeared in one of 2008’s most critically-acclaimed films, HUNGER) decides to take his pretty nursery teacher girlfriend, Jenny (Kelly Reilly – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE), for a weekend away at an idyllic beauty spot so that he can propose to her. Arriving at the scenic place that Steve has chosen to pop the question, the couple relax by the tranquil lake but are soon drawn into a quarrel with a group of rowdy teenagers. With the kids’ music blaring, and their vicious-looking rottweiler barking uncontrollably and defecating everywhere, Steve approaches the rabble-rousers: but his requests are met with disdain. Soon after, Steve and Jenny discover that their car has been stolen. Searching the nearby woodlands, the couple are almost mown down by their vehicle, driven by the youths’ leader, Brett (THIS IS ENGLAND’s Jack O’Connell). An altercation between Steve and Brett ensues, during which the sullen teenager’s dog is inadvertently killed by Steve. Furious over the death of his beloved pet, Brett mobilises his friends and they give chase after Steve and Jenny who, by now, are back in their car and making tracks. With their vehicle being pelted by flying rocks, Steve loses control of the car and crashes into a tree. As the teenagers draw near, and finding himself crushed by a fallen branch and trapped behind the wheel, Steve insists that Kelly leaves him to go for help…

So begins EDEN LAKE, a film with a premise that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, Wes Craven’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES, their remakes and the films that they’ve inspired, most notably Rob Schmidt’s WRONG TURN. However, EDEN LAKE has something of a different angle; instead of the inbred hicks that menaced the protagonists in the films mentioned above, Watkins’ film is all the more believable for having a set of far more realistic adversaries; a group of people that would not look out of place stood outside a convenience store or hanging out at your local shopping centre: these kids dress, talk and are into the same things as many British teenagers; and in today’s climate of media frenzy surrounding the violence that is being perpetrated by our country’s youth, it manages to give a tired old subgenre a frightening new spin. Yes, some may state that David Moreau and Xavier Palud’s THEM (original title: ILS) covered the same ground first, while others will argue that the French film itself owes a great deal to Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES, which was made back in 1997, but the truth of the matter is that Watkins has managed to apply the themes of the aforementioned films to a British setting and has created something that is intrinsically linked to the zeitgeist of contemporary Britain.

EDEN LAKE is, without doubt, one of the most violent and distressing films this reviewer has ever seen inside a UK cinema; one of such intensity that a fair number of people got up and left the auditorium. While many would dismiss the film simply as exploitation, such an association should be worn as a badge of honour. Let us not forget that many classic exploitation films were held in such “low regard” by critics at the time of their release and even today, many critics will still argue their case against the likes of Craven’s LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, for example. But those that do have a higher threshold to overt violence can see beyond the icky aesthetics and are able to decipher a deeper meaning. EDEN LAKE is such a film and although its depiction of bodily harm is realistic and unflinching, its violence exists to allow the audience to emote with the protagonists, who add another string to the film’s bow. Although we’re supposed to have an emotional bond with Steve and Jenny, both are of flawed character. When we’re first introduced to the couple, they appear to be the text-book example of your average white, middle-class couple: I would even go as far as to say that they’re almost stock characters. However, their characters develop as the film progresses, and there are times when your sympathy sways away from them. For example, Steve’s first altercation with the gang—when he attempts to ask them to turn down their music—left me thinking he was something of a jerk, as his dismissive attitude towards the group acts as the spark that the subsequent fire follows, but without it, there would be no narrative, nor would there be a film. That said Steve makes a couple of other hasty decisions soon after, leading us to believe that he’d put his pride before the safety of both his girlfriend and himself. Not a particularly admirable trait.

If there is a deeper meaning to Watkins’ film, it is that of our youth being pitted against the older generations simply because the adults struggle to comprehend a culture that is completely different from the one they were a part of as teenagers. Given the fact that the antagonists of EDEN LAKE are teenagers, their ruthlessness is completely credible, especially when you consider that kids like Brett exist; the limits of their antisocial behaviour know no bounds because their numb, vacant lives rarely require them to give an emotional response. Brett—who is played to the hilt by O’Connnell—is from what some would consider a rough family, albeit one that is wealthy; you get the impression that he has never wanted for anything but that of his parents’ attention. His accomplices however, seem to come from better stock and seem only motivated out of peer pressure at first, and blackmail later on. Once again, this is another credible facet of the film. One particular scene that requires the participation of the whole gang—and one that will probably live on infamy for years to come—is by turns incredibly chilling, stomach churning and utterly convincing. Each of the young actors (who include THIS IS ENGLAND’s Thomas Turgoose and Finn Atkins from ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE MIDLANDS) really contribute to this truly sinister set-piece and through their efforts it becomes a scene that’ll be very hard for many to forget.

Revisiting the film again on Optimum’s recently released Blu-ray was a real treat. While the DTS-Master Audio isn’t the most complex or immersive mix you’ll ever hear, it’s certainly lively enough. The picture is great too, though again, this isn’t in the same league as some of the format’s best examples (say Warner’s ZODIAC) but it’s excellent nonetheless and exhibits truly natural colour fidelity. Fine detail is also exemplary, with the freckles on Reilly’s face perfectly defined in close-up shots. While picture and audio are recommended, Optimum should be taken to task for not putting much effort into the disc’s special features (which are exactly the same on the DVD). There is a selection of interviews (with Watkins, Reilly, Fassbender and Turgoose): each of the participants are asked the same questions, thus there is a huge amount of repetition between them. There is also a Q&A with Watkins: again, there is a great deal of crossover between this and his stand alone interview. Rounding out the set are five minutes of redundant B-roll footage, two trailers (including a nasty “extreme” preview) and some TV spots. Given the nature of the film’s themes and the fact that it was Watkins’ directorial debut, there was so much more that could have been done with this release. Some production diaries, or a decent making of and a commentary track would have made this a much more worthwhile disc.

In conclusion, EDEN LAKE stands as one of the best British horror films in years and Watkins (best known for his screenwriting duties on MY LITTLE EYE and GONE) makes an astonishing directorial debut. The film has already divided opinion rather drastically, but if you’re a lover of the genre, you owe it to yourself to seek it out. While film and transfer and first rate, the same cannot be said for the supplements on the Blu-ray and DVD releases from Optimum. As it stands, EDEN LAKE’s merits as a film far outweigh the discs’ shortcomings. Essential.

(Paul Alaoui)

Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 from Raro Video USA

Raro Video USA announced on their Facebook page details of part 2 of their Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection…

“Great News!
We are pleased to confirm the acquisition of a worldwide exclusive Fernando Di Leo title:
“Shoot First Die Later” ( Il Polizziotto e’ Marcio).
This film will part of “ Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 , due next December.
We are now working on a brand new HD transfer from original 35mm Negative print.
This very rare film will finally be presented in its original splendor…

…“Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2” will contain 3 titles:
“Shoot First Die Later” (new HD transfer)
“Killer VS Killer( restored version)
“Kidnap Syndicate”(new HD Transfer)”

Fernando Di Leo Italian Crime Collection vol.2 is due for release in December 2012

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Karel Reisz, 1960)

SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING is a landmark in British cinema: a film that almost singlehandedly kick-started the subgenre of films that was affectionately dubbed ‘kitchen sink’, launched the career of Albert Finney (UNDER THE VOLCANO) and became the quintessential film concerning Britain’s disaffected youth. Though some would argue that LOOK BACK IN ANGER (directed by this film’s producer, Tony Richardson) was similar in its depiction of a disillusioned young man, and pre-dates Karel Reisz’s film by two years, it is SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING that set the formula for many other films to follow. Adapted from Alan Sillitoe’s novel by the author himself and directed by Reisz—marking his feature film directorial debut—the film’s central concerns are as relevant and poignant now as they were upon its release almost 50 years ago. It’s also worth pointing out how similar, both in structure and the themes it explores, Reisz’s film is to Lewis Gilbert’s ALFIE, which was adapted from Bill Naughton’s play six years after SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING. In fact, Gilbert’s film comes dangerously close to plagiarising Sillitoe’s novel, though its studio “sheen” and loveable rogue are no match for Reisz’s grittier drama.

Albert Finney plays Arthur, a twentysomething factory worker who has no grasp of responsibility. Living at home with his parents, Arthur lives his life on a day-by-day basis: his existence revolves entirely around spending his earnings in the pub and knocking off the wife of one of his co-workers, with no concern for the consequences of his actions. Fate has a habit if intervening at the most inopportune times though, and just as Arthur strikes up what could be a meaningful courtship with the wholesome Doreen (Shirley Ann Field – who would later star opposite Michael Caine in ALFIE, making her yet another element common to both films), Brenda reveals that she is pregnant with his child.

SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING is an extremely astute slice of life, boasting well-written dialogue that is brilliantly realised by a strong cast. Kudos to Sillitoe and Reisz for creating a scenario that remains believable now, half a century on: one can imagine just how controversial the film was at time of its release. What’s more, and contrary to other films made at the time, the filmmakers never shied away from thorny issues such as adultery and abortion, which resulted in the film being slapped with an ‘X’ rating when it was submitted to the BBFC in July 1960. However, the film was given a ‘PG’ rating when it was classified for video in 1990, which goes to show how times have changed. Such issues are handled both delicately and in a believable manner, a far cry from the sensationalist melodrama that’s associated with films made in during the latter half of the 50s and early 60s. At a brisk 85 minutes, the film is very slick and is never meanders in the way many other ‘kitchen sink’ films do. This can be attributed to both Sillitoe’s punchy script (though his original novel was as equally fast-moving) and Reisz’s taught direction. Freddie Francis’ stark monochrome photography is suitably sumptuous too, capturing the downtrodden streets of working class Nottingham with the same panache he would lend to the Hammer productions for which he made his name. It is also to the film’s benefit that it was filmed in Sillitoe’s native Nottingham and that they resisted the easy option of relocating the events to London where the majority of ‘kitchen sink’ films would be set.

The soon-to-be-released Blu-ray (also available on a remastered DVD the same day – 23rd March) is the best the film has looked on home video. The painstaking restoration and high definition transfer has paid dividends in that the picture quality is exemplary. There are still a few scratches here and there and a little grain can be seen in darker scenes but the level of detail in the image is unbelievable, lending an almost three dimensional look. The sound is presented in mono and is fine, clear of distortion and hiss, and the best one would expect for a film from this era. Though the additional features aren’t plentiful, they’re certainly worthy and a concentration of quality is far better than having oodles of filler. Kicking things off is an illuminating commentary that features Sillitoe, Francis and film historian Robert Murphy. Also included are a booklet and interviews with Shirley Ann Field and Albert Finney. Of most interest to Reisz completists though is the director’s documentary WE ARE THE LAMBETH BOYS. Made a year before SATURDAY NIGHT AND SUNDAY MORNING, the film focuses on a London youth club. All the extras are also present on the upcoming DVD rerelease too.

A classic of British cinema has now become an essential Blu-ray. The BFI has done a fine job of readying it for its high definition debut and the film’s black and white photography has never looked so stunning. The disc features some insightful and thoughtful special features making this a no-brainer for any self-respecting Brit film collector.

(Paul Alaoui)

 

Twins of Evil coming to Blu-ray from Synapse Films in July

Synapse films will unleash classic Hammer horror TWINS OF EVIL in the US as a Blu-ray + DVD combo pack on 10th July.

Made in 1971 and directed by John Hough (THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE, THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS), former Playmates Madeleine and Mary Collinson star as the titular wrong-doers who are pitted against their righteous uncle Gustav (Peter Cushing) in this minor classic of British horror cinema.

The special features for the upcoming release are up on Blu-ray.com:

 

  • THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL (84 mins.) – An all-new, feature-length documentary exploring Hammer’s infamous ‘Karnstein’ trilogy from the origin of Carmilla, to the making of TWINS OF EVIL! Featuring exclusive interviews with director John Hough, star Damien Thomas, ­cult film director Joe Dante, Video Watchdog editor Tim Lucas, and more!
  • THE PROPS THAT HAMMER BUILT: THE KINSEY COLLECTION – Featurette (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Motion Still Gallery (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Deleted Scene (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Original Theatrical Trailer & TV Spots (Blu-ray Exclusive)
  • Isolated Music & E‑ffects Track (Blu-ray Exclusive)

The Reflecting Skin

The Reflecting Skin (Philip Ridley, 1990)

Back in 1990 Philip Ridley was best known for writing the screenplay which would form the basis of Peter Medak’s film THE KRAYS; his first foray into directing would come the same year. Produced by Ray Burdis and Dominic Anciano, who also produced THE KRAYS, Ridley’s follow-up film PASSION OF DARKLY NOON and their own, heavily improvised FINAL CUT and LOVE, HONOUR AND OBEY, THE REFLECTING SKIN is unlike anything else the pair has produced (although I’ve not yet gotten around to seeing DARKLY NOON) and I have to say, it’s unlike any other British film I’ve seen.

Set in the US sometime during the 1950s, THE REFLECTING SKIN focuses on Seth, a young lad who has something of a miserable home life. His father runs the local filling station and is a broken man living in fear of his domineering wife. Seth’s mother spends most of her time fantasising about the return of her eldest son who’s away with the army. Living in a vast, rural space, Seth and his friends seek relief from their boredom by fooling around and playing pranks on unsuspecting passers-by. One such stunt brings Seth into contact with the sultry Dolphin Blue: a black clad widow who may or may not be a vampire. The more time Seth spends with Dolphin the more he becomes convinced that she is a vampire, and when his friends begin to go missing she seems to be the likeliest culprit…

Ridley’s film is superb on both visual and narrative levels. While the story may seem overtly simple when it is encapsulated in a synopsis, it’s extremely rich in subtext and nuance.  Visually the film is amazing – Ridley is obviously a gifted artist, with each frame looking either like an exquisite picture or is deeply rich in symbolism. He is a filmmaker with an eye for meticulous detail and many of the compositions throughout the film are almost without equal.

The performances are also terrific: Jeremy Cooper, the kid that plays Seth, is spellbinding and it’s a real shame that after such an auspicious debut he’s appeared in nothing of note since. The rest of the cast are ace too, with Lindsay Duncan (who plays Dolphin) and an incredibly young-looking Viggo Mortensen (playing Seth’s elder brother Cameron) really standing out.

I saw the film via the German Blu-ray from Intergroove. The film is presented in either original English (Dolby Digital 5.1) or German dub and is accompanied by fully removable subtitles. The sound isn’t in the league of the latest blockbusters but the English track services the film well and delivers dialogue, foley and score clearly. The image is presented at roughly 1.77:1 –certain shots look excellent (daytime exteriors look lovely) while others not so good (night time and darker interiors do exhibit excessive grain) but this is a decent enough transfer for a film that’s fairly obscure (it’s had one English-friendly DVD release to my knowledge in Japan and that’s long out of print. Sadly the German DVD release only features the German dub). Extras consist of a short German film (which seems to have been selected for being thematically similar) and a couple of text-based features. All are in German only.

If you’re a fan of slow-burning, arty (though not pretentious) filmmaking I’d recommend the film without hesitation. It’s been a day since I’ve seen it and its imagery and themes continue to resonate. I’m now looking forward to seeing THE PASSION OF DARKLY NOON (I have a fullscreen Canadian DVD on the way) and Ridley’s most recent film (and third feature as director) HEARTLESS, which is due for release in the UK in May.

                                                                                                                             (Paul Alaoui)

 

The Wild Geese – Arrow Video Blu-ray

From our exclusive feed with Cult Labs

The Wild Geese (Arrow Video)

One Last Pay Day… One More Chance To Die!

Legendary hell-raisers Richard Burton and Richard Harris, along with a coolly detached Roger Moore are aging mercenaries with a taste for fine liquor, drawn together for a late but extremely lucrative pay day in The Wild Geese, an African adventure soaked in booze, gunfire and bloodshed.

Colonel Allen Faulkner (Burton) is secretly back in London to accept the task of reinstating an African leader deposed in a violent military coup, but without the combat skills of his two old friends, there isn’t going to be a mission. With his two reliable loose cannons in place, Faulkner and the team enact a text book rescue operation but disaster is close at hand when the cynical multinational who set up the whole deal turns the tables, striking a new deal with the local despot which sees The Wild Geese trying to escape with their lives intact.

The Wild Geese are ready for one last mission so finish your drinks and relive this classic old school British action adventure today.

Special Features:

– High Definition Presentation of the main feature

– Audio commentary with Roger Moore, producer Euan Lloyd and second unit director John Glen

– World Premiere Newsreel Footage

– Original Trailer

– Bonus Feature Film: CODE NAME: WILD GEESE, starring Lewis Collins, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine and Klaus Kinski, directed by Antonio Margheriti aka Anthony M. Dawson

– Reversible sleeve with original poster and newly commissioned artwork cover

– Collector’s booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Ali Catterall, co-author of Your Face Here: British Cult Movies Since the Sixties and a biography of Euan Lloyd

Blu-ray only

Region B

Release date: 02/07/2012

The Black Panther

Note: In the 1980s, The Black Panther was released for rental on VHS. This video trailer was targeted at a rental audience at that time and is not the original theatrical trailer.

Directed by Ian Merrick, this intelligent crime drama charts the infamous killing spree which Donald Neilson, aka the Black Panther, perpetrated across England during the mid-70s, culminating in the kidnapping and death of a 17-year-old girl. Told with uncommon accuracy and refraining from any measure of sensationalism, this fascinating and disturbing film fell foul of a media-driven campaign upon its original cinema release, which resulted in an effective ban.