Sunday, 15 February 2009

NEW DVD RELEASES


Cult movie fans should look out for several new titles in the next few weeks.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS is set for 23rd Feb. The DVD will include a commentary track from Alan Jones and Kim Newman, together with a commemorative booklet. THE GHOUL, starring Boris Karloff, will be out the same day. Once again, Jones and Newman will be doing the commentary honours and we're promised a restored print for this release.

Friday, 13 February 2009

RED DESERT ON BLU-RAY


My limited experiences with Blu-ray have so far provided some great viewing experiences with such visually arresting films such as 2001 and THE DARK KNIGHT; both of which also provide much to stimulate the brain and emotions, as well as delivering the most glorious imagery. While such films are correctly identified as 'reference quality' material, there are other films which also show off the quality of Blu-ray for less spectacular reasons. David Fincher's ZODIAC is one such title, which benefits from a lovely transfer, and Michelangelo Antonioni's RED DESERT - his first colour feature - also benefits hugely from the format.

il deserto rosso stars Monica Vitti as Guliana; a woman haunted by the spectre of a car accident, who is unable to escape from the stark confines of an overpowering industrial landscape. Consumed by worries for her sons health, and unable to fully engage with her husband and the attentions of a would-be lover, Guliana sinks deeper into her malaise while remaining fully aware of the world around her. THE RED DESERT is a totally absorbing, deeply enriching experience, with Vitti delivering an emotionally driven performance, which richly rewards multiple viewings. Just turn down the sound, and watch her reactions and draining display of mental anguish.
Although his film sometimes seems both overplayed and underplayed at times, Antonioni makes the harsh surroundings seem at one with his characters, with rich, meaningful dialogue that lays feelings bare and brings the past to life.

The BFI Blu-ray may well prove a slightly disappointing experience for first-time viewers expecting rich colours in every scene, and that's understandable. However, given the damage to original film elements, this is a quality restoration with desaturated colours and industrial greys showcasing the director's intentions. The BFI did use DVNR to remove scratches and dirt, but grain is still present, thus preserving this film to the best of their capability.
Admirers of this film will surely have their appreciation heightened by an endlessly informative commentary track from David Forgacs, and the retail DVD includes a booklet. Maybe this won't find its way onto that many 'Best Of The Year' lists. Maybe it should.

SIOUXSIE AND THE BANSHEES: A PERSONAL TOP 10


Ah, that golden period when the likes of The Clash, The Jam, SLF, The Lurkers, The Adverts and many more unleashed wave after wave of vital vinyl by day and moved and grooved by night at concert halls up and down the country. Siouxsie And The Banshees certainly delivered the goods via records and gigs, with the dark-haired diva starting out as unseen legend and blossoming into probably Punkdom's finest voice. The early days were littered with ever increasing demand for some enterprising record company to get them to sign on the line that is dotted ('Siouxsie And The Banshees: sign them up. Do it now!' scrawled on the Marquee club wall is a lasting memory), and when their debut album was released, The Scream exceeded my own high expectations and remains one of the finest album debuts of its period. Live, The Banshees were usually awesome, whether John McGeogh or Robert Smith were working their own brand of magic, and the 14 gigs I saw them play included those 2 nights at London's Royal Albert Hall, and a gig at Nottingham where Sioux - one of her legs encased in plaster - started whacking some over-zealous bouncers/ thugs with one of her crutches, joined by Sev who proceeded to do pretty much the same thing with his bass guitar. Any regulars from Derby's Ajanta and Rainbow club will doubtless recall a bright young thing who used to attend gigs. She was the absolute double of Sioux, and apart from odd sightings in Wardour Street's Ship pub, that was as close as I got to this living legend. Of course, The Banshees comprised some wonderful musicians: Severin on bass, Budgie on drums - who I'd first seen pounding the skins for The Slits - and the aforementioned guitar magicians. If you'd like to read my tribute to the late, great John McGeoch you'll find it here

I've been turning over my own choices for a Banshees top 10, and you'll find them below. Feel free to add your own in the comments section. I found this a supremely difficult task when faced with so many classics. Not in order of preference, as that would have been a bridge too far.

1/ Hong Kong Garden. Their stunning declaration of intent, and solid confirmation that we had a live one here.

2/ Israel. For me, this was their anthem, with Sioux's vocals swooping and soaring over the inspired backing. Close to heaven.

3/ Metal Postcard. 'Reunion begins. With a glass of mercury'. Always think of Hooper's chain saw when I hear this.

4/ Happy House. Sublime guitar. Good enough to bring you to tears? Almost.

5/ Switch. Back to The Scream again. Perfect union of guitar, bass and drums, with Sioux building up tension until the storm hits. Wonderful!

6/ Arabian Knights. From the glorious Juju album. 'I heard a rumour. What have you done to her'. How this didn't make number one is still a mystery to me.

7/ Helter Skelter. A frenzied, pulse-pounding assault on the senses. Fab four? Yes, they were.

8/ Night Shift. Another one from Juju. This time, we get a vinyl horror movie, and an onstage nightmare.

9/ Placebo Effect. From that 'difficult' second album. A simply mesmerising account of charlatan faith healing.

10/ Playground Twist. One of their best singles, and another one from Join Hands. Twisted nursery rhyming, and killer guitar.

More top tens to follow.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

NEW BLU ON THE HORIZON


A few juicy soon-come offerings for those who feel cult movies are a bit thin on the Blu-ray ground in the UK.

6th April THE LONG GOOD FRIDAY

18TH May WITHNAIL AND I

18TH May HELLRAISER

27TH April THE PRISONER complete series

That little lot should keep us busy for a while.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

PREMIO DARDOS AWARDS

“The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.”

I'd like to present this award to the following:

Ian at Irascian irascian blogspot

Kate at Love Train For The Tenebrous Empire Love Train For The Tenebrous Empire

Nigel at Dear Lucio Dear Lucio

Keith at the swingin' Coolness Is Timeless

The guys at You Can't Eat The Venetian Blinds

The Rules are:

1) Accept the award by posting it on your blog along with the name of the person that has granted the award and a link to his/her blog.

2) Pass the award to another five blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgement, remembering to contact each of them to let them know they have been selected for this award.

Hope these links work, though I'll check 'em. To be honest, I haven't got a fucking clue what I'm doing with links as I'm completely dumb when it comes to computers. Apologies for any temp screw-ups.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

SUSPIRIA HITS BLU-RAY


11th March 2009. Dario Argento's SUSPIRIA will be released in Italy on Blu-ray. No further details at present, but this news does get the blood pumping.

As Bob Hoskins said in BRAZIL, "I fink that we will have a little look".

Friday, 6 February 2009

A REAL SURPRISE.

Many thanks to Ned at Obscure One-Sheet for presenting me with a Premio Dardos Award for blogging. It's no exaggeration to declare this is a great surprise, and very much appreciated. I'll follow this by selecting 5 other blogs tomorrow after work. Thank you, Ned, and keep up the excellent work on your own blog.

LUX INTERIOR RIP


Lux Interior - front man in The Cramps - passed away on Wednesday morning. He was suffering from a heart condition, and died at the Glendale Memorial Hospital, California. Lux formed The Cramps in 1976, who went on to become a popular cult act in many countries, including the UK. With albums like 'Songs The Lord Taught Us' and 'Psychedelic Jungle', The Cramps established a loyal following, and built up a reputation for weird and wonderful concerts including their legendary show at the Napa State Mental Hospital in 1978.

I was lucky enough to see them live on 2 occasions; the second of which was a gig at the Birmingham Odeon. This particular concert started very late and we were faced with heading back home before The Cramps took to the stage or staying and sleeping rough in Brum. No contest! Along with Iggy Pop, Lux delivered some of the most demented stagework I've had the pleasure of witnessing. Lux passed away aged 60. Gone but not forgotten. The legend lives on!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

FILMS MIA ON DVD. REF MOON IN THE GUTTER BLOG


Head on over to Jeremy's Moon In The Gutter blog for a February special on films currently unavilable on Region 1 DVD. My own choice is a classic 70s' spooker.

THE STONE TAPE

When it comes to the paranormal, the written word so often triumphs over the moving image. Sometimes, it's nice to sit back and let imagination take you through some dark places, away from over-zealous film directors showing you more than you really need to see. Sometimes, however, we encounter celluloid chillers that succeed in establishing an icy grip on the senses: THE HAUNTING, THE CHANGELING, SESSION 9, THE OTHERS, THE WOMAN IN BLACK and THE ORPHANAGE are just a few examples of films that can lower the room temperature and freeze the blood. THE STONE TAPE is another worthy member of this select group of spookers.

First broadcast on 25th December 1972, THE STONE TAPE must have ruined Christmas for many viewers, adopting a 'less is more' approach which delivers a handful of spectral apparitions, and a series of blood-curdling screams - the rest is down to Nigel Kneale's screenplay and several fine performances.

Director Peter Sasdy's declaration of intent is unveiled right from the word go as Jill Greely (Asher) - a woman clearly on the edge of a nervous breakdown - almost comes to grief with a large truck bearing the name 'Ryan Electronics'. Jill recovers from what could have been a fatal crash to begin work at Taskerlands - a building that dates back to the 18th century - where she will oversee the installation of computers and sundry data equipment.

A crack team of electronics experts - led by bombastic Peter Brock (Bryant) - hope to design a revolutionary recording medium, and confound the market leaders, affectionately known as 'old nippon'. With an eager team wanting to press ahead, the schedule is thrown off-kilter when workmen down tools, refusing to renovate one room in particular. A general feeling of unease appears to be their main cause for concern, though matters come to a head when Jill - blessed/cursed with mediumistic powers - sees the ghostly apparition of a young woman at the top of a flight of stairs that lead...... to nowhere.

The discovery of 30 tins of spam and a letter to Father Christmas ("All I want for xmas is please go away") become pieces in a jigsaw puzzle that includes a maid named Louisa Hanks; two attempted exorcisms back in the mists of time, and the reluctant testimony of a fightened local who mentions "the others".

As the unquiet spirit screams and screams again, Jill is joined by several of her colleagues who can now see and/or hear what may be a psychic echo of a past tragedy. Peter eventually joins the ranks of the believers, and embarks on a ruthless pursuit towards self-advancement, with no thoughts for the safety of his team or his mistress.

Approached from a purely supernatural perspective, The Stone Tape hits the back of the net on many occasions, with its aura of evil practically reaching out from the confines of a television screen to suck you into that infernal room where past events intrude on the present. The aural and visual manifestations are frightening enough, but Sasdy's film reaches its peak when a solitary figure enters the time-slip vacuum, breaching the darkness to confront a silence that is deafening.

It's a scary trip, and maybe Sasdy hasn't received the credit he deserves: due, no doubt, to another visionary screenplay from Nigel Kneale. Just witness the animated conversation regarding the possibilty of history in the making; a new recording device that will condense hours of audio material onto a tiny piece of software, and 13 channel TV - "Porn channel 1, porn channel 2, DIY...." Kneale even extends his take on the shape of things to come into a sidebar concerning brusque businessman Crawshaw (Marsh) who fights for a piece of Taskerlands to aid development of his own invention - a self-programming washing machine capable of sorting its own load. Together with Kneale's YEAR OF THE SEX OLYMPICS script, THE STONE TAPE casts an eye to the future with more than a degree of accuracy, and creates a foundation for Sasdy and his cast.

On the debit side, there are several scenes which grate a little - mostly in the form of OTT performances from some of the largely male cast, and the sight of 'ghostbusters' attempting to 'clear' the room by using primitive outside broadcast equipment looks a tad amateurish. Still, many films (with the advantage of state-of-the-art resources) have cheerfully cribbed from The Stone Tape's ghost-laying technique, and its desire to move on from the bell,book and candle approach should ultimately be applauded. Some dodgy FX scenes near the end momentarily threaten to undo the good work, but a late rally puts things to right, taking us into the haunted room which may be about to welcome at least one new occupant.

Sasdy's film is currently unavailable in the UK on DVD, as the Region 2 BFI disc is out of print. While I don't own a copy of the disc, I have viewed it and, given its age and the source material, picture quality is as good as one could hope for. The BFI disc includes a commentary track from Kneale and writer & reviewer Kim Newman, and there's also a DVD Rom extra in the form of a Kneale script, 'The Road'.

I was fortunate enough to catch a screening of THE STONE TAPE at London's National Film Theatre, a few years back. Afterwards, Kneale was interviewed onstage and briefly discussed 'The Road'; a ghostly tale of Roman centurians returning from the grave. Kneale lamented the fact that the tape of this film had been wiped by a BBC employee, and is lost forever. A crying shame, but think of it as an unfilmed gem that may see light of day from one of the UK's rising young directors. Until then, stoke up the fire, sit back and let your imagination take hold. Hopefully, this film will make it over to Region 1 sometime in the future.

Head over to http://mooninthegutter.blogspot.com/ to follow this series.

SPOTLIGHT ON THE BLOGS

Throughout February, Jeremy Richey will be paying tribute to 28 films currently missing in action on DVD. A great idea, so head over to http://mooninthegutter.blogspot.com/ always worth visiting on a daily basis.