Monday, 31 May 2010

COMING SOON


Hers are the specs for Arrow's forthcoming Blu-ray release of Dario Argento's INFERNO which will also be available in SD.

Reversible sleeve with original and newly commissioned art work

- Double-sided fold out Poster

- Collector’s Booklet featuring brand new writing on Inferno by Alan Jones, author of Profondo Argento

- High Definition Presentation of the film (1080p)

- Optional 7.1 DTS-HD/2.0 Stereo Audio

SPECIAL FEATURES:

- Introduction to Inferno by star Daria Nicolodi

- Dario's Inferno (16 mins interview with Dario Argento)

- Acting in Hot Water: An Interview with Daria Nicolodi (18 mins interview)

- The Other Mother: Making the Black Cat (16 mins) In 1989 director Luigi Cozzi (a long time friend and collaborator of Dario Argento) decided to make the unofficial follow-up to Inferno and 'complete' the Three Mothers legacy. This feature looks at the torrid history of The Black Cat, with plenty of clips too!

- Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror (57 mins) Mark Kermode narrates this documentary on Argento’s career including interviews with George A. Romero and John Carpenter

- The Complete Dario Argento Trailer Gallery [18 films]

- Easter Egg (5 mins of Dario Argento in English, with random memories of Inferno)

VOTE FOR THE BEYOND


Euro cult movie buffs should head over to The Cult Lab Forums where aficionados are invited to vote for their format(s) of choice for a release of Lucio Fulci's THE BEYOND. The forums are packed with a friendly and enthusiastic fanbase, and here you will get the lowdown on the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases from the wonderful Arrow who have just released a feature-packed Blu-ray of CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD which is already shaping up to be one of this year's finest.

Why not sign up and cast your vote for one of Lucio Fulci's finest films. Just click HERE

Friday, 21 May 2010

HAPPY 2OTH ANNIVERSARY VIDEO WATCHDOG


It was 1990 when I first caught sight of Tim & Donna Lucas' VIDEO WATCHDOG. I was in London's Forbidden Planet, killing time before some gig/football match/ film, when I found myself picking up a magazine in the movie section. Three minutes later and I exited FP, clutching the very first issue Of VIDEO WATCHDOG. I recall settling down in one of London's watering holes, and read this debut issue from cover to cover, enthralled by Tim's article on a Spanish filmmaker named Jess Franco. I'd previously viewed 3-gen boots of the likes of VENUS IN FURS and SUCCUBUS, and promised myself I'd devote more time to Franco's wonderfully perverse world.

Although I never got round to becoming a VW subscriber, I began to collect this magazine on a regular basis, obtaining copies from various UK stores and specialist indie retailers.
From VHS to Laserdisc, from DVD to Blu-ray, from monochrome to full colour issues. It's been one hell of a ride and still is. Tim and his wonderfully gifted band of reviewers offer informative and entertaining reviews and features, which are graced by Donna's layout and design expertise.

Along the way, we've enjoyed special editions, a VW book and Tim & Donna's Mario Bava tome, "All The Colours Of The Dark". This is simply the finest book on film I've ever read (it's much more than a study of the great man), and I'm proud to see my name included amongst its patrons.
While every single issue has much to enthuse over, like anyone else I have my favourites. For me, the following are 10 of my firm favourites.

1/ Issue # 1. Franco and Venezuelan Video.

2/ Issue # 6. The Exorcist special!

3/ Issue # 13. Manhunter and Rampage. We need a loaded spec ed DVD for the latter.

4/ Issue # 19. A marvellous Dracula special.

5/ Issue # 29. Robocop.

6/ Issue # 38. Living Dead Dawn/Night.

7/ Issue # 81. If you doubt the greatness of Ridley Scott's HANNIBAL, you should read this!

8/ Issue # 121. Terrific Renfield article.

9/ Issue # The Wallace Krimis.

10/ Issue # 142. The Prisoner.

For devotees of Fantastic Cinema, VW is not only a publication that increases appreciation of the films we love, but also for discovering new delights.
Tim and his writers share the ability to engage the interest of their audience about films they may have previously dismissed after just one viewing, or maybe even highlight a genre that may have held little interest. It's the way they write about film that seduces their readers into giving movies, books and soundtracks a second (or maybe first) chance.

So, as we await the publication of issue # 157 which marks the 2oth anniversary of VW, we can reflect on the enormous changes that have taken place regarding how we watch films and how we see them.

Let's raise our glasses to Tim & Donna.

Friday, 7 May 2010

MARTIN



Now, how does the song go? "No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones in 1977". Well, some of you may be tempted to add vampires to the list when considering George A. Romero's Martin. Here, the titular character (played by John Amplas) is a young man who becomes a victim of his deranged uncle Cuda (Maazel). Forced to work in Cuda's store and placed under a night-time curfew, Martin is befriended by cousin Christine (Forrest), who spends her time railing against Cuda's outdated beliefs and dealing with her unreliable boyfriend (fx supremo Tom Savini). Cuda believes Martin is one of nine family members marked by the curse of Nosferatu: a theory substantiated by his predeliction for female flesh and blood. As Martin slowly gets into character, he exhibits a greater degree of confidence when dealing with his (mostly) female victims, and becomes a regular caller to a late-night radio chat show, claiming he's an 84 year-old vampire. As the body count increases, Martin begins to harbour very real doubts regarding his ability to continue evading the law.

So, where does fantasy end and reality begin? Romero's film is peppered with stark monochrome flashbacks showing Martin being welcomed by his victims and hunted by those who wish him dead.While it's open to debate whether these are replays of past events or simply feverish daydreams, the latter seems far more likely, given the somewhat (intentionally?) fractured staging of some of the scenes.

Romero originally pitched a running time of 135 minutes for this film, which leaves us some 40 mins adrift for this truncated version. Unfortunately, the gaps show. Martin's relationship with an attractive older woman (Nadeau) simply cries out for extended screen time, making his transformation from a virtual necrophiliac into a capable lover seem more like an eleventh-hour re-write, rather than a considered character development. Similarly, Cuda's meeting with a priest schooled in 'the old ways' and their subsequent attempted exorcism are too close together to really gel, and leave one yearning to see the director's original cut: a disconcerting state of affairs, because there are moments when Martin comes very close to representing Romero's best work. The opening scene where Martin creates terror on the tracks - attacking a young woman (Middleton) in her train carriage - works wonderfully well, combining past and present by imaginative use of the flashback device. Martin's encounter with an unfaithful housewife and her lover scores even higher, with Romero stoking up on suspense and letting the scene run to a dramatic conclusion. This particular set piece, coupled with a scene in a children's playground, is the flip side of Carpenter's Halloween, but coming several months earlier: one can't help but wonder what would have happened if Romero's film had enjoyed the same breaks as Carpenter? Martin VIII: 'Blood On The Net'? Maybe not, but this slow-burning account of mental illness and its cause and effect remains an important work. If the hugely under-rated Jack's Wife is Romero's feminist film, then Martin explores the male psyche with just as conviction.

Arrow's Region 2 DVD is a huge shot in the veins for those who missed out on Anchor Bay's Region 1 disc (now OOP). Although Arrow's disc does not include the Romero/Amplas/Forrest commentary track, it remains an absolutely essential purchase for any self-respecting Romero buff.From a presentational viewpoint, this is the best looking version of Martin I've seen though it's never been a film that's stood out in terms of eye-popping colour. In 2003, there's still a grainy look to the film ( due to the photography, rather than any failing with the disc) but colours look a lot more stable than we're used to.

Arrow have also included a 14 minute documentary - with German audio and English subtitles - which contains footage from Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead, The Crazies and Martin, together with Romero's thoughts on the aforementioned films. While we don't learn a great deal that's new, it's nice to watch Romero at work on his Dawn set and the picture quality of the clips offer a nostalgic glimpse of life before DVD. Also included are a couple of radio spots, and the splendid original theatrical trailer shot from a different perspective than is normally the case for these '3 minute wonders'.

Romero's legendary 3 hour director's cut - stolen from him many years ago - will likely never be seen, leaving us with an uneven film which, nontheless, does hit the heights on several occasions. Maybe it's best to let the 'real' Martin rest in peace and attempt to make sense of what's left.

At the beginning of June, we have a new release of MARTIN to look forward to from Arrow Films here in the UK;

Features include: the original theatrical cut of the film with 5.1 and Stereo audio options plus a choice of 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratio presentations; ‘Wampyre’ – the Italian cut of the film, featuring Italian dialogue (with optional English subtitles) and musical score by Goblin; ‘Making Martin: A Recounting’; Documentary on George A. Romero; TV and radio spots; original theatrical trailer; photo gallery; four sleeve art options; double sided poster; exclusive collector’s booklet; six original poster art postcards.As far as I'm aware, the Wampyre cut has some scenes shuffled round. Unfortunately, the materials aren't good enough for a Blu-ray release, but this loaded DVD will do nicely.

LET THE WRONG ONE IN




So, it seems we are on the verge of 'enjoying' either a minority government, or an administration borne out of deals struck with Nick Clegg; a man whose political party failed to build on little more than optimism.

Welcome to David Cameron: a man who believes that Great Britain was the only country in the world to be struck by recession, and who clearly intends to look after the wealthy and to hell with everyone else. I'll certainly add my voice to those who believe our electoral system needs a major overhaul and lament the fact that -for some - things are going to get a whole lot worse.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

HARRY BROWN

England 2009. Gangs of feral teens rule our streets, with guns, knives and alcohol-fueled acts of violence creating abject misery for those unlucky enough to merely breathe the same air.

Meet Harry Brown: ex Marine and old aged pensioner who visits his comatose wife in hospital, and enjoys a pint with close friend Leonard (David Bradley) just to remind himself he's still alive.
We're in the East End of London here, and it soon becomes apparent that the low life scum who see the area as their 'manor' are making life hell for the residents of a squalid council estate.

When Brown (beautifully played by Michael Caine) receives an urgent call summoning him to his wife's bedside, his decision not to take a shortcut through a nearby subway costs him the chance to bid his spouse one last goodbye.
Soon, Harry's life is blighted a second time and something inside him snaps, compelling him to wage a one-man war on the hoodlums who frequent the shadowy depths of the subway, and regularly invade the homes of frightened citizens.

HARRY BROWN has, inevitably, drawn comparison with Clint Eastwood's powerful GRAN TORINO and it's a worthwhile comparison with Eastwood's film more measured but not necessarily more passionate. Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER may also be a nostalgic line of reference; particularly the scene where Brown is shown an array of weapons during a tense encounter in a drug dealers den.
While some of the characters in this film are none too well drawn - particularly the forces of law & order - HARRY BROWN is ultimately a hard-hitting account of the way things are in a country crying out for a drastic change in the way we deal with what are quite simply monsters. Michael Caine excels as the OAP vigilante, inspiring a whole range of emotions and, I strongly suspect, a widespread fervent wish that more Harry Brown's would rise up and conduct a much-needed spring clean of our streets.
Yes, the violence is explicit at times and the language is way past industrial but there's a real humanity in evidence that is extremely moving.