As Kino Lorber continues its Blu-ray avalanche of classic, semi-classic and non-classic horror titles, we confess to being a little overwhelmed. There are hardly enough hours in the day to keep up with these low-budget cult offerings while still sleeping and eating. If you feel like buckling down for a Halloween marathon, here’s a sampling of recent releases in chronological order by year.
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In ‘60s Spain, under the dictatorship of General Franco and amid an influx of international tourists, handsome young José Luis Rodríguez (Nino Manfredi) works as an undertaker. It doesn’t exactly make him a magnet for the ladies.
On assignment at a prison, he meets an old man with an even more undesirable job: Amadeo (José Isbert) the executioner. The dumpy old fussbudget uses a garrote, a metal device that strangles the victim when screws are tightened. Amedeo’s pretty daugher Carmen (Emma Penella) is in a situation similar to José Luis—she can’t get a date, thanks to the family business.
Plenty of stories surround the classical Hollywood musical On the Town (1949). A skinny Frank Sinatra was forced to wear prosthetics to fill out the backside of his sailor pants. Jules Munshin was so terrified of heights he had to be tied to another person while performing atop the Empire State Building. And the Hays Office, ever concerned about morality, changed the lyrics of “New York, New York” from “it’s a helluva town” to “it’s a wonderful town”.
But perhaps the most often cited bit of trivia about On the Town is that it’s the first film musical to be shot on location, using major New York City landmarks as its backdrop.
While Criterion set the standard for releasing DVDs and Blu-rays with bonus material, a little company called Olive Films has been releasing bare-bones discs of collectible titles, sometimes obscure and occasionally famous. Now they’re dipping a toe into upgrading some of those famous titles into a new bonus-packed line called Olive Signature, and they’re kicking off with Johnny Guitar.
This 1954 classic was analyzed by PopMatters here. To refresh your memory, it’s an unusual, heady western famous for pitting two mighty women against each other in a no-holds-barred seething hatefest that drives the plot in the same way that opposing men usually drive the plot in the other 98 percent of westerns.
Near what he didn’t know was the end of his life, iconic New German Cinema filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder played a police detective in a near-future fascist utopia where everyone dresses in ‘80s New Wave/Punk duds and watches a TV marathon of contestants laughing like idiots. In the course of his investigations, Lt. Jansen shoots various people or throws them off buildings. These are recorded as “unexpected deaths” because society has no murders or suicides—on paper.
It’s a world officially devoid of crime except in the realm of fashion, and here we must mention Jansen’s unflattering leopard-print suit with red shirt and bolo tie, which he never takes off even in sleep. Less offensively, he’s a secret alcoholic, with a bottle hidden in a slot machine in his bizarrely appointed apartment because booze is illegal. So is lettuce, for unexplained reasons. Overweight and laconic to the point of telling everyone to avoid unnecessary remarks, our lieutenant becomes embroiled in impenetrable mysteries and conspiracies involving a media corporation and its mythical 31st floor.
// Moving Pixels
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