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by Michael Barrett

22 Jun 2016


Fantastic Planet (1973) is a surreal, animated sci-fi fable of extraordinary beauty, cruelty, and strangeness. It used to circulate widely in the VHS era, when it was recognized as one of the most important animated films aimed at adults. In the DVD era, it’s been more problematic to get hold of. After a 1999 Anchor Bay disc with unremovable subtitles and an abortive release by Facets in 2007, we finally have this dazzling 2016 restoration on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion.

Aesthetically, the film is a colorful, dreamlike visual spectacle in which Roland Topor—an illustrator known for disturbing, violent, and grotesque visions—applied his imagination to dramatizing a novel by French SF writer Stefan Wul. Topor is credited as co-scripter with director René Laloux, who worked with Czech animators for a period of several years (encompassing the “Prague Spring” and Soviet invasion of their country).

by Michael Barrett

20 Jun 2016


Now remastered in High Definition for Blu-ray, The Magnetic Monster is a ‘50s sci-fi film with an ambitious idea, a low budget, and a complicated history.

As with so much of sci-fi cinema, it all started with Curt Siodmak. Before he fled Hitler’s Germany and eventually landed in Hollywood, he wrote a big-budget German hit in the sci-fi genre—really more of a techno-thriller—called F.P.1 Antwortet Nicht. The film concerned trouble on a floating platform for airplanes in the Atlantic Ocean, and its popularity was directly responsible for director Karl Hartl reuniting with star Hans Albers for an even more expensive follow-up: the 1934 epic Gold. Siodmak didn’t work on that one, but he did write the British remake of Germany’s third big-budget techno-thriller, Der Tunnel.

by Michael Barrett

16 Jun 2016


Criterion puts out deluxe editions of many classic movies that have been on home video before, and it’s something of a special event when they unveil an important movie that hasn’t yet seen the digital light of day, at least in Region 1. Such is Kaneto Shindo’s The Naked Island, a unique film that caused a splash around the world upon its release in 1960 before pretty much dropping off the map.

Frustrated with the Japanese studio system, Shindo boldly founded an independent company in the ‘50s with actor Taiji Tonoyama and fellow director, Kozaburo Yoshimura. Their productions weren’t successful enough to keep them afloat and the company was on the verge of bankruptcy when Shindo made a film that, while unusual, was truly international in potential because it has virtually no dialogue.

by Michael Barrett

15 Jun 2016


Resurrected from obscurity is a rarely-seen sci-fi epic, or what passed for one in ‘30s Germany as the country was embroiled in electing Hitler and changes were starting to sweep over its film industry.

Far from the standard dashing hero, the main character is Professor Holk (Hans Albers), a somewhat portly and middle-aged boffin who barely survives a sabotaged experiment to convert lead into gold with atomic power. The man responsible for his misfortune is ruthless capitalist John Wills (Michael Bohnen), whose name harkens back to the concept of “will” that was freely bandied about by the Nazis, as in the propaganda film Triumph of the Will.

by Michael Barrett

14 Jun 2016


Crimson, also called The Man with the Severed Head, and whose Spanish title means “The Rats Don’t Sleep at Night”, is a Spanish-French crime drama masquerading as a horror film via a left-field plot twist about a partial brain transplant. It stars Spanish horror icon Paul Naschy, billed as Paul Nash, and hails from a golden era of horror cinema. Don’t get excited yet.

Gangster Jack Surnett (Naschy) is about to open a jewelry store’s safe when the greed of one of his henchmen accidentally triggers the alarm. Surnett is promptly shot in the head by police, and a drunken doctor (ubiquitous character actor Carlos Otero) suggests—wait for it—taking him to an old friend who’s working on brain transplants. That surgeon and his equally surgical wife (Silvia Solar, radiating warmth and intelligence) need a freshly decapitated head, so the gang picks a rival gangster (Roberto Mauri) known as The Sadist—the decisions just keep getting smarter—whose tendencies will naturally start taking over the patient.

//Mixed media
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Paul McCartney: Pure McCartney (take 2)

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