Latest Blog Posts

by Michael Barrett

7 Jul 2016

Little in this collection is new, as the films have previously been on Blu-ray in various permutations. So what’s the big deal here? It’s the sheer convenience of finally having all 32 existing shorts made by Buster Keaton, in 2K restorations, in one shiny package.

That includes 13 “apprentice” shorts he made under the mentorship of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and that in turn includes “The Cook”, which had been rediscovered and issued separately from the previous Arbuckle/Keaton discs. Let nobody assume these early works are too minor or primitive, or even—perish the thought—unfunny. They’re often ingenious and for some reason rely frequently on cross-dressing. Not yet established as “the great stone face”, Keaton adopts a variety of attitudes.

by Michael Barrett

28 Jun 2016

This independent noir, produced by Edward Small for distribution through United Artists, opens like a boxing picture—more like Mark Robson’s Champion  (1949), which was shot by the same cinematographer, the great Franz Planer, than like the smoky Body and Soul (Robert Rossen, 1947). As noir historian Eddie Muller observes in his commentary on this new Blu-ray, the actors in this film aren’t good at pretending to be boxers.

As directed by Phil Karlson, however, the film itself has no such problem. Light on its feet and dexterous of plot, this film throws many an expert feint at the viewer before landing a few solid punches, and it’s hard to say which moves are the most entertaining.

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.

//Mixed media

How Röyksopp's 'Melody A.M.' Brought Electronica Into the Mainstream

// Sound Affects

"With their debut, the Norwegian duo essentially provided the everyman's guide to electronic music.

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