King Hu is among the most important and idiosyncratic creators of the modern martial arts film, but his films have been tough to see in the digital era. In Region 1, the only one to receive an official subtitled release on DVD is his 1966 debut for Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers, Come Drink With Me, a milestone for its motifs of the drunken hero, a swordswoman, and an inn.
Thanks to the restoration efforts of its star, Hsu Feng, Hu’s three-hour epic A Touch of Zen is now available on Criterion, and we hope it presages more of the same.
Steve Pick: I suppose I should flat-out state that this is my favorite film of all time and the one I’ve seen more often than any other. Since I discovered it on heavy rotation in the early ‘70s on a local TV movie package, I’ve been quoting lines about precious bodily fluids, nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Russkies, and the incorrect behavior of fighting in the War Room. Not to mention, “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!”
It will be interesting to try to discuss this Stanley Kubrick classic without simply falling into a state of supreme awe for such a perfect combination of script, actors, and director. Steve, what’s your relationship to Dr. Strangelove, the movie?
This month’s additions to Netflix’s roster are precisely the kind of fare one expects for summer: nostalgic fan favorites, Classic Hollywood romcoms, and easy ‘80s action flicks. While the offerings are sparse in the way of complex or artful material, there are still a number of enjoyable films to revisit on the streaming service this month. As always, we’ve highlighted those titles that are likely to interest the more discerning viewer.
Miracles are still happening on the silent film front. In 2004, a private detective notified the Oklahoma City Museum of Art that he’d received a film print in payment for a job. The museum was astounded to realize he was talking about a long-lost 1920 feature, shot in Oklahoma with a cast entirely of Kiowa and Comanche Indians. When the museum acquired the film, it turned out to be complete and in excellent shape, though in need of restoration. Several years later, the six-reel feature has been selected for the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry and it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD.
So how’s the movie? This independent production tells a very simple story in a genre once called “Indian romances”. It’s prettily photographed in medium shots at natural locations, and now accompanied by an original score from David Yeagley. Not in itself a masterpiece of cinema, it’s a creditable, professional effort that’s most fascinating for its preservation of artifacts provided by the actors. We see tipis (tee-pees), clothes, weapons, dances, gestures, and bareback riding, along with herds of buffalo and various vistas amid the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, still unspoiled today.
In terms of theatrical releases, July is a month dominated by red hot franchises and revived blockbusters. This month visits from ghosts, aliens, and friendly giants are set to dominate the big screen, providing the perfect platform for sunny escapism. For those wanting a little more variety in their viewing diet, however, we’ve selected ten quality films coming to some of the most popular streaming platforms this month. Spanning across eras and genres, these eclectic picks will provide a diversity of summer entertainment.
1. Dirty Harry
Don Siegel, 1971
The godfather of modern movie cops, “Dirty” Harry Callahan shoots his way to righteousness with this 1971 classic. Starring Clint Eastwood in the role that solidified his star status, the film follows Callahan in the pursuit of Scorpio (Andy Robinson), a serial killer modeled after the real life Zodiac case. Fact authenticity proves sparse, however, as Eastwood and director Don Siegel instead use the story to churn through an obstacle course of Bay Area landmarks with exaggerated abandon. Action sequences may view as tame by today’s standards, but Siegel’s dogged portrayal of a tough cop seeking justice remains just as powerful as it was 40 years ago. The first, and still the best of the five Dirty Harry films, this vigilante punch remains the perfect project for action purists and unlucky punks. (HBO NOW, July 1st)