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.
Latest Blog Posts
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.
Criterion has done film buffs a favor (again) with this double shot of hard-to-find Orson Welles films of the ‘60s, both co-starring himself and Jeanne Moreau.
Chimes at Midnight (1965) manufactures a new Shakespeare play by combining scenes from five plays into the story of rollicking scoundrel John Falstaff (Welles) and his carousing friendship with the dissolute Prince Hal (Keith Baxter), the future Henry V. Moreau appears as Falstaff’s girlfriend, while Margaret Rutherford is Mistress Quickly. John Gielgud is the stern and disappointed Henry IV. It’s a rich, human story, anchored by Shakespeare’s language and buoyed by joyous performances. Welles’ portrayal of the massive ne’er-do-well climaxes in a great emotional moment that, according to the Welles biographers interviewed in the extras, resonates with his own feelings about his father.
Fans of silent cinema should be alerted to two new Blu-rays of mid-September. One title upgrades a previous DVD release, and the other unveils a once-lost title on video for the first time. Both are directed by masters of silent and sound cinema in close collaboration with women writers with whom they had professional and intimate relationships.
The upgrade is Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, a two-part epic about a ruthless king of crime and master of disguise (played by Rudolf Klein-Rogge having a field day) who manipulates the stock market, blackmails and hypnotizes spineless scions, gambles with money and lives, and commits endless skullduggeries. Proclaiming itself “a picture of the time” and “a play of the men of our time”, this extravagant, big-budget criminal melodrama purports to capture the zeitgeist of Weimar Germany, coincidentally before a similarly self-proclaimed Übermensch, as mad and criminal as Mabuse, would publish Mein Kampf (1925) as part of his bid for political power. The script is credited to Norbert Jacques, the novelist who created Mabuse, and Thea von Harbou, Lang’s most important creative collaborator during the silent era and for several years his wife.