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by Michael Barrett

10 Aug 2015

The Crimson Cult  (onscreen title: Curse of the Crimson Altar ) is a half-demented, half-plodding little British horror item, basically a botch with moments too fascinating to miss.

Robert Manning (Mark Eden) is an antiques dealer who traces his missing brother (who looks nothing like him, but never mind) to the hamlet of Graymarsh, where they have an annual celebration re-creating the burning of a witch named Lavinia a few centuries ago. The first thing that happens to him is running across the type of outlandish pseudo-orgy found in certain 1960s films where partiers engage in bizarre subsitutes for actual debauchery, such as chasing women with cars or painting each other. Supposedly hip and decadent without being able to prove that anyone is stoned, it just looks exhausting.

by Michael Barrett

6 Aug 2015

Bill Morrison assembles fading, deteriorating nitrate film footage into ethereal historical collages and combines them with commissioned music, so that they become symphonic “music videos” that are at once avant-garde yet obvious and accessible to any viewer.

His latest 40-minute work, Beyond Zero: 1914-1918, is scored by Aleksandra Vrebalov and played by Kronos Quartet in seven movements. It’s essentially a dirge in memory of World War I, with the soundtrack adding occasional garbled spoken-word passages from old recordings and finally finishing with chanting by monks, completing the sense of prayer.

by Michael Barrett

5 Aug 2015

Made ten years apart, these Jess Franco films star Howard Vernon in stories about perverse aristocrats who whip and torture naked people. It’s what happens when you have too much time on your hands. The incurably tasteful would insist that too much time is what you need to sit through such provocative trash, but we’ll try to explain the hypnotic allure.

Those who think of Franco as a slipshod, style-free hack would be bowled over by the widescreen black-and-white photography and elegant, arty tone of The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, a French-Spanish co-production set in a German town upset by the murders of several women. Between Godofredo Pacheco’s camera and Daniel White’s diverse jazz/classical/avant-garde score, they might think Franco’s bringing too much taste, for the first hour and 20 minutes are calm, polite, and even plodding in its investigation, albeit beautifully composed and shot with sleek cat-like movements.

by Michael Barrett

4 Aug 2015

Joseph Losey’s feature debut, The Boy With Green Hair aroused attention because it was such a peculiar little socially-conscious fable, emerging as it did during Dore Schary’s brief, adventurous span as head of RKO, and in a period when postwar Hollywood was releasing more or less heavy-handed message pictures on racial and ethnic prejudice.

The opening scene gives a shock reveal: a bald little boy in a police station. This is Peter (Dean Stockwell), an ordinary American lad whose parents were killed in London during WWII, during which the film is set. In flashback, he tells a friendly doctor (Robert Ryan) about how he got shuffled among various relatives until he came to live with “Gramps” (Pat O’Brien), a singing waiter who’s actually no relation to him. Apparently social services were very informal back then, especially in movies. Gramps may not have any legit claim, but he showers the kid with Irish-accented blarney and even gets a fantasy musical sequence with co-star Walter Catlett.

by Michael Barrett

31 Jul 2015

Here in razor-sharp high-definition Blu-ray is Thank Your Lucky Stars, an entertaining time capsule from WWII. The film is a featherweight all-star revue that refers lightly to the war while corralling a group of dramatic stars to do unlikely things like sing and dance. We’re tempted to quip that never have so many given so little for so much, but the movie was a very successful fundraiser for the Hollywood Canteen founded by Bette Davis and John Garfield, which is why they’re in the picture and got so many of their colleagues to appear.

//Mixed media

Ubisoft Understands the Art of the Climb

// Moving Pixels

"Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Grow Home epitomize the art of the climb.

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