Four Film Noir Classics | A second helping of hard-boiled genre gems on Blu-ray from Arrow
Take a walk through the shadowy streets of American film noir in four atmospheric classics courtesy of Arrow.
In The Suspect (1944), a genial shopkeeper, Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton), is constantly nagged by his shrewish wife, Cora (Rosalind Ivan), while secretly yearning for a pretty young stenographer Mary Gray (Ella Raines). When Cora falls to her death, the police are suspicious, and Marshall’s neighbour (Henry Daniell) sees a chance for blackmail. This superb Edwardian-set thriller is a fascinating character study, especially Laughton’s performance in which he reigns in his usual scenery-chewing to give a subtle, compelling turn as the film’s unlikely ‘villain’. You can also see that director Robert Siodmak was beginning to hone his noir credentials here, which he’d perfect with 1946’s The Killers.
The Sleeping City (1950) sees an undercover policeman (Richard Conte) investigating a murder and narcotics racketeering at New York’s Bellevue Hospital with the help of a nurse (Coleen Gray) whom he finds falling in love with. Directed by George Sherman, this tense, semi-documentary thriller remains one of the few films of the era to be shot entirely on location, including many scenes in and around Bellevue.
In Thunder on the Hill (1951), convicted murderer Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth) is being transported for execution when a flood strands her and her guards at a convent hospital, where Sister Mary Bonaventure (Claudette Colbert) becomes convinced of Valerie’s innocence and sets out to find the real killer. Three years shy of becoming the King of Hollywood melodramas, Douglas Sirk made a number of noir thrillers, and this is one of the best. Although it’s a bit studio-bound and the killer’s identity pretty obvious from the outset, it does boast nice turns from Colbert as the sleuthing nun, the wonderful Gladys Cooper as the Mother Superior, and making his Hollywood debut, Australian actor Michael Pate, who’s servant character is key in solving the whodunnit.
In Six Bridges to Cross (1955), streetwise delinquent Jerry Florea (played by Sal Mineo) is shot and wounded by rookie policeman Eddie Gallagher (George Nader) while fleeing the scene of a robbery. Despite this, the two develop a friendship as Eddie and his wife (Julie Adams) take Jerry under their wing, trying to keep him on the straight and narrow. As an adult, Jerry (now played by Tony Curtis) marries and seems to settle down until an armoured security company across the street from him is robbed of $2.5m dollars. Directed by Joseph Pevney with cinematography by Oscar-winner William H Daniels, this crime noir, inspired by the 1950 Great Brink’s Robbery in Boston, Massachusetts, marks Sal Mineo’s screen debut and gives Tony Curtis a meaty character to play (although his accent reminded me of the cartoon character Top Cat at times).
This showcase of lesser-known noir classics features sterling performances from a host of screen greats, as well as taut direction, stunning cinematography, and superb screenwriting from the likes of Oscar Saul (A Streetcar Named Desire), Jo Eisinger (Gilda, Night and the City), Andrew Holt (In a Lonely Place) and Sydney Boehm (The Big Heat).
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of all four films
• Original lossless mono audio on all films
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on all films
• Audio commentaries by scholars and critics Farran Smith-Nehme (The Suspect), Imogen Sara Smith (The Sleeping City), Josh Nelson (Thunder on the Hill) and Samm Deighan (Six Bridges to Cross)
• It Had to be Done, author and scholar Alan K. Rode on the career of director Robert Siodmak
• The Real Deal, author and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas looks at realism and reality in The Sleeping City
• José Arroyo on Thunder on the Hill, a new appreciation by the esteemed film scholar and critic
• Style and Place, film critic Jon Towlson examines the work of cinematographer William H. Daniels
• Vintage radio play versions of The Suspect and Thunder on the Hill starring Charles Laughton, Ella Raines, Claudette Colbert and Barbara Rush
• Theatrical Trailers
• Poster and stills galleries
• Reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Double-sided fold-out posters for each film featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Scott Saslow
• Hardback collector’s book featuring new writing on the films by film critics Kat Ellinger, Philip Kemp and Jon Towlson
Dance Craze (1981) | The iconic 2Tone concert film gets a remastered release
Shot throughout 1980 and released in cinemas in 1981, Dance Craze definitively captured the 2Tone movement, which originated in Coventry and fused traditional Jamaican ska, rocksteady and reggae music with punk rock and new wave music. Directed by Joe Massot and filmed by BAFTA award-winning cinematographer Joe Dunton, it features live performances of The Specials, Madness, The Selecter, The Beat, Bad Manners and The Bodysnatchers filmed at various venues during a UK tour.
Newly remastered in 4K from original film materials, the toe-tapping concert film is presented here by the BFI and Chrysalis Records on Blu-ray and DVD for the first time, and I, for one, will be adding this to my collection as Madness’ rendition of Swan Lake is one of my all-time favourite musical moments. It’s also an especially poignant release as it comes just three months since the passing of The Specials’ Terry Hall. Oh! and you’ll dig the hip cat teenagers in the archival newsreel footage that features halfway through the film.
The special features include an episode from BBC’s Arena exploring the rise of 2Tone and a selection of rare clips from the film, many previously unseen. Alongside the Blu-ray/DVD release, Chrysalis Records are releasing the soundtrack in a remastered audio 3LP and 3CD set on 24 March, while 30 Picturehouse cinemas across the UK will hold a special one-off screening on 23 March. There’s also BFI IMAX screening on the same day, but it’s already sold out.
Time to get your dancing shoes on, folks…
• Newly remastered from original 70mm materials and approved by cinematographer Joe Dunton
• Rudies Come Back (1980, 34 mins): in this episode of the long-running BBC series Arena, music journalist Adrian Thrills explores the rise of 2Tone. Featuring interviews with The Specials and The Selecter
• Outtakes (1980, 17 mins): a selection of rare clips, many previously unseen, featuring the bands from the film
• Restoration demo (2022, 2 mins): a before-and-after look at the restoration of Dance Craze
• Original stereo and surround sound mixes by Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley remastered for this release, plus a new Dolby Atmos surround sound mix approved by Jerry Dammers
• Illustrated booklet with a new essay by Johnny Mains, the original 1981 press release and original 1981 band biographies, credits and notes on the special features
The House That Screamed | At last! Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s supremely stylish gothic chiller gets the restoration it so richly deserves
I am so excited that one of my all-time favourite Euro-horrors is finally getting a proper restoration release in the UK courtesy of Arrow (released Monday, 6 March 2023).
Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s 1969 gothic chiller The House That Screamed (AKA La residencia, The Finishing School) is a supremely stylish tale of frustrated passions and gruesome murder set in a 19th-century French boarding school starring Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbó, Mary Maud and John Moulder-Brown. If you have never seen it or heard of it… then now is the time to seek it out!
Thérèse (Galbó) is the latest arrival at a remote school for wayward girls run under the authoritarian eye of Mme Fourneau (Palmer). As the newcomer battles with strict routines and the whip-hand hierarchies among the girls, she learns that several students have recently vanished…
Meanwhile, tensions grow within this isolated hothouse environment as Mme Fourneau’s teenage son Luis (Moulder-Brown) ignores his mother’s strict orders not to get close to the ‘tainted’ ladies under her ward…
I first saw The House that Screamed on Australian TV in the mid-1980s while living with my university mates. Luckily we recorded it on VHS as we loved it so much (the Oedipal/Sadean themes causing much discussion) that it became our go-to Euro-horror to watch after a night out. I can still recite most of the dialogue, especially the film’s chilling final scene. A big hit in Spain (which was still in the grip of Franco’s regime), it became the country’s first international film success, with American International Pictures (AIP) heading up the film’s distribution in 1971.
For years, I’ve only had that VHS copy to return to, but a few years ago, I met Mary Maude (who plays Mme Fourneau’s ice-cold protege Irene) at a Film Fair in London and grabbed a DVD copy on sale for her to sign. Unfortunately, the quality was the same as what was then available on YouTube at the time. Then I stumbled on the German Blu-ray (Das Versteck), which was a slight improvement – but the 1:85:1 ratio was rather strange. Both were the original Spanish print – La residencia (with blue titles).
Now, finally restored to its director’s original full-length vision, The House That Screamed is ripe for rediscovery with Arrow releasing two versions – and once you have seen it (and heard Waldo de los Ríos’ gorgeously haunting score which really should have been included in this release), you may just want to put it in your Top 10 Euro horror list.
Think Ed Gein heading out for a Picnic at Hanging Rock!
ARROW LIMITED EDITION BLU-RAY CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of the 105-minute uncut version titled The Finishing School (La residencia), and the 94-minute US theatrical version titled The House That Screamed, via seamless branching
• Original lossless English mono audio on both versions and lossless Spanish audio on the uncut version
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing on both versions, and optional English subtitles for the Spanish audio
• Brand new audio commentary by critic Anna Bogutskaya
• This Boy’s Innocence, interview with actor John Moulder-Brown (this is by far my favourite extra on this release as Moulder-Brown has some very insightful recollections of working on the film when was just 15 years old)
• Archive interview with Mary Maude from 2012’s Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester
• All About My “Mama”, interview with Juan Tébar, author of the original story
• The Legacy of Terror, interview with the director’s son, Alejandro Ibáñez
• Screaming the House Down, interview with Spanish horror expert Dr Antonio Lázaro-Reboll, discussing the history of the film
• Alternative footage from the original Spanish theatrical version
• Original trailers, TV and radio spots
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Shelagh Rowan-Legg and a double-sided fold-out poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Colin Murdoch
The Final Programme | Robert Fuest’s psychedelic 1970s sci-fi get a newly-restored UK Blu-ray premiere release
Jon Finch heads a starry cast as the flamboyant anti-hero of this dystopian, darkly humorous sci-fi thriller from maverick British writer/director Robert Fuest – best-known for the Dr Phibes black comedy horror films starring Vincent Price and TV’s The Avengers.
Based on Michael Moorcock’s 1968 novel, and produced by David Puttnam, The Final Programme is presented here in a new restoration making its UK Blu-ray premiere, which brilliantly showcases Fuest’s flamboyant and stylish visuals and production design.
In a far-off future, mankind is in a state of decay. But a group of scientists believe they have found the means to move humanity on to its next level in the creation of an ideal, self-replicating – and thus immortal – human being.
Jerry Cornelius, Nobel Prize-winning physicist and playboy adventurer, is vital to the project’s success: his recently deceased father devised the formula of this ‘final programme’.
However, the formula is captured on microfilm hidden in the vaults of the family’s mansion, and jealously guarded by Jerry’s drug-addicted, psychopathic brother, Frank…
Joining Finch in the psychedelic adventure are Sterling Hayden, Jenny Runacre, Graham Crowden, Patrick Magee, Ronald Lacey and Harry Andrews – as well as genre faves Julie Ege and Sarah Douglas.
Weird, wild, and the most Fuestian of the director’s oeuvre, The Final Programme is available to buy on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital from 20 February 2023.
The special extras on the new Studiocanal release include an interview with Jenny Runacre, Kim Newman (who cites the film as Fuest’s masterpiece) taking a brief look at Fuest’s career, the Italian title sequence and trailers. The Blu-ray edition included four collector’s art cards.
You can read my full review of THE FINAL PROGRAMME by clicking on the title link.
Available to pre-order HERE.
Audrey Rose (1977) | The underrated supernatural thriller gets an Arrow 2k restoration release
Master filmmaker Robert Wise began his career with horror classics The Curse of the Cat People and The Body Snatcher for producer Val Lewton. His career would go on to include westerns, thrillers, science fiction and musicals, earning him two Academy Awards for Best Director. In 1963 he returned to his Lewtonian roots with the classic ghost story The Haunting; in 1977, he returned once more with the supernatural thriller Audrey Rose.
All parents Bill (John Beck) and Janice (Marsha Mason) wish for is a quiet, peaceful life with their 11-year-old daughter Ivy (Susan Swift). But their dreams turn to nightmares as Ivy is besieged first by terrifying ‘memories’ of events that never occurred… and then is stalked by a mysterious stranger (Anthony Hopkins) who claims that Ivy was, in fact, his daughter in another life.
Released in the wake of The Exorcist and The Omen, Audrey Rose is an intelligent, heartfelt drama that approaches its subject with an open mind and seriousness of intent that caught many off guard but typifies Wise’s previous genre forays. Sensitively played by a sterling cast at the top of their game, this underseen gem deserves a place on the shelf of any fan of classic horror. And boy, can little Susan Swift scream the house down…
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration by Arrow Films from a new 4K scan of the original 35mm camera negative
• High Definition (1080p) Blu-Ray presentation
• Original lossless mono audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Brand new audio commentary by film critic Jon Towlson
• Faith and Fraud, a brand new interview with magician Adam Cardone about reincarnation and belief in Audrey Rose
• Then and Now, a brand new featurette looking at the New York locations used in the film
• I’ve Been Here Before, archive visual essay by Lee Gambin looking at reincarnation in cinema
• Investigator: The Paranormal World of Frank De Felitta, an archive interview with the author and scriptwriter of Audrey Rose
• The Role of a Mother, an archive Interview with Marsha Mason
• Hypnotist: Inside the score for Audrey Rose, an archive interview with film music historian Daniel Schweiger
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Christopher Shy
• Collectors booklet featuring new writing by critics Kimberly Lindbergs and Johnny Mains
Memoria (2021) | A ponderous arthouse Cannes-winning folly
“A powerful meditation on connection, spiritual isolation and renewal” Screen Daily
“Spellbinding” The Hollywood Reporter
“Hypnotic… a unique cinematic voice” Empire
If you want to check out Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s metaphysical 2021 drama, Məmorᴉa, it’s available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital from Sovereign in the UK. But be warned! It’s artsy-fartsy and very, very, very slow. Here’s my lowdown.
Tilda Swinton takes centre-stage in this ‘meditative exploration of memory and the human condition’ which scored the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize in 2021. The Guardian described the film as “slow cinema that decelerates your heartbeat”, saying the actress and director make a “dream team”. It certainly is – slow! While Indiewire described it as “a transfixing deep-dive into the profound challenges of relating to people and places”. Hmm!
Here’s the official synopsis: While visiting her sister in Bogota, Jessica (Swinton) is awoken by a loud bang, audible only to her. Restless and disoriented, she roams the city in search of an explanation, becoming immersed in the aural richness around her – whispers in a hospital room, sound effects playing in an editing studio, indiscreet noises from a city square. Befriending an archaeologist studying human remains found in a tunnel under construction, Jessica travels to visit her at the excavation site, whereupon she confronts the unsettling sights and sounds that call her identity into question.
And after what seems like an eternity, Jessica’s journey ultimately leads to an ‘out of this world’ revelation. Swinton described this as one in which, “all the wisdom in the world is being revealed to this person at this moment”.
My verdict: Every scene goes on way longer than you’d expect and often with a static camera fixed in a wide shot or medium close-up. I thought the sound engineer scene was long but then came the fish scaling by the river scene (the meditative sound of the running water is guaranteed to send you into a lovely slumber) and a 17-minute scene of Jessica in silent contemplation as she taps into the vibrations reverberating inside her head.
And the big reveal? Well, after the bang whoosh! moment, I thought my DVD had frozen, but it’s just more static imagery, the sound of gentle rain, a barely audible radio broadcast, chirping insects and the end credits.
I feel really bad that I just didn’t get this film – and I don’t mind slow scenes (hey, I’m a big fan of Antonioni – but at least his camera moves). Maybe I should have watched the extras first, which do fill in the gaps. Nice soundscapes though.
LIMITED EDITION DUAL FORMAT EXTRAS:
Collector’s Edition Booklet – A collection of interviews and articles, including notes from British writer & screenwriter Tony Rayns, plus cast & crew biographies, plus additional behind-the-scenes photos and film stills from the production.
Q&A with Simon Field – Tilda Swinton (who executive produced the film) talks to Simon Field (also one of the film’s producers) at the ICA as they discuss Memoria, from the film’s inception, filming in Colombia, and how audiences have received the film worldwide (30m).
Q&A with Peter Bradshaw – British writer and chief film critic at The Guardian conducts an online zoom discussion with Tilda Swinton and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul about the making of Memoria (27m).
Roundtable Discussion – Simon Field discusses the making of the film with Tilda Swinton, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, producer Diana Bustamante, editor Lee Chatametikool, and sound designer Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr.
Behind the Scenes – Three selected sequences from the on-location shoot in Colombia.
Son of the White Mare (1981) | Marcell Jankovics’ kaleidoscopic animated masterpiece Special Edition Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment comes Hungarian animator Marcell Jankovics’ underground 1981 fantasy epic, Son of the White Mare [Fehérlófia], on Blu-ray as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series, presented from a director-approved 4K restoration.
Regarded as a definitive masterpiece of world cinema, this psychedelic adaptation of the narrative poetry from László Arany and ancient Hunnic, Avaric and Hungarian legends follows heroes Treeshaker (the titular son), Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer as they descend into the perilous Underworld on an epic quest to battle the forces of ancient evil and save the cosmos.
Utilising a kaleidoscopic medley of animation styles that’s reminiscent of the fluid techniques employed by Richard Williams in his unfinished fantasy epic, The Thief and the Cobbler, Son of the White Mare is a dizzy, stunning, transformative piece of cinema that’s guaranteed to have you spellbound throughout its 90-minutes of ever-changing colours and shapes. And it doesn’t shy on the sexual elements either – so not really suitable for impressionable young children.
Presented from a 2019 4K restoration supervised and approved by Jankovics, this release also includes a wealth of special extras, including the animator’s debut feature – and the first-ever Hungarian animated feature film, Johnny Corncob [János Vitéz] (1973), as well as a selection of his short films.
- Limited Edition O-Card slipcase
- 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a director-approved 4K digital restoration
- Johnny Corncob (János Vitéz) – Jankovics’ first animated feature, and the first ever Hungarian animated feature film, is also presented here in 1080p from a director-approved 4K digital restoration
- Sisyphus – short film
- Dreams on Wings – short film created as a commercial for Air India
- The Struggle (Küzdők) – short film
- Optional English Subtitles
- Brighter Colors – extensive interview with Marcell Jankovics from the Hungarian National Film Archive, filmed in 2020
- Making of János Vitéz – archival featurette from 1973
- The Director Talks – featurette with Jankovics produced by the Hungarian National Film Archive
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by film writer Rich Johnson
Available to order from:
Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/son-of-the-white-mare-feherlofia/
The Juniper Tree (1990) | Rediscover Nietzchka Keene’s mystical folkloric tale starring Björk on Blu-ray
If the name Nietzchka Keene doesn’t ring any bells, then that’s because the American filmmaker made only three features and a handful of shorts before her death from cancer, aged 52, in 2004. Primarily working as a university professor in Wisconsin, she did however have a unique eye as witnessed in her 1990 debut feature, The Juniper Tree, which has now been released in a 4k-restored print on Blu-ray from the BFI.
Loosely based on one of the Brothers Grimm’s most disturbing tales (whose themes include child abuse, murder and cannibalism), Keene’s arthouse take on the disturbing story casts a 21-year-old Björk as Margit who is taken out of her rural Icelandic village by her older sister Katia after their mother is put to death for being a witch.
Using magical incantations, Katia seduces widower Jóhann, who has a young son, Jónas, into a relationship and the two sisters settle into their new home. However, all is not good as Jonas refuses to accept Katia as his stepmother, forcing her to take drastic steps to ensure Johann doesn’t leave her.
Shot in black and white (in English) on a tiny budget on location in Iceland in 1986, Keene and her cinematographer Randy Sellars make atmospheric use of the dramatic landscape (especially the iconic Reynisfjara basalt columns, which have their genesis legend involving trolls) and the long shadows created by the low-lying sun (and the 23-hour daylight).
Visually inspired by the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer and Ingmar Bergman and Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro lighting technique, they have crafted a mystical mediation on magic and feminine power. The Juniper Tree never got a proper release, except in film festivals, so it’s ripe for rediscovery, as is seeing Björk making her screen debut (who was a young mum on the cusp of joining The Sugarcubes).
Restored by Wisconsin Center for Film & Theater Research and The Film Foundation, with funding provided from the George Lucas Family Foundation, on 4K using the original 35mm negatives.
- Presented in High Definition
- 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
- Commentary by Icelandic cultural scholar Dr Guðrún D Whitehead
- Still (1978, 4 min), Hinterland (1981, 25 min), Aves (1998, 7 min): three remastered short films by Nietzchka Keene (Steeped in religious symbolism, the animated Aves is a particular favourite of mine)
- Randy Sellars on The Juniper Tree (2019, 29 min): video interview with the film’s cinematographer
- Archive interview with Nietzchka Keene on her inspirations for making the film (2002, 15 min)
- Outtakes from The Juniper Tree (5 min)
- The Witch’s Fiddle (1924, 7 min): a British silent show produced by the rarity from the BFI National Archive
- Iceland – The Land of Ice and Fire (1929, 22 mins): Glimpses of Iceland from the silent cinema era (the score is so good, I’ve played this three or four times now)
- US theatrical trailer
- Collector’s booklet; credits and notes on the special features
The Juniper Tree can be ordered from home entertainment online retailers or from the BFI Shop at https://shop.bfi.org.uk/
Deathsport (1978) | The futuristic gladiators-on-motorcycles B-movie on Blu-ray
From 101 Films comes the UK Blu-ray release of Deathsport, from maverick producer Roger Corman, starring David Carradine.
‘In the year 3000, there’ll be no more Olympic Games, World Series, or Superbowl; there’ll be only DEATHSPORT!’
Following the Great Neutron Wars, the world is divided into desert wastelands and isolated city-states. Lord Zirpola (David McLean) captures the notorious ‘death ranger’ Kaz (David Carradine) to fight for survival opposite his laser-equipped Death Machines in his new game, Deathsport. Now Kaz must face his past, fight for his future, and save the city from the war that Lord Zirpola is getting ready to wage.
Produced under Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Deathsport was, and sort of is, a follow-up to Corman’s successful 1975 sci-fi actioner Death Race 2000. Again, it stars David Carradine, who had a five-picture contract with Corman, and this time motorbikes feature instead of cars. Production-wise, it looks like one of those US TV shows of the 1970s like Logan’s Run or The Fantastic Journey, while the film’s Death Machines are actually cheaply refurbed dirt bikes with an annoying/overly repetitive sound effect dubbing in for their engine sound.
Supporting Carradine, who looks like he’s aping his Kung Fu TV character, Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings (who tragically died in a car accident a year after the film was released) co-stars as a fellow ranger with her own mission, while screen villain Richard Lynch plays Kaz’s torturer. Apart from the climactic pyrotechnics, it’s really not that much cop – but the last word should go to director Allan Arkush, who was brought in to complete the film when original director, Nicholas Niciphor, left the project on medical grounds:
‘Mostly, we just blew up motorcycles. Lots of them. We also set some mutants on fire. And the stunning Claudia Jennings got naked. David Carradine… smoked a lot of high-grade weed and helped us to blow stuff up… Sad to say, I couldn’t save the picture.’
• Commentary with co-director Allan Arkush and Editor Larry Bock
• Theatrical trailer
• TV Spot
• Radio Spot
• Still Gallery
• English subtitles
The Cat and the Canary (1939) & The Ghost Breakers (1940) | A double-bill of ghosts and gags with Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard on Blu-ray
From Eureka Entertainment come the Bob Hope/Paulette Goodard classics The Cat and the Canary (1939) & The Ghost Breakers (1940) on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
The Cat and the Canary (dir. Elliott Nugent, 1939)
A decade after the death of an eccentric millionaire, his remaining relatives gather for the reading of the will at his abandoned mansion set deep in the Louisiana bayous. His niece Joyce (Paulette Goddard) is named the sole inheritor, but under the condition that she does not go insane within the next 30 days.
Timid radio actor Wally (Bob Hope) vows to protect Joyce, who must spend the night in the haunted mansion along with her jealous relatives, a creepy maid and a homicidal maniac who has just escaped from a nearby sanitarium…
A slick mix of wisecracking comedy and spooky thrills, The Cat and the Canary turned Bob Hope into a Hollywood star and won Paulette Goddard a 10-year contract with Paramount. One of the earliest ‘old dark house’ mysteries, first filmed as a silent in 1927, it was tailored to Hope’s characteristic style, which he’d go onto hone in his buddy comedies with Bing Crosby, and gave Goddard the chance to shine as the spirited heroine.
Stylishly staged, it boasts wonderfully gloomy performances from George Zucco as a stiff lawyer and Gale Sondergaard as the sinister housekeeper. Following this film, Zucco and Sondergaard went on to play the villainous Moriarty and The Spider Woman in Universal’s big-screen Sherlock Holmes adventures opposite Basil Rathbone. The success of the film led to Hope and Goddard re-teaming for The Ghost Breakers (1940).
The Ghost Breakers (dir. George Marshall, 1940)
Larry Lawrence (Hope), sought in connection with a murder he didn’t commit, eludes New York police by hiding in a steamer trunk belonging to Mary Carter (Goddard), who is sailing to Cuba to take possession of an inheritance – a haunted castle.
Sensing that Mary is in danger, Larry and his valet Alex (Willie Best) precede her to the island, which is seemingly inhabited by a ghost, a zombie and perhaps even a flesh ‘n’ blood fiend…
Romance, comedy and chills are all on offer in this follow-up, with Hope and Goddard battling earthly and un-earthly foes—and trying to keep from ending up as ghosts themselves.
This was the third film version of the 1909 play of the same name, and although it delivers on the gallows humour and atmospherics, the whiff of political incorrectness does permeate. Still, it’s a classic treat, and features a young Anthony Quinn in a dual role (just a year before his breakthrough performance in 1941’s Blood and Sand, starring Tyrone Power).
Hope also shows his Republican colours in one joke (which he repeats in the 1949 radio adaptation). Director George Marshall remade the film in 1953 (Scared Stiff), featuring Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, plus a cameo from Hope and Bing Crosby.
• 1080p presentation of both films from scans of the original film elements supplied by Universal, with The Ghost Breakers presented from a new 2K master
• Optional English SDH
• Audio commentary tracks on both films with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Kim Newman on The Cat and the Canary and The Ghost Breakers
• The Ghost Breakers radio adaptation (4 April 1949) – Do listen to this, as it’s a lot of fun, and Hope’s interaction with the live audience is a hoot.
• Limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann
Available to order from Eureka Store: https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/the-cat-and-the-canary-ghost-breakers/