Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers | A deadly game of felines vs vampires – but which side will you be on?

From Eureka Entertainment comes Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics (26 October)

Alice Krige and Brian Krause star in this supernatural thriller tale, directed by Mick Garris, about a pair of nomadic shape-shifting psychic vampires who prey on virtuous young women.

After fleeing Bodega Bay in California, the incestuous mother and son, Mary and Charles, set up home in Travis, Indiana and soon they have their werecat eyes on a new victim Tanya (Mädchen Amick). But when Tanya fights back, Mary’s full fury is unleashed…

Based on an original story written by King, this 1992 US horror was a big success for director Garris, making his first big studio film – although critics gave it a mauling. Somehow, I missed it first time around, but I’m so pleased it’s been given a new lease of life on Blu-ray.

It’s the cat’s meow and feline lovers will enjoy it so much – so will genre fans as it boasts some great in-jokes, plus cameos from not only King but also Clive Barker, Tobe Hooper, Joe Dante, John Landis – and Mark Hamill (sporting a bushy moustache).

Fresh-faced and in their prime, Krige and Krause (who was on contract with Columbia following his star turn in Return to the Blue Lagoon) ooze sensuality and charisma, while Amick (who had just come off Twin Peaks) makes for a spirited heroine. But the film’s stand-out star is Sparks the cat, who plays the heroic Clovis. He’s spunky, adorable and worth the price of buying this Blu-ray alone.

The Eureka Classics Blu-ray includes some terrific special features, with some insightful interviews from the cast and crew that are well worth tuning into – but only after you’ve seen the movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
  • English subtitles (SDH)
  • Audio Commentary with Mick Garris and film historian Lee Gambin (this was recorded during the Covid pandemic)
  • Audio Commentary with Mick Garris, Mädchen Amick, and Brian Krause
  • Feline Trouble: Interview with director Mick Garris
  • When Charles Met Tanya: Conversation with Mädchen Amick And Brian Krause
  • Mother & More: Interview with actress Alice Krige
  • Creatures & Cats: The FX of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers featurette
  • Behind-the-scenes footage
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

Dementia | A strange and surreal 1950s noir horror that’s a must-see

If you are a fan of surreal, experimental fare such as Carnival of Souls and Night Tide, then you are going to ‘get’ Dementia, which is now out on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from BFI.

Waking from a nightmare in a seedy LA hotel, the terrified woman (Adrienne Barrett) heads into the night-time streets and into the arms of lecherous men. Haunted by a childhood trauma involving her abusive father, she enacts her revenge by stabbing to death a wealthy trick (Bruno VeSota). But her world closes in on her when she cuts off his hand in order to retrieve a pendant that will identify her.

A highly stylised fusion of horror, film noir and expressionism, this 58-minute ‘dream within a dream silent’ is one of the most unique slices of American independent cinema.

Featuring a weird score from avant-garde composer George Antheil (and wailing from the legendary Marni Mixon), a cool West Coast jazz interlude from Shorty Rogers, and stark monochrome photography from Ed Wood’s go-to guy William C Thompson (that makes atmospheric use of Venice Beach’s dingy alleyways), this is the only film to be made by John Parker (using money from his mum, who owned a theatre chain). 

Dementia started out as a short, but when Bruno VeSota came on board, it was expanded into a longer film, and many believe that it was VeSota (who would go on to join Roger Corman’s milieu) who was the actual mastermind in charge of the visuals and underlying Freudian themes. 

Originally banned by the US censors, it got a limited release in 1955, then was acquired by producer Jack Harris who re-released it as Daughter of Horror in 1957, with added dialogue by Ed McMahon. But its biggest claim to fame is that it features in a crucial scene in The Blob (1958) – also produced by Harris. Here’s a pic from that cult fave.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Presented in Standard Definition and High Definition
• Audio commentary by Kat Ellinger
Daughter of Horror (1957, 55 mins): the alternative cut with narration by Ed McMahon
Alone with the Monsters (1958, 16 mins): a study of people’s unconscious cruelty to others, this experimental film was directed by Nazli Nour with cinematography by Walter Lassally
Trailers From Hell: Joe Dante on Daughter of Horror (2013, 2 mins)
Before & After: Restoring Dementia (2020, 3 mins): A look at the work done by the Cohen Film Collection for the 2015 restoration
Dementia trailer (2015)
Daughter of Horror trailer (1957)
• Stills and publicity gallery
• Collector’s booklet with new essays by Ian Schultz, William Fowler and Vic Pratt

976-EVIL | Robert Englund’s 1980s teen revenge horror hokum dials up on Blu-ray

Being a huge fan of Robert Englund (AKA Freddie Krueger) and Stephen Geoffreys (AKA Fright Night‘s Evil Ed), I’ve been wanting to see 976-EVIL forever (I somehow missed it during the VHS days). Now it’s been given a Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment and I must say, it’s a fun slice of 1980s horror hokum.

Geoffreys plays another nerdy outsider, Hoax who lives with his overbearing Bible-bashing mother Lucy (Sandy Dennis looking fabulously hideous in a big fake wig and charity shop clothes) and his motorcycle bad boy cousin Spike (Patrick O’Bryan).

Hoax wants to be just like his cool cousin and even lusts after his tailer park tottie Suzie (Lezlie Deane); but he’s regarded as the town dork, especially by a gang of poker-playing thugs led by another cool dude Marcus (Back to the Future‘s JJCohen), who sports a nice line of Return of the Living Dead vests.

Introduced to a novelty ‘horror scope’ phone line, Hoax soon enters a Faustian deal with its demonic owner – Mark Dark AKA Satan (Robert Picardo). And, as he takes his revenge with his new supernatural powers, he’s slowly transformed into a demonic creature that plans to open the gates of Hell.

Englund (who had just finished A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master), was given a free hand with this, his directorial debut. And while it’s not perfect, it has its moments thanks to a tongue-in-cheek script by future Oscar-winner Brian Helgeland and neat practical effects work from Robert Kurtzman, Howard Berger and Kevin Yagher (who was also working on creating the Chucky doll for Child’s Play at the same time). Horror fans will also have great fun name-checking the cool posters in the cinema scenes. The extras include some informative interviews, but I would have loved to have seen one from some of the cast, especially Geoffreys.

976-EVIL is released on Blu-ray by Eureka Entertainment as part of the Eureka Classics on 19 October

BLU-RAY EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
  • DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
  • English subtitles (SDH)
  • Audio commentary with Robert Englund and Nancy Booth Englund
  • 976-EVIL: home video version [105 mins, SD]: An extended version of the film from its original home video release on VHS
  • New interview with producer Lisa M Hansen (thoroughly enjoyed this as Lisa talks about the background behind getting the film made)
  • New interview with special make-up effects artist Howard Berger (The Walking Dead)
  • New interview with special effects technician Kevin Yagher (Nightmare on Elm Street)
  • Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann

Mademoiselle | Tony Richardson’s underrated 1966 psychological drama deserves a revisit

Directed by Tony Richardson, 1966’s Mademoiselle is a taut arthouse exploration of xenophobia and carnal desire, based on a scenario by Jean Genet, starring Jeanne Moreau.

Moreau plays the repressed titular schoolmistress whose seemingly motiveless acts of violence (poisoning cows, opening floodgates and burning down a barn) causes ructions in a small close-knit French village. Sexually transfixed by itinerant Italian woodcutter Manou (Ettore Manni), she takes out her frustrations on his young son Bruno (Keith Skinner, making his screen debut), by emotionally abusing him in class. But when she finally acts out her fantasies, her response incites the villagers into taking extreme action.

Jean Genet wrote the scenario in 1951 under the title Forbidden Desires (Les Reves interdis) or The Other Side of the Dream. He originally offered it to actress Anouk Aimée as a present on the occasion of her marriage to Nico Papatikis, but later sold the rights to director Louis Malle.

Richardson’s film adaptation was booed at Cannes. Critics felt the director’s ‘portentous treatment betrayed Genet’s vision’ – and Genet himself took no part in the filming or the final screenplay, which was written by famed French novelist Marguerite Duras.

But there is much to admire. Moreau – who had chosen the project for herself – gives an electric central performance, and the supporting cast is realistically portrayed (especially Manni, who speaks only Italian throughout which is key to the film’s underlining themes of xenophobia).

Forgoing any music and relying solely on the sounds of nature in the countryside lends the film a haunting quality. As does the stark monochrome ‘painterly’ photography that scored David Watkin a BAFTA nomination. This is best illustrated in the film’s standout scene – the raw and sensual night-long love-making between Mademoiselle and Manou in the woods. It’s deeply erotic, powerfully poetic and pure Genet.

The film is also shot on location in a village (Tarnac in the Corréze) very much like the one where Genet grew up (Alligny-en-Morvan) and where his original story is set.

An underrated thriller that’s deserving of a revisit. Out now on Blu-ray from BFI.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Presented in HD and SD
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
Doll’s Eye (1982, 75 min): BFI Production Board feature about male attitudes towards women in 1980s Britain, directed by Jan Worth.
Keith Skinner: Remembering Mademoiselle (2020, 36min): the former actor who went on to become a crime historian discusses his work on the film
• Image gallery
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet with writings by Jon Dear, Neil Young, Jane Giles (on Jean Genet) and Jan Worth

Georges Méliès A Trip to the Moon | The pioneering 1902 sci-fi gets a deluxe release

Illustrator, magician, filmmaker and inventor – Georges Méliès (8 December 1861 – 21 January 1938) was one of the true pioneers of early cinema, and Le Voyage dans la Lune (AKA A Trip to the Moon) remains his most celebrated efforts. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic writings, Méliès’ 1902 short (which runs for 13-minutes on this release) follows a group of scientists who blast off to the Moon where they are captured by the local inhabitants, the Selenites.

With Méliès taking a lead role, this is not only one of the earliest examples of sci-fi cinema but one of the most influential films in the entire history of cinema. The story itself might be slight, the set designs and simple special effects are a revelation.

Arrow Academy presents Méliès’ seminal classic in a limited edition, accompanied by a host of fantastic supplements. You get both the original black and white and the hand-painted colourised version (which also dates from 1902), plus there are a number of options over which soundtrack to listen to. They are a bit of a fiddle to get to (they’re located in the Special Features section) but worth checking out – particularly the prog-rock Dorian Pimpernel score for the colourised version. Also included is Georges Franju’s 1952 short Le Grand Méliès which is a something of a time capsule as it features both Melies’ second wife (aged 90) and his son, André (who plays his father).

A huge amount of effort has gone into the restoration of the hand-coloured version of Méliès’ masterwork and it’s all chronicled in the illuminating feature-length documentary that’s included here. Considering its age and the fact the original master negatives were destroyed, it looks pretty good. But I can only wonder what it would look like if it was given the same kind of remastering magic that Peter Jackson weaved on the archival World War One footage that transformed in his 2018 documentary They Shall Not Grow Old?

SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 surround audio
• Optional English subtitles
• Multiple scores: Black and White Version (Robert Israel score, Frederick Hodges piano accompaniment, Frederick Hodges piano and actors accompaniment); Colourised Version (Jeff Mills score, Dorian Pimpernel score, Serge Bromberg score, Serge Bromberg narration)
The Innovations of Georges Méliès: video essay by Jon Spira exploring the short and Méliès’ career
An Extraordinary Voyage: Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange’s 2011 documentary on the film featuring interviews with Costa Gavras, Michel Gondry, Michel Hazanavicius, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (80min)
Le Grand Méliès: The 1952 short film directed by Georges Franju about the life and work of Méliès
• 2020 re-release trailer
The Long-Lost Autobiography of Georges Méliès – Father of Sci-Fi and Fantasy Cinema: Available for the first time since 1961, previously unpublished in English, with annotations and supporting material

This Gun for Hire | The stylish 1942 film noir out on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the 1942 film-noir This Gun for Hire starring Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar and Alan Ladd, presented on Blu-ray from a 4K scan.

Lake plays nightclub chanteuse Ellen, and her detective beau Michael (Preston) is on the hunt for assassin-for-hire Philip Raven (Ladd), who has just scored a hit on a chemist with a secret formula. When Raven’s employer Gates (Cregar) double-crosses him, Raven seeks revenge – but dangerous forces are waiting in the shadows…

Adapted from Graham Greene’s 1936 novel (titled A Gun for Sale in the UK), This Gun for Hire is a stylish crime noir that became Ladd’s breakout role and featured Lake giving one of her most iconic performances. Such was the success of their onscreen chemistry, they would team up for the same year’s adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Glass Key before this one was even released. A winning combination of genuine suspense, taut storytelling and standout performances.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K scan of the original film elements
• Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
This Gun for Hire: Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Alan Ladd and Joan Blondell
This Gun for Hire: The Screen Guild Theater radio adaptation starring Alan Ladd Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Barry Forshaw, and Craig Ian Mann

 

Buster Keaton: Three Films – Volume 3 (1923-1927) | Our Hospitality, Go West and College on Blu-ray

Congrats once again to Eureka Entertainment for bringing another trio of classics from the silent comedy genius that is Buston Keaton on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. And once again it’s packaged with a host of extras and a fantastic collector’s booklet.

Our Hospitality (1923) – 2k restoration
In this gag-filled take on the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud, Keaton stars as the luckless William McKay, who is lured into a trap by a rival clan, the Canfields. But knowing that he won’t be killed as long as he remains inside their homestead, he tries to stay put against all obstacles. This was one of Keaton’s most significant features and a breakthrough in his career – it also features a rather scary climax involving some dangerous rapids. Included is a new audio commentary by silent film historian Rob Farr, and the shorter (55min) work-print, Hospitality, presented with a  commentary by film historian Polly Rose. Plus, the video essay Making Comedy Beautiful by Patricia Eliot Tobias.

Go West (1925) – 4k restoration
In this one, Keaton plays the penniless Friendless who ride the rails to work on an Arizona ranch. But when his beloved cow, Brown Eyes (who gets her own credit), seems set for the slaughterhouse, Friendless intervenes… The stand-out scene in this little beauty is a cattle stampede. You also get an audio commentary by film historians Joel Goss and Bruce Lawton, a video essay by John Bengtson on the filming locations, and another one, A Window on Keaton, by David Cairns. Plus, the short film Go West [1923, 12 mins], and a stills gallery.

College (1927) – 2k restoration
Keaton followed up 1926’s The General with this higher education comedy in which he plays the scholarly anti-sports Ronald who tries to win the heart of schoolgirl Mary (Anne Cornwall) by becoming the one thing he is not – an athlete. But when Mary’s jock beau Jeff (Harold Goodwin) tries to force her into marriage, Ronald comes to the rescue… Filled with inventive physical gags, this is my favourite in the set. Also included is a video essay by John Bengtson on College’s filming locations, The Railrodder [1965, 24 mins] starring Keaton in one of his final film roles, optional audio commentary with director Gerald Potterton and cameraman David De Volpi, and an audio Q&A with Potterton [55 mins]. Plus, the documentary Buster Keaton Rides Again [1965, 55 mins], and stills galleries.

Out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series.

Five Graves to Cairo | Billy Wilder’s World War II spy thriller on Blu-ray

The only survivor in his unit after a battle with Rommel’s soldiers in North Africa, British Corporal Bramble (Franchot Tone) staggers through the desert until arriving at the largely deserted Empress of Britain hotel, staffed only by owner Farid (Akim Tamiroff) and his French employee Mouche (Anne Baxter).

While Bramble hopes to hide there, the hotel doesn’t remain deserted for long – Rommel (a scene-stealing Erich von Stroheim) and his men arrive and take over the building as new headquarters. Bramble assumes the identity of a recently killed waiter… only to discover that the waiter was also serving as a German spy, a role Bramble now has to adopt for his own survival. And while Mouche knows Bramble’s true identity, she has her own reasons for not wanting to aid in his plot.

Filled with duplicity and danger at every turn, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) was Billy Wilder’s second Hollywood film and an underrated early gem from the filmmaker, who would strike gold with his next project, Double Indemnity.

The underrated World World II spy thriller also demonstrated that Wilder and screenwriter Charles Brackett – who would collaborate on 13 films, winning screenplay Oscars for The Lost Weekend and Sunset Boulevard – were already working at the peak of their powers, delivering an espionage yarn that never lets up on the suspense.

Five Graves to Cairo is out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinemas Series.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a brand new 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Billy Wilder on Five Graves to Cairo
Five Graves to Cairo episode of Lux Radio Theatre (1943), starring Franchot Tone and Anne Baxter
• Theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by critic Richard Combs; and an archival article from 1944 about Wilder and Charles Brackett

 

Walkabout | Nicolas Roeg’s enigmatic coming-of-age story shimmers in 4K on Blu-ray

Following the suicide of their father (John Meillon), 16-year-old Mary (Jenny Agutter) and her seven-year-old brother Peter (Luc Roeg) are left stranded in the vast Australian outback. But their salvation comes when they cross paths with an Aboriginal boy (David Gulpilil) on his rite of passage ‘walkabout’. He teaches them how to survive in the wilderness, but a clash of cultures leads to tragic consequences…

1971’s Walkabout is one of the best films ever made about Australia – but was actually directed by a non-Australian. Nicolas Roeg brings his trademark enigmatic approach in both his visuals and his story-telling, which was mostly improvised from Edward Bonds’ 14-page adaptation of James Vance Marshall’s 1959 novel. Taking centre stage is the great Australian landscape, which Roeg lenses to hauntingly magnificent effect in order to build his themes about our destructive Western society and the loss of innocence.

The young cast is ideally suited to their roles: especially Luc Roeg (the director’s son) who doesn’t so much act the part of the grounded, yet curious Peter, but totally is the part (I actually wanted to trade places with him as he learns so much); as is Yolngu traditional dancer Gulpilil (making his acting debut, age 16) who brings much of his own heritage to his role, most significantly a courtship dance that would normally never be witnessed outside his community. Agutter, meanwhile, is the perfect embodiment of the young girl on the cusp of adulthood. But special mention must go to the legendary John Meillon, whose brief role calls to mind another film about Australia made by a non-Australian that was also released in 1971 – Wake in Fright.

Like all of Roeg’s films, Walkabout met with mixed reviews on its release in 1971, but has gone on to become a seminal classic loved by audiences and critics alike – and is one the 50 films you should see by the age of 14 (according to the British Film Institute). And the best way to revisit this masterpiece is with Second Sight Films stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray (out on 31 August), which features a brand new 4K scan and restoration and a host of extras, including Marshall’s novel, a first draft script book and a collector’s book with new essays by Sophie Monks Kaufman, Simon Abrams and Daniel Bird.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Brand new 4K scan and restoration
• A new audio commentary with Luc Roeg and David Thomson
• Producing Walkabout: A new interview with Producer Si Litvinoff
• Luc’s Walkabout: A new interview with Luc Roeg
• Jenny in the Outback: a new interview with Jenny Agutter
• Remembering Roeg: a new interview with Danny Boyle
• 2011 BFI Q&A with Nicolas Roeg, Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg
• Archive introduction by Nicolas Roeg
• English SDH subtitles for the hearing impaired

The Man Who Laughs | The influential silent classic starring Conrad Veidt gets a lauded 4k restoration release

From Eureka Entertainment comes 1928’s The Man Who Laughs on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, and presented from Universal’s 4K restoration, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

Following the success of The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) which turned Lon Chaney into a superstar, Universal chief Carl Laemmle decided the studio’s next Gothic film super-production would be drawn from another Victor Hugo novel, The Man Who Laughs.

Set in England in the 1680s, the story centres on a young nobleman, Gwynplaine (Conrad Veidt), whose face was mutilated into a permanent grin when he was a child by his executed father’s royal court enemies. Joining a travelling carnival as The Laughing Man, the now-adult Gwynplaine falls in love with his blind companion Dea (Mary Philbin), but his disfigurement causes him to believe he is unworthy of her love. When his royal lineage is discovered and he is granted a peerage, he must choose between marrying a duchess (Olga Baklanova) or fleeing with Dea.

When Lon Chaney became unavailable to play Gwynplaine, Laemmle brought in the ideal alternative – Conrad Veidt, who was also a master at physical performance as witnessed by his iconic turns as Cesare the somnambulist in Das Cabinet des Dr Caligari (1920) and as Ivan the Terrible in Waxworks (1924).

At the helm was German Expressionist director Paul Leni and cinematographer Gilbert Warrenton, who had scored a big hit with Cat in the Canary the previous year. Also on board was Jack Pierce, whose startling makeup on Veidt would echo through the decades – becoming the inspiration for The Joker in the 1940 Batman comic.

Tragedy, romance, and even swashbuckling swordplay all have their part to play in this incredible piece of silent cinema, which features excellent performances from Veidt (whose mannerisms are paid homage to by Joaquin Phoenix in 2019’s Joker), Philbin and Baklanova (who would go on to play another sleazy character in Tod Browning’s Freaks in 1932) and some truly astonishing imagery (especially the fantastic character faces that Leni assembles).

A silent classic that needs repeated viewings, and a great addition to Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from Universal’s 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 (stereo) score by the Berklee School of Music
• Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 (mono) 1928 Movietone score
• Kim Newman on Paul Leni (informative as usual)
The Face Detectives: video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson (well-researched with some arty editing – a highlight)
Paul Leni and The Man Who Laughs – video essay by John Sioster (also well researched)
• Rare stills gallery
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Travis Crawford, and Richard Combs

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