The Appointment | The rarely-seen 1980’s Brit horror starring Edward Woodward gets a BFI Flipside release

Courtesy of the BFI, comes the 44th Flipside release, The Appointment, the rarely-seen British horror directed by Lindsay Vickers, on Blu-ray (11 July) and on iTunes and Amazon Prime (25 July).

Edward Woodward and Jane Merrow star as suburban parents Ian and Dianna, who finds themselves troubled by prophetic nightmares when Ian is unable to attend his daughter’s violin recital. Are dark forces about to be unleashed upon their comfortable life? And what has it to do with the mysterious disappearance of a local schoolgirl many years ago?

The Appointment was the only feature film directed by British filmmaker Lindsey Vickers. After honing his skills as a third and second assistant director on a host of 1970s Hammer films, including Taste the Blood of Dracula and Vampire Circus, and the Amicus horror, And Now the Screaming Starts, Vickers helmed a short film, The Lake.

In this 33-minute creeper, a young couple (played by Gene Foad and Julie Peasgood) and their loveable rottweiler (courtesy of Joan Woodgate, who supplied the dogs for The Omen) are beset by evil spirits at a lake beside a country house where a series of brutal murders took place. This was Vickers’ calling card to the British film industry. But no offers came, so he took up the difficult challenge (financially) to make his own feature, The Appointment.

Director Lindsey Vickers on set with Samantha Weysom, Jane Merrow and Edward Woodward.

Drawing on similar spooky themes he explored in The Lake, Vickers’ crafted a slow-burning chiller that culminates in a WTF ‘edge-of-your-seat’ ending. The director remarks in the extras that he felt the film was too slow, but watching the BFI’s new Blu-ray release, it only makes it all the more unsettling.

Before the shock ending (which features some adrenaline-pumping stunt work on location in Snowdonia), you are led into a false sense of security as you watch a normal family domestic drama play out. Woodward’s character, Ian, is miffed that he has been called away on business, and this doesn’t bode well with his musically-gifted teenage daughter, Joanne (Samantha Weysom). She may or may not be a conduit to the evil powers at play, and it’s never fully explained – as is a car mechanic’s gruesome demise. But, again, it’s what makes the film so bewitching and unique.

Oh, and watch out for the scene involving a telephone box – it’s a masterclass in creating suspense through careful editing. Also making a return appearance are Joan Woodgate’s rottweilers (although much more menacing this time around).

Following its British television airing, The Appointment, quickly faded into obscurity and, when the directing offers failed to materialise, Vickers turned his hand to commercials for the rest of his career. Thankfully, the BFI’s Flipside team have resurrected Vickers’ film for a new generation of film fans to appreciate, alongside some great extras (my favourite being an interview with Lindsay and his wife Jan – their memories of watching the film’s TV debut are a hoot).

Special features

  • Presented on Blu-ray in Standard Definition
  • Newly recorded audio commentary by director Lindsey Vickers
  • Vickers on Vickers (2021, 41 mins): the director looks back on his life and career
  • Another Outing (2021, 16 mins): Jane Merrow recalls co-starring in The Appointment
  • Appointments Shared (2022, 7 mins): Lindsey and Jan Vickers remember the making of the ‘haunted film’
  • Framing The Appointment (2022, 19 mins): Lindsey Vickers recalls making the film
  • Remembering The Appointment (2022, 10 mins): assistant director Gregory Dark shares his recollections of the film
  • The Lake (1978, 33 mins): Lindsey Vickers’ eerie short finds two young lovers choosing to picnic at a spot haunted by echoes of a violent event
  • Newly recorded audio commentary on The Lake by Lindsey Vickers
  • Splashing Around (2020, 18 mins): actor Julie Peasgood on making The Lake
  • Galleries featuring annotated scripts, storyboards, images and production materials
  • Newly commissioned sleeve art by Matt Needle
  • Illustrated booklet with new writing by Lindsey Vickers including a message about this release, Vic Pratt and William Fowler; biographies of Edward Woodward and Jane Merrow by Jon Dear, notes on the special features and credits

High Crime (1973) | Enzo G Castellari’s Italian crime thriller starring Franco Nero on Blu-ray and DVD

From Studiocanal comes director Enzo G Castellari’s 1973 Italian-Spanish crime thriller High Crime on Blu-ray and DVD (with a new 4k restoration print).

Franco Nero takes centre stage as Vice-Commissioner Belli, the assistant chief inspector in Genoa investigating Lebanese drug traffickers. Seeking information, he turns to veteran gangster Cafiero (Fernando Rey), but can he be trusted? When Belli’s boss, Commissioner Aldo Scavino (James Whitmore), is murdered, Belli is forced into taking his position – which puts his daughter and his girlfriend (Delia Boccardo) in jeopardy.

Bolstered by Castellari’s eye for edge-of-your-seat action sequences (many of which take place using real traffic), subtle political pretext (drawing on the real-life terrorist assassination of Italian State Police officer, Luigi Calabresi, and the country’s state of unrest), and gritty location filming (in Genoa and Marseille), High Crime was the Italian director’s first foray into the poliziotteschi subgenre. Inspired by Bullitt and The French Connection, High Crime became a massive hit in Italy (under the title, La polizia incrimina la legge assolve) and heralded the first of seven collaborations between Castellari and Nero, who gives one of the most OTT performances of his career.

The restoration makes everything look crisp and pristine (even those dark and dank alleyways in Genoa), so much so that you might find yourself chuckling at the dummies used in the action sequences, as well as Nero’s dyed hair (is it ginger or blonde?). But then his barnstorming turn is the stand-out here, as is the psychedelic prog-rock score by composer brothers Guido and Maurizio De Angelis, which is said to have given rise to the Italian groove (and used many times – from Umberto Lenzi’s Napoli Violenta to Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof). The only downside to this release is that it’s the cut version (missing about 10 minutes, including a climactic finale). To see that you have to fork out big bucks for the 2021 German Blu-ray or find the old 23rd Century DVD, The Marseilles Contract.

High Crime is released as part of Studiocanal’s new Cult Classics label that also includes Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968) and Extreme Prejudice (1987). This new release includes interviews with director Castellari and cameraman Girometti, expertly conducted by Eugenio Ercolani. A third featurette, High and Dry, about stunt choreographer Massimo Vanni, is listed, but it doesn’t appear on the preview disc I have.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

  • A Criminal Conversation – interview director Enzo G Castellari exploring the production of the film 40 years ago.
  • The Scene of the Crime – interview with the camera operator Roberto Girometti on his experiences from the film.

LISTEN TO THE SOUNDTRACK HERE

Edge of Sanity (1989) | The lurid Anthony Perkins Jekyll and Hyde meets Jack the Ripper horror on Blu-ray

When his experiments into a new anaesthetic using cocaine go awry, respected London physician Dr Jekyll (Anthony Perkins) takes off into the night in pursuit of sensual pleasures under the guise of Mr Jack Hyde. As his wife Elisabeth (Glynis Barber) continues her charity work with Whitechapel’s fallen women, Jekyll’s growing addiction draws him into an escalating cycle of lust and murder as the seemingly unstoppable Hyde. Can he be saved? Does he want to be saved?

Produced by the legend that is Harry Alan Towers (AKA the king of the co-production deal), this 1989 independent horror is an intoxicating fusion of Robert Louis Stephenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Jack the Ripper’s real-life reign of terror over Victorian London – but with an interesting (contemporary) spin that incorporates the power of drugs to unleash the unconscious mind.

From an idea by Towers (under his Peter Welbeck pseudonym) and helmed with a surreal, lurid eye by French erotica director Gérard Kikoïne, Edge of Sanity afforded Perkins one of the best performances in his final years before his death in 1992. Sporting just a bit of red eyeliner and red lipstick, a pallid complexion, and greased down bangs, he brings his bisexual drug fiend Hyde to savage, livid life (and chews the scenery in the best possible way), and effectively counterpoints this with a gentlemanly, staid Jekyll, who is the embodiment of Victorian values.

The film also boasts hugely atmospheric lighting and camerawork, and evocative Budapest location work. Indeed just some set-up shots were filmed in London, but you’d never guess – except for one scene that takes place at Budapest’s famed Art Nouveau Gellért Thermal Bath. Kikoïne also makes excellent use of the red and pink-tinged brothel set for the film’s kinky hallucinogenic scenes that border on Ken Russell-styled excess.

Thanks to this new 2k restoration, this is the best the film has ever looked. Indeed I had only ever seen it before in a muddy VHS print, so this has been a revelation – as have been the extras, which add a new dimension to the horror slasher.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS

• Brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original uncompressed stereo audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by writer David Flint and author/filmmaker Sean Hogan
French Love: an interview with director Gérard Kikoïne (French with subtitles)
Staying Sane: Gérard Kikoïne discusses Edge of Sanity (French with subtitles)
Edward’s Edge: an interview with Edward Simons
Over the Edge: Stephen Thrower on Edge of Sanity (ED: loved Stephen’s analysis of the film’s anachronisms which places Hyde into a late-1980s post-punk, goth and alt clubbing context and compares them with the visual style of Derek Jarman)
Jack, Jekyll and Other Screen Psychos: an interview with Jack the Ripper in Film and Culture author Dr Clare Smith
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Jon Towlson

Outside the Law (1920) | Tod Browning’s silent gangster thriller starring Lon Chaney sure packs a punch

From the director who gave us Dracula (1931) and Freaks (1932) and the legendary silent screen star who was the Man of a Thousand Faces, comes the gritty 1920 American crime drama, Outside the Law, on Blu-ray (from a 4k restoration) as part of Eureka! Entertainment’s The Masters of Cinema Series.

While under contract at Universal Studios (1919-1923), director Tod Browning crafted a string of melodramas with strong female protagonists, including nine features with the studio’s leading actress of the era, Priscilla Dean, who was best known for her anti-heroine tough girl roles. Following his breakout role in 1919’s The Miracle Man, Lon Chaney became America’s foremost character actor thanks to his acting prowess and his incredible make-up skills.

Chaney and Dean first paired together in Browning’s 1919 melodrama The Wicked Darling, and on the back of that film’s success were reunited for Outside the Law, which not only showcases their talents but also Browning’s burgeoning aesthetic for melodrama and the grotesque. It also heralded the beginning of Chaney and Browning’s 10 picture collaborations which would result in some of their finest work on screen.

Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown, Outside the Law sees Dean playing tough gangster Molly Madden, the daughter of mob boss Silent Madden (Ralph Lewis) who is trying to go straight with the help of Confucianist philosopher, Chang Lo (E Alyn Warren). When he is framed for murder by notorious hoodlum Black Mike Sylva (Lon Chaney), Molly seeks out safecracker Dapper Bill (Wheeler Oakman) to stage a double-cross to get revenge. Let the chase begin!

Boasting elaborate set design, stylised camera compositions, meticulous editing, and thrilling action sequences, including a very bloody and violent climax that gives even today’s big-budget crime dramas a run for their money, Outside the Law is one of the most exciting, intelligent, psychological driven American silent crime dramas that makes it a certified genre classic.

While Dean is certainly the star of the film, it’s Chaney who steals every scene, and he gets to show his range and make-up skills in two very diverse roles: that of the vicious Black Mike and as Ah Wing, the heroic Chinese servant who ends up saving the day. Now, I know this is a [SPOILER], but Chaney gets to shoot himself in a cleverly-constructed scene that took two weeks to film. For that scene alone, it’s worth seeking out this gorgeous restoration release.

Now while much effort has gone into the preservation of the film, two short sequences were impossible to repair – and while it is unfortunately this happens during a crucial moment in the film, it is still great to see Outside the Law restored and made available to a new generation of cinema lovers more than a century after it was released.

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration conducted by Universal Pictures
  • Musical score by Anton Sanko
  • New video interview with author/critic Kim Newman
  • 1926 re-release alternate ending (from a rare Universal Show-At-Home 16mm print)
  • A collector’s booklet featuring an essay by Richard Combs

Available to order from: Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/outside-the-law/

The Initiation of Sarah | The 1978 TV tale of telekinetic terror makes its restored Blu-ray debut

WELCOME TO HELL WEEK!

Shy teen Sarah Goodwin (Kay Lenz) secretly harbours psychic powers which she cannot fully control. When she and her sister Patty (Morgan Brittany) arrive at the prestigious Waltham College, their mother’s plans to have them both join her old sorority, Alpha Nu Sigma (ΑΝΣ), are scuttled by its snooty Queen Bee president, Jennifer Lawrence (Morgan Fairchild), who chooses Patty over Sarah.

Separated from her sister, Sarah is taken in by a rival sorority, Phi Epsilon Delta (ΦΕΔ AKA Pigs, Elephants and Dogs), which is made up of a group of independently-minded misfits. But Sarah soon becomes embroiled in a bizarre revenge plot masterminded by her satanic house mother, Mrs Erica Hunter (Shelley Winters).

Helmed by veteran British director Robert Day (The Haunted Strangler, First Man into Space, She) from a treatment written by Tom Holland (making his debut here), The Initiation of Sarah was part of a wave of made-for-TV horror movies that were shown on the US ABC network in the 1970s. This one aired on 6 February 1978, so was a late entry in what had started out as the ABC Movie of the Week in 1969, and which gave us such delights as Duel (1971), The Night Stalker (1972), Satan’s School for Girls (1973), Trilogy of Terror (1975), and so much more.

Growing up in this decade, I was lucky enough to have caught these – and they certainly fuelled my appetite for all things creepy, weird, and occasionally taboo. I have a lot of love for The Initiation of Sarah and am so pleased it’s been given a new lease of life on Blu-ray (and restored in all its kitsch 70s pastel glory). Yes, it does bare quite a few similarities to Carrie (most notably the shower scene, Jennifer’s cruel prank and the fiery climax), but it’s the cast that really sells it for me.

First and foremost, Shelley Winters! What can I say! She commands every scene she’s in as the mysterious Mrs Hunter, who starts out all nice and cuddly before revealing her evil true colours (in a flaming red robe, no less). And when she does, she certainly lets loose – very much like her wicked witch character in 1972’s Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (who also – SPOILER – goes up in flames).

Then there are two future US soap legends, Morgan Brittany and Morgan Fairchild, a fit-looking Robert Hays (just before his Flying High fame) – he effectively plays a character similar to John Travolta in Carrie – and Tisa Farrow (long before her Euro-horror turns) as Mouse, a withdrawn music student who is infatuated with Sarah.

When I first saw this on Australian TV in the 1980s, I knew there was something going on under the surface of Mouse’s attraction to Sarah (just check out those lingering looks between them). And thanks to the extras on the Arrow release, the queer connection is deffo playing out. Indeed, listening to the comments by the Gaylords of Darkness podcasters (who are a hoot) and Samantha McLaren (sporting fantastic batwing glasses) you’ll garner a new appreciation of the film from a queer perspective.

And if you count in Amanda Reyes’ commentary and Alexandra Heller-Nicholas’ feminist analysis – there’s a lot more to The Initiation of Sarah than just being a small screen Carrie rip-off. It’s all about sisters doin’ it for themselves!

Mind you, Tom Holland’s original idea was to have Sarah turn her victims into animals. Now, if only the terrible 2006 remake had gone down that dark path instead of the teen friend one?

On a trivia note, star Kay Lenz had been one year married to singer David Cassidy at the time (they divorced in 1983), while playing her ‘bitchy’ adopted mum was Kathryn Crosby (AKA Mrs Bing Crosby). Now, wouldn’t it have been cool if David and Bing had been asked to do a song together for the film? It certainly would have been way better than the annoying theme tune by the legendary Scottish composer Johnny Harris, who worked with the likes of Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones and scored the terrific jazz-fuelled Fragments of Fear (sorry Johnny).

The Arrow Video Blu-ray is out on 20 June 2022

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• 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 TV Movie expert Amanda Reyes
Welcome to Hell Week: A Pledge’s Guide to the Initiation of Sarah, visual appreciation by Stacie Ponder and Anthony Hudson, co-hosts of the Gaylords of Darkness podcast
Cracks in the Sisterhood: Second Wave Feminism and The Initiation of Sarah, a visual essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
The Intimations of Sarah, interview with film critic Samantha McLaren looking at witchcraft, empowerment, TV movies, and telekinetic shy girls post-Carrie
The Initiation of Tom, a new interview with Tom Holland
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Luke Insect
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Lindsay Hallam and Alexandra West

Vampyr | The uncanny 1932 German horror returns to the big screen with an all-new 2k restoration for its 90th anniversary

“★★★★★ A vampire film like no other… a waking nightmare of eerie, ethereal horror” – Total Film

“As close as you get to a poem on film” – Guillermo del Toro 

Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment comes the release of the 2K restoration of director Carl Theodor Dreyer’s enduring 1932 Germany horror Vampyr, in cinemas (UK & Ireland from 20 May) and on Blu-ray as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series (also 20 May).

The first foray into sound filmmaking by one of cinema’s pivotal artists, Vampyr remains a cornerstone work of the horror genre. The dreamlike tale of an occult-obsessed student’s visit to the small French village of Courtempierre, as he is drawn into the unsettling mystery around a stricken family’s struggle with malevolent forces, remains an unparalleled evocation of the uncanny.

Adapting Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 story, In a Glass Darkly, Dreyer’s ceaseless innovation delivers a tour-de-force of supernatural phantasmagoria and creeping unease, via audacious camera work and sound design, as well as a mesmerising performance from the film’s producer, aristocrat Nicolas de Gunzburg (credited as Julian West), in the central role of occult student, Julian West.

Presented from an all-new 2K restoration by the Danish Film Institute (completed in 2020), and taking more than a decade to complete, this is regarded as the most definitive incarnation of Vampyr possible.

LIMITED-EDITION BLU-RAY (3000 COPIES) FEATURES
• Hardbound Slipcase
• All-new 2K digital restoration of the German version, with an uncompressed mono soundtrack
• Optional unrestored audio track
• Audio commentaries from critic and programmer Tony Rayns and Vampyr fan Guillermo del Toro
• Visual essay by scholar Casper Tybjerg on Dreyer’s Vampyr influences
• Interview with Kim Newman on Vampyr‘s place within vampire cinema
• Two interviews with music historian David Huckvale
Carl Th. Dreyer (1966) – a documentary by Jörgen Roos
• Two deleted scenes, removed by the German censor in 1932
The Baron: short MoC documentary about Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg
• Optional English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet featuring rare production ephemera, a 1964 interview with Baron Nicolas de Gunzberg, and essays by Tom Milne, Jean and Dale Drum, and film restorer Martin Koerber

VAMPYR Limited Edition Blu-ray available to order from the Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/vampyr-limited-edition-box-set-3000-copies/

VAMPYR 90th Anniversary Screenings www.vampyr90.co.uk

Demonia (1990) | Lucio Fulci’s satanic sisters shocker gets a UK 4k release

From Arrow Video comes the UK release of the 4K restoration of Lucio Fulci’s 1990 Sicily-set supernatural shocker, Demonia, alongside a stunning array of special extras – including the 2021 documentary Fulci Talks, in which the maverick Italian director spills all about his oeuvre.

While excavating an ancient Greek amphitheatre in southern Sicily, Canadian archaeologist Professor Paul Evans (Brett Halsey) and his team set up camp near a medieval monastery where, in 1486, five heretic nuns were crucified for worshipping the Devil. Evans’ protégé, Liza Harris (Meg Register), has been having visions of the nuns, and when she finds their skeletons in the crypt, she awakens the vengeful spirit of the Abbess. Let the killing begin!

Demonia is by no means one of Fulci’s best films, but it’s not his worst either. In fact, despite its myriad of flaws (like the faulty gauze camera effect) and its serious lack of a decent budget (which Stephen Thrower elucidates on his in his excellent commentary), there’s a lot to like.

First up is Brett Halsey, one of Fulci’s favourite actors. He brings much gravitas to an otherwise lacklustre supporting cast (although his character is a mean-spirited misogynist bastard).

Next are the film’s stunning Sicilian settings, including the Antiquarium di Eraclea Minoa near Agrigento and the monastery of San Pellegrino in Caltabellotta, just an hour’s drive from Palermo (I’m so visiting when I next return to Sicily). Also featured is a deconsecrated church crypt in the town of Sciacca containing real-life corpses (I do hope I can get access, too).

Then there are a couple of disturbing Fulci-esque set pieces, including a baby being burned alive, Lino Salemme’s butcher having his tongue nailed down after being attacked by a carcass of meat, and a young boy watching his father’s intestines spilling out as he is quartered in a trap unwittingly set by the soon-to-be blood-splattered child. Oh, and the award for the most hilarious of Fulci’s eyeball gouging set-ups goes to the cat attack on Carla Cassola’s medium (using obviously stuffed kitties).

To make up the film’s running time, Fulci plays Inspector Carter, who is investigating the murders, and his beloved boat (not the Mornin Lady II) also makes a cameo. Demonia never got a theatrical release, and it wasn’t until 1998 that it made its way to VHS (in Japan) and then DVD in 2001. But now it’s heading to Blu-ray; it’s ripe for a reappraisal.

Demonia is presented here in a brand-new restoration, and unlike the pics I’ve used in this post, it looks terrific (though that gauze effect becomes more noticeable, as do the lame prosthetics). This is the same print that’s used in the Severin Films release in the US, with the same extras ported over. However, Arrow has done UK fans a favour by including the documentary Fulci Talks – surely the last word(s) from the great man himself. Check them out below. Arrow’s release is out on 6 June.

2-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Deluxe crucifix-style packaging featuring original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Kat Ellinger

DISC 1: DEMONIA
• 4K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative
• Restored original lossless mono English and Italian soundtracks
• Optional English subtitles
• English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci author Stephen Thrower
Holy Demons: interview (via Skype) with co-writer/assistant director Antonio Tentori
Of Skulls and Bones: an interview with camera operator Sandro Grossi
Fulci Lives!!!: camcorder footage of a visit to the Demonia set, including an interview with Lucio Fulci
• Original trailer

DISC 2: FULCI TALKS
Fulci Talks, a feature-length 2021 documentary based on an in-depth video interview from 1993 in which the director talks about sin, sailing, anarchic cinema, and reevaluation. This is the last word in all things Fulci – who is much more than the Godfather of Gore – and will certainly make you want to track down his earlier work.
• Original lossless mono Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles

Revolver | Sergio Sollima’s radical 1970s crime Italian thriller starring Oliver Reed fires up on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes director Sergio Sollima’s hard-hitting 1970s poliziottesco, Revolver, starring Oliver Reed and Fabio Testi, on Blu-ray from a brand-new 4K restoration as part of the Eureka Classics range. Available from 16 May 2022.

Milan prison warden Vito Cipriani (Reed) finds himself in a moral maze when kidnappers snatch his wife Anna (Agostina Belli) and demand the release of pretty crook Milo Ruiz (Testi).

Allowing Ruiz to escape, Cipriani plans to use him to get his wife back – but it soon becomes clear that powerful forces want Ruiz dead, as he is key to the assassination of a notorious French capitalist.

Gaining help from Ruiz’s lover, Carlotta (Paola Pitagora), to get over the mountain border, the determined lawman heads to Paris with Ruiz in tow to confront the kidnappers!

‘Makes Death Wish look like wishful thinking!’ was the tagline that accompanied Revolver upon its belated 1976 US release (where it was retitled Blood in the Streets), but this 1973 Italian crime thriller is much more than a gun-totting exploitation.

Versatile Italian director and screenwriter Sergio Sollima (17 April 1921 – 1 July 2015), gained international cult status with his trio of groundbreaking spaghetti Westerns, The Big Gundown (1966); Face to Face (1967); and Run, Man, Run (1968), before turning his eye to the poliziotteschi genre with 1970’s Violent City, starring Charles Bronson.

1973’s Revolver was his second crime thriller and again the highly-political, antiauthoritarian filmmaker brings to it his signature allegorical style to great effect. Here it’s all about corruption at the highest level and how his two protagonists find themselves at its mercy.

It’s bleak, hard-hitting and radical, bolstered by a powerhouse performance from Reed (who brings great depth to his character), a charismatic turn from Testi, adrenaline-inducing action scenes on the streets of Paris, and a terrific score from Sollima’s long-time collaborator Ennio Morricone (which includes the maestro’s classic Un Amico theme tune).

Due to poor handling by its producers, the film flopped in Italy and was relegated to the exploitation circuit in the US – but now we can fully appreciate its true worth courtesy of this new 4k restoration. A must-see!

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • 1080p presentation on Blu-ray from a 4K restoration
  • English and Italian audio options (I preferred the English track as you get Oliver Reed dubbing his own voice, although his accent is rather odd)
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Audio commentary by Barry Forshaw and Kim Newman (who supply some great trivia like Daniel Berreta, who plays pop star Al Niko in the film, is the Italian voice dub for Arnold Schwarzenegger)
  • Film scholar Stephen Thrower on Revolver (and director Sollima’s career)
  • Tough Girl: interview with Paola Pitagora (the Italian actress looks back at her time on the film, with some interesting anecdotes about Oliver Reed)
  • Action Man: archival interview with actor Fabio Testi (Filmed in June 2006, the still very handsome former actor discusses his career from stunt man to leading man, including his work with directors Sollima, Lucio Fulci and Stelvio Massi)
  • English credits
  • Original theatrical and international trailers
  • Collector’s booklet featuring essays by Howard Hughes on the making of Revolver and on Ennio Morricone’s ‘Eurocrime’ soundtracks
  • Limited Edition O-Card slipcase [2000 copies]

Available to order from: Eureka Store https://eurekavideo.co.uk/movie/revolver/

Saint-Narcisse (2020) | Bruce LaBruce’s transgressive love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers

Since making his debut with 1991’s No Skin Off My Ass, Toronto filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has challenged audiences with his startling, sexually explicit films whose subject matter has included amputee sex, hardcore porn, gang-rape, castration and racially-motivated violence. Following 2013’s Gerontophilia, however, LaBruce changed direction, eschewing the extreme for a more meditative approach to his ongoing fascination with sexual taboos.

With Saint-Narcisse, he has crafted his most accomplished piece of transgressive cinema to date. Nominated for the Queer Lion award at Venice Film Festival, this anarchic love letter to 1970s psychosexual thrillers looks certain to mark a turning point for queer cinema’s former enfant terrible. But never fear; he still has a few shocks in store – this time, its twincest. 

Félix-Antoine Duval stars as 22-year-old Dominic, a sexually-adventurous young man in love with his reflection but doesn’t really know himself fully. Finding some unopened letters in his grandmothers’ closet, he discovers a family secret: his mother Beatrice (Tania Kontoyanni) didn’t die in childbirth. Determined to uncover the truth, Dominic heads to the parish town of Saint-Narcisse, north of Montreal, where he is shocked to find a tombstone inscribed with his name and date of death in a local graveyard.

Finally tracking down his mother (who the locals have labelled a witch), he discovers she’s a lesbian who was excommunicated by the church and was led to believe Dominic was stillborn. Now she lives in exile in a cabin in the woods with Irene (Alexandra Petrachuk), her late lover’s daughter. But Dominic also learns he has a twin. Sequestered in a remote monastery since birth, Daniel is being raised and groomed by a priest, Father Andrew (Andreas Apergis), who believes he is the reincarnation of Saint Sebastian. 

Whether dressed in leathers and sporting stubble or naked and shaved, Duval has the look of the divine about him, and his sex scenes (with himself) are both erotic and very tender indeed. It takes a good hour before the twins meet, but LaBruce uses that time to develop the narrative and his characters fully. Setting the film in 1972 also allows him to explore critical issues, such as children being taken away from their mothers (who happen to be lesbian or even just unmarried) and priests preying on the young men in their care.

I won’t reveal what happens, but LaBruce comes up trumps with a scene involving a St Andrew’s Cross, communion wafers, a wedding dress and some Caravaggio-inspired lighting that will stay with you long after the ending.

Kudos go to Andreas Apergis (who appeared in X-Men: Days of Future Past and the US version of Being Human) as the film’s villain, the depraved Father Andrew. If his scary eyes don’t creep you out, his toe licking of the equally scary-eyed Saint Sebastian statue will. Oh, and that scene with the (very fit) monks skinny-dipping is gloriously gratuitous.

Saint-Narcisse will be released theatrically in the UK on 22 April
with a DVD and digital release from Peccadillo Pictures on 2 May 2022

Nineteen Eighty-Four | The celebrated 1954 BBC adaptation starring Peter Cushing gets a dual-format BFI restoration

Adapted by Nigel Kneale (whose centenary is being celebrated this year) and directed by Rudolf Cartier, the BBC’s adaptation of George Orwell’s seminal dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-Four, broke new ground for television drama and caused quite the stir when it was first broadcast live in December 1954.

Featuring a career-defining central performance from Peter Cushing as Orwell’s fatalistic protagonist, Winston Smith, this small-screen landmark has been restored by the BFI using original film materials from the BBC Archive and the BFI National Archive.

André Morell co-stars as deceptive Inner Party member O’Brien, Yvonne Mitchell as Smith’s rebel lover Julia and Donald Pleasence as Syme, Winston’s Ministry of Truth colleague. Giving a brief, but notable, turn is Wilfrid Brambell, who had also appeared in the BBC’s previous Kneale sci-fi, 1953’s The Quatermass Experiment.

Kneale was so in-tune bringing Orwell’s cautionary tale on totalitarianism and the cult of personality to dramatic life that it caused great upset within British public and political circles when it was first performed on Sunday 12 December 1954 (mainly due to a torture scene involving rats). While criticised for being ‘horrific’ and ‘subversive’, it was restaged on Thursday 16 December (thanks in part to Prince Philip’s announcement that the Queen enjoyed the first screening) with some 7 million viewers tuning in. And it is this telerecording that has become one of the earliest surviving British TV dramas.

The following year, an Australian radio adaptation was aired as part of the Lux Radio Theatre with Vincent Price taking on the role of Winston Smith, while Donald Pleasence would be the only actor from the BBC play to appear in director Michael Anderson’s 1956 film adaptation starring Edmund O’Brien.

The BFI restoration has really spruced up the image and sound of the 1954 production which is a mix of the live recording and 14 filmed inserts that were required for the scene changes. These inserts look fantastic now – but seeing them alongside the live (soft and grainy) footage they do somewhat jar. Nevertheless, it’s the performances (especially Cushing’s) that count. So time to ditch that old ‘taped off the telly’ DVD (or in my case VHS). Nineteen Eighty-Four is also available on DTO via iTunes and Amazon Prime on 11 April 2022.

Order from the BFI Shop here:
https://shop.bfi.org.uk/nineteen-eighty-four-dual-format-edition.html

SPECIAL FEATURES

  • Presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
  • Audio commentary by television historian Jon Dear with Toby Hadoke and Andy Murray
  • Late Night Line-Up (BBC, 1965, 23 mins): members of the cast and crew look back on the controversies surrounding this adaptation of Orwell’s classic. This is a historic time capsule — and a must-see for Cushing fans.
  • The Ministry of Truth (2022, 24 mins): in conversation with the BFI’s Dick Fiddy, television historian Oliver Wake dispels some of the myths that have grown up around the groundbreaking drama over the course of the past half-century.
  • Nigel Kneale: Into the Unknown (2022, 72 mins): writer, actor and stand-up comedian Toby Hadoke and Nigel Kneale biographer and programmer Andy Murray try to unpick who Kneale was, what he did and why his work still matters today.
  • Gallery of rare images from the BBC Archives
  • Original script (downloadable PDF)
  • Newly commissioned sleeve artwork by Matt Needle
  • Illustrated booklet with essays by Oliver Wake and David Ryan; credits and notes on the special features.
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