Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1971) | The Hammer Horror that turned Valerie Leon into a legendary scream queen

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

After locating the tomb of Tera, Queen of Darkness in the Egyptian desert, archaeologist Julian Fuchs (Andrew Keir) returns to England with her mummy and sarcophagus where he secretly recreates her tomb under his house. But when he gives Tera’s ruby ring to his daughter Margaret (Valerie Leon), the ancient queen’s evil power tempts the young woman into helping her father’s rival, Corbeck (James Villiers), into restoring her to human form…

Based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 adventure novel The Jewel of the Seven Star, this supernatural shocker breathed sexy new life into the old mummy’s revenge plot and has become a enduring favourite amongst Hammer horror fans. It was also the fourth and last time that the company resurrected the ancient Egyptian avenger to join their stable of monsters.

Blood from the Mummy's Tomb

The first, The Mummy, in 1959, saw a bandaged Christopher Lee crashing about Bray Studios; the second, 1964’s The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, found Dickie Owen shuffling about Elstree; and the third, 1967’s The Mummy’s Shroud, meant a return to Bray, where Eddie Powell pulled on the swaddling to take out members of an expedition team.

For Blood, their final Mummy film, Hammer ditched the bandages and got the tall, buxom Carry On actress Valerie Leon to play (rather brilliantly, I might add) the dual roles of Egyptian queen of darkness and professor’s daughter. She’s the best thing about the film, which has one bizarre piece of plotting: the recreation of a tomb in the cellar of a suburban North London house. Now, who constructs something like that without getting any attention from nosey neighbours or the council? Only in Hammer’s fanciful Home Counties horror universe could it exist.

Keir (who was my favourite Bernard Quatermass in Hammer’s Quatermass and the Pit) does a stalwart job playing the obsessed Fuchs, a role that was originally intended for Peter Cushing. He had to leave the production after one day’s filming to care for his ailing wife, Helen (who died on 14 January 1971). And the seemingly cursed production had another setback five weeks into the six-week shoot at Elstree when the director, Seth Holt, had a fatal heart attack, which forced Michael Carreras into completing the movie.

blood from the mummy's tomb

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb was released in October 1971 as a support feature to Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde, and now is available on Doubleplay (DVD & Blu-ray) from Studiocanal, newly restored in HD, as part of their Hammer Horror Collection. It looks and sounds superb on Blu-ray, even if it does show up how fake those sets look; but the liberal use of Kensington gore is a vivid treat for horror-hounds. Oh, and Leon looks just stunning.

The extras include a trailer and a single featurette The Pharaoh’s Curse: Inside Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, in which a handful of Hammer experts provide insight into the film’s production, while Leon also shares her recollections.

By the way, the motion pictures soundtrack, featuring music by composer Tristam Cary (The Ladykillers, Quatermass and the Pit), was released by GDI Records back in 2002, and having find it just recently myself, it’s well worth tracking down.

Valerie Leon is a fantastic regular on the convention circuit and appears frequently at many film fairs throughout the UK, she even has her own one-woman show. Check out her official website here: http://www.valerieleon.com/

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Advertisements

The Vikings (1958) | This rip-roaring adventure is an epic must-see – and could have influenced Game of Thrones

The Vikings (1958)

One of the big hits of the 1950s, The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis, gets its first time Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment, as part of the Eureka Classics range.

Prince Einar (Kirk Douglas) is the son and heir of Viking chieftain Ragnar (Ernest Borgnine). Slave Eric (Tony Curtis) is his unknowing half brother, the bastard offspring of Einar’s father and an English queen. When the Vikings kidnap princess Morgana (Janet Leigh), who is betrothed to the English King, Aella (Frank Thring), Einar and Eric engage in a bloody dual to win her hand…

The Vikings (1958)

The melodramatic tale at the heart of this searing Norse opera from director Richard Fleischer certainly takes a back seat to the glorious visuals. Shot in ‘Horizon Spanning’ Technirama and Technicolor, these come courtesy of cinematographer Jack Cardiff, who makes maximum use of the spectacular locations: Hardangerfjord in the Norwegian Fjords and Fort la Latte in Britanny.

The film-makers also go to great lengths to recreate an authentic Viking village, as well as long ships, armour and weapons; even the horses are the same breed that early Vikings rode; while the hand-to-hand combat scenes featuring clashing broadswords and axes aplenty, as well the occasional eye-gouging and hand-chopping, are expertly staged.

As our chain-mail and leather-clad macho heroes, Douglas and Curtis provide some gutsy Testosterone-fuelled performances, and a joined by a great supporting cast, including Janet Leigh (Curtis’ real-life wife) and Ernest Borgnine (looking like he needs a good wash and shave), as well as Aussie actor Frank Thring – best-known for playing Pontius Pilate in Ben-Hur (and also as the villainous Dr Stark in TV’s Skippy), and Till Death Us Do Part‘s Else Garnett (aka Dandy Nichols) as Leigh’s maid.

While any similarity to actual history is purely coincidental, this epic slice of Hollywood adventure is a must-see and helped kick-off a whole sub-genre of imitators, including Mario Bava’s Erik The Conqueror and even spawned a TV series (produced by Kirk Douglas).

The Vikings (1958)

Intentional or not, there are also some interesting parallels with Game of Thrones. In the Viking saga, Odin is held as the one true god, just as the Lord of Light is in Thrones; there’s also a Red Witch character in soothsayer Kitala (played by Eileen Way, who cropped up in the 1960s Doctor Who movies); and both Jon Snow and Eric are bastards denied their royal birthright. There’s even a pit of hungry wolves – remember Ramsay’s hunting dogs?

Incidentally, there’s a recurring melody in the film’s music score that is not too dissimilar to a key theme in the original Star Wars. And, I don’t know if it’s just me, but the youthful Curtis bears a striking similarity to Dominic Monaghan of Lost and Lord of the Rings fame.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation
• Original stereo PCM soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• Video interview with film historian Sheldon Hall
A Tale of Norway (28 mins) –featurette about the making of the film, presented by Richard Fleischer
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Reflecting Skin (1990) | Philip Ridley’s surreal American Gothic cult classic restored and resurrected on Blu-ray

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

Stunning beautiful… a Gothic masterpiece
THE GUARDIAN

Haunting… Ridley is a visionary
ROLLING STONE

A hypnotic first feature… a cult classic
SIGHT & SOUND

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

As mysterious deaths plague a small prairie town in 1950s Idaho, eight year-old Seth (Jeremy Cooper) comes to believe that a reclusive English widow, Dolphin Blue (Lindsay Duncan), is a vampire.

Seth’s worst nightmare comes true when his older brother Cameron (Viggo Mortensen) returns home from abroad and falls in love with the widow – will he be next? The truth is much more shocking than Seth could imagine…

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

Written and directed by Philip Ridley (Heartless) and hauntingly photographed by Oscar-Nominee Dick Pope (Mr Turner), this surreal coming of age film caused a sensation at the 1990 Cannes Film Festival, went on to win eleven international awards, and has amassed an ever-growing cult following ever since.

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

To quote Mark Kermode (who really does sum this movie up perfectly)… ‘Three blinks into its Cannes debut, a critic leaned over to Philip Ridley and declared, “your film is already a cult.” Nothing’s changed since. It’s “Blue Velvet with children,” says its creator, laying out a young boy’s vision of life in rural, post-war America. Ridley’s perfectionism – which extended to hand-painting cornfields – melds with Dick Pope’s camerawork to create many gorgeous, troubling images. Also look out for Viggo Mortensen, not yet famous but fresh from filming Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990).’

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

The Reflecting Skin is out on Blu-ray in the UK from Thunderbird Releasing and UK Exclusive Edition Steelbook from Soda Pictures, and both include a director-approved fully-restored HD transfer of the print, plus extensive bonus features (with the Steelbook including a Philip Ridley signed art card). Whatever your choice, this indie cult is cinephiles must-have.

The Reflecting Skin (1990)

BONUS FEATURES
• Newly restored in a director-approved 2K high-definition transfer from original elements
• All-new full-length commentary by writer/director Philip Ridley
• Isolated score track assembled from original recordings, including previously unreleased extended and unused cues
• Two all-new retrospective documentaries, Angels & Atom Bombs (44 mins) and Dreaming Darkly (15 mins), including new and exclusive interviews with Nick Bicat, Viggo Mortensen, Dick Pope and Philip Ridley
• Philip Ridley’s short films Visiting Mr Beak (1987, 21 mins) and The Universe Of Dermot Finn (1988, 11 mins), with optional director introductions
• Stills and poster art galleries
• Original theatrical and new re-release trailers
• English SDH subtitles for The Reflecting Skin, Visiting Mr Beak and The Universe Of Dermot Finn

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Luis Buñuel: The Essential Collection | Seven must-see world cinema classics

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]StudioCanal celebrates the work of the Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel with an Essential Collection box set featuring re-issues of seven of the director’s most significant films on Blu-ray.

Diary-of-a-Chambermaid

Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
This biting satire of a middle-class French family in 1939 is drawn from Octave Mirbeau’s infamous novel and was an ideal subject for Buñuel’s particular incisive talents. Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, a Parisian chambermaid who ingrains herself in a scandal with her philandering employer (Michel Piccoli).

Extras include a documentary and an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière. In French.

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour (1967)
The 50th Anniversary Edition | 4k Restoration

A surrealistic voyage into the mind of a bored, wealthy housewife (Catherine Deneuve), who leads the double life of afternoon prostitution. This exquisite and spellbinding film won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, director Diego Buñuel and Dr Sylvain Mimoun, commentary by professor Peter W Evans, and a trailer. In French.

The Milky Way

The Milky Way (1969)
The pilgrimage from Paris to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain of two French vagrants is interrupted by a series of bizarre encounters in this witty, metaphysical romp which became the first film in the director’s trilogy about ‘the search for truth’ (which was followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty). 

Extras include a documentary, an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans and a trailer. In French.

Tristana

Tristana (1970)
In 1929 Toledo, innocent and devout orphan Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) goes to live with her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey), whose fatherly affection turns to desire. But then Tristana falls for the charms of a young artist (Franco Nero). A mischievous mix of passion, social satire and black comedy, this is one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, and contains compelling performances from both Rey and Deneuve.

Extras include an interview with Franco Nero, a documentary and a trailer. In French, and also in Spanish.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
Winner of the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Buñuel’s sly, subversive satire is his surreal masterpiece. Again the director blurs the lines between dreams and realities in this wickedly funny puzzle box in which six middle-class characters try to dine together, but fate intervenes…

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a trailer. In French and Spanish.

Phantom-of-Liberty

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
It’s impossible to describe the plot of this absurdist comedy, as it there isn’t one! It all begins with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and ends with a revolution in the zoo: and the succession of surreal incidents in between make this the most anarchically funny of Buñuel’s canon. It’s most notorious scene features an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls…

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a photo gallery. In French.

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
Buñuel’s final film, which earned him the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a rich, blackly comic, study in sexual obsession and politics. Fernando Rey is perfectly cast as middle-aged bourgeois businessman Mathieu, who becomes tortured by his desire for elusive maid, Conchita, played by two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, Diego Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Pierre Lady and Edmond Richard. In French and Spanish.

Save

Save

Save

Save

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) | Jack Arnold’s big-screen adaptation of the sci-fi classic remains a gripping must-see

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))Businessman Scott Carey (The Monolith Monsters‘ Grant Williams) and his wife Louise (Randy Stuart) are holidaying on a boat off the Californian coast when Scott is enveloped in a strange mist. Six months later, his body starts shrinking – an inch a week – which confounds the scientific world, turns Scott into a national curiosity, and causes him to lapse into a deep depression.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

But when Scott starts shrinking at an ever-increasing rate, he’s soon propelled into a terrifying situation in which he becomes trapped in the basement of his home after narrowly escaping death at the hands of the family cat. Believing him dead, Louise makes plans to move, while Scott must try and find the inner strength to face even more dangers, including one very large, very aggressive spider…

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

Based on the 1956 novel (The Shrinking Man) by Richard Matheson (I Am Legend), with a script adapted by Matheson himself, and directed by 1950s sci-fi king Jack Arnold (Creature from The Black Lagoon), this is one of the finest science-fiction films of all time.

Thanks to the expertly-designed set-ups in which Scott’s plight becomes more desperate, tense and gruelling, Arnold’s sci-fi is a thrilling ride from start to finish – and it’s all highlighted by the superbly-realised special effects – the best involving Scott going to war with the spider and a scene in which he braves a puddle-turned-maelstrom.

Rare for science fiction films of the era is that Matheson’s profound ending is kept in tact – and it’s all the better for it as we see Scott undergo an existential transformation and becomes resolved to his fate that he will continue to shrink until he is finally at one with the universe… It’s a conclusion that startles, but is also surprisingly uplifting.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957))

Trivia buffs might like to know that the film’s tabby cat, Orangey (also known as Rhubarb) was trained and owned by Lassie and Benji animal trainer Frank Inn, and he also appeared in This Island Earth (1955), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1957) and The Comedy of Terrors (1964); while the trumpet solo heard over the opening credits is by Ray Anthony, the last surviving member of the Glenn Miller Orchestra.

Arrow Video’s UK Blu-ray debut of The Incredible Shrinking Man features an in-depth documentary on Jack Arnold; an interview with Matheson’s son, author Richard Christian Matheson; audio commentary; new sleeve artwork and a collector’s booklet; as well as a Super-8 presentation of the film.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) | Mario Bava’s Gothic horror fairytale is a gloriously vivid masterpiece in suspense

Kill Baby Kill (1966)In his definitive Mario Bava retrospective, All the Colors of the Dark, Tim Lucas cited Mario Bava’s 1966 Gothic terror Kill, Baby… Kill! (aka Operazione paura) as ‘a perfect synthesis of horror and poetry, realism and surrealism, color and atmosphere, classicism and innovation’. After viewing Arrow’s new 2k high definition digital transfer release, I couldn’t agree more.

Kill Baby Kill (1966)

In 1907, pathologist Dr Paul Eswai (The Last Man On Earth‘s Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is summoned to a remote Carpathian village to perform an autopsy on a suicide. The locals believe the town to be haunted by the spirit of Melissa Graps, who died aged seven under tragic circumstances.

When a second death occurs, and Eswai’s assistant Monica (played by Euro scream queen Erika Blanc) has a vivid nightmare involving Melissa, the sceptical doctor heads to the crumbling Villa Graps in search of answers…

Kill Baby Kill (1966)

Made in just four weeks, with a largely improvised script, Bava’s personal photographic style can be seen in every gorgeously-lit shot (just check out those spider webs tinged in green and purple), and in every skewered camera angle as his constantly moving camera lingers on decayed buildings, creepy corridors and (well, every home should have one) the family crypt.

He captures the essence of fear by conjuring some nightmarishly imaginative scenes like one in which the good doctor has a Groundhog Day moment when he confronts himself in a room full of old paintings before getting stuck in a giant cobweb; or when Monica descends a seemingly-endless staircase, it’s dizzy effect causing her (and the audience) to become paralysed with fear.

This is first time I have seen Bava’s dark Gothic fairytale, and – OMG! I was totally transfixed by its look and feel, and by the atmospheric use of real-life locations – including the Villa Lancellotti in Frascati, which stands in for Villa Graps, and the 14th-century town of Faleria (which Bava’s son and assistant, Lamberto, visits in one of the extras – see below).

Kill Baby Kill (1966)

Kill, Baby, Kill belongs very much to the same dreamscape as Bava’s Black Sabbath (which I absolutely adore), but its elevated here to the point of pure cinematic art with its skilful surreal touches. Look closely and you’ll see shades of Jean Cocteau (the arm candles from La Belle et la Bete) and Luis Buñuel (in the symbolic use of the ringing bell); while the film’s Gothic narrative reeks of Edgar Allan Poe and even Charles’ Dickens (in the Miss Haversham-styled Countess).

But Bava’s master stroke is Melissa’s creepy bouncing ball. It’s probably one of the greatest visual moments in the history of Gothic horror cinema, and it affected Federico Fellini so much that he did his own take on it in his Toby Dammit sequence in 1968’s Spirits of the Dead.

If you haven’t got it already, then you must add Kill, Baby, Kill to your Euro horror collection – and what better release to have than with Arrow Video’s 2K high definition digital transfer on dual format, which comes with a wickedly delicious features.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks
• New English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the English soundtrack
• Introduction by Erika Blanc
• New audio commentary by Tim Lucas (for the last word on the film’s production, influences and legacy – this is a winner)
The Devil’s Daughter: Mario Bava and the Gothic Child, a new video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
Kill, Bava, Kill!, a 2007 interview with assistant director Lamberto Bava (This is a must-see ,especially for film location lovers as Lamberto returns to Faleria, now crumbling to dust, to revisit many of the external scenes used in the film, including the church where Melissa tolls her bell, and the Anguillara castle. The big reveal here, by the way, is that Melissa was actually played by a local boy, whom Bario selected only for his protruding, icy eyes)
• Erika in Fear (in this excellent 2014 interview, Erika Blanc talks about how audiences of the day were shocked by the shot of her exposed thigh, and reveals how Bava was a big kid)
Yellow (this interesting, if a little under-whelming, short film by Semih Tareen pays loving homage to Bava)
• German opening titles
• 1976 Kill, Baby… Kill! (To avoid spoilers, check this super rare photo-comic from Film Horreur after you’ve seen the feature)
• Image gallery
• Original artwork by Graham Humphreys
• Collector’s booklet (first pressing only)

Save

Save

House | The hit horror franchise restored and uncut on Blu-ray and DVD

HOUSEStep inside! You’re frightfully welcome! The hit horror House franchise opens its creaky doors once again with the release of all four instalments on DVD and Blu-ray, with 2k restorations and all uncut.

For those who didn’t snap up the House: The Collection box-set back in March 2017, you can now add these beauties to your home cinema collection as individual releases.

House

Having looked at the bonus extras on offer, Arrow have added some newbies, including the first draft screenplay of House, vintage Making Of featurettes of House and House II, and workprint footage of the final two instalments, alongside all the other great special features that were featured in the Collection box-set.

Makes for a great stocking filler! And don’t those covers look cool?

If you want to read more about the House franchise, check out my original post HERE

HOUSE IIHOUSE IIIHOUSE IV

 

Save

Save

CultFilms’ Suspiria 4K Steelbook Ultra Blu-ray Dual Edition is going to be fan-tastic!

Back in 1977, Dario Argento unleashed Suspiria, his intoxicating brew of black magic and murder in which Phantom of the Paradise’s Jessica Harper played an American ballet student who uncovers a deadly cover of witches at a prestigious German dance academy, overseen by Dark Shadows‘ Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc and Eyes Without a Face‘s Alida Valli as the butch dance instructor Miss Tanner.

Saturated with an expressive colour palette, hyper-real art deco production design and a ground-breaking score by The Goblins (as they were credited then), and punctuated by shocking, but expertly staged, violence, Argento’s symphony of terror is, without doubt, his horror film opus and a masterpiece of the modern macabre.

Now turning 40, Suspiria has been given a 4K makeover. Over in the US, Synapse Films spent four years working on their 4k restoration that was made from the uncut 98-minute 35mm Italian camera negative (and was overseen by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli). They have now released it as a Special Edition Steelbook (read more here) producing 6000 units, with bags of extras.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, CultFilms are releasing their own restoration, which is set to be the most complete and original looking, finally doing justice to Argento’s vision. The new 4K scan was painstakingly restored by TLE Films in Germany with the film’s crucially distinct colour palette reinstated in accordance with Argento’s original Technicolor Dye Transfer specification, using period film materials as reference. The restorers also reinserted all the missing frames which had degraded badly or were simply lost over the years.

CultFilms have got a crowd-funding campaign up and running to get the film its official UK/European Ultra HD home entertainment release. It’s got just under two weeks left, and has already passed its initial target of £15,000, thanks to some 700+ backers, which means some great bonus extras will be added. And 100 of those initial backers also got the chance to get their copy signed Argento himself (alas now sold out). If you live in Europe, or anywhere that isn’t region A and you do not have a region free player, then this 4k UHD release is one to look out for. Plus, it will also include the Blu-ray and DVD (see below).

UPDATE: On 4 December 2017, CultFilms announced that their campaign closed, reaching an incredible £33,705, which guarantees the creation of a third disc, filled with those promised bonus extras.

I was lucky to see the 4k print (which is simply stunning) at the sold out London screening at the Barbican, with Argento introducing film and giving an illuminating Q&A afterwards. Now, I have seen Suspiria more times than I can remember, and in many formats – from scratchy 16mm and faded VHS to dodgy DVD and the fab HD release back in 2009. But it’s always great to learn something new – especially from the master himself. So, thanks to some intelligent questions from the audience, I discovered that his main inspiration came from Disney’s Snow White, both as a dark fairytale of female empowerment and because of the animated feature’s vibrant primary colours; and that he drew from his own nightmares, one of which became the vicious dog attack sequence.

He also worked alongside Goblin to create what has become an iconic horror score, and even introduced the bouzouki, a Greek musical instrument, to link with the ballet school’s Directress, Helena Markos, a Greek émigré who is ultimately revealed to be Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs), the oldest and wisest of the Three Mothers.

The other interesting piece of trivia I discovered was that Jane Russell was in line for the role that eventually went to Joan Bennett, who got it only because she worked with Argento’s favourite director, Fritz Lang, and that she liked a drink or two. And, on a more personal side, Argento also said that he did not believe in magic, except as a narrative device in books and films; and that he had nothing to do with the poster design of the blood-splattered ballet dancer.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on the UK 4K edition, then CultFilms are releasing the Dual Format (Blu-ray/DVD) edition on 4 December, with the following extras…

• Dual format special edition: Blu-ray and DVD in a numbered, embossed slipcase
• New Extra: Long interview with Dario Argento
• New Extra: Exclusive Dario Argento Introduction of this new 4K restoration
• Audio commentary by critics Kim Newman and Alan Jones
• Fear at 400 Degrees: interview with Dario Argento and Claudio Simonetti
• Interview with Claudio Simonetti, Norman J Warren and Patricia McComack (Blu-ray only)
• New Extra: The 4K Restoration Process ‘utterly fascinating’

You can pre-order it now from CultFilms or Amazon.

Save

Save

Save

Fragment of Fear (1970) | This baffling Blow-Up imitation starring David Hemmings is one helluva delirious ride

Fragment of Fear (1970)

Before heading to cult-dom in Dario Argento’s Deep Red, David Hemmings was the hot ticket in Michelangelo Antonioni’s unfathomable but unquestionably hip 1966 arthouse classic Blow-Up. Four years later, 1970’s Fragment of Fear aimed to recapture the same magic, but ended up even more baffling – a delirious puzzle box that sets the nerves on edge, but leaves you screaming for answers.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

Murder, mystery and paranoia are the order of the day in this adaptation the 1965 novel by former M15 spy John Bingham (John le Carré’s inspiration for George Smiley). Hemmings plays writer Tim Brett, who believes himself to being cured of his drug addiction.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

When his philanthropist aunt (Dame Flora Robson) is found strangled while on holiday in Italy, Brett starts digging into her past, but soon starts receiving menacing threats warning him off the case. Investigating further, he is soon targeted by a shadowy government agency…

Frankly, it’s amazing that this British psychological thriller ever got finished, as it was made under the influence of lots of late-night drinking sessions by both the film’s crew and its star Hemmings. Which might also account for some truly offbeat scenes like one in which a group of bystanders casually watch a junkie shoot up in a London street (really?).

Fragment of Fear (1970)

But while it may make for bewildering viewing, it does hold your gaze and interest throughout – thanks to Ossie Morris’ noirish cinematography – that makes atmospheric use of the Pompeii and London locations, and Hemmings’ genuinely convincing performance as the former-junkie battling to hold his own. And Indicator’s HD re-master is so pristine that it brings the excellent cinematography to the fore, while the sweat on Hemmings’ brow is so luminous, it practically drips off the screen.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

While it certainly apes Blow-Up and bears a strong resemblance to Basil Dearden’s suited-and-booted dopplegänger cult classic The Man Who Haunted Himself (which came out the same year), there are a few other reasons to check it out. First up is the fantastic moody jazz score from the legendary Johnny Harris. It’s so cool, I’m desperately hunting down its supposed LP re-release.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

Next comes the distinguished supporting cast playing the quirky, not-to-be-trusted characters including Mary Wimbush, Roland Culver, Daniel Massey, Wilfred Hyde White and Derek Newark, whose mysterious Sergeant Matthews sets Brett off on his ‘wild goose chase’. Playing Hemming’s love interest is his real-life wife, the gorgeous Gayle Hunnicutt, who apparently got the role as a condition to securing Hemmings’ involvement in the project.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

The screenplay was by Paul Dehn, who had a knack for espionage, having penned The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and The Deadly Affair (both featuring le Carré’s George Smiley character – albeit in different guises); and he also wrote four of the original Planet of the Apes sequels. Check out the extra that accompanies the Indicator release for a very informative profile of Dehn.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

Director Richard C Sarafian may not be a name you instantly recognise, but does he have some darn fine credits. Not only did he helm one of the most memorable Twilight Zone stories, 1963’s Living Doll, he also directed episodes of TV’s Batman and Wild Wild West; and followed this film with the bona fide cult classic, 1971’s Vanishing Point (now that’s one that deserves the HD treatment).

It might be a baffling Blow-Up imitation, but Fragment of Fear is still one helluva delirious ride.

Fragment of Fear (1970)

The Indicator Limited Editon (3000 copies) Blu-ray (world premiere) features a HD re-master and original mono audio, with the following special features…

The Writer as Auteur: an analysis of the life and work of screenwriter Paul Dehn
• First Assistant Director William P Cartlidge on Fragment of Fear
• Original radio spots & theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet with essay’s from Johnny Mains, composer Johnny Harris, critical responses, and historic articles

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Buñuel: The Essential Collection | Seven must-sees from the surrealist master

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]

StudioCanal celebrates the work of the Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel with an Essential Collection box set featuring re-issues of seven of the director’s most significant films on Blu-ray.

Diary of a Chambermaid

Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
(aka) Le journal d’une femme de chambre
This biting satire of a middle-class French family in 1939 is drawn from Octave Mirbeau’s infamous 1900 novel and was an ideal subject for Buñuel’s particular incisive talents.

Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, a Parisian chambermaid who ingrains herself in a scandal with her philandering employer (Michel Piccoli). About halfway through, when a child is murdered, the film shifts focus, but Buñuel’s mercurial talent makes it work, while also maintaining our fascination for the narrative. And bubbling away under Buñuel’s dabbling into fetishism and murder is a scathing look at the burgeoning French fascism of the era. In French.

Extras include a documentary and an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière.

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour (1967)
The 50th Anniversary Edition | 4k Restoration

A surrealistic voyage into the mind of a bored, wealthy housewife (Catherine Deneuve), who leads the double life of afternoon prostitution. Buñuel blends memory, fantasy and reality, seamlessly, and it is never certain if what is seen is reality or fantasy. This exquisite and spellbinding film won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival. In French.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrièere, director Diego Buñuel and Dr Sylvain Mimoun, commentary by professor Peter W Evans, and a trailer.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

The Milky Way

The Milky Way (1969)
(aka) La Voie lactée
Buñuel’s witty, metaphysical romp through Catholic doctrine became the first film in the director’s trilogy about ‘the search for truth’ and was  followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty.

The pilgrimage from Paris to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain of two French vagrants (played by Paul Frankeur and Laurent Terzieff) is interrupted by a series of bizarre encounters which end up becoming a trip through the history of heresy set over the last 2000 years.

Slipping through time and sometimes into other characters, the pilgrims keep doggedly on their chosen path, meeting Christ, the Devil, the Marquis de Sade and Delphine Seyrig’s prostitute along the way. It may be hard going and uneven at times, but this crazy tapestry of jokes, arguments and fantasy is never dull and pure Buñuel. In French.

Extras include a documentary, an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans and a trailer.

Tristana

Tristana (1970)
In 1929 Toledo, innocent and devout orphan Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) goes to live with her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey), whose fatherly affection turns to desire. At first, Tristana submits to his advances, but then she falls for a young artist (Franco Nero) and moves to Madrid with him. When she falls gravely ill, Tristana is force to return to Toledo where she finds her prospects changed…

A mischievous mix of passion, social satire and black comedy, this is one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, and contains compelling performances from both Rey (whose character was based on Buñuel’s own father) and Deneuve (whose innocence was informed by the director’s younger sister Conchita).

Buñuel’s signature satire is very much on display here, but he never forgets to keep us glued to the central story drawn from the eponymous novel by Benito Pérez Galdós’ – regarded as Spain’s Dickens.  Cinematographer José F Aguayo captures the streets of Toledo in all it’s post-war grittiness, while the bell tower in the city’s Gothic Cathedral and the marble tomb of Cardinal Tavera provide some of film’s most haunting images. In French, and also in Spanish.

Extras include an interview with Franco Nero, a documentary and a trailer.

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
(aka) Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie
Winner of the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Buñuel’s sly, subversive satire is his surreal masterpiece. Again the director blurs the lines between dreams and realities in this wickedly funny puzzle box in which six middle-class characters try to dine together, but fate intervenes…

Fernando Rey is the ambassador holding the dinner party, while his wife (Delphine Seyrig) would rather make love in the garden – and the constant interruptions include soldiers on manoeuvres and terrorists bursting in…. Written by Bunuel’s frequent collaborator, Jean-Claude Carrière, this the most Buñuel of Bunuel’s canon. In French and Spanish.

Extras include an interview with Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a trailer. In French and Spanish.

The Phantom of Liberty

The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
(aka) Le Fantôme de la liberté)
In his penultimate film, the 74-year-old Buñuel shows that he can still make the kind of subversive statements and deeply personal films that he did at the very start of his film-making career with Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or.

It’s impossible to describe the plot of this perversely playful absurdist comedy, as there isn’t one! Instead, it contains short incidents and scenarios collected from throughout Buñuel’s life, arranged in the style of a surreal game where seemingly disconnected ideas are linked by chance encounters.

It all begins with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and ends with a revolution in the zoo: and the succession of surreal incidents in between make this the most anarchically funny of Buñuel’s canon. The most notorious scene features an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls. In French.

Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a photo gallery.

That Obscure Object of Desire

That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
(aka) Cet obscur objet du désir
Buñuel’s final film, which earned him, Carrière and producer Serge Silberman the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a rich, blackly comic, study in sexual obsession.

Fernando Rey (dubbed here by Michel Piccoli) is perfectly cast as middle-aged bourgeois businessman Mathieu, who becomes tortured by his desire for elusive maid, Conchita, played by two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. It’s a bizarre concept that works to emphasise the different sides of her character (sophisticated French beauty vs Spanish coquette), whose mesmeric qualities make Mathieu unaware of the terrorist violence occurring around him. The same story was previously filmed in 1935 as The Devil is a Woman with Marlene Dietrich.

Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, Diego Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Pierre Lady and Edmond Richard. In French and Spanish.

Buñuel Boxset [Blu-ray]

Save

Save

Save

%d bloggers like this: