Author Archives: Peter Fuller

Identification of a Woman (1982) | Michelangelo Antonioni’s final film gets a 40th-anniversary restoration release

Michelangelo Antonioni’s rarely seen final masterwork, 1982’s Identification of a Woman (AKA dentificazione di una donna), is the director’s own bookend to his lifelong exploration of the imprecise nature of human relationships, incommunicability and alienation. Now it’s getting a 2K restoration release from CultFilms on Blu-ray and digital on-demand (from 12 September 2022).

After his wife leaves him, a film director (Tomas Milian) is searching for a muse while preparing his new film. He enters into a passionate affair with a striking young aristocratic woman (Daniela Silverio). But after a stranger orders him to stop seeing her, she vanishes shortly after… While searching for her, he encounters a young actress (Christine Boisson), who joins him on the hunt for his missing muse.

Tellingly prescient, Identification of a Woman is a spellbinding anti-romance depicting a modernising world beset by fear and was awarded the Anniversary Prize at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival. Each frame, beautifully conceived by Antonioni and cinematographer Carlo Di Palma, is an essential part of the storytelling. Having undergone a new 2K restoration, this Blu-ray release finally does justice to the original vision of Antonioni’s painterly yet unsettling masterpiece.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Full HD 1080p from 2K restoration
• Original Italian audio
• New, improved English subtitles + closed caption subtitles for HOH
• New video essay by scholar Pasquale Iannone
Identification of a Director: a candid, in-depth interview with Antonioni’s wife Enrica Fico-Antonioni
With Michelangelo: an intimate hour-long video diary of Antonioni filmed by Enrica

Deathstalker & Deathstalker II | A double-bill of 1980s sword-and-sorcery schlock on Blu-ray

From Roger Corman comes a bountiful pair of babes-and-blades fantasy adventures – Deathstalker (1983) and Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987) – on Blu-ray from 101 Films.

First up, a fit-looking Richard Hill stars as the titular warrior Deathstalker who teams up with another muscle dude (Richard Brooker) and a sexy G-string-wearing female warrior (Lana Clarkson) to take part in a tournament in which the ultimate prize is the throne of the wicked wizard Munkar (Bernard Erhard).

This Conan the Barbarian cash-in is a whole lot of fun if you overlook the rapey bits. It looks pretty good given its modest budget, with some pretty effective make-up effects and a memorable (if overused) main theme tune.

The shadowy lighting and mist-shrouded exterior scenes echo John Boorman’s Excalibur, while the Argentine studio interior scenes have the look of a 1980s music video (did Russell Mulcahy see this before filming Duran Duran’s Wild Boys the following year?). There’s also lots of bare flesh on display – which is exactly what you want from this sort of schlock.

The special features include a commentary with director James Sbardellati, special makeup effects artist John Carl Buechler, and actor Richard Brooker (best known for donning Jason Voorhees’ hockey mask for the first time in Friday the 13th Part III), as well as a trailer and photo gallery.

Having impressed producer Roger Corman with the 1986 techno-horror Chopping Mall, Jim Wynorski was handed the reigns of Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans, and it’s a much-more comical affair than the first.

John Terlesky (who was also in Chopping Mall) steps into Richard Hill’s leather loin-cloth to save the kingdom from the tyrannical Jarek (John LaZar) and his seductive ally Sultana (Toni Naples), who have created an evil clone of the princess Evie (Monique Gabrielle).

The sequel opens and closes with nods to Corman’s 1960s Poe films (a castle matte painting and a pendulum), and in-between there’s lots more bare flesh on display, ropey acting, Chuck Cirino’s repetitive synth Western-styled theme, and the late Dee Booher (AKA professional wrestler Queen Kong) taking on a lithe Terlesky as Gorgo.

Wynorski called his film ‘anachronistic’, and it sure looks like it as it seems to be set in its own universe what with the Western bar saloon signs, medieval torture chamber and graveyard of zombies a la Thriller circa 1983. Good to see LaZar (AKA Beyond the Valley of the Dolls‘ Z-Man) though.

The special features include a commentary with director Jim Wynorski and actors John Terlesky and Toni Naples and a theatrical trailer.

Two more films followed – in 1988 (Deathstalker III: The Warriors from Hell) and 1991 (Deathstalker IV: Match of the Titans). Hopefully, 101 Films will release them sometime in the future for cult fans of the series – and completists like me.


Swan Song | Udo Kier’s career-best turn gets a Peccadillo Pictures release – but who was the real Mister Pat?

Udo Kier fans rejoice! His career-best turn in writer/director Todd Stephens’ fabulously wonderful bittersweet comedy Swan Song is coming your way, courtesy of Peccadillo Pictures.

Udo plays retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger – AKA Mister Pat( a name I’m sure John Waters would love), who ‘escapes’ from his small-town nursing home after learning of the dying wish of a former client, Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans – yes! Dynasty‘s Krystle Carrington): for him to style her final hairdo. Soon, Pat embarks on a comical odyssey across town, encountering new and old friends and foes, including his former protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge), who possesses a vital ingredient that Pat needs to complete Rita’s transformation. 

Check it out on Blu-ray and DVD and all UK VOD platforms, including Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play and PeccadilloPOD from 29 August.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• The Real Pat Pitsenbarger Featurette
• Casting Featurette
•  In Conversation with Writer/ Director Todd Stephens and Udo Kier
• Audio Commentary with Todd Stephens, Udo Kier and Producers Eric Eisenbrey & Tim Kaltenecker
• Udo Kier Iris Prize Acceptance Speech
• UK Theatrical Trailer

DID YOU KNOW?
Director Todd Stephens found inspiration from a local childhood character of the same name that helped him create this affectionate ‘love letter to the rapidly disappearing ”gay culture” in America’. 

Todd offers some background thoughts on what Mister Pat has meant to him. He says, “Back in 1984, I walked into my small-town gay bar for the first time — The Universal Fruit and Nut Company. There he was, glittering on the dancefloor. Wearing a teal feather boa, fedora and matching pantsuit, “Mister Pat” Pitsenbarger was busting old school moves straight out of Bob Fosse. I was 17, and Pat was a revelation.

Swan Song_4_Udo Kier.JPG

“Years later, when I set out to write my autobiographical Edge of Seventeen, I immediately thought of Mister Pat. I went back home to hunt him down, only to discover Pat had just suffered an aneurism and was temporarily unable to speak. But his lover David told me stories about how Pat was once the most fabulous hairdresser in Sandusky, Ohio, about his legendary drag performances and about how he used to shop at Kroger’s dressed as Carol Burnett – in 1967! This was a man who always had the courage to be himself, long before that was safe.

“The truth is, Mister Pat inspired me to write Edge of Seventeen. I wrote a significant “Pat” character as my protagonist’s mentor, but midway through the shoot, the part got cut. I always knew my muse would return someday in my writing, and when he finally did many years later, I looked for Pat again only to learn he just passed away. Sadly, Pat’s legendary hand-beaded rhinestone gowns are all lost to time. Only a shoebox remains – filled with some tarnished jewellery and a half-smoked pack of Mores.

Swan Song is a love letter to the rapidly disappearing “gay culture” of America. As it has become more acceptable to be queer, what used to be a thriving community is rapidly melting back into society. Thanks to assimilation and technology, small-town gay bars like The Universal Fruit and Nut Company are becoming extinct. Swan Song is dedicated to all the forgotten flaming florists and hairdressers who built the gay community and blazed the trail for the rights many of us cling to today. But, above all, for me, this film is about learning that it’s never too late to live again”. – Todd Stephens 

The Mummy and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell | The Hammer horror classics get a Limited Edition Blu-ray release

From Second Sight Films comes the Hammer Horror classics The Mummy (1958) and  Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (1974) on Blu-ray in a Limited Edition set on 29 August 2022. But are they worth double-dipping? Well, you do get some new commentaries and featurettes, plus some super art cards and gorgeous new artwork by Graham Humphreys. But you will have to make up your own mind. Here are my comparisons.

THE MUMMY – SPECIAL FEATURES
• Main feature presented in original UK theatrical aspect ratio 1.66:1 and alternative full frame 1.37:1: These are the same as the 2012 Icon Home Entertainment release.
New audio commentary by film academic Kelly Robinson:
• Audio commentary by Marcus Hearn and Jonathan Rigby: Ported over from the Icon release.
• An Appreciation of The Mummy by David Huckvale: This is new, and David is always of great value.
• The Music of The Mummy: Ditto, and David really is the go-to guy for all things musical.
• Unwrapping The Mummy (28:40): Ported over from the Icon release.
• The House of Horror – Memories of Bray (46:40): Also ported over, thankfully, as it includes interviews with many Hammer alumni who are no longer with us, such as Barbara Shelley and Renee Glynne.

• The Hammer Rep Company (14:20): Johnathan Rigby’s insightful featurette has been ported over too.
• Original Promo Reel (5:31): Also on the Icon release.
• Stills Gallery (6:58): Ported over too.

New artwork by Graham Humphreys: Simply divine illustration work, of course.
• Collector’s book with new essays by Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam and Kevin Lyons plus production stills
• Five art cards

WHAT’S MISSING: The 2012 Icon Home Entertainment Blu-ray also included an episode of The World of Hammer: Hammer Stars Peter Cushing and a bonus feature directed by Terence Fisher, Stolen Face (1952)

FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL – SPECIAL FEATURES
• Main feature presented in original UK theatrical aspect ratio 1.66:1 and alternative full frame 1.37:1: These are the same as the 2014 Icon Home Entertainment release and are the full uncut version of the film (unlike the Shout!/Scream Factory 2020 Blu-ray release, which is the censored US theatrical version that loses a couple of minutes of extra gore footage.
• New audio commentary by film academic Kat Ellinger
• Archive audio commentary by Shane Briant, Madeline Smith and Marcus Hearn: This has been ported over from the Icon release and is most welcomed here, considering Shane’s passing in 2021.
• An Appreciation of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell by David Huckvale: This is new, and as I’ve said before, David’s contributions are always entertaining.
• The Music of Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell: David is back again tinkling the ivories and discussing James Bernard’s score.
• Taking Over the Asylum: This has been ported over from the 2014 release and includes Denis Meikle and Shane Briant, who have since passed away.
• Charming Evil: Terence Fisher at Hammer: Likewise, this was on the 2014 Blu-ray.
• Stills Gallery: Ported over too.
• New artwork by Graham Humphreys: Great work, as usual from Graham.
• Soft cover book with new essays by Kevin Lyons, Kelly Robinson and Emma Westwood plus production stills
• Five collectors’ art cards

Memoria | Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s metaphysical drama starring Tilda Swinton

“A powerful meditation on connection, spiritual isolation and renewal”
Screen Daily

“Hypnotic… a unique cinematic voice”
Empire

From Sovereign comes the release of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, a meditative exploration of memory and the human condition, starring Tilda Swinton on Blu-ray and DVD (released 8 August).

Winner of the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Memoria starts with a literal bang, as Swinton embarks on a lyrical and profound journey into the senses that Indiewire describes as “a transfixing deep-dive into the profound challenges of relating to people and places”. The journey leads to an unexpected and extraordinary revelation where, as the actress, herself explains, “all the wisdom in the world is being revealed to this person at this moment”.

Visiting her sister in Bogota, Jessica (Swinton) is awoken by a loud bang, audible only to her. Restless and disoriented, she roams the city in search of an explanation for the mysterious sound, becoming immersed in the aural richness around her – whispers in a hospital room, sound effects playing in an editing studio, indiscreet noises from a city square. Despite being present throughout, Jessica’s motives remain opaque and her encounters enigmatic. Soon she begins to confront the unsettling sights and sounds that call her identity into question.

Memoria is available on all digital platforms now, and from 8 August as a Special Limited Edition Collector’s Dual format Blu-ray +DVD, including the UK Theatrical Poster and a collector’s booklet featuring specially commissioned writing about this haunting, mesmeric classic. A standalone DVD edition is also available.

LIMITED EDITION DUAL FORMAT EXTRAS:
* Collector’s Edition Booklet – A collection of interviews and articles, including notes from British writer Tony Rayns, plus cast & crew biographies, presented in a specially printed limited run booklet, which also contains additional behind-the-scenes photos and film stills from the production.

* Q&A with Simon Field – Tilda Swinton talks with Simon Field at the ICA as they discuss Memoria, from the film’s inception, how she became involved, filming in Colombia, and how audiences have received the film worldwide (30m).

* Q&A with Peter Bradshaw – The film critic talks with Tilda Swinton and director Apichatpong Weerasethakul in a fascinating insight into the making of Memoria (27m).

* Roundtable Discussion – Simon Field, Tilda Swinton, director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, producer Diana Bustamante, editor Lee Chatametikool, and sound designer Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr each offer their own specialist insights into the making of Memoria.

* Behind the Scenes – Get a glimpse of what happens behind the scenes in three specially selected sequences from the on-location shoot of Memoria in Colombia.

* Photo gallery – A special selection of stills going behind the scenes of Memoria.

The VVitch (2016) | Robert Eggers’ chilling debut gets a 4K UHD/Blu-ray release

‘Rarely has a film this oppressive been so impressive’
★★★★ Empire

‘An atmospheric chiller rooted in the fertile soil of religious zealotry, social isolation and original sin… chilling study of fear and the devils that live within us all’
★★★★ The Observer

From Second Sight Films comes Robert Eggers’ multi-award-winning directorial debut feature, The VVitch, in a collectable limited edition box-set, including both 4K UHD and Blu-ray versions (available from 25 July 2022).

In 1630s New England, prideful English settler William (Ralph Ineson) relocates his wife Katherine (Kate Dickie) and four children to a secluded plot after a dispute with his Puritan colony elders. The family builds a farm beside a secluded forest, but things start to unravel when a fifth child, Samuel, disappears shortly after his birth.

While the devastated family are unaware that a witch has stolen the unbaptised Samuel to make a magical flying ointment, more strange events occur, and suspicion soon falls on eldest daughter Thomasin (Anya Taylor-Joy), who finds herself accused of witchcraft. What follows next, is very dark and disturbing indeed.

A masterful exercise in man versus nature conflict and religious extremism, The VVitch scored positive reviews when it played at Sundance in 2015, but it really took off following its wide release in 2016. Although Eggers thought his film had its faults (which he discusses in the extras), it became his calling card, and, thanks to her mesmerising performance, turned Anya Taylor-Joy into a bonafide star. It also benefits from some powerful turns from Ineson and Dickie, although even they agree (again in the extras) that Black Philip is the one everyone talks about. He’s even got his own very collectable Funko POP vinyl figure.

The VVitch requires multiple viewings just to appreciate those performances and Eggers’ haunting visuals (especially the witches’ sabbath scene), and so this limited edition box-set is just the ticket. Kudos to Second Sight Films for the fabulous extras, especially the inciteful interviews with the cast and Eggers, which give you a greater appreciation of the production process. Also included is Eggers’ short film, Brothers, which he made to show potential investors that he could actually direct. 

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Features 4K UHD and Blu-ray with bonus features on both formats
• 4K UHD presented with new Dolby Vision HDR grade
• Archive audio commentary by Director Robert Eggers
• New audio commentary by film writer and broadcaster Anna Bogutskaya
A Puritan Nightmare: a new interview with Robert Eggers
Embracing Darkness: a new interview with Anya Taylor-Joy
Love Thy Father: a new interview with Ralph Ineson
A Pious Wife: a new interview with Actor Kate Dickie
Caleb’s Lament: a new interview with Actor Harvey Scrimshaw
A Primal Folktale: features interviews with Robert Eggers and cast that was made during filming on location
• BFI London Film Festival Q&A with Robert Eggers, Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Producer Jay Van Hoy
• Brothers: a short film by Robert Eggers
• Optional English subtitles for the hearing impaired
• Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Peter Diamond
• 150-page hardback book with new essays by Emerson W Baker, Daniel Bird, Anton Bitel, Charles Bramesco, Lillian Crawford, Shelagh Rowan-Legg and Anya Stanley, plus stills, costume and production design gallery.
• 6 collectors’ art cards

Universal Terror | A Boris Karloff triple bill on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Universal Terror: Karloff in Night Key, The Climax, The Black Castle on Blu-ray in the UK as a part of the Eureka Classics range (available from 18 July 2022). Frankly, I would have called this Karloff at Universal to tie in with Eureka’s previous Karloff box-set, and like that release, it’s a mixed bag, but so worth adding to your Karloff collection – especially as it comes with a booklet featuring new essays from Karloff biographer Stephen Jacobs.

By far the best of the bunch is Night Key, a cracking crime thriller from 1937 directed by actor/screenwriter Lloyd Corrigan. Karloff plays Dave Mallory, an inventor who stages a series of break-ins of stores protected by his former partner’s burglar alarm company. He wants to prove the effectiveness of his new electronic system, but a gang of crooks get wise and kidnap Mallory so they can use his invention to commit robberies.

Well-paced and acted, with a touch of noir added to the proceedings, Night Key is fun, fast and a great showcase for Karloff. Here he ditches his menacing persona to play a sweet soft-spoken grandfather type. It was also the last film in which he was billed by only his last name. Watch out for some John P Fulton effects when Karloff takes on his captors with some high voltage electric rays.

1944’s The Climax was Karloff’s first colour film. Producer-director George Waggner wanted to repeat his previous success of 1943’s Phantom of the Opera and had envisaged a sequel that reunited the original stars. But when Claude Rains became unavailable, Waggner decided on remaking the 1930 talkie, The Climax, based on Edward Locke’s popular 1909 play.

Karloff is back playing a villain (actually a secondary character in the original play). His Dr Hohner is the house physician at an Austrian opera house, whose insane jealousy drives him to murder. Ten years after the mysterious disappearance of his opera star wife, Marcellina (he killed her, of course, and has her body enshrined in the basement of his mansion), Hohner learns a new arrival called Angela (Foster) will take on Marcellina’s signature role. Enraged, he uses hypnotism to make Angela believe she can never sing again.

Now I really wanted to like The Climax, but I struggled. The music is really screechy (and I’m not a fan of opera anyway), and the plot sidetracks big time from Karloff’s madman antics to some boring romantic goings-on between Angela and her fiancé Franz (Turhan Bey). Criminally, the ever-reliable Gale Sondergaard, who plays Karloff’s housekeeper, is totally underused until the final reel. On the plus side, the film is lavishly shot (and scored a Best Art Director Oscar nomination), and the musical numbers are a camp delight (costume and stage setting wise). Plus, you get to see a lot of Universal’s opera house set for 1925’s Phantom of the Opera. On a trivia note, director Waggner went on to helm some of the best TV shows of the 1960s, including The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Batman.

In between making two Abbott and Costello farces and the 1951 horror The Strange Door (why isn’t it included here?), Karloff found himself in the 1952 Gothic horror The Black Castle. Future TV Robin Hood, Richard Greene, plays an 18th-century English adventurer who is about to be buried alive by the vengeful Count von Bruno (Stephen McNally) as the film opens. A flashback then reveals how he came by such an awful predicament. Joining Greene and McNally in this Black Forest set programmer is Lon Chaney Jr as a mute, scarred henchman; John Hoyt and Michael Pate as a pair of murderous noblemen; Paula Corday as von Bruno’s abused wife; and Karloff as the castle physician.

The Black Castle was one the very last of Univeral’s period costumers before it turned all sci-fi. While more a period adventure than a ghoulish chiller, it boasts atmospheric sets and effective low-key lighting to give it that classic Universal horror touch. Karloff gets an interesting role where you just don’t know whose side he’s really on. McNally, meanwhile, overacts as the villain, while Chaney makes up for not having any dialogue but chewing the scenery with his facial expressions. Michael Pate, who also appeared alongside Karloff in The Strange Door, would go on to play opposite another horror great, Vincent Price, in 1962’s The Tower of London.

SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
• Limited Edition slipcase
• 1080p presentation of all three films across two Blu-ray discs
Night Key and The Black Castle presented from 2K scans of fine grain film elements
The Climax presented from a 2K scan of the interpositive
• Optional English SDH
• Audio commentaries on Night Key and The Climax with Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary on The Black Castle with authors Stephen Jones and Kim Newman
• Stills Galleries
• Trailers
• Booklet featuring new writing by Stephen Jacobs (author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster

The Curious Dr. Humpp | The Argentine sexploitation cult horror on Blu-ray

The Curious Dr. Humpp is one of the most bizarre sexploitation films ever made – but so worthy of its cult status. And now you see it for yourself in this new Blu-ray release from 101 Films (available from 18 July 2022).

‘Permit your libidos to soar!’
A weird robot-like monster abducts seemingly random victims that are taken to the estate of morose mad scientist Dr Humpp (Aldo Barbero), who gives them an aphrodisiac formula ‘that turns humans into veritable screwing machines’.

With the aid of his former mentor, now a living, breathing, talking disembodied brain in a jar, the good doctor drains blood from the copulating couples (‘Let the lesbians share one room; I want to observe them’) that keeps him eternally young. ‘Sex dominates the world and now I dominate sex!’.

But when news reporter George (Ricardo Bauleo) is captured too, it’s up to Inspector Benedict (Héctor Biuchet) to find Humpp’s hideout before George is drained.

Shot with an artful eye to the Euro horrors of Mario Bava, Ricardo Frieda and their ilk, The Curious Dr. Humpp is a weird fusion of gothic horror, adventure serials and nudie movies, directed by Emilio Vieyra, atmospherically shot in black and white by Aníbal González Paz, and featuring an evocative score from Víctor Buchino. Add in that talking brain, the hideous guitar-playing monster, and some young ladies in sheer nighties, then stir in lots of dry ice, and you have one hell of a wicked brew.

Alas, the film also includes some 18-minutes of ‘sexy’ inserts – basically couples fondling each other in close-up. This was not of Vieyra’s making, but the producer’s. As such, this ‘Adult’s Only’ cut of the film was poorly received both in the US in 1970 (where it was given an English dub) and in Argentina in 1971. It was only when it was released on VHS by Something Weird Video in the 1990s as part of Frank Henenlotter’s Sexy Shockers From the Vaults series, that it found its proper audience.

‘Wow. How come this went unnoticed when it was released here in 1970?
Didn’t audiences go berserk when they saw it? An amazing out-of-control, instant cult classic,
quite unlike anything you’ve seen before. The world needs more movies like this. Frank Henenlotter

Thankfully, this 101 Films x AGFA + Something Weird Blu-ray release gives today’s cult film fans a chance to see the film at its best – as it includes both edits of the film in brand-new restorations. Plus, there’s a must-listen commentary from legendary Basket Case director Henenlotter, who gives the full lowdown on not only the film’s production but also its lasting legacy thanks to the work of Something Weird Video’s Mike Vraney.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Newly scanned & restored in 2k from its 35mm internegative
• Commentary track with Frank Henenlotter
La Venganza del Sexo: the 2K restoration of the original cut of The Curious Dr. Humpp from a 35mm fine-grain lab print. Presented in Spanish, with English subtitles (just remember to switch them on, unlike what I did, duh?)
• Shorts and trailers
• Reversible cover artwork
• English subtitles

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

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