Category Archives: Must See
The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse | Your heart might just miss a beat watching Fritz Lang’s thrilling cinematic swansong
From Eureka Entertainment comes The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse (Die 1000 Augun des Dr Mabuse), the final instalment in Fritz Lang’s trilogy and the director’s cinematic swansong on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.
After enjoying success with 1959’s Indian Epic (AKA The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb), German producer Artur Brauner signed Fritz Lang to direct one more film back in his home country. The result would be a picture that brought Lang’s career full-circle and become his final celluloid testament.
Why does it hurt when my heart misses the beat?
The character of megalomaniac criminal mastermind Dr Mabuse (who I will always associate with Propaganda’s 1984 debut song – catch the music video below) was originally made famous by Lang in his pre-Hollywood years. First in the four+ hour long 1922 silent Dr Mabuse (based on the novel of the same name by Norbert Jacques), then in the 1933 sound crime thriller Testament of Dr Mabuse (based on Jacques’ unfinished novel, Mabuse’s Colony). Both films starred Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the titular villain and both were set in the period of the Weimar Republic.
The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse is set in 1960s at the start of the Cold War, and while it is not a direct sequel, it does exist in the same universe. When a TV journalist is killed in his car on his way to an important broadcast, Inspector Kras (Gert Frobe) gets a call from blind psychic informant Peter Cornelius (Lupo Prezzo), who had a vision of the crime but not the perpetrator.
Meanwhile, at the Luxor Hotel (where every room has been bugged), industrialist Henry Travers (Peter Van Eyck) comes to the aid of the mysterious Marian (Dawn Addams), when she attempts to commit suicide in a bid to escape her abusive. Meanwhile, salesman Hieronymus B Mistelzweig (Werner Peters) always seems to be lurking about. Together, these disparate characters come together to work out just who is channelling Mabuse (Wolfgang Preiss).
This is a thrilling, action-packed crime thriller where Nazi survellious tech, sex crimes, paranoia, psychic powers and classic car chases collide, and its undoubtedly Lang’s final film masterpiece – and your heart might just miss a beat watching it. It also a spawned six Mabuse films in competition with the poplular German Edgar Wallace Krimi films. A must see.
* 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
* Original German soundtrack
* Optional English audio track, approved by Fritz Lang
* Optional English subtitles
* Feature-length audio commentary by film-scholar and Lang expert David Kalat
* 2002 interview with Wolfgang Preiss (this is a wonderfully informative piece, and quite poignant as it was filmed two weeks before Preiss’ death in November 2002)
* Alternate ending
* Reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned and original poster artwork
* Collector’s booklet featuring a new essays; vintage reprints of writing by Lang; and notes by Lotte Eisner on Lang’s final, unrealised projects
From Eureka Entertainment comes the World War Two thriller, The Night of the Generals, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, taken from a brand new 4K restoration, as part of the Eureka Classics range.
In 1942 Warsaw, a prostitute is found brutally murdered. Normally, the crime would attract little attention in war, but evidence points to one of three top Nazi generals as the killer. Thanks to German Military Intelligence officer, Major Grau, an epic man-hunt begins, through to Nazi-occupied Paris where, in 1944, an almost exact replica of the crime is committed…
This epic 1967 film, adapted from Joseph Kessel’s novel and directed by Anatole Litvak (making his penultimate picture), has a cast to die for! Not only do you have Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray playing the prime suspects, you’ve got Omar Sharif (as Grau), Tom Courtenay, Christopher Plummer, Gordon Jackson, Coral Browne and many more. Even Juliette Greco gets in a little song.
More whodunnit than full-on war drama (with a Hitler assassination subplot that, frankly, seems a bit of an add-on), it also features a magnificent score from Maurice Jarre and evocative film location camerawork, alongside Litvak’s carefully calculated direction.
The highlight for me, however, was seeing Gray and Browne sparring as the devoted von Seidlitz-Gabler couple – as they would play similar roles on the London stage in 1975 in Jean Anouilh’s Ardèle alongside Browne’s hubby, Vincent Price. But O’Toole really is also totally captivating – even though he looks rather pale, sweaty and ill throughout most of the proceedings.
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, taken from a stunning 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new and exclusive Audio Commentary by author Scott Harrison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author Scott Harrison
Screwball comedy and heady thrills collide in director John Farrow’s superior noir suspenser, The Big Clock (1948), adapted from the classic 1946 Kenneth Fearing novel of the same name.
Overworked true crime editor George Stroud (Ray Milland) has been planning a vacation for months. However, when his boss, the tyrannical Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton), insists he skips his holidays, Stroud resigns before embarking on a drunken night out with his boss’ mistress, Pauline York (Rita Johnson). When Janoth kills Pauline in a fit of rage, Stroud finds himself becoming the prime suspect in her murder…
Charles Laughton may steal the limelight here, but Elsa Lanchester (aka Mrs Laughton) is a real gem as the zany painter with a string of ex-husbands. Ray Milland and Maureen O’Sullivan (aka Mrs Farrow) are also good as the hero and heroine, and George Macready is super hissable as usual. Farrow tops off his terrific vintage thriller with an exciting chase climax.
The Arrow Academy Blu-ray edition of The Big Clock is out on 13 May 2019
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation transferred from original film elements
• Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• New audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin
• Turning Back the Clock: analysis of the film by Adrian Wootton
• A Difficult Actor: an appreciation of Charles Laughton by Simon Callow
• 1948 radio dramatisation by the Lux Radio Theatre, starring Ray Milland
• Original theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options
From Eureka! Entertainment comes director Robert Aldrich’s brooding murder mystery, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring Bette Davis, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
Don’t Tell Anyone What Happened In The Summer House!
Tended by her loyal servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) has been closeted in her family’s plantation mansion ever since the brutal murder of her married lover, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern) 37 years earlier. When the local county plans to tear down the house to build a highway, the spinster seeks the help of her New York-based cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), but Charlotte’s mind soon becomes unhinged when she sees visions of John’s decapitated hand and hearing the song he composed for her wafting through the mansion late at night. Has his ghost really come back to haunt her or is someone trying to drive Charlotte insane?
Regarded as Aldrich’s informal follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, this splendidly macabre psychological thriller deservedly stands on its own merits, especially considering its seven Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress gong for Agnes Moorehead. She is simply splendid as the dishevelled Velma, who is quick to alert the authorities and an insurance investigator (a twinkly Cecil Kellaway) about her suspicions. Moorehead’s old Mercury Theatre pal, Joseph Cotton, meanwhile, chews the scenery big time as the bourbon-soaked Dr Drew Bayliss, who jilted Miriam after the murder.
In her last film role is The Maltese Falcon‘s Mary Astor. ‘Turn her loose, Robert, you might learn something!’ was Davis’ famous on-set comment about the veteran actress whose scenes as John’s seriously-ill widow Jewel are the antithesis of Davis’ full-blown hysterics. Nevertheless, Davis brings much pathos to Charlotte (especially in the last half of the film), while Olivia de Havilland (who sensationally replaced Joan Crawford) gives sterling support as the butter-wouldn’t-melt Miriam, who is hiding a few dark secrets of her own.
With its atmospheric black and white cinematography (from Aldrich regular Joseph Biroc), meticulous art direction (from William Glasgow and Raphael Bretton), cracking script (from Baby Jane novelist Henry Farrell), ghoulish special effects and nightmarish set pieces, not to mention the memorably haunting theme tune (from Frank De Vol and Mack David), this is a classic murder mystery of the highest order and one that can be revisited over and over..
Watch out for George Kennedy as the demolition foreman, Ellen Corby as one of the town’s gossips, and a couple of faces from Baby Jane, including Victor Buono as Charlotte’s domineering father whom she believed killed John.
Favourite line: ‘Don’t turn on the light. It’s not real when it’s light. It’s only real when it’s dark… dark and still!’
Eureka! Entertainment presents Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte as part of their Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK with the following extras…
• 1080p presentation
• LPCM 2.0 Audio
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger
• Audio commentary by film historian Glenn Erickson
• Hush…Hush, Sweet Joan: The Making of Charlotte [22 mins]
• Bruce Dern Remembers [13 mins]
• Wizard Work [5 mins] – archival behind-the-scenes look at the film, narrated by Joseph Cotton
• Stills Gallery
• Trailer & TV spots
• Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Lee Gambin, illustrated with archival imagery
Available to order from Zavvi at http://po.st/vIhZja
DID YOU KNOW?
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which was shot on location at the historic Houmas plantation in Burnside, Louisiana, was originally going to be called What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? However, Bette Davis disliked the title as it indicated a sequel to Baby Jane, so it was she who suggested using Frank De Vol/Mack David’s song title instead. Crooner Al Martino (who sings the tune over the closing credits) released it as a B-side of his January 1965 single release My Heart Would Know, which reached No.52 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bette Davis, Patti Page, Richard Chamberlain and even the UK’s very own Bruce Forsyth all released their own versions of the melody.
Take one handsome leading Hollywood actor, add two foxy Broadway hoofers, throw in some hip-grinding jazz sounds and mix it all up in a soufflé of psychosexual angst set against a sleazy New York City nightclub and ‘Hey Presto!’ you’ve got Who Killed Teddy Bear?, which is now getting a worldwide Blu-ray release from Network Distributing in the UK.
From the cheesy theme tune and Saul Bass-inspired title sequence to the shattering climax, this 1965 neo-noir American indie reeks of exploitation. Sal Mineo (of Rebel Without a Cause fame) plays Lawrence, a busboy at a 42nd Street discotheque run by Marian, a fierce-but-fair lesbian (played by the utterly fabulous Elaine Stritch).
Spinning the decks in the dingy club littered with grooving babes and middle-aged men on the make is hostess-cum-DJ Norah (the alluring Juliet Prowse – you might remember her dancing with the Muppets back in the 1970s).
Sexually-frustrated and forced to look after his mentally-challenged sister, Sal Mineo’s chain-smoking Lawrence gets his jollies from making dirty phone calls to Norah in the dead of night in his tight white briefs. Cue lots of heavy breathing and a very frightened young woman.
Enter equally mixed-up cop, Lt Dave Madden (played by US stand-up comic Jan Murray). Madden is determined to put every pervert in New York behind bars and obsessively plays audio tapes of various criminals confessions as his daughter listens from her bedroom (now, that’s just not right!). Madden then sets out to help Norah, but there’s a problem – she thinks he might be the psycho…
I won’t spoil the rest for you, but the gritty Times Square location shots and overt sexualisation of Mineo’s sweaty toned body (check out the slideshow for a taster) makes this curio a must-see. The catchy discotheque numbers, meanwhile, are by Four Seasons’ Bob Gaudio and Al Kasha (who wrote those Maureen McGovern songs in The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno).
Who Killed Teddy Bear is a forgotten neo-noir oddity of American independent cinema that rightly deserves high cult status. Previously available only on DVD, the film has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving 35mm prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Missing frames/sections have been re-instated from a 16mm print and the image matched as far as possible but a difference in visual quality may be occasionally noticed. While their are some scenes where print damage is still visible, this new scan is a huge improvement on the 2009 DVD release.
Network Distributing’s Blu-ray (out on 17 September 2018) also carries over the extras from the DVD, including The House Where He Lived, an episode of the 1960s TV series Court Martial, in which Mineo guest stars alongside Anthony Quayle; and 1967 short, LSD: Insight or Insanity, narrated by Mineo, in which some questionable old men in white coats outline the dangers of taking the drug.
16-year-old schoolgirl Tessa Hurst (Lesley-Anne Down) is brutally attacked and raped when she takes a short cut home from school across a wooded common known as Devil’s End. Neither the police nor doctors can learn anything from the girl, who withdraws into a trance-like state.
While Tessa slowly recovers under the care of Dr Greg Lomax (James Laurenson), another girl is attacked – and this time is killed. Julie West (Suzy Kendall), an arts teacher at the all-girls private school, then places her own life in jeopardy in a bid to lure the sex maniac into the open…
This taut Rank thriller (retitled In the Devil’s Garden in the US, and The Creepers on VHS) was directed by Sidney Hayers – best-known for Circus of Horrors (1960), occult chiller Night of the Eagle (1962), and a handful of Edgar Wallace Mysteries – who brings an exploitative dash of Italian giallo to the proceedings with some graphic violence, while also making suspenseful use of the camera-as-murderer technique (which made Peeping Tom so unforgettable in 1960). Hayers would follow this hard-hitter with another thriller dealing with a child sex crime, Revenge, the following year (read my review here).
The screenplay is by John Kruse (who did lots of ITC shows like The Saint), and is based on a novel by Kendal Young called The Ravine. It follows standard potboiler British thriller tradition, as the police (headed up by Frank Finlay) question their prime suspects, including Leslie Sandord (Tony Beckley), the emasculated husband of the school’s headmistress (Dilys Hamlett). But added to the mix is a not-so subtle attack on cheque-book journalism (with Freddie Jones going to town as a sexist reporter), while Julie’s amateur sleuthing (how very Argento) has shocking results.
The top star cast includes Anthony Ainley as the creepy head of the local mental hospital where Lomax works, James Cosmo as a detective, and David Essex as ‘Man in Chemist Shop’. Composer Eric Rogers crafts a rousing (if repetitive) main theme, while Ken Hodges’ cinematography turns leafy Black Park in Buckinghamshire into the stuff of nightmares.
Assault has been remastered to 2K resolution from the original 35mm camera negative preserved by the BFI National Archive, and Network’s Blu-ray release (out today) includes the following special features.
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• Limited edition, collectable booklet written by Laura Mayne and Adrian Smith
• PDF material
Following the success of his film debut The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Dario Argento directed another puzzling-titled whodunit, The Cat O’ Nine Tails, starring Karl Malden (The Streets of San Francisco) and James Franciscus (Beneath the Planet of the Apes), which had its debut in West German cinemas on 15 July 1971.
Malden plays blind crossword puzzle expert Cookie, while Franciscus is wily reporter Carlo Giordani. The unlikely pair becomes amateur sleuths following a break-in at a pharmaceutical institute in Rome.
When doctors attached to the development of a revolutionary new drug start getting bumped off, Cookie and Giordani must solve nine leads (hence the film’s title) in order to unmask the killer. But their nosing around turns personal for Cookie, when the killer kidnaps his young niece.
While not one of Argento’s personal favourites, there’s much to enjoy thanks to Arrow’s new HD transfer. Retro fans will swoon over the production design (the marble hall of the lab and the rooftop bar are big highlights, and Franciscus’ wardrobe is so cool); while the colour and lighting is trademark Argento, all deep rich tones – like a chiaroscuro painting brought to life. Meanwhile, Ennio Morricone supplies another superb score, this time featuring a catchy discordant melody.
The story is classic murder mystery – but with a modern (read 1970s) twist. Instead of the beautiful blonde being fought over (although there is a beauty present in the shapely form of French star Catherine Spaak), it’s a male gigolo who takes centre stage when one of the doctors becomes a suspect. And it’s this gay storyline as much as the violence (the strangulation scene is particularly nasty) that originally got 20-minutes cut from earlier versions of the film. But here it is uncut and ready for a new audience, and you really don’t have to be dedicated to Argento to love this Cat.
Arrow Video released the film in 2012 on DVD and on Limited Edition Blu-ray featuring a new HD transfer of the film in 2013.
- Brand new High Definition transfer of the film (1080p)
- Optional English & Italian Audio
- Original uncompressed Mono Audio
- Optional English subtitles
- Dario’s Murderous Moggy: Dario Argento Remembers The Cat O’ Nine Tails (1080p)
- Luigi Cozzi: Cat O’ Nine Tails in Reflection (1080p)
- Sergio Martino: The Art and Arteries of the Giallo (1080p)
- Original Italian Trailer
- Reversible sleeve with original Artwork by Rick Melton
NOTE: If you want to hear the English audio, select it first as the release defaults to the original Italian audio. Also, don’t watch the special features until you have seen the movie, as they give away the surprise ending (actually so does the cover art, but its still the coolest scene of the movie).
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 French thriller Les Diaboliques (shortened to Diabolique in this Criterion Collection release) without doubt one of the finest whodunits ever made in the history of cinema and regarded by critics and fans alike as Europe’s answer to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (released five years later). It is, in my books, the mother of all shockers!
Véra Clouzot (the director’s wife) plays Cristiana (aka Cri Cri), the much put-upon wife of a sadistic boarding school head Michel (Paul Meurisse), who is coerced by his mistress Nicole (a tough, forbidding Simone Signoret in one of her best ever roles) into killing him and dumping his body in the school’s swimming pool. But when the pool is later drained, there’s no body and so the mystery begins.
Armed with a hotel key, found on the suit Michel was wearing the night he was killed, Christina begins her own investigation. But she, and Nicole, haven’t countered on the tenacity of a retired detective (Charles Vane) who is determined to prove he’s still got what it takes to solve the crime.
Even 60+ years after its initial release, this haunting thriller has never lost its potency, nor its ability to shock, thanks to a suspenseful script, carefully constructed pacing and the well-developed lead characters. Christina is so religious that she feels damned by her actions, yet Nicole is her polar opposite. Does she feel some affinity with Christina’s plight or is she preying on Christina’s weaknesses? Watching these two characters play off each other is what makes this film so unforgettable.
My favourite scenes are when Nicole and Christina put their murderous plan into action. I found myself watching their every move, hoping and praying nothing goes wrong. But of course it does, and – thanks to Clouzot’s eye – we, the audience, become complicit in the women’s actions.
Watch carefully and you will find that water features heavily throughout. The dripping tap, the highly decorative bath and the swimming pool are all symbols of death, best illustrated by a close-up of the bath drain (which Hitchcock would make his own in Psycho) and the emptying of the pool. So potent an image is the pool that it makes me wonder how many other films turn a swimming pool into a character itself.
Diabolique is a heart-grabbing benchmark in horror film-making and is a must-have for all world cinema fans. Back in 2011, a dual format UK release from Arrow Academy featured a HD transfer of the film from a new restoration of the original negative. Now, The Criterion Collection has released a UK Blu-ray version featuring the same digital restoration and the following special features…
• Uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Selected-scene commentary by French-film scholar Kelley Conway
• New video introduction by Serge Bromberg, codirector of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Inferno”
• New video interview with novelist and film critic Kim Newman
• Original theatrical trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film critic Terrence Rafferty
Mildred Pierce (1945) | The mother of all melodramas starring Joan Crawford joins The Criterion Collection
When it comes to high camp melodrama, director Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce must be the mother of them all! Giving her best-ever performance, Joan Crawford plays the eponymous single mum who walks out on her husband Bert (Bruce Bennett aka cinema’s original Tarzan) so she can build a new life for her two daughters and ends up creating a restaurant chain empire that gives her fame and fortune but leaves her personal life in tatters – and murder…
Nominated for six Academy Awards and scoring Crawford her only Best Actress Oscar, 1945’s Mildred Pierce transformed James M Cain’s 1941 psychological novel into a film noir murder mystery fused with a 1940s women’s picture. Maternal sacrifice never looked so melodramatic as played by Crawford, who is genuinely convincing as the unflappable Mildred who will do anything to achieve the American dream for the sake of her children – especially Veda, who causes her no end of grief.
Ann Blyth scored an Oscar nomination playing the deliciously mean-spirited spoiled brat, and became one of cinema’s all-time great villains as a result. And playing Mildred’s second husband Monte, Zachary Scott is the epitome of the worthless playboy who reminded me of Clifton Webb’s Waldo Lydecker in 1944’s Laura. Then there’s Eve Arden in the supporting role as Mildred’s loveable sidekick Ida, who provides the film with some truly quotable lines like: ‘Personally, Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young’.
But this film belongs to Crawford, who looks fantastic bathed in Ernest Haller’s expressionistic camerawork (he’d done wonders with Crawford’s nemesis Bette Davis in Jezebel and would lens them both in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?). And if you watch the feature-length documentary that accompanies the Criterion release, you’ll see that’s there’s quite a lot of Joan in her character – though probably not the mothering side.
Famously, Crawford didn’t attend the Oscars when she won the Best Actress award – instead, feigning sickness, the press were summoned to her home to see her accept the statuette. That’s our Joanie!
THE CRITERION COLLECTION RELEASE
• New 4K digital restoration
• New conversation about Mildred Pierce with critics Molly Haskell and Robert Polito (watch a clip above)
• Excerpt from a 1970 episode of The David Frost Show, featuring Joan Crawford
• Q&A with Ann Blyth from 2002
• Segment from a 1969 episode of The Today Show, featuring novelist James M Cain
• An essay by critic Imogen Sara Smith
• Also included is Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star: a fascinating Turner Classic documentary from 2002, narrated by Angelica Huston, that’s longer than the movie, but just as gripping and melodramatic. It traces Crawford’s entire life and career, beginning as a dancer from a impoverished background who learned her craft from an unlikely source (the legendary Lon Chaney) to the creation of the Crawford image as the reigning Queen of the Movies in the 1930s, before a drop in popularity forced her to reinvent herself. Her marriages, affairs and catfights with the likes of Bette Davis and Mercedes McCambridge are legend, as is her association with Pepsi-Cola and her struggles in later life taking on roles in B-movie shockers like Berserk and Trog that were well beneath her. Of course, since the publication of her adopted daughter Christina’s 1978 memoir Mommie Dearest, Crawford’s reputation has been forever tarnished. But this documentary sets out to reminds us that, despite all of her failings, Crawford was one of a kind – and someone who was the creation of her own indomitable will. Catch a clip here…
Plagued with production problems, director Roman Polanski’s 1966 black comedy Cul-de-sac should never have worked – but it did and remains a critical high-point of his early career. Having won plaudits and good box-office receipts for his first British-backed film, the psychological horror Repulsion (starring France’s new star Catherine Deneuve), Polanski was given free reign for his follow-up which is now available in a restored HD transfer edition as part of The Criterion Collection.
Set on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coastline, Polanski fashioned a morbidly absurdist bourgeois-baiting tale with his long-time collaborator Gérard Brach.
Happening upon an castle on the coastline, wounded American gangster Richard (Lionel Stander) and his gravely ill accomplice Albert (Jack MacGowran) decide it an ideal hide and so take hostage its owners – retired businessman George (Donald Pleasence) and his restless French wife Teresa (Françoise Dorleac).
But the claustrophobic setting and long wait for help to arrive sets in motion increasingly disturbing games involving sexual and emotional humiliation between captor and couple that escalates into terrible violence…
When Cul-de-sac was released in the UK in 1966 (check out the premiere clip below), audiences really didn’t take to the film (probably on account it was too bleak and not the psychological horror that they had hoped). But when it then won the Golden Bear at the 16th Berlin International Film Festival, it quickly gained a new appreciation – and so it should.
From its outset, Polanski had faith in bringing his bleak comedy of manners to the big-screen and against the odds and by going rogue he achieved it.
A typically British summer (rain, snow and storms) and the wrong tides held up shooting, while method actors Stander and Pleasence caused ructions on set, and Polanski was accused of driving his cast and crew to exhaustion, hypothermia (MacGowran) and near death (Dorleac almost drowned) in order to finish the film to his exacting standards. Even the locals began to resent Polanski and co’s presence (especially in the local pubs).
Meanwhile, the film’s fed-up backers (Compton Films’ Tony Tenser and Michael Klinger) eventually shut down production after it overrun its budget– but not before Polanski had the film’s powerful 8-minute one-shot climax involving a Tiger Moth plane in the can.
Donald Pleasence is in his element as the dotty fed-up George, and his performance ranks as one of his best (alongside his alcoholic doctor in 1971’s Wake in Fright). Françoise Dorleac is also perfectly cast (also at the last minute) as the hippy-like Teresa – and her character is the total anti-thesis of her sister Catherine Deneuve’s sexually repressive character in Repulsion. Then there’s the gravel-voiced Lionel Stander (who’d go onto play Max in TV’s Hart to Hart), who is outstandingly repellent as the chief thug. Tragically, Dorleac died in a car accident a year after appearing in the film.
The other star of the film is Holy Island and the surrounding landscape, made luminous by Gilbert Taylor’s stark black-and-white photography – and the inclement weather (those skies are divine, especially when shot day for night).
And alongside the rich visuals is Krzysztof Komeda’s jaunty score that lends the film a sense of carnival and menace, two elements that are that the heart of this caustic satire (which would look terrific if it were adapted for the stage like Polanski’s follow-up film, Dance of the Vampires). Watch for Jacqueline (billed as Jackie) Bisset, briefly on screen in one of her earliest roles.
THE CRITERION COLLECTION RELEASE
• Restored high-definition digital transfer, approved by director Roman Polanski, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
• Two Gangsters and an Island: the 23-minute 2003 Blue Underground documentary (23min) about the making of the film, featuring interviews with Polanski, producers Gene Gutowski and Tony Tenser, and cinematographer Gilbert Taylor. Also participating are production designer Voyek, continuity Dee Vaughn and actor William Franklyn
• Archive TV interview with Polanski from 1967 (this is a fascinating insight into the young director’s cinematic vision about alienation, sex and his genuine dislike for the bourgeoisie)
• Theatrical trailers
• Plus, booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Thompson