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Jubilee (1978) | Derek Jarman’s anarchic punk satire still stings after 40+ years

Jubilee (1978)

Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported forward in time by her court astrologer, John Dee (Richard O’Brien) to a shattered Britain of the 1970s, where the present Queen is dead, Buckingham Palace has been turned into a recording studio, and law and order have completely broken down. Moving through the city, Elizabeth observes a group of aimless nihilists, including Amyl Nitrite (Jordan), Bod (Runacre in a dual role), Chaos (Hermine Demoriane), Crabs (Nell Campbell), and Mad (Toyah Willcox)…


This notorious study of British punk culture from avant-garde director Derek Jarman has garnered a huge cult following over the years. But when it was first released (on 3 February 1978 in the UK), Vivienne Westwood famously created a T-shirt with an open letter to Jarman printed on it denouncing the film and his misrepresentations of punk. And when it got its first C4 screening, it was deemed ‘corrupting, pernicious filth’.

Vivienne Westwood, “Open T-Shirt to Derek Jarman…,” 1978.
Collection: V&A, London

Today, Jubilee stands as one of the few British features of the  late-1970s to capture on film performances and cameos from some of most iconic bands of the era, including Adam and the Ants, The Slits, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. And for that reason alone is why you should add the BFI’s 2018 Blu-ray to your collection. Featuring a 2K re-master from the original camera negatives, and presented in both HD and SD (on the DVD). A must-see over and over.

• A Message from the Temple (1981, 5 mins)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014, 8 mins); the singer and actress looks back on her role in Jubilee
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018, 33 mins): punk icon Jordan looks back on her friendship with Derek Jarman and the making of Jubilee
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018, 17 mins): Derek Jarman’s friend, and later collaborator recalls his unconventional involvement in the making of Jubilee
Jubilee image gallery
• Illustrated booklet featuring a contemporary review

Sebastiane (1976) | Derek Jarman’s first feature on Blu-ray and iTunes from BFI


Derek Jarman’s first feature, Sebastiane, directed with Paul Humfress and released in 1976, presents the controversial, sensual and sexualised story of the 4th century Praetorian Guard whose human goodness leads to humiliation and martyrdom.

Back in March 2019, Sebastiane was released as a stand-alone Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, and iTunes, released by the BFI.

In Sebastiane, the heat of the Sardinian desert is powerfully captured on film – both cast and crew go through their paces, sweating it out Herzog-style – while Brian Eno’s distinctly moving score beautifully complements the superb framing and stunning slow-motion photography.

A glorious hymn to the very real, living, breathing, male body, Sebastiene is presented in a new digital version remastered from the original camera negative by the BFI National Archive.

Special features
• Presented in High Definition
Jazz Calendar (1968, 36 mins): footage of the Royal Ballet in rehearsal featuring scenery and costumes by Derek Jarman
Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1976, 62 mins): an incomplete, black and white and un-subtitled work-in-progress cut featuring alternative music
The Making of Sebastiane (1975, 23 mins): Super 8 making-of, shot by the feature’s sound assistant Hugh Smith, along with Jarman
• John Scarlett-Davis Remembers Sebastiane (2018, 7 mins): artist-filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis talks about his experiences on the set of Sebastiane
• Stills Gallery
• Illustrated booklet with writing on the film by BFI curator William Fowler, original review by Tony Rayns and full film credits

Jarman – Volume Two (1987-1994) | The BFI presents six final features from the iconoclastic artist, plus 66 superlative special features, on Blu-ray

It has been 25 years since British filmmaker Derek Jarman died, aged 52 (on 19 February 1994), and yet his artistic legacy continues to live on. Embracing the experimental, the political and the artistic, his cinema was fearlessly unique but also touchingly personal and truly inspirational.

The BFI’s second Limited Edition Blu-ray collection brings together Jarman’s final six features, made during a prolonged burst of creativity and political activism that followed his HIV diagnosis in 1987, and all of them featuring his artistic muse, Tilda Swinton.

These include The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) with Laurence Olivier in his last screen performance, The Garden (1990), Edward II (1993) with Steven Waddington, Wittgenstein (1993) with Michael Gough, Blue (1993) with composers Brian Eno, Coil, Scanner and Simon Fisher Turner, and the posthumously-released elegy to Super 8, Glitterbug (1994), with music from Brian Eno.

All the films are presented in High Definition for the first time in the UK, and the box-set includes 66 amazing special features – both new and archival, plus trailers, galleries of rare stills and promotional materials, and a 100-page collector’s. This truly is a must-have, and a perfect companion to the BFI’s first volume (1972-1986), which contains In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Sebastiane (1976), Jubilee (1977), The Tempest (1979), The Angelic Conversation (1985) and Caravaggio (1986).


Jarman’s highly personal allegory of England in the 1980s. The film combines images of inner-city decay, footage from home movies of three generations of Jarman’s family and a post-apocalypse vision of London ruled by a para-military authority.

Dead Cat (1989, 20 mins): Derek Jarman and Genesis P-Orridge feature in this startling surrealist film in which a young man is terrorised and humiliated, later engaging in a mechanised, industrial sexual encounter
Isle of Sheppey (1984, 7 mins): edited highlights from a VHS video shot on a location-hunting expedition, featuring Derek Jarman and cultural historian Jon Savage
Depuis le jour (1987, 5 mins): Derek Jarman’s sequence from the anthology film Aria
Depuis le jour: audio commentary by producer Don Boyd
Remembering Derek Jarman (2014, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Last of England (2019, 14 mins)
• Don Boyd Remembers The Last of England and Aria (2019, 16 mins)
• Homemade Stuff and Wild Ideas: Simon Fisher Turner on Derek Jarman (2019, 16 mins): the composer looks back on his involvement with Derek Jarman’s art
• Another Derek: Jarman’s Life Away From the Limelight (2019, 5 mins): interview with artist filmmaker John Scarlett-Davis
• An Odd Morality (2019, 4 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• Another World for Ourselves (2019, 9 mins): director John Maybury on meeting Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers Dead Cat (2019, 15 mins)
• Audio commentary on The Last of England with James Mackay, Christopher Hughes, Christopher Hobbs and Simon Fisher Turner
• Galleries

A must-see for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Benjamin Britten’s choral masterpiece, Jarman’s film interpretation includes readings of Wilfred Owen’s World War One poetry and disturbing images of wars since. Tragedy without the triumph, in other words. Features Nathaniel Parker (as Owen), Laurence Olivier, Sean Bean, Patricia Hayes and Nigel Terry.

Books By My Bedside: Derek Jarman (1989, 25 mins)
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Simon Field (1989, 32 mins)
Requiem For Jarman (2008, 37 mins): recollections on the making of War Requiem
• Don Boyd Remembers War Requiem (2019, 38 mins)
• John Maybury Remembers War Requiem (2019, 8 mins)
• The Nature of Super 8 (2019, 8 mins)
Caravaggio was Accidental (2019, 10 mins): Simon Fisher Turner remembers his first feature soundtrack for Derek Jarman
• Before The Last (2019, 15 mins): James Mackay recalls working with Derek Jarman on The Angelic Conversation and Imagining October
•Derek Jarman Presents (2019, 27 mins): John Maybury remembers the Super 8 filmmaking scene
War Requiem trailer
· Audio commentary on War Requiem with Don Boyd
War Requiem image gallery

In the last of three very personal films, Jarman used an explosive combination of scenes and images to bring together his loves, hates and desires – united by his imagery of the Passion.

Derek’s Shoot in Dungeness (1990, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes Super 8 footage shot on location at the time of The Garden
The Wanderer (1991, 30 mins): experimental film by David Lewis based on the Anglo-Saxon poem of the same name, featuring Michael Gough and Michael York
Kiss 25 Goodbye (1991, 7 mins): experimental short on the 1991 OutRage! ‘kiss-in’ protest at Bow Street police station
Clause and Effect (1988, 19 mins): the gay community unites against Clause 28
Orange Juice (1984, 41 mins): Derek Jarman’s location shoot for the promo for ‘What Presence?!’ by post-punk band Orange Juice, fronted by Edwyn Collins
Shooting the Hunter (2015, 5 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• Anything Can Happen (2019, 11 mins): Richard Heslop on working with Derek Jarman
• David Lewis Remembers The Garden (2019, 15 mins)
• The Other Great Masterpiece (2019, 6 mins): John Maybury considers Jarman’s enthusiasm for gardening
The Garden trailers
• Life with Derek (2018, 44 mins): Composer Simon Fisher Turner’s collage of audio clips

Jarman’s trenchant sort-of-modern-dress adaptation of Christopher Marlowe’s play about the downfall of the medieval monarch, richly-textured with atmosphere, but with the homosexual content expanded, embellished and politicised.

Derek’s Edward (2009, 24 mins): the making of Edward II
Ostia (1987, 27 mins): Jarman embodies Pier Paolo Pasolini in this ambitious student film imagining the last hours of the Italian director’s life
Ostia director’s audio commentary
The Clearing (1993, 7 mins): short film by Alex Bistikas starring Derek Jarman and Keith Collins
The Extended Derek Jarman Interview (1991, 70 mins): With Colin McCabe
Cut/Action (2019, 8 mins): Video essay with music and narration by Simon Fisher Turner
• David Lewis Remembers Edward II (2019, 4 mins)
• The Same Spirit (2019, 6 mins): Don Boyd remembers Jarman’s later years
• Truly Beautiful (2019, 19 mins): interview with costumer designer Sandy Powell
Derek Jarman in Conversation with Colin McCabe (1991, 97 mins, audio only)
• Galleries

Jarman executed this critically-acclaimed Channel 4 film celebrating the life of Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein in just two weeks (on a tiny £300,000 budget). Visually stunning, with some fantastic costumes (from Sandy Powell), it explores Wittgenstein’s repressed homosexuality alongside his reputation as one of greatest thinkers of the century, and features Michael Gough and John Quentin as Bertrand Russell and Maynard Keynes.

• Karl Johnson on Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
• Tilda Swinton on Wittgenstein and Derek Jarman (2007, 10 mins)
• Tariq Ali on Producing Wittgenstein (2007, 9 mins)
Wittgenstein: Behind the Scenes (1993, 22 mins)
Wittgenstein: An Introduction (2007, 4 mins)
Face to Face: Derek Jarman (1993, 41 mins): Jarman discusses his HIV status and sexuality with Jeremy Isaacs
• Producer Tariq Ali on Wittgenstein (2014, 7 mins)
• Jarmanalia with Simon Fisher Turner (2019, 17 mins)
• Films Made by a Painter (2019, 5 mins): James Mackay reflects on Jarman’s distinctive style as a filmmaker

Blue – the third film in the highly-personal trilogy begun by The Last of England and The Garden – received a standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival for its uncompromising look at what it’s like to live and work as an artist with the emotional and physical agonies of AIDS. A challenge to conventional filmmaking ideas, the film sees Jarman (and friends) musing on life, death and living with AIDS using vocal and musical testimony against a blank blue screen. Its a fitting goodbye from a director who never once compromised his principals or his own vision. The posthumously-released Glitterbug is a wonderful elegy to Super 8, featuring a compilation of shorts in which the likes of Adam Ant, William S Burroughs and Marianne Faithfull all contribute.

21st Century Nuns (1994, 10 mins): A look at the British chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and their ‘colourful’ activist efforts at fighting homophobia. Great to see this included, as it features some dear friends (some of whom are no longer with us), and is a reminder of just how far we have come with gay/lesbian/transgender rights.
Delphinium: A Childhood Portrait of Derek Jarman (2009, 13 mins)
• James Mackay Remembers Blue (2019, 15 mins)
• Simon Fisher Turner Remembers Blue (2019, 8 mins)
• David Lewis Remembers Blue (2019, 13 mins)
• Hard to Imagine (2019, 8 mins): John Maybury recalls Jarman’s journey towards Blue
• After The Garden (2019, 10 mins): Richard Heslop remembers Jarman’s later days
• Total Magic (2019, 6 mins): production designer Christopher Hobbs looks back upon Jarman’s fascination with occult imagery
• After Neutron (2019, 8 mins): interview with Lee Drysdale
• The Best Mentor (2019, 9 mins): John Scarlett-Davis on Jarman’s artistic legacy
Glitterbug and Beyond (2019, 7 mins): James Mackay on the production of Glitterbug
• David Lewis Remembers Glitterbug (2019, 7 mins)
Bliss (1991, 40 mins, audio only): the London debut of the avant-garde live show that helped raise funds to produce Blue, featuring Derek Jarman and Tilda Swinton. This is another of my personal favourites as I was in the audience for this performance, and ended up meeting and chatting with Jarman after the gig. He later gave me some Super 8mm film to shoot my own experimental short, Cruising Headstones.
• Galleries

Michael Gough in The Wanderer


Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 | Six of the best from the iconoclastic British artist collected and restored on Blu-ray

Jarman Volume 124 years have gone by since his death aged just 52, but the legacy of British filmmaker Derek Jarman (1942-1994) lives on, and his highly personal work has lost none of its relevance or impact. The BFI have now released the first of two deluxe limited edition box sets that bring together six of his feature films on Blu-ray for the first time.

In the Shadow of the Sun (1974), Jarman’s debut abstract short film is comprised of a series of Super 8 films and is provided with a soundtrack from music group Throbbing Gristle. Personally, it was thanks to this film that I started experimenting with my own short films, and turned me into a big fan of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV and Coil.

Sebastiane (1976), Jarman’s debut feature film, spoken entirely in Latin and featuring an ambient score from Brian Eno, is an homoerotic account of the life and martyrdom of Saint Sebastiane (Leonardo Treviglio), a Roman soldier who is exiled to a remote outpost where his commanding officer (Barney James) becomes obsessed by him.

Jubilee (1978) | Queen Elizabeth I (Jenny Runacre) is transported through time from 1578 to 1978 by her astrologer John Dee (Richard O’Brien), where she sees what has become of her once glorious kingdom where law and order has broken down. Adam Ant, Toyah Wilcox and Jordan co-star.

The Tempest (1979) | Jarman creates his own interpretation of Shakespeare’s final play. Abandoned on a remote island by his brother Antonio (Richard Warwick), Prospero (Heathcote Williams), the former Duke of Milan, engineers a shipwreck to bring Ferdinand (David Meyer) the Prince of Naples, and his daughter Miranda (Toyah Wilcox) together in a bid to restore peace between Milan and Naples.

The Angelic Conversation (1985), a selection of Shakespeare’s sonnets are read by Judi Dench over atmospheric music by Coil and tableaux images of landscapes and people.

Caravaggio (1986) | A heavily stylised biopic of the Renaissance Italian painter Caravaggio (Nigel Terry) who falls in love with his muse, street thug, Ranuccio Thomasoni (Sean Bean).

Derek Jarman’s first six feature films have all been newly scanned at 2K from original film elements and are presented in this first box set alongside some incredible extras (listed below), all drawn from Jarman’s archive of workbooks and papers held in BFI Special Collections, plus a host of interviews with key cast, crew and friends, which have been exclusively produced for this release.

You can purchase Jarman – Volume One: 1972-1986 direct from the BFI bookshop or from Amazon and HMV (in the UK).

Sebastiane: A Work in Progress (1975): newly remastered from 16mm film elements held by the BFI National Archive, this sadly incomplete early black and white work-print differs significantly from the finished film. This previously unseen alternate edit – assembled in a different order, featuring a different soundtrack – was never subtitled or released
The Making of Sebastiane (Derek Jarman & Hugh Smith, 1975): previously unseen Super 8 footage shot on location in Sardinia
Jazz Calendar (1968): a rarely screened documentary record of the 1968 ballet by Frederick Ashton, performed by The Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, for which Jarman designed sets and costumes
Sloane Square: A Room of One’s Own (1974-76)
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers Sebastiane (2018)
• Message from the Temple (1981)
• TG: Psychic Rally in Heaven (1981)
Pirate Tape (WS Burroughs Film) (1982)
Toyah Willcox: Being Mad (2014)
• Jordan remembers Jubilee (2018)
• Lee Drysdale remembers Jubilee (2018)
Stormy Weather: the Magic Behind The Tempest (2016): Toyah Willcox and Stuart Hopps share their memories of working on The Tempest
• John Scarlett-Davis remembers The Tempest (2018)
• Don Boyd remembers The Tempest (2018)
A Meeting of Minds: Christopher Hobbs on collaborating with Derek Jarman (2018)
Fragments of Memory: Christopher Hobbs on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
To the Cliffs: James Mackay on working with Derek Jarman (2007)
Derek Jarman: The Films that Never Were (2018): A look back on unrealised Derek Jarman features, including Egyptian period drama Akhenaten and science fiction horror Neutron
Akhenaten Image Gallery & Neutron storyboards
• Audio commentary for Caravaggio by cinematographer Gabriel Beristain
Caravaggio in Docklands (1985)
Kind Blasphemy: Nigel Terry on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Tilda Swinton on Derek Jarman and Caravaggio (2007)
• Italy of the Memory: Christopher Hobbs on Caravaggio (2007)
• Dexter Fletcher on Caravaggio (2014)
• Christopher Hobbs remembers Caravaggio (2018)
• Derek Jarman interviewed by Derek Malcolm (1986, audio only)
In the Studio: Caravaggio soundtrack recording sessions (1986, audio only)
• Derek Jarman’s Caravaggio notebook (Gallery)
• Five galleries featuring storyboards, production designs and Jarman’s notes on Caravaggio
• Image galleries
• Original theatrical trailers for The Angelic Conversation and Caravaggio
• 80-page collector’s book






The Roddenberry Vault reveals never-before-seen Star Trek footage in HD

Star Trek: The Original Series The Roddenberry Vault

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, comes this three-disc Blu-ray release featuring previously unseen footage from the show’s production and 12 classic episodes, which is due to land on Monday 5 December 2016.

During the shooting of Star Trek, reels and reels of episodic footage were left on the cutting room floor and later preserved in film canisters by the Roddenberry Estate.  These alternate takes, deleted scenes, omitted dialogue, out-takes, and original visual FX elements have now been catalogued, transferred and pieced together to be inserted into the two featurettes and a three-part documentary that are at the core of this box-set from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.

Star Trek: The Original Series The Roddenberry Vault

The 12 episodes (selected for their relevance to the vault materials) are from the 1080p High Definition film scans done in 2006 for the re-mastering project, and are presented here in both DTS 7.1 Master Audio and newly-restored original Mono. There are also isolated music tracks on 11 of the episodes, while three contain newly-recorded audio commentaries.

The three documentaries are:
Inside The Roddenberry Vault: in which Rod Roddenberry introduces viewers to the discovery of his father’s long-lost Star Trek film reels.
Star Trek: Revisiting A Classic: a look back at the origins of the iconic series, including glimpses of life on the set with new interviews featuring guest stars, directors and production personnel.
Strange New Worlds: exploring the creation of the classic Star Trek visuals, featuring newly-found original visual effects elements photography.


Disc One:
The Corbomite Maneuver
Space Seed
This Side of Paradise (plus audio commentary by Dorothy ‘DC’ Fontana and Gabrielle Stanton)
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 1)
Star Trek: Revisiting a Classic

Disc Two:
The Devil in the Dark
The City on the Edge of Forever (plus audio commentary by Roger Lay Jr, Scott Mantz and Mark A Altman)
Operation – Annihilate!
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 2)
Strange New Worlds: Visualising the Fantastic

Disc Three:
Who Mourns for Adonais?
Mirror, Mirror
The Trouble with Tribbles (plus audio commentary by David Gerrold and David A Goodman)
Return to Tomorrow
Inside the Roddenberry Vault (Part 3)
Swept Up: Snippets from the Cutting Room Floor

The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

The Roddenberry Vault on Blu-ray is now available for pre-order on Amazon.Save










Richard III (1995) | When Shakespeare’s classic tragedy got a 1930s fascistic spin

Richard III

Ian McKellen is wickedly witty as the withered-armed king Richard III in this powerful adaptation that packs a punch and then some…

Richard III

When it comes to film adaptations of Shakespeare, it’s Baz Luhrman’s Romeo & Juliet, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V and Lawrence Olivier’s Hamlet that first come to mind. But 1995’s Richard III should really be counted among them.

Ian McKellen might be better known for playing Gandalf and Magneto in the blockbuster Lord of the Rings and X-Men franchises, but the knighted stage thespian admits he might not have got those parts had it not been for this labour of love, which he wrote the screenplay for based on the successful stage production that he also starred in.

Sporting a pencil-thin moustache, flat 1930s-styled greased and combed hair, and dressed in fascist military attire, his power-crazed Richard, Duke of Gloucester is a clever creation, witty and wicked, yet monstrously mad. He is the tyrant personified, whose deformities (twisted spine, dodgy eye and war-damaged scarred face) cause disgust in others and, in turn, are the root of his wickedness – as is hatred for his abusive mother (played by Dame Maggie Smith in full Downton Abbey mode). And he invites us to become part of his evil schemes by fixing us with his dodgy eye and breaking the fourth wall to utter some of Shakespeare’s most memorable prose.

Richard III

McKellen has made a career out of playing Shakespeare on stage, so he knows how to craft a screenplay that remains true to the Bard’s words. But he’s ditched the archaic, which not only makes the verse more accessible, it serves to highlight Shakespeare’s ingenuity.

Director Richard Loncraine brings a cinematic eye that makes a perfect fit to McKellen’s vision. By dressing the tragedy in the aesthetic of the Third Reich, he shines a light on the pure evil at the heart of Richard’s devious agenda that results in his bloody, brief, rise to dictatorship.

But while Shakespeare and McKellen are the big draw in this condensed cartoon-like confection, so are the magnificent London locations, including those Brutalist beauties, Bankside and Battersea Power Stations, and the Art Deco Senate House at the University of London, which help give the film a grand sense of scale on a modest budget.

Richard III

Featuring an all-star cast, including Kristin Scott Thomas, Robert Downey Jr, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Nigel Hawthorne, a young Dominic West, plus lots of future Downton Abbey faces, Richard III gets a timely release on dual format following a re-master from the BFI.  The special extras include a new audio commentary with  McKellen and Loncraine, an engrossing 79-minute BFI lecture by McKellen about Shakespeare on stage and screen, and an illustrated booklet with an essay by McKellen. An annotated screenplay is also included as a pdf (on the DVD).

Man With a Movie Camera (1929) | Dziga Vertov’s radical, spectacular ode to Soviet life reigns supreme on Blu-ray

Man With a Movie Camera (1929)

‘I am the camera eye, I am the mechanical eye.
I am the machine which shows you the world as only I can see it’
Dziga Vertov

Voted the greatest documentary of all time in the 2014 Sight & Sound poll, Soviet director Dziga Vertov’s radical, ground-breaking 1929 city-symphony, Man with a Movie Camera (Chelovek’s kino-apparatom), used every trick in the cinematic textbook and invented new ones to record the Moscow masses at work and at play from dawn to dusk, while celebrating the cameraman as hero.

Hugely influential, Vertov’s dazzling film certainly lives up to its reputation as one of the most contemporary of silent movies – and continues to inspire awe with each revisit thanks to its virtuso camera trickery. This is cinema vérité supreme.

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On 27 July 2015 the BFI in the UK will release a Special Edition Blu-ray of the documentary, presented with Michael Nyman’s celebrated score, and accompanied with the following extras, while the 2014 restored version, featuring music by the Alloy Orchestra, screens at the BFI from Friday 31 July, as part of the 10 Greatest Documentaries of All Time season.

• Audio commentary by Russian film scholar Yuri Tsivian (previously available on the 2000 BFI DVD).
Kino-Pravda No.21 (Dziga Vertov, 1925, 36 mins): this newsreel, one of 23 made over three years, charts Soviet progress under Lenin. With new electronic score from Mordant Music
One-Sixth of the Globe (Dziga Vertov, 1926, 84 mins): an ideologically charged documentary which denounces capitalism and celebrates Communist transformation. It is presented in its UK distribution version from the politically radical film distributor ETV, with a soundtrack by Mordant Music
Three Songs of Lenin (Dziga Vertov, 1935, 61 mins): poetic propaganda film based on three songs of the Soviet East. The first shows secular Communism’s victory over Islam and the empowerment of women, the second shows a country in mourning over Lenin’s death, and the third showcases Soviet military might and industrial expansion.
• David Collard on Three Songs of Lenin and WH Auden (2009, 7 mins)
• Simon Callow Reads WH Auden’s Verses from Three Songs of Lenin (2009, 3 mins)
• Illustrated booklet with essays on the film’s history, its director, the special features, and composer, Michael Nyman

Akira Kurosawa’s five seminal Samurai films get a BFI Blu-ray box-set release

On 25 August, the BFI will release Akira Kurosawa’s five Samurai films – Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, The Hidden Fortress, Yojimbo and Sanjuro in a 4-disc Blu-ray box set, and a standard Blu-ray edition of Seven Samurai (which got a Limited Edition SteelBook and DVD release back in April).

Akira Kurosawa Collection

This BFI Blu-ray box set features digitally re-mastered presentations of five of Akira Kurosawa‘s greatest films. These critically acclaimed films are accompanied by contextualising extras including interviews with directors George Lucas and Alex Cox, feature-length audio commentaries and original theatrical trailers.

Akira Kurosawa Collection

Seven Samurai (1954)
When the residents of a small Japanese village seek protection, they hire seven unemployed ‘ronin’ (masterless samurai). Paid only in handfuls of rice, the samurai remain distant from the villagers, knowing that their assignment may prove to be fatal. Unanimously hailed as one of cinema’s greatest masterpieces, Seven Samurai has inspired countless films, and was re-made in 1960 as The Magnificent Seven.

Akira Kurosawa Collection

Throne of Blood (1957)
In this brilliant re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Toshiro Mifune plays a samurai fated to betray his friend and master in exchange for the prestige of nobility. Kurosawa’s bloody tale is a triumph of economic style, and the climactic battle scene is full of remarkable, and brutal, imagery.

Akira Kurosawa Collection

The Hidden Fortress (1958)
In this classic collaboration between Kurosawa and star Mifune, a warrior and a princess try against all odds to return to their homeland with their fortune. Acknowledged by George Lucas as the inspiration for Star Wars, The Hidden Fortress combines an epic tale of struggle and honour with modern comic sensibilities to masterful effect.

Akira Kurosawa Collection

Yojimbo (1961)
A drifting samurai for hire plays both ends against the middle with two warring factions, surviving on his wits and his ability to outrun his own bad luck. Eventually the samurai seeks to eliminate both sides for his own gain and to define his own sense of honour. Yojimbo provided the inspiration for A Fistful of Dollars.

Akira Kurosawa Collection

Sanjuro (1962)
This comedy of manners that follows a man fighting corruption in local government, offers a twist on the classic Samurai tale by gently, but perfectly parodying the conventions of the Japanese period action movie tradition.

Special features
• All films presented in High Definition in their original aspect ratio, with PCM mono audio, in Japanese, with optional English subtitles
• Original theatrical trailers
The Art of Akira Kurosawa (2013, 49 mins): Asian-cinema expert Tony Rayns discusses Kurosawa’s career and influence
• Interview with George Lucas (2001, 8 mins)
• Interview with filmmaker Alex Cox (2003, 9 mins)
• Introduction to Sanjuro by Alex Cox (2003, 5 mins)
• Full-length audio commentary for Throne of Blood by Japanese-film expert Michael Jeck
• Full-length audio commentary for Yojimbo by film critic Philip Kemp
• Illustrated booklet with film essays, reviews and film credits

Pre-Order the Blu-ray box-set now (click here)

Watch the original Japanese trailer for Seven Samurai here:

Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972) | Werner Herzog’s mad masterpiece is a savage, hallucinatory beauty to behold

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Having failed in its quest for El Dorado, the fabled City of Gold, the 1560 expedition of Spanish conquistador Gonzalo Pizarro comes to a halt in the impenetrable jungles of Peru, where Pizarro then elects three nobles to continue with the search. Travelling down river on a raft, the explorers face treacherous waters, near starvation and hostile indigenous communities. In his own thirst for glory, nobleman soldier Don Lope de Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) commandeers the raft and begins slaughtering anyone who dares oppose him…

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Werner Herzog’s visionary voyage into the heart of 16th-century colonial darkness, Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972), is without doubt one of the director’s most accomplished works: a visceral, ambitious exploration of megalomania and savage beauty.

Shot under arduous conditions in the high Andes near Machu Picchu, Herzog’s mad masterpiece is a film rich in wonders. There’s the exciting, cautionary tale: ruthless, pious invaders come a cropper while plundering the riches of Peru and enslaving its indigenous dwellers; the epic grandeur of the alien landscape, that’s both beautiful and dangerous (and looks fantastic in HD); and the legendary volatile Klaus Kinski giving a career-best performance.

Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

Taking his cue from the legend that the Incas invented El Dorado in order to lure the Spanish to the deadly Amazon swamplands and drawing on the real-life journals of Dominican missionary Gaspar de Carvajal, Herzog uses the historical adventure to vent against colonialism, imperialist politics, slavery and religion. But he does so with a sharp eye, creating some truly haunting images (the raft swarming with monkeys is cinema sublime), and a keen ear (courtesy of Popol Vuh‘s unearthly music). If there is one criticism, its hearing the actors speaking German/English rather than Spanish, as befits their characters. While disconcerting, it does however put emphasis on their ‘fish out of water’ relationship with the indifferent landscape. With no way out of this jungle, its best to just sit back and soak in Herzog’s haunting vision…

Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

One of the reasons why Werner Herzog remains an important figure in world cinema is that, throughout his career, he has always remained true to his own ideas, interests and obsessions. His ‘truth’ is his center and rather than making a career in film, it’s life’s mysteries that have drawn him to each project, usually in some inhospitable part of the planet – from the jungles of the Amazon to the caves of southern France. Blessed with an unusually observant eye, a sensitive ear and the ability to conjure up a great story, Herzog’s films invite us on voyages in search of the ‘spirit’ of life.

Werner Herzog's Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

The BFI Limited Edition Steelbook features a restored 1080p presentation of 93-minute film in its original aspect ratio 1.33:1 with original PCM 1.0 mono audio (German and English) and alternative 5.1 surround audio (German) in German, plus optional English subtitles. It also includes four early Herzog shorts (see list below), trailer and stills gallery, two audio commentaries with Werner Herzog, and a collector’s booklet.

The Unprecedented Defence of the Fortress Deutschkreuz (1967, 16 mins). This satirical drama concerns four young men hiding from an imagined enemy, and became a dry-run for Herzog’s first feature, Signs of Life (1968)
Last Words (1968, 13 mins). This short, about the last man to leave a former leper colony, is an absurdist look at human communication.
Precautions Against Fanatics (1969, 11 mins). In this faux documentary (which has a Pythonesque tone about it) a group of animal lovers go to the defence of the horses at the Munich racecourse who are under threat from mysterious ‘fanatics’.
Fata Morgana (1971, 77 mins). This is one of Herzog’s first cinematic masterpieces, an imaginative variation on traditional creation myths. Shot in the debris-strewn Sahara and set to music by The Third Ear Band and Blind Faith, a heroic voice-over by Lotte Eisner (taken from the Quiché book Popol Vuh) is counter-pointed by images of poverty, pollution, decay and bizarre humanity.

The BFI’s Werner Herzog Collection box set, which spans 20 years of the director’s career, from 1967-1987, is released on 21 July on Blu-ray (8 discs) and DVD (7 discs).

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979) | The rats are coming! Werner Herzog’s haunting horror is here in HD!

nosferatu (1979)_blu-ray

In spite of grim omens from his wife Lucy Harker (Isabelle Adjani), estate agent Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) leaves his hometown of Wismar behind to venture deep into the Carpathian Mountains to close a property deal. But on meeting Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski), Harker discovers the sickly, wraith-like creature is a centuries-old vampire intent on bringing death in the form of an army of plague-carrying rats to Harker’s idyllic town…

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1979)

1979 was a great year for vampires on the big screen and as a 15-year-old already weaned on reruns of the classic Universal and Hammer horrors on TV, I was spoilt for choice. There was Frank Langella’s charming lady killer in the big-budget Dracula, Reggie Nalder’s frightening albino vampire Kurt Barlow in Salem’s Lot (it was on the big screen in Australia), and even George Hamilton’s silly dispossessed Count in Love at First Bite.

I loved them all, so it’s not surprising then that I found Werner Herzog’s arty Euro-horror Nosferatu the Vampyre, which was, in effect, a colour remake of FW Murnau’s 1922 silent classic, one of the most boring films ever: slow-moving, with no action and practically no dialogue to speak of, and a constant drone for a soundtrack. Even the legendary Klaus Kinski’s portrayal of the bald, bat-eared, rodent-toothed vampire wasn’t half as enjoyable as Nalder’s Barlow, which also drew its inspiration from Max Schreck’s Orlok in Murnau’s original.

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1979)

Fast-forward 35 years and as my cinema tastes have developed so has my eagerness to revisit Herzog’s wholly original take on the Dracula story. Thankfully, the BFI’s Blu-ray release – a tantalising taster for their bigger, bolder Herzog box-set release in July – was the perfect excuse.

Rather than retelling Bram Stoker’s novel, Nosferatu the Vampyre is a neo-expressionist restaging of Murnau’s silent classic. Critics of the day called Herzog’s imagining ‘a magnificent miscalculation’, but age has proven it to be a masterful contribution to the vampire canon.

In Herzog’s dread-filled tale, Dracula (Kinski) is an immortal phantom longing for death. When Harker (Ganz) enters his ghostly realm, embodied by a castle ruin that may ‘only exist in the imagination of men’, Dracula is able to cross over, bringing with him his instruments of death: the plague rats and a now infected Harker.

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1979)

The film is rich in references to expressionist cinema – shadowy camera work, dramatic lighting effects, affected gestures – but its use is not just to pay homage. It’s all about breathing cinematic life into Herzog’s vision of a waking nightmare and the film’s key theme, the danger of ghostly dreams that ‘steal life and spread death, whether in the form of vermin, monsters or men’ (*). The castle scenes are genuinely creepy: its broken windows and bats hanging about lending it an authentic haunted air. It’s here that Kinski also gets full reign to bring depth and empathy to his melancholy Count. It’s an exquisite nuanced performance that shows the actor at his height and became his most iconic role.

Expressionism aside, the film is also pure Herzog. The location scenes set in Slovakia’s High Tatra mountains (standing in for the Carpathians), where Ganz’s Harker encounters (real) local gypsies, are hugely impressive, while Popul Vuh’s ethereal music enhances the film’s naturalistic qualities. It makes for a perfect counterpoint to Dracula’s artificial nocturnal realm.

Meanwhile, the scenes in Wismar (actually Delft in The Netherlands), where Adjani comes into her own as the self-sacrificing Lucy, are painterly and surreal. And it’s here that Herzog’s other key theme, how bourgeois society collapses under assault from the unconventional (a theme also at the crux of Hammer’s 1958 Dracula), is captured most deftly in the scenes of the townspeople dining outdoors as the plague-carrying rats swarm around them. Those scenes, and the ones of Kinski’s wraith suckling on Lucy remain forever haunting.

Werner Herzog's Nosferatu (1979)

Strangely, after watching Herzog’s hypnotic horror recently, I had the most vivid of nightmares. A dark shadow crept into my room, then laid beside me in my bed, waiting for me to fall asleep so as to suck the life force out of me. Could it have been Herzog’s cinematic alchemy at work or just those years of watching Dracula movies finally impressing upon me?

The limited edition Blu-ray Steelbook features the re-mastered 1080p presentations of the English and German versions in the original aspect ratio 1.85:1 with original PCM 1.0 mono audio (German and English) and alternative 5.1 Surround audio (German) with optional subtitles. The special features include audio commentary with Werner Herzog, on-set promotional film featuring interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski (1979, 13 mins), trailer, stills gallery and illustrated booklet featuring a new essay by Laurie Johnson (*).

The BFI’s Werner Herzog Collection box sets, which span 20 years of the director’s career, from 1967 – 1987, will be released on 21 July on Blu-ray (8 discs) and DVD (7 discs).


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