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Scum | Alan Clarke’s brutal borstal drama still shocks 40 years on!

After the banning of their original 1977 BBC TV version, director Alan Clarke (The Firm) and writer Roy Minton (Funny Farm) set out to remake their drama, Scum. The resulting film, released now in a special UK Blu-ray edition to mark its 40th anniversary, was an even more vitriolic portrait of a corrupt and violent institution which stunned cinema audiences and caused outrage…

Scum (1979)

IN BORSTAL SURVIVAL RULES!
Young offenders Carlin (Ray Winstone), Angel (Alrick Riley) and Davis (Julian Firth) are sent to a tough British borstal in the country where they are brutalised by inmates and governors alike. After being singled out by Banks (John Blundell), the existing ‘Daddy’ on his wing, Carlin fights back, rising to the top of the prisoner heap. But for Angel and Davis life behind bars is much harder to take, especially so for Davis who takes his own life after a terrifying gang rape…

Scum (1979)

I’M THE F***ING DADDY NOW!
Roy Minton‘s script lays bare the brutal reality of British borstals, which were intended to reform young offenders, but ended up becoming breeding grounds for the next generation of hardened criminals. From the fire and brimstone governor (Peter Howell), sadistic wing head Mr Sands (John Judd) and his thuggish officers to ineffectual house master Goodyear (John Grillo) and an uncaring matron (Jo Kendall), there is not one sympathetic character amongst the staff in charge of the boys, who are so desperately in need of guidance, understanding and discipline, but end up being treated with brutal force and intimidation.

Set essentially in a boarding school with bars, Clarke’s film evokes the rebellious ‘two-fingers up at the establishment’ spirit of Lindsay Anderson’s If… (1968), and this is perfect captured in the film’s (improvised) riot scene in which the inmates vent their anger in response to Davis’ suicide. There are also shades of A Clockwork Orange in there, especially in Grillo’s greasy house master, who reminded me of Anthony Sharp’s sleazy Minister of the Interior in Kubrick’s film. Cinematically, the film is shot with a documentary flair, while its wintery exterior scenes are reminiscent of the paintings of LS Lowry.

Scum (1979)

Grim and overwhelming in its squalid sense of reality, the film is a fist in the face in terms of its foul language, racial and religious taunts (politically incorrect by today’s standards), graphic violence and male rape scene, while the acting from the young cast, including future famous faces like Mick Ford, Phil Daniels and Ray Burdis, is uniformly excellent. 40 years on, Scum still resonates (the snooker ball in a sock scene is iconic). But how much has really changed with regards to how we treat our young offenders?

The Indicator Limited Edition Blu-ray release includes the following special features…

• 2K restoration from the original negative, newly re-graded and approved by director of photography Phil Méheux
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary with actor Ray Winstone and film critic Nigel Floyd (2006)
No Luxuries (2019, 20 mins): actor Mick Ford looks at his character of Archer
An Outbreak of Acting (2019, 16 mins): actor Ray Burdis on returning to the role of Eckersley for the feature film
Smashing Windows (2019, 12 mins): actor Perry Benson recalls the daily experiences of being on set
Continuous Tension (2019, 18 mins): director of photography Phil Méheux analyses the documentary approach of his cinematography
Criminal Record (2019, 10 mins): associate producer Martin Campbell on remaking the banned teleplay for the big screen
Back to Borstal (2019, 32 mins): executive producer Don Boyd reflects on his efforts to reinvigorate British cinema in the late 1970s
Concealing the Art (2019, 30 mins): veteran editor Michael Bradsell recalls collaborating with Alan Clarke
That Kind of Casting (2019, 22 mins): casting director Esta Charkham on the influence the Anna Scher Theatre had on production
• Interview with Roy Minton and Clive Parsons (1999, 16 mins)
• Interview with Roy Minton (2005, 20 mins)
• Interview with Davina Belling and Clive Parsons (2005, 9 mins)
• Interview with Don Boyd (2005, 13 mins)
• Cast Memories (2005, 17 mins): archive interviews with Phil Daniels, Julian Firth, Mick Ford and David Threlfall
• Original ‘U’ and ‘X’ certificate theatrical trailers
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Limited edition collector’s book
• Limited edition exclusive double-sided poster

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Def-Con 4 | This 1980s post-apocalyptic sci-fi hasn’t aged well

Two months after the planet is ravaged by nuclear war, three astronauts stationed aboard a defence satellite – Howe (Babylon 5‘s Tim Choate), Jordan (Meatball‘s Kate Lynch) and Walker (John Walsch) – are forced to return to Earth when a hostile computer programme takes over their system.

On the ground, they encounter a lawless world where cannibalistic marauders roam and a young military despot (Kevin King) wants control of the last remaining fallout shelters. The gang’s only hope in survival lies in making an unlikely alliance with an eccentric survivalist (Nero Wolfe‘s Maury Chaykin)…

This 1985 Canadian sci-fi adventure from Roger Corman’s New World Pictures joined the wave of low-budget post-apocalyptic Mad Max 2 copycats that came out during the decade.

It’s a right bargain bin affair, with cheap production design, poor performances, a ham-fisted script and little in the way of action, excitement or anything else for that matter. And there’s nothing in the movie that suggests the atmospheric film poster bearing the skeletal remains of an astronaut in a desolate landscape ( a la Planet of the Apes).

The only redeeming feature is that the sci-fi romp features an early score from Christopher Young (who has composed of host of film genre titles from Hellraiser to the Pet Sematary reboot). Director Paul Donovan, meanwhile, went on to produce, write and direct a much more superior sci-fi, the TV series Lexx.

I’m sure it has its fans, but Def-Con 4 gets a big no from me and doesn’t really deserve a restoration. Nice packaging and artwork though.

SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• New 2K restoration from the original 35mm interpositive
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original lossless mono soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
Brave New World: interview with editor Michael Spence
Nemesis Descending: interview with composer Christopher Young
• Interview with author Chris Poggiali on New World Pictures
• Theatrical trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring original artwork by Gary Pullin
• Illustrated collector’s booklet

The Holy Mountain | The German silent that launched Leni Riefenstahl’s career on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes The Holy Mountain, the greatest of the German ‘mountain films’ and the film that launched the career of Leni Riefenstahl , digitally restored in 2K and presented on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK as a part of The Masters of Cinemas Series.

German filmmaker Arnold Fanck made this beautifully photographed Bergfilm, or ‘mountain film’, in 1926. Written in three days and nights – especially for Riefenstahl, who would go on to direct the Nazi propaganda films, Der Sieg des Glaubens (1933), Triumph of the Will (1935), and Tag der Freiheit (1935) – The Holy Mountain (aka Der Heilige Berg) took over a year to film at the Atelier Staaken studio in Berlin and on mountain locations in Switzerland, with an entourage of expert skiers and climbers.

Ostensibly a tragic love triangle romance – between Riefenstahl’s young dancer and two mountain climbers, Vigo (Ernst Petersen) and his older friend (Luis Trenker) – Fanck relishes the glorious Alpine landscape by filming death-defying climbing, avalanche dodging, and frenetic downhill ski racing.

Digitally restored in 2K, The Holy Mountain is a visual feast – and a fascinating look at the origin of a genre.

Order via the Eureka Store or Amazon

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, from a 2014 2K digital restoration
• Score by Aljoscha Zimmerman, available in both LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993, 180 mins) – Ray Müller’s Emmy award-winning documentary on Leni Reifenstahl. In German, with subtitles.
• Audio commentary by film historian Travis Crawford
• Collector’s booklet

Two classic Amicus horror anthologies, The House That Dripped Blood & Asylum, get a limited edition UK Blu-ray release

On 29 July 2019, Second Sight Films will release Limited Edition UK Blu-ray releases of the Amicus horror anthologies – The House That Dripped Blood and Asylum. Each release will be presented in a stunning box set featuring original artwork from Graham Humphreys alongside a host of special features, including essays from horror aficionados and a collector’s booklet.

Written by Robert Bloch, 1971’s The House That Dripped Blood sees Denholm Elliott, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt taking centre stage in four tales of terror that unfold as a Scotland Yard’s Inspector Holloway investigates a mysterious mansion with a ghoulish history and a chilling fate for its occupants…

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Peter Duffell and author Jonathan Rigby
• Audio commentary with film historian and author Troy Howarth
• Interview with Second Assistant director Mike Higgins
A Rated Horror Film: Vintage featurette featuring interviews with director Peter Duffell and 
actors Geoffrey Bayldon, Ingrid Pitt and Chloe Franks
• Theatrical Trailers
• Radio Spots
• Stills Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON

Directed by Roy Ward Baker from another scare-tastic screenplay from Robert Bloch, 1972’s Asylum sees Robert Powell playing a young doctor attending a job interview at a secluded asylum for the incurably insane, where he hears the macabre stories of four inmates to determine which is the former head of the asylum. The all-star cast includes Peter Cushing, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Barbara Parkins and Patrick Magee.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• Audio commentary with director Roy Ward Baker and camera operator Neil Binney
Two’s a Company: 1972 On-set BBC report featuring interviews with producer Milton 
Subotsky, director Roy Ward Baker, actors Charlotte Rampling, James Villiers, Megs Jenkins, 
Art Director Tony Curtis and production manager Teresa Bolland
• Screenwriter David J Schow on Robert Bloch
• Fiona Subotsky Remembers Milton
Inside The Fear Factory: Featurette with directors Roy Ward Baker, Freddie Francis and 
producer Max J Rosenberg
• Theatrical Trailer
• Reversible sleeve featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys and original artwork

PRE-ORDER NOW FROM AMAZON

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS FOR EACH RELEASE
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Graham Humphreys
• 40 page booklet with new essays by Allan Bryce, Jon Towlson and Kat Ellinger
• Reversible poster featuring new and original artwork

 

Track 29 | Nicolas Roeg and Dennis Potter’s bizarre psycho-drama gets a world Blu-ray premiere release

Freely adapted from Dennis Potter’s 1974 BBC TV play Schmoedipus, this weird psycho-drama sees director Nicolas Roeg toying with his audience as he describes the hallucinations of a mind going off the rails.

Theresa Russell (making her fourth of six films with her director husband) is Linda, the unhappy wife to Dr Henry Henry (Christopher Lloyd) who is more interested in his model trains than her. As Linda contemplates suicide, demons torment her, chiefly the vision of a strange English hitch-hiker Martin (Gary Oldman) who says he’s her long-lost son…

Oldman (doing a satanic variation on Norman Wisdom) is the dynamo that galvanises this bizarre black comedy into life. Overloaded with arthouse conceits bordering on the pretentious, this is Roeg at his most Roegish, and probably the weirdest ever film to be produced by George Harrison’s Hand Made Films. Look out for some suitably surreal supporting turns from Sandra Bernhard and Colleen Camp.

The Indicator limited edition world premiere Blu-ray release includes the following features…

• High Definition remaster
• Original stereo audio
• The NFT Interview with Nicolas Roeg (1994, 68min): archival audio recording
• Audio commentary with filmmaker and historian Jim Hemphill
Postcards from Cape Fear (2019, 18min): actor Colleen Camp on working with Nicolas Roeg
On the Right Track (2019, 10min): interview with editor Tony Lawson
An Air of Mystery (2019, 6min): interview with costume designer Shuna Harwood
Buzz and Gossip (2019, 15min): interview with sound mixer David Stephenson
• Isolated music & effects track
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Exclusive booklet with a new essays, an overview of contemporary critical responses, and film credits

Killer Party | It’s the event to die for!

When teenage thieves Caspar (Sam Strike), Iris (Virginia Gardner) and Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) infiltrate a mansion dinner party, they have plans for pulling off an easy heist. Little do they know that the dinner party is actually being hosted by for a group of recovering serial killers. Once the mansion owners realise they are about to be robbed, all hell breaks loose…

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Each of our would-be thieves have their reasons for attempting one last heist to ensure a better life, but not even the best of intentions will save them from the party’s killer line-up. John Wick regular Lance Reddick carries a remarkable gravitas as the ‘recovering’ murderers’ de facto leader, YouTuber-turned-actor Kian Lawley’s cranks up a disturbing turn as the sleazy son, and Charmed‘s Julian McMahon has a whole lot of scenery-chewing fun as the family patriarch.

From the energetic camerawork and music to some imaginative feats of bloody ultra violence and the lashings of black humour, Killer Party is an event to die for!

Out on DVD and Blu-ray 27 May 2019 from Altitude Film Entertainment

Demonlover | Olivier Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber thriller unleashed on Blu-ray

Twenty years after David Cronenberg prophesied the dark side of the Internet age in Videodrome, acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep) updated it for the New Millennium in his startlingly prescient 2002 thriller Demonlover, a chilling exploration of the nexus between sex and violence available at the click of a button.

Up-and-coming executive Diane (Connie Nielsen) lets nothing stand in her way when it comes to landing the lucrative Tokyo Anime contract for the Volf Corporation, guaranteeing worldwide exclusive rights to the latest in cutting-edge hentai.

Despised by her assistant (Chloë Sevigny) and engaged in a risky game of corporate espionage, her ruthless ambition meets its match in Elaine (Gina Gershon), the charismatic representative of an American Internet porn company called Demonlover.

However, the company is only the front for an online portal to the Hellfire Club, which gives its users control over the next big thing in interactive extreme pornography: real women, tortured according to subscribers’ whims, in real time.

Diane wants a piece of the action, and will stop at nothing to get it; but as she delves deeper into the twisted world of the Hellfire Club, reality slips away and the stakes of the game are raised to the point of no return.

Armed with a pounding score by Sonic Youth, Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber horror is finally unleashed for the first time on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy, with revealing extras and a new director-approved restoration.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the 121-minute director’s cut, approved by Olivier Assayas
• High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentation
• Original 5.1 DTS-HD master audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by writer/director Olivier Assayas
• New visual essay written and narrated by critic Jonathan Romney
Peripherie de Demonlover: Behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Yorick Le Saux
• Archive interviews with Olivier Assayas, Connie Nielsen, Chloë Sevigny and Charles Berling
SY NYC 12/12/01: The Demonlover Sessions: a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the recording of the music score by Sonic Youth
• Q&A with Olivier Assayas filmed at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2003
• Extended version of the Hellfire Club sequence
• Original theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson

The Night of the Generals | The World War Two whodunnit on Blu-ray

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.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 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

 

The Woman in the Window | Fritz Lang’s influential 1940s film noir on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window (1944), starring Edward G Robinson and Joan Bennett, as part of The Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK.

Robinson plays Richard Wanley, a psychiatrist biding his time while his wife and children are on vacation when he encounters Alice (Joan Bennett), who bears an uncanny resemblance to the subject of a portrait he is fascinated by. When Richard and Alice retire to her home, her wealthy, jealous boyfriend intrudes, and is killed after a struggle.

Alice convinces Richard to cover up the crime, but as Richard’s district attorney friend (Raymond Massey) investigates and the boyfriend’s bodyguard (Dan Duryea) begins to apply pressure to Richard, the walls begin to close in…

The Woman in the Window is a fantastic thriller made by Fritz Lang at the end of a very profitable decade in Hollywood, years which had already yielded Fury, You Only Live Twice, The Return of Frank James and Hangmen Also Die.

Considered as one of the most important examples of the genre, it was a triumph for Lang, writer/producer Nunnally Johnson (The Grapes of Wrath), and Edward G Robinson, and remains a classic nail-biter.

Bennett is in top form as the slinky femme fatale, while Duryea is at his silkily treacherous best as the blackmailer. Bennett and Duryea re-teamed with Robinson and Lang the following year for the equally exciting Scarlet Street.

Available to order from: Amazon

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Video essay by critic David Cairns
• Audio Commentary by Film Historian Imogen Sara Smith, author of In Lonely Places: Film Noir Beyond the City
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new essays; alongside rare archival imagery

The Big Clock | John Farrow’s superior 1940’s noir heads to Blu-ray

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

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 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
• Gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artwork options

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