The Entity (1982) | The supernatural suspense pulsates and Barbara Hershey electrifies in Eureka’s HD release
From Eureka Entertainment comes the Blu-ray release of supernatural terror tale, The Entity, starring Barbara Hershey.
Hershey stars as single mum Carla who, one night, is sexually assaulted in her bedroom by someone – or something – that she cannot see. Met with scepticism by her attending psychiatrist Dr. Sneiderman (Ron Silver), she is repeatedly attacked in her car, in the bath, and in front of her children.
Could this be a case of hysteria or something even more horrific? Now, with a group of liberal-minded parapsychologists, Carla agrees to take part in a bizarre experiment: to seduce, trap and ultimately capture the spectral fury…
Penned by Frank De Felitta, the author of the disturbing reincarnation thriller Audrey Rose, who draws on a real-life 1974 case in California, and helmed by veteran director Sidney J Furie, this strange slice of spectrophilia horror hokum caused a protest when the film first opened in London cinemas.
Whether you believe in the film’s premise or not, you’ll be hard-pressed not to be gripped by Hersey’s genuinely moving performance (she’s in nearly every scene), or get angry at the male characters, who regard her (and all women) as merely hysterical and seem to be engaged in a macho pissing game between each other.
Interestingly, the film was made at a time when the feminist establishment in the US was becoming increasingly autocratic and puritan, espousing dogmatic views that were anti – men, sex, art, porn and censorship. And watching the film today, you can see a deliberately provocative anti-patriarchal subtext that warrants further analysis. And while Martin Scorsese regards The Entity as the scariest horror films of all time, maybe its not supernatural elements that unnerves, but male fears of a woman’s true sexual power? It’s certainly food for thought.
The HD remaster looks super, but it also shows up the so-so effects of the Entity when it’s finally trapped – it reminded me of a giant-sized Mr Whippy ice cream version of the Carroon-creature in The Quatermass Xperiment.
Kudos, however, go to the pounding sound effects by Nightmare on Elm Street composer Elmer Bernstein, whose evocative score can also be heard in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill and Inglourious Basterds.
The Entity is released on Blu-ray in the UK through Eureka Entertainment and is available from Amazon
One of the most iconic masterpieces in cinema history, Robert Wiene’s Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari shook filmgoers worldwide and changed the direction of the art form.
Incalculably influential, the film’s nightmarishly jagged sets, sinister atmospheric and psychological emphasis left an immediate impact in its wake (horror, film noir, and gothic cinema would all be shaped directly by it).
Back in 2014, Eureka! released the definitive restoration on dual format as part of their Masters of Cinema Series, now the expressionist masterpiece is back in a special Steelbook Blu-ray edition, which includes the 2014 documentary, From Caligari to Hitler, a two-hour exploration of German Cinema during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933). Plus, there’s a host of brand-new bonus extras to savour.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX
• High-definition presentation, from the extensive FWMS restoration
• Option of Stereo and 5.1 surround scores
• Original German intertitles with optional English subtitles
• From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses
• You Must Become Caligari: Video essay by film critic David Cairns
• Exclusive audio commentary by film historian David Kalat
• Caligari: The Birth of Horror in the First World War: 52 minute documentary on the cultural and historical impact of the film
• On the Restoration: three short video pieces on the film’s restoration
• Trailer for the release of the new restoration of the film
• Booklet featuring vintage writing on the film by Lotte H Eisner; an original Variety review of the film; and rare archival imagery
From Eureka Entertainment comes the Blu-ray release of the 1974 biopic on Edvard Munch, the famed Norwegian Expressionist painter of The Scream, who was born 153 years ago today in 1863 and died, aged 80, on 23 January 1944.
Described by Ingmar Bergman as ‘a work of genius’, the Bafta-winning film found British director Peter Watkins’ using his revolutionary vérité style (which he developed in The War Game and Punishment Park) to paint a compelling portrait of the famed artist and a vivid picture of the emotional, political, and social upheavals that informed his art.
In late 19th century Kristiania (now Oslo), the young artist (played by Geir Westby) has an affair with ‘Mrs. Heiberg’, a devastating experience that will haunt him for the rest of his life. Critics and public alike attack his work and he is forced to leave his home country for Berlin, where, along with the notorious Swedish playwright August Strindberg, he becomes part of the cultural storm that is to sweep Europe…
The Masters of Cinema Series Blu-ray presentation includes the director-approved high-definition restoration of extended 221-minute, optional SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing, and a collector’s booklet with a Peter Watkins self-interview, writing by Joseph Gomez, a Munch timeline, and numerous artworks.
Jinnah (1998) | Christopher Lee gives the performance of a lifetime as Pakistan’s revered founding father
‘Few individuals significantly alter the course of history. Fewer still modify the map of the world. Hardly anyone can be credited with creating a nation-state. Muhammad Ali Jinnah did all three’
So wrote Stanley Wolpert in his acclaimed 1984 biography of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the man who was almost single-handedly responsible for splitting Pakistan from India. A source of much controversy throughout its making, this 1998 biopic from Pakistani-French indie film-maker Jamil Dehlavi opened to great acclaim in Pakistan but has never been available in the English-speaking world – until now.
Following his death on 11 September 1948, Muhammad Ali Jinnah (Christopher Lee) awaits final judgement in the afterlife and must tell the story of his life, before his celestial minder (Shashi Kapoor). His story covers the intense political strife and bloody events that led to the formation of the Muslim nation, starting in 1947 as Lord Mountbatten (James Fox) uses his diplomatic whiles to persuade Mahatma Gandhi (Sam Dastor) and Jawaharlal Nehru (Robert Ashby) to join in his effort to stop Jinnah’s homeland campaign…
This is a lavishly mounted, intensely moving, piece of cinema. If you’re not offended by an English actor playing a Pakistani, then Lee certainly delivers one of the finest performances of his career. It’s certainly the one that he was most proud of – he even bears much countenance to the revered real-life statesman, not only in appearance, but also in some of the character traits that are explored in his inventive biopic that not only addresses Jinnah the politician, but also the man – especially his regrets in his personal relationships with his two wives and daughter, Dina. My other best acting vote goes to Maria Aitken’s fabulous turn as the manipulative Lady Edwina Mountbatten.
The Eureka Entertainment release features a 1080p HD transfer on the Blu-ray, with a progressive encode on the DVD, optional English subtitles, and original trailer.
‘Youth had been a habit of hers for so long that she could not part with it’
When Fedora (Marthe Keller), the world’s most famous, ageless film star dies, having thrown herself in front of a train, her one-time lover, Hollywood has-been producer Dutch (William Holden), feels a sense of guilt about hounding her in starring in a new version of Anna Karenina. But, at her funeral, he learns a terrible truth…
You’ll get a real sense of nostalgia watching Billy Wilder’s penultimate film, Fedora (1978), as it bookends his Oscar-winning 1950’s classic Sunset Boulevard, and – for all intents and purposes – this is his sun-drenched farewell to a Hollywood changed forever.
I was drawn to the film not because of Wilder, but for William Holden, who hit his stride in the 1950s before becoming a veteran for hire in 1970s genre favourites like The Towering Inferno, Damien: Omen II and Network. His grizzled has-been Dutch is not unlike his down-at-heel screenwriter Joe Gillis in Sunset Boulevard, and he again uses on that fabulous smoky growl. And it’s his narration that drives the story, based on Tom Tyron’s novella, which begins as a mystery before the big reveal…
You see, time has not been kind to the 67-year-old Fedora, who has a plastic surgeon (José Ferrer) on call 24-7 to keep her looking youthful, while the wheelchair-bound Countess (Hildegard Knef) relies on her servant (Frances Sternhagen) and chauffeur (Gottfried John) to keep Fedora out of the public eye and out of trouble. She also fears that the public will be mortified to learn that Fedora not only has a drug addiction – she also has an unhealthy obsession for the actor, Michael York…
The other reason I was drawn to the film was because of Tom Tyron (1926-1991). Ever since he ditched acting in the late-1960s, he went on to craft some fascinating horror, mystery and sci-fi novels, some of which were adapted for the big and small screen, like the American Gothic chiller The Other (1971).
His original novella is all about an obsession with youth, and his Fedora is portrayed as an addict desperate for her latest fix from her surgeon. It’s a character that certainly belongs in the pantheon of Grande Dame Guignol – and a sense of that creeps into Wilder’s film, especially in the relationship between Fedora and the Countess (they reminded me of real-life sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine).
Taking Tyron’s premise, Wilder then weaves in his own in-jokes to shine his old-style Fresnel lanterns on the ugly face of Hollywood and its acquiescence to youth-orientated culture that has seen the old guard replaced by bearded pot-heads waving a camera around.
Golden Age aficionados, meanwhile, will be richly rewarded with references that pay homage to screen legends like Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford, music that evokes The Third Man; Euro horror settings and visuals; and campy colourful Douglas Sirk-styled melodramatics. Not to mention an OTT funeral that’s to die for. As the Countess says, it’s ‘Magic Time!’
The new high-definition presentation of Fedora on dual format (Blu-ray & DVD) from Eureka! includes English subtitles, deleted scenes, a restoration comparison and a collector’s booklet featuring essays on the film and archival images.
Conversation Piece (1974) | Luchino Visconti’s meditation on family, beauty and decadence is a quiet achiever
Directed with operatic flare by Luchino Visconti (following his recovery from a stroke), 1974’s Conversation Piece is dominated by a finely controlled turn by Burt Lancaster as a retired American professor who has filled his apartment in Rome with 18th-century paintings of family groups known as ‘conversation pieces’.
But when the brash Countess Brumonti (Silvana Mangano) lures the professor into accepting her family and young German lover (Helmut Berger) as tenants, he finds his ordered life and self-composure increasingly disrupted by their presence…
Set inside the confines of a grand old palazzo, Visconti’s penultimate film (which was shot in English) is a sleek, sly critique of the decadent European jet set that gets better with age.
You’ll be hard-pressed to have little empathy for the self-absorbed Brumonti brood or Berger’s decadent lothario, but Lancaster’s professor is real softie who will melt your heart. And the way he deals with his life being turned upside down is a wonderful lesson in humility. This is a quiet achiever from a master director in his final years.
Conversation Piece gets a dual-format release following a brand new 2k restoration from Eureka! Entertainment as part of their Masters of Cinema Series. Extras include the Italian dub soundtrack, optional subtitles, an interview with screenwriter Alessandro Bencivenni, trailer and a collector’s booklet.
That Cold Day in the Park (1969) | This forgotten gem from American master Robert Altman is electrifying
Before he found fame with M*A*S*H, Robert Altman crafted the unsettling 1969 psychological thriller, That Cold Day in the Park, which gets a UK Blu-ray/DVD release from Eureka Entertainment.
Wealthy thirtysomething spinster Frances (Sandy Dennis) lives in a stiflingly bourgeois world of elderly suitors and domestic routine. But when she invites a seemingly mute and homeless hippy (Michael Burns) into her Vancouver apartment, her seemingly spontaneous act of charity reveals pent-up desires that soon turn into neurotic delusion.
Sandy Dennis’ measured performance drives this compelling tale that anticipates Altman’s ‘women on the verge’ films Images and 3 Women. Giving audiences an early taste of the director’s anti-genre approach to cinema, it eschews the camp hysterics of the Grand Dame Guignol of Whatever Happened to… Baby Jane and Aunt Alice for subtle subversiveness. And this is manifested through Dennis’ troubled Francis, whose repressed feelings are met with humiliation and sexual trauma that sends her careering over the edge, while the fate of Burns’ free spirited stranger proves that nothing in life is ever truly free.
Coupled with the gripping performances of the two leads is László Kovács’ dark, but luminous photography and Altman’s experimental visual touches (voyeuristic long lenses, distorted reflections and drifting zooms) that lends the psychological drama its all-pervading atmosphere of unease that builds and builds until the harrowing final scene.
Part of Eureka Entertainment’s Masters of Cinema Series, this dual-format edition includes a new high-definition transfer and an enlightening interview with Altman on Altman author David Thompson.
Punishment Park (1971) | Why does Peter Watkins’ subversive pseudo-documentary continue to upset America?
Set in a future where America’s war in Vietnam has led to the setting up of detention camps to hold dissidents, director Peter Watkins’ 1971 pseudo-documentary involves a British film crew, led by Watkins himself, following one group of radicals who accept three days in a ‘punishment park’ over a prison sentence. But it’s not going to be easy. The group are on foot, have no food or water, and cannot ask the assistance of the documentary crew as they cross 60-miles of desert to reach their target – an American flag. And standing in their way – squads of law enforcement officers waiting to take them down…
Punishment Park might seem like a dystopian sci-fi in the vein of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four or a futuristic take on the classic adventure The Most Dangerous Game, but it’s actually a despairing indictment of repression in a country that boasts of freedom, liberty and human rights for all.
Mercilessly attacked for being an anti-American paranoid fantasy on its release in 1971, Punishment Park remained virtually unseen in that country for over three decades until it was finally released on DVD in 2005. It’s now available in the UK in a restored version in HD on Blu-ray and DVD (see below).
To fully understand the film, you need to know what was happening to America at the end of the 1960s. As militant elements within the peace movement against the Vietnam War were becoming vocal, the Johnson and Nixon administrations turned to show trials and police force to silence them.
Using an actual piece of US legislation from the 1950s, which provided for the setting up of detention facilities for communist subversives, Watkins structured his pseudo-documentary around the stories of real-life protestors as told by non-actors.
The effect – combined with the brutal desert setting (Bear Mountain in California) and Watkins’ sly investigative reporter – made it all seem real (something he also succeeded in doing in his seminal 1965 BBC TV documentary, The War Game – which gets a BFI Blu-ray release in the UK on 28 March 2016). And it was too real for some, as Danish TV thought it was an actual news report. But there’s certainly no winking to the camera in Watkins’ film. Instead, he challenges the documentary film form, making us (the viewer) complicit in the terrible, brutal acts that unfold.
Post 9/11 and and Punishment Park still makes for uneasy viewing – especially when you consider the abuse, brutality, humiliation and loss of civil liberties that dominate our news bulletins every day. As such, it remains a powerful tour-de-force that needs to be experienced and debated once again.
Punishment Park is available on Dual Format (Blu-ray and DVD) through Eureka!’s The Masters of Cinema Series, and inclues the following features:
• Restored high-definition transfer (shot on 16mm, Punishment Park has been re-mastered from a new 35mm print struck from the restored 35mm blow-up negative held in Paris).
• 30-minute introduction by Peter Watkins, filmed from 2004.
• Audio commentary by Dr Joseph A Gomez (author of the 1979 book Peter Watkins).
• Optional English subtitles.
• Booklet with two essays and reprints by Watkins.
Rocco and His Brothers (1960) | Lucino Visconti’s working class melodrama is a gritty, gripping masterpiece
From Eureka Entertainment comes the worldwide Blu-ray release of Luchino Visconti’s melodramatic 1960 masterpiece Rocco and His Brothers.
In 1950s Italy, recently widowed Rosaria Parondi (Katina Paxinou) and her four sons, Simone (Renato Salvatori), Rocco (Alain Delon), Ciro (Max Cartier) and Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi), leave their impoverished home in Bari in the south for metropolitan Milan where they hope to lodge with their eldest brother Vincenzo (Spiros Focás). But, on discovering he is to be engaged to young Ginetta (Claudia Cardinale) without her consent, Rosario makes a scene that insults his potential in-laws.
Finding temporary housing in the basement of an unheated block of flats, the family struggles to fit into a city where southerners are treated with the utmost disdain. Simone and Rocco soon begin to train as boxers, while Ciro sets about studying, and Vincenzo begins a family with Ginetta. Over time, however, Rosaria finds her southern values challenged, while her sons’ tight-knit bond becomes sorely tested…
Taking inspiration from the novel Il Ponte della Ghisolfa by Giovanni Testori, Lucino Visconti weaves a working class melodrama that might seem grim, grey and angry on the surface, but it’s full of intensity and energy borne out by the sublime performances of Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori and Annie Girardot, whose characters are at the heart of this powerful, often violent tale of love, passion and morality.
Delon delivers one of his finest roles as the noble Rocco, a gentle soul who will go to the ends of the Earth to save his boxer brother Simone from the moral abyss that confronts him. Playing Caine to Delon’s Abel, Salvatori is a standout: raw, rough and the epitome of wounded pride; and as the spirited prostitute in love with both brothers, Girardot is totally captivating and makes for a truly tragic screen heroine. (Incidentally, Girardot and Salvatori married two years later).
But watch out for Katina Paxinou, her protective matriarch Rosario is the Italian mother personified. Her scene unleashing her wrath (complete with southern dialect profanties and gestures) on Girardot’s Nadia is one of the film’s most memorable, and identifiable, moments.
The film’s social statements may walk a thin line at times, but Visconti brings a neo-realist eye and an operatic sensibility to his episodic epic that grips you until the bittersweet end. But kudos go to cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno’s film for bringing Visconti’s powerful imagery to luminous life. From the framing of the film’s four male stars in all their masculine beauty to the sweeping city vistas; and from the dark side-streets and shadow-lit boxing ring to Milan’s deserted Ravizza park where the film’s most violent scenes play out, Rotunno’s monochrome camerawork is breathtaking, while Nina Rota’s hypnotic jazz score is an atmospheric highlight.
Eureka’s Blu-ray, released as part of The Masters of Cinema series, features a HD presentation of the film (which reinstates two scenes cut by the censors) from a new 4k restoration, which also feature the following extras…
- Optional English subtitles
- Two audio choices; the original Italian, and the French dub
- Les coulisses du tournage, a 2003 French documentary about the film
- 1999 interview with cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno
- Interview with actress Claudia Cardinale
- 2002 interview with actress Annie Girardot
- Luchino Visconti: A 60min documentary about the director’s life and career
- Two vintage newsreels
- Original Italian trailer