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The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973) | Wojciech Has’ mind-blowing psychedelic classic restored on Blu-ray

The Hourglass SanatoriumWojciech Has’ cinematic universe of Byzantine sets, hallucinatory images and galleries of grotesque characters is brought to life in his psychedelic masterpiece The Hourglass Sanatorium.

Set in the pre-World War II era, a young man named Joseph (Jan Nowicki) visits a strange dilapidated Sanatorium to see his dying father Jakob (Tadeusz Konrat). Upon arrival he finds a hospital crumbling into ruin, where time is slowed down in order to maintain his father’s life signs. Joseph must venture through the many rooms of the sanatorium, each filled with sinister worlds conjured from his memories, dreams and nightmares…

Adapted from a collection of short stories by Polish-Jewish writer Bruno Schulz, and funded by the Polish Arts Council, the 1973 Polish film dispenses with traditional narrative, fashioning an audiovisual mosaic that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Truly mind-blowing

The Hourglass Sanatorium is now available in a restored version on Blu-ray from Mr Bongo Films.


Breathless (1959) | Jean-Luc Godard’s hip and happening New Wave trendsetter

Breathless (1959)Jean-Luc Godard’s debut film Breathless (À Bout de Souffle) was the big hit at Cannes in 1959 and a cinematic trendsetter that kicked off the French New Wave.

Slick and sexy and filmed from the hip (literally) on the streets of a picture postcard Paris, Godard (with the help of his Nouvelle Vague cohorts, Francois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Jean Pierre Melville) threw out the rulebook for this sly, avant garde take on American gangster films.

Jean-Paul Belmondo plays a small-time villain turned killer on the run with a fixation for Humphrey Bogart, while Jean Seberg is the chic American girlfriend he’s recklessly in love with. Despite the cops breathing down their necks, the couple live life on the edge set to a jazzy-cum-Mozart soundtrack… and their motto is ‘only live for the moment’. This one set the standard for cinematic cool.

Breathless (1959)

Breathless (À Bout de Souffle, Cert 15, 115min) is available on StudioCanal’s Jean-Luc Godard The Essential Blu-ray Collection five-disc box set alongside featuring Alphaville, Le Mépris, Pierrot Le Fou, and Une Femme est Une Femme.

The special features include the following…
• Introduction by Colin McCabe (5min)
Godard, Made in USA (51min)
Room 12. Hotel de Suede (79min)
Jean-Luc According to Luc (8min)
• Jefferson Hack interview (8min)
Tempo: Godard episode (17min)
• Jean Seberg featurette (12min)
• Trailer (3min)
• Posters

Rude Boy (1980) | When The Clash and punk collided in an electric British classic

Rude Boy (1980)Filmed as a fictional documentary, 1980’s Rude Boy follows a Brixton punk (Ray Gange) as he quits his job in a West End sex shop to become a roadie for The Clash during their Clash on Patrol and Sort It Out UK tours of 1978.

Set against the backdrop of late 1970s Britain, this is an unparalleled film document of the iconic band (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon) as they tour the country and headline the legendary Rock Against Racism Carnival in Victoria Park, London (which happened on 30 April 1978), while also going into the rehearsal rooms and the recording studio to lay down tracks for their second album Give ‘Em Enough Rope.

The Clash regretted their involvement with the film after watching the rough cuts and asked producer/directors David Mingay and Jack Hazan to edit the film to just concert footage, when Mingay and Hazan refused the band had pin badges made with the statement ‘I don’t want Rude Boy Clash Film’. The film, however, was released in 1980 and won an Honorable Mention and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the 30th Berlin International Film Festival.

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Rude Boy featuring The Clash is available on DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray – fully restored in high definition with all new 5.1 surround sound, from Fabulous Films, from Monday 6 April. It includes 19 songs, 28 performances and 72 mins of live Clash footage.

• Audio commentary from producer/directors David Mingay and Jack Hazan
• Interviews with Ray Gange and Clash road manager Johnny Green
• Interviews with Jack Hazan and David Mingay
• 2 bonus live tracks that never made the final cut
• 4 deleted scenes
• 1980 theatrical trailer
• 1980 30sec radio ad
• Just Play The Clash’ separate song menu
• Clash discography with original sleeve artwork
• Clash image gallery
• The Clash Live in Munich 3rd October
• 7 songs, plus backstage interview
• Original 1980 promotional fanzine
• Rude Boy photo book


From Beyond (1986) | Stuart Gordon’s deranged Lovecraftian body horror

From_beyond_SlipFollowing Arrow Films’ restored release of Brian Yuzna’s Bride of Re-Animator, here’s a look back at his 1986 horror weird-o-fest, From Beyond.

Humans are such an easy prey
When two scientists, Edward Pretorius (Ted Sorel) and Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffrey Combs), invent a device that can expand the powers of the mind, they unwittingly open a door to a parallel universe inhabited by grotesque beings with an insatiable appetite for depraved sensorial experiences.

From Beyond (1986)

Having drawn on the warped imaginings of HP Lovecraft for their cult hit Re-Animator in 1985, director Stuart Gordon and producer Brian Yuzna supped from Lovecraft’s universe the following year, and ended up turning his 1934 short story From Beyond into a Day-Glo monster melange oozing with slimy hybrid creatures (part-puppet, part-animatronics) that could be suitable companions to David Cronenberg’s Brundlefly (The Fly also came out in 1986).

While Gordon and Yuzna’s body horror doesn’t reach the giddy tongue-in-cheek heights of Re-Animator; From Beyond is a gross-out sensual delight that becomes something altogether new if you watched it as being a really bad acid trip.

In 2013, Second Sight put out Blu-ray edition in the UK. Aside from the pristine print, the release hosted a delicious array of bonus features, including interviews with director Stuart Gordon, writer Dennis Paoli and actress Barbara Crampton, featurettes on the film’s editing, music and (my favourite) special effects; plus an illuminating commentary from Gordon, producer Brian Yuzna and actor Jeffrey Combs.

Luciano Ercoli’s 1970s Death Walks Twice gialli are a camp cult scream

Death Walks…

From Arrow Video comes the restored, limited edition release on Blu-ray and DVD of Luciano Ercoli’s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight starring giallo icon Nieves Navarro (aka Susan Scott).

In 1971’s Death Walks on High Heels (La morte cammina con i tacchi alti), Navarro plays Parisian nightclub dancer Nicole, the daughter of a murdered jewel thief, who encounters a black-clad assailant with piercing blue eyes demanding to know the location of her father’s stolen diamonds. Suspecting her jealous lover Michel (Simón Andreu) is her assailant, Nicole leaves for London with her wealthy admirer, Dr Robert Matthews (Frank Wolff). But death stalks her at every turn…

In 1972’s Death Walks at Midnight (La morte accarezza a mezzanotte), Navarro takes on the role of glamour model Valentina, who asks her photographer and on/off lover Gio (again played by Simón Andreu) to film her whilst under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs. In the midst of the high she witnesses a murder, which turns out to have taken place six months earlier. When Valentina sees the killer again, she turns sleuth to solve the mystery…

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Coming out of the giallo boom in the early 1970s and owing a debt to Dario Argento’s Bird With a Crystal Plumage, Ercoli’s Death Walks psycho-thrillers are a camp cult treat serving up twisted and perverse plots which verge on spoofs of Alfred Hitchcock and Edgar Wallace, dressed in the most seductive of 1970s stylings imaginable and set to some stirring Stelvio Cipriani soundtrack scores.

While giallo fans can’t praise High Heels high enough, I found it way too convoluted, poorly structured, and deeply sexist. And when you finally get to the well-executed finale (after one WTF twist a la Psycho), you wonder why it took so many sideways paths to get to the bleeding obvious.

Midnight, on the other hand, is an über stylish treat and a real hoot to boot. I can watch this one over and over just for Navarro’s captivating performance as the resilient heroine (she should have got her own TV crime series), the gorgeous palette and production design, and the inventive camerawork. For me, this was Rear Window meets Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

The limited edition Arrow Video release (3000 copies) feature new 2K restorations of both films from the original film elements, presented on Blu-ray and standard DVD, with the original Italian and English soundtracks to choose from, and new English subtitles. A 60-page book is included along with an array of special features on each disc.

Death Walks in High Heels_coverDEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS
• Audio commentary from Tim Lucas
• Introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
From Spain with Love: Archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress/wife Nieves Navarro
Master of Giallo: screenwriter Gastaldi on how to write a successful giallo
Death Walks to the Beat: Interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani
• Original Italian and English trailers

Death Walks at Midnight_coverDEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT
• Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas
• Introduction by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi
• Extended TV version of the feature
Crime Does Pay: screenwriter Gastaldi on crime film writing
Desperately Seeking Susan: an academic visual essay by Michael Mackenzie

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971) | Did Roman Polanski’s bloody adaptation inspire TV’s Game of Thrones

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

If ever there was a cinematic Shakespeare adaptation that would click with audiences today, it has to be Roman Polanski’s controversial 1971 interpretation of ‘the Scottish play’. Featuring hangings, bludgeonings, stabbings, rape, infanticide and decapitation, it’s certainly a bloody affair, but no more than you’d get in an episode of Game of Thrones. It also brings Shakespeare’s drama to vivid, believeable, life with its accessible, engaging translation of the Bard’s verse.

And this is thanks to Polanski and his co-writer, the London theatre critic, Kenneth Tynan, and a cast of young actors who speak the words in a totally naturalistic way.  These include Jon Finch (whom John Gieglud praised for his delivery) as the power-hungry chieftain Macbeth, Francesca Annis as his co-conspirator Lady Macbeth, and Martin Shaw as Banquo, the one-time friend that Macbeth murders in order to keep his unsteady crown.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

Adding to the film’s realism is Gilbert Taylor’s dramatic, moody photography and the striking use of the stark landscapes and real-life castles in Wales and Northumberland. Watching it today, you can’t help but compare it again with Games of Thrones, as the settings could easily be located anywhere in Westeros. And since Shakespeare’s The War of the Roses history plays are said to have been George RR Martin’s inspiration for his novels, Polanski’s masterpiece could very well have played a role in the look of the TV show.

While much of the film’s darkness could be read as Polanski’s way of dealing with the tragic murder of his wife Sharon Tate and his unborn child at the hands of the Manson Family, if his intention was to create an adaptation that captured the true essence of Shakespeare’s bleak classic tragedy then he certainly succeeded, and with an atmosphere as thick as the witches’ brew that features in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

Boasting Anthony Mendleson’s Bafta-winning period costumes and a sparring, evocative score from Third Ear Band, this compelling modern interpretation is something very special indeed and should be required viewing for anyone studying the Bard. Thank heavens Hugh Hefner’s Playboy company came to the rescue when they did, as we’d never have this cinematic masterpiece to vent its sound and fury all over again on Blu-ray.

The Tragedy of Macbeth (1971)

Roman Polanski’s The Tragedy of Macbeth is out on Blu-ray as part of the first wave of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s launch of The Criterion Collection in the UK.

The director-approved edition features the 4k digital restoration of the film transferred 35mm original camera negative and a new 3.0 surround soundtrack, that was created for the US Criterion release (and it looks absoultely fantastic) and it also includes the same bonus features:

Toil and Trouble: Making Macbeth: This 60-minute 2014 documentary features Roman Polanski, producer Andrew Braunsberg, former Playboy executive Victor Lowner, and actors Martin Shaw and Francesca Annis discussing the film’s production history. Catch a sneak peek below.
Polanski Meets Macbeth: Frank Simon’s 48-min 1971 documentary is a must-see as it features Polanski and the cast and crew at work and on location.
Dick Cavett and Kenneth Tynan: An archive TV interview from 7 May, 1971.
Two Macbeths: A 31-minute segment from Aquarius (27 January 1972) in which director Polanski explains talks about his inspiration for making the film.
• Trailers


Bride of Re-Animator (1990) | The ghoulishly fun sequel gets the deluxe restoration treatment from Arrow

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

From Arrow Films comes the 2k restoration of Brian Yuzna’s 1990 sequel to Stuart Gordon’s fan favourite on Blu-ray and DVD, plus a mausoleum’s worth of bonus material over three discs.

Bride of Re-Animator (1990)

Just as soon as the end credits rolled on Re-Animator‘s gore-splattered finale back in 1985 (check out my review here), horror fans wanted more from Jeffrey Comb’s crazed Dr Herbert West and his ‘work’, and they got their wish when producer Yuzna – who helmed the melt-tastic satire Society in 1989 (check out my review here) – took to the director’s chair of what would become a worthy successor to the original cult classic (although critics might beg to differ).

Eight months after the Miskatonic Medical School massacre and after a spell as a medic in Peru, the obsessive Herbert West (Jeffrey Comb) continues his re-animation research back in Arkham when he comes across the heart of Megan Halsey – the deceased girlfriend of his unwitting accomplice, Dan Cain (Bruce Abbott) – and decides to build a new Megan out of stolen body parts. But our heroes had better watch out, as the revived head of Dr Carl Hill (David Gale) – West’s rival and nemesis –  has sprouted bat wings and hypnotic powers and has West’s ‘rejects’ under his control…

While Bride of Re-Animator may not hit all the right notes all the time, Yuzna’s Freaks-inspired climactic set-piece, boasting wonderfully warped SFX creations, is a batshit crazy horror ride that’s worth repeated viewing. And let’s not forget the scenery chewing turns of Combs and Gale, who come off like the bastard acid-tripping offspring of Colin Clive’s Henry Frankenstein and Ernest Thesiger’s Dr Pretorius. But more than anything, Yuzna’s quickly turned around horror comedy sequel proves that pure cine-magic can happen with a little imagination and ingenuity – and a fair helping of team spirit.

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This new Arrow Video release includes director approved 2K restorations of the Unrated and R-Rated versions of the film on Blu-ray and DVD, with original Stereo 2.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays) and optional English subtitles. The digipak, featuring artwork by Gary Pullin, contains a collector’s booklet and (in the limited edition) the Re-Animator: Dawn of the Re-Animator, the official comic book prequel to Re-Animator.

Disc 1 (Blu-ray) & Disc 2 (DVD) – Unrated Version
• Audio commentary with Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, special effects co-ordinator Thomas Rainone and the effects team.
• Audio commentary with Jeffrey Combs and Bruce Abbott.
Brian Yuzna Remembers Bride of Re-Animator: New featurette making of featurette.
Splatter Masters: The Special Effects Artists of Bride of Re-Animator: New featurette.
Getting Ahead in Horror: Archive making-of featurette.
Meg is Re-Animated: Deleted scene with behind-the-scenes footage.
Carnival Sequence: The cast and crew discuss this excised sequence.

Disc 3 (Blu-ray) R-Rated Version – Limited Edition
• 2K restoration of the R-Rated version
• Behind-the-Scenes Reel


The Legacy (1978) | This British horror puts an Omen-esque spin on The Old Dark House classic

The Legacy_DVD

This 1978 British horror from Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand fuses that mystery staple, the old dark house – seen in many a classic, including James Whale’s 1932 whodunit and the long-running Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap – with the in-vogue satanic frighteners of the day like The Omen and Race With the Devil.

The Legacy (1978)

Stepford Wives heroine Katharine Ross and Mission: Impossible‘s Sam Elliott play an American couple who become reluctant guests at the English country mansion of a dying Satanist, who believes Ross to be the reincarnation of his mother and next in line to head his powerful cult. But standing in her way is a group of odd houseguests, who soon meet with spectacular deaths including drowning, burning, impaling and a botched tracheotomy.

The Legacy (1978)  The Legacy (1978)

The Legacy (1978)

The cast boasts some famous faces, including The Who’s Roger Daltrey, playing a music impresario – of course; Charles Gray (still my favourite Blofeld) as a weapons dealer; and West End actress Margaret Tyzack (who’d go on to play Bianca and Ricky’s gran in EastEnders) as a nurse who can turn herself into a cat.

With its themes of reincarnation, possession and telekinesis, The Legacy follows in the wake of other occult-themed films like The Omen and Suspiria. But while it’s no masterpiece, and didn’t catch the box-office alight – unlike Gray’s character, it’s still a stylish exercise in suspense with some decent special effects and another great score from Theatre of Blood composer Michael J Lewis.


Today you can visit the film’s location, Loseley Park in Surrey, as the house and gardens are open to the public all year round. But if you do, watch out for any suspicious-looking nurses lurking about.

The Legacy is available on DVD through Screenbound Pictures in the UK and gets its network premiere on The Horror Channel today (Saturday 16 April) at 10.50pm.

Symptoms (1974) | The once lost British horror gets a world premiere restored release from BFI Flipside

Symptoms (1974)

A young woman (Lorna Heilbron) is invited to stay at the remote country mansion belonging to her girlfriend (Angela Pleasence). But the peaceful retreat is interrupted by the menacing presence of the local gamekeeper (Peter Vaughan)…

And so begins Symptoms, director José Ramón Larraz’s modern gothic horror story and the official British entry for the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1974. Slipping into obscurity following its release, the film has long been considered lost, appearing on the BFI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list of 75 missing films. But with the negatives found and the film restored following a 2K remastering, Larraz’ eerie master class in suspense and terror will be released by BFI Flipside in a Dual Format Edition on 25 April 2016, with the following extras…

From Barcelona… to Tunbridge Wells: The films of José Larraz (Andy Starke and Pete Tombs, 1999, 24 mins): Archive documentary, featuring interviews with Larraz, Brian Smedley-Aston and Marianne Morris.
On Vampyres and other Symptoms (Celia Novis, 2011, 74 mins): Archive documentary on Larraz’s most acclaimed films.
• Interview with star Angela Pleasence (2016, 10 mins)
• Interview with actress Lorna Heilbron (2016, 18 mins)
• Interview with editor Brian Smedley-Aston (2016, 17 mins)
• Original trailer.
• Collector’s booklet.

Vault of Horror (1973) | Amicus’ final EC Comics homage is a neat job indeed

Vault of Horror (1973)

Below the Crypt lies Death’s waiting-room – The . . . Vault of Horror
Having already mined EC Comics for 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, Milton Subotsky drew on five more tales for the following year’s Vault of Horror, Amicus’ penultimate entry in their horror anthology cycle. Asylum director Roy Ward Baker was called in after original choice Freddie Francis (who helmed the first four entries) declined to oversee a mixed bag of horror and humour, which upped the horror quota, and boasted a starry line-up that, surprisingly, didn’t include Amicus’ two big names, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, but did include cameos from Robin Nedwell and Geoffrey Davies, who were well-known in the UK as doctors Duncan Waring and Dick Stuart-Clark in London Weekend Television’s popular Doctor in the House sitcom series.

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The wraparound story sees five men entering an elevator in London’s Millbank Tower (which celebrated its 10th-anniversary the year the film came out), where they descend to an underground vault designed like a gentlemen’s club. Fuelled by scotch and few gins, the men take turns in describing their recurring nightmares.… only they’re not…

Midnight Mess sees Daniel Massey trying to kill his sister (Anna Massey) for her inheritance, only to find himself in a restaurant full of vampires; The Neat Job finds Glynis Johns driven mad when she fails to meet new hubby Terry-Thomas’ exacting domestic standards; This Trick’ll Kill You has an Indian rope trick snap back when its stolen by Curt Jürgens’ nasty magician; Bargain in Death puts a humorous spin on Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial short story with Michael Craig waiting to be released from his interment; and Drawn and Quartered sees Tom Baker’s artist using voodoo to get his revenge on the art dealers who have swindled him.

Vault of Horror (1973)

A Neat Job! first appeared in Issue 1 of EC Comics’ Shock SuspenStories in 1952

Vault of Horror got a mixed reception when it was released in the UK and US, and the story goes that EC Comics’ publisher Bill Gaines hated the screenplay so much he refused Amicus access to any further stories. But I regard this as a fantastic entry in Amicus’ portmanteau series, with The Neat Job being the films’ standout story, thanks to Terry-Thomas’s brilliant turn at the obsessive Arthur Critchit and Glynis Johns as the downtrodden Eleanor. Those cries of ‘Can’t you do anything neatly?’ will ring in your ear long forever. The second story, in which future Time Lord Tom Baker gives quite the method performance is also a winner, and plays like a mini Theatre of Blood as Baker’s bohemian artist literally paints out his three victims, who get acid thrown in their eyes, their hands chopped off and bullet between the eyes, before meeting his own demise courtesy of some paint thinner.

Vault of Horror (1973)

Midnight Mess is based on a story that first appeared in Tales from the Crypt (Issue 35) in 1953.

For years, film fans have had to accept home entertainment releases with freeze frames in place of the gruesome denouement of the vampire story and the well-aimed hammer attack in A Neat Job. Thankfully, Final Cut’s UK Blu-ray release uses the same uncut transfer that Shout!/Scream Factory put out as part of their 2014 double bill with Tales from the Crypt. This Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific [and really showcases the film’s 1970s production design] and while it doesn’t include any extras (you have to double dip and get the Final Cut double feature get that), it’s a worthwhile addition to your Amicus anthology collection.

Vault of Horror (1973)

This photo was taken for promotional purposes only, while the film includes a great plug for Amicus’ Tales from the Crypt.



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