At the height of the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, four German exiles in Hollywood – director Fritz Lang, playwright Bertolt Brecht (earning his only US credit here as Bert Brecht), composer Hanns Eisler and actor Hans Heinrich von Twardowski – pooled their efforts into Hangmen Also Die!, an important historical film from 1943 about the Czech resistance, which gets a 2k restoration release from Arrow in the UK from 29 August.
Taking as its starting point, the assassination of the real-life Nazi ‘Reich-Protector’ of Czechoslovakia, Reinhard Heydrich (Twardowski), Lang’s studio-bound suspenser sees an act of kindness by the courageous Marsha (Anna Lee) – hiding the culprit (a deadpan Brian Donlevy) from the Gestapo – result in her professor father (Walter Brennan) and 400 Czech compatriots facing execution unless Donlevy’s resistance fighter is turned over…
Shot in atmospheric black and white by the legendary James Wong Howe, and featuring a Oscar-nominated score from Eisler, Lang’s anti-Nazi gift to wartime American cinemagoers is a masterful blend of war picture, film noir and political thriller. It may loose points for its overly melodramatic Hollywood treatment of the story (all the non-Nazi’s have American accents and Twardowski’s Heydrich comes off like Colonel Klink in Hogan’s Heroes), but its revolutionary spirit shines through.
Eagle-eyed cinephiles can watch out for Dracula‘s Dwight Frye as one of the hostages (it was his last film role before a heart attack cut short his life aged 44 in 1943), and hear the unmistakable growl of Cul-de-sac‘s Lionel Stander as the getaway driver.
The Arrow release features a 2012 2k restored print by Pinewood from the Cohen Film Collection, and includes an audio commentary by film historian Richard Peña, along with an interview with author Robert Gerwarth on Reinhard Heydrich, plus newsreel footage, restoration comparison anda trailer. The first pressing of this release comes with a collector’s booklet.
A must-have for fans of Fritz Lang fans and lovers of wartime cinema.
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970) | Freak me out! Russ Meyer’s demented cult camp classic is unleashed on Blu-ray
From Arrow Video comes Russ Meyer’s cult camp classic Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in a limited special edition release (3000 copies only) on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 18 January, which will include its usual bevy of bonus features, plus the world video premiere (on DVD) of The Seven Minutes, Meyer’s rarely-seen Hollywood swansong.
When Easy Rider proved offbeat movies could be box-office success, all the major studios scrambled to catch up – including 20th Century Fox who decided to hedge their bets on giving sexploitation filmmaker Russ Meyer the chance for mainstream success. The result was this X-rated musical sex comedy horror about an all-female rock band trying to make it big in Hollywood with the help of their Phil Spector-styled manager, the notorious Ronnie ‘Z-Man’ Barzell.
Co-scripted by film critic Roger Ebert, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls is a merciless satire of Hollywood and the music business, a no-holds-barred psychedelic thrill-ride that gleefully stirs sex, drugs, rock ’n’ roll, fashion, lesbianism, transvestism and Nazis into one of the most demented and gloriously OTT black comedies ever made.
Arrow’s special edition also includes the rarely seen The Seven Minutes (1971), Russ Meyer’s adaptation of Irving Wallace’s novel about the absurdities of American obscenity laws. Rarely-seen, it became his Hollywood swansong, as his contract was not renewed after poor returns at the box office (mainly due to a lack of tits and ass).
THE ARROW SPECIAL EDITION
• Limited Edition collection of both of Russ Meyer’s Hollywood films (3000 copies)
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Standard Definition DVD presentation of The Seven Minutes
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for both films
• Original mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray)
• Separate music and effects track for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Two commentaries on Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by co-screenwriter Roger Ebert and actors Erica Gavin, John LaZar, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page and Dolly Read
• Sinister Image: Russ Meyer, David Del Valle’s 1987 interview with the director and his former model Yvette Vickers
• Introduction to Beyond the Valley of the Dolls by John LaZar
• Above, Beneath and Beyond the Valley: The making of a musical-horror-sex-comedy
• Look On Up at the Bottom: with composer Stu Phillips and three members of the Carrie Nations discussing the film’s music
• The Best of Beyond: favourite moments selected by cast and crew members
• Sex, Drugs, Music & Murder: Signs of the Time, Baby!, a look at the late 1960s culture that spawned Beyond the Valley of the Dolls
• Casey & Roxanne: The Love Scene, discussed by participants Erica Gavin and Cynthia Myers
• Screen tests for Michael Blodgett, Cynthia Myers, Harrison Page, Marcia McBroom
• High Definition photo galleries
• Multiple trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring two original artworks
• Booklet featuring new writing on both films by critic Kat Ellinger, Anne Billson’s 1991 interview with Russ Meyer, excerpts from the outraged British critical reaction at the time, and a personal reminiscence by David Del Valle.
The Devil’s Rock (2011) | This demonic wartime action horror is short on thrills, shocks or surprises
It’s long been assumed that the Nazis were secretly involved in the occult during World War II. True or not, it makes for a great story, remember Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Keep? Well, here’s another one, shot in New Zealand, by British visual effects designer turned director Paul Campion.
On the eve of the D-Day landings, two soldiers on a mission to blow up Nazi gun installations in the occupied Channel Islands decide to undertake a rescue mission on a bunker where they believe people are being tortured. But they discover something far more frightening… a Gestapo officer (tasked with raising the forces of Hell to fight for the Nazi cause) and his demon slave (which is trying to break free from its bonds). What follows is a wordy battle of wits as the men try to dispatch the manipulative satantic creature. To quote one of the Kiwi soldiers: ‘There’s bad sheeet going on here!’.
The Devil’s Rock is beautifully shot and well-acted, but is devoid of depth and decidedly short on action, thrills, shocks or surprises. Most of the film is made up of wordplay about faith and politics making it better suited to a radio play or, if shortened, an episode in a horror anthology TV series. Gorehounds will also be disappointed to find only one cool sfx scene (involving a head being swallowed), plus the film is begging a proper soundtrack.
The 2011 UK DVD release includes an interesting making-of featurette in which the director, who mortgaged his house to fund the project, explains how he went about making the film (the creation of the gunshot sound effects is a highlight).
The Devil’s Rock also screens on The Horror Channel (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freesat 138) with the next screening on Monday 17 February at 11.pm.[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA14m8ydRUM%5D