Teen Streets

The movie Baz Luhrmann wishes he could make, Julian Temple’s addictive, spectacular and extremely underrated 1986 rock musical ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS comes to limited edition Blu-Ray from the groovy gang at Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.

Ostensibly, the movie – concurrently criticized and praised as a feature-length music video (I’m obviously in the latter camp) – concerns a lower-middle class London nabe undergoing changes in 1958  England.  Rock ‘n’ roll has arrived and it’s having a definite effect on the boys and girls lining up at the Pally.  The rockers are up against the Teds in a full-scale music war that has the joint jumping faster than Fats Waller could ever have imagined.  Key to this cultural upheaval is jazz-loving budding photographer Colin, his wannabee fashionista squeeze Crepe Suzette, and a host of other memorable and (occasionally risible) characters.  Colin’s family lives in a boarding house seemingly left over from the Jack the Ripper days (but with indoor plumbing).  This, in itself, proves to be test of survival, what with middle-class denizens settling for ho-hum (and some, like creepy Arthur, likely taking both syllables of that term literally).

As the “teenage craze” grips the country, civilized laws of nature assert themselves; in other words, adult exploiters step in to cash-in.  And very nearly gum up the works.  Oh, and, as one might imagine, ethnicity plays a big part in the transformation; thus mass violence, organized by bigots, xenophobes and other assholes bring bloodshed into the mix, as the scenario startlingly incorporates the infamous real-life 1958 UK Notting Hill race riots (that “incident” was actually chronicled in a brilliant 1961 Brit pic, Flame in the Streets, which I heartily recommend seeking out).

The intrusion of crass commercialism infringes upon the many young lives, wrecking and/or nearly wrecking their blossoming freedom.

The direction by Temple is spot-on, not surprising since he honed his craft on the Sex Pistols’ 1980 cult classic The Great Rock and Roll Swindle.  The snarky script, as adapted by Michael Hamlyn, based on the Colin MacInnes’ book, is by ace scribe Christopher Wicking (who, it must be noted, has come close to disowning his work on the project, due to clashes with Temple), along with Richard Burridge, Don MacPherson (additional dialog by Terry Johnson); it nary misses a beat.

But above all else ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS is a musical, so it’s the sound, the look and the cast that make it.  The score by Gil Evans is exceptional, perfectly reflecting the times, both accurately and sarcastically.  The individual contributions by the artists, some who appear on-screen, include works by rock luminaries Sade (who belts out “Killer Blow”) Ray Davies (who, as Arthur, offers up “Quiet Life,” a number, which pays naughty homage to Busby Berkeley’s equally naughty “Honeymoon Hotel”), and The Style Council.  The dancing is fab, so ravenous applause to choreographer David Toguri; ditto, look of the pic which is drop-dead gorgeous – awash in neon, enamel colors sumptuously lit and shot by Oliver Stapleton.  Production design is stellar as well, so kudos to John Beard and art designers Stuart Rose and Ken Wheatley.  It’s the energetic cast, however, that’ll knock you out, and the leads really work hard to capture the appearance and feel of that era.  Eddie O’Connell as Colin gives his all, but it’s Patsy Kensit in her breakout role as Crepe Suzette that copped most of the “newcomer” attention, and made her an Eighties goddess.  That said, it’s the clever flash supporting players who frequently send the movie’s absolute beginners to the sidelines.  Utilizing celebs from the period, along with great character thesps and rock icons jet-propel this flick over-the-top in a hilarious OMFG way that will have you lovingly hitting the replay button on your remote.  Aside from the aforementioned Davies and Sade, of particular standout note are Steven Berkoff, James Fox, Eve Ferret, Tony Hippolyte, Anita Morris, Paul Rhys, Robbie Coltrane, Irene Handl, Ronald Fraser, G.B. Zoot Money, Eric Sykes, Sylvia Syms (who was the female lead in Flame in the Streets, a casting nod that couldn’t be a coincidence) and, as Colin’s mum, Mandy Rice-Davies.  Of course, the major coup is David Bowie as the sinister, sleazy promoter/magnate Vendice Partners, who shines in that Laurence Harvey Expresso Bongo mold (and I DO mean mold).  He also wrote (and performs) the title track, which I have been humming, whistling and warbling off and on for the past thirty-three years.

I wholeheartedly embraced ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS when it first landed upon our shores in 1986 (albeit briefly).  Although the soundtrack became prominent on both sides of the pond, the movie flopped, bringing in (utilizing today’s pound to dollar conversion rate) a paltry $2.8 million on an $11 million budget – a red ink showing that helped careen its production company, Goldcrest, into bankruptcy.  Nevertheless I couldn’t wait for the laserdisc, which I could regretfully only watch once.  I mean, the colors were right, but the pan-and-scan of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio rendered any subsequent viewing unwatchable.  I, therefore, am rocking with joy (although not as exuberantly as the folks in the narrative) at the sight of this Twilight Time edition.  Full scope compositions with that 1080p High Def clarity and 5.1 DTS surround will have your media room rompin’ ‘n’ stompin’ for the entire 107-minute duration (like all Twilight titles, the music is also available as an IST).

If you’re still scratching your head in that WTF is this kind of way (many have forgotten this gloriously garish gem), take a chance. You won’t be sorry – unless you wait too long.  Like all Twilight Time releases, it’s a limited edition.  When it’s gone, it’s real gone, man!

ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS. Color.  Widescreen [2.35:1; 1080p High Definition].  5.1 DTS-HD MA. Twilight Time/20th Century-Fox Home Entertainment/MGM Studios.  CAT # TWILIGHT 154-BR.  SRP: $29.95.

 Limited Edition of 3000.  Available exclusively through Screen Archives Entertainment www.screenarchives.com and www.twilighttimemovies.com

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Dead End Job

For those of you who are unhappy in the workplace or out and out hate your job, you ain’t got nothing on the lead in 1921’s DESTINY, the movie that put Fritz Lang on the international map (now on Blu-Ray in a stunning new 2K restoration, courtesy of Kino Classics/Murnau Stiftung/MoMa/rsb/roc-berlin/Bertelsmann/Film Museum/2DF/arte/Deutschlandradio Kultur).

As intimated above, DESTINY was a smash hit worldwide, and it’s really easy to see why.  This movie, a vast undertaking for Decla-Bioscop (with exquisite location filming in Potsdam and Brandenburg), has it all.  Love, sex, violence, supernatural forces, gripping drama and opulent adventure – all perpetrated by one of cinema’s great masters, director Lang who, along with his cowriter (and cohabiter) Thea von Harbou, fashioned the screenplay, subtitled A German Folk Song in Six Verses.

The title itself is rather symbolic, as are the alternate monikers the movie received throughout its decades in release and re-release.  It was also known as The Three Lights and, perhaps, most prominently as Der Mud Tod (translated as either The Tired Dead or Death is Tired, both applicable).

So what is DESTINY, you ask (in a thoroughly un-philosophical manner)?  This highly stylized textbook example of German Expressionism brilliantly follows the travels and career of Death (as superbly personified by Bernhard Goetzke).  The problem with Mr. D. is that he’s sick and tired of humans (“I’m weary seeing the sufferings of men”).  What he’s especially weary of is their whining when he calls, their scheming to cheat him, the lies, the bribes, the total bullshit.  He wants a vacation!  Unfortunately, he’s so good at his job it looks like he’ll (ironically) never be able to rest in peace, like so many millions of his “clients.”

As he moves on to his latest mortal, the grim reaper is stunned to find his task rattled by a bold young woman, the soon-to-be-taken’s lover.  The couple, as portrayed by Walter Janssen and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’s great Lil Dagover, is to be a pair Death is definitely going to remember.  The man’s death is sublimely common – a disappearance after the specter’s shadow swoops over the couple’s horse-drawn carriage.  The woman refuses to accept her happiness cut short and is determined to track Death down and demand…well, a recount.  Death, who resides in an (what else) Expressionistic castle (on land newly purchased from a greedy realtor), surrounded by a doorless, mammoth wall, is unapproachable.  Or so it seems. The woman (throughout the movie the lovers are known only as the The Young Man and The Young Woman) sees the ghosts of recent victims enter and exit the stone barrier, including her significant other.  This only underlines her goal.  As we all know, walls really don’t work, and soon Death is forced to allow the daring lady entrance after she downs a dose of poison.  Their verbal and spiritual sparring amongst a chamber of living candles is visually spectacular, laden with (then) state-of-the-art special effects and luminous (occasionally tinted) black-and-white photography (achieved by no less than five cinematic painters: Bruno Mondi, Erich Nitzschmann, Hermann Saalfrank, Bruno Timm and the masterful Fritz Arno Wagner).

Death, at last, offers the woman a deal.  Stop at least one of three other women in history from losing their mates, and he will return her lover.  The Young Woman readily agrees, and we are transported to three exotic locales from another time:  Persia, Italy and China (all the couples are likewise enacted by Dagover and Janssen, with obligatory appearances by Goetzke).  The Young Woman’s mantra, “Love is as strong as Death!” turns out to not be as simple and basic as she thought, putting her through both physical and emotional hell.  This all culminates in a rather shattering climax of irony and suspense so endemic to the Langian world, and one that I will certainly not reveal to readers unfamiliar with this classic silent masterpiece.  Suffice to say that it and the movie are unforgettable.

DESTINY moved The Movies into a techno-abstract upgrade that seemed to be occurring at a standard, rapid pace post-WWI, and usually emanating from Germany.  No surprise that a barrage of Teutonic directors, writers, cameraman and stars were regularly imported over to Hollywood, where they helped elevate the ever-popular mass entertainment into an art form.  Douglas Fairbanks was blown away by this movie, and snatched up the U.S. rights – not for exhibition, but to study the astounding SFX, which he planned to incorporate into his upcoming Thief of BagdadDESTINY’s destiny nevertheless was to have an innovative effect on global cinema, and one that lasted for nearly a half century.  The Ingmar Bergman influence, of course, immediately comes to mind; however, it didn’t stop there.  Luis Bunuel proclaimed, “When I saw DESTINY, I suddenly knew that I wanted to make movies.” Alfred Hitchcock hailed the pic as his all-time favorite motion picture.

That kind of elite cheering section naturally warrants an A-1 restoration, and Kino, in conjunction with the aforementioned plethora of famed companies, studios, archives and organizations, hasn’t scrimped on one pfennig.  This 35MM complete 98-minute 2K version, containing the original tints, looks amazing.  It sounds great, too, thanks to a newly composed score by Cornelius Schwehr, utilizing a 70-piece Berlin Rundfunk Symphony Orchestra (under the baton of Frank Strobel).  Nifty extras include audio commentary by Tim Lucas, a glimpse of how the film was restored and more.

Perhaps the movie’s greatest irony is its initial reception in Lang’s native Germany.  Critics were emphatically nonplussed by the allegorical epic.  But the director and von Harbou held strong, and, when the picture later opened in France and, then, England, it was praised to the gills. For Lang, it was all part of the game: “If I don’t accept a bad critique, I can’t accept a good one, either,” he said shortly afterward.

The fact that, after centuries of failed male brutality, it is a woman who can prove a formidable foe of Death, and possibly its conqueror, is due to the input of von Harbou.  If anyone personified the female warrior psyche it was the future (albeit briefly) Frau Lang.  It was her contribution to their earlier 1919 triumph The Spiders that displayed the artist in full force:  the most interesting character in that piece was the cunning, athletic Lio Sha, one of celluloid’s most remarkable villainesses.  DESTINY is therefore, in spite of its religious tenets and basic good vs. evil overture, an extremely modern treatise on the flawed human condition that suggests its survival is only salvageable via defiant feminism.  As such, it’s absolutely worth visiting.  And often.

DESTINY.  Black and white (with color tints).  Full frame [1.33:1; 1080p High Definition]. German intertitles w/optional English subtitles.  2.0 DTS-HD MA.  Kino Classics/Murnau Stiftung/MoMa/rsb/roc-berlin/Bertelsmann/Film Museum/2DF/arte/Deutschlandradio Kultur). CAT # K20719.  SRP: $29.95.

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Killer Cop

Perhaps the most fascinating of all the great recent UK police TV thrillers, 2016’s MARCELLA, SEASON ONE comes to our shores, thanks to the accommodating folks at the always edgy Acorn/RJL Media (in association with Cineflix, Buccaneer and Netflix).

No wasting time here.  Like all mysteries worth their salt, I’m cutting directly to the chase.  Marcella Backland is one of the top detectives in the London Metropolitan Police.  Meeting Jason, the man of her dreams and a rising star lawyer, she decides to take a break from her too-often lurid vocation and raise a family.  Ten years and two children later, Marcella needs another respite – this time from the humdrum world she occupies – and applies for a return engagement with LMP.  Things have changed a lot in a decade, and Marcella, now considered ancient (being fortyish), must start from scratch.  But she’s always been a quick study, and soon, once again, ascends to the upper rungs of the sleuthing food chain.

Seems simple.  And pat.  And, blah-blah-blah, I’ve seen it all before.  Not so fast, my cynical friends.  I’ve left out a few details.  Firstly, I’ll tease you with a behind-the-scenes tidbit.  MARCELLA was scripted, co-created (along with Nicola Larder) and co-produced by Han Rosenfeldt, the brilliant warped mind responsible for the smash Scandinavian series The Bridge.

But leave us turn to the aforementioned “left out” bits.  Marcella’s original early retirement also involved a particularly grueling murder case, one she couldn’t quite come to grips with.  You see, the pressure caused Marcella to suffer several blackouts, which always paralleled the discovery of new and grisly clues.  Marcella, aside from being a crack police detective, is also a violent psychopath; long story short, she makes Dexter look like SpongeBob Squarepants.

Once away from the force, Marcella thought she could handle the “situation” on her own; she immersed herself in Home Economics 101, and, frankly, did an excellent job.  She’s a great mom with great kids.  But her now-recurring unbalanced tendencies (often melding spousal lust with violence) have gutted her marriage to the woman’s now-super successful husband.  And we know how that ends.  Oh, and by the way, Marcella’s re-entry into police service coincides with the apparent return of the serial killer whose “technique” aided her decision decide to originally quit in the first place.

Meanwhile, husband Jason has become the head legal honcho for a take-no-prisoners business empire.  It is run by Sylvie Gibson, a Medusa-like Leona Helmsley harpy, and her ineffectual but equally repugnant latest husband.  Sylvie’s semi-estranged son (but nevertheless business associate), Harry, hides a gay lifestyle that leans toward the B & D offshoot.  Harry also holds a deep interest in on-line cam-girls, who shield his closeted world and allow for a modicum of physical misogyny.  The one real jewel in the scumbag family’s crown is their daughter, Grace, who really is the female equivalent of the paradoxical altruistic/mercenary Jason.  Soon they are comparing notes…in the biblical sense.

But the ever-clever Marcella intuitively deduces what’s going on.  And then Grace is found brutally murdered.  One of those “this was a rage killing, this was personal” deals.  Marcella is terrified because the death coincides with her first blackout since she left the force (and to which she has now returned).  And she’s covered in blood.

Working to get assigned to the case, Marcella has to multi-task:  to solve the crime (find out if she actually did it and, if so, to corrupt the evidence), find a fall guy/gal and frame them.  As all the narratives (yep, there are more – including a lecherous detective who always had a jones for the deranged policewoman; a series of witnesses to the night of the murder; an expose of the internet porn world…oh, it never ends) twist, wrap, choke and strangle each other, worlds and lives blow up.  And the blackouts are getting worse, more frequent and lead DS Backland to additional bodies.

This is must-see demented TV.  And, indeed, the show would be a bust if it didn’t have a major force in the lead.  Not to worry, they won the lottery.  The beauteous and dangerous Marcella is portrayed by the remarkable actress Anna Friel (costar of the fantastic 2015 WWII Norwegian docu-spy series The Heavy Water Wars, where she basically played a real-life Agent Carter, and undoubtedly where writer Rosenfeldt first saw her).  That Friel (who won the 2017 International Emmy Best Actress Award for her portrayal) can make the audience sympathize with her is a mammoth achievement; and she is backed up by spectacular support from  Nicholas Pinnock (as her straying husband), Game of Thrones’ Harry Lloyd (as Harry), Sinead Cusack (as Sylvie), Maeve Dermody (as Grace), Ray Panthaki, Jack Doolan, Jamie Bamber, Tobias Santelmann, Nina Sosanya and Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael.

The production is as good as it gets, and benefits from atmospheric photography by Urszula Pontikos, Ulf Brantas and Carl Sunberg, a churning score by Lorne Balfe and, best of all, tense, hair-raising direction by Charles Martin, Jonathan Teplitzky and Henrik Georgsson..  Further kudos to Acorn for providing DVD fans with a terrific two-disc set package (housed in a snazzy slipcovered casing), with each of SEASON ONE‘s eight episodes looking and sounding swell in 16 x 9 anamorphic widescreen and 5.1 stereo-surround.

It’s always fun when the hero/villain, or, in this case, heroine/villainess, are likely the same person, and I guarantee you that even the most Sherlockian of viewers won’t see the ending coming.

MARCELLA, SEASON ONE is a keeper, regardless of the fact that its title character needs one.

MARCELLA, SEASON ONE.  Color.  Widescreen [1.78: 1; 16 x 9 anamorphic]; 5.1 stereo-surround. Acorn Media/RLJ Entertainment/Cineflix/Buccaneer/NETFLIX. CAT # AMP-2614.  SRP: $49.99.

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Eclectic Collectic: The Best Blu-Rays and DVDs of 2018

Oh, for those long-gone days when I could easily pick the Ten Best DVDs of the year.  Then came Blu-Ray, and 3D Blu-Ray.  And it became a joke.  Ten?  How ’bout 110?  For the skeptics who now stream, I say “Ha-HA!,” disc collecting isn’t dead!  Far from it.

When it became obvious that I couldn’t whittle down a list to ten, I began to group titles by companies, particularly the wonderful indies, like Kino, Twilight Time and the expanding libraries of Flicker Alley and Film Movement Classics.  Then I toyed with genres, the best of pre-Codes, animation, silents, film noir and so forth.  This year might be a mix of everything.  If nothing else, 2018 provided a fantastic twelve months for home video platter addicts.

Any carps.  Maybe one.  It seems that skeevy major studios have bailed on 3D, even after selling millions of TVs and players to fans.  Only Warner Bros. and (to a lesser extent) Universal still seem committed to the format; yet, via Kino and Twilight Time, the stereoscopic process survives.  And will continue to do so.  My suspicions as to why Fox, Paramount, Columbia and Disney made their regrettable choices lean heavily toward the nefarious reasons which I won’t go into now.  Let’s just say that for the present, you suits are saving many collectors a lot of dough.  May that sink in.

Enough with the dregs.  Drum roll.

 

DUE PROCESS(ES):  Anyone who’s just peripherally read my stuff knows that I’m a sucker for cinematic uses of color, widescreen, stereophonic sound and 3D (Jim Limbacher’s 1968 book The Four Aspects of Film is my Bible).  2018 was a fab year to celebrate all these things, from the artistic to the gimmick.  Here are the top cherries.

Flicker Alley’s A TRIP TO THE MOON, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/27/long-story-short/, is a fantastic Blu-Ray that belongs in every serious collector’s library.  Taking the 1902 Georges Melies sci-fi classic to new heights, we get a gorgeous-looking rendition in COLOR.  Yep, you read right.  Melies plotted the space adventure to be bursting with hues and tones, hand colored frame-by-frame.  Long thought lost, it emerged in deteriorating shape.  FA, along with Technicolor and others, restored the 35MM nitrate to near-pristine proportions.  A documentary on this cinematic alchemy is also included, plus various versions of MOON, including sound versions (Melies had scripted narration and dialog to be read during screenings).

1925’s STAGE STRUCK, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/09/04/acting-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder,

a riotous, raucous comedy that returned Jazz Age superstar Gloria Swanson to her Sennett roots, was a BIG crowd pleaser at the Neuhaus Bijou.  The exquisite use of two-strip Technicolor for the opening and closing sealed the deal, but, honestly, the pic’s so good (and funny) that it would made the Year’s Best on its own.

It’s always great fun to revisit Warners superb 3D transfer of DIAL M FOR MURDER, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/04/25/3-d-triangle-cunning-with-scissors/, the 1954 crime thriller marking Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary approach to Three Dimensional movie-making.  It doesn’t disappoint.  Many consider this flick to be the best 3D movie ever made.   And they might not be wrong!

Kino, in conjunction with the 3D Film Archive and Paramount Home Entertainment, has gone the distance with two Holy Grail titles from the process’s Golden Age.  1953’s THE MAZE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/halloween-blitz-18-crazed-maze/, a sci-fi horror pic by William Cameron Menzies, may not exactly terrify you, but it’s certainly a style-over-substance extravaganza that consistently entertains and overflows with oodles of atmosphere, in-your-face effects and an overall brilliant utilization of stereoscopic possibilities.

The same gang rivals if not bests THE MAZE with 1953’s CEASE FIRE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/paramount-3-d-peaks/, a movie I never thought I’d EVER see in 3D.  The first feature-length documentary (actually, a docu-drama), this gritty (but beautifully shot) black-and-white adventure covers the final days of the Korean War (or conflict, as it was then called) starring the actual participants.  It’s exciting, engrossing and an ideal demonstration of how thrilling and realistic 3D can be.

Finally, Flicker Alley (along with David Strohmaier and his Cinerama company) does it again with their sensational restoration of the 1952 lollapalooza THIS IS CINERAMA , https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/look-at-the-big-picture/. True, if your home theater isn’t equipped with a 120 foot screen, you might not exactly feel the same excitement Fifties audiences experienced, but my 60” rig had us screaming at the famous rollercoaster opening.  It’s all presented in SmileBox, which comes as close to mimicking the three-screen miracle as you can get.  Coupled with the new stereo-surround remix and you have a widescreen aficionado’s dream come true.

Black-and-white CinemaScope is another one of my favorite combinations, and few 1950s Hollywood dramas explore the dark spatial (and even noirish) rectangular tapestries better than 1957’s NO DOWN PAYMENT, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/29/shaggin-in-the-crabgrass/.  A blistering expose of middle class migration to the suburbs (and the adulterous, racist and class-conscious pitfalls that go with it), this Martin Ritt winner shines from an expert script, direction and cast (including Joanne Woodward, Tony Randall, Jeffrey Hunter, Barbara Rush and Sheree North).

 

FILM NOIR.  Perhaps the most collectable genre for classic movie fans, noir seems to get more popular with each passing year.  And, for Blu-Ray buffs, 2018 was extremely kind for noiristas.

Olive Films, working with Paramount Home Entertainment, really delivered the goods with a trio of 1950s masterpieces, two of them relatively obscure and a third in (at last) in a presentable form (after decades of PD hell).  PRIVATE HELL 36, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/pulp-friction/, a Don Siegel piece de resistance, provides everything (including the hand-picked cast) that film noir screams for. Robert Wise’s 1959 ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/26/black-and-white-and-dead-all-over/, likewise presents an ideal noir cast and adds racism to the plot about losers planning an upstate New York heist.  Another fantastic mean street cast populates Joseph H. Lewis’ magnificent THE BIG COMBO, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/08/08/slimeballs-crime-ball/, at last viewable in 35MM widescreen.

From the 1940s, Olive unveiled a beautifully remastered edition of Abraham Polonsky’s textbook noir FORCE OF EVIL, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/cain-enabled/, featuring possibly John Garfield’s greatest performance (and think about that!).

Warner Bros., through their Blu-Ray arm of the Warner Archive Collection at last revealed the quartet of seminal Bogart-Bacall noir classics, TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, THE BIG SLEEP, DARK PASSAGE and KEY LARGO (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/bogie-betty-blue-ribbon-blu-rays/).   None of them have ever looked or sounded better, and all come with fun and extensive extras.

And last, but certainly not least, the great indie company Twilight Time presented two fantastic limited edition noirs from their Columbia Pictures arm, Sam Fuller’s outstanding UNDERWORLD U.S.A. (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/edgy-cliff/)  and Don Siegel’s EDGE OF ETERNITY (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/12/04/drop-off-point/), the latter which not only delved into my favorite noir subgenre, Color Noir, but was also lensed in CinemaScope!

 

If “noir” is numero uno with classic collectors, “horror/sci-fi” definitely tops the list of overall platter addicts (the Halloween Blitz October posts are our most popular and most re-visited pieces).  It’s impossible to even keep track of all the spooky stuff that gets released each year, let alone re-released on video.  Or the franchises they spawn.  Or the ancillary products.  Or, or, or…

Kino has run the gamut of marvy gory stories, and their covered titles in 2018 underlined that fact with clawed vengeance.

A classic Hammer movie, finally available here uncut and in 1080p Hi-Def widescreen, 1966’s ONE MILLION YEARS, B.C. (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/02/06/mighty-hammersaurus-vs-a-twentieth-century-fox/) was unearthed by Kino is its ultimate rendition.  Not one, but TWO versions of the Harryhausen triumph were unleashed in a dual disc set (the uncut UK version and the US American release).  Plus oodles of extras!

Another fantastic Hammer offering, an entry from their late period, came via Synapse with their wonderful, COMPLETE AND UNEDITED version of HANDS OF THE RIPPER (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/05/freud-where-prohibited/). Not only amazing in 1080p, but crammed full of supplementary material.  It’s the ultimate and ONLY version to own.

Warner Bros., again through their Blu-Ray appendage of Warner Archive, came through like gangbusters with two long-on-demand 1080p re-masters, the brilliant and chilling 1960 sci-fi/horror gem VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/halloween-blitz-18-kids-slay-the-darndest-things/) and the 1979 macabre and darkly humorous adventure TIME AFTER TIME (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/halloween-blitz-18-rip-to-the-chase/).

We conclude this section with Kino’s continuing Blu-Ray celebration of the maestro of Italian horror Mario Bava.  Four essential works, BLACK SABBATH, THE WHIP AND THE BODY, PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and KILL, BABY…KILL! (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/10/05/halloween-blitz-18-bravo-bava/) were covered in 2018, each one a quintessential must for a buff’s supernatural shelf.

 

ACORN.  That fantastic company that gives us Yanks the best of UK (and Australian/New Zealand) TV continued its tradition of brightening up our lackluster small screen days with a choice selection of crime shows, dramas and comedies.  It was hard to pick the lead pantheon titles, but I think these three make my case.

THE WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/agatha-christies-jones/, is not the witty Agatha Christie entertainment millions have known or loved.  It’s essentially the first draft version – the original 1920s piece – a dark, dire descent into guilt, lust and murder.  The impeccable cast, led by the ubiquitous Toby Jones (in one of his 10,000 2018 appearances), couldn’t be better and includes standout work by Andrea Riseborough, Billy Howle and Kim Cattrall.

DOMINION CREEK, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/07/03/golds-fools/, is a gritty, violent western (well, northern), produced entirely in Ireland that fairly accurately depicts the hellish post-Yukon gold rush in the late 1890s.  Using real-life figures to mix with the fictional characters plays a bit with history, but scores A+ for suspenseful, first-rate adventure.

Lastly, sci-fi doesn’t get any better than HUMANS, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/synth-you-sinners/, the utterly satisfying mini-series about a not-too-distant future where people can fulfill all their needs via synths, super-gorgeous efficient androids.  The fact that the fakes are far more preferable than most of the flesh and blood versions is only the iceberg tip of the many clever messages laced throughout the two seasons now available.  And I defy anyone NOT to fall in love with Gemma Chan!

 

NEO-NOIR, ODDS & ENDS.  A modern offshoot of film noir are the many movies that pay homage to the sombre, twisty thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s.  Some admirable examples made it to Blu-Ray in 2018.  The crème de la crème for me comprised:

HANA-BI, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/01/23/unstable-constable/, the remarkable 1997 crime drama, starring, co-edited and written and directed by the amazing Beat Kitano.  It’s a freaky cyclone of a movie worth visiting often.

Going back a few decades is Noel Black’s excellent and disturbing unmasking of middle-class America, 1968’s PRETTY POISON, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/01/16/if-its-tuesday-this-must-be-bellevue/, co-starring the equally excellent and disturbing Anthony Perkins and Tuesday Weld.

On the documentary front, one would have to search far and wide for better representation of DAWSON CITY: FROZEN IN TIME (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/07/17/reel-find/).  It’s a jaw-dropping story of a small Yukon frontier town and how hundreds of silent films (many thought lost to the ages) were accidentally preserved like so many iced dinosaurs.  The extras include some of the actual reels!

One of my favorite genres, the western, currently deceased to most contemporary movie-makers, lives on for collectors, thanks to the folks at Film Movement Classics and Warner Bros.

The first tip of the hat goes to FMC for their spectacular restoration of the 1968’s THE GREAT SILENCE, https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/06/12/the-violence-of-silence/, one of the finest spaghetti westerns ever made.  By going against all the rules, including cast, locale and sunset finale, director Sergio Corbucci has crafted a sick treatise on capitalism, obsession and America’s addiction to violence.

It’s Warners again, through their Blu-Ray Warner Archive Collection, that gets the 2018 brass ring.  My absolute Number One tie picks of the year was the simultaneous release of my two favorite Sam Peckinpah westerns, 1962’s RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY and 1970’s THE BALLAD OF CABLE HOGUE (https://supervistaramacolorscope.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/violent-beauty/).  If you’ve never seen  them, buy these two titles today; if you are acquainted with these classics, upgrade to the Blu-Rays, as they have NEVER looked or sounded as good.  Happy New Year2018bestofcomp