Thursday, 24 January 2013

Soundtrack Gallery - The Films of Dario Argento

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage - Capitol Records US LP Cover (1970)

 Cerberus US LP Cover (1981)

 Cinevox CD Cover (1998)

Cinevox CD Cover - Expanded Edition (2008) 

 The Cat O' Nine Tails  - Dagored LP/CD Cover (1971/2000)

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Ruthless Four (1968)


Chacun Pour Soi
Every Man for Himself
Sam Cooper's Gold
The Goldseekers

It’s always a pleasure to discover a hidden gem, but unfortunately it is an increasingly rare occurrence nowadays. This is especially so in a cycle as dense and derivative as the Euro-Western. But my interest in the Euro-Western was recently piqued again by the purchase of an excellent book called Any Gun Can Play, written by Kevin Grant, and published by FAB Press in 2011. If hidden cinematic gems are rare, then well written books on film are like goldust. The Ruthless Four (one of many titles it was released under) is one such discovery, and the analogy with gold is appropriate, for the film charts the damaging and corrosive effect, this particular precious metal can have on human beings. There are certain themes and concerns that are endemic in the Euro Western, and one theme this cycle returns to time and again is greed. This theme is of course also present in both traditional American westerns, and the revisionist westerns that followed in the wake of A Fistful of Dollars (1964). But the difference lies in the way that this theme is presented. The traditional western always seeks to emphasise the positive aspects of its principal themes, and greed exists as part of a cross-current of themes that ultimately serve a redemptive plot. In many European examples greed is the entire raison d’être of the film, with screenplays often allowing no room for anything else, as they explore its acidic effect.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Dracula (1931)

Country: USA

For me one of the most eagerly awaited releases of 2012 was the eight disc Universal Monsters blu-ray box set. It was indeed a joy to discover that this would be one of the titles put out to celebrate Universal’s 100th anniversary, and a further joy to be able to experience Dracula (and its Spanish language variant, both 1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), Phantom of the Opera (1943) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954) in high definition. Though I must spoil Universal’s horror party somewhat by asking what on earth were they thinking including their lacklustre and tedious second attempt at Phantom of the Opera? Surely the sublime dark brilliance of The Black Cat (1934) would have been a more contextually satisfying inclusion, not to mention a damn site more entertaining. That aside the collection is pretty much faultless (the plethora of special features is almost overwhelming) and over the next few weeks I will slowly work my way through it, and hope to bring you reviews of all the films. So we begin with the film that gave commercial impetus to Universal’s appetite for horror, the lukewarm and rather monotonous Dracula.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Genocide - War of the Insects (1968)

Country: JAPAN

Konchû daisensô
War of the Insects 

One of the more intriguing responses to the monster movie (kaiju-eiga) boom of the 1950’s and 1960’s was the one undertaken by Shochiku. The studio was more commonly associated with the prestigious and formally precise productions of Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, and the burgeoning formal experimentation of the politically motivated Japanese new wave. But in the late 1960’s the studio produced four science-fiction/horror/fantasy productions in quick succession in order to reap the fertile and profitable soil sown by the likes of Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, King Kong and Ghidorah.  The first was the laughably inept The X from Outer Space (1967), a film generally regarded as one of the weaker entries in the kaiju-eiga cycle. The next was the more conceptually ambitious Goke, Bodysnatcher from Hell (1968), an intriguing blend of UFO’s, vampirism and apocalyptic disaster. The films arresting visual palette and its strong premise have enabled it to become the most visible of the Shociku quartet. The third was the peculiar The Living Skeleton (1968), which was shot in black and white, and was an eerie tale of revenge overflowing with the atmospherics of kaidan. The fourth and final effort is the film under discussion here, a revolt of nature horror film with an elaborate and complicated narrative that includes the search for an H-bomb, a man wrongly convicted of murder, communist infiltrators, a survivor of the Holocaust, and the apocalypse. It’s a heady mix, drowning in a sea of ideas, an unwieldy beast that ultimately slays itself on its own convolution.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Roman Polanski Poster Gallery

Knife in the Water (1962) - Polish Poster

West German Poster

Argentinian Poster

Repulsion (1965) - UK Quad Poster
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