"When will change come / Just like spring rain." - The Go-Betweens

04.2021

4 from Powerhouse

Irréversible (France, 2002)

Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel and Albert Dupontel star in this hyperviolent rape-revenge drama by French-Argentinian writer-director Gaspar Noé. The story can be viewed two ways: forwards or backwards in time, and British distributor Powerhouse offers both versions, on two region-B discs, in its new deluxe box-set, part of its Indicator series of curated Blu-ray releases. You also get a foldout poster, an 80-page book, an eight-page booklet, and a whack of extras: vintage audio (a director's commentary and masterclass, and a cast Q&A) and video new and old (a 2019 making-of, a critic's appreciation, two whirligig-style music videos, an image gallery, trailers and teasers, a 2002 documentary short, and more). 

Fatherland (U.K / West Germany /France, 1986)

Another Ken Loach movie, this time set in Berlin before the fall of the Wall. East German protest singer Klaus Drittemann (Gerulf Pannaf) emigrates to the West and gets a record contract, but soon grows disenchanted with the capitalist music industry. Socialist playwright Trevor Griffths wrote the script, which, like the film, failed to impress critics.Improving on the U.S. Blu-ray released by Twilight Time in 2016, Powerhouse has added two image galleries (including the shooting script of Fatherland) and two vintage documentary shorts about early 1970s unemployment in Britain, one made by Loach, the other showing him in a protest march. The German subtitles for Fatherland are optional (they were burned-in on the U.S. disc). A 36-page liner booklet completes the package.

Carla's Song (U.K. / Spain /Germany, 1996)

A Glasgow bus driver (Robert Carlyle) befriends a desperate refugee from Nicaragua (Oyanka Cabezas) and follows her  back to her wartorn homeland in search of the man she left behind. Powerhouse improves on the Blu-ray that was released six years ago in the U.S. by Twilight Time and that had burned-in Spanish subtitles. As before, you get a 2005 audio commentary by director Ken Loach and screenwriter Paul Laverty (Carla's Song was the first of many collaborations), several deleted scenes and trailer, but Powerhouse has added an image gallery, a 36-page booklet and new interviews totalling over an hour with six crew, including producer Sally Hibbin, composer George Fenton and editor Jonathan Morris.

The Chalk Garden (U.K. / U.S., 1964)

A new governess (Deborah Kerr) is hired to corral an obstreperous teenager (Hayley Mills) running wild on the East Sussex coastal estate of the girl's imperious grandmother (Dame Edith Evans). Who will break first? The region-B Blu-ray from Powerhouse has three optional audio tracks: a new commentary by two British film historians, an isolated music-and-effects track, and a feature-length interview with director Ronald Neame from 1991. There are three new featurettes – a 21-minute  appreciation of composer Malcolm Arnold; a 10-minute appreciation of playwright Enid Bagnold, who wrote the original drama; and seven minutes with the film's assistant production accountant – plus a minute of 8mm location footage from 1963, a trailer, an image gallery and a 32-page booklet.

1 from Criterion

History is Made at Night (U.S., 1937)

It's been fun these last couple of years to rediscover the French-American actor Charles Boyer: as a gigolo who undergoes a change of heart in a Mexican border town in 1941's Hold Back the Dawn, released on Blu-ray by the U.K.'s Arrow Films; as a sadistic murderer driving his wife (Ingrid Bergman) insane in 1944's Gaslight, which Warner has released on BD in its Archive label; and as a globetrotting headwaiter who falls in love with an unhappily married socialite (Jean Arthur) in Frank Borzage's 1937 dramedy History is Made at Night, released this month by Criterion. The movie covers a lot of ground: sometimes you laugh, sometimes you cry, sometimes you're scared, sometimes you simply scratch your head at the improbable plot developments (spoiler alert: the picture ends with a ship striking an iceberg, Titanic-style). Little wonder, this potpourri of genres; History is Made at Night was made up as the shooting went along, and so remains an example of what Hollywood talent can do with incomplete material; sometimes little movie miracles can happen. Now making its debut on Blu-ray and DVD, this underappreciated film has been restored in 4K from a 35mm nitrate duplicate negative, and looks great. Extras include a half-hour conversation from 2018 between author Hervé Dumont and film historian Peter Cowie, a 13-minute interview from 2019 with critic Farran Smith Nehme , a half-hour audio interview with Borzage from 1958 curated by the George Eastman Museum; a half-hour radio adaptation from 1940 starring our man Boyer, and a nine-minute demonstration of the film's restoration. The foldout insert has an essay by critic Dan Callahan.

2 boxsets from Eureka!

Karloff at Columbia

Hollywood horror icon Boris Karloff was born William Henry Pratt in Surrey, England, in 1887. Best known as Frankenstein's monster in three classic films of the 1930s (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein and Son of Frankenstein), around the same time Karloff also starred in six movies under contract with Columbia Pictures, and now you can appreciate them all in a specially curated Blu-ray boxset from Britain's Eureka! Classics. With Karloff variously playing a mad doctor or parody thereof, and (in the first film)  twin brothers who inherit a family castle, there's The Black Room (1935), The Man They Could Not Hang (1939), The Man with Nine Lives (1940), Before I Hang (1940), The Devil Commands (1941) and The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942). Each film comes with a new audio commentary and image galleries, and there are also two half-hour Karloff radio mysteries from 1945 and another two from 1952. The booklet has essays by Karloff biographer Stephen Jacobs and film scholars Jon Towlson and Craig Ian Mann. All discs are coded region-B to play on British and European (or international code-unlocked) Blu-ray players.

Straight Shooting & Hell Bent: Two Films by John Ford

Long before he shot Stagecoach and The Searchers and other classic Hollywood westerns, John Ford (born John Martin Feeney in 1894) was a prolific director of silent movies, many of them westerns, and two he made during the First World War have now been liberated from the vaults and spiffed up in a new Blu-ray set from Eureka!, packaged together on two region-B discs as part of the distributor's Masters of Cinema Series. Straight Shoooting, released in August 1917, was Ford's first feature, runs an hour, and stars Harry Carey as an enforcer for ranchers bent on running a farmer off his land. Carey returns as the same character in Hell Bent, from July 1918, and over the course of the film's 50 minutes rides into Rawhide and winds up rescuing a dancehall girl in distress. Extras on the second disc include audio commentaries by film historian Joseph McBride, a 1970 audio interview of Ford by McBride (45 mins.) and a pair of short video essays by critic Tag Gallagher, who also contributes to the accompanying booklet. Zachary Marsh and Michael Gatt composed the musical scores.