Archive for the ‘Arrow Video’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 92 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 English Linear PCM

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 30.92 Mbps

Note: This title has seen a number of Blu-ray releases, but this Arrow Video package is by far the best available.

Title

It wouldn’t be right to offer this review of Children of the Corn without admitting to a rather embarrassing prejudice. While I have always enjoyed adaptations of Stephen King’s more grounded stories (The Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, Hearts in Atlantis, Misery, and even The Green Mile immediately spring to mind.), the film adaptations of his more fantastic horror stories usually don’t appeal to me. Understand that this is coming from someone who adores the horror genre. It’s difficult to determine the reason for my dissatisfaction except to say that “realistic” stories tend to appeal to me more than the fantastic. However, even this is an oversimplification. After all, I enjoy such films as The Exorcist, Let the Right One In, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and a number of other sensational stories. Children of the Corn is probably more believable than some of those films, but it doesn’t at all appeal to my tastes. Nothing I could possibly say about this film would be at all fair because it’s impossible to experience it objectively.

The story follows a young couple traveling cross-country only to find themselves stranded in the small town of Gatlin—home of a mysterious religious cult of children. With no adults in sight, the terror brews as the new arrivals find the secrets of the prospering corn fields and the children who inhabit them. The blood-curdling secrets of the children of Gatlin are soon revealed to their new “Outlander” guests.

Children of the Corn isn’t a great horror film by any stretch of the imagination, but those who enjoy horror fantasy should probably give the film a chance. My own prejudices certainly shouldn’t dissuade others from enjoying the film.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Gary Pullin and the film’s original one sheet. The case is protected by an attractive slipcover featuring the new artwork, and it must be said that this adds something to the presentation.

One Sheet

The film’s original one-sheet artwork.

An attractive collector’s booklet that features an article about the film’s production history entitled “Behind the Rows” by John Sullivan, and an essay by Lee Gambin entitled “Praise God! Praise the Lord!” The second text is more theory than the first and examines the influence of the child preacher in reference to Children of the Corn. The booklet is illustrated with production stills from the production and original artwork.

Interestingly, there is also a small reversible poster featuring the film’s original one-sheet artwork and newly commissioned artwork (which is different from the Blu-ray cover design) included inside the case.

[Note: The aforementioned slipcover and booklet and slipcover is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

This release was given restoration by Arrow Video which has been detailed in the collector’s booklet.

Children of the Corn was exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution at EFilm, Burbank. The film was graded and restored on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. There are many instances of optical and animated special effects which could only be restored to an extent without creating unwanted digital artifacts… The original film and audio elements for Children of the Corn were made available for this restoration by Lakeshore Entertainment.” -Collector’s Booklet

The mention of a 4K restoration is somewhat confusing because Arrow’s packaging indicates a 2K restoration (as do their promotional materials for this release). Whatever the case may be, this new transfer is an improvement over the film’s earlier Blu-ray editions as it exhibits an impressive increase in fine detail and a considerable decrease in age-related anomalies. The overall image might be a shade darker than the earlier releases and the grain is slightly more evident here. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing will depend on the individual, but this is likely closer to the theatrical presentation. There is also more information on the sides of the frame, which should be a welcome discovery for those looking to upgrade.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The original 4-track stereo mix was transferred from the original Dolby mag reels and was re-mastered to 5.1 by Lakeshore at Deluxe Audio Services, Burbank, and the resulting mix is included here along with a more faithful 2.0 LPCM track. The 5.1 isn’t as dynamic as one might hope for, but there is some good spacing when it comes to the film’s music and atmospherics. The dialogue is clear and well prioritized in the front speakers, and there is little to no discernible distortion evident. Purists may prefer the LPCM track as it seems to be a good representation of the original.

SS04

Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Fritz Kiersch (Director), Terrence Kirby (Producer), John Franklin (Actor), and Courtney Gains (Actor)

It’s nice that Arrow has carried over this commentary featuring Fritz Kiersch, Terrence Kirby, John Franklin, and Courtney Gains. The participants discuss a number of topics and share stories about the film’s production, location shooting, issues with the field of corn, the film’s reception, thematic elements, and much more. It should certainly be of interest to fans of the film.

Feature Length Audio Commentary with John Sullivan and Justin Beahm

John Sullivan (childrenofthecornmovie.com) and Justin Beahm (horror journalist) discuss a rather wide variety of topics throughout the duration of the track. They seem to be well versed in the film’s production history and impart all sorts of trivia. We learn about the cast and crew, a deleted segment involving the death of one of the characters, the impact that the film had upon popular culture, and other pertinent information. It’s an enjoyable track that should engage fans of the film.

Harvesting Horror: The Making of ‘Children of the Corn’ – (36:15)

Harvesting Horror is an interesting retrospective documentary about the making of the film that features interviews with several key participants including Fritz Kiersch. Courtney Gains, and John Franklin. It’s all pretty standard and isn’t terribly comprehensive, but the general information available here will interest most viewers.

It Was the Eighties! – (14:07)

Linda Hamilton doesn’t seem to be terribly fond of the film but discusses her experiences anyway. The most interesting aspect of the entire interview is her somewhat apathetic attitude.

Return to Gatlin – (16:29)

John Sullivan gives viewers a video tour of the original locations used during the production of Children of the Corn. As a bonus, various residents share their recollections and thoughts about having a horror film being produced on their turf. There is more specific information here than in many other “location tour” featurettes.

Stephen King on a Shoestring – (11:18)

Donald Borchers discusses the low budget nature of the production.

Cut from the Cornfield – (05:30)

Rich Kleinberg goes into detail about a scene that was cut from the film. The actor apparently appeared throughout the scene and was stabbed to death. Fans should certainly enjoy hearing about the scene since it couldn’t be included here.

“…And a Child Shall Lead Them” – (50:52)

Julie Maddalena and John Philbin go into some depth about their experiences during the film’s production, and their recollections cover quite a bit of territory. This is certainly one of the better supplements included here.

“Field of Nightmares” – (17:19)

George Goldsmith discusses his writing origins and how his career progressed before coming around to Children of the Corn. It is interesting to learn about the script’s development and how he approached his adaptation of Stephen King’s original short story.

Welcome to Gatlin: The Sights and Sounds of ‘Children of the Corn’ – (15:29)

Craig Stearns (production designer) and Jonathan Elias (composer) discuss their work on the film.

Disciples of the Crow (1983) – (18:56)

This short 16mm film was the original film adaptation of King’s original short story, and it has been given a new HD transfer. This is probably the most interesting supplement on the entire disc, and it adds an incredible amount of value to the overall package. It should thrill fans of the feature.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

The trailer for Children of the Corn is cut in an interesting way. It is reminiscent of some of the old grindhouse trailers from the seventies. Fans should be happy to have it included here.

Storyboard Gallery – (05:31)

Anyone interested in the pre-visualization of a film should be happy to have this storyboard gallery.

SS05

Final Words:

Children of the Corn has been given the royal treatment by Arrow Video. Those who enjoy the film should certainly be very happy to own this edition of the film.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:48:03

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3495 kbps, 24-bit)

English Mono Linear PCM Audio 1152 kbps (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 35.01 Mbps

Notes: This edition also includes a DVD copy of the film.

Title

“This is not a profound film, let’s be quite clear about it: the only purpose of this film is to give people a very happy hour and forty-five minutes.” –John Cleese (Time Out, September 07, 1988)

The above quote says everything that needs to be said about A Fish Called Wanda. Monty Python fans need no introduction to the talents of John Cleese, who penned the script for this crazy comedy with director Charles Crichton (The Lavender Hill Mob). The film’s all-star cast includes Cleese, fellow Python Michael Palin, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kevin Kline (who won an Academy Award for his performance in the supporting actor category). Anyone looking for an irreverent comedy that will actually make them laugh should see this 1980s classic!

Cleese plays Archie Leach, a weak-willed barrister who finds himself embroiled with a quartet of ill-matched jewel thieves—two American con artists played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline, Michael Palin’s animal-loving hitman, and London gangster Tom Georgeson. Only he and Palin know the whereabouts of the diamonds, prompting plenty of farce and in-fighting as well as some embarrassing nudity and the unfortunate demise of some innocent pooches. In short, the entire film is a ridiculous load of nonsense and a lot of fun.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Jacey and the film’s original poster art. The case is protected by an attractive slipcover featuring the new artwork, and it must be said that this adds something to the presentation. An attractive collector’s booklet that features an essay entitled “Laughing and Not Laughing at a Fish Called Wanda” by Sophie Monks Kaufman, and an archival article entitled “Wanda Lust” by John Morrish that originally appeared in the September 07, 1988 issue of ‘Time Out.’ Kaufman’s essay is a sort of appreciation and criticism of the film that spends a good amount of space lamenting the film’s unfortunate homophobic gags, and the Morrish article is based upon an exclusive interview with John Cleese. It compares the comedian’s work in the film with his previous projects. These texts are illustrated by production stills from the production, and the usual credits and transfer information can be found here as well.

[Note: The aforementioned slipcover and booklet and slipcover is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It was clear after reading the transfer information in the collector’s booklet that Arrow’s new image transfer for this film would be incredibly strong.

A Fish Called Wanda has been exclusively restored for this release by Arrow Films. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin-registered Northlight Scanner at Pinewood Studios. Picture grading was completed on a DaVinci Resolve. Picture restoration was performed using PFClean software. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved…” –Collector’s Booklet

The result looks better than the film ever has on home video. Fine detail is impressive as it exhibits textures that haven’t been seen since the film’s original theatrical exhibition. Grain is evident but natural and never unwieldy, and compression is kept in check by the high bitrate. Colors are not only accurate but are also bold and attractive with skin tones always appearing natural. Contrast is remarkable with accurate black levels, and depth is equally impressive. The restoration work has resulted in an incredibly clean image with only the occasional blemish—all of which are likely to go unnoticed by most viewers as none of these are even remotely distracting.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Fans are given the choice between a faithful mono track in the LPCM audio format or a bump up to a 5.1 English DTS-HD mix that shows occasional depth despite the dialogue-heavy nature of the film—the dialogue in question always being clean and clear. Effects and music create any existing depth and are always well prioritized. In short, both options are solid representations of the film’s original sound with the 5.1 being the more dynamic option and the LPCM being more faithful to the original.

SS04

Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by John Cleese

John Cleese is surprisingly informative as he discusses his work on the film as well as his collaborators. Fans of the film and those who admire Cleese should find this track instructive and well worth their time.

Trivia Track

Viewers can choose to watch the film with a trivia track with textual information about the film and those who made it that pops up throughout the duration.

24 Deleted/Alternate Scenes (with Introductions by John Cleese) – (29:38)

This reviewer has a fondness for deleted material, because it gives viewers a look into the editing of the film. It’s always interesting to see what was originally written but not needed or wanted. 26 deleted scenes are included here in standard definition with contextual introductions by John Cleese.

They following material can be played either together or individually: Rendezvous, Pop Quiz, Pop Quiz Part 2, Court Victory, Truly Sorry, Truly Sorry Part 2, The Witness, Nice Shootin’, Nice Shootin’ Part 2, Archie’s Plan, Spill the Beans, Triple Cross, Boarding Pass, Brief Encounter, Third Time Lucky, Wanda’s Bag, Blood and Guts, Blood and Guts Part 2, Inquires, Tractions, See You Duckie, Good News, and an Alternate Ending.

John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance – (48:03)

John Cleese’s Final Farewell Performance is essentially a promotional documentary from 1988 about the making of A Fish Called Wanda. It was obviously shot during the production of the film and this adds interest to the material. Interviews with John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin, and Charles Crichton make up a good portion of the program, but there is also a bit of “fly-on-the-wall” footage. It is better than the standard EPK fluff that studios insist on producing today, but it might be too much to claim that it is comprehensive.

Something Fishy – (30:32)

Something Fishy is a retrospective documentary produced on the film’s 15th Anniversary. It includes interviews with John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin, Alan Hume (Director of Photography), Michael Shamburg (Producer), and Steve Abbott (Executive Producer). These participants remember the production of the film and discuss the film’s surprise success. The interview footage is intercut with footage from the film itself. It’s a fairly standard retrospective but is both entertaining and informative. It’s a nice follow-up to the 1988 documentary.

Fish You Were Here – (16:32)

Robert Powell as he takes the viewer on a tour of the film’s set locations as a history of the film is given. It’s interesting to see the locations utilized by the production. It isn’t one of the disc’s better supplements, but it manages to be informative enough to warrant a viewing.

An Appreciation by Vic Pratt – (16:55)

One of Arrow’s new additions to the disc’s collection of supplementary material is this “appreciation by Vic Pratt of the BFI National Archive. Pratt’s admiration for the film is evident in his enthusiastic and informative discussion about the film—but it should be said that the information given isn’t incredibly new to fans of the film.

Interview with Roger Murray-Leach – (07:31)

The film’s production designer discusses his work on the film and tells an entertaining anecdote about the fish named Wanda (who was apparently dying to be in a movie). One only wishes that this interview could’ve been longer than 7 and ½ minutes.

A Message from John Cleese – (04:56)

This is a silly introduction to the film that won’t surprise anyone familiar with Cleese’s work as a member of the Monty Python troupe. It isn’t at all informative but it will probably entertain fans of the film.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:28)

This trailer is a product of the eighties and is, therefore, a fun marketing artifact.

Image Gallery

The image gallery included here offers a few photographs utilized to market the film and is rather standard. However, it’s a great way to wind down going through the disc’s other supplements.

SS05

Final Words:

A Fish Called Wanda is a box of giggles in a world of pursed lips. Laughter is essential to your health, and this disc should supply a good dose. The film has never looked this good on home video.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:45:05

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 27.38 Mbps

Title

“…My favorite remains Don’t Torture a Duckling… I think my real golden time was in the early seventies, with Perversion Story [and] Don’t Torture a Duckling. But yes, of course, the beginning of the eighties brought me much fame.” -Lucio Fulci (Draculina)

Lucio Fulci (The Beyond) has been called—and is called on the back of this Blu-ray package—the godfather of gore, but nothing in Don’t Torture a Duckling really warrants such a title. This old-school Giallo tale has other agendas and is one of Fulci’s most interesting films despite (or perhaps even because of) this fact.

When the sleepy rural village of Accendura is rocked by a series of murders of young boys, the superstitious locals are quick to apportion blame, with the suspects including a local “witch” named Maciara—but the viewer never buys into her eventual confession. With the bodies piling up and the community gripped by panic and a thirst for bloody vengeance, two outsiders—city journalist Andrea and spoilt rich girl Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet)—team up to crack the case. But before the mystery is solved, more blood will have been spilled, and not all of it belonging to innocents.

Like many (if not all) Giallo titles, the film is very much a whodunit that has been built around a rather predictable and overblown twist ending. Many will see the ending coming but few should disagree that it is a lot of fun. It’s the sort of ridiculous camp nonsense that viewers either find endearing or annoying as hell. One’s enjoyment will depend on which of these categories they happen to belong.

Deemed shocking at the time for its brutal violence, a negative depiction of the Catholic Church, and its themes of child murder and pedophilia, Don’t Torture a Duckling was cursed with troubled distribution upon its release. However, it is widely regarded today as Fulci’s greatest film, rivaling even the best of his close rival Dario Argento. Whether this is actually true is impossible to say.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. The case is protected by a very attractive texturized slipcover featuring Pittides new cover art, and it must be said that this adds a great deal to the presentation. An attractive collector’s booklet that features an essay entitled “Lucio Fulci’s Dark Dream” by Barry Forshaw, a second essay entitled “In Sunshine and in Shadow: The Film Music of Riz Ortolani” by Howard Hughes, and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned slipcover and booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 2K restoration transfer is obviously the result of a lot of painstaking work. The image was taken from two different sources: an original 2-perf “Techniscope” Eastman camera negative and a 4-perf 35mm duplicate negative. This fact created a number of challenges, but the result seems to have been worth the effort. It has never looked this good on home video. Colors impress, the image exhibits a good amount of fine detail despite an organic layer of grain, and blacks are reasonably rich without inappropriate crushing. Compression artifacts never become an issue, and there isn’t enough film damage here to even mention (the restoration team removed most of the blemishes). Fans can upgrade with confidence.

SS03
Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes two 24-bit LPCM audio tracks: one in English and another in Italian. Both are solid representations of the original tracks. Obviously, the mono sound isn’t going to be incredibly dynamic, but most will agree that the most important thing is for a soundtrack to be a strong reproduction of the original sound. Both tracks meet these criteria admirably, but the original Italian track is the superior choice. It is simply a much more natural mix than the English dub, and this goes beyond the dialogue elements. The ambiance, effects, and music also sound much better in the Italian mix.

SS04

Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth
Troy Howarth is the author of a number of books on the horror and Giallo genres, including Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Volumes 1 & 2), The Haunted World of Mario Bava, Tome of Terror: Films of the Silent Era (Volume 1), Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the1930s (Volume 2), and Real Depravities: The Films of Klaus Kinski. This list should be a pretty good indication of his obvious fascination with the genre, and it is clear that he has more than a general knowledge about this film as he admits that this is one of his personal favorites. The result of his fondness for the film translates into a casual but enthusiastic helping of information about Lucio Fulci, the cast, shooting locations, the film’s controversial nature, and some interesting production anecdotes. The result is entertaining in addition to being educational, and it is a decidedly superior third-party track.

Giallo a la Campagna (The Blood of Innocents) – (27:44)

Mikel J. Koven (author of La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film, Blaxploitation Cinema, and Film, Folklore, and Urban Legends) discusses the Giallo genre and the public’s reaction to it. He claims that the cinemas in Italy acted as a sort of social gathering during the 1970s and the differences between various regions of Italy. It offers a bit of contextual information that should only add to the viewer’s appreciation of this film and other films like it.

Every (Wo)man Their Own Hell (Hell is Already in Us) – (20:30)

Kat Ellinger’s scholarly essay examines themes inherent in Lucio Fulci’s work and discusses her opinions about what many consider misogynistic qualities in his work (such as violence against women) and how religion plays into these themes. It is an interesting addition to the disc.

Lucio Fulci Remembers:

Segment #1 – (28:33)
Segment #2 – (13:12)

These audio interviews from 1988 are perhaps the most interesting addition to the disc and they find the director discussing the beginning of his career, his influences, the films that he has directed, and other pertinent topics. The interview was transcribed and published in Spaghetti Nightmares.

Interview with Florinda Bolkan (Actor) – (28:20)

This Freak-O-Rama interview finds Florinda Bolkan discussing her work with Lucio Fulci on Don’t Torture a Duckling and A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin in some detail. Her anecdotes are entertaining and the information divulged is consistently interesting. The 28 minutes simply fly by making the viewer wish that there was more.

Sergio D Offizi (Cinematographer) – (46:31)

Sergio D’Offizi discusses his easy collaboration with Fulci and his career in this lengthy interview. He seems especially pleased with his work Don’t Torture a Duckling. He reveals a good deal of background and anecdotal information that Fulci fans should appreciate.

Bruno Micheli (Assistant Editor) – (25:38)

Bruno Micheli gives a somewhat brief overview of his career and discusses his work with Lucio Fulci on the editing of Don’t Torture a Duckling. Interestingly, it seems his sister (Ornella Micheli) also worked with the director on some of his other films.

Maurizio Trani (Assistant Makeup Artist) – (16:03)

Maurizio Trani discusses his career in this short but very interesting interview and eventually gets around to his collaboration on Don’t Torture a Duckling with Lucio Fulci.

SS05

Final Words:

Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling is has been given an incredible Blu-ray release by Arrow Video.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:40:24

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.68 Mbps

Note: This edition also includes a DVD copy of the film.

Title

In the wake of the success of Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, numerous other directors stepped forward to try their hand at these lurid murder-mysteries. At the forefront was Sergio Martino, whose sensual 70s thrillers starring Edwige Fenech and George Hilton are widely celebrated as some of the best the genre has to offer.

However, the final of Martino’s six Gialli, The Suspicious Death of a Minor, isn’t pure Giallo. It combines everything one expects to see in the standard Giallo thrillers with conventions found in ‘poliziotteschi’ crime thrillers and broad comedy (although this comedy is admittedly dark. The story itself is pretty standard: Claudio Cassinelli (What Have They Done to Your Daughters?) stars as undercover cop Paolo Germi, on the trail of a Milanese criminal outfit following the brutal murder of an underage prostitute. Meanwhile, a killer-for-hire is on the prowl to bump off witnesses before they have a chance to talk.

The resulting film is a unique blend of two different movements in Italian popular cinema that employed an interesting roster of participants that includes Mel Ferrer (Nightmare City), Barbara Magnolfi (Suspiria), and Jenny Tamburi (The Psychic), and a script by Ernesto Gastaldi (All the Colors of the Dark, Death Walks at Midnight). It is balls-to-the-wall nonsense but is sure to delight fans of either genre.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Barry Forshaw and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 2K restoration transfer was taken from the original camera negative and transferred here using a maxed out bitrate, and the result is an image far superior to any previous release of the film. It is a gritty image by anyone’s standards, but this was inherent in the original mid-seventies cinematography. The filmic layer of grain never gets in the way of fine detail (which is much more impressive than a 2K restoration has any right to be), and the colors seem to be representative of the original cinematography. The frame certainly contains a lot more information here than what was on display in previous home video transfers, and depth and contrast are revelatory in comparison to those releases. There are two different credit sequences—one for each language option.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Both of the two LPCM audio options are offered in their original mono mixes and are relatively free of any distracting anomalies, but the original Italian mix is the strongest option here for reasons that go beyond the fact that this is the film’s original track. The dialogue is also richer here than it is in the English dub but this is to be expected. However, we do enjoy hearing Ferrer’s own voice on the English track. The music sounds great in both mixes and is the most dynamic element if each track. Either version will please fans.

SS04

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Troy Howarth

Troy Howarth is the author of a number of books on the horror and Giallo genres, including So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films (Volumes 1 & 2), Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, The Haunted World of Mario Bava, Tome of Terror: Films of the Silent Era (Volume 1), Tome of Terror: Horror Films of the1930s (Volume 2), and Real Depravities: The Films of Klaus Kinski. This list should be a pretty good indication of his obvious fascination with the genre, and it is clear that he has more than a general knowledge of the genre (which is more than we can say for a good many so-called scholars that contribute third-party commentary tracks. His track is somewhat casual, but he reveals a good amount of pertinent information as he discusses such topics as cast and crew information, light theoretical musings about the ways in which the film manages to conform to Giallo conventions even as it subverts them, continuity errors, and quite a bit more. Anyone who enjoys the film should find this track worth their time.

Violent Milan – (42:55)

The obvious stand out amongst this modest collection of supplements is this excellent interview with Sergio Martino and cinematographer Giancarlo Ferrando. It is listed as being an interview by Freak-o-Rama, and it is both instructive and entertaining. Martino discusses the film’s origins and his intentions for making it (he wanted to try something that wasn’t purely Giallo), the fact that the film was originally titled Violent Milan, Ernesto Gastaldi’s script, working with Mel Ferrer, his cast, the Italian films being made during that period, working with his brother Lucio (who was the producer), the death of Claudio Cassinelli on another production, and much more. This is well worth the viewer’s time as it is rich in information.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:27)

The film’s cheesy trailer is also a happy addition to the package.

SS05

Final Words:

Those who enjoy the genre should enjoy this great Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, and those who don’t probably aren’t reading this anyway.

SS06

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:07:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3434 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: 2.0 Italian Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

Note: This package also includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

While The Legend of the Holy Drinker isn’t quite as remarkable as Il Posto or The Tree of Wooden Clogs, it is certainly a worthy (and essential) entry into Ermanno Olmi’s distinguished filmography. This winner of the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival was adapted from a novella by Joseph Roth and tells a relatively simple story that concerns a homeless man named Andreas Kartack who is living under the bridges of Paris. He is lent 200 franks by an anonymous stranger and is determined to pay back this debt. However, his own circumstances and personal demons are an enormous obstacle that proves incredibly difficult to overcome.

In order to realize this life-affirming but incredibly somber cinematic portrait of human frailty, Olmi casted Ruger Hauer as Kartack and was rewarded with an astonishing performance of subtlety and depth that rivals the realistic portrayals that nonfactors had given him in the past, and the supporting cast (which includes Anthony Quayle, Sandrine Dumas, and Dominique Pinon) was equally effective. The final result is a film that recalls the flavor and tonal attributes achieved by the neorealist films of the forties, and this is probably the highest praise that anyone could bestow upon it. What else could one want from a film of this kind?

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by __ and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Helen Chambers (author of Joseph Roth in Retrospect: Co-existent Contradictionse) and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The collector’s booklet includes information about the disc’s new 4K restoration transfer, and one’s expectations are immediately ratcheted up after reading it.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker has been exclusively restored by Arrow Films and is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1… All restoration work was carried out at L’Immagine Ritrovata, Bologna. The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin- registered Arriscan and was graded on Digital Vision’s Nucoda Film Master. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or removed through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques. Image stability was also improved…” –Collector’s Booklet

The resulting image has been transferred to Blu-ray utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the result is extraordinary. There is a natural grain texture and the overall effect is extremely filmic. Depth is excellent and contrast is beautifully rendered. The fine detail inherent in Dante Spinotti’s original cinematography is consistently on glorious display—although there is an intentional softness to the image. Colors seem to represent the filmmaker’s original intent (although it is impossible to know for certain). In any case, it all looks rather remarkable.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow gives the viewer the choice of three tracks. There is a 2.0 English Linear PCM audio option, a 5.1 English DTS-HD master audio mix, and an Italian dub in the 2.0 LPCM audio format. Both of the English tracks are superior to the Italian dub, and one doubts if most people will choose this particular option. The 5.1 improves the presence of the film’s music and adds a more dynamic presence to the atmospherics—especially in the exterior sequences. Dialogue is well prioritized and consistently clear in both tracks, and there aren’t any real issues to report about either option. The Italian dub has the synch issues one expects from a dubbed version of a film, and the mix isn’t quite as natural. However, this is nearly always the case with dubbed tracks.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Interview with Rutger Hauer (Actor) – (1080P) – (09:20)

Rutger Hauer’s “exclusive” interview is an interesting but not comprehensive discussion about how the film fits into his career. It is a nice appreciation and a happy bonus for viewers to enjoy, but one does wish that it was a more in-depth examination of his work in the film.

Interview with Tullio Kezich (Screenwriter) – (1080I) – (25:47)

Tullio Kezich’s interview is more detailed examination of the process of writing the film and even goes into some information about the production. It is easily the best of Arrow’s three supplemental offerings.

Theatrical Trailer

Every Blu-ray release should, at the very least, include a film’s theatrical trailer, but this practice seems to be slowly dying off. It is very nice to see that this disc continues the tradition.

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Final Words:

Legend of a Holy Drinker is an extremely interesting film that should appeal to those who enjoy Ermanno Olmi’s other work, and Arrow Academy’s restoration transfer is incredible. This disc earns an enthusiastic recommendation.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: September 12, 2013

Region: Region Free

Length: 85 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 2.34:1

Note: A DVD edition of this film is also available.

“I’d describe it as a psychological thriller about a cop who goes undercover to investigate a strange double murder. He goes undercover as a psychotherapy patient, and as his sessions continue the lines between reality and fantasy begin to blur. I’m not reading that from a rehearsed script I promise. Entirely off the top of my head. Beyond that, I would agree it’s a hard one to describe. We do front load our twist rather. That said, I think it’s rather spoiler-proof as the twists and turns keep coming as the story progresses.” –Gareth Tunley (Interview with John Townsend, Starburst Magazine)

Tunley’s description is as good as any (although it is a bit misleading). The trouble with talking about (or writing about) this kind of film is that one cannot help but be intentionally vague. This isn’t merely because spoilers are unforgivable, but how can one discuss a film that is vague without being vague? Frankly, if one is to enjoy the film, they should come at it without any knowledge about its content. These films are intended to be experienced differently by each viewer.

It probably isn’t giving away anything worthwhile to say that the story concerns an awkward man named Chris. It seems for a while that he is a homicide detective who is working on a case involving a double murder. Both victims appear to have continued moving towards their assailant despite multiple gunshots to the face and chest. On a hunch, Chris decides to go undercover as a patient to investigate the suspect’s psychotherapist… but is he really undercover? It is clear that Chris is depressed and highly susceptible to the whims and ideas of others. At this point, it becomes impossible to discuss the film any further, because doing so would only make one’s head explode. Suffice it to say that The Ghoul is somewhat like a David Lynch film without the bizarre characters and surreal diversions…  Actually, the film is tonally more similar to Christopher Nolan’s Following than anything David Lynch ever created, but this only goes to show just how impossible it is to definitively discuss this film. Amendments would constantly have to be added for every statement made about it.

If any of this peaks your interest, it is well worth trying out—but those who need everything spelled out for them will quickly become irritated.

One Sheet
The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in their usual clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring that offers the choice of displaying the one of the film’s original one sheet designs (which is rather attractive and the better of the two options) and alternate artwork. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay about the film entitled, “The Straight Line and the Circle” by Adam Scovell. The essay is a bit of film theory that concerns itself with the film’s themes, and it adds a bit of value to Arrow’s modest package. (We should point out that the package is really only “modest” by Arrow’s standards).

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

While Arrow’s notes about this transfer are decidedly vague, they do tell us that it was provided by the filmmakers themselves. Considering the fact that the film was released rather recently, we can assume that this “HD master” is as good as the film has ever looked or will ever look.

This is perfectly acceptable, because it looks pretty good. Sharpness and fine detail vary wildly but organically considering the low budget nature of the production. Frankly, we find that the image exhibits excellent detail at its best and acceptable detail at its worst. Black levels are strong for the most part, and when they are occasionally washed out, this is the result of the production photography. There aren’t any anomalies or distracting digital anomalies to distract the viewer either. This is an extremely good representation of the original material.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 5.1 DTS-HD Audio mix is more dynamic than one might expect from a low budget feature, and this is mostly due to the film’s score and the dreamy sound design. The dialogue is consistently clean and clear throughout the duration of the film and is more focused towards the front end. It’s a solid reproduction of the film’s original mix.

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Filmmaker’s Commentary

Gareth Tunley, Tom Meeten, and Jack Guttmann discuss the production of The Ghoul in surprisingly vivid detail—and this means that it can become rather technical at times. This should be of endless value to anyone interested in low-budget filmmaking. It is packed with interesting information without ever becoming too dry. It’s such a great addition to the disc.

In the Loop – (HD) – (36:17)

It is impossible not to admire the filmmakers after watching this rather interesting “making of” documentary. The program features Gareth Tunley, Tom Meeten, Alice Lowe, Geoff McGivern, Niamh Cusack, Rufus Jones, Dan Skinner, Ben Pritchard, Jack Guttmann, Waen Shepherd, Dhiraj Mahey and Ben Wheatley. Most of these participants appear against a solid black background as they individually discuss the project and its origins. Future filmmakers should find it extremely instructive as they do cover the process of creating The Ghoul on a budget. Some may even enjoy this to be even more enjoyable than the film itself.

The Baron (with Optional Commentary) – (HD) – (09:27)

Gareth Tunley’s 2013 short, The Baron, stars Tom Meeten and Steve Oram and is based on a character that Meeten created for a comedy routine. Like The Ghoul, this short concerns itself with depression, but this film goes an entirely different way with the subject and follows an unhappy outcast who creates an alternate identity of sorts in order to exact revenge on those who have wronged him. It is really quite enjoyable and perhaps the disc’s strongest supplement. The optional commentary track makes this experience even sweeter as Tunley and Meeten discuss the production and the background of the titular character.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:34)

The theatrical trailer is pretty standard, but it is pretty interesting to see how the marketing of this little British Indie was handled. Oh course, they took the typical “it’s a police procedural” approach, which is a bit misleading and therefore bound to irritate anyone hoping to see such a film. Someday marketing departments will realize that this is bad technique and counterproductive… actually, they probably won’t. Never mind.

One Sheet 2

Final Words:

File this one under “not for everyone.” However, those who enjoy this sort of movie will be happy to know that this is a solid Blu-ray transfer with some interesting supplemental material.

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:52:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 2304 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Title

“The struggle for self-determination, the struggle for what a character wants his life to be…I look for characters who feel strongly enough about something not to be concerned with the prevailing odds, but to struggle against those odds.” -Robert Aldrich

“The struggle for self-determination” pervades The Big Knife, a film based on a relatively successful play by Clifford Odets that made its Broadway debut at the National Theatre on February 24, 1949. Under the direction of Lee Strasberg, the stage production would last for 109 performances. The screenplay for the film by Robert Aldrich would be adapted by Odets and James Poe.

Aldrich follow-up to Kiss Me Deadly (which was made that same year) finds Charles Castle (Jack Palance), one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, at a crossroads in his life. His marriage is falling apart and his wife is threatening to leave him if he renews his contract with a philistine producer named Stanley Shriner Hoff. Meanwhile, Hoff knows of several incriminating skeletons in the actor’s closet and threatens to expose them to the world if he doesn’t sign on for future productions with his studio.

The film won the Silver Lion award at the 1955 Venice Film Festival, but the film wasn’t an overwhelming success in its day—and this is despite an excellent tile design by Saul Bass and a strong cast who gives excellent (if sometimes overwrought) performances. The theatricality of both the story and the performances is what ultimately dates the film, and it isn’t one of Aldrich’s best efforts. It is, however, an enjoyable diversion and a solid entry in the filmographies of every participant.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy houses the Blu-ray and DVD discs in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay written by Nathalie Morris and a number of archival stills.

[Note: The aforementioned booklet is only included with the first pressing of this particular release.]

Menu

The animated menus utilize footage and music from the film and are reasonably attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s 2K restoration transfer looks incredible but unfortunately falls short of absolute perfection due to variances in clarity, a few anomalies created by the ravages of time, and what many will perceive to be a thicker than usual layer of grain. However, none of this gets in the way of the transfers strengths. For instance, the level of fine detail is still pretty impressive, contrast is well rendered, and there aren’t any unfortunate compression issues to distract the viewer.

This transfer does seem to have one curious and unfortunate negative aspect in that there is approximately sixty-six seconds of missing footage. This isn’t noticeable unless one compares it to other releases of the film.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

No one should expect this talky film to feature a truly dynamic experience, but the Linear PCM track is reasonably solid despite its narrow range. Dialogue is certainly clean and clear, and there aren’t any age related issues. It might not impress modern viewers, but it serves the story.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton

As I am not usually a fan of third party commentary tracks, this discussion between Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton has limited appeal despite the fact that they cover a lot of information here. It is better than many similar tracks, but it isn’t as instructive as it might have been if it featured one or some of the actual filmmakers. We do, however, get a lot of general information about such topics as Robert Aldrich’s filmmaking legacy, comparisons to the play, background information about the cast, and other pertinent subjects. It is nice that Arrow goes to the trouble of producing commentaries for these older films (even if some of the participants featured in them can seem rather arbitrary).

Bass on Titles (1977) – (33:46)

If this interesting documentary hadn’t been included, the rating for this aspect of the disc would have been 2 or 2.5 stars. Needless to say, it is the disc’s best supplement. It finds Saul Bass discussing some of his title designs before that particular title sequence (or a clip of that sequence) is shown. Unfortunately, many of his titles aren’t included here at all. This is the programs largest weakness. It feels like a missed opportunity.

Television Promo – (04:59)

Also interesting is this vintage television EPK that serves as a glimpse behind the scenes—but only in the most superficial manner. It is basically an introduction to the film’s distinguished cast, but it is much more interesting than it would be if it wasn’t produced in 1955.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:28)

The trailer typically exploits its successful stage origins and the more sensational elements of the story, and the result is a trailer that never really distinguishes itself. It simply tries to appeal to the more sophisticated “high-brow” viewers who enjoy literate stage plays as they cater to the least common denominator by exploiting the more scandalous plot points. By covering all exploitable territories in a single trailer, the film in question seems to have no distinguishable personality. However, it is certainly interesting to watch.

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Final Words:

The Big Knife isn’t one of Robert Aldrich’s better films, but it is a diverting adaptation of the Clifford Odets stage play. Meanwhile, Arrow’s Blu-ray release is the best it has looked on home video.

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