Archive for the ‘Arrow Video’ Category

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: August 08, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Unrated Version – 01:26:05

Integral Version – 01:44:55

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

Unrated Version

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

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

English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz, 16-bit)

Integral Version

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.78:1

Note: This title is limited to 10,000 units.

Title

Re-Animator probably doesn’t need a review or an introduction. Those who haven’t heard of it probably wouldn’t enjoy it, because the film has a legendary reputation in horror circles. It is a splatter-comedy cult classic directed by Stuart Gordon and adapted from H.P. Lovecraft’s classic terror tale ‘Herbert West – Re-animator.’ Jeffrey Combs portrays the deliciously deranged Herbert West with an over the top theatricality that can only be described as supreme camp—but then, everything about this film is over-the-top.

Even the story is absurd (although intriguing): When medical student Dean Cain advertises for a roommate, he soon finds one in the form of Dr. Herbert West. Initially a little eccentric, it some becomes clear that West entertains some seriously outlandish theories—specifically, the possibility of re-animating the dead. It’s not long before Dean finds himself under West’s influence as he becomes embroiled in a series of ghoulish experiments which inevitably go wildly out of control.

The film is too ridiculous and cartoonish to be truly effective as a horror film, but this makes for an enjoyable black comedy (albeit an extremely broad black comedy). It is fairly easy to understand why Re-Animator has such a solid cult following.  The film’s weaknesses seem to double as its strengths.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video’s Re-Animator package is certain to be on the short list of their very best single film releases. This might be their best since the incredible Donnie Darko release which came out in April of this year. Like that release, this release of Re-Animator contains two different cuts of the film: the original Un-rated Theatrical Version and the longer Integral Version. This release is a good example of how Arrow’s packaging stands above similar boutique labels when it comes to their Limited Edition releases.

Limited Edition

Two items are held in a very sturdy box featuring new artwork by Justin Erickson: The first is a beautiful three-fold Digipak case that houses both Blu-ray discs (each containing a different cut of the film), four Art Cards featuring lobby card artwork, and a small illustrated booklet featuring an essay entitled “Yucking It Up: The Black (and Red) Humor of Re-Animator” by Michael Gingold. The booklet and the cards are housed in a small folder within the Digipak. The second item is a lengthy softbound reprinting of the 1991 Adventure Comics series by Steven Philip Jones and Christopher Jones. Fans of the film will be delighted.

Both of the discs include animated menus that utilize footage and music from the film and are easy to navigate. The footage used is re-edited from the film’s iconic credit sequence (minus the titles). Everything about this release is remarkable and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Both the Unrated and Integral versions have been given a 4K restoration taken from the original 35mm camera negative and interpositive. It is unclear as to whether the Unrated cut was taken from the original negative while the Integral version was taken from the interpositive elements, or whether both cuts of the film were taken from both sources. The information included in the booklet didn’t make this issue at all clear.

Whatever the case may be, both versions look absolutely terrific and there aren’t any obvious variances in terms of quality between the two cuts. Fine detail is much more noticeable in this new restoration transfer than it has been in previous releases (although there is still an overall softness inherent in the source materials). Shadow detail seems to be well handled despite a somewhat darker appearance to the overall image. Grain has an organic and resolves naturally with a few exceptions when it is thicker than one might prefer. Colors are certainly vivid throughout the entire duration and seem to be faithful to the original elements. The image has been cleaned up quite a bit and there are relatively few anomalies to distract the viewer. Compression also seems to have been handled well here.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

There are actually three audio tracks available for the Uncut version of the film (English Mono Linear PCM, English 2.0 Linear PCM, and English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio), while the Integral version comes with a English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. All elements are adequately prioritized on all tracks. The surround tracks aren’t particularly dynamic, but the music seems to benefit slightly from the 5.1 tracks. Frankly, some will prefer the original Mono and 2.0 PCM tracks. The effects and score benefit from the 2.0 option and this choice is probably marginally superior to the mono.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow has included an amazing array of supplements that will keep fans of the film entertained for weeks (unless they do nothing else for days). The package includes most if not all of the supplements included in previous packages and adds to this by adding new features of their own.

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Stuart Gordon

This archival commentary track is still the best available for Re-Animator as it is the most informative of the three featured in Arrow’s supplemental package. It was apparently recorded for an old laserdisc release of the film. Gordon discusses his influences, the film’s production, the special effects, reasons for the various edits of the film, and trouble with the MPAA. The commentary is essential for fans if only for Gordon’s discussion about his preferred version of the film (both he and Brian Yuzna prefer the Uncut version).

Feature Length Audio Commentary with Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Bruce Abbott, and Robert Sampson

This archival track is a bit more conversational in nature and finds the participants joking around as much or more than actually giving the listener information (although there are some interesting tidbits of information discussed). It is entertaining but somewhat anemic when it comes to technical and anecdotal information.

Feature Length Commentary with Stuart Gordon, Graham Skipper, and Jesse Merlin

One has to appreciate Arrow for taking the time and expense to provide additional supplemental material when there is so much already available. This exclusive track is a case in point. Unfortunately, their new commentary is less about the film in question. It instead focuses on the stage musical version of Re-Animator, which might be of interest to those who have seen and enjoyed that production but probably will be met with total apathy by those who haven’t seen it or didn’t enjoy it. It could be argued that there is enough material here about the film already, but why bother with a third commentary track at all if this is the case? It’s an odd choice. Of course, this is only one opinion. Some fans will probably find it interesting.

Re-Animator Resurrectus – (SD) – (01:08:36)

The best video-based supplement in the package is undoubtedly this documentary about the making of Re-Animator. The program features retrospective interviews with Stuart Gordon, Brian Yuzna, Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, and John Naulin as they remember their experiences during the production and discuss its legacy.
It actually covers a lot of territory beyond the making of the film such as Stuart Gordon’s early theatrical work, how the film was financed, casting the film, the special effects, the score, and the film’s eventual release. This is the sort of “making of” documentary supplement that simply isn’t produced very much anymore. It’s great to have a meaty retrospective documentary available here. This beats the standard EPK “making of” featurettes all to pieces.

Interview with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna – (HD) – (48:47)

This discussion with Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna covers some of the same territory, but some of the information revealed here is unique to this conversation. In fact, it is nearly as comprehensive as Re-Animator Resurrectus. It covers the film’s complete production history and their recollections are surprisingly detailed and articulate.

Barbara Crampton in Conversation – (HD) – (36:05)

Barbara Crampton’s interview with Alan Jones at the London FrightFest in 2015 covers quite a bit of ground as she discusses her entire career. Crampton is an articulate interview subject and quite engaging as she discusses such topics as her childhood carnival career, her film roles (like her appearance in Body Double), her work with Stuart Gordon, and a number of other interesting topics.

Interview with Dennis Paoli – (HD) – (10:41)

Dennis Paoli focuses on the process of adapting Lovecraft’s writing into a workable script. The conversation is a bit short and generalized, but it is an interesting ten minute diversion.

Interview with Richard Band – (HD) – (14:43)

Richard Band remembers working on the Bernard Herrmann inspired score to the film (it is essentially a re-working of his music from Psycho) and addresses the controversy surrounding this fact. It is an extremely interesting and very welcome addition to the disc’s supplemental line-up.

Music Discussion with Richard Band – (HD) – (16:31)

This particular featurette is more specific as it finds Band discussing the music for various sequences and explaining why he made certain choices. After Band’s comments about the specific sequence in question, the sequence is played with an isolated music track. Fans should really appreciate this feature.

The Catastrophe of Success – (HD) – (13:08)

This is yet another interview with Stuart Gordon, but it is different than most of the other material on the disc. While Gordon does eventually get around to how he became involved with film, this feature focuses primarily on his work in the theater, and it is actually rather interesting and worthwhile if you happen to be a fan.

Interview with Tony Timpone – (HD) – (04:34)

One of the less significant features is this interview with ex-Fangoria editor, Tony Timpone. Apparently, reviewing Re-Animator was his first job for the magazine. He discusses his reaction to the film and a giveaway held by the magazine that is of mild interest to fans. It seems like this should have been a part of a larger documentary instead of a stand-alone featurette.

Theater of Blood – (HD) – (12:04)

Less interesting is this short featurette about Re-Animator: The Musical. Like Arrow’s new commentary track, this featurette has little to do with the actual film, and instead concentrates on the stage musical. It is essentially a short interview with Mark Nutter, who discusses adapting the film’s script for the stage as a musical. Unlike the commentary track, we are shown a few photos from the stage production.

Extended Scenes – (HD) – (23:05)

It is interesting to see the differences between these scenes and those in the final film, but some of them can be seen in the longer version. It is nice to have these here for comparison.

Deleted Scene – (HD) – (02:40)

It’s nice to see that the deleted scenes have been included here as it is always interesting to see what was cut from a film. Having said this, it’s a good thing that this footage was deleted.

Multi-Angle Storyboards – (SD) – (00:48, 02:54, 01:20)

This is a typical storyboard comparison that allows the viewer to alternate between the scene and the storyboard previsualizations. It’s cool that this was carried over.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:57)

The trailer for the film is really rather funny and appropriate for the tone of the film. It is filled with dry announcements like, “Herbert West brought a lot of dead people back to life, and not one of them showed any appreciation” and “It’ll scare you to pieces!” It is really great to have it included here.

TV Spots – (HD) – (02:36)

This collection of five cheesy television spots will also amuse fans.

Still Gallery – (HD)

A still gallery is also included just in case you need a way to wind down after watching hours all of these bonus features. Fans have probably seen most of these images, but they are here for posterity in any case.

Note: The screenplay is also available to those who have a BD-ROM drive.

DISC 2 – INTEGRAL VERSION – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE

A Guide to Lovecraftian Cinema – (HD) – (54:02)

This program about the cinematic adaptations of H.P. Lovecraft’s work is hosted by Chris Lackey (who apparently hosts a podcast about the works of H.P. Lovecraft) and offers an in-depth and instructive examination of various film and television adaptations. The films discussed are usually illustrated with footage from trailers or posters from the films in question. A history of the various “Lovecraftian” films is offered and a comparison to the original source material is offered. It’s an extremely informative presentation and works as a pretty solid introduction to the subject.

Doug Bradley’s Spinchillers: Herbert West—Re-Animator – (HD) – (01:38:32)

Doug Bradley introduces what is essentially an audiobook version of H.P. Lovecraft’s Herbert West: Re-animator. All six chapters are read by Jeffrey Combs and it is a truly wonderful addition to the disc. Frankly, more Blu-ray releases should include source material in one form or another as it is incredibly instructive to compare the film to the original stories. In this case, the film is really quite faithful to the original material. The audio is illustrated with stills from the film.

Isolated Score

Film score devotees can experience the film with the score isolated from the other sounds. This mix is presented as a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio.

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Final Words:

Fans who haven’t already sprung for one of the prior Blu-ray releases of Re-Animator will want to pick this wonderful Arrow release up without hesitation and those who already own one of the other releases might consider a double-dip. Arrow’s Limited Edition release is a true upgrade in terms of both the transfer and the supplemental features.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: July 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 93 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 English Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.19 Mbps

Title

In 1988, Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Timecode) made his feature directorial debut with Stormy Monday, a taut, noir-influenced gangster movie that drew on his key formative influences, including his youth in the Newcastle of the late ’50s and early ’60s, and the city’s vibrant jazz scene. Interestingly, Figgis was also responsible for the film’s “seductive jazz score.”

The story itself is rather thin and uninteresting as it focuses on a character named Brendan (Sean Bean)—a young loafer taken under the wing of jazz club owner Finney (Sting). Finney is under pressure from American mobster Cosmo (Tommy Lee Jones) to sell up in exchange for a cut of a local land development deal. Brendan just wants to earn an honest crust, but his burgeoning relationship with Cosmo’s ex-lover Kate (Melanie Griffith) threatens to drag him into the middle of the impending showdown.

To call the film a slow burn would be quite the understatement, but the interesting cinematography by Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Fargo, The Village, No Country for Old Men, Prisoners, Sicario, and too many other great titles to mention) and solid performances are just enough to demand the viewer’s continued interest.

Unfortunately, the seemingly inevitable payoff isn’t really forthcoming, and the entire film remains a mere exercise in style. Figgis is a well-respected filmmaker, and he certainly has talent. Unfortunately, this talent is rarely in the service of a worthwhile cinematic experience.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video 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 and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. This reviewer prefers the original artwork to the new design, but it is always nice to have a choice. There is also an attractive booklet that features an appreciative essay by Mark Cunliffe entitled Mike Figgis: Renaissance Man that delves into such topics as the film’s initial reception (including Roger Ebert’s review for the film). It adds a bit of extra value to Arrow’s relatively modest package.

[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.

SS02

Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The liner notes claim that Arrow’s transfer is sourced from a 2010 master provided to them by Pretty Pictures, and not much more is said about these materials. This is usually an indication that the resulting image will not be overwhelmingly impressive. Luckily, Stormy Monday manages to look relatively nice and offers up a nice image (even if it is far from perfect). Colors are especially vibrant and attractive, though skin tones can sometimes be less than perfectly natural. The cinematography boasts a slightly soft image that limits the amount of fine detail that can be seen, but one feels that this is in keeping with the original source. Clarity is quite pleasing and close-ups can look especially crisp in high definition. Grain is a bit uneven and this sometimes causes minor compression issues (or compression causes minor grain issues). Black levels often pleases but there are some times when they are less than completely solid. An extremely clean print must have been used for the initial scan, because there aren’t any noticeable blemishes. It isn’t the best Blu-ray image in the universe, but it is certainly the best home video transfer the film has ever received.

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Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s DTS-HD Master Audio track isn’t quite as strong as what one might expect from Arrow, and it is difficult to articulate the precise problem here. It simply doesn’t sound quite right, and this might be the result of the source elements (but we cannot say for certain). Dialogue is quite clear and never presents any issues, but other sounds seem to have trouble with reverberation and have a slightly wet presence. This could easily be source related, but it is noticeable to discerning ears. The music is also problematic and can sound gaunt and slightly processed. None of the aforementioned issues are terribly distracting, but they are real issues that will likely not go unnoticed.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary with Mike Figgis (Writer & Director) and Damon Wise (Film Critic)

This is a meat and potatoes track that discusses a good many “behind the scenes” aspects of the production. It seems to be an older track (probably recorded for one of the film’s earlier DVD releases). Figgis is a rather dry commentator but manages to keep the listener engaged as he goes into detail about such subjects as the challenges he faced due to the film’s low budget and the initial insecurity he felt as a green director. His anecdotes are often interesting (and will hold special interest for any future filmmakers).

Just the Same: Stormy Monday 30 Years On – (HD) – (33:15)

Neil Young (film critic) offers this informative video essay that finds the commentator discussing the practical locations and acts as a sort of affectionate appreciation. Those with a fondness for “then and now” location comparisons are likely to enjoy this feature, but one never feels that his comments are terribly instructive and most will be grateful that Young’s contribution to the disc is in the form of this half hour essay instead of a two hour commentary track.

Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (01:29)

Arrow includes the film’s original theatrical trailer which simply oozes all sorts of 1980s vibrations but tends to overplay the film’s marketable attributes in a manner that likely lead to a great deal of disappointment in anyone who paid for a ticket after seeing it.

Image Gallery

This brief image gallery contains only 12 photos but one doubts if the marketing department had much more to work with.

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Final Words:

Mike Figgis devotees should be happy to add this unusual film to their collections, but the everyday Joe looking to kick back with a beer for two hours might wish to skip this one.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:20:39

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.97 Mbps

Note: This title was release by MGM Home Video in the DVD format, but this marks the film’s Blu-ray debut in North America.

Title

The name Joseph H. Lewis probably doesn’t carry a lot of weight for anyone who doesn’t have a proclivity for B-movies, but Lewis made a string of interesting low-budget features in the film noir (The Big Combo, Gun Crazy, and My Name is Julia Ross) and western (A Lawless Street, 7th Cavalry, and The Halliday Brand) genres. Many of his films are extremely underrated and have earned a well-regarded place in B-movie history, but his final feature—Terror in a Texas Town—may very well be his most interesting.

The director had earned the nickname “Wagon Wheel Joe” for his use of artistic composition (he framed one shot through a wagon wheel), but he might be better remembered for the confident economy with which he told his stories. This economy was very much on display in Terror in a Texas Town, which told the simple tale of a greedy hotel owner named McNeil (Sebastian Cabot) who wants to take control of a town called “Prairie City.” Keen to drive the local farmers of their land, McNeil hires a gunman named Johnny Crale (Nedrick Young), which results in the death of an old Swedish émigré. The dead man’s son, George Hansen (Sterling Hayden), arrives in town to inherit the farm and set the stage for revenge—armed with only his father’s old whaling harpoon.

Of course, some credit should go to the legendary Dalton Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten that were blacklisted by the film industry during the dark ages of McCarthyism. The film was credited to Ben Perry, but anyone paying attention should be able to grasp some of the relevant thematic elements that saturate this forgotten gem. The film’s political agenda might be seen as Trumbo’s authorial signature.

None of this should suggest that Terror in a Texas Town is a flawless overlooked masterpiece, because it never even approaches this level of brilliance. The film is laced with all kinds of problems. One doesn’t wish to criticize such a well-respected actor, but Sterling Hayden’s turn as the younger Swede might very well be this film’s weakest element. His accent is never really convincing, and his vocal rhythms are simply more suitable for hard boiled American characters. However, the blame for this should be directed towards the film’s casting director.

In any case, the film’s problematic elements never obliterate its strengths, and anyone who isn’t fond of B-movies (or B-Westerns) might be surprised by this particular film. It never rises above its bargain basement origins, but it is really much better than anyone has any right to expect.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video 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 Vladimir Zimakov and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. This reviewer prefers the original artwork to the new Zimakov design, but it is always nice to have a choice. There is also an attractive booklet that features an essay by Glenn Kenny.

[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 maxed out Blu-ray transfer shows an increase in information on the left and right edges of the frame when one compares it to earlier DVD releases of the film, an there is a pleasing and organic looking layer of grain evident that never becomes problematic and doesn’t inhibit fine detail (which is impressive). The video looks beautiful in motion and one feels that this is probably the best that the film can look on this format.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Mono linear PCM audio track is a solid, clean, and well balanced reproduction of the film’s original elements. Gerald Fried’s score is given ample room to breathe in the disc’s uncompressed environment and dialogue is consistently clear and well prioritized. There really isn’t any reason for complaint.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Introduction by Peter Stanfield – (13:10)

Peter Stanfield is the author of a number of film related books—including a few about the western genre and one about the Blacklist era. These books include “Horse Opera: The Strange History of the Singing Cowboy,” “Hollywood, Westerns and the 1930s,” “‘Un-American’ Hollywood: Politics and Film in the Blacklist Era,” “Mob Culture: Hidden Histories of the American Gangster Film,” “Maximum Movies―Pulp Fictions: Film Culture and the Worlds of Samuel Fuller, Mickey Spillane, and Jim Thompson,” “Body and Soul: Jazz, Blues, and Race in American Film 1927-63,” and “The Cool and the Crazy: Pop Fifties Cinema.”

While introductions rarely seem as if they are worth the effort, Stanfield’s contextual insights frame Terror in a Texas Town amongst other films in the Joseph H. Lewis filmography (The Big Combo and Gun Crazy are specifically mentioned). Comparisons with other filmmakers are made and the inevitable result is a marginal improvement in our appreciation for the material.

Scene-Select Commentaries by Peter Stanfield – (14:14)

Stanfield also provides a few short commentaries on a number of the film’s scenes and pays close attention to shot composition. It is interesting to hear his analysis (even if one doesn’t particularly agree with everything he says).

Theatrical Trailer – (01:55)

The film’s original theatrical trailer completes the disc’s supplemental line-up quite nicely, and fans of the film will be happy to have it included here.

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Final Words:

Arrow Academy’s new Blu-ray transfer is the best that the film has ever looked on home video, and anyone with an affection for B-Westerns will certainly want to add this release to their collections. It should also be of interest to anyone who admires the work of Dalton Trumbo.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:58:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Title

Award-winning filmmaker, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, is one of the more interesting contributors to the J-Horror cycle (a subgenre for which I admit to having no particular affection), and Pulse (Kairo) might very well be his finest entry of them all. Setting his story in the burgeoning internet and social media scene in Japan, Kurosawa’s dark and apocalyptic film foretells how technology will only serve to isolate us as it grows more important to our lives.

The basic story is relatively simple: A group of young people in Tokyo begin to experience strange phenomena involving missing friends and co-workers and a mysterious website which asks the compelling question, “Do you want to meet a ghost?” After the unexpected suicides of several friends, three strangers set out to explore a city which is growing emptier by the day, and to solve the mystery of what lies within a forbidden room in an abandoned construction site, mysteriously sealed shut with red packing tape.

One wishes that the film had focused on fewer people so that the characters could have been developed in a more intimate manner, but Junichiro Hayashi’s cinematography often provides enough existential dread to sustain our interests even if the characterizations fall short. Those who have seen Hideo Nakata Ring (Ringu) and Dark Water will remember Hayashi’s work on those films and can expect more of the same here as it sets a dark and unsettling tone which lingers long after the movie is over.
Opinion is bound to be split between those who see the film as ahead of its time and those who consider it outdated (which it admittedly is from a technology standpoint), but it is probably worth seeing if only to decide which group you happen to fall into.

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The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video 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 Tommy Pocket and what is presumably the film’s original one sheet artwork. This is one of those occasions when Arrow’s newly commissioned artwork is vastly superior (but this tends to be the case with their releases of Japanese titles). As is their custom, they also include an attractive booklet that features an essay on the film by Chuck Stephens entitled “The Smudge.” It should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film and adds value to the modest package.

[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:

3 of 5 Stars

Dark cinematography is wonderfully effective when it is done correctly (or at least in a certain manner). I’m thinking of such titles as David Fincher’s Seven and the inky blacks that saturate the image thanks to the bleach bypass process. However, the murkiness that swallows so many J-Horror titles is less attractive. Details never seem to be at the level they should be and one sometimes wonders what they are even seeing. This might be intentional, but if this methodology was successful, the viewer wouldn’t be wondering whether or not they were watching an inferior transfer. This particular title is a case in point.

Arrow’s transfer is probably faithful to the original source, but it is difficult to know if this might look better with a new scan of the source materials. The grainy image is dark and murky with limited detail and a narrow range of color, but it is superior to the previous DVD transfers that have been released. Frankly, if the “shot through dirty linen” look is intentional, it was a bad choice on Kurosawa’s part (but I suppose that this is simply one person’s subjective opinion). The booklet claims that the digital source was supplied by Kadokawa Pictures, and one imagines that it could have seen marginal improvement had they taken the time to rescan the film at a higher resolution. Clarity isn’t at all what it should be (nor is it consistent). Contrast is relatively nonexistent and black levels are faded and cloudy. Artifacts are ridiculously apparent as well, and this is especially frustrating.

Having said this, it doesn’t seem worth holding one’s breath until something better comes along.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The Japanese Linear PCM audio transfer won’t give your speaker systems much of a workout, but this is a solid representation of the original source and is relatively flawless.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Broken Circuits – (HD) – (43:53)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s interview is more comprehensive in scope than one might expect, and one expects that most cinephiles will agree that it is the strongest supplement on the disc. His career is discussed at length as the production of Pulse. One doesn’t really even have to be a fan of the film or the director to find this conversation interesting.

Creepy Images – (HD) – (25:03)

Junichiro Hayashi’s shorter and slightly less comprehensive interview is nonetheless incredibly informative as the cinematographer reminisces about his collaborative relationship with Kiyoshi Kurosawa (and even briefly discusses Kiju Yoshida). Pulse is given the most in-depth consideration as Hayashi reveals a few interesting anecdotal revelations that should be of special interest to fans of the film.

The Horror of Isolation – (HD) – (17:11)

Adam Wingard & Simon Barrett (You’re Next, Blair Witch) discuss their admiration for Kiyoshi Kurosawa and for Pulse in particular as they reveal how the film has had an influence on their work. While their analysis of Kurosawa’s work is interesting enough, one cannot help but think that this featurette would be more interesting if these two filmmakers actually made better films. However, some of their insights do manage to add to one’s appreciation of Pulse, and the interview is worth watching for this reason alone.

The Making of Pulse – (SD) – (41:03)

This is the sort of EPK bundle one expects upon a film’s release, but this manages to be more interesting than anyone has a right to expect due to the included “behind the scenes” footage contained within what is essentially a hodgepodge of cast and crew interviews and trailers for the film. The interviews never really delve past the surface of the material and have obviously been composed to sell the film. However, Kurosawa’s interviews do manage to be rather interesting at times.

Special Effects Breakdown Featurettes:

These short special effects featurettes give fans the opportunity to discover some general information about what went into the special effects included in the following scenes:

The Suicide Jump – (SD) – (06:22)

Harue’s Death Scene – (SD) – (05:02)

Junko’s Death Scene – (SD) – (04:31)

Dark Room Scenes – (SD) – (10:18)

Tokyo Premiere Introduction – (SD) – (07:04)

This is archival footage of Kurosawa and his three primary actors introducing the preview screening in Tokyo. These participants discuss their involvement in a rather general manner, and nothing here really adds to one’s knowledge about (or appreciation of) the film. However, fans will welcome the inclusion of this introduction if only as an artifact from the film’s initial release.

Cannes Film Festival – (SD) – (02:57)

Kiyoshi Kurosawa and Haruhiko Kato introduce Pulse at the Cannes Film Festival. Their speech is short, sweet, and not at all revealing. However, it is nice to have here as a kind of curiosity (especially if you happen to admire the film or its director).

TV Spots – (SD) – (04:15)

These television spots are really more interesting than effective, but many will find them to be a fun addition to the disc.

NHK Station IDs – (SD) – (00:15)

The principal actors appear in these station IDs, and it is difficult to know exactly what to make of them.

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Final Words:

Arrow Video’s Blu-ray release of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Pulse offers a slightly disappointing image transfer that is nonetheless superior to all of the previous home video releases. Their supplemental package sweetens the deal just enough to warrant a recommendation to fans of the J-horror sub-genre.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover - June 20

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 20, 2017

Region: Regions A and B

Length: 01:36:44

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: Italian Mono Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: English Mono Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English SDH, English

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.69 Mbps

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

TITLE

In 1970, young first-time director Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red) made his indelible mark on Italian cinema with The Bird with the Crystal Plumage—a film which redefined the giallo genre of murder-mystery thrillers and catapulted him to international stardom. To be honest, the film’s plot doesn’t really distinguish itself from other giallo films.

Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante), an American writer living in Rome, inadvertently witnesses a brutal attack on a woman (Eva Renzi) in a modern art gallery. Powerless to help, he grows increasingly obsessed with the incident. Convinced that something he saw that night holds the key to identifying the maniac terrorizing Rome, he launches his own investigation parallel to that of the police, heedless of the danger to both himself and his girlfriend Giulia (Suzy Kendall).

The most fascinating aspect of the film is Argento’s confident direction. It is truly a remarkably assured debut effort that is aided by Vittorio Storaro’s masterful cinematography and an interesting score by Ennio Morricone. It is essential viewing for fans of both the director and stands with the director’s best work.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

This is the epitome of wonderful packaging. It is probably impossible to do it justice here, but it should at least be said that this is one of Arrow’s more distinguished packages. Three items are held in a very sturdy box featuring artwork by Candice Tripp with title work completed by Matt Griffin. This is the same artist who graced Arrow with their extraordinary artwork for Donnie Darko earlier this year (among others)—and we wouldn’t complain if they were to work exclusively with this artist.

The three items contained in this box are as follows: The Arrow Blu-ray disc, a collector’s booklet, and a reversible foldout poster featuring both the original American one sheet design and the new Candice Tripp painting.

Limited Edition

The Blu-ray disc is housed in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve that allows fans to showcase either the aforementioned artwork or the film’s original Italian one-sheet. It is nice that Arrow has also offered fans the opportunity to utilize the film’s original one-sheet design, but we feel that most fans will agree that the new art is vastly superior to the original (which rarely happens). However, this is a matter of taste and there is little doubt that some will prefer the alternative. In addition to the Blu-ray disc, the case houses six postcards featuring the artwork for six of the film’s original lobby cards that helped to market the film upon its original release.

The collector’s booklet includes three great essays, including “The Bird with the Crystal Plumage: An Appreciation” by Michael Mackenzie, “Rogues’ Gallery: Portraits of Fear” by Howard Hughes, and “Sacrificial Knives and Cultic Objects: Reflections of the Screaming Mind in Dario Argento’s ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plumage’” by Jack Seabrook. The book is illustrated with new artwork by Matthew Griffin and contains a number of production stills that add significantly to the aesthetic presentation. The essays themselves are quite worthwhile and add to one’s appreciation of the film and its place in film history.

Menu

The disc’s animated menu utilizes footage from the film and is easy to navigate. Everything about this release is remarkable, and Arrow should be commended for their efforts.

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow has graced the disc with a 4K restoration transfer presented in the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This is a film that has seen a number of home video transfers, and none of the previous transfers have come close to the quality of this new restoration. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography finally comes across with some degree of accuracy in this release as colors seem accurately rendered with attractive saturation levels and natural flesh tones (for the most part). Contrast levels also seems to reflect the original production photography and showcases rich black levels without crushing shadow detail. There is an organic layer of grain that textures the image without sacrificing any of fine detail inherent in the photography.

The disc’s maxed out bitrate ensures that unsightly compression artifacts are never an issue, and the unsightly DNR that graces a number of the other releases does not mar the experience of watching this transfer. Film damage is at times evident, but this is never problematic or distracting for the viewer.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

We are happy to report that the disc includes solid Linear PCM audio transfers of both the original Italian mono mix and the English language mono mix. Some might lament the inclusion of an artificially produced quasi-5.1stream, but these rarely live up to their hype. These faithful mono reproductions are more than acceptable. Any flaws inherent in these tracks are the product of the original production methods and shouldn’t bother viewers who are well versed in the genre.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Troy Howarth

Troy Howarth is the author of a number of books (including So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films – Volumes 1 & 2, The Haunted World of Mario Bava, Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films, and Real Depravities: The Films of Klaus Kinski). A mere look at the titles of these books make it clear that he is a devotee of the giallo and horror genres, and his enthusiasm is evident throughout the duration of his commentary track. His general knowledge about this subject serves the track rather well, although it never approaches the quality one gains from an actual filmmaker’s commentary. One laments that Dario Argento himself didn’t participate in this discussion.

However, listeners are given a wealth of pertinent information here as Howarth’s encyclopedic knowledge of interesting trivia elevates the track above the level of most third party commentaries. It really does add an enormous amount of value to the disc.

Crystal Nightmare – (31:24)

Arrow Video wisely includes this interview with Dario Argento himself, and it is one of this disc’s most interesting supplemental features. The director discusses the film in a general way and delves into such topics as the inspiration for the film’s premise, the screenplay, the financing, and information about the film’s production and eventual release. His manner is rather straightforward and relatively unpretentious throughout his discussion, and his anecdotal recollections are especially fascinating. One doesn’t even have to be a fan of the director to find this program fascinating.

An Argento Icon – (22:05)

This better than average interview with Gildo Di Marco covers more territory than its somewhat brief duration might imply. The actor talks about his life as an actor and even delves into more personal territory. Frankly, the events of his life are really more interesting than one might imagine. His work with Argento is also covered in some detail.

Eva’s Talking – (11:19)

Eva Renzi’s interview is a bit older and the video quality isn’t as good as one might hope. However, the actress is frankly honest about her less than positive feelings about the film and the effect that it had on her career and this results in a unique and interesting experience for the viewer.

The Power of Perception – (20:57)

Alexandra Heller-Nicholas (author of Devil’s Advocates: Suspiria, Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study, and Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality) provides this genuinely instructive visual essay about the film’s themes and the role that art plays in Dario Argento’s cinema. This scholarly examination is insightful and should add to one’s appreciation of this film as well as the director’s other work.

Black Gloves and Screaming Mimis – (34:54)

Kat Ellinger gives another somewhat scholarly examination of the film that fans should enjoy. Ellinger examines the film’s origins and the Frederic Brown novel: ‘The Screaming Mimi’ and in the process manages to reframe the viewer’s contextual perspective. Comparisons to the novel are extremely rare, and this fills an obvious need. It is somewhat dry, but most will agree that it is a worthy addition to an already extraordinary disc.

Italian Theatrical Trailer – (03:11)

International Theatrical Trailer – (02:48)

Arrow’s 2017 Texas Frightmare Promo – (00:56)

It is nice to find that the original Italian and International trailers have been included here as they provide a glimpse at the marketing campaign. The Frightmare Promo is less essential—but probably even more fun than the original trailers.

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Final Words:

Dario Argento’s debut effort is certain to please fans of the giallo genre and the director’s later work, and Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray package is gorgeous! The 4K restoration transfer more than makes up for the deficiencies in their earlier release and more than warrants an upgrade. Frankly, this is the only release of the film that is even worth watching.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: June 13, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:33:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 2.0 LPCM Audio English 1536 kbps / (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 24-bit)

Alternate Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 3151 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.89 Mbps

Notes: This package contains a DVD copy of the film in addition to the Blu-ray.

Title

Helmed by legendary producer/director Ovidio Assonitis (the man behind cult genre entries such as The Visitor and Piranha II: The Spawning), Madhouse is a crimson-soaked tale of sibling rivalry taken to a terrifying and bloody extreme.

Julia has spent her entire adult life trying to forget the torment she suffered at the hands of her twisted twin Mary, but Mary hasn’t forgotten. Escaping the mental hospital that protects the outside world from her unusual brand of psychosis, Julia’s sadistic sister vows to exact a particularly cruel revenge on her sibling this year—promising a birthday surprise that she’ll never forget.

The film is an Italian production shot entirely in Savannah, Georgia and has been released under a plethora of titles (including And When She Was Bad and There Was a Little Girl). It fuses the slasher genre with the over-the-top excess of ‘80s Italian terror—resulting in a cinematic bloodbath that the British authorities outlawed as another in a line of “video nasties.”

Seen today, however, it is difficult to understand why the British censors felt the need to ban the film. It seems quaint by contemporary standards. Audiences can see more horrifying gore in a number of more recent films and the film isn’t particularly suspenseful when one compares it with the likes of better entries into the genre (such as John Carpenter’s Halloween). Those with a fondness for the genre will find it enjoyable enough (if only for the film’s many camp elements), but it probably won’t register with most audiences.

SS01

The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video 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 Marc Schoenbach and what is presumably the film’s original one sheet artwork (which is marginally superior to Schoenbach’s artwork for this release. As is their custom, they also include an attractive booklet that features an essay by John Martin entitled “The Occult, Octopi, and Ovidio Nasties – The Amazing Exploitation Career of Ovidio G. Assonitis” (the subject of which is more than a little self-explanatory). It should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film or at least provide the viewer with a contextual background.

[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:

3.5 of 5 Stars

According to Arrow’s packaging, this is a “brand new 2K restoration from the original 35mm camera negative.” We will simply have to take their word for it, because it isn’t a particularly strong image. This might very well be a result of less than stellar production elements instead of any deficiencies in the transfer and restoration. After all, Arrow Video has a solid track record with their restorations, and utilize a maxed out bitrate to make the most of their work. In any case, Madhouse exhibits warm but natural colors and a fair amount of detail and healthy gradation in dark areas of the frame. Depth is also reasonably strong during most of the exterior sequences. It is also pretty clean despite a few anomalies such as specks of dust or the occasional scratch that never become distracting. It is clear that the restoration team has done a decent job keeping such blemishes at bay. The film has a relatively soft aesthetic that isn’t helped by the fine layer of grain. The grain is fairly natural but does occasionally fluctuate and is sometimes heavier than it is throughout the majority of the film. The image sometimes goes out of focus, but this is obviously the result of the original photography. When compared to earlier DVD editions of the film, it becomes clear that this new transfer contains a bit at the top and left side of the frame. This is certainly good news as it seems closer to the original theatrical presentation.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes both the film’s original 2.0 mix as a track and a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix for fans who prefer a slightly more dynamic sonic experience. The latter option spreads some of the ambient sounds and some of the music across the channels. It isn’t an overwhelming difference, but some viewers will likely prefer this option. Purists will gravitate towards the 2.0 Linear PCM Audio option, which is every bit as solid and represents the original theatrical experience. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and intelligible and the score is given adequate breathing room.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary with ‘The Hysteria Continues’

Some readers are bound to be asking themselves, “Who or what is ‘The Hysteria Continues’?” The Hysteria Continues is a podcast dedicated to slasher movies and the Italian Giallo genres. The four genre fanatics responsible offer a discussion (and sometimes debate) about such subjects as the film’s video nasty status, comparisons to other genre films, production design, and other such pertinent topics. Frankly, I could live without the track. The participants are really just fan boys with no connection to and little knowledge about the film’s production. They can’t even pronounce the director’s name properly.

Alternate Opening Titles – (03:01)

Aternate Title

The only real difference between this alternate title sequence and the one used in the body of this film transfer is that this sequence utilizes one of the film’s alternate titles (There Was a Little Girl).

Running the Madhouse – (12:40)

Edith Ivey’s interview is somewhat short, but the actress does recall some interesting tidbits of information about the production. Ivey portrayed Amantha Beauregard in Madhouse and doesn’t seem to have any real affection for the film. In fact, she seems genuinely shocked that anyone would even be interested in hearing about it. She talks about Ovidio Assonitis and his demand for histrionics (our words not hers).

Framing Fear – (19:32)

Roberto D. Ettorre Piazzoli discusses his working relationship with Ovidio Assonitis and his cinematography in the film. He makes a few comparisons to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Many will agree that this is the best of the three included interviews do to its scope. One simply feels that it covers the most territory.

Ovidio Nasty – (07: 44)

Ovidio Assonitis (producer/director) reveals the classic films that influenced Madhouse. It is nice to hear from Ovidio himself, but one feels his interview is slightly anemic compared to the other two interviews (neither of which was particularly comprehensive).

Theatrical Trailer – (03:04)

The theatrical trailer has been rarely seen in recent years before Arrow decided to include it on this disc, and fans should be thrilled to have it here (even if it isn’t particularly unique).

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Final Words:

Madhouse was a made-to-order slasher knock-off with over the top performances and questionable logic that should appeal to viewers looking for a campy romp through typical 1980s slasher schlock. It is one of those “so bad that it is good” movies. Arrow Video has provided genre fans with a decent upgrade to the previous DVD editions and has included some interesting supplemental material to sweeten the deal. However, it certainly isn’t for everyone.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: May 30, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:32:34

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1536 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 26.86 Mbps

Notes: Arrow Video also includes a DVD copy of the film in this package.

Title

“What pleases is what is terrible, gentle, and poetic.” -Georges Franju

While Spotlight Without a Murder isn’t Georges Franju’s most pleasing film, it is essential viewing for anyone who admires any of the director’s more popular efforts. The story isn’t particularly unique but it captures and holds the viewers interest with confident simplicity. When the terminally ill Count Hervé de Kerloquen (Pierre Brasseur, Goto, Isle of Love) vanishes without trace, his heirs are told that they have to wait five years before he can be declared legally dead, forcing them to devise ways of paying for the upkeep of the vast family château in the meantime.  While they set about transforming the place into an elaborate son et lumière tourist attraction, they are beset by a series of tragic accidents—if they are really accidents.

This was Franju’s third feature length effort after having already made Head Against the Wall and Eyes Without a Face and is a generally playful romp through Agatha Christie territory. Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac—who had penned the source novels for Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo—returned to pen the screenplay for the director after the success of their previous collaboration on Eyes Without a Face. Boileau and Narcejac were obviously well versed in murder-mystery clichés and they gleefully exploit as many of them as possible while also blending Gothic elements into the film’s expertly woven fabric. To be honest, the Boileau-Narcejac connection should be enough reason for serious film buffs to experience this somewhat obscure film—even if opinion will be divided between those who see it as a hidden gem and those who see it as a hidden curiosity.

SS01

The Presentation:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video 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 Peter Strain and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. In this instance, it should be said that Strain’s new artwork is gorgeous and certainly superior to the alternative. There is also an attractive booklet that features a few essays that enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

[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:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The included collector’s booklet contains very little information about the work that went into the film’s transfer, but does claim that “‘Spotlight on a Murderer’ was digitally restored by Gaumont from original film elements.” Happily, this vague information doesn’t seem to reflect any deficiencies in the quality of the film’s image. The image quality is always solid and often beautiful. It exhibits rich blacks and natural gradients between the various shades of grey. Contrast is also well handled and there is a natural and well resolved layer of grain that lends a filmic texture to the proceedings. Clarity isn’t particularly consistent, but this seems to be a direct result of the production elements. There aren’t many age relate artifacts, but the ravages of time does occasionally mar what is an otherwise gorgeous image. However, these rare anomalies never become distracting.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The 2.0 Linear PCM mono audio supports the film’s visuals admirably. The various elements are all given enough room to flourish. Fidelity is commendable and there isn’t any noticeable distortion. Some viewers might lament the lack of a more dynamic sound mix, but purists will be thrilled to have the original audio reproduced so faithfully in high definition.

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

Le Courrier du Cinema – (27:14)

This excellent 1960 episode of a French television program documents the film’s production. The show is obviously geared towards promoting the film’s release, but it is rare to see “behind the scenes” documentary footage of films as old as this one. Obviously, this makes the viewing experience a fascinating one (especially if one is a fan of French cinema or Georges Franju). The program includes interviews with Georges Franju, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Pascale Audret, Marianne Koch, Pierre Brasseur, and Dany Saval. It is a shame that the footage isn’t more probing, but it is nonetheless a fascinating and instructive pleasure to watch.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:33)

The film’s theatrical trailer is another happy addition to Arrow Academy’s small but satisfying supplemental package.

SS05

Final Words:

This release is essential for admirers of French cinema, Georges Franju, or the old-school mystery genre.

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Review by: Devon Powell