Posts Tagged ‘Arrow Academy’

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.

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 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.

SS03

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.

SS04

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.

SS05

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.

SS06

Review by: Devon Powell

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.

SS03

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.

SS04

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.

SS06.jpg

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover.jpg

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Noroit02:14:40

Duelle 02:00:41

Merry-Go-Round02:40:20

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

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

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

Merry-Go-RoundEnglish & French Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Noroit1.85:1

Duelle 1.85:1

Merry-Go-Round1.37:1

Bitrate:

Noroit37.31 Mbps

Duelle 37.17 Mbps

Merry-Go-Round 32.98 Mbps

Note: This package includes DVD editions of all three titles.

Jacques Rivette

“[Noroît and Merry-Go-Round] might very well have been released; but it so happened that Gaumont, in its capacity as distribution house, didn’t think they would bring in a large audience. Maybe they’re right, from their point of view… But in a sense—and this is a very selfish point of view—I didn’t really do anything to ensure their release. Because the release for instance of Duelle, which was not an easy film to release, was done so clumsily that I would almost have preferred if the film had stayed in its boxes … I was more handicapped, personally, even purely egoistically, by the failure of Duelle than I was by the non-release of Noroît and Merry-Go-Round. It gives one a stronger sense of rejection, of error of course too. No, what’s really bothersome is that nearly all directors are at the mercy of such things…” –Jacques Rivette (Cahiers du Cinema, May-June, 1981)

When considering the illustrious filmmakers that came out of the French New Wave, it is easy for one to overlook Jacques Rivette’s name on a list that includes François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Chabrol, and Éric Rohmer—but the movement might not even exist without Rivette. Production on Paris Belongs to Us began well before Truffaut, Godard and Chabrol began shooting their films (even if it wasn’t released until 1961).

As a matter of fact, Rivette would often have trouble with the release of his films (as is evidenced by the three films included in this set. In 1975, Jacques Rivette reunited with Out 1 producer, Stéphane Tchal Gadjieff, with the idea of a four-film cycle. He would create a quartet of interconnected films, Scènes de la vie parallèle. Each film would be in a different genre and revolve around two different female characters. Unfortunately, Rivette had a nervous breakdown and succumbed to exhaustion after completing only two of the four films. The second and the third entries of the intended tetralogy were the only films completed: Duelle (une quarantine) sees Rivette in fantasy territory, cross-pollinating Val Lewton, Jean Cocteau, and film noir as the Queen of the Sun (Bulle Ogier) and the Queen of the Night (Juliet Berto) battle over a magical diamond that will allow them to continue their existence in present-day Paris.. Its parallel film, Noroît (une vengeance) is a pirate tale about revenge—and a loose adaptation of The Revenger’s Tragedy. It stars Geraldine Chaplin and Bernadette Lafont.

Rivette was three days into the filming of Marie et Julien—the first film in the series (they were not produced in order)—when he collapsed and the production was shut down. It took a long time for the director to recover and when he was finally able to return to filmmaking, he was able to secure financing to make one of the two remaining films in his series. He decided that if he couldn’t make both films, he wouldn’t make either one of them. Instead, Rivette borrowed some of the elements of Duelle and Noroît and came up with Merry-Go-Round. Joe Dallesandro (The Climber, Trash, Flesh for Frankenstein) and Maria Schneider (Last Tango in Paris, The Passenger) are summoned to Paris, which leads to one of the most surreal and mysterious tales in a career that was dominated by surrealism and mystery.

In his essay about Jacques Rivette, Saul Austerlitz speaks despairingly about this period in the director’s career:

“The next period of Rivette’s career, between Celine and Julie and the renewed triumphs of La Bande des quatre and La Belle Noiseuse (1991), is for the most part disappointing. Duelle (1976) was pictorially lovely, and La Pont du nord (1982) and L’Amour par terre (1984) featured continued reflections on the relationship [between] art and reality, but in comparison to the peaks of Rivette’s filmmaking, these films (and also Noroit [1976], Merry Go Round [1980], and Hurlevent [1985]) are mere footnotes.” -Saul Austerlitz (Senses of Cinema)

Considering that Noroit and Merry Go Round never received a proper release and that Duelle’s release was given extremely problematic and limited distribution, one can understand how a surface level analysis might lead Austerlitz to discount these films. However, he never gives any evidence to support his claims that these films are mere footnotes—and it is our privilege to dispute his claims. These films were perhaps financially unsuccessful, but they are rich and rewarding cinematic experiences that experiment with form, content, and improvisation.

SS01

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release is simple but attractive. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring attractive cartoon-like drawings by Ignatius Fitzpatrick. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the discs featuring Duelle (une quarantaine), the second features Noroît (une vengeance), and the third features Merry-Go-Round. The fourth item included in the box is a small perfect-bound book featuring three essays: “Moving Backstage” by Mary M. Wiles, “Rivette x 4” by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Gilbert Adair, and Michael Graham, as well as “Vagabond Charm” by Nick Pinkerton. Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the films in this set.

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

SS02

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

All three transfers in this set are the result of digital restoration work which was detailed in liner notes included in the back of the collector’s booklet:

“The original camera negatives were scanned, graded, and restored at 2K resolution. The majority of the picture restoration work was conducted on Diamant Film Restoration systems, with Phoenix and Flame software used on selected sequences.

Picture issues such as dirt, debris, and scratches, torn frames, damaged splices, instability, and mold were all corrected or minimized.

Color grading was carried out using a P3 DCI color space. 35mm original prints were used as a visual reference throughout by the colorist.” –Collector’s Booklet

The result is an extremely strong image that reflects the filmmaker’s intention admirably. Colors are beautifully rendered and almost always impressive while black levels are deep and attractive. There might be some very slight crushing, but it is impossible to determine whether this is the result of the original photography or if this is a minor flaw in the restoration. Either way, this is never distracting to the viewer. Fine detail often impressive and the picture is incredibly crisp. One feels that any softness is a result of the filmmaker’s original footage and this usually suits the aesthetic needs of the film. The high bitrate ensures that each film is presented in the best possible manner and fans of the director will be very appreciative.

SS03

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The mono sound mixes are perhaps less impressive than the image transfers, but they were given the same loving treatment.

“The original magnetic reels were too damaged for use, so the soundtracks were sourced from the original optical sound negatives and, in some cases, digital Betacam tapes produced in the 1990s. The majority of this work was carried out by L.E. Diapason in Paris.” –Collector’s Booklet

Duelle and Noroit are French language tracks and Merry Go Round was made with a mixture of English and French. It is difficult to determine the clarity of the French language elements because English speaking ears are likely to miss nuances in the language. However, it certainly seems like the dialogue is clearly represented in these three audio tracks. The jazz-style music in the three films also sounds fantastic, although Merry Go Round is marred somewhat by anomalies such as the occasional dropout and hiss. The track seems to be slightly muffled at times making this the least impressive of the three tracks. Having said this, these issues never distract the viewer or inhibit their enjoyment of the film.

SS04

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Scenes from a Parallel Life: Jacques Rivette Remembers – (51:43)  

Scenes from a Parallel Life is without question the most significant supplement included in this package. The first segment was completed on May 4th, 1990 in Paris by Karlheinz Oplustil while the second segment was completed in 2004 by Wilfried Reichart. These two archival interviews with Jacques Rivette find the director discussing his unfinished Scènes de la vie parallèle tetralogy (including the completed Duelle and Noroît) and Merry-Go-Round. It is essential viewing for anyone remotely interested in the director’s work.

Remembering Duelle – (11:00)

Bulle Ogier and Hermine Karagheuz talk about the production of Duelle (1976) and their work on the project. Of the two participants, Bulle Ogier takes the prize for providing the most information. Hermine Karagheuz seems to have fewer memories but discusses Rivette’s vague approach to directing her in the role. It is a relatively short piece, but it does provide some interesting information that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of the film.

Interview with Jonathan Rosenbaum – (22:25)

Rosenbaum reported from the sets of both Duelle (une quarantaine) and Noroît (une vengeance) and his recollections provide the viewer with some incredible information about the production and some general analysis. This is well worth the viewer’s time.

SS05

Final Words:

This is an important release that showcases three underappreciated film’s by a too-often overlooked voice in the French New Wave. Arrow Academy should be commended for their efforts.

Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: May 09, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 02:45:15

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 03:36:25

Heroic Purgatory – 01:58:07

Coup D’Etat 01:49:51

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 1152 kbps, 24-bit)

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Heroic Purgatory – Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Coup D’Etat Japanese Mono Linear PCM Audio (48 kHz, 768 kbps, 16-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 2.35:1

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 2.35:1

Heroic Purgatory – 1.33:1

Coup D’Etat 1.33:1

Bitrate:

Eros + Massacre: Theatrical Version – 31.88 Mbps

Eros + Massacre: Director’s Cut – 25.99 Mbps

Heroic Purgatory – 23.49 Mbps

Coup D’Etat 24.49 Mbps

Notes: This release includes DVD editions of each film. In total, there are seven discs included in this package (three Blu-rays and four DVDs).

SS01

“One could say that in this film there are two times, chronologically speaking: ours and that of fifty years ago—Osugi’s time.  In this sense, one could say that it deals with the problem of time, but for me what’s important is the present. Reflecting on the present is also reflecting on the future: it is at the same time wanting to change the present and seizing a hold of that which will become the future. This is the subject of the film and not Osugi as a historical character per se. The fundamental theme is: how to change the world, and what is it that needs to be changed?  Reflecting on the present situation through the medium of an era already past, I came to believe that Osugi’s problems continue to be ours.

Osugi is very well known in Japan—one could say almost legendary: he is someone who spoke of free love.  He was assassinated in 1923 by an official of the state, massacred by the power of the state. This is what all Japanese historians believe, but this historical estimation only enlightens the past and not the future. In making this film, I wanted to transform the legend of Osugi by means of the imaginary. Sure enough, Osugi was oppressed by the power of the state in his political activities. But most of all, he spoke of free love, which has the power to destroy the monogamous structure, then the family, and finally the state. And it was this very escalation that the state could not allow. It was because of this crime of the imaginary (or ‘imaginary crime’) that the state massacred Osugi. Osugi was someone who envisioned a future…

… I would like to remind you of the murder attempt [during] the second part of the film—the knife penetrating Osugi’s neck, filmed in a realistic manner: this is the plain and simple representation of the narrative.  In filming this attempt a second time, my intention was to destroy this narrative, to deform the actual event, in order to enter into Osugi: I thought that maybe Osugi preferred to be killed—in contrast to what the first version of the attempt showed. It comes right after he starts to consider the destruction of the revolution he desired; it was after this destruction that he began to speak of free love, in other words, of an imaginary crime. In this version of the attempt, then, it should not come about because of jealousy, not due to a psychological element, but from a political cause.  Thus I had Osugi say: ‘Revolution is only the renunciation of the self,’ or ‘in love and terror, there is ecstasy.’ In having Osugi say this, I wanted the spectator to feel the absence of revolution in the present situation. For the third version of the attempt, I tried to show the contrary view, namely Noe, the attacker. In opposition to Kurosawa, it is always the renunciation of the self that is important for me: it is only this way that communication with Noe and Itsuko is possible, and only by means of it that one is able to think the future.” –Yoshishige (“Kiju”) Yoshida (Cahiers du Cinéma, October 1970)

As the above quote about Eros + Massacre—undoubtedly the strongest entry in the director’s trilogy of Japanese radicalism—suggests, Yoshida’s trilogy is both innately political and extremely sexual (not that either of these traits is mutually exclusive).

A contemporary of Nagisa Oshima (Death by Hanging, In the Realm of the Senses) and Masahiro Shinoda (Pale Flower, Assassination), Kiju Yoshida started out as an assistant to Keisuke Kinoshita before making his directorial debut at age 27. In the decades that followed he produced more than 20 features and documentaries, yet each and every one has proven difficult to see in the English-speaking world.

Perhaps this is because one must have at least a general contextual knowledge of Japan’s socio-political landscape during the nineteen sixties and seventies to fully appreciate his work. Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory, and Coup D’Etat form a loose trilogy united by their radical politics and an even more radical shooting style. Eros + Massacre (presented here in two different versions) tells the parallel stories of early 20th-century anarchist (and free love advocate) Sakae Osugi and a pair of student activists. Their stories interact and intertwine—resulting in a complex work that is arguably Yoshida’s masterpiece. Heroic Purgatory pushes the dazzling cinematic language of Eros + Massacre even further, presenting a bleak but dreamlike investigation into the political discourses taking place in early seventies Japan. Coup d’état returns to the past for a biopic of Ikki Kita, the right-wing extremist who sought to overthrow the government in 1936. Yoshida considered the film to be the culmination of his work and temporarily retired from feature filmmaking following its completion—though he would return to the director’s chair over a decade later to make A Promise in 1986.

SS02

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s packaging for this release will no doubt impress anyone with a fondness for classic Japanese cinema. Four items are held in a very sturdy box featuring an attractive design. Three of these items are clear cases which hold the Blu-ray and DVD discs. Each case features its own reversible decorative sleeve. The first case houses the Blu-ray and DVD Editions of the Director’s Cut for Eros + Massacre, the second holds that same film’s Theatrical Version, and the third actually includes a Blu-ray disc featuring both Heroic Purgatory and Coup d’Etat and two DVD discs (one for each of these two films).

The fourth item included in the box is a small limited edition softbound book featuring essays about Yoshishige Yoshida and the films included in the set. Contributors include David Desser (co-editor of the Journal of Japanese and Korean Cinema), Isolde Standish (author of Politics, Porn, and Protest: Japanese Avant-Garde Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s) and Dick Stegewerns (author of Kiju Yoshida: 50 Years of Avant-Garde Filmmaking in Post-War Japan). Each of the essays offers instructive information and analysis that should enhance the viewer’s appreciation of these films.

Disc 1 - Menu

Disc 2 - Menu

Disc 3 - Main Menu

Disc 3 - Heroic Purgatory Menu

Disc 3 - Coup D'Etat

All of these discs contain menus that are somewhat different than those on most Arrow releases, but they are all attractive and easy to navigate.

SS03

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

With the exception of the director’s cut of Eros + Massacre, each of these transfers offers equally solid transfers. The director’s cut is more than three and a half hours in length resulting in a slightly lower bitrate than was used for the theatrical version (which was only two hours and forty-five minutes in length). However, we feel that the significant decrease in picture quality is the result of an inferior source print. The longer director’s cut is noticeably too bright and blown out—which reduces fine detail significantly.

The rest of the three transfers are much better with Heroic Purgatory being marginally superior to the others. All feature strong contrast with nice black levels and showcase a fair amount of fine detail. The image isn’t as razor sharp as contemporary films, but one feels that these represent the originals rather faithfully. Coup D’Etat features a few moments of disappointing clarity but it really isn’t anything to complain about.

SS04

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Each film features a solid lossless mono track—with the theatrical version of Eros + Massacre given a slightly more technically robust transfer. Each track represents its respective film nicely and the sound design featured in each of the films is often quite interesting. Some will no doubt lament the lack of a more dynamic mix of these films, but all that matters to this reviewer is that each track is a reasonably flawless reflection of the original source, and these tracks certainly fall in line with those expectations.

SS05

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

8 Scene Commentary Tracks for Eros + Massacre (Theatrical Version) by David Desser

9 Scene Commentary Tracks for Eros + Massacre (Director’s Cut) by David Desser

10 Scene Commentary Tracks for Heroic Purgatory by David Desser

7 Scene Commentary Tracks for Coup d’etat by David Desser

These scene commentaries by David Desser will fascinate anyone with an interest in Japanese cinema (especially if they also happen to have a fondness for scholarly analysis). Each is highly informative and make valuable contributions to one’s understanding and appreciation of these films.

Yoshida …or: The Explosion of the Story – (30:10)

It is nice to find a documentary about Eros + Massacre included on this set—especially one that features Yoshishige Yoshida himself! This French production also includes contributions from Mathieu Capel and Jean Douchet. It is a very strong addition to the disc.

Introduction to Heroic Purgatory by Yoshida – (06:08)

Introduction to Coup d Etat by Yoshida – (05:22)

Yoshida offers slightly more substantial introductions to Heroic Purgatory and Coup d Etat than one might expect. Introductions usually don’t provide much in the way of valuable information or analysis, but these are actually worth the viewer’s time and the disc space that they occupy.

Eros + Massacre (Theatrical Version): Discussion with David Desser – (11:21)

Eros + Massacre (Director’s Cut): Discussion with David Desser – (09:08)

Heroic Purgatory: Discussion with David Desser – (09:14)

Coup d’etat: Discussion with David Desser – (08:51)

David Desser’s exclusive discussions are also well worth the time that it takes to watch them. Desser is the author of Eros + Massacre: An Introduction to the Japanese New Wave and obviously has a passion for Japanese cinema (even if he can come off as a bit dry). Much like his scene commentaries, the information that he reveals along with some analysis adds to one’s appreciation of these films.

Eros + Massacre Theatrical Trailer – (03:30)

Heroic Purgatory Theatrical Trailer – (03:04)

Coup d Etat Theatrical Trailer – (02:58)

One always hopes that the original trailers will be included in a Blu-ray package—especially when the films are as obscure and unusual as these happen to be.

SS06

Final Words:

Devotees of Japanese cinema should certainly see this interesting trilogy and Arrow’s wonderful boxed set is currently the only way to make this happen

Review by: Devon Powell

 

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: April 18, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:38:14

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.83 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

Cinephiles with a fondness for Italian cinema will find themselves immediately absorbed in Elio Petri’s The Assassin (L’Assassino). The film was released within months of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Michelangelo Antonioni’s La Notte and also shares the familiar talents of Marcello Mastroianni, this time as dandyish thirty-something antique dealer Alfredo Martelli—a man arrested on suspicion of murdering his wealthy older lover, Adalgisa (Micheline Presle). The film has often been compared to Petri’s Investigation of a Citizen above Suspicion, but there are also similarities to Orson Welles’ film adaptation of Franz Kafka’s The Trial. There are plenty of Kafkaesque scenes in Petri’s film as it becomes less and less important whether Martelli actually committed the crime as his entire lifestyle is effectively put on trial.

Petri was certainly one of the more underrated Italian directors of his generation and while L’Assassino was highly acclaimed on its original release, it has been unjustly neglected ever since.  The film is a remarkably assured debut from one of the cinema’s sharpest chroniclers of Italian social and political realities. Petri said that he wanted to reflect the changes wrought by the early sixties, and to examine “a new generation of upstarts who lacked any kind of moral scruple.” Well, we can only say that he got off to a strong start with this film.

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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 Jay Shaw and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay by Camilla Zamboni entitled “Elio Petri’s L’assassino,” an archival analysis of 1950s Italian cinema by Elio Petri himself entitled, “Italian Cinema: A Castrated Elephant,” and a selection of contemporary reviews. These writings are enhanced with a number of production 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:

4.5 of 5 Stars

The following textual information appears in Italian before the film begins:

“The digital restoration of L’assassino was made from the original camera negative which was missing the first and last roll, and from a first-generation interpositive. These two elements were scanned at 2K resolution for this restoration. The grading was carried out by referring to the original print version that was held by the production company Titanus in the archives of the Cineteca di Bologna. The sound was extracted from a 35mm negative and digitally remastered.”

One can certainly see a slight difference in quality when comparing the first and last reels to the rest of the film, but it is nice to report that the differences in quality aren’t radical enough to call attention to itself. Contrast and black levels are extremely pleasing, and the image usually displays a pleasing sharpness despite the organic layer of grain evident throughout the film. Depth and clarity are quite decent throughout most of the duration as well, and the image isn’t marred by the ravages of time. Dirt and debris have been cleared along with any scratches, water damage, or any other unfortunate anomalies. What’s more, the image looks as if it is free of any overzealous digital tampering.

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Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s Italian mono linear PCM audio track (with optional English subtitles) is a solid representation of the film’s original mix. Some will lament the lack of a more dynamic surround option, but this would not accurately reflect the film’s original sound. Piero Piccioni’s jazz score sounds great on this lossless track as do some of the effects. Dialogue also seems to be clearly rendered, but not having an ear for the Italian language puts this reviewer at a disadvantage. It is simply impossible to make this statement with any authority. Sonic anomalies such as his, hum, dropouts, or pops never mar one’s enjoyment either.

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Elio Petri and L’Assassino – (09:41)

This interview with Italian cinema expert Pasquale Iannone serves as an introductory overview of Elio Petri’s work, but his authority is somewhat muted by his tendency to glance at his notes. It is worth seeing, but those looking for an in-depth study about the director will no doubt be disappointed.

Tonino Guerra: A Poet in the Movies – (51:15)

This documentary about Tonino Guerra (a great Italian screenwriter) was released in 2008 and focuses on Guerra’s life and prolific career working with some of cinema’s most important auteurs—including Elio Petri, Federico Fellini, Vittorio De Sica, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrey Tarkovsky, Francesco Rosi, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, and many others. The program is fueled by archival interview footage of Tonino Guerra himself discussing an incredibly wide variety of subjects that will fascinate anyone with a fondness for world cinema. These interviews are often illustrated with footage from a variety of films—and while the result is a bit one-sided, it really does make for very instructive viewing.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:45)

The original Italian theatrical trailer (with optional English subtitles) rounds out the disc rather nicely.

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Final Words:

Arrow Academy gives devotees of Italian cinema the gift of an extremely strong transfer of this underappreciated classic.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: April 25, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:51:23

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.99 Mbps

Notes: This release includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

“A wonderful film that moves on waves of feeling. Francesco Rosi, who has one of the greatest compositional senses in the history of movies, keeps you in a state of emotional exaltation. A simple image has the kind of resonance that most directors never achieve.” -Pauline Kael (The New Yorker, 1981)

Francesco Rosi established himself as one of the greatest chroniclers of Italy’s stormy postwar history with such riveting classics as Salvatore Giuliano, The Mattei Affair, and Illustrious Corpses. Three Brothers (Tre Fratelli) explores similarly knotty social and political territory through the seemingly straightforward story of three siblings returning to their native southern Italy to pay homage to their late mother. However, their various professions—a judge in Rome (Philippe Noiret), a spiritual counselor in Naples (Vittorio Mezzogiorno), a factory worker in Turin (Michele Placido)—have a profound effect on their response to this reunion.

Three Brothers even received a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but lost the golden statuette to Mephisto. It is only right that all these years later that Arrow Academy is awarding the film with this excellent Blu-ray release.

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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 Matthew Griffin and what is presumably the film’s original poster art.

There is also an attractive booklet that includes an interesting essay by Millicent Marcus entitled “Beyond Cinema Politico,” another essay written by director Francesco Rosi entitled “In Opposition to Life, In Opposition to Death,” a 1981 interview with Francesco Rosi about Three Brothers conducted by Michael Ciment, and contemporary reviews of the film. Arrow enhances these interesting writings with several production 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:

3.5 of 5 Stars

We aren’t sure, but it seems that this Arrow Academy release may very well be the film’s home video debut in North America. The booklet’s usually detailed information about the transfer is somewhat vague, so we aren’t entirely certain as to the source of this transfer. Contrast and black levels seem to be accurate and the image is relatively sharp considering its age. Colors are also well-rendered and exhibit natural flesh tones. Grain is well resolved and looks natural as well and there aren’t any troublesome digital anomalies—although one can detect moments of aliasing. One can also detect some minor dirt and a few minor scratches, but these aren’t terribly noticeable unless one is looking for them. Depth isn’t particularly impressive either, but one suspects that this isn’t an issue with the transfer but a reflection of the film’s production. All in all, this is a solid but unexceptional transfer.

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Sound Quality:

3 of 5 Stars

The Italian mono linear PCM audio track is also solid as it is in keeping with what one expects from Italian film productions—meaning that it seems the film’s audio was added in post-production. One scene finds a slight fluctuation between ambient audio when Philippe Noiret is speaking, and this is no doubt a result of replacing the original production sound with dubbed dialogue (as Noiret wasn’t a native Italian speaker). Piero Piccioni’s subtle score sounds good in the lossless environment as do the other elements, and this track seems to reflect the original theatrical mix.

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Special Features:

2 of 5 Stars

Archival Interview with Francesco Rosi – (01:12:12)

This audio-only interview with Francesco Rosi was recorded in London during the summer of 1987 and is presented here with various photographs in order to enhance one’s experience. English is the predominant language throughout the interview with some a few moments of translation. Many topics are covered here but Rossi’s 1987 production of Chronicle of a Death Foretold seems to be the predominant focus. Even so, this is an instructive interview that will please fans of the director.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (03:20)

The film’s original Italian theatrical trailer is also included on the disc with English subtitles.

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Final Words:

Francesco Rosi’s Three Brothers is a character-driven story about family. It has an understated grace that is rare and Arrow Academy’s release seems to be the only way one can experience the film on home video.

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Review by: Devon Powell

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: April 11, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length:

Theatrical Version – 03:58:16

Television Version – 04:09:11

Episode 1 – 47:45

Episode 2 – 55:29

Episode 3 – 42:56

Episode 4 – 47:58

Episode 5 – 53:35

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

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

Subtitles: English, English SDH

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate:

Disc One – 29.99 Mbps

Disc Two – 34.67 Mbps

Notes: This 4-disc collection includes a DVD edition of the film.

Title

Luchino Visconti is often given credit for announcing the Italian Neorealist movement with Ossessione (1943), which was loosely based on “The Postman Always Rings Twice” by James M. Cain. It would have been impossible to imagine that this same filmmaker would later be responsible for—and indeed known for lush period epics like Senso (1954), The Leopard (1963), and The Damned (1969). With this string of masterpieces behind him, the legendary director turned his attentions to yet another period drama—the life and death of King Ludwig II of Bavaria in 1972.

These efforts resulted in an epic of 19th-century decadence entitled Ludwig (1973). Dominated by Helmut Berger (The Damned, The Bloodstained Butterfly) in the title role, Ludwig nevertheless manages to find room for an impressive cast list: Romy Schneider (reprising her Elisabeth of Austria characterization from the Sissi trilogy), Silvana Mangano (Bitter Rice), Gert Fröbe (Goldfinger), John Moulder-Brown (Deep End), and Trevor Howard (Brief Encounter) as Richard Wagner.

If Ludwig considered one of the director’s best efforts, it should at least be on the list of his most interesting.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

Like so many other Blu-ray releases this set is the epitome of gorgeous packaging. One might say that it is fit for a king—mad or otherwise. The box itself—which itself is placed inside a yellow cardboard holder showcasing the film’s title—features one of the many original one sheet designs (which is quite lovely).

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Three major ingredients are included inside the box: Two separate cases (each containing both a Blu-ray and a DVD disc) and a beautifully illustrated paperback booklet containing interviews and essays that will enrich one’s understanding and appreciation of the film. Both of the two cases are decorated with a sleeve utilizing a different one sheet and the cover of the booklet features the same one sheet found on the box itself.

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

Menu - Disc 1

Menu - Disc 2

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

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s transfer is taken from a 2K restoration taken from a 4K scan of the original film negative and the result is an immaculate image. Colors are richly saturated and fine detail is simply amazing as they showcase a naturally sharp image. There is a very fine layer of grain that never becomes unwieldy and compression issues simply aren’t present. It is simply a gorgeous transfer—and this goes for both versions of the film.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

This set contains both the Italian and English soundtracks in the Linear PCM Mono Audio format. The English track was produced for the 173 minute version of the film and the audio will occasionally revert back to the Italian mix for scenes that were not in the original U.S. release of the film. There are often differences in musical accompaniment between the original Italian and the English version which can result in sudden changes in the background music between the two versions.

This reviewer would suggest watching the Italian version at least once since it represents Visconti’s original intentions for the soundtrack. However, both versions are technically solid and offer an enjoyable sonic experience—even if the English version exhibits a bit more hiss which is nearly imperceptible unless one listens for it. Since this is an Italian film, there is dubbing present in both versions of the film. What’s more, neither track is particularly dynamic and are merely solid representations of both original mixes.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Arrow includes the original full-length theatrical cut and the 5-part television mini-series version of the film. The theatrical version is superior, but it is nice to have both versions for comparison.

The supplemental package might look sparse compared to some of Arrow’s other releases but looks are often deceiving. The supplemental package offers 2 hours, 54 minutes, and 14 seconds of pertinent video based entertainment.

Disc One:

Luchino Visconti – (01:00:35)

Carlo Lizzani’s profile of Luchino Visconti is an incredibly engaging work as it features original interviews with some of the most important figures in Italian cinema: Carlo Lizzani, Claudia Cardinale, Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Burt Lancaster, Francesco Rosi, Vittorio Gassman, Massimo Girotti, Luigi Filippo D’Amico, Jean Marais, Enrico Medioli, Piero Tosi, and Franco Zeffirelli. These individuals provide an interesting overview of the director’s life and work. Better yet, archival interviews are also utilized here allowing Luchino Visconti himself to make important appearances along with Silvana Mangano, Alain Fabien, Giuseppe De Santis, and Lina Wertmüller.

The result is a chronological glimpse into the life of one of Italian cinema’s most unique voices. It covers such pertinent subjects as the neorealist movement, his life and politics, his work with Renoir, his stage work, and so much more. It would be easy to fault it for stopping after a mere hour but it really does cover a lot of ground. This is the perfect introduction for cinephiles who have not yet delved into Visconti’s unique cinematic universe.

Helmut Berger: The Mad King – (16:05)

Arrow’s brand new interview (shot in 2016) with Helmut Berger (who portrayed King Ludwig II of Bavaria in the film) is interesting as Berger had appeared in some of  Visconti’s other films. The downside is that his accent has a tendency to drown his English making it somewhat difficult to understand.

Theatrical Trailer – (03:49)

A film’s theatrical trailer is always a welcome addition to a disc’s supplemental package and this one is no exception.

Disc Two:

Speaking with Suso Cecchi d’Amico – (48:12)

This archival interview with Suso Cecchi d’Amico is as engaging as it is instructive. Amico’s screenwriting credits are humbling as she has worked with some of the greatest Italian directors on many of their greatest projects. She worked with Visconti on six of the director’s films: Bellissima (1951), Senso (1954), Rocco and His Brothers (1960), The Leopard (1963), Ludwig (1972), and Conversation Piece (1974). Her conversation here discusses her experiences working with the director.

Silvana Mangano: The Scent of a Primrose – (31:12)

The Scent of a Primrose is an excellent profile of Silvana Mangano that was produced for Italian television. It isn’t incredibly comprehensive but does provide a general overview that will be instructive for anyone who isn’t familiar with her work.

Producing Ludwig – (14:16)

Producing ‘Ludwig’ is a pleasant surprise since it isn’t advertised as one of the set’s supplements, but it is actually superior to Helmut Berger’s interview (in this reviewer’s humble opinion). It is a brand new interview with Dieter Geissler and offer’s a producer’s perspective about the production. Those who admire Italian cinema should find it interesting.

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Final Words:

This is an extremely interesting work from one of the masters of cinema and Arrow’s Blu-ray set is simply spectacular. This is an extremely important release and it is nice to see that Arrow has treated it accordingly. We hope that this is an indication of what one can expect from Arrow Academy in the future.

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Review by: Devon Powell