Posts Tagged ‘Cinema’

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.

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 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.

SS03

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.

SS04

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.

SS05

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.

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: 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.

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 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.

SS03

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.

SS04

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.

SS05

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.

SS06

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.

SS01

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.

SS02

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.

SS03

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.

SS04
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.

SS05

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.

SS06

Spine #856

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: February 28, 2017

Region: Region A

Length:

Before Sunrise – 01:41:05

Before Sunset – 01:20:31

Before Midnight – 01:48:57

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

Before Sunrise – 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Sunset – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Before Midnight – 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate:

Before Sunrise – 35.34 Mbps

Before Sunset – 35.20 Mbps

Before Midnight – 34.05 Mbps

Notes: These titles were previously released in various DVD editions, and Before Midnight was previously available on Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Classics.

One Sheets

“We’re lucky on these films because the construction of it is going for a certain kind of honesty. So many romantic films—they’re kind of built on an artifice that we have tried never to really abide by too much. We have some mythic audience in our mind that would appreciate the unvarnished honesty of the darker moments of a relationship. I’d say we can do things that another kind of film couldn’t support.” –Richard Linklater (Backstage, December 06, 2013)

That Linklater should use the word “honesty” so often in his interviews discussing this one-of-a-kind trilogy shouldn’t surprise cinephiles. If a single word could be used to describe The Before Trilogy, that word would probably be “honest.” The cornerstone of the career-long exploration of cinematic time by Richard Linklater, this celebrated three-part epic romance chronicles the love of Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke), from their first meeting as idealistic twentysomethings to the disillusionment they face together in middle age. These three films also stand as a document of a boundary-pushing and extraordinarily intimate collaboration between Linklater, Delpy, and Hawke. It is more than evident that these films are very personal documents to all three participants.

“The lack of vanity with Ethan and Julie is important. In the films—we’re all three of us doing this—we’re taking where we are at that moment and whatever life has thrown at us in the past nine years [and] using that as the clay for what we’re sculpting.” –Richard Linklater (Way Too Indie, May 21, 2013)

Attuned to the sweeping grandeur of time’s passage as well as the evanescence of individual moments, the Before films chart the progress of romantic destiny as it navigates the vicissitudes of ordinary life. It might seem extraordinary to imagine that this near-perfect trilogy wasn’t planned as a trilogy at all. Each film is a singular entity that captures two characters at a very specific juncture of their lives. They stand alone as wonderful films in their own right but expand into something even greater when all three films are united as a singular unit.

“They all feel like they’re of one piece. It was wonderful being in Vienna nineteen years ago. It was wonderful being in Paris making a movie, and Greece was just incredible.” –Richard Linklater (Parade, October 23, 2013)

However, even those who prefer to experience all three films as “one piece” will probably agree that it is impossible to discuss Jesse and Celine’s journey as a couple without examining each film individually.

Before Sunrise Cover

BEFORE SUNRISE – Spine #857

“The movie’s about crossing paths with someone who needs the same thing you do. The question is, could this really be something more, something bigger, eternal? I think it’s something they’ll both know at some point in the future.” –Richard Linklater (Interview, February 1995)

On the surface, Before Sunrise seems to be an extension of Richard Linklater’s independent debut effort. Slacker had a unique structure that found a group of marginalized outsiders talking about a variety of subject. However, Slacker finds its characters talking at each other without ever really interacting. In Before Sunrise, both Jesse and Celine give long philosophical monologs that seem to have much in common with Slacker—but these characters are actually connecting. They listen to one another and relate to what the other is saying.

“I was going for a sincere communication. I felt I had bounced around between no communication and an interior monolog communication that arguably doesn’t stick or only communicates to a certain extent, maybe only makes sense later. I think I liked the idea, starting with Before Sunrise, of people who were trying to connect. It was about being understood…” –Richard Linklater (Film Comment, July/August 2006)

It is evident while watching the film that Jesse and Celine understand one another—even as they might disagree. Their conversation is the basis of their romance, and this might be why the film resonates with audiences. The film opens with a chance encounter between two solitary young strangers. After they hit it off on a train bound for Vienna, the Paris university student Celine and the scrappy American tourist Jesse impulsively decide to spend a day together before he returns to the U.S. the next morning. As the pair roam the streets of the stately city, Linklater’s tenderly observant gaze captures the uncertainty and intoxication of young love, from the first awkward stirrings of attraction to the hopeful promise that Celine and Jesse make upon their inevitable parting.

It is a scenario that was actually inspired by a formative experience that Richard Linklater shared with a woman named Amy Lehrhaupt in 1989 (after shooting Slacker). As a matter of fact, Before Midnight was even dedicated to this woman.

“The whole plot for Before Sunrise was inspired by a woman I met in Philadelphia. I was just hanging out with my sister—who used to live near Rittenhouse Square—and I met this woman at a toy store. I just got to talking to her and then we went out later and hung out the whole night. We walked around downtown from midnight until six in the morning. It was our own nooks-and-crannies tour of Philadelphia. But all the time I was thinking, `There’s a movie here.'” –Richard Linklater (The Morning Call, May 10, 1997)

Unlike Jesse and Céline, Richard and Amy actually exchanged phone numbers—but the different dynamic of their telephone conversations formed an invisible barrier between them.

“It sort of did the fizzle… So in the first movie that was a thing, the idea that they would intellectually kind of get beyond that and say ‘Well, we’re on different continents. What are the odds that it’s gonna work? Let’s just commit to this night.’” –Richard Linklater (Slate, May 30, 2013)

Linklater later learned that she had died tragically before the film even entered production.

“I just found out a couple years ago that she had died young, in a motorcycle accident. I didn’t know… She wasn’t even alive when we shot in Vienna. She died that Mother’s Day weekend. It’s just so sad.” –Richard Linklater (Moviefone, April 23, 2013)

A script had already been written by Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan before Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke was signed to the film, but it was reworked after they came onto the project.

“I’m very interested in the reality of these actors on the screen, so I know you can’t just say lines that are written by someone else. The script, the text, has to work its way through the person, and so by having Julie and Ethan kind of work with me in rewriting that script, and personalizing it and demanding they give a lot of themselves, I thought that was the only way that film could ultimately work the way I wanted it to. The script was really [the] first step, but for it to give the effect that I wanted, I was looking for the two most creative young actors to fill those shoes, because I knew what would be asked of them.” –Richard Linklater (NPR, May 30, 2013)

This collaborative process between Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy would extend to the film’s two sequels and this is probably what sets these three films apart from other films. There is a sincerity inherent in the trilogy’s very design that most films could never hope to emulate—and this is a direct result of the collaborative nature of these works. The director and actors have each poured part of themselves into these projects, and their passion and sincerity can be felt in every frame.

Before Sunset Cover

BEFORE SUNSET – Spine #858

“We made the first film and no one ever asked ‘is there going to be another film?’ That was not a logical question. When we were making the second film in Paris, every day we looked at one another and asked ‘how are we getting to do this? This is amazing!’ We’re getting to make this very personal film that no one really even cares about except for three people, and you’re in a good spot if you can ever be making a film like that.” –Richard Linklater (We Got This Covered, 2013)

Before Sunset wasn’t expected and raised a few eyebrows upon its release. Before Sunrise was certainly successful, but it wasn’t the sort of success that demanded a follow-up. Perhaps this is the reason why the film actually works. In the words of Richard Linklater, “Jesse and Céline kind of reared their heads and had something to say.” The film wasn’t made to exploit the first film’s success or to make a lot of money. As a matter of fact, Linklater went forward with the project with a healthy dose of anxiety and doubt about its potential.

“Fear is a real obvious emotion. Leave it alone. Yeah, I know. That was the temptation, I think that’s why it took so long. I’m not going to say the first film’s perfect or anything, but to us, it was really special. So you realize, ‘Oh, you could not only screw that up, you’d screw up the film you’re working on, but [also] screw up the first one.’ But, you know, it’s good. If you’re afraid of something and still compelled to do it, in the arts at least, you should probably still do it.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

Before Sunset again benefits from Linklater’s collaboration with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but this project allowed the two actors to work with Linklater on the film’s original script instead of altering an already prepared script as they did on Before Sunrise.

“The three of us wrote it. We all [put the pen to paper]. First, we talked about it for years, and then we took a lot of thought and building there, and then we sat down, the three of us in a room, for like three or four days, and worked on a very, very specific outline. I mean, the beginning, the end, what happens in every scene, all the emotional beats. It was very worked out. And then we kind of went our separate ways for almost a year. Julie would send 20 pages, Ethan would send monologs. I was re-writing and writing stuff. It was all on my laptop ultimately. If you did a word count, they would probably exceed me. At some point, we didn’t, if one of us had an idea we were trying to squeeze in the movie and the other two didn’t want to do it, or didn’t understand it or didn’t get traction in it, then it disappeared.” –Richard Linklater (IGN, July 01, 2004)

This method obviously worked for them, because Before Sunset is actually superior to the original film. The story follows Celine as she tracks down Jesse at the tail end of a book tour in Paris, with only a few hours left before his flight back home to the States. Their chemistry is rekindled by increasingly candid exchanges about professional setbacks, marital disappointments, and the compromises of adulthood. Impelled by an urgent sense of the transience of human connection, Before Sunset remains Linklater’s most seductive experiment with time’s inexorable passage and the way love can seem to stop it in its tracks. The entire film has a nuanced sense of urgency and desperation as we find that both characters are less than content with the current state of their lives. Experience has made both characters more interesting, and there is much more for each character to lose (and gain) by being together.

Before Midnight Cover

BEFORE MIDNIGHT – Spine #859

“We didn’t know if we were making a mistake there or not, but we were just compelled to do it. We created these characters, Jessie and Celine, they seemed to be living this parallel life with us but the fact that we did a second film and the way it ended, that ending kind of begs the question. So the three of us, everywhere we’ve gone in the last nine years it’s always that last question on the interview. ‘Oh, one more, do you think Jessie and Celine will ever get together?’ It’s a question that we all lived with. No one wanted the second film or asked about it really. But this one they wanted.” –Richard Linklater (SBS, June 12, 2013)

This bittersweet third entry in Linklater’s Before Trilogy finds Celine and Jesse several years into a relationship and in the midst of a sun-dappled Greek retreat with their twin daughters and a group of friends. The couple soon finds their vacation upended, however, by the aggravations of committed monogamy, which have long since supplanted the initial jolt of their mutual seduction. Marked by the emotional depth, piercing wit, and conversational exuberance that Linklater and his actors had honed over two decades of abiding with these characters, Before Midnight, grapples with the complexities of long-term intimacy and asks what becomes of love when it no longer has recourse to past illusions. There are moments when the film feels like an Edward Albee play, but these darker elements never feel at odds with the earlier films in the series.

“It’s harder to express something interesting and cinematic about being 41. And that territory that we were getting into was just a deeper, touchier subject matter that didn’t lend itself to what the other two films had, which was this kind of connection. This wasn’t about that; it was something else.” –Richard Linklater (The Star, June 06, 2013)

Jesse and Celine spend the majority of the film trying to avoid the ultimate confrontation that serves as the film’s climax—or perhaps they are merely attempting to prolong the inevitable.

“The whole movie builds to that moment. That fight’s been coming the whole movie, and, probably, for nine years. If you really go back, the fault line in their relationship leads to that. But I always call it the ‘hotel-room scene,’ because it doesn’t start off a fight. It’s quite the opposite; it starts off as a love scene, a sex scene. And the pace of the fight was very important. You know, people don’t just start to fight. They try not to fight. They try to resolve it. But they both want to be heard. Jesse and Celine are two master manipulators, and I often make the analogy that they’re two prizefighters; they’re very evenly matched. Slightly different styles, but ultimately, they’re gonna go all 15 rounds. So many times that fight could have ended—if one person would just eat a little crow and end it. But they have to keep going. They have to say one more thing. That’s the difference between courting someone and spending the rest of your life with someone. You can dig in on a subject that’s bugging you, and it can escalate into a fight, or you have to negotiate that space that you’re occupying together. That’s the challenge, and that’s what the movie [is] really about.” –Richard Linklater (Slant Magazine, May 22, 2013)

Before Midnight is the strongest entry in the series—not despite the film’s darker tone but because of it. It is ultimately very rewarding to discover that each film in the trilogy is better and more nuanced than the last. What’s more, the films seem to enrich one another other in a very honest and organic manner. This might be the best character-based trilogy ever produced.

Art

The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection includes three different Digi-packs for each of the three films in the trilogy, and each film is given its own respective artwork that is simple but attractive. These Digi-packs are held in a sturdy box with its own artwork. An attractive booklet with an essay about the trilogy by Dennis Lim is also included and can be placed in the Digi-pack for Before Sunrise (the first film in the series). This essay is entitled “Time Regained” and it is an interesting read. The overall effect isn’t unlike the films themselves as the package appears to be quite simple and modestly designed, but the combined effect is surprisingly beautiful.

Menus

The menus for the three discs utilize footage from their respective film with music and sound clips from that particular film. Most will agree that all three of them are simple but attractive.

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Picture Quality:

BEFORE SUNRISE & BEFORE SUNSET

4.5 of 5 Stars

According to the included booklet, the transfer of Before Sunrise and was “created from 35mm interpositives and scanned in 2K resolution on a Lasergraphics Director film scanner. Thousands of instances of dirt and debris were manually removed using MTI Film’s DRS, while Digital Vision’s Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, and noise management.” Criterion makes the most out of their painstaking work by utilizing a maxed out bitrate and the results are impressive. This is especially true of the daytime exteriors which exhibit a respectable level of clarity and a reasonable level of sharpness. There are no unsightly DNA issues and there is a healthy level of grain that remains stable throughout the duration of both features.

There is a significant increase in visual information at the left and right edges of the frame when one compares the transfer to the previous DVD releases. The level of fine detail is also dramatically increased, and the look of the nighttime scenes in Before Sunrise are dramatically improved upon.  There is no noticeable dirt or film damage to distract the viewer either. Density is improved as well and colors are well rendered and stable (although there might be some slight fluctuation that never becomes distracting). These are solid representations of the original film elements and the shortcomings of this transfer merely reflect those inherent in the source materials.

BEFORE MIDNIGHT

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion’s booklet tells us that Before Midnight was “shot in 2K resolution on an Arri Alexa camera.” Criterion’s transfer looks to be sourced from the same elements that was used for Sony’s 2013 Blu-ray release (which was apparently supervised by Richard Linklater). Frankly, every aspect of that disc was incredibly satisfying and it is nice to see that Criterion represents it here with an even higher bitrate. Clarity is outstanding and the image looks great in motion. Fine detail is remarkable as well and the image displays strong depth. The picture is stable and has a crispness that should please fans of the trilogy (even those of us who miss the more organic look of the film). If the transfer has a weak point, it is the shifting shadow detail. However, few are likely to notice of be bothered by this as it isn’t at all distracting. This is simply a result of the production elements and should not be blamed on Criterion.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

While Before Sunrise (2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio) and Before Sunset (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) are sourced from their original 35mm magnetic tracks and were cleaned of any anomalies such as hiss, hum, crackle, and etcetera, the audio for Before Midnight (5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio) was recorded digitally and mastered from the original audio master files using Pro Tools HD. Despite the discrepancies in the nature of their sources, each track seems to accurately represent the respective film in the matter that Linklater intended without any technical issues to mar one’s listening enjoyment.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

Criterion has spread nearly four and a half hours of supplemental features across the three discs (and this doesn’t even take into account the commentary track provided for Before Midnight).

Before Sunrise Title

DISC 1: BEFORE SUNRISE

The Space In Between – (43:39)

The highlight of the first disc is without a doubt this discussion between Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy. The conversation is moderated by Kent Jones, who does an excellent job of focusing the conversation while remaining invisible. When Kent contributes to the conversation, it is always interesting and pertinent to the conversation. The conversation was recorded in New York in 2016, with Julie Delpy participating via satellite from Los Angeles. Linklater discusses the encounter with Amy Lehrhaupt that planted the seed for the original film, and they all discuss the collaborative nature of the three films in an extremely relaxed and informal manner. These 44 minutes simply fly by in what seems like an instant. Time is, after all, relative.

3×2 – (39:49)

Dave Johnson (author of Richard Linklater: Contemporary Film Directors) and Rob Stone (author of The Cinema of Richard Linklater: Walk, Don’t Run) have a contagious enthusiasm for their subject that carries the viewer through this scholarly discussion about the three Before films. Even those who disagree with some (or most) of their theoretical insights are bound to find a newfound appreciation for Linklater’s work.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (05:57)

While the brief glimpses of “behind the scenes” footage is nice to see, this is really just EPK material built from on location interview footage of Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy delivering the typical general navel-gazing statements about the film. It’s nice to have this included here, but it isn’t particularly insightful or entertaining.

Before Sunset Title

DISK 2: BEFORE SUNSET

Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny – (01:29:52)

What a gift this is for anyone who appreciates Richard Linklater’s cinema! It can be said without any reservations that this feature length documentary about Linklater’s career (up to this point) is the star attraction of this set’s supplemental package. The film was directed by Louis Black and Karen Bernstein as part of the PBS series American Masters. New exclusive interviews with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke, Sandra Adair, Matthew McConaughey, Jack Black, Chuck Linklater (Linklater’s Father), Tricia Linklater (Linklater’s Sister), and a number of other participants mingle with archival interviews and footage to paint a more interesting portrait of the director than one expects from such programs. Especially interesting is a glimpse into some of Linklater’s journals, writings, and even financial logs. Less interesting is input from other filmmakers such as Kevin Smith—but this may be due to my innate dislike of this particular filmmaker.

Linklater // On Cinema & Time – (08:28)

This video essay by :: kogonada is certain to divide viewers as to its value. It is certainly enjoyable as a kind of tonal montage of visuals and sound with Linklater’s use of time as its main concern. A telephone interview with Linklater serves as the guiding vehicle, but at no point does it feel as if this essay is intended to inform the viewer or propose any theoretical rhetoric. This telephone audio plays over footage from various Linklater films and other cinema classics from around the globe. Examples include Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (as well as other films in the Antoine Doinel cycle), and several others (we remember spotting some Godard and Ozu thrown in for good measure). The fact that Linklater’s voice has been filtered through the telephone adds to the aesthetic in interesting ways. It works as a celebration of Linklater’s special brand of cinema, but it is bound to disappoint anyone hoping for a scholarly examination of this particular theme.

Behind-the-Scenes Footage – (09:44)

This “behind the scenes” featurette is essentially EPK material, but it does provide more sustenance for information hungry cinephiles than the one provided for the first film. Here, we see glimpses of the cast and crew working behind the scenes mingled with the standard publicity interviews, but these interviews actually manage to be genuinely interesting. This shouldn’t imply that they delve any deeper than is usual, but they do manage to hide the fact that their commentary never really reveals anything terribly worthwhile.

Before Midnight Title

DISK 3: BEFORE MIDNIGHT

Commentary with Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke

This 2013 commentary track was recorded for the Sony Pictures Classics Blu-ray release of Before Midnight—and it was the disc’s most significant supplement. Criterion has wisely carried it over to their release, and fans will agree that it was well worth their effort. The relaxed conversational nature of the conversation makes the information related therein more digestible (despite the fact that much of what we learn here is related elsewhere on the disc). The strength of the track lies in its ability to zero in on specific scenes and details in the film.

After Before – (30:41)

Athina Rachel Tsangari’s After Before is the set’s second best supplement (after Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny) as it provides viewers with a fly-on-the-wall glimpse of the actors as Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, and Ethan Hawke develop their scenes. It really is an invaluable documentary despite its relatively brief duration. One can listen endlessly as these collaborators discuss their creative approach to the three films in this set, but to actually see this work in action is much more revelatory. The “behind the scenes” production footage also adds to the experience. As a side note, Linklater seems to have suffered some sort of foot injury, and one wonders what might have happened to him to cause such an injury.

Love Darkens and Deepens – (39:37)

This lengthy radio interview is actually an episode of a Philadelphia-based radio program known as Fresh Air with host Terry Gross. It is presented with a single still image and so is basically an audio-only presentation. However, it manages to be extremely entertaining and somewhat informative (even if certain information revealed here was discussed in other features in this same set). Richard Linklater, Ethan Hawke, and Julie Delpy are all on hand to discuss the trilogy, but the conversation really zeros in on Before Midnight more than either of the other two films.

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Final Words:

This is an essential release for Linklater fans! The Before Trilogy is required viewing for serious cinephiles and Criterion has finally given them the Blu-ray release that they deserve.

Review by: Devon Powell

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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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 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.

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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.

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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