Posts Tagged ‘Cinema’

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: May 29, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:27:45

Video: 1080P (AVC, MPEG-4)

Main Audio: 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.66:1

Note: Cohen Media Group is also giving the film a separate DVD release.

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“It’s extraordinary to make a film on such a difficult subject. It’s filled with pitfalls—pitfalls for [Claude Berri] and also pitfalls for me. That hooked me in immediately, plus he was so enthusiastic and such a dreamer. I was thrilled that in 1967 there were still dreamers and poets in the streets.” -Michel Simon (1967)

Sometimes films sneak up on you. Claude Berri’s semi-autobiographical debut effort is such a film. In some ways, The Two of Us seems like a rather simple story about a young eight year old’s connection with his new grandfatherly guardian, but such a reading is overlooking the more interesting aspects of Berri’s poignant film. The devil is in the details, and the story doesn’t seem quite as straightforward when one considers that the eight year old in question is a Jewish refugee hiding in Nazi-occupied France and that the “new grandfatherly guardian” happens to be an anti-Semitic Catholic man who is completely unaware of the boy’s Jewish origins. Michel Simon portrays the guardian with a crusty tenderness throughout the duration, but his diatribes about all things Jewish aren’t lost on the young boy. The result is a loving relationship that is laced with acid—but young Claude is a clever boy. He understands that the old man who cares for him is all thunder and no lightning. His bigotry is based on ignorance and his affection for the boy is based on genuine connection. He’s a human being who simply seems to absorb the propaganda that surrounds him. The fact that his dangerous ideals have never been seriously challenged is also significant. (One doubts if he has ever encountered a Jew in his provincial country environment.)

Berri never tries to vilify Pepe. He’s simply portrayed as an imperfect man in an extremely imperfect world, and his humanist approach to the character is refreshing. In fact, this grandfatherly gentleman ends up being the film’s tragic figure when one fully expects that figure will be young Claude. It is easy to relate to their relationship. Most of us have overheard relatives or someone that they love say shockingly hateful things about one group or another and have to settle their disturbed feelings about their attitudes and come to some sort of compromised acceptance in order to continue their relationship with these people. Luckily, the young eight year old is resilient. In fact, Claude manages to forge his affectionate relationship to this man by forgiving Pepe’s obviously ridiculous beliefs. They are, after all, based on ignorance. He even teases Pepe about these beliefs throughout the film while turning these dangerous attitudes into a game. What else can a child do? He has a sense of humor about the old man’s skewed attitudes and enjoys calling attention to the flaws in Pepe’s logic. There’s something extremely hopeful about Claude’s refusal to let these beliefs define him or corrupt their mutual affection for one another.

The film’s autobiographical origins are worth noting as Claude Berri was also sent to live with gentiles during the occupation of Paris in 1944—although these gentiles knew that he was a Jew and guarded him from the Nazi threat because they felt it was the right thing to do. In some ways, I am reminded of François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows. Both films are brilliant and affecting debut features, both directors borrow from their own childhoods, and both films reveal unchanging unfortunate truths about humanity. It is no wonder that Truffaut was a great admirer of the film. The Two of Us tackles weighty subjects without dragging the film down with excessive melodrama. Instead, there is a sense of frivolity and fun throughout most of its duration.

French One Sheet

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray disc is protected by the standard Blu-ray case with insert artwork that features the infamous Saul Bass poster framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It seems poor form to criticize their practice of branding their films by framing their art in this manner, but one does wish that they would have made an exception in this case since the Bass artwork should stand on its own. They could at least have made this cover art reversible—although this would’ve made it impossible for them to feature the still that decorates the interior of the case. Cohen also includes a small booklet that features cast and crew credits and film related photography. One wishes that this booklet could have featured the infamous Truffaut essay about the film, but this is a small complaint.

The disc’s menu features footage from the film and is both attractive and intuitive to navigate.

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Film Collection is proud to present a gorgeous new 4K restoration of this world cinema classic. This is the sort of transfer that is great enough to speak about it in extremely general terms, because every single aspect of the image is simply gorgeous and beyond reproach. Cohen’s Blu-ray image is as perfect as anyone has any right to expect from the format. Detail, depth, density, and grain resolution, all perfectly represent the original source (which must have been in surprisingly good condition from the outset). This is a huge improvement over the old Criterion DVD.

Sound Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

It’s always a bit more difficult to rate the audio transfer on these older films, because many audiophiles have ridiculously high expectations. They want a dynamic sonic experience that puts their expensive sound systems to good use. However, it is much more important to have a faithful representation of the film’s original audio mix. Cohen’s Linear PCM mono track is an extremely clean and faithful representation that supports Berri’s visuals admirably. This is a narrow track and isn’t at all dynamic, but these really aren’t fair criticisms.

Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

There are a handful of supplements available on Criterion’s DVD release of the film that aren’t included here. The interviews with Claude Berri and his Oscar-winning short, Le poulet (1962), would have added considerable value to this release. Fortunately, the material included in this release is also essential viewing for anyone with an appreciation for French cinema.

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Wade Major

Wade Major (film critic with NPR affiliate KPCC-FM and co-host/producer of the IGN DigiGods Podcast) gives a surprisingly instructive commentary that adds to one’s appreciation and enjoyment of the film by contextualizing the film’s story and events, theorizing about certain story elements, providing information about the film’s production, and discussing background information about Claude Berri, Alain Cohen, and Michel Simon.

Michel Simon Discusses The Two of Us – (01:25)

This interview excerpt is too short to provide the viewer with anything more than a few general comments about his involvement with this production and its reception, but it is nice to have it included here as a historical artifact.

Michel Simon and Jean Renoir in Conversation – (06:00)

The same can be said of this excerpt from what looks like a much longer program (though we could be wrong). Simone and Renoir discuss La Chienne in a very vague and general manner while offering each other the credit for the film’s success. Later, we see Simone waxing nostalgic about those he has worked with (with Sacha Guitry receiving and especially affectionate mention). There isn’t anything about the film in question, but fans will probably be glad to have it included here in any case.

Restoration Re-Release Trailer – (01:45)

Cohen rounds out the supplemental package with their restoration re-release trailer. It’s very nice to have it included here, but one wishes that the film’s original trailer could have been features as well.

US One Sheet by Saul Bass

Final Words:

Cohen’s 4K restoration transfer of The Two of Us is a gift to Blu-ray collectors everywhere. It comes highly recommended!

Review by: Devon Powell

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Spine #909

Blu-ray Cover (No Sticker)

Distributor: Criterion Collection (USA)

Release Date: February 13, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:36:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.37:1

Bitrate: 35.67 Mbps

Title

“Well, the question of race was the furthest thing from my mind. When I was writing that character, I was thinking about the disintegration of family, the whole idea that people can’t cooperate, even when faced with a disastrous situation they just stick to their own agendas, arguing about whether to go upstairs or downstairs instead of facing the problem. When John Russo and I wrote the screenplay, [the character] was a white guy… So when Dwayne [Jones] agreed to play the role, we all had a conversation and decided that it was a bold move to not change the script. That was it. The same things happened to him when he was white. The redneck posse came and shot him, because they thought he was a zombie, not because they knew he was black. It was an accident really, in the end, a happy accident. The night we drove the first print to New York we heard on the radio that King had been assassinated, so of course, the film immediately took on a completely different slant.” –George A. Romero (Little White Lies)

Most of the participants who worked on Night of the Living Dead substantiate Romero’s above quote (and many others like it). George A. Romero and John Russo probably didn’t write an allegorical social document about race relations in the 1960s, but it is impossible to believe that the filmmakers didn’t know what casting Dwayne Jones in the pivotal leading role would do for the material. Frankly, whether the original script was meant as a comment on racism in America or was simply an exercise in macabre suspense is immaterial at this point. The fact is that the film as shot so perfectly reflects the social atmosphere of the time in which it was made that it is impossible to see it as anything else.

The most interesting aspect of the entire film has nothing to do with zombies. The characters could be protecting themselves from anything in the world: zombies, a homicidal cult, aliens from outer space, murderous hillbillies, or any other threat. To be honest, the zombie sub-genre is one of my least favorite brands of horror. The entire concept strikes me as rather ridiculous and not even remotely scary. Night of the Living Dead manages to rise above this personal prejudice against zombie films—and this is because we spend much more time with another kind of threat: paranoid human beings. It ratchets up a good deal of suspense because the zombies gathering outside can represent anything at all. They are abstractions. The social commentary is always on point (whether it was intended or not), and this only adds to the viewer’s sense of dread. The overall effect is simply chilling, and the devastation that we feel has nothing at all to do with flesh eating zombies.

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The Presentation:

5 of 5 Stars

The Criterion Collection has given this release special Digipak packaging. Like many other collectors, this reviewer really prefers Criterion’s usual clear case presentations. However, it must be said that the design is overwhelmingly attractive. The artwork by Sean Phillips resembles a graphic novel and should please fans of the film. Also included is a folded pamphlet containing artwork on one side and an essay by Stuart Klawans entitled “Mere Anarchy is Loosed” on the other side. While a booklet in addition to the poster would have been preferable, the text gives the reader contextual information about the cultural climate at the time the film was made and released. Of course, the usual technical credits are also included.

MenuMenu 2

There are two discs contained in the package and both utilize static menus that feature different film specific artwork. It all falls in line with what one has come to expect from Criterion. They are both attractive and fairly intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Night of the Living Dead was restored in 4K by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation. Funding was provided by the George Lucas Family Foundation and the Celeste Bartos Fund for Film Preservation.

The restoration was overseen by George A. Romero and Image Ten, Inc.—especially Gary R. Streiner, Russell W. Streiner, and John A. Russo. The original 35 mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution by Cineric, Inc., in New York City, with audio digitization performed by Audio Mechanics in Burbank, California.” –Janus Films

The restoration team primarily utilized the original 35mm camera negative but a 35mm fine-grain from 1968 was used for portions of the negative that weren’t usable (approximately 1% of the film). Criterion’s transfer of the film’s immaculate 4K restoration is the best the film has ever looked on home video. It is immediately evident that there is more information on the left and right sides of the 1.37:1 frame. Black levels have also been significantly improved upon when one compares the image to earlier releases as they appear deep without crushing detail. There is an organic layer of grain that adds to the transfer’s filmic presentation without becoming unwieldy. Fine detail also impresses as there is a crispness to the image that hasn’t been evident in any of the previous releases. Depth and clarity are also significantly improved. Frankly, it’s impossible to imagine Night of the Living Dead looking any better on home video.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The film’s audio has also been meticulously restored:

“…After the evaluation of eighteen separate source elements, the original monaural soundtrack was remastered under the supervision of Romero and Gary Streiner from the original quarter-inch mix masters, quarter-inch premix audio tape, a final composite 16mm magnetic track, and the 16mm magnetic mix units. The restoration was performed at Audio Mechanics, led by John Polito.” –Liner Notes

The resulting audio was given a faithful LPCM transfer in the film’s original mono, and the only limitations of the track are those inherent in the original production methods. The dialogue is clearly rendered and the imperfections aren’t at all distracting. Most age-related blemishes have been carefully removed by the restoration team. This is a vast improvement over the 40th Anniversary DVD put out by Sony a decade ago. The film’s library source music is predictably flat, but it would be ridiculous to expect a dynamic sound mix for this particular film. The important thing is to present the original mix in the best possible condition, and this transfer certainly does this quite well.

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

There is no denying that Criterion’s supplemental package is superb, and those who focus on what is here while ignoring what has been left off of the disc will be perfectly satisfied. In addition to a feature-length work print of the film (which features an alternative title), there is also a second disc that features over 3 hours and 16 minutes of video-based supplements included here. These features cover a lot of territory and add considerably to one’s appreciation of the film. Unfortunately, there are a few supplements that were feature featured on earlier DVD editions of the film that have not been carried over to this edition. Most of this material is more than adequately replaced here as some of the interviews with Romero covers the same territory as the interviews featured on those discs. However, there was a rather interesting feature-length documentary entitled One for the Fire: The Legacy of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ that would have added a considerable amount of value to Criterion’s edition. Frankly, its absence is the only thing that keeps this supplemental package from earning a 5-star rating.

Introduction to the ‘Night of Anubis’ Workprint

Russell Streiner introduces the work print and this introduction does a truly outstanding job of putting the footage in the proper context. He explains many of the odd blemishes the viewer sees throughout the print. It is an essential ingredient in an outstanding supplemental package. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t have been worth including the entire work print (minus the one reel) without this introduction.

Night of Anubis – (01:25:09)

Night of Anubis

Night of Anubis was the original title of the film (Anubis was the God of mummification in ancient Egypt), but this was changed after it was realized that this esoteric title was unlikely to interest a mainstream public. This never-before-presented 16mm work-print edit still carries this title.

The raw footage is presented here and hasn’t been corrected or restored in any way. It is included here for comparison purposes and is missing the final half of its second reel. However, it should be of great interest to fans and scholars as it features the aforementioned alternate opening title and a zombie shot that the original distributor had them remove. It also shows more information as it includes the negative edges. Unrestored audio from the final edit has been synched as well as it could be to this silent footage. There will be a few viewers who will wish that they had simply included the deleted zombie footage and the credit sequence since these are the only significant changes, but including the entirety of the remaining footage allows one to see how the film was constructed and the hard work that went into it.

Audio Commentary by George Romero, John Russo, Karl Hardman, and Marilyn Eastman

A lot of fans will remember this commentary track from several other home video releases. It was originally recorded in 1994 for the first “official” release of the film on laserdisc. It has since graced a number of DVD editions (including the 40th Anniversary DVD restoration). There’s something about commentaries for low budget independent features that one can’t help but love. They can be even more interesting than listening to brilliant auteurs talk about big budget masterpieces because guerilla films are made with blood, sweat, tears, and compromise. The filmmakers are forced to use what is at their disposal. These tracks truly inspire (especially when the film has become an undisputed classic). Romero seems to take in his mistakes with an admirable sense of humor and an incredible amount of modesty (as none of them hurt the film), and the same can be said of the other participants. Everyone involved seem to remember the communal effort and various idiosyncrasies of the production.

Audio Commentary by Bill Hinzman, Judith O’Dea, Keith Wayne, Kyra Schon, Russell Streiner, and Vince Survinski

Most of what was written about the previous track apply to this track as well—and while the conversational nature of this track is similar, there is not a lot of informational overlap. It is another enjoyable track that should please fans of the film as well as future filmmakers looking for inspiration. It is nice to have both tracks carried over for Criterion’s release.

Introduction to the Dailies Reel – (03:41)

Much like Russell Streiner’s introduction to the work print, Gary Streiner offers contextual information for the dailies presented on the disc. It is an informative preparatory piece that increases one’s appreciation for the dailies and for the film itself.

Never-Before-Seen 16 mm Dailies Reel – (18:04)

It is a rare opportunity to be able to witness the raw dailies of a classic film, so these eighteen minutes are really quite special as they give the viewer the opportunity to compare various takes of shots used in the film. The downside is that the sound elements for these shots no longer exist. What’s more, many of these takes have been flipped and there was no effort made to flip them back to their original state (which would’ve taken only minimal effort). This makes these comparisons slightly more difficult to digest. However, it is remarkable that they are available here in any form at all.

1967 Newsreels – (02:49)

This ‘behind the scenes’ footage from the film’s production was taken from a VHS recording of silent 16mm B-roll shot for a Pittsburgh news broadcast and is said to be the only existing footage of the film’s actual shooting. Jeff Carney provides original music to accompany the footage. The footage largely consists mainly of footage taken during the shooting of some of the film’s television news footage—specifically that which features an interview featuring Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille (who actually saved the footage), and the shooting of the helicopter. There isn’t much here, but it is certainly nice to have included here considering that it is the only footage that offers fans a brief glimpse behind the curtain.

Higher Learning: Interview with George A. Romero – (45:31)

This post-screening Q&A with George A. Romero was held at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and is hosted by Colin Geddes. The conversation is a casual but lively and incredibly informative one and is a pleasure to watch. Romero discusses the film’s production history, his writing habits, dispels a few myths, his embarrassment at the mistakes that he made during the film’s production, and his feelings and confusion about the immense popularity of the so-called “zombie film.” It may very well be the crown jewel in a supplemental package that is full of wonderful treasures.

Tomorrow with Tom Snyder: George A. Romero & Don Coscarelli – (18:18)

This selection from the July 3, 1979 episode of NBC’s Tomorrow pairs Romero with fellow horror director, Don Coscarelli (Phantasm) as Tom Snyder interviews the directors about the horror genre. The downside of the interview is that Coscarelli seems to hog most of the answers, but it is nonetheless an extremely entertaining archival interview.

Interviews with Duane Jones – (21:56)

Some might see this as a carry-over from the 40th Anniversary edition DVD release of the film, but this earlier disc didn’t include as much of Jones’ interesting and extremely rare interview as Criterion includes on this release. What’s more, there are a number of still photographs that illustrate this interview that are exclusive to this release. The interview was conducted and edited by Tim Ferrante on December 13, 1987. Jones discusses why he prefers to distance himself from the film despite the fact that he is grateful to George A. Romero and the crew of Night of the Living Dead for allowing him to be a part of it and to the fans for the acclaim that they give him. He also discusses what he considers a smooth and enjoyable production—and mentions that there were only two incidents that he considers unpleasant memories. One of these incidents wasn’t included on earlier discs, and it is probably the more important of the two as it is an example of the uneasy racial tension that was so prevalent at the time of the production. It is clear that the parallel between the film’s events and that situation isn’t at all lost on Jones.

Interview with Judith Ridley – (10:42)

Those who have the early Elite laserdisc or DVD edition of the film will have seen this interesting interview with Judith Ridley. It is great to have it carried over for this release. It is a decidedly light-hearted reminiscence (although Ridley doesn’t seem completely comfortable). She recalls how she came to be involved in the film and discusses her time on the set as well as why she didn’t continue making movies. It nice to have her perspective included here.

Light in the Darkness – (23:41)

Light in the Darkness is a “featurette” produced by Criterion that features new interviews with Guillermo del Toro, Frank Darabont, and Robert Rodriguez. It is essentially an appreciation of the film that carries a sort of charm due to the admiration shared by the three participants. Guillermo del Toro probably offers the most analytical comments about the film and its legacy, but Darabont and Rodriguez both offer interesting insights as well. One doubts if any of these insights will be new to most die-hard fans, but those who may be new to the film will find that their appreciation is intensified after watching this nice addition to the supplemental package.

Walking Like the Dead – (13:05)

This new featurette focuses on some of the actors (or extras) who portrayed the film’s “ghouls.” Interviewees include Kyra Schon (a.k.a. Karen), William Hinzman (the ghoul at the cemetery), Ella Mae Smith, William Burchinal, as well as a number of other participants. Each of these individuals seem to delight in their memories of the production. The footage was originally shot for Autopsy of the Dead (which covered the making of Night of the Living Dead in some detail). It’s a nice addition to the disc, but one wishes that Autopsy of the Dead could have been included either instead of or in addition to this featurette.

Tones of Terror – (11:15)

Even better is this video essay by Jim Cirronella about the film’s expert utilization of Capitol’s “Hi-Q” prerecorded library music. This subject is covered in more depth than one might expect considering the short duration of the essay. This is truly one of the packages surprise gems as it is certain to increase one’s appreciation of the film and the work that went into making it a reality.

Learning from Scratch – (11:58)

This featurette is based on an extremely interesting interview with John Russo about the Latent Image crew and how they learned by making industrial films and commercials. This piece utilizes quite a bit of footage from some of these commercials in order to illustrate the information being relayed throughout these twelve minutes, and there are even several color stills from the production of Night of the Living Dead to sweeten the deal. There is a lot of background information packed into these twelve minutes and fans are sure to be delighted.

Limitations into Virtues – (11:57)

Those who are familiar with Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos and their Every Frame a Painting videos will know what to expect from this analytical essay that zeros in on how the film was shot due to the limitations of the production. The style of the film is even compared to a clip from a Draft beer commercial that was previously shot by the Latent Image crew. It is an enjoyable and instructive essay that should please fans.

Venus Probe – (00:33)

An interesting addition to the package is this short newsreel clip about the Mariner 5 spacecraft and its findings during a probe of Venus. Those familiar with the film will remember that the subsequent malfunction of the Mariner 5 inspired vague theories as to what causes the dead to rise in the film.

1968 Theatrical Trailer – (01:49)

The heavy-handed nature of the original 1968 trailer makes it an amusing experience. It is interesting to see how far trailers have come since the film’s original release.

2017 Restoration Re-release Trailer – (01:13)

Janus Film’s re-release trailer offers an opportunity to see how the film was marketed to modern audiences, and they really did a wonderful job with it.

TV Spots

Rare television shots give fans a deeper glimpse into the film’s original marketing and both are interesting additions to the disc.

Radio Spots

It is interesting to hear these vintage radio spots from the film’s original release and some of the film’s re-releases. One gathers that at least one of these spots has been mislabeled as being from a 1970 re-release of the film considering that three films mentioned in the ad (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Last House on the Left, and The Exorcist) were released a few years later. However, this is just a bit of nitpicking.

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Final Words:

George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is one of the great stories of independent cinema: a midnight hit turned box-office smash that became one of the most influential films of all time. After decades of poor-quality prints and video transfers, Night of the Living Dead can finally be seen for the immaculately crafted film that it is thanks to a new 4K restoration, scanned from the original camera negative and supervised by Romero himself. Stark, haunting, and more relevant than ever, Night of the Living Dead can finally be seen as it was intended in high definition.

When Mill Creek Entertainment released a sub-standard Blu-ray edition of Night of the Living Dead last October, we recommended that fans wait for Criterion to release this painstaking restoration transfer of the film. Those who followed our advice will be well rewarded with this release as it surpasses our initial expectations.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: February 06, 2018

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:39:48

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 French Linear PCM Audio

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.78:1

Bitrate: 27.99 Mbps

Title.png

First of all, a few readers that aren’t well-versed in their French-cinema history should be told up front that this is not a fictional narrative film classic that has somehow escaped your radar. It is a documentary about a notoriously troubled film production that ended in near tragedy. In 1964, Henri-Georges Clouzot, the acclaimed director of thriller masterpieces Les Diaboliques and Wages of Fear, began work on his most ambitious film yet. It was to be titled L’Enfer (Inferno) and was to star Serge Reggiani as a controlling hotel manager who begins to suspect that his beautiful wife (Romy Schneider) is fooling around on him. There is little indication that his suspicions have merit, but even meritless jealousy can soon turn into obsession. If Clouzot’s project sounds familiar, this might very well be because Claude Chabrol turned the script into his own film entitled L’Enfer in 1994.

Clouzot

Henri-Georges Clouzot

The Chabrol film would have never been made had Clouzot’s vision reached the screen. Unfortunately, this was never to be the case. Despite huge expectations, major studio backing, and an unlimited budget, the production collapsed under the weight of arguments, technical complications, and illness after only three weeks. The details of these three weeks—particularly the trouble that plagued the filmmakers during the shoot—is what this film is really about.

Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea utilize Clouzot’s incredible expressionistic original rushes, screen tests, and on-location footage whilst also attempting to reconstruct his original vision. Interviews, dramatizations of un-filmed scenes, and Clouzot’s own notes are also used in order to create an incredibly informative document. The parallel between Henri-Georges Clouzot’s behavior on the set and the hotel manager’s obsession with his wife is driven home throughout the duration. The result is not only a document of one of cinema’s lost treasures but an examination of a master director’s creative drive that may have crossed the line into obsession.

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Video houses the Blu-ray disc in a sturdy clear Blu-ray case with a reversible sleeve featuring the choice of newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil and what is presumably the film’s original poster art. Surprisingly, the new artwork is more impressive. There is also an attractive 22-page booklet that features a 5 page essay (6 if you count the footnotes) written by Ginette Vincendeau entitled “Welcome to Hell” which is illustrated with several 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 enticing attractive and easy to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy’s high bitrate encode offers a better image than the previous Flicker Alley release—but the improvements are decidedly marginal. Since M2K Films was responsible for delivering the master, one wonders if this isn’t simply a superior disc encode of the same master utilized on the earlier release. The quality of the footage is entirely dependent upon the source, although it must be said that Clouzot’s footage is in surprisingly good condition here. There are flaws throughout the transfer but nothing that should distract anyone. Actually, one imagines that few will even notice them.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow Academy has happily upgraded the sound options available on this release as the Flicker Alley version only offered a lossy Dolby Digital option on their release of the film. This particular disc contains two high definition tracks: a 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio option and a 2.0 French Linear PCM Audio mix. Both of these choices are clearly superior even if neither track is likely to impress those looking for a truly dynamic sonic experience. It would be ridiculous to expect such a mix considering the documentary nature of the film. Dialogue and music drive the film and this results in a track that highlights Bruno Alexiu’s score with clearly rendered dialogue. Both tracks are perfectly acceptable options.

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Special Features:

5 of 5 Stars

They Saw Inferno – (59:43)

This hour long examination of the production is the disc’s strongest supplement and (as the case boldly announces) “provides further insight into the production of Inferno.” The program features a wealth of unseen material from Clouzot’s failed production that is unique to this piece and unused interview footage from Bromberg’s documentary production of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno is utilized in this hour long companion piece to the feature. Many will find it just as fascinating as the main documentary as it delves a bit deeper into the film’s production—or it at east gives a more straightforward account. It is almost like an alternative documentary about the exact same subject but with a radically different approach.

Lucy Mazdon on Henri-Georges Clouzot – (21:48)

Lucy Mazdon is the disc’s resident scholar and expert on the subject of the French cinema. She discusses the career and filmography of Henri-Georges Clouzot and where he fit in the cinematic landscape at the time of the infamously famous troubled production of L’Enfer. She diplomatically questions Bromberg’s documentary and claims that it might be a little “one-sided” in its depiction of the director and that he was perhaps not quite as obsessive as he comes across in the film. However, her admiration for the documentary seems authentic and this is presented more as an unanswerable question about the true nature of that production than an actual criticism.

Interview with Serge Bromberg – (18:09)

More substantial is this English language interview with Bromberg about Henri-Georges Clouzot’s production of L’Enfer, his approach to his documentary about the production, the magnificence of Clouzot’s original footage, and more. It adds a good deal of information to the disc and is well worth watching if you are a fan of Clouzot, French cinema, or Bromberg’s excellent documentary.

Filmed Introduction by Serge Bromberg – (08:57)

Bromberg’s introduction is delivered in French and seems to be carried over from some other home video release of the film. Introductions such as these usually offer the viewer very little and seem to be included simply so that they can list yet another supplement on the back of a film’s Blu-ray (or DVD) case. However, this particular introduction does offer a bit of background information about the genesis of the project and the challenge of convincing Henri-Georges Clouzot to allow him access to the footage and is well worth watching for this reason.

Theatrical Trailer – (01:44)
The film’s original trailer is included and does an admirable job at capturing the interest of anyone who even remotely loves world cinema.

Stills Gallery

Arrow’s stills gallery holds 42 production stills from Clouzot’s failed production. Many (if not most) can be seen within the film itself and the various video based supplements, but it is nice to have them here in order to give the images a more focused contemplation.

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Final Words:

It is impossible to say whether or not L’Enfer might have been Henri-Georges Clouzot’s masterpiece—especially in a filmography that includes Le Corbeau, Wages of Fear, and Les Diabolique—but it would’ve been absolutely fascinating as is this excellent documentary. Arrow Academy has given fans of French cinema an incredible gift with this release.

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hitchcockmaster

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Universal Studios

Release Date: October 17, 2017

Region: Region A

Notes: These films are also available individually with standard Blu-ray packaging and as a part of The Masterpiece Collection.

Universal owns the rights to more Alfred Hitchcock titles than any other studio and they certainly milk these properties for every penny that they are able to squeeze out of his admirers. However, one really shouldn’t complain because this allows fans ample opportunity to own these films (and have plenty of choices as to how they want these discs packaged). Each of the films available in this collection have been available on Blu-ray for quite some time (both as individually packaged titles and as a part of other sets), and these image and sound transfers are the same ones utilized for those earlier releases. What’s more, these discs include the same supplemental material. Interested parties can read more detailed…

View original post 2,114 more words

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:45:05

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 27.38 Mbps

Title

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Menu

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

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Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

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

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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Special Features:

4.5 of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

Lucio Fulci Remembers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Final Words:

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

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: October 03, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:40:24

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

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

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 2.35:1

Bitrate: 34.68 Mbps

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

Title

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

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

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

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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

Menu

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

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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Special Features:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Troy Howarth

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

Violent Milan – (42:55)

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

Theatrical Trailer – (03:27)

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

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Final Words:

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

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