Posts Tagged ‘Film’

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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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 26, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 02:07:36

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

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

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

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

Subtitles: English, English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 34.90 Mbps

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

Title

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

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

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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

Menu

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

SS02

Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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Special Features:

3 of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

Theatrical Trailer

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

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Final Words:

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

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:52:19

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

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

Subtitles: English (SDH)

Ratio: 1.33:1

Bitrate: 34.96 Mbps

Title

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

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

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

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

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The Presentation:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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

Menu

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

SS02

Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

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

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Commentary by Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton

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

Bass on Titles (1977) – (33:46)

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

Television Promo – (04:59)

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

Theatrical Trailer – (02:28)

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

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Final Words:

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

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: September 05, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 140 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio:

5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio

2.0 Linear PCM Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 English Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.66:1

Original One Sheet

“The thing that marks Maurice as a gay film is that its story has a happy ending. Forster always wanted that. He wrote about it and said that. Most gay stories, at least back then, ended with some very bad thing. In that way, it was maybe ahead of its time. And also, I was lucky with my actors, because they weren’t frightened of it. All three guys were straight, but they kissed lustily, and they weren’t afraid of intimacy. Even today, the physical closeness often puts many actors off. And remember that Maurice came out at a time of great tragedy and unhappiness, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. There was no cure yet, and people were losing their lives, and their family and friends.” -James Ivory (The Village Voice, May 15, 2017)

Set against the stifling conformity of pre-World War I English society, Maurice is a moving story about coming to terms with one’s sexuality and identity in the face of disapproval and misunderstanding. It is based on E.M. Forster’s novel, which was written at the height of his career—although he withheld it from publication until after his death due to England’s obscenity laws.

His book and this film adaptation centers on Maurice Hall (James Wilby) and Clive Durham (Hugh Grant), who find themselves falling in love at Cambridge. In a time when homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, the two must keep their feelings for one another a complete secret. After a friend is arrested and disgraced for “the unspeakable vice of the Greeks,” Clive abandons his forbidden love and marries a young woman. Maurice, however, struggles with his identity and self-confidence. He even seeks the help of a hypnotist to rid himself of his undeniable urges. But while staying with Clive and his wife, Anne, Maurice is seduced by an affectionate and yearning servant named Alec Scudder (Rupert Graves).

Maurice was originally released in 1987 and was the second of James Ivory’s three acclaimed adaptations of E.M. Forster novels (arriving between A Room With a View and Howards End). It was extremely controversial but managed to win three major awards at the 1987 Venice Film Festival: Best Actor (shared by James Wilby and Hugh Grant), Best Director, and Best Music. Those who are familiar with other “Merchant Ivory Productions” will know precisely what to expect, and can probably use their experiences with their other films to judge whether this particular movie will appeal to them—that is if the subject matter hasn’t already dissuaded them. Needless to say, this isn’t a movie that just anyone can enjoy.

The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s 30th Anniversary Re-release poster artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. It is nice to report that the case is further protected by a slip cover that features the same artwork without the “C” logo framing the artwork. One wishes that the original one sheet artwork could have been utilized as it is more elegant.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

Picture Quality:

4.5 of 5 Stars

Cohen’s new 30th Anniversary Edition of Maurice features a gorgeous new 4K restoration transfer taken from the film’s original 35MM negative. This work was overseen and approved by director James Ivory and cinematographer Pierre Lhomme. The resulting image is pristine and doesn’t show any signs of age. There is a nice and organic layer of film grain throughout the film, though it might be a bit heavy for certain viewers. One can assume that the colorists have rendered the image in a manner that is in keeping with the filmmaker’s original intentions since both the director and cinematographer supervised and approved the transfer. It is really a very attractive image—even if (like most films) there are some slight discrepancies in terms of clarity and fine detail. Some scenes simply look slightly superior to others. Contrast is nicely handled and black levels seem to be well handled for the most part. This is a very nice transfer that beats all previous home video releases in terms of quality.

Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group has included two quality sound mixes. The first option is a 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio mix that was created as part of the film’s restoration at Audio Mechanics (Burbank) from the original 35MM magnetic track held at the George Eastman Museum. The film’s sound design isn’t overwhelmingly dynamic in nature and this surround mix isn’t either, but why would anyone expect a 5.1 mix to be anything other than a good (albeit slightly updated) rendering of the filmmaker’s original intentions? The film’s music certainly benefits from the surround as does the well placed atmospherics. This is especially apparent in exterior sequences. It might not be a showy track, but it supports the film admirably. Dialogue is consistently clean, clear, and well prioritized throughout the duration. The restoration team has done an admirable job at cleaning the track of any anomalies such as pops, crackle, hum, and hiss.

The 2.0 Linear PCM Audio track is also quite solid, but one wonders why Cohen has even bothered with the 5.1 Dolby Digital track when the two lossless choices are more than adequate.

Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group offers over 2 hours and 44 minutes’ worth of informative supplemental entertainment that is sure to thrill admirers of both this film and James Ivory. It looks as if this release also contains the most robust supplemental package on a home video release.

Deleted Scenes and Alternate Takes (with Commentary by James Ivory) – (SD) – (39:03)

Perhaps the strongest and most illuminating of the bonus material included here is this collection of deleted and alternate scenes. James Ivory even offers some interesting commentary to provide contextual information to sweeten the deal.

A Director’s Perspective – (HD) – (40:08)

It’s always fun to hear filmmakers talking shop, and this conversation between James Ivory and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) is one of the best supplements included in this package.

The Story of Maurice – (SD) – (30:29)

This is a kind of “making of” featurette that includes interview footage with Kit Hesketh Harvey, James Wilby, and Hugh Grant. It isn’t a comprehensive overview and doesn’t delve that much deeper than the standard publicity piece, but it is still a diverting viewing experience.

Q&A with James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme – (HD) – (22:59)

Nicholas Elliott (US Correspondent for Cahiers du Cinema) moderates this Q&A event held at the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF). It is an instructive conversation that should appeal to fans of Maurice and James Ivory.

James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme on the Making of Maurice – (HD) – (15:44)

James Ivory and Pierre Lhomme team up again for this discussion held at Cohen’s New York facility. It is enjoyable but slightly less informative than their Q&A.

Conversation with the Filmmakers – (SD) – (12:51)

James Ivory, Ismael Merchant, and Richard Robbins discuss the film in this archival featurette that is illustrated with footage from the film. It isn’t terribly comprehensive, but it is interesting and worthwhile. This is the only feature on the disc that features Ismael Merchant, so it is nice to have here for this reason alone.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (HD) – (00:27)

The original theatrical trailer is short but sweet and is extremely welcome.

30th Anniversary Re-release Trailer – (HD) – (02:21)

Cohen Media Group’s 30th Anniversary Re-release trailer is also here for good measure and is a nice way to round out the disc. It captures the tone of the film rather gracefully.

Re-release One Sheet

Final Words:

Liberal minded viewers with a fondness for stately costume dramas, Merchant-Ivory Productions, or LGBT subject matter will probably want to pick up this excellent 30th Anniversary Edition of Maurice from the Cohen Media Group.

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Arrow Video

Release Date: August 29, 2017

Region: Region Free

Length: 01:29:55

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

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

Subtitles: English SDH

Ratio: 1.85:1

Bitrate: 37.70 Mbps

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

Title

Here’s another post Halloween slasher knockoff that calls the protagonist’s reality into serious question. It is something of a rarity on home video and is therefore somewhat obscure, but there is a small cult following amongst diehard horror fanatics who will certainly be celebrating this release.

The story is typical: Two young couples set off to a secluded island for what promises to be a restful retreat… Do you really need to know anything more? If so, you must be new to the slasher genre. But okay… Their peaceful holiday fun is short-lived. Kay (one of the four vacationers) has been experiencing horrifying nightmares and begins to sense that a malevolent presence is on the island and stalking them at every turn. Is she losing her mind, or are her childhood nightmares of a demonic assailant coming to terrifying life? The answer to this question isn’t really important. A body count is a body count.

I must admit to being somewhat disappointed by this film. For one thing, the “twist ending” wasn’t really very effective and was incredibly predictable. Worse, J.S. Cardone doesn’t seem to have even a rudimentary knowledge of how to build suspense or maintain a consistent tone. These two skills are essential to the construction of any horror movie. Needless to say, The Slayer isn’t one of the better eighties slasher titles—but it does make for interesting viewing if you happen to have a special fondness for the genre. My advice is to gather the wittiest of your friends together so that you can all make fun of the movie (sort of like a makeshift Mystery Science Theatre 3000). This will ensure that everyone has a great time.

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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 Justin Osbourn 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 Lee Gambin entitled “‘If Someone Else Should Die before I Wake’… Demons and Dream Logic in ‘The Slayer.’” It makes for light but interesting reading and adds a bit of extra value to the 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:

4 of 5 Stars

Arrow’s transfer was taken from a new 4K restoration and the result is simply the best that this film has ever looked. According to the transfer information included in Arrow’s collector’s booklet:

“The original 35mm camera negative was scanned in 4K resolution on a pin-registered Arri-scan at OCN Digital. The film was graded and restored on the Nucoda grading system at R3store Studios, London. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches and other instances of film wear were repaired or minimized through a combination of digital restoration tools and techniques…” –Collector’s Booklet

Their efforts were not in vain (although some might argue that other films deserve this kind of attention more than The Slayer). One can certainly see a dramatic difference when comparing this with previous home video releases. For one thing, this transfer looks much better in motion. The biggest issue here seems to be with consistency. Both the grain structure and the pictures clarity vary wildly throughout the film’s duration, which is probably an issue that was inherent in the source materials. However, there are times when it becomes rather difficult to determine the reason behind these weaknesses. Detail is rather remarkable throughout the film despite what might be described as a “noisy” grain structure, and colors are natural and vibrant in the tradition of the 1980s—which basically means that they are often intentionally lurid. Film damage has been diminished significantly and there aren’t any distracting age related anomalies to distract viewers.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The original mono soundtrack was also given a restoration (which utilized the optical negative held at the BFI National Archive), and this cleaned up version of the films soundtrack is represented by a Linear PCM audio transfer. It is a surprisingly solid track that features robust low to mid-range sound that supports the film’s various elements nicely. Dialogue is clean and clear and the music and effects showcase a bit of depth. Anomalies such as pops, crackle, hums, and hisses have been eliminated. It isn’t the sort of polished track that high budget contemporary films enjoy, but it does represent the original source admirably.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

Audio Commentary with J.S. Cardone (writer/director), Carol Kottenbrook (actress) and Eric Weston (executive in charge of production)

The disc’s best commentary offering (assuming that the viewer listens to these tracks for actual information and not to hear the commentators make stupid wisecracks) is this track finds three key participants discussing the production. They are all somewhat in denial about the film that they have actually made as they are emphatic that while the film was influenced by the slasher genre, it is so much deeper because of the psychological aspects of the story. They are delusional. There is nothing terribly deep here (despite obvious pretentions throughout the film that attempt to convince the audience otherwise). The track was moderated by Ewan Cant and should please those who enjoyed the film.

Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues

Arrow also includes a track with ‘The Hysteria Continues’ (podcasters who covered the film in one of their episodes). They try very hard to relay pertinent theories about the film while keeping things light and humorous, but it all grows rather old pretty fast. Their insights aren’t particularly revelatory. The strongest attribute to this track is their rundown of the film’s release history.

Isolated Score Selections and Audio Interview with Composer Robert Folk

This track is a sort of hybrid. It combines an interview/commentary with Robert Folk with what is essentially an isolated score. It should appeal to anyone who has an interest in the art of film scoring, but one wishes that it had been organized a bit differently. Instead of interspersing the interview with the music throughout the film, Arrow puts the interview at the beginning before the score takes over at approximately 50 minutes into the film. Unfortunately, the score doesn’t proceed until the end of the film. The regular soundtrack kicks in long before the track is over. This doesn’t really seem like the best way for these elements to be presented.

The Tybee Post Theater Experience:

Event Introduction – (02:38)

Audience Participation Track

Post Screening Q&A with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant – (17:50)

You have to love an audience that has a personal connection to a film. They always treat it with a lot more love than it might actually deserve. This 3 piece supplement gives fans a glimpse of a screening of The Slayer held in the Tybee Post Theater and includes a short Introduction that doesn’t add much to the disc, an Audience Participation Track (so that fans can pretend they are watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show), and a Post Screening Q&A with Arledge Armenaki and Ewan Cant that actually provides something in the way of actual information (though not an overwhelming amount).

Nightmare Island: The Making of The Slayer – (52:24)

Nightmare Island is by far the most substantial and instructive of the supplemental offerings. The retrospective “making of” look at the film features interviews with J.S. Cardone (Writer/Director), William Ewing (Producer), Karen Grossman (Director of Photography), Robert Short (Special Effects and Make-up), Arledge Armenaki (2nd Unit DOP/Still Photographer), Carol Kottenbrook, Eric Weston, and Carl Kraines as they discuss their experiences on the production. It is nice to have their interviews edited into a proper documentary instead of simply including individual interviews on the disc. It makes for a much better and more organized experience.

Return to Tybee Island: The Locations of The Slayer – (13:18)

Return to Tybee Island features Arledge Armenaki as he revisits the various locations on Tybee Island, Georgia. It is a sort of guided tour (complete with low-fi shots similar to those featured in the film). Fans will be quite interested in this one.

Original Theatrical Trailer – (01:56)

This is really interesting and simultaneously upsetting. It seems like a huge error to utilize the Bernard Herrmann score for Vertigo on a film that couldn’t hope to live up to the wonderful Hitchcock classic. Actually, even mentioning that film in this review feels wrong somehow. Oh well. It’s certainly an interesting artifact from the film’s publicity campaign.

Still Gallery – (09:55)

The standard still gallery with quite a few interesting stills and other marketing elements are a nice way to round out the disc.

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Final Words:

Throw away those truncated and old school “full screen” versions of The Slayer! Arrow has given the film a 4K restoration and the result is the definitive home video release of the film.

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Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Olive Films

Release Date: August 29th, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:35:16

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz, 1978 kbps, 24-bit)

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 1.35:1

Bitrate: 25.48 Mbps

Note: Other Blu-ray editions of this title exist, and each has its own collection of strengths and weaknesses.

Title

“I wished to show people that I didn’t glow in the dark, you know. That I could say ‘action’ and ‘cut’ just like the rest of the fellows.” –Orson Welles

Welles probably did agree to direct The Stranger as a way to prove to Hollywood that he could play by their rules and bring a mainstream film in under schedule and under budget, but his claims that there is “very little” of him in the final picture is an obvious fabrication. The film is saturated with personal “in-jokes” and seems to have been built from the ground up as a Welles picture. His fingerprints are simply all over it.

Unfortunately, his attitude seems to have spilled over into Welles scholarship and criticism and this is a terrible shame. One hates to argue with an established “genius” but this is not one of his worst films. In fact, it’s one of his three or four best films. (Readers can probably guess the other three.) This tautly paced noir-esque melodrama features Welles as Franz Kindler, a Nazi who is being hunted so that he can be made to pay for his atrocious war crimes. Kindler, as it happens, is posing as Professor Charles Rankin and living in the picturesque town of Harper, Connecticut. Of course, his new wife, Mary Longstreet (Loretta Young) is clueless about her husband’s past—a past that is about to catch up with him when Mr. Wilson of the United Nations War Crimes Commission (Edward G. Robinson) closes in on the sleepy hamlet.

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The story was much better when Alfred Hitchcock made the film three years earlier as Shadow of a Doubt (it’s the same premise with a few altered details). For one thing, Joseph Cotton’s “Uncle Charley” manages to be much more charming and all the more menacing due to his dual nature—and Hitchcock manages to subtly add subtext that hints at the same “superman” mentality that is at the heart of The Stranger. This is especially true in his infamous dinner table speech… but I am digressing more than is necessary.

Welles suffered the same compromises that he always suffered (with the exception of Citizen Kane). A lengthy opening sequence was cut, Robinson was cast in a role that he had wanted Agnes Moorehead to play, and thirty-two pages were excised from Welles’ revised script (sixteen of these pages were the aforementioned opening sequence) at the suggestion of Ernest J. Nims—the film’s editor. Even so, The Stranger doesn’t seem to suffer much from these changes. It stands the test of time with its use of noir tropes, Russell Metty’s (Touch of Evil) chiaroscuro photography and the bold decision to incorporate footage of actual Nazi atrocities into its plot to moving effect. What’s more, it is the director’s biggest box-office success, and it deserves more respect than Welles and his followers have given it.

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The Presentation:

3 of 5 Stars

Olive Pictures protects their Blu-ray disc in a standard Blu-ray case with somewhat disappointing film related cover art. It would’ve been much better if they had simply utilized the film’s original one sheet design, but one assumes that they wanted to distance themselves from the HD Cinema Classics release (which contained a decidedly poor image transfer due to inferior source materials). In any case, there were still better options available to them.

Worse, the blurb on the back states that The Stranger is Orson Welles’ fourth outing as a director, which is a careless inaccuracy. It is possible that they were including Too Much Johnson, but this silent short was: a.) not completed, and b.) was shot as part of one of Welles’ stage productions. (It was to be a film within the narrative of the play.) It needs to say that it is his “third feature film as a director” just for clarity’s sake. Such issues seem rather careless and could easily be avoided given the proper care.

On a positive note, the case also contains an illustrated booklet with an essay by Dr. Jennifer Lynde Barker (author of The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection) entitled “The Stranger: Murderers Among Us” and some interesting production stills—some of which might have made a superior cover with a few creative alterations.

Menu

The static menu is reasonably attractive and features music from the feature. It’s exactly what one has come to expect from a menu and is therefore intuitive to navigate.

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Picture Quality:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Most fans probably own one of the previous releases and are wondering whether this Olive Films edition is an upgrade, a downgrade, or a rehash. It can be said upfront that it isn’t a rehash of any of the previous Blu-ray releases. It is leaps and bounds better than the atrocious HD Cinema Classics release, which should be replaced immediately. However, the Kino Classics edition competes with this transfer—and some will prefer it to this new release. It just depends on each viewer’s preferences.

Some will like this new transfer’s filmic qualities. There seems to be less grin manipulation here. Other releases saw an artificially sharpened image and/or grain filtering, while this looks a bit more organic (albeit much less sharp than the earlier Kino release). It looks a bit smoother in motion too—and unlike the earlier Kino release, this disc has significantly less damage. The lack of blemishes inherent in the earlier Kino release is one of the major positive points of this newer release. However, this release seems to have been minimally cropped at the sides. There is less information on both the left and right sides of the frame. The ‘International Films’ logo at the beginning of the film has also been removed, and the end of the film cuts out at the “The End” title card (which is bound to irritate most people). This new Olive Films release also suffers in the areas of depth and clarity due to the source being utilized. These issues seem less apparent in the Kino release. Fine detail suffers a bit too, but this wasn’t an element that has been impressive in any of the film’s releases.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The included 2.0 English LPCM audio track is serviceable, but one does feel that there is room for improvement. The source obviously had flaws, but few viewers will ever become distracted by these. A proper restoration would have been nice, but this is a solid representation of the source’s sound.

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Special Features:

2.5 of 5 Stars

Feature Length Audio Commentary by Nora Fiore

Nora Fiore’s scholarly commentary is more informative and insightful than many third party “scholar” commentary tracks, but less essential than those that include the actual participants. However, this was admittedly impossible. Viewers will enjoy hearing a basic history of the film’s production in any case.

Theatrical Trailer – (02:09)

Those who love vintage trailers will be pleased to learn that the film’s original theatrical trailer is included here in all its glory.

“The Stranger: Murderers Among Us”

It seems rather superfluous to include Dr. Jennifer Lynde Barker’s text based essay on the disc when it is included in the collector’s booklet but here it is again on the disc itself.

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Final Words:

It is difficult to decide whether this or the previous Kino release is the better transfer, but The Stranger is essential to cinephiles who have a high regard for the work of Orson Welles.

One Sheet

 

Blu-ray Cover

Distributor: Cohen Media Group

Release Date: August 29, 2017

Region: Region A

Length: 01:43:16

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4, AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 French DTS-HD Master Audio

Alternate Audio: 5.1 French Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English

Ratio: 2.39:1

Title

“I discovered Maylis de Kerangal’s novel when it came out in January, 2014. The book immediately captivated me. I couldn’t put it down and was totally shaken by the story it tells. The migration of one heart towards another, beyond the sheer dramatic power inherent in such a circumstance, opens up scientific, poetic and metaphysical perspectives.” -Katell Quillévéré (Press Book)

According the official synopsis, Heal the Living follows three seemingly unrelated stories that carefully weave together.” However, this isn’t a particularly accurate description. This really isn’t that kind of film, because at no point does the viewer wonder how these various characters are connected. Their connection is immediately obvious, and the plot is actually astonishingly simple.

Following a morning of surfing the swelling waves off the port city of Le Havre, France, 17 year-old Simon (Gabin Verdet) and his friends get into a severe car crash, sending Simon into a coma. His estranged parents, Marianne (Emmanuelle Seigner) and Vincent (Kool Shen), are alerted and make their way to the hospital only to learn from the senior surgeon Pierre Révol (Bouli Lanners) that their son, who is entirely hooked up to a life-support system, is brain-dead and has no hope of recovery.

A sensitive medical specialist, Thomas Rémige (Tahar Rahim), approaches Simon’s parents and broaches the delicate subject of donating Simon’s organs to the hospital. At first shocked by the enormity of the request, Marianne and Vincent decide that their son would have wanted to proceed with a life-embracing gesture of this sort and they give their consent.

At the same time in Paris, Claire (Anne Dorval), a fragile former musician and the mother of two loving college-age sons, learns that her disabling heart condition is worsening. Claire has been waiting for an organ transplant that will give her a new lease on life, and via the work of Thomas, her medical needs are matched up with Simon in Le Havre. Following the delicate transportation of the healthy organ by both plane and motorcycle, a dedicated and talented team of medical experts and surgeons conduct an operation to place Simon’s heart in Claire’s body.

The finished product has a lot going for it. There are a number of great performances, a beautiful score by Alexandre Desplat, and incredible cinematography by Tom Harari. The beginning of the film is absolutely breathtaking and is rendered with a kind of restrained poetic grace, but this isn’t maintained throughout the entire length of the film. When all is said and done, the experience doesn’t quite live up to the promise made during those opening moments. It’s a very good film and well worth seeing, but it might have been so much more.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

The Blu-ray and DVD discs are protected by the standard Blu-ray case with the film’s American one sheet artwork framed by the Cohen Media Group’s “C” logo. Inside the case is a small booklet that features a few photographs, chapters, and cast credits.

The animated menus utilize footage from the film with music from the film’s score.

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Picture Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

Cohen Media Group’s transfer of the film is simply gorgeous. The film was shot digitally on a Red Epic camera and has an extremely crisp image that showcases an extraordinary amount of fine detail. Depth and clarity are also amazing, and the footage looks wonderful in motion. Color are incredibly vibrant while remaining natural. This is an incredible representation of the film’s original elements.

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Sound Quality:

5 of 5 Stars

The .1 DTS-HD Master Audio transfer is also excellent—one might even say that it seems to be a perfectly rendered representation of the source audio. The various elements are well mixed and subtly dynamic (although it isn’t likely to give speaker systems much of a workout). Alexandre Desplat’s music is the star of this track, but effects and dialogue are clear and nicely prioritized.

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Special Features:

1.5 of 5 Stars

Interview with Katell Quillevere – (14:53)

Katell Quillevere discusses the origins of Heal the Living (it was adapted from a novel by Maylis De Kerangal) and some of the central themes. It is interesting to hear her discuss the reasoning behind some of her decisions, but it isn’t quite long enough to be the comprehensive examination of the film that many fans will be hoping for.

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Final Words:

These themes have been handled better elsewhere, but Heal the Living is certainly worth watching and this Blu-ray transfer is incredible.

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