Welcome to Fistful of Features, a weekly column that celebrates film preservation through physical media and discusses cinematic treasures from every genre to maintain their relevance in the cultural lexicon. There are many great labels that are doing incredible work to keep all sorts of films significant through luxurious treatment via physical media. Without further ado let’s look at some releases to add to the conversation.
First, off I’d like to commend Blue Underground on their stellar 4K presentation work as of late. If you appreciated the stunning image quality on The House By The Cemetery and The New York Ripper then you’re in for a treat with their 4K release of Vigilante.
They always seem to take great pride in their restoration work and it definitely shows with their Dolby Vision clarity and crisp Dolby Atmos sound. Robert Forster and Fred Williamson kick all kinds of ass in this awesome revenge thriller that Bill Lustig described as a “blue-collar Death Wish”. The bonus features included are very informative and entertaining. It was fun to learn about Lustig’s slight obsession with the chase scene in The French Connection and the interview with composer Jay Chattaway (Invasion U.S.A.) dives deep into bringing the Ennio Morricone western influence to the concrete anarchy that permeates the atmosphere of this sleazy eighties gem. You can purchase this from Blue Underground directly from MVD Entertainment here.
Next, I’m excited to talk about the triumphant return of one of my favorite labels Twilight Time. First, there’s the otherworldly Venom aka Legend of the Spider Forest from 1971 not to be confused with Piers Haggard’s crime thriller featuring a deadly snake that was released a decade later. This is a movie that I strongly encourage you to avoid reading or hearing anything about it before viewing because it ends up packing a hell of a punch if you don’t know where it’s going. What begins as a surreal slow-burn becomes a visceral WTF movie that will certainly warrant hefty discussions when you share this one with friends.
Another title they released that I’m incredibly excited about is The Man From Hong Kong aka The Dragon Flies. I’m a big fan of director Brian Trenchard-Smith (Dead End Drive-In) and this is one of those movies that really encapsulates what surely made visiting 42nd Street in the seventies a thrilling time. Bruce Lee imitator Jimmy Wang Yu plays Inspector Fang Sing Leng who ends up crossing paths with former 007 George Lazenby in this action-packed crime thriller that’s a joyous riot from beginning to end.
Included on this disc are uncut interviews from Mark Hartley’s great Ozploitation documentary Not Quite Hollywood and also included a trailer for Trenchard-Smith’s book Adventures in the B Movie Trade. You can purchase both of these titles from Screen Archives Entertainment directly here.
Last but certainly not least we have a couple of film noirs coming from Kino Lorber this week. First, we have So Evil My Love (1948) from director Lewis Allen (The Uninvited), a hardboiled “Gaslight noir” based on the novel For Her To See from Marjorie Bowen under the pseudonym Joseph Shearing. This suspenseful yarn stars Ray Milland (Dial M For Murder) and Ann Todd (H.G. Wells’ Things To Come) and features your familiar tropes from double-crossing to blackmail and is quite entertaining. The story is partially based on a true crime case from the Victorian era and there’s a delightful audio commentary from film historian Imogen Sara Smith that’s quite informative.
Also this week Kino Lorber has The Suspect from the incredible director Robert Siodmak. Siodmak is responsible for the absolutely wonderful The Spiral Staircase and one of my favorite film noirs The Killers based on a story by Ernest Hemingway. Charles Laughton (Night of the Hunter) portrays a well-intentioned accountant who gets caught up in devious crimes after befriending a young stenographer played by Ella Raine ( Brute Force) as this engaging tale unfolds in a web of intrigue, deception, and of course murder. There’s a fun audio commentary by film historian Troy Howarth who typically specializes in European cult cinema, but is no slouch when it comes to film noir trivia. As soon as he pointed out the “I’m In The Mood For Love” theme in the opening was later used in Adrian Lyne’s film adaptation of Lolita and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut I knew the commentary was off to a good start. It was also interesting to learn that apparently, Laughton was one of the rare few who didn’t much get along with Boris Karloff. Both of these titles would be great to have in your collection for when Noirvember rolls around in the fall. You can order both of them from Kino Lorber directly here.
See you next week where I’ll have some more films to recommend adding to your home movie collection.