A great week for New Blus with one of the greatest noirs of all time taking Pick of the Week…
The UK’s closest match to the sterling work of Criterion, Masters of Cinema bring us one of their biggest releases of the year – as one of the key noirs, and one of Billy Wilder’s most important works, comes to HD for the first time (and about time too).
A tale of lust, murder and loose morals, it sees Fred MacMurray’s insurance man using his charms to bed one of his client’s wives (the majestic Barbara Stanwyck) before getting in over his head as she proposes they kill her husband and pocket the insurance money. Wilder was a man who could turn his hand to any genre. He made incredible comedy and heart wrenching drama and, in this film, he proves to be a master of tension. The film has an underlying sense of dread which refuses to let go, with a wraparound (much like Sunset Boulevard) which sets up that bad times are to come. Along the way the chemistry crackles between the two leads and MacMurray’s character starts to buckle as watchful boss Edward G. Robinson starts to suspect.
It’s generally bloody incredible stuff with all three leads putting in pitch-perfect performances. You will the leads along despite the fact that you just know they will never be able to get away with it. The film was made at a time where the morals of Hollywood were strictly controlled yet the way Wilder contorts the plot makes us question just how they will be found out and by whom?
The film comes to Blu with a transfer which apparently looks and sounds amazing. It has some decent looking extras – including a commentary featuring The Limey screenwriter Lem Dobbs, a documentary and a radio adaptation starring the lead duo, along with a booklet as expected from MoC.
At around £11.99 online, this is a no brainer.
In a rather underwhelming FrightFest last year (film wise at least) one of my personal favourites was the latest from Ti West. West will always have my affection for making The House of the Devil (and also talking to me for rather a long time while I was absolutely wasted one night at that festival). Saying this with a touch of the fanboys about me, I should just note that while I don’t think The Innkeepers is his best work, it’s certainly one of the more interesting horror films of the last few years. It’s successful in making you laugh just as much as scaring you, thanks to the very game duo of Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.
Paxton in particular impresses as she is given a character to really get behind. Her screen career has seen her used in horror films essentially as the ‘pretty girl who gets into trouble’ – with Last House On The Left and Shark Night not giving her any real meat to chew on. Here though, she’s spunky, charming, funny and generally a nice person who you don’t want to see bad things happen to. When they do it is really affecting. Healy puts in solid support work with a rather more directly comedic performance but the two form a wonderful on-screen bond. This is especially interesting as you don’t often see folks who look like these two together on screen.
As well as being rather modern in these regards, it’s also interesting to note just how classical the horror storytelling going on actually is. While Cabin Fever 2 riffed on the splatstick work of the likes of early Raimi and Jackson, and House of the Devil took on the Satanic Fear films of the early 70′s, this harks back to more classical ghost story tropes – with unquiet spirits and ghosts in wedding dresses mixing with the slightly more sophomoric humour in other parts of the film.
It doesn’t all work. Kelly McGillis has a part which feels a touch underwritten and the film doesn’t have as many attempts at really scaring as I’d like. But when it hits, it hits and the non-horror elements are more satisfying than the equivalent components in most other genre pictures you get.
Extras on the disc look a little weak though two commentaries featuring West joined by cast and crew should be solid listens – his commentary work on House of the Devil was very entertaining. Along with a brief featurette, it doesn’t look like great shakes but at around £11.99 online, there’s no way you can say you’re getting charged too much here. I’m certainly going to be picking it up.
Yes, I am recommending this. It’s likely one of the most subjective recommends I’ve ever made but hey, here it is.
I love Neveldine/Taylor. Their Crank films give me some of the biggest grins I’ve had with action movies and I’m even partial to the excesses of Gamer. While I certainly don’t think this latest Rider film is one of their stronger efforts, it does a decent job of giving us their particular delights in a 12A setting. In Nicolas Cage they have found yet another vessel for their madness which feels entirely appropriate. Cage locks into their particular brand of ADD addled filmmaking with moments of ‘Crazy Cage’ which should show up in those famous YouTube mash-ups of his performances we’ve all seen. His “He’s scratching at the door!!!” moment being a particular favourite of mine.
I also think they do decently enough with the action sequences, creating a Rider who feels truly dark, something which never really came about in the original film. Here the rider feels like a different entity, one which consumes Cage’s Johnny Blaze and makes him into something else. Something else which happens to piss fire. Idris Elba and Ciaran Hinds are also solid supports and though the love interest and kid don’t come off too strong, I don’t think they embarrass all that much either. It’s a film to watch with some beers and if you’re in the mood I think it would take a hard heart to not be entertained.
With apparently strong video and audio, though the post-converted 3D isn’t going to bust any blocks, it boasts some decent looking extras. A video commentary with the directors – who did well with a similar feature on the Crank 2 Blu, some deleted scenes and a feature-length making of giving fans a set to get their teeth into. For around £13.99 online, this will be a solid release which I’ll be picking up at some point, though perhaps not at full price.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
King of New York – Never seen it but this Blu looks to be decent enough according to the review found elsewhere on the site today.
Young Adult – OK enough though still a tad lacklustre. Boosted by a terrific performance from Charlize Theron.
Howl’s Moving Castle/Tales From Earthsea – StudioCanal continue releasing Studio Ghibli films which aren’t quite the headliners. I WANT MY BLOODY TOTORO BLU-RAY!!!
The Vow – No thanks.
Wanderlust – Perfectly adequate comedy which will be bought by few I’d suspect.
The Aristocats – Fun Disney adventure with a great soundtrack.
The Lost Weekend – More classic old-school Hollywood cinema from Masters of Cinema.
More next week!