Arrow Video’s has truly made ever month like Christmas season with a mix of American and Foreign titles that kept cinephiles drooling without a pause. Besides putting out fine high definition transfers of cult and previously popular titles, they’ve found a bunch of great bonus features that give a bit of context to the film. Here’s a rundown on my favorite releases from Arrow that came out on 2018.
Their greatest release of the year was John Landis’ Schlock. Of course the major reason for me loving it so much is that it includes my bonus feature about director of photography Bob Collins that was made with Brett Clark. The film is hilarious as a missing link goes on a rampage in a small town. The film set the groundwork for John Landis’ career that includes Animal House, Blues Brothers, Trading Places, Coming to America and The Slasher. But the fact that you can hear what I sounded like back at the turn of the Century makes it my favorite Blu-ray of the Year.
Giallo and Gelato nights became frequent as the leather gloved works of Dario Argento and Sergio Martino got upgraded. Argento’s first two films The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O’ Nine Tails and his masterpiece Deep Red. The extra resolution and new transfers really got me sucked into the Italian scenery. The bonus features on all three included fresh interview with Dario Argento to get deep into the work. Sergio Martino is finally getting the attention he deserves for his work in the Giallo genre. His second entry The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail finally gets a true release in America. This tale of jetsetting murder has aged well. His Torso has three different cuts including the butchered American version. Who could be killing girls at a local college? There’s plenty of creepy suspects. Arrow also put out the book All the Colours of Sergio Martino by Kat Ellinger to shed even more light on the career of a master of the genre. Flavio Mogherini’s The Pyjama Girl Case brought the murdering mystery to Australia with a tale about an unidentified corpse that went on public display to find a suspect.
The early pioneers of New Zealand cinema got their due with both Vincent Ward and Roger Donaldson’s early features getting buffed up. Ward’s films dealt with the mystic. Vigil is about a kid who is disturbed when her father falls off a cliff and a stranger appears in town hoping to get the attention of the newly widowed mother. It’s hard to tell if the community is post-apocalyptic or a rural cult. The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey has a group of people in 1348 pass through a timehole and emerge in modern day New Zealand with a quest to save their own civilization. Donaldson’s Sleeping Dogs has a New Zealand that’s turned into a police state and has the US Army arrive to track down the rebels. The film introduced a lot of people to the talent of Sam Neill (Jurassic Park). Even more exciting is Warren Oates (The Wild Bunch) being part of the military looking for Neill. Donadson’s Smash Palace was a major art house hit in America. Bruno Lawrence (The Quiet Earth) is an ex-race car driver who has returned home to run a junkyard. He loves it, but his French wife didn’t imagine this would be her fate when she was running round the globe following his races. The marriage goes bad fast and their child is in the middle of the meltdown.
The American Grindhouse gets plenty of respect with several titles looking better than when they were original released to the sticky cinemas. Herschell Gordon Lewis’ boxset gets busted up with individual releases of The Gore Gore Girls, Two Thousand Maniacs!, The Wizard of Gore and The Gruesome Twosome. The fun of Two Thousand Maniacs! comes alive with vivid colors as tourists get messed up by the ghosts of a Confederate city that want revenge. Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator brings the blood and bodies found in the H.P. Lovecraft source. Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case gets deep into a tale of twins separated with a pizza knife. The Baby is a whole lot of strangeness about a man who acts like a boy because of an accident. What’s astonishing is this is from Ted Post, a director known for making Clint Eastwood movies. Finally Wes Craven (Scream) has his early roughies get cleaned up. Last House on the Left reminds kids why they shouldn’t go to a stranger’s apartment to buy weed. The Hills Have Eyes is a lesson on the dangers of family vacations in wastelands. Killer Klowns from Outer Space is the Chido brothers scaring us with an alien invasion that puts on a circus offensive. Abel Ferrara’s The Addiction deals with vampires at grad school.
Fans of life in England get two views. First is Terence Davies’ Distant Voices, Still Lives. This is a portrait of a family in a rough section of Liverpool. It’s a delicate masterpiece about hard lives. Robert Altman’s Gosford Park is a murder mystery set in the upperclass. Screenwriter Julian Fellowes would go on to create Downton Abbey. It’s an all star cast including Alan Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam, Bob Balaban, Charles Dance, Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith and Emily Watson.
Spaghetti Westerns got a push when two iconic figures got their original flicks collected. A Pistol for Ringo & The Return of Ringo: Two Films by Duccio Tessari gave the gunslinger (Tenebrae‘s Giuliano Gemma) his start before other producers cranked out their own Ringo flicks. Tessari would go on to become a Giallo star with The Bloodstained Butterfly and Death Occurred Last Night. The Complete Sartana has all five of the original films about the gunman (The Psychic‘s Gianni Garko) with a cape.
Seijun Suzuki gets more of his films released in America with two boxsets of The Early Years and Detective Bureau 2-3 Go To Hell Bastards!. It’s great that the man behind Tokyo Drifter and Branded to Kill has 11 “new to you” releases in the last year. It’s a perfect retrospective what what he was able to do when showing the various criminal elements that lurked around Japan.
Alison Anders’ Gas Food Lodging is a heartfelt film about a single mother and her two daughters in the Southwest. The Craft‘s Fairuza Balk is so amazing as the youngest daughter who is addicted to movies and does her best to make her family happy. It’s one of the finest indie films of the ’90s. J. Mascis’ score brings out the tenderness in the desert town.
Tags: Arrow Video, Giallo and Gelato, Schlock