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Screen Reviews

Summerland

Summerland

directed by Jessica Swale

starring Gemma Arterton, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Penelope Wilton

As London suffers through “The Blitz,” Alice (Arterton) studies the illusion of floating islands in Dover. Everyone is expected to host evacuated children for the duration, but Alice resists only to eventually get shy Frank (Lucas Bond). He’s nice kid and makes friend, but his parents sent him away for safety. As Alice recalls a past lover gone missing, she bonds with the boy in a rocky relation. He flees back to London, and Alice chases him, spending an evening in a bomb shelter as terror reigns down above. Back in Dover they become friends, and Alice discover Frank is closer relation that she knew. It’s a spry story, beautifully shot and full of surprises. WW2 never looked so nice, and we all find inner strength we thought long gone.

This film was presented as part of the 2020 Florida Film Festival.

www.floridafilmfestival.com

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Screen Reviews

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations

MVD/Kit Parker Films

Growing up in the 1970s few things were as ubiquitous in a kid’s life than Laurel & Hardy. From school to summer camp to Shakey’s Pizza we laughed at the duo’s antics in Scotch tape spliced 16mm prints of County Hospital, Towed in the Hole, and of course the Academy Award winning short, The Music Box. Laurel and Hardy were such icons even decades after retirement their likenesses appeared on advertisements, a Laurel & Hardy cartoon series, and even a guest spot on Scooby-Doo. With many of their films falling into the public domain Laurel & Hardy became fodder for cheap VHS releases and were greatly maligned by early attempts at colorization. Over time their place in the cultural zeitgeist waned and apart from the odd showing of The Music Box, Way Out West, or Sons of the Desert on TCM they faded into the background noise of an overabundance of choices. In the last few years the pair has made a bit of a comeback with renewed interest in their antics including Jon S. Baird’s sentimental 2018 biopic Stan & Ollie, and efforts to restore the original films by the Library of Congress, UCLA Film & Television Archive and others. The fruits of those efforts have manifested themselves in this 4 disc Blu-ray set presenting 2k and 4k restorations of two features (Sons of the Desert and Way Out West) and 17 shorts.

Watching these films for the first time in ages I was struck by how deliberately paced they are, especially compared to the frenetic pace of the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers comedies of the same era. The pacing allows time to build up the gags and for Oliver Hardy’s brilliant slow burns and asides, often complete with fourth wall breaks to have maximum impact. Another facet of the act that sometimes gets overlooked is how good-natured it is. For all of his bluster Oliver Hardy never takes his berating of his partner into uncomfortable territory as opposed to so many comedy teams that just seem to exist solely as instruments of ridicule and abuse. And if it gets too close to the edge, Stan only has to break out his crying face to break the tension and slay the audience. You are always Stan and Ollie’s side as they wreck havoc on each other and the world around them.

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were both established comedians and actors before they teamed up but they became huge stars with over a hundred shorts and features to their credit in their nearly 40 year career. So obviously this Blu-ray set is far from complete but it is easily the best looking and rewarding Laurel and Hardy collection on the market. All of the films are not only restored, to varying degrees of quality, but they all are accompanied by audio commentary tracks, with Laurel and Hardy scholars Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann splitting the load. These tracks are bursting with biographical information on the bit players, historical context, production stories and even Los Angeles geography. The discs also house loads of archival interviews and clips with people associated with Laurel and Hardy and a plethora of trailers, stills and poster galleries to make this an easy purchase for even the most casual fan.

Categories
Screen Reviews

18 to Party

18 to Party

directed by Jeff Roda

starring Kevin Daniel Carey, Enzo Cellucci, Alivia Clark

There was a time when underage kids in bars was not a big deal. Those days are gone, but let’s slide back to 1984 on a Friday evening. The high schoolers in this small town hang out on a loading dock, waiting for Polo’s Bar to open so they can hear the music. Since they can’t drink, they get in last, assuming there is any space left for them. They have to wait for all the legal kids to get in, then they can join the rock and roll elite. Shelby, nominally the smart kid, just flunked a math pop quiz. Lanky is the stoner who claims to know someone who knows someone. Weird Kera reads the paper and bemoans the evil politics of the day. All the other teen stereotypes float thought this crowd: The Artist, The Jock. The Trouble Kid With A Pellet Gun. It’s all very convivial, and the topic of the day: “Is This Class Jinxed?” Seven kids have died in the last year, a shocking number anywhere. There’s no good conclusion to this curse, and the group effort turns to the potential of sneaking in though a roof top maintenance hatch. Where does this freedom stem from? All the parents are at a meeting about the UFOs cluttering up their skies. Romances make and break, drugs are consumed, compromises reached. Soon the sun sets, and the film becomes dark. Not just from the ills of teen life, but mostly from the “Dogme 95” filming style the eschews any artificial light. It does save a few bucks in production but you wish you could adjust your brightness level

There’s a curious voyeurism here. These teens are no different than we were: obsessed with sex, drugs and angst over the odds of getting a role in the drama class production of Our Town. Their little microcosm recalls Norse mythology: most of the action takes place on the loading dock, representing the mundane world of Midgard. Below them and though the woods and chain link fence lies “The Construction Site”, a sort of Niflheim of the dead and the lost. Here the kids go to make out, smoke dope, and decide if they want to abandon the light and live here in hell. And above lies the Asgard of Polo’s Bar, a place only the blessed can enter, and only after a painful initiation. We all travel somewhere in these worlds, and these teens are us, set in a pretty frame. It’s a slice of life, life in 1984 and 1948 and 20 centuries into the future.

This film was presented as part of the 2020 Florida Film Festival sponsored by the Enzian Theater in Maitland, FL.

www.floridafilmfestival.com

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Screen Reviews

Adam

Adam

directed by Maryam Touzani

starring Lubna Azabal, Nisrin Erradi, Douae Belkhaouda

Tax Shelter Films

Warda (Douae Belkhaouda) is pregnant and living on the mean streets of Casablanca. In desperation she knocks on the door of widowed Alba (Lubna Azabal) who gives her the cold shoulder. Alba is uninterested in housing an unmarried and pregnant stranger but Alba’s cute as a bug daughter Samia (Nisrin Erradi) falls for Warda. Mom relents. And Warda soon finds acceptance, if for only her skills at making pastry. Warda helps Alba accept the advances of a suitor which can only improve her sad life. When it’s time for the baby, Warda plans to offer it up for adoption, but might change her mind. Watch this for a view of what’s behind the ancient doors in Casablanca, and tremble at the somehow creepy animatronic infant child. It’s a dark, mysterious movie, made more so by the subtitled Arabic and ancient alley ways of this ancient city.

This film was presented as part of the 2020 Florida Film Festival sponsored by the Enzian Theater in Maitland, FL.

strandreleasing.com/films/adam/; www.floridafilmfestival.com

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Screen Reviews

Landfall

Landfall

directed by Cecilia Aldarondo

Back in the old days, the cool countries demonstrated their manhood by collecting colonies. The USA was no exception – we had the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to name a few. Not quite a state, and certainly not an independent entity, colonies provided cheap labor, abundant resources, and no real political cohesion. When Hurricane Maria stuck, the mainland response was best illustrated by a president throwing paper towels at the starving masses.

This documentary provides vignettes of how the islanders deal with the results of that storm, along with decades of bad management. Much of the housing stock is still smashed. A corrupt governor draw street protest, and the rich still live in luxurious gated communities. The farmers who leave their family for $13 a hour landscaping gigs are the lucky ones. Moving to New York is an option, if you can take the winters. We watch a pair of Bitcoin cowboys try and talk the locals into something suspect. I assume its Bitcoin mining but the only thing I’m sure about them is I wouldn’t lend them an empty coke can. This gentle documentary offers scenery and neglect, but by the film’s end I’m not sure what the filmmaker Aldarondo tries to say. Build closer relations to the mainland? Pursue statehood? Independence? Seek pity? Live with the trouble’s and give up? I leave the theater feeling a bit empty. The pictures are pretty, but I don’t take home a message.

This film was presented as part of the 2019 Florida Film Festival sponsored by the Enzian Theater in Maitland, FL.

www.floridafilmfestival.com

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Screen Reviews

Inferno of Torture

Inferno of Torture

directed by Teruo Ishii

starring Tamaki Sawa, Masumi Tachibana, Yumika Katayama

Arrow Video

In just over a year director Teruo Ishii cranked out ten feature films for Toei Studios that epitomize the ero guro aesthetic of sexuality and gore that at the time was quite transgressive, especially for a legitimate studio to produce. They would release ero guro or other “pinky violence” movies but wouldn’t front the productions. Ishii’s deal with Toei would help legitimize sex and violence on the screen in Japan.

Inferno of Torture cannot be accused of hyperbolic titling as Teruo Ishii showcases a mass crucifixion, decapitations and a woman getting a spear to the crotch and throat, all during the title credits. Like all low budget filmmakers, Ishii’s films are always hampered by lacking time and money to get everything perfect, yet in his films there are always sequences that speak of genius. Despite budgetary shortcomings Ishii created sublime visions of depravity that are also achingly beautiful. Part of Ishii’s deal with Toei set him up much like the classic Hollywood B-Movie units at R.K.O., Universal, or Warner Brothers; tiny budgets and short production calendars, but access to the studio’s vast resources of sets, props, and costumes. This allows his very cheap films to have a far more expensive look. One thing Ishii found he didn’t have a lot of access to was Toei’s roster of acting talent and he had to cast from outside of the studio as established actors didn’t want to work in sex films. Ishii created a stable of talent that worked with him on numerous projects so you do see familiar faces popping up in his films.

Inferno of Torture is essentially an anthology film but Ishii chose instead of using a framing device he would weave the stories into a non-linear narrative that is often more confusing than the payoff is worth. Too much energy is spent trying to keep track of the characters and the most interesting of the plots involving Nami (Yumika Katayama, Goke Body Snatcher from Hell), a prostitute forced to resort to grave-robbing to retrieve the key to her chastity belt not only ends tragically, but far to early causing the film’s last third to be anti-climatic. The film’s psychedelic finale is a visual stunner it is an emotional snooze as there are no characters left to care about, but damn seeing Ishii turned loose with naked women, body paint, and black lights is an audacious and beautiful sequence that lingers even if the plot mechanics have broken.

The presentation of Inferno of Torture is gorgeous, as is expected from an Arrow release. The disc doesn’t have a lot of extra content but the quality makes up for any lack of quantity. Japanese film historian Tom Mes provides another strong, informative audio commentary full of information to expand context and understanding of the film and the people who made it without ever feeling dry or uninteresting. The other main feature is a real treat with film historian Jasper Sharp’s lecture at the The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies titled Erotic Grotesque Nonsense & the Foundations of Japan’s Cult Counterculture, presented here in a condensed version. I don’t know how long the full class was, but would love to see it in its entirety.

www.arrowvideo.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Dream Demon

Dream Demon

directed by Harry Cokeliss

starring Jemma Redgrave, Timothy Spall, Jimmy Nail

Arrow Video

If Dream Demon feels like a British knock-off of A Nightmare on Elm Street, that is exactly what it is. The UK distributors for the Wes Craven horror franchise wanted to do a quick and cheap version of the dream horror franchise. Harley Cokeliss, one time second unit director on The Empire Strikes Back and veteran British horror screenwriter Christopher Wicking (To the Devil a Daughter), teamed up on a script that mixes dream logic surrealism with a heavy dash of social satire on the royal princesses Diana and Sarah, who were omnipresent in the late 1980s. The result is an uneven, but entertaining haunted house movie.

Diana, played by Jemma Redgrave (Doctor Who), is engaged to a Falklands War hero and is being plagued by nightmares and hounded by the press, especially a loathsome reporter and photographer duo played by Jimmy Nail and Timothy Spall. Jenny, (Kathleen Wilhoite, Private School) a young American woman searching for clues about her childhood spent in Diana’s house, crashes into Diana’s fragile life. Diana and Kathleen’s journeys intertwine as both women have to confront their demons as memory and nightmare collide in the house with Kathleen’s repressed memories of child abuse lurking on the top floor and Diana’s fear of the future and her sexuality residing in the basement. Only the ground floor holds a tenuous grasp on the present day reality and even that is fractured with a mirror universe. Both women have to help each other confront their fear in order to survive.

Dream Demon was released theatrically in the UK in 1988 but apart from a brief home video release in the states in the early ’90s, it was essentially a lost film. The film became orphaned during a bankruptcy and disappeared. Harry Cokeliss found the original negative and worked with the British Film Institute to get the film restored. The resulting disc is gorgeous and with the ability to work out better color timing probably looks better than it did when it was made. The commemorate the resurrection of Dream Demon, Arrow Video compiled interviews with director Harley Cokeliss, producer Paul Webster, composer Bill Nelson and actors Jemma Redgrave, Mark Greenstreet, Nickolas Grace, and Annabelle Lanyon. The disc also features a 45 minute scene specific commentary by director Harley Cokeliss and producer Paul Webster is a fun listen as both men breakdown the special effects, the satire and symbolism at work in the movie, and the various influences and homages in Dream Demon including Orson Welles (The Trial, 1962), the art and philosophy of Jean Cocteau and the surreal photography of Joel-Peter Witkin.

www.arrowvideo.com

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Screen Reviews

Liberté

Liberté

directed by Albert Serra

This review of Albert Serra’s Liberté was inspired by and is dedicated to the experimental filmmaker, Luther Price, who died at the age of 58 last week, leaving behind some of the strongest images that I have experienced on screen. The very first piece of Price’s that I viewed—which was fortuitously screened at the film society run by his teacher, Saul Levine—was his 1989 short which was produced at the height of the early AIDS epidemic, Sodom. To create this work, Price assembled gay porn footage that he salavged out of dumpsters in Boston’s red light district, affectionately known then to locals as “The Combat Zone.” This borderline grotesque, non-couple friendly porn was mixed with the sounds of Gregorian chants and additional found footage from Biblical epics that were discovered by Price, which altogether left me emotionally staggered by an atmosphere that no constructed narrative film has ever been able to duplicate.

So, for that film and for much of his subsequent work that I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to see, I will always be forever grateful to Price for expanding my expectations for what can be achieved in film by incorporating a radical and distinct production ethos. Price’s work throughout his career, like many experimental filmmakers, was so reliant on process. In his particular idiom, that process was not in filming, but in the selection of found footage, the manipulation of what he found, and the way that the film would be shown, be it the chemicals added to the print or the burying of film reels in his own backyard to produce rot and mold. What I gained from Price was not this fleeting feeling of solely witnessing the notorious or audacious within his work, but a hunger as a viewer to understand the minutia contained within the creative process of a filmmaker prior to, or even shortly after, seeing the final product to fully appreciate the work. Over the years, in uncovering the creative mysteries behind a film, whatever magic in the unknown that I’ve lost along the way has usually been replaced with a keener understanding of how the elements selected aimed to advance the director’s intent, leaving me to judge the final piece’s success based on not only my immediate reactions to the work, but also on whether those reactions aligned with the director’s desires.

As for Albert Serra’s Liberté, my viewing came on the heels of my appreciation for what the director accomplished with his feature, The Death of Louis the XIV, a claustrophobic observation of the final days of the bedridden monarch who was adeptly portrayed by French New Wave icon, Jean-Pierre Léaud. Serra’s camera hovers over Louis’ bed as his family wanders in and out of the room, politicians debate, and doctors unemotionally probe Louis while his body rots from gangrene and his reign slowly dissipates along with his mortal coil. Serra’s ability to keep an emotional distance throughout these morbid proceedings, even during uncomfortable moments of physical intimacy, breaks with much of what we have come to expect from a historical period piece. My admiration of The Death of Louis the XIV was distinctly aided by understanding Serra’s unique process in its creation, so I feel that in order to properly review Liberté, which uses a bold experimental production ethos to generate its narrative through performance, I must give a basic plot setup, and then explore what I gleaned from reading and listening to multiple interviews with Serra about his production philosophies in the making of Liberté, as it is a feature that demands to be reviewed on both a procedural and outcome level.

Set entirely in a small patch of forest, Liberté begins in the short moments before sunset. As the sun falls from the sky, a group of libertines engage in discussions that set the historical context of their period, one in which the emerging French Revolution’s impact has become a concern for the libertines, who must now seek other European nations for shelter as they have lost their prerogatives of status and protection which were once bestowed upon them by the now ravaged monarchy. This pastoral setting away from the mob violence engulfing Paris is converted into a hedonistic court in which the libertines can exercise their now infamous agendas as they see fit. When the sun has completely set, and the group is covered under the security of darkness, they begin their nefarious practices of sexual and violent acts upon one another, and Serra moves our focus from one flesh abused cluster to another within and outside of the libertine’s appointed carriages and gives us only graphic conversations and verbal descriptions of depravity to break up the unrelenting visual debauchery.

Liberté, the film, is the third incarnation of this libertine material. Serra originally produced Liberté as a stage play in Germany, and subsequently developed it into an installation piece involving two separate screens that couldn’t simultaneously be seen by the audience. He then adapted this installation into its feature film version, which based on the description above, you may believe is yet another film inspired by the writings of Diderot and de Sade. But the particular way in which Serra decided to create Liberté distinctly sets it apart from its predecessors—it embraces the libertine ethos in not only what the scenes present, but also in how the scenes were captured, all while paradoxically providing evidence that any verbatim visual retelling of libertine practices on film will be less distressing and less impactful than our own imagination’s ruminations on such practices of supreme hedonism.

Liberté had little that could be called a script: no dialog was composed by Serra, and he only created the atmosphere for the shoot. Professional and non-professional actors were used (including some of the film’s technicians who were drafted into graphic scenes without much notice), and Serra did not offer any specific direction for what the actors should do during filming. As he commented to film critic Dennis Lim in a recent interview: “The cast was naked in all senses. Everyone is naked in front of the camera. They have no help, no external help.” Serra utilized his lack of communication to encourage more action amongst his actors, as he relied on the conflict between professional actors’ natural inclination to craft a character, their expectations of direction from him, and his silence and non-intervention to ultimately force them into more natural, rather than expository or dramatic, actions.

Furthermore, Serra instructed his camera operators to only use zoom lenses and to remain distant from the performances. The exclusive use of the zoom was specifically designed so that the actors would never truly know where the focus was at any particular time, preventing their trained impulses from altering their positioning and body language to adjust to the shot. Separately, the distance of the film crew even further lessened the actors’ physical connection to the director, whom they might have seeked for protection or guidance if they felt a scene was failing. Lastly, Serra insisted that shooting occur in hours-long stretches to reinforce the actors’ feeling of indifference towards the camera. Amazingly, this amount of improvisational freedom, combined with physical distancing, resulted in the portrayal of sexual acts that never transpire in a shocking fashion by today’s standards. Nor are these moments sexually gratifying for the participants, which amplifies the feeling of waste that is at the core of the libertine doctrine.

The aforementioned filming process by Serra resulted in over 300 unique hours of footage which was then given to three editors to assemble. Each editor was instructed to only utilize the footage that Serra deemed to have merit, and those pieces were then combined in a way such that no traditional narrative tension could be formed. As a result of these narrative elimination efforts, the editing structure creates its own form of tension for the viewer, who continuously searches for meaning within and between the scenes and may not find anything satisfactory in all of the excess.

Though differing in their genres, their source images, and their addressed codes of morality, both Luther Price’s Sodom and Albert Serra’s Liberté use extreme images cultivated from reality to underscore our apathy towards human suffering. In the case of Sodom, the visceral images of tissue damage during the sex act mixed with the austere sounds and visuals related to Christianity embody the public’s craven demonization of gay sex during the AIDS epidemic that led to the hypocritical apathy towards the vulnerable, high-risk group that increased and prolonged their suffering overall. And in Liberté, Serra’s transformation of the libertine’s lurid concepts into perfunctory and mundane images forces us to confront our own apathy towards the suffering and extremes we regularly see and dismiss in our current media saturated world. Through their processes and their films, Price and Serra remind us that it is not the image that should disturb us—it is the absence of our reaction to it and the lack of our desire to understand its subject and context that should keep us up at night and inspire us to change.

Liberté is available now through a select number of local, independent theaters’ virtual screening rooms, with half of the ticket proceedings going directly to the available theater of your choice.

www.cinemaguild.com/theatrical/liberte.html

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Screen Reviews

Blood Tide

Blood Tide

directed by Richard Jefferies

starring James Earl Jones, Martin Kove, Deborah Shelton

Arrow Video

After decades languishing in the purgatory of VHS, DVD multi-packs and double feature discs dumped in bins at dollar stores, Richard Jefferies’ Blood Tide has been given new life by Arrow Video. If you have seen the film on VHS or DVD you really have not seen it. Comparing the new Arrow restoration to the transfer that has been circulating for decades is stunning and looks like an entirely different movie.

Following an eerie pre-title sequence detailing an ancient virgin sacrifice rite to placate an underwater monster, the story proper opens with photographer Neil Grice (Martin Kove the Cobra Kai sensei from The Karate Kid) and his wife Sherry ( Mary Louise Weller, Mandy Pepperidge from Animal House) arriving on an isolated Greek island searching for Neil’s missing sister, Madeline (Deborah Shelton, Body Double). They are met first by strange children, who throw a cat at them from above, and then by the austere village mayor, Nereus (Jose Ferrer, Dune) who naturally denies any knowledge of Neil’s sister. Of course Madeline is on the island and Neil and Sherry soon meet up with her and scuba divers/treasure hunters Frye and Barbara (James Earl Jones, Conan the Barbarian and Lydia Cornell, TV’s Too Close For Comfort). Madeline is working in the island’s convent restoring ancient icons and she seems to have a psychic link to the virgin sacrifice from the prologue as she uncovers secrets in the painting in the convent. It seems the outsiders have disturbed the creature who starts killing again and Madeline realizes she is fated to sacrifice her virginity to the creature to placate it.

Despite a nice set up the middle of the film sags as there really isn’t a lot to do so there are boat trips, dive trips, erotic nightmares, and pensive nuns. It really doesn’t pay off in the end either as the actual monster is a disappointment, but the film not a total loss. The film has some stellar set pieces, especially the sacrifice scene in the opening that is echoed in Madeline’s dreams that includes a shot that mimics Willard rising up from the water outside of the Kurtz compound in the climax of Apocalypse Now. All of the underwater work in the film is outstanding. The movie is book-ended by the virgin sacrifice scenes both of which are hauntingly beautiful and make the whole affair worth watching. The film suffers when on dry land and the cameras get locked down and the characters sit at tables and recite exposition. There is a good film here but has been wrecked by post-production hell that could have been avoided with a bit more money to finish the film properly. It really is a shame because there are moments that really work and stay with you but too much of the movie is a slog even with a sub-90 minute run time.

Blood Tide was restored in 4K from the original negative and is a revelation on Blu-ray. The film has for decades been cursed with substandard home video releases all based on an egregious telecine transfer that was then duped by countless unscrupulous video labels. This restoration also comes with some entertaining and insightful extra content.

Director and screenwriter Richard Jefferies sits down for a commentary track moderated by filmmaker Michael Felsher. Jefferies describes the shoot from hell including not being able to use dolly tracks for camera movement and being shut out of the editing process which resulted in a finished product that is quite different from his original vision. He isn’t terribly bitter about the experience as he was 24 years old at the time and didn’t have the clout to fight against the interference. The behind the scenes stories are more interesting than the actual movie, including dailies being held for ransom and Jefferies being tempted to steal the film back from the editing bay.

Apart from a couple of trailers the only other extra is Swept by the Tide a sit-down Q&A interview with writer producer Nico Mastorakis conducted by Ari Gerontakis. Mastorakis discusses the production of the film and the restoration. He regales with some tales of low budget movie production including one of the English producers having his yacht repossessed during the shoot. He also tells a story about Don Simpson (Jerry Bruckheimer’s producer), while a VP at Paramount, passing on films pitched by Mastorakis because the directors attached weren’t any good. Those directors were John Carpenter and Ridley Scott. No one’s careers were stunted, but it illustrates how capricious the movie business can be.

Despite its reputation as an all time bad movie, Blood Tide is a revelation on Blu-ray. It still isn’t great but is a testament to how much better a movie is when presented properly as it is so much more entertaining than the garbage transfer that we’ve all been subjected to and it very much worth a second look.

www.arrowvideo.com

Categories
Screen Reviews

Night Flight

Night Flight

Subpop Records

OK, Boomer. This is the definitive streaming service you need to visit. About the same time MTV kicked off in 1981, Night Flight came to life on USA Network. Night Flight represented an avant garde replica of MTV, and both were great for about 10 years, but their differences were significant: MTV was 24/7 and broke mega-stars. Night Flight ran two hours on Saturday night on USA Network, and it played to the pierced and tattooed crowd that had no friends. Night Flight quit while it was ahead and fell into rock and roll obscurity, while MTV drifted into reality TV and irrelevance.

But now, thanks to streaming TV and its insatiable demand for material, Night Flight returns with a very impressive collection of videos, documentaries, weird TV series, mountains of exploitation films, early teen sex comedies, and Japanese weirdness. All that’s missing is Bill Clinton.

So what’s up there? I just finished watching a documentary on Captain Beefheart, a Frank Zappa protégé who released possibly the most enigmatic LP ever released: Trout Mask Replica. Other documentaries visit a multitude of performers, from John Lee Hooker, to Keith Richards, to Pussy Riot. Weird cartoons from Dyna Man to Bubble Gum Crisis to Gumby follow. Then you can revisit the Church of the SubGenius and learn why you should be giving all praise to “Bob.” Let there be slack.

The exploitation movies are excellent as well and range from Circus of Fear to Isla, the Wicked Warden to the 3d monstrosity Coming at You. That one you might want to skip; it sucked when it first came out and has aged poorly. So there are few clunks—but your clunk may be my cult favorite. Best of all, there’s a major treasure trove of rock videos that saw little to no MTV airplay, mountains of Blaxploitation films, Italian Giallo thrillers, long collages of those weird short films you never see outside of film festivals, a Dr. Ruth channel, and the groundbreaking punk performances hosted by Peter Ivers, New Wave Theater.

Most of the documentaries here are solid, and I loved the one on the mysterious artist Banksy. It’s just like flipping channels, without the bother of dropping into the middle of something cool and missing the opening act.

Not all of this material was actually shown on the first run of the show, but it’s all in the ethos and spirit of those blessed days of rock and roll excess. I did notice quite a few Robert Mugabe docs that Ink 19 covered over the years, and here’s your chance to see them all at one reasonable price. The quality is very pre-digital but generally from clean copies from 16 mm or 35 mm films.

Night Flight is a subscription streaming service. I viewed it on my computer, and so a good broadband service is all you need; my 100 Mbps line had no problems with skips or hanging. I have to go now, the shower scene from Isla, She Wolf of the SS is running. Art. I’m devoted to it.

Night Flight: nightflightplus.com