The Whale God (Tokuzo Tanaka, 1962)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Whale God.

criterion logoA small Japanese village is obsessed with killing a monstrous whale that has decimated its hunting parties. The town’s wealthiest man offers his land, position, and only daughter to the individual who can kill the demon whale. Shaki, a popular young man whose family has been massacred by the beast, steps forward vowing to slay the whale and avenge his relations, but his efforts are complicated by a brutish stranger to the village also intent on killing the monster and collecting on the promised riches. Based on Koichiro Uno’s award-winning novel published the previous year and scripted by visionary writer-director Kaneto Shindo, this loose adaptation of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick captures the madness and danger of whaling and combines it with period drama and kaiju monster effects.

Disc Features:

  • New, high definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New interview with Japanese film critic Tadao Sato
  • New interview with Japanese-literature scholar Jeffrey Angles
  • Theatrical trailer
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: An essay by critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.

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The Tell-Tale Heart (Ted Parmelee, 1953)

Ted Parmelee’s beautifully decrepit adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s story is a wonder, full of decay and madness in the mid-century modernist animation style typical to UPA. The Tell-Tale Heart was the first cartoon to receive an X rating (compliments of the BBFC); garnered an Academy Award nomination for Animated Short; counts Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and Guillermo del Toro among its admirers; and was admitted to the National Film Registry for preservation in 2001. James Mason’s narration and the film’s final, unexpected POV shot are remarkable.

(I probably should have saved this for October, but why deny ourselves this impressive film? It deserves to be better known.)

The Spider Labyrinth (Gianfranco Giagni, 1988)

DEATH STALKS ALAN WHITMORE ON EIGHT LEGS

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAmerican Alan Whitmore (Roland Wybenga), a professor of languages translating ancient texts for the Intextus Project, is sent to Budapest to find his colleague Professor Roth, a researcher who has gone strangely silent and who has failed to deliver his final report on an ancient religion. In the Hungarian capital, Alan is met by Roth’s beautiful assistant Genevieve Weiss (Paola Rinaldi) and commences his search for Roth and the ancient spider-cult that his colleague had uncovered. Can Alan discover the secret of these unnatural cultists and stop their murderous ways or will he become lost in the pagan sect’s web of paranoia, terror, and brutality?

Gianfranco Giagni’s The Spider Labyrinth blends Lovecraftian horrors with giallo stylishness and a gothic atmosphere to create a doom-laden masterpiece of 1980s Italian horror. Sergio Stivaletti’s terrifying effects are exceptional, bringing The Spider Labyrinth to its mad, shattering climax and confirming it as a little-known horror tour de force.

Special Features:

  • New high definition transfer of the English and Italian versions
  • High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Original English and Italian Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 Dolby Surround Options
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Old Ones and Arachnids – Extensive interview with Sergio Stivaletti on The Spider Labyrinth‘s visual effects
  • Mistress of the House – An interview with Stéphane Audran
  • Weaving Webs – An interview with Paola Rinaldi
  • Lovecraft on Eight Legs – An interview with Lovecraft experts S. T. Joshi and Sandy Petersen
  • Songs for Spiders – An interview with composer Franco Piersanti
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kim Newman

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10 on the 10th – August 2016

Today is the 10th and that means it’s time to review the last 10 films I’ve watched, and so our next Arrow Video proposal will go up tomorrow. High marks go to Hoodlum Priest, Sing Street, and The River Fuefuki, but the real noteworthy watch was the Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things. Like everyone else, we’ve been glued to our TVs watching this horror-adventure series, captivated by its meticulously crafted plot and aesthetic.

Here are a couple of initial takeaways on Stranger Things. First, while the first season is certainly a great achievement in pastiche and its retro-setting is a narrative necessity, I can’t help but feel like Stranger Things offers some commentary on what has been lost in an era of social media, helicopter parenting, and the like. Secondly, am I the only one connecting Stranger Things to the tall, pale, long-armed, faceless Slender Man? I would hesitate to draw too strong a line to the Slender Man meme, being aware that it was constructed from various other monsters of folklore and pop culture. Still … (And a quick shout out to Steelberg, a fantastic artist producing mock VHS cases of contemporary films including the Stranger Things package below.  See more at Steelberg’s Instagram page!)

  1. Steelberg Stranger ThingsHoodlum Priest (Kimiyoshi Yasuda, 1969)
  2. Sing Street (John Carney, 2016)
  3. The Witch (Damiano Damiani, 1966)
  4. The House with Laughing Windows (Pupi Avati, 1976)
  5. Walk Cheerfully (Yasujiro Ozu, 1930)
  6. The White Sheik (Federico Fellini, 1952)
  7. Sex in the Comix (Joëlle Oosterlinck, 2012)
  8. The River Fuefuki (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1960)
  9. Mudbloods (Farzad Nibakht, 2014)
  10. The Beyond (Lucio Fulci, 1981)

Last, I set up a Letterboxd account about a month ago, so those looking to see what I’m watching and my reactions to them can find me at “rjtougas” and glory in my consistent misappraisals! MMC! readers can climb down off the ledge though; “10 on the 10th” posts will continue on.

Approved!

silverscreenings-sealBig thanks to Ruth at Silver Screenings for her kind words about MMC! and for bestowing on this little corner of the digital world her 1st edition Seal of Approval! Silver Screenings sets a high bar for blogging and so we’re always pleased to get a passing grade from Ruth.

With our focus on the National Film Board of Canada concluded, MMC! now returns to regular broadcasting.  Within a week or so, we hope to post our next Arrow Video proposal, this time promoting an underappreciated example of late-’80s Italian horror.  See you then!

Four Last Canada Vignettes

NFBMMC!‘s retrospective on the National Film Board of Canada wraps up where it first began, with the Canada Vignettes. Provided here are four MMC! favourites: Fort Prince of Wales (Brad Caslor, 1978), Spence’s Republic (Brad Caslor, 1978), Flin Flon (Tina Horne, 1978), and Lady Frances Simpson (Christopher Hinton, 1978). All take a cheeky view of Canadian history, reveling in its absurdities and undercutting ideas of “great men” leading the nation to some inevitable glory. And all, for some strange reason, have some connection to the Province of Manitoba. Go figure.

As per the NFB:

A Canada Vignette giving a humorous animated version of the history of Fort Prince of Wales from its construction to its capture by the French.

As per NationalFilmBoardFan:

An animated vignette about the role of Thomas Spence in the formation and demise of the Republic of Manitoba at Portage la Prairie in 1967-68.

As per the NFB:

This short documentary vignette reveals the curious origin of the name of Flin Flon, Manitoba.

As per NationalFilmBoardFan:

An animated vignette on the journey of Lady Frances Simpson, with her piano, from England to Lower Fort Garry.

And so, that’s it for our retrospective on the National Film Board of Canada! Did we make any NFB converts? Did anyone make any discoveries or find any favourites? We left a lot a deserving films and filmmakers out of this survey of the Film Board – would anyone like to see MMC! offer another retrospective for an Essential Works of the NFB Volume 2 next July?