Cold Trumpet (Enzo Nasso, 1963)

MMC!‘s post proposing a Criterion treatment for Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould (François Girard, 1993) is set to arrive during this weekend’s O Canada! Blogathon. In the meantime, MMC! offers for your consideration Enzo Nasso’s Cold Trumpet (1963), an experimental short featuring another musical virtuoso, Chet Baker. Tromp Fredda (the short’s Italian title) sees the trumpeter through an Antonioni-esque landscape of industrialized decay, where he is acknowledged by some individuals, completely unnoticed by others, and plagued by the sudden appearance of a pair of wind-up musical toys apparently mocking him. Just a little jazz surrealism to lead you to the weekend!

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Mill of the Stone Women (Giorgio Ferroni, 1960)

SCARES THAT WILL LEAVE YOU PETRIFIED!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddHans, a young artist, arrives at the famous Dutch windmill of Professor Wahl to study the horrible stone statues contained within the local landmark, a mechanical carousel of history’s most notorious women meeting their gruesome and untimely ends. There, he becomes captivated with Wahl’s mysterious and seductive daughter notwithstanding Hans’s relationship with a local art student. Warned by Professor Wahl to stay away from his seriously ill daughter and suspicious of her private doctor, Hans begins to suspect that deadly family secrets are being kept within the mill…

Giorgio Ferroni’s Mill of the Stone Women was Italy’s first horror film shot in color and has become a classic of the Italian Gothic genre. Arrow Video proudly presents four versions of the film with this release, newly restored from the best materials available and including the notorious “topless” shots of sexy French star Dany Carrel originally cut from the US release.

Special Features:

  • New high definition transfers of the film in its 95-minute international version, 90-minute French version, 96-minute Italian version, and 93-minute German version
  • High-Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-ray edition
  • Newly translated English subtitles for French, Italian, and German editions
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Introduction to the film by author and critic Alan Jones
  • Audio Commentary with film critic Tim Lucas
  • Archival interview with actor Wolfgang Preiss
  • Deleted and alternate scenes
  • Theatrical trailers
  • Stills and poster gallery
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Andrea Bini, an essay by Pete Tombs, and a comparison of the versions of the film by Tim Lucas, illustrated with original stills and posters

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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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The Specialist (Sergio Corbucci, 1969)

HIS SPECIALTY IS VENGEANCE!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddFrench pop superstar Johnny Hallyday is Hud, a solitary gunfighter devoted to avenging the murder of his brother falsely accused of robbing a bank and hung by the townsfolk of Blackstone, Nevada.  Riding into town, Hud finds himself caught between the town’s plotting elite, their by-the-book sheriff, and the gang of bandits outside of town led by the one-armed El Diablo.

Sergio Corbucci and cinematographer Dario Di Palma create a stylishly cynical revenge Western unlike any other.  Featuring memorable scene-chewing performances by Gastone Moschin and Mario Adorf and roles by the beautiful Françoise Fabian, Sylvie Fennec, and Angela Luce, The Specialist is a strange, disillusioned parable presented here in an exclusive high definition restoration from the original Techniscope negative.

Special Features:

  • Brand new restoration from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in uncompressed PCM mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • A Man Called Hud – brand new interview with star Johnny Hallyday
  • Hooray for Pollywood – brand new interview with star Francoise Fabian
  • Archived interview of director Sergio Corbucci
  • US, European, and international trailers
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Austin Fisher

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The Mercenary (Sergio Corbucci, 1968)

HE SELLS DEATH TO THE HIGHEST BIDDER!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddAfter his iconic role as Sergio Corbucci’s Django, Franco Nero teamed up once again with the Spaghetti Western’s “other Sergio” to become The Mercenary.  Nero plays Kowalski, a Polish mercenary who sells his expertise to a band of Mexican outlaws led by Paco Roman (Tony Musante), and aids them as they seek to support the revolution and themselves.  When the Federal Army closes in, loyalties and political philosophies become strained between Kowalski, Paco, and their beautiful revolutionary ally Columba (Giovanna Ralli).  Jack Palance joins Corbucci’s fabulous cast as Curly, Kowalski’s dandified rival and cutthroat villain.  With a memorable score by Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, The Mercenary is a political statement with loads of commercial appeal, presented here in an exclusive high-definition restoration from the original Techniscope negative.

Special Features:

  • Brand new restoration from the original 35mm Techniscope camera negative
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original Italian and English soundtracks in uncompressed PCM mono audio
  • Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
  • Brand new interview with star Franco Nero
  • How to Make a Revolution – featurette on the film’s production including interviews with Franco Nero, Tony Musante, Sergio Corbucci, Nora Corbucci, Luciano Vincenzoni, and Eugenio Alabiso
  • US, European, and international trailers
  • Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Austin Fisher and Howard Hughes

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(My) Top Ten List

Criterion Banner FINALEvery month, the Criterion Collection asks a friend – a filmmaker, a programmer, a writer, an actor, an artist – to select their ten favorite movies available from the Criterion Collection and jot down their thoughts about them.  The entries (from people like Jane Campion, Jonathan Lethem, and Sonic Youth) are often surprising, and always entertaining.

Big thanks to Aaron, Kristina, and Ruth for organizing the Criterion Blogathon and for allowing me to craft my own Criterion Top Ten List.  I love lists.  Not in the sense that they represent any kind of canonical statement of anything, but in the way that they reflect certain perspectives.  Good lists say as much about their authors as they do about the films they include, and Criterion’s Top Ten Lists are loaded with as many insights about their “friends” as they are about the films themselves, making those lists doubly valuable to us cinephiles.  In truth, when picking between the hundreds of masterpieces amassed by Criterion, it’s hard to imagine anyone coming up with a bad Top Ten and I’m not sure anyone reads a Criterion Top Ten List to applaud or gripe about what got included.  I read them to see what speaks to these individuals and what personal insights or connections they can share.  Isn’t it great to see how classy Roger Corman’s keeps his Top Ten, how absolutely characteristic Chuck Klosterman’s List proves to be, how amazing is Kim Newman’s choice to include The Human Skeleton, and how utterly greedy Guillermo del Toro is by stuffing 21 films into his Top Ten?  I love it.

My Criterion Top Ten List has been a thornier process than I imagined, with only about half of my initially considered titles actually withstanding the months-long screenings and re-screenings done to prepare a list I feel fairly confident in.  In selecting these 10 films, I asked myself why I liked them, why they stay with me, why they resonate, and how I came upon them.  In doing so, these films not only reflect my tastes in film but also trace my relationship with the Criterion Collection over the last 15+ years.  It includes the third Criterion title I ever bought and one that I saw for the first time less than 3 months ago.  There are themes: unrequited love, seriocomedy, ensembles, meticulous production design, dream sequences, widescreen black and white.  And there are, for me, many surprising exclusions.  No Godard, no Kurosawa, no Powell and Pressburger, and no Maddin.  There’s no Days of Heaven, The Firemen’s BallClose-upWhen a Woman Ascends the Stairs, A Night to RememberThe Tin Drum, Good MorningLes misérables, Divorce Italian StyleThe Night of the Hunter, the Flamenco TrilogyForbidden Games, The Battle of AlgiersIl Posto or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, if just for the DVD’s menu screen.  (I’m already way over 10 films just talking about what didn’t make the cut!)  But the best thing about this Top Ten List is knowing that it’s not permanent, that I might reach into some box set later tonight, read Criterion’s next monthly announcement, or simply grow into being a slightly different (and hopefully better) person and find myself connected to another film that forces its way into my imagination and onto this list.

For the moment, here is my Criterion Top Ten List, arranged for ease of reading (and not for ranking) and including a plain text portion that I imagine would accompany each title in the usual fashion of the Criterion website and an italicized portion that serves as a more personal annotation for each selection.

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