The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Phenix City Story.

Corruption, brutality, and vice plagued Phenix City, Alabama, for 100 years, so who would dare to change it? Based on real-life events and filmed on location in what was called Sin City USA, director Phil Karlson’s semi-documentary tears this jolting tale from its Pulitzer Prize-winning headlines and tells the story of those citizens who risked their lives to bring down the burg’s syndicate of thugs and murderers. Signalling the end of stylish film noir and pointing to the crime-busting exposés that followed, this classic B-noir remains indelible for its shockingly transgressive violence, its unsettling authenticity, and its subtextual awareness of the struggling civil rights movement.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Phil Karlson: The Core of Fact, a short appreciation featuring writer/film historian Alan K. Rode
  • New interview with critics and one-time Alabamans Jonathan Rosenbaum and Nathaniel Thompson
  • Historic photos of Sin City-era Phenix City
  • PLUS: An essay by critic R. Emmet Sweeney

Continue reading

Advertisements

A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1946)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents A Matter of Life and Death.

criterion logoAs his plane is going down in flames, doomed World War II pilot, Squadron Leader Peter Carter (David Niven) meets over the radio the love of his life, an American radio operator named June (Kim Hunter).  He miraculously survives the crash and the pair commence their romance, but Carter is troubled with a life-threatening brain injury treated by a village doctor (Roger Livesey) and a heavenly collector (Marius Goring) intent on escorting his errant soul to the other side.  Originally designed as a propaganda piece to promote better relations between Britain and the United States, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death became an English classic featuring delightful performances by its cast, accomplished Technicolor cinematography by Jack Cardiff, and spectacular production design by Alfred Junge.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • Audio commentary by film historian Ian Christie
  • Martin Scorsese on A Matter of Life and Death
  • Thelma Schoonmaker Powell and Grover Crisp on AMOLAD and its restoration
  • Interview with cinematographer Jack Cardiff
  • A Matter of Fried Onions, Diane Broadbent Friedman on the medical foundation of AMOLAD
  • Behind the scenes footage, filmed during a visit to Denham Studios by Canadian soldiers
  • “The King and the Stars,” a Front Page newsreel by British Pathé on the 1946 Royal Command Film Performance screening, along with unused and unissued footage of the event and the press reception
  • New interview with author J. K. Rowling and actor Daniel Radcliffe in appreciation of the film
  • Two Lux Radio Theatre productions from 1947 (starring Ray Milland, Ann Blyth, and Nigel Bruce) and 1955 (starring David Niven and Barbara Rush)
  • The Hedda Hooper Show – This is Hollywood‘s 30-minute radio adaptation, starring David Niven, Kim Hunter, and Vincent Price
  • Screen Director’s Playhouse radio production from 1951, starring Robert Cummings and Julia Adams
  • Kinescope of the “Stairway to Heaven” TV adaptation for Robert Montgomery Presents, starring Richard Green, Jean Gillespie, and Bramwell Fletcher
  • Parody sketch from Big Train, featuring Simon Pegg, Kevin Eldon, Mark Heap, and Amelia Bullmore
  • Gallery of sketches and stills of Alfred Junge’s production designs
  • Sequence shot for Powell and Pressburger’s unmade The White Cockade, starring David Niven and Pamela Brown
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring behind the scenes photos, the script, and new essays by film critics Dave Kehr, Robert Horton, and Mark Kermode

Continue reading

The Flesh and the Fiends (John Gilling, 1960)

MURDER WAS THEIR BUSINESS!

AV_Inferno_DVD_.inddEdinburgh.  1827.  The Scottish capital is the world leader in medical research but a scarcity of legally available cadavers has caused medical schools to turn to “resurrectionists,” grave-robbers selling freshly buried (and not so freshly buried) bodies liberated from local graveyards.  Irish immigrants Burke (George Rose) and Hare (Donald Pleasence) join the ranks of the body-snatchers, striking up an uneasy business relationship with eminent surgeon Dr. Robert Knox (Peter Cushing) and quickly deciding to speed the process along by murdering the poor and the homeless.  Men and women, old and young, everyone becomes a target for the deadly duo, but even as the body count rises, Knox turns a blind eye to their methods in order to further his research.  When Burke and Hare go too far and murder a well known figure of the Edinburgh slums, the public goes mad for the killers’ blood and Dr. Knox’s conspiracy is revealed with harrowing consequences.

John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends is a forgotten and under-appreciated classic of British horror, a historical thriller with a disturbingly black heart that is made all the darker for having told the true account of Scotland’s most famous serial killers.  Violent and salacious, yet grand and expressionistic, The Flesh and the Fiends is presented here, for the first time, in high-definition presentations of both the British and the infamous “Continental” cuts of the film.

Special Features:

  • New high definition digital transfer of the British cut of The Flesh and the Fiends and of the “Continental” version with added scenes of nudity and violence shot for the more permissive European market
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard DVD Presentation
  • Uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New interview with director Joe Dante and graphic artist Charlie Largent on The Flesh and the Fiends and its subsequent versions
  • In Search of Burke and Hare, a documentary on the West Port murders by David Street and hosted by David Hayman
  • Theatrical trailer for The Fiendish Ghouls, the shortened US re-release version of the film
  • Alternate title sequence from Mania, the first US version of the film
  • Gallery of photos, posters, and lobby cards
  • Collector’s booklet featuring an essay by genre writer Jonathan Sothcott and film scholar Edwin Samuelson

Continue reading

Forty Guns (Samuel Fuller, 1957)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Forty Guns.

criterion logoJessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) rules over her county in Arizona with an army of forty gunmen until gunslinger-turned-US Marshall Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) and his brothers arrive, bringing law and order to Drummond’s corrupt empire.  But when Jessica and Griff fall in love and Griff’s brother is murdered, loyalties become divided between romance, family, justice, and revenge.  Written, directed, and produced by Samuel Fuller, Forty Guns explodes off the screen with audacious cinematography, psychosexual energy, and a hyperbolic story that unites style and substance in a muscular Western classic.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by Sam Fuller biographer Lisa Dombrowski
  • A new video essay on the film’s pre-production featuring filmmaker Jim Jarmusch reading archived memoranda from the 20th Century Fox archives
  • Stills gallery of photos, posters, lobby cards for American and international promotion
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker Allison Anders, Jean-Luc Godard’s 1957 review for Cahiers du cinéma, and excepts from Fuller’s autobiography, A Third Face: My Tale of Writing, Fighting, and Filmmaking

Continue reading

Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Night of the Demon.

criterion logoWhen psychologist John Holden’s colleague, Professor Harrington, is mysteriously and brutally murdered, Holden denies that it is the devilry of satanic cult leader Doctor Julian Karswell, until he becomes the next target of Karswell’s demonic curse!  A cult classic starring Dana Andrews as the unyielding debunker of the paranormal, Peggy Cummins as Harrington’s devoted niece, and Niall McGinnis as the charming master of dark forces, this British horror noir recalls director Jacques Tourneur’s previous work with famed B-horror film producer Val Lewton and stands as the filmmaker’s last great masterpiece.  Presented here in new restored editions are both the original version released in the UK and the truncated American version, re-titled Curse of the Demon.

Disc Features:

  • Includes new digital transfers of both versions of the film: Night of the Demon, the 96-minute British cut, and Curse of the Demon, the 81-minute version released in the United States
  • New video introduction by Martin Scorsese
  • Interview with Peggy Cummins
  • A video essay with film critic Chris Fujiwara
  • Samuel Wigley on the script of Night of the Demon
  • Gallery of production photos and promotional materials
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Danny Peary and M. R. James’s 1911 source story, “Casting the Runes”

Continue reading

The Mattei Affair (Francesco Rosi, 1972)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Mattei Affair.

criterion logoIn the 1950s, during Italy’s postwar industrial boom, the head of its state-owned oil company, Enrico Mattei, leveraged a small reserve of methane gas in the Po Valley and challenged the established order for international energy policy until he mysteriously died in a plane crash in 1962.  Francesco Rosi, along with his frequent collaborator and actor of choice, Gian Maria Volonté, presents a portrait of Mattei as a dogged industrialist and an unrelenting force for political action, material security, and self-determination.  The Mattei Affair, winner of the Palme d’Or at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival, is an obliquely non-linear interrogation of the life and death of one of Italy’s most controversial figures and a rumination on the causes and complicities that led the nation into a period of social and political turmoil.

Disc Features:

  • New digital master from the Film Foundation’s 4K restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New video introduction with Martin Scorsese
  • New video interviews with Francesco Rosi and film critics Tullio Kezich and Michel Ciment
  • Unique – Francesco Rosi on Gian Maria Volonté, Marco Spagnoli’s 30-minute documentary with Rosi on the 20th anniversary of Volonté’s death
  • Video appreciation with filmmaker Alex Cox
  • Restoration demonstration with Scorsese
  • Power & Oil: Enrico Mattei, an hour-long documentary by Fabio Pellarin in 2008
  • Gallery of production art
  • New and improved subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring new essays by film critics Stuart Klawans and Gary Crowdus

Continue reading