Showing posts with label 1967. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1967. Show all posts

12 January 2018

ARROW ACADEMY PRESENTS: THE WITCHES. (1967) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.

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7 April 2015

Blu-ray Review - Massacre Gun (1967)

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Genre:
Crime, World Cinema
Distributor:
Arrow Video
BD Release Date:
6th April 2015 (UK)
Director:
Yasuharu Hasebe
Cast:
Jô Shishido, Tatsuya Fuji, Ryôji Hayama, Takashi Kanda,
Buy:Massacre Gun [Dual Format Blu-ray + DVD]

Massacre Gun is a Japanese Yakuza crime thriller and stars the actor most associated with the genre - to western audiences at least - Jô Shishido. Shishido is also noted for being one of the first actors known to have plastic surgery but it was to enlarge his cheeks back in the ‘50s. Massacre Gun is similar in style to Seijun Suzuki’s films but lacks the distinctive pop-art surrealism that is on show in his films.

The story of Massacre Gun is fairly standard crime film stuff; it’s about a turf war between rival gangs after Kuroda (Jô Shishido) is forced to kill his lover. He teams up with his brothers who have also been wronged by the mob to escalate their retaliation. It’s surprisingly violent for a Japanese film from the ‘60s- after all, this was the year of Bonnie &Clyde.

The director of Massacre Gun is Yasuharu Hasebe who was an assistant to Suzuki early on his career. He would later become notorious for extremely problematic “pink films”, which often had violent rape scenes. Despite his later forays into this kind of “filmmaking” Massacre Gun is a extremely stylist film which a groovy 60s jazz score and an air of noir melancholy that is only in some of the darker ends of American noir.

The climax is a shoot out on a deserted highway that would have Tarantino jizzing so hard his eyes would pop out of their sockets. It’s a more straightforward film than Suzuki’s work due to it’s narrative precision that is almost like Sam Fuller in style, very blunt no nonsense filmmaking at it’s finest. Kazue Nagatsuka is responsible for the cinematograpy who photographed a lot of Suzuki’s film so the overall look is reminiscent just without the surreal angles, lighting and production design.

Arrow Video is always reliable when it comes to special features and this is no exception. The two main features are an interview with Jô Shishido and lengthy interview with historian Tony Rayns who does a lengthy history of the studio behind the film Nikkatsu. Rayns will be doing a similar piece but the upcoming release of Retaliation but a focus on the work of Yasuharu Hasebe.

★★★★
Ian Schultz

16 January 2015

Blu-ray Review - Two For the Road (1967)

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Genre:
Comedy
Distributor:
Eureka
Release Date:
19th January 2015
Rating: PG
Director:
Stanley Donen
Cast: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney
Buy: Blu-ray - Two for the Road

Two for the Road is a slightly forgotten film by Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain, Bedazzled, Charade), which has been re-released by Eureka in their Masters of Cinema imprint. It stars Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn and both have rarely been better. The film’s influence can certainly be seen in Richard Linklater’s rightfully celebrated Before Trilogy.

Mark Wallace (Albert Finney) is a well off architect who is married to Joanne (Audrey Hepburn) in a relationship which is obviously on the rocks. Through a series of flashbacks and flash-forwards the stories of how they fell in love, fell out of love, and got back together are shown. The film is mostly set in parts of Northern France, and more often than not is set on the same road but at different points in their relationship.

It was an interesting period for Hollywood when Two for the Road came out; films like Bonnie &Clyde and Point Blank were murdering the classic Hollywood studio system. I think Donen saw this and decided to make a film which partly owed itself to some of the work from the French New Wave, but simultaneously worked as a mainstream romantic comedy. It was also the first big film that Albert Finney did for an American Studio; he had great success a couple years earlier with Tom Jones (for those who don’t know, it’s not about the Welsh singer). Audrey Hepburn obviously was a massive iconic film star, but even by 1967 her star was fading and she only acted in 5 more films in the next 25 years.

Frederic Raphael, who had a massive success with Darling starring Julie Christie (he won the Oscar for it), wrote the script. It has been said that the interactions between Finney and Hepburn are based on his own relationship with his wife, and it certainly has a feel of an authentic real life romance. Raphael deservingly was nominated for an Oscar for the script.
Christopher Challis shot the film. He learned his trade being a camera operator for Powell & Pressburger, eventually graduating to becoming their DP. Martin Scorsese once said of Challis, “Chris Challis brought a vibrancy to the celluloid palette that was entirely his own, and which helped make Britain a leader in that long, glorious period of classic world cinema”. His innovative work is on glorious display in Two for the Road. The photography of the French landscape just pops with the new Hi-Def transfer.

Two for the Road is fascinating and extremely funny film and a example of old Hollywood director taking his cues from the New Wave but making something still accessible to a mainstream audience in 1960s. It’s editing is fascinating and it’s shot length is extremely short for the period, much more modern than even someone like Sam Peckinpah who is noted for his fast cuts. It’s probably Audrey Hepburn’s finest performance and Finney is always a joy on screen. The film’s influence on future films is undeniable, and it has a wonderful score by Henri Mancini that fits the mood and pace perfectly - he considered it the favourite among his scores.  

The disc contains an interview with Frederic Raphael, a commentary by Stanley Donen, the theatrical trailer and a booklet with essays on the film.

★★★★
Ian Schultz