Tuesday, May 31, 2022

A Fistful of Dollars – Kino Lorber (4k UHD/Blu-ray Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/Spain/West Germany, 1964
Director: Sergio Leone
Writers: Víctor Andrés Catena, Jaime Comas Gil, Sergio Leone, Fernando Di Leo, Ryûzô Kikushima, Duccio Tessari, Tonino Valerii
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Marianne Koch, Gian Maria Volontè, Wolfgang Lukschy, Sieghardt Rupp, Antonio Prieto, Mario Brega 

Release Date: May 31st, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 99 Minutes 47 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC SDR (4K UHD), 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Blu-ray)
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free (UHD)/Region A (Blu-Ray)
Retail Price: $39.95

"A lean, cold-eyed, cobra-quick gunfighter (Eastwood) arrives in a grim and dusty border town where two rival bands of smugglers terrorize the impoverished citizens. Though he receives lucrative offers of employment from each gang, his loyalty cannot be bought. He accepts both jobs...and sets in motion a deadly plan to destroy the criminals, pitting one against the other in a series of brilliantly orchestrated setups, showdowns and deadly confrontations." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5 (4K UHD), 4.25/5 (Blu-ray)

Over the years, Sergio Leone's films have been treated poorly on home video. Nowhere is this clearer then how inconsistent the audio and video has been since the first time his films got released on home video. Another shortcoming of Sergio Leone’s films on home video is that most of these releases represent versions that alter his original vision. Fortunately in recent years there has been a raised awareness to finally restore his films the way they he intended them to be seen.

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Over 24 hours of extensive shot-by-shot color grading of the logarithmic restored 4K files provided by L’Immagine Ritrovata.”

A Fistful of Dollars comes on a 100 GB triple layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 65.3 GB

Feature: 63.7 GB

Though Kino Lorber released A Fistful of Dollars on Blu-ray in 2018, I have not seen that release. The only A Fistful of Dollars Blu-ray release that I have seen is MGM’s 2011 Blu-ray. That said, for this release, Kino Lorber has done additional work to the source, and the transfer for the Blu-ray included as part of this combo comes from the new transfer that’s being used for the 4K UHD disc.

This new transfer from Kino Lorber will come as a revelation for those most familiar with A Fistful of Dollars. Image clarity is solid, black levels are consistently strong, there are no complaints when it comes to color saturation, and the image retains an organic look that is free of any digital tinkering.

A Fistful of Dollars comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.8 GB

Feature: 30.7 GB

Audio: 4.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. I only listened to the DTS-HD mono mix for this review. The DTS-HD mono mix in English is in great shape; dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced, ambient sounds are well-represented, and Ennio Morricone’s score sounds appropriately robust. The 5.1 track is the same track that Kino Lorber used on their earlier Blu-ray release. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release are spread over two discs.

Extras on the 4K UHD disc include an audio commentary with novelist and film critic Tim Lucas and an audio commentary with noted film historian Sir Christopher Frayling.

Extras on the Blu-ray disc include a theatrical trailer (2 minutes 32 seconds, DTS-HD mono English, no subtitles), A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More - Burning at Both Ends double feature trailer (2 minutes 6 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More - Burning at Both Ends double feature radio spot (1 minute 2 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), image galleries: A Fistful of Dollars On the Set, Promoting A Fistful of Dollars, and A Fistful in Pictures, A Fistful of Dollars original outtakes (2 minutes 41 seconds, DTS-HD stereo/no dialog/music from the film playing in the background), Trailers from Hell with John Badham (3 minutes 58 seconds, DTS-HD stereo English, no subtitles), an archival featurette titled Locations Comparisons: Then and Now (5 minutes 21 seconds, DTS-HD stereo/music from the film playing in the background), The Network Prologue with Harry Dean Stanton (7 minutes 43 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with filmmaker Monte Hellman who discusses A Fistful of Dollars the television broadcast (6 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival featurette titled Tre Voci: Three Friends Remember Sergio Leone (11 minutes 13 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actor Clint Eastwood titled A Few Weeks in Spain (8 minutes 32 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Sir Christopher Frayling titled A New Kind of Hero (22 minutes 53 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with Sir Christopher Frayling titled The Frayling Archives: A Fistful of Dollars (18 minutes 40 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an archival interview with actress Marianne Koch titled Marisol: Sergio Leone’s Madonna of the West (32 minutes 57 seconds, DTS-HD stereo German with non-removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Tim Lucas and an audio commentary with Sir Christopher Frayling.

Other extras on the Blu-ray disc include trailers for For a Few Dollars More, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and A Fistful of Dynamite (Duck, You Sucker!).

Other extras include a limited-edition slipcover.

Summary:

When Sergio Leone directed A Fistful of Dollars, he had only directed The Colossus of Rhodes, a by-the-numbers Sword and Sandal film. And yet, by the time he unleashed A Fistful of Dollars, his growth as a filmmaker was substantial. And though the cinematic flourishes in Colossus of Rhodes foreshadow where Sergio Leone was going as a filmmaker, it is a film that stands out like a sore thumb in his filmography.

When discussing A Fistful of Dollars, it is always best to address the elephant in the room. It is widely acknowledged that A Fistful of Dollars is an unofficial remake of Akira Kurosawa's Yojimbo, a film which is an uncredited adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest.

A Fistful of Dollars is overshadowed by the four spaghetti westerns directed by Sergio Leone that followed it. The result is a truly remarkable cinematic experience that influenced hundreds of films and put the spaghetti western genre on the map.

One thing that you can count on when it comes to spaghetti westerns is that most of them have opening sequences that give their protagonist a grand entrance. And in A Fistful of Dollars, Clint Eastwood’s character gets a spectacular entrance.

Speaking of Clint Eastwood, though he was not Sergio Leone’s original choice, It would be hard to imagine any other actor doing what Clint Eastwood did. He portrays a character who’s a man of few words and who lets his gun do most of the talking.

Another performance of note is Gian Maria Volontè (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) in the role of Ramón Rojo, the ringleader of one of the gangs that Clint Eastwood’s character pits against each other. He delivers another operatic performance that walks a fine line that comes close, but never goes over the top.

From a production standpoint, A Fistful of Dollars is a film that maximizes its resources and milks them for all their worth. Though the premise covers familiar ground, in Sergio Leone’s hands, it feels fresh. The well-executed narrative has an ample amount of action and double and triple crosses. With an exemplary finale shootout that provides a perfect climax. Another strength is Ennio Morrione’s remarkable score. Ultimately, A Fistful of Dollars is not only one of the best spaghetti westerns, it is one of the best westerns ever made.

A Fistful of Dollars makes its way to 4K UHD via an excellent release from Kino Lorber that has never looked or sounded better, and it comes with a wealth of informative extras, highly recommended.

                                                             4K UHD screenshots.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Sunday, May 29, 2022

Strangler vs. Strangler – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Yugoslavia, 1984
Director: Slobodan Sijan
Writers: Nebojsa Pajkic, Slobodan Sijan
Cast: Tasko Nacic, Nikola Simic, Srdjan Saper, Sonja Savic, Rahela Ferari, Radmila Savicevic, María Baxa, Pavle Mincic

Release Date: June 14th, 2022
Approximate running time: 96 Minutes 10 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Serbian, LPCM Mono English
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.95

"It’s the mid-1980s and the city of Belgrade is aiming for metropolitan status which would put it on a level with New York, Paris and London. For a city to reach that category it has to attain a special level of crime. It needs a serial killer. Exhibitionists in cemeteries, peepers in parks, bank robbers, reckless drivers, rapists, murderers, all these Belgrade already has. For the city to be classified as a metropolis it needs the king of criminals: the strangler.

Suddenly a series of murders takes place. A deranged flower seller is strangling women on the streets of Belgrade, their crime in his eyes being that they refused to buy his carnations. At last, the city has its own serial killer. Finally, it can attain the status of metropolis.

A local new wave rock musician become obsessed with the murders and releases a single dedicated to “The Belgrade Strangler”. An outspoken female DJ condemns media interest in the case, arousing the ire of the Strangler himself. Gradually these three characters find themselves drawn together, leading to a surprising and bizarre climax." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “a brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative.”

Strangler vs. Strangler comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 36.8 GB

Feature: 27.9 GB

The source used for this transfer looks excellent. Colors are nicely saturated, image clarity and balck levels are solid. 

Audio: 5/5 (LPCM Mono Serbian), 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Serbian and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both the audio mixes sound clean, clear, balanced, and robust when they should. That said, the English language track has some of the qualities that dubbed audio tracks are known for. Included are two subtitle tracks; the first English subtitle track is for the Serbian language track, and the second English subtitle track is for Serbian text and when the song The Belgrade Strangler is performed.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel, an interview with director Slobodan Šijan (29 minutes 50 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English with removable English subtitles for Serbian films clips), and an audio commentary with author Dejan Ognjanović and filmmaker Igor Stanojević, in English.

Summary:

Strangler vs. Strangler is a different kind of Serbian film. It was made when Serbia was part of Yugoslavia. And though it is not as graphic as some of Serbia’s more recent films that have reached international audiences, it is amazing that such a subversive film could have been made in a communist country.

Just when you thought that you had seen just about everything when it came to horror cinema. Along comes a film like Strangler vs. Strangler, which does a remarkable job mixing horror and humor. The narrative revolves around an emasculated man who sells carnation flowers, and he lives with his overbearing mother.

From its opening moments, Strangler vs. Strangler establishes a manic tone that is relentless. The well-executed narrative opens with a montage sequence about Belgrade and some of its more colorful criminals and deviants. From there, the narrative uses a flashback to fill in the backstory. With a crazy ending that's worthy of the events that preceded it.

The cast are great in their respective roles, especially Tasko Nacic in the role of the protagonist, Pera Mitic, a disorganized man who unleashes his anger on unsuspecting women who don’t like his carnations. His name in the English dubbed version is Peter, which is fitting since he kind of resembles Peter Lorre.

There are so many things to like about Strangler vs. Strangler. Its absurd premise, its use of humor, and its visual style, which features black and white cinematography, intertitle cards like silent cinema, and Neo-noir inspired moments. Ultimately, Strangler vs. Strangler is a delirious film that fans of horror/comedy hybrids are sure to thoroughly enjoy.

Strangler vs. Strangler gets an excellent release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and a pair of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Hotel Fear – Mondo Macabro (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy/Spain, 1978
Director: Francesco Barilli
Writers: Barbara Alberti, Amedeo Pagani, Francesco Barilli, Francisco Ariza, José Gutiérrez Maesso
Cast: Luc Merenda, Leonora Fani, Francisco Rabal, Jole Fierro, José María Prada, Lidia Biondi, Máximo Valverde, Francesco Impeciati

Release Date: June 14th, 2022
Approximate running time: 99 Minutes 11 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono Spanish
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"The story takes place in Italy towards the end of World War Two, in a run-down hotel on the shore of a large lake. A strange assortment of guests are staying there. They seem to be either suffering from mental illness, involved in scams of one sort or another, or hiding from something in their past.

Rosa, a teenage girl played by Lenora Fani, works with her mother, Marta, trying to keep the hotel functioning. Due to the war and the frequent bombing raids that take place, the hotel is on its last legs and even finding food for the guests is a major problem. Rosa writes letters to send to her father who is off fighting in the war.

Rosa’s mother dies unexpectedly, and suddenly the girl finds herself at the mercy of the sexually rapacious and insane hotel guests. After a vicious rape by two of the guests, Rosa despairs. She calls on her absent father to avenge her. And it seems her call is answered when the two guests die violently at the hands of a masked, gloved killer. But who really is this mystery assassin? And is Rosa losing her grip on reality?" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “a brand new 2K restoration of the original camera negative.”

Hotel Fear comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 43.5 GB

Feature: 28.9 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape. The colors are nicely saturated, the image looks crisp, and the black levels are strong.

Audio: 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono Italian, LPCM Mono Spanish)

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in Italian and a LPCM mono mix in Spanish. Both audio tracks are in great shape. They sound clean, clear, and balanced throughout. The differences between these two audio tracks are minimal. Included with this release are two subtitle tracks. The first English subtitle track is for the Italian language track, and the second English subtitle track is for the Spanish language track. 

Extras:

Extras for this release include a Mondo Macabro preview reel, a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 59 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Italian, no subtitles), alternate scenes titled Italian & Spanish Versions Compared (6 minutes 47 seconds, Dolby Digital mono Spanish with non-removable English subtitles and text about each scene), an interview with director Francesco Barilli titled Madness in the Time of War (30 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with Francesco Barilli at Cin-excess London from 2015 (28 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), interview with actor Luc Merenda titled I’m Not That Guy (29 minutes 9 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), and an audio commentary with Rachael Nisbit and Peter Jilmstad of the Fragments of Fear podcast.

Summary:

Hotel Fear was directed by Francesco Barilli, a filmmaker whose filmography consists mostly of documentaries. His only feature film that he directed is The Perfume of the Lady in Black, a film which also falls into the Giallo genre. That said, though his two feature films are from the Giallo genre, the results are two of the more unique films from this genre. Where most Giallo films were indebted to filmmakers like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, Francesco Barilli’s two forays into the Giallo genre bear little resemblance to the filmmakers who laid the foundation from which most Italian filmmakers drew inspiration.

Though Hotel Fear has many elements that are associated with the Giallo genre, if you have never seen Hotel Fear before, its slow-building narrative that is overflowing with melodrama and eroticism will have you wondering when the Giallo tropes are going to start. For about seventy minutes, Hotel Fear does not resemble a Giallo. It is not until a traumatic moment happens with thirty-minutes left that Hotel Fear transforms into a Giallo. The finale provides a satisfying exclamation point to the events that preceded.

Hotel Fear features a solid cast who are all very good in their respective roles, especially Leonora Fani (Gore in Venice) in the role of Rosa, a young woman through whose eyes the majority of the narrative is seen. Other notable performances include Francisco Rabal (It's nothing mama, just a game) in the role of Rosa’s mother's lover who hides in a closet, and Luc Merenda (The Violent Professionals) in the role of a suave playboy named Rodolfo.

Hotel Fear has many similarities to Francesco Barilli’s other Giallo, The Perfume of the Lady. Most notably, how both films feature protagonists who have experienced a traumatic event that prominently plays a role in the story at hand, and how both films are infused with a Gothic horror vibe. Another strength of Hotel Fear is Adolfo Waitzman’s (The Other Side of the Mirror) fabulous score, which does a superb job of reinforcing the mood. Ultimately, Hotel Fear is a solid psychological thriller that fans of Giallo cinema are sure to enjoy.

Hotel Fear makes its way to Blu-ray via an exceptional release from Mondo Macabro that comes with a solid audio/video presentation and an abundance of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

The Perfume of the Lady in Black – Raro Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1974
Director: Francesco Barilli
Writers: Francesco Barilli, Massimo D’Avak
Cast: Mimsy Farmer, Maurizio Bonuglia, Mario Scaccia, Jho Jhenkins, Nike Arrighi, Lara Wendel, Aleka Paizi, Renata Zamengo

Release Date: May 10th, 2016
Approximate running time: 103 Minutes 29 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English, DTS-HD Mono Italian
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.95

"Sylvia, a chemist who begins to suffer from strange visions; a mysterious woman in black applying perfume in a mirror appears to her and strangers follow her everywhere she goes. Barilli's psychological investigation into the workings of the mind becomes apparent when it is revealed that as a child, Sylvia committed a horrible crime. The slow progression from successful scientist to a woman on the verge of insanity shows an in-depth look at the intricacies of the haunted mind." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 2.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “Digitally restored and remastered.” 

The Perfume of the Lady in Black comes on a 25 GB single layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 22 GB

Feature: 14.7 GB

Though the source is in great shape. This is yet another Raro Video transfer that suffers from compression and noise reduction.

Audio: 3.75/5 (DTS-HD Mono Italian), 3.5/5 (DTS-HD Mono English)

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian. These audio mixes fare better than the transfer; dialog comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. That said, the Italian language track sounds slightly more robust than its English language counterpart. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 22 seconds, DTS-HD mono Italian with removable English subtitles), a short film directed by Francesco Barilli titled The Knight Errant (23 minutes 34 seconds, DTS-HD stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), an interview with Francesco Barilli (15 minutes 30 seconds, DTS-HD stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), a slipcover, and a four-page booklet with an essay titled The Perfume of the Lady in Black within the context of 1960’s horror, a biography for Francesco Barilli, and a filmography for Francesco Barilli.

Summary:

When one thinks of Italian thrillers, the image of black-gloved killers lurking in the shadows often springs to mind. And while not every Italian thriller is bound to these aforementioned staples of the genre, very few Italian thrillers since Mario Bava’s The Girl Who Knew Too Much have diverged much away from this tried and true formula.

Content wise, the two most obvious influences on Francesco Barilli’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black are Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby. In fact, one could go so far to say that Roman Polanski’s cinematic style had the most undeniable influence on Francesco Barilli while making The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Besides the aforementioned Rosemary’s Baby, there are also many similarities that can be found between The Perfume of the Lady in Black and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.

Though the narrative structure can be challenging at times, the climatic payoff is oddly appropriate and makes everything that has unfolded become clear. Between the hypnotic visuals, pitch-perfect pacing and Nicola Piovani’s (Flavia the Heretic) evocative score, the overall style reinforces the fractured state of mind of The Perfume of the Lady in Black’s protagonist. From a production standpoint, The Perfume of the Lady in Black excels in just about every imaginable way.

Also exceptional are the performances from its entire cast, especially Mimsy Farmer (Four Flies on Grey Velvet) in the role of Silvia Hacherman, the protagonist of this film. This is easily one of the strongest performances of her career. Another performance of note is Lara Wendel (My Dear Killer) in the role of the adolescent Silvia.

Italian cinema has never shied from cloning whatever cinema was in vogue at the time. And while there are certainly many moments in which The Perfume of the Lady in Black flamboyantly flaunts its influences, the end result is a film that, more than any other Italian film of the era, transcends its initial inspiration.

Raro Video’s The Perfume of the Lady in Black Blu-ray is another disappointing release.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Friday, May 27, 2022

Human Lanterns – 88 Films (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Hong Kong, 1982
Director: Chung Sun
Writers: Kuang Ni, Chung Sun
Cast: Tony Liu, Kuan Tai Chen, Lieh Lo, Ni Tien, Linda Chu, Hsiu-Chun Lin, Meng Lo, Chien Sun

Release Date: June 7th, 2022
Approximate Running Time: 99 Minutes 2 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: LPCM Mono Mandarin
Subtitles: English
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: $29.95

"When an unbalanced craftsman decides to get revenge on two Kung Fu masters by creating special lanterns constructed from the human skin of their dead relatives, all hell breaks loose in this gruesome tale of bloody retribution." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, “HD transfer from original negative.” 

Human Lanterns comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 42.3 GB

Feature: 23.9 GB

The source used for this transfer looks great. Colors, image clarity, and black levels are strong throughout.

Audio: 3.25/5

This release comes with one audio option, a LPCM mono mix in Mandarin, and included with this release are removable English subtitles. Though the dialog comes through clearly, there are times that this track lacks depth, and there are some sibilance issues.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (1 minute 33 seconds, LPCM mono Mandarin with removable English subtitles), an interview with actor Lau Wing titled The Ambiguous Hero (51 minutes 11 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an interview with actress Linda Chu titled The Beauty and the Beasts (14 minutes 39 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with actress Susan Shaw titled A Shaw Story (13 minutes 48 seconds, LPCM stereo Chinese with non-removable English subtitles), an audio commentary with Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon of the Podcast on Fire Network, reversible cover art, a double-sided foldout poster, a limited edition slipcover and twenty-four page booklet with an essay titled Splicing Genres with Human Lanterns written by Barry Forshaw.

Summary:

Though the Shaw Brothers are most remembered for their martial arts films, Specifically, their Wuxia film. When it comes to their contributions to the horror genre, these films are not your run-of-the-mill horror films. A case in point is Human Lanterns, a film that is just as much a horror film as it is a Wuxia film, combining the best of these two genres.

From its opening moments, Human Lanterns establishes a foreboding tone that becomes bleaker as the narrative reaches its climax. The premise of a craftsman that uses human flesh to make lanterns is full of gruesome possibilities, and Human Lanterns fully exploits this premise for all its worth. Needless to say, there’s never a shortage of creepy atmosphere in Human Lanterns.

The cast members all give great performances, particularly Lieh Lo (King Boxer) in the role of Chao Chun-Fang, a renowned lantern craftsman. He delivered an amazing performance where he fully immersed himself in his character's madness. That said, his performance is the heart and soul of Human Lanterns.

Though Human Lanterns is most known for its horror genre elements, when it comes to its martial arts set pieces, Human Lanterns more than delivers. With the inventiveness of martial arts set pieces being one of Human Lantern's greatest assets.

From a production standpoint, there is not an area where Human Lanterns do not deliver and then some. The premise is superbly realized, with a well-executed narrative that perfectly balances action and exposition moments and a finale that lives up to everything that preceded it. It should be noted that the score features a music cue from Daimajin. Ultimately, Human Lanterns is a highly entertaining horror/martial arts hybrid that lives up to its name.

Human Lanterns gets a great release from 88 Films that comes with a solid transfer and an abundance of insightful extras, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Conversation Piece – Eureka Video (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1974
Director: Luchino Visconti
Writers: Suso Cecchi D’Amico, Enrico Medioli, Luchino Visconti
Cast: Burt Lancaster, Helmut Berger, Silvana Mangano, Claudia Marsani, Stefano Patrizi, Romolo Valli, Claudia Cardinale, Dominique Sanda

Release Date: August 15th, 2016
Approximate running time: 121 Minutes 17 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Rating: 18 (UK)
Sound: LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian
Subtitles: English, English SDH
Region Coding: Region B/Region 2 NTSC
Retail Price: £12.99

"A retired American professor (Lancaster) lives a solitary and luxurious life in a house in Rome. His world takes an unexpected turn when he is forced to rent part of his house to a countess and her companions: a lover, a daughter and the daughter’s boyfriend. Forced into interaction with the unruly younger group, the professor’s growing fascination begins to stir the possibilities of a life he had previously kept at arm’s length." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5

Here’s the information provided about the transfer, "1080p transfer of the film from a brand new 2K restoration."

Conversation Piece comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 41.8 GB

Feature: 35.6 GB

Anyone who was disappointed by Raro Video’s 2012 Blu-ray release transfer will be very satisfied with Eureka Video’s transfer that's been sourced from a brand new 2K restoration. Raro Video’s new transfer does not suffer from the removal of grain that plagued Raro Video’s transfer. That said, it should be noted that colors look different and the image looks darker in Eureka Video’s transfer when compared to Raro Video’s transfer. In this reviewer's opinion, Eureka Video’s transfer is a more accurate presentation of how Conversation Piece should look.

Audio: 4.5/5 (LPCM Mono English, LPCM Mono Italian)

This release comes with two audio options, a LPCM mono mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in Italian. Both the audio mixes are in great shape; the dialog comes through clearly, and everything sounds balanced and robust when it should. Included with this release are two subtitle options, English subtitles for the Italian language track and English SDH subtitles for the English language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a theatrical trailer (3 minutes 43 seconds, LPCM mono Italian with removable English subtitles), an archival interview with film critic and screenwriter Alessandro Bencivenni (9 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with non-removable English subtitles), an archival documentary titled Luchino Visconti: The Quest for the Impossible (56 minutes 32 seconds, LPCM stereo Italian with removable English subtitles), and a twenty-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay about Conversation Piece written by Pasquale Iannone, information about the transfer titled Notes on Viewing, and Blu-ray credits.

Included with this release is a DVD that has the same content as the Blu-ray included as part of this combo release.

Summary:

From the moment of his arrival in 1943, Luchino Visconti has been a filmmaker who has infused his films with themes that were near and dear to him. And in return, many of his films have been singled out for the way in which they embrace controversy. With that being said, to simply say that he went out of his way to court controversy would be a great disservice to the layers of rich subtext that pervade every film in his cinematic canon. While there are a few instances where his use of subtext comes across as heavy handed, for the most part, it is done so subtly that the majority of his films require multiple viewers to fully absorb everything that is going on.

Thematically, Conversation Piece draws from many of the obsessions that time and again cropped up in his films, most notably decadent behavior and classism. Other themes that play an integral part in the story at hand include solitude and lack of communication. Right from the get go, Conversation Piece reinforces its message of "lack of communication" by the way in which it shows that no matter how alike people look on the surface, upon closer inspection, they are actually greatly divided. It is also this examination of deception that proves to be this film's greatest asset.

Whereas the majority of Luchino Visconti's films are known for their grandeur, Conversation Piece was the antithesis, with the bulk of the film taking place in one location. And while limiting a film that is primarily dialog-driven to one primary location could have been a disaster, this decision actually proves to be an inspired one, since it reinforces all of this film's main two main themes: solitude and lack of communication. Also, despite any aforementioned limitations due to lack of locations, there is actually a tremendous amount of visual substance on display throughout.

Being that Conversation Piece is a dialog-driven melodrama, it should not come as a surprise that the performances in Conversation Piece are exceptional. Performance wise, Conversation Piece is anchored by Burt Lancaster’s (The Leopard) in the role of the retired American professor. The film's story is told through the eyes of his character, and he gives an utterly convincing performance that resonates long after the film’s haunting coda. Another performance of note is Helmut Berger (The Secret of Dorian Grey) in the role of the flamboyant "kept man", whose mistress gets him the apartment above the retired American professor.

Conversation Piece gets a first-rate release from Eureka Video that comes with a transfer that is superior to Raro Video's abominable transfer for their Blu-ray release. Also, Eureka Video’s release comes with a trio of informative extras, highly recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

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