*indicates that this title is also available to rent, purchase from, or stream on various platforms.
“Black Circle” (2018, Synapse Films*) A self-help record from the 1970s which promises to reduce the negative elements in the listener’s life proves accurate for sisters Felice Jankell and Erika Midfjall, albeit with one unsettling side effect: said negative elements manifest as doppelgangers of the listener that gain more power with every spin of the LP. Mexican-Swedish horror from Spanish director Adrian Garcia Bogliano plays a neat trick with two well-worn genre tropes – the Undying Influence of the Forbidden Object (see: M.R. James, Clive Barker, etc.) and the Secret Danger of Cult Thought – and merges them together in a largely cohesive and creepy film; the disorienting audio/visual palette is its chief selling point, though Eurocult fans will appreciate the presence of ’60s/’70s era exploitation star Christina Lindberg as the record’s creator. Synapse’s Blu-ray includes commentary by Bogliano, who’s also featured in an interview with Lindberg; the disc also includes a making-of featurette, Bogliano’s short “Don’t Open Your Eyes” (on which “Black Circle” is based), and a CD of Rickard Gramfors’ unnerving score.
“Borsalino” (1970, Arrow Video*) French period gangster story, at times both breezy and grimly violent, with Jean-Paul Belmondo and Alain Delon (who also produced) as small-time hoods who assume control over the Marseille underworld through a combination of smarts, ruthlessness and (apparently) their own boundless charm. Much has been made about director Jacques Demy’s attention to production design and the stars squabbling over close-ups and name placement on the one-sheet; the film itself is a brisk recount of American crime movie tropes, rendered with breeziness and brutality in equal measure, and anchored largely by the stars’ magnetism. Arrow’s Limited Edition Blu-ray includes commentary by Josh Nelson and a mix of new and vintage featurettes on Belmondo, Claude Bolling’s piano score, and Jacque Fonteray’s lavish costumes.
“The Night of the Executioner” (1992, Mondo Macabro) Remorseless late-inning revenge thriller from Paul Naschy, who not only starred as a doctor on the trail of the creeps who murdered his wife and daughter but also wrote and directed the film (several years before the 1992 release date). The film is budget-strapped and treads well-worn territory, though the core premise gets a few notable wrinkles, most notably the fact that Naschy is silent for most of the picture (having lost his tongue during the home invasion that sets him on the revenge trail), but for the most part, the chief selling point of this Spanish feature is Naschy himself, two decades out from his heyday as Spain’s biggest horror star but still an imposing and formidable figure (as evidenced by some impressive weightlifting scenes) capable of shocking violence. Mondo’s Blu-ray comes from a 4K master of the original camera negative and includes commentary by Rod Barnett and Troy Guinn of the NaschyCast and interviews with Naschy’s son, Sergio Molina and interviews with cast members Manolo Zarzo (who discusses his lengthy Spanish horror/fantasy cv) and Pepe Ruiz.
“Broken Mirrors” (1985, Cult Epics*) A pair of sex workers in Amsterdam push back against their circumstances, while at the same time, a deranged former customer kidnaps and imprisons a woman while also photographing her agonizingly slow decline. Though occasionally told in blunt terms, this Dutch feature from Marleen Gorris (“A Question of Silence) does lay out the unfortunate but undeniable fact that women’s safety and well-being is often rooted in negotiation, blind trust and the unreasonable whims of the (often damaged or dangerous) men around them. Gorris gets excellent performances from her three female leads, all of whom are challenged with harrowing storylines; Cult Epics’ Blu-ray includes commentary by film historian Peter Verstraten and an interview with sex worker Margo St. James, who details her own efforts to protect those in her line of work through education and organization.
“Grand Slam” (1967, Kino Lorber*) American professor Edward G. Robinson (in a glorified cameo) staves off retirement boredom by assembling an international team to steal $10 million in diamonds from a high security vault in Rio de Janeiro – and during Carnival, no less. The nuts and bolts of the operation, underscored by the icy silence of the robbery and the lusty uproar of Carnival, are the high points of this Italian-Spanish-West Germany caper by crime/political specialist Giuliano Montaldo (who died on September 6 of this year), though the international cast – anchored by Eurocult stalwarts Robert Hoffman, Georges Rigaud, Adolfo Celi, and a particularly twitchy Klaus Kinski, with Janet Leigh as (essentially) the key to the operation – and Ennio Morricone’s brassy pop score are also high points. Kino’s Blu-ray offers English language audio and agreeable, informative commentary by Howard Berger, Steve Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson.
“New Fist of Fury” (1976, Arrow Video*) As the title suggests, “New Fist of Fury” is both a sequel (of sorts) to the 1972 Bruce Lee vehicle “Fist of Fury” and an attempt to establish then-up-and-coming actor Jackie Chan as Lee’s successor. Several of the original “Fist” players are reassembled here, including director Lo Wei and co-star Nora Miao (Chan himself had a minor role in “Fist”) and Wei’s plot – Chinese martial arts students fight against oppressive Japanese interlopers – also echoes the previous film. What’s missing here is Lee’s physicality and presence: Chan is game to play the ferocious avenger, but can’t quite pull it off (the “dragon hands” sequence is particularly woeful), though his exceptional fighting skills get a few solid showcases here. Best appreciated as a document of Chan’s career prior to assuming the comic everyman persona that rocketed him to stardom; Arrow’s Limited Edition Blu-ray includes hi-def remasters of two versions of the film – a two-hour theatrical cut and a shorter re-release which pushes Chan’s supporting character to the forefront – both with commentary tracks (“Clones of Bruce Lee” directors Frank Djeng and Michael Worth handle the theatrical cut, while Brandon Bentley tackles the re-release) and Mandarin/Cantonese/English audio tracks. The disc also features a video essay by Bentley that compares “New Fist” to another “Fist” sequel, “Fist of Fury, Part II,” and an impressive array of trailers (many featuring variations on Lee’s “Fist” character) and promotional material.