Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wake in Fright (1971)



It is becoming all too rare nowadays to see a film that leaves a genuinely indelible impression. A combination of my own academic education (which pretty much destroyed the magic of the movies) and a gradual desensitisation towards challenging and provocative material means that most films cross my line of sight with barely a blip on my internal Richter scale. But occasionally one can still find that precious diamond buried beneath the tonnes of coal. It doesn’t surprise me in the least that when such a discovery is made the film is quite often a product of the 1970’s. One such recent discovery was an Australian film called Wake in Fright, a nightmarish narrative that left me bewildered and devastated in equal measure. That we can now view Wake in Fright in a pristine high definition transfer is a tremendous privilege. For decades the only print of the film in existence was considered totally insufficient for either VHS or DVD release. But thanks to the dogged efforts of the films editor Anthony Buckley, the negatives were located, and one of the most important restoration processes in modern film history was able to take place. 

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Guest Review - Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Country: UK

This film desperately needs to be restored and transferred to the digital medium. I have the DVDs which are to my mind in the wrong ratio and the colour is fading. And I completely accept that Christopher Lee had less and less to do as the films went on. All this said; I think that attempting to remake the 1958 Dracula would have been an even greater folly. Aside from an attempt to put the novel on screen, which would have been a great idea, it makes perfect sense to me to keep the Count in the shadows and build up gradually to his appearance. To focus on the other characters and allow the audience to get to know them, to care for them and to allow the audience to get involved. So that when they finally meet their peril it is more disturbing. By the time the final ‘period’ movie of the Dracula series Scars of Dracula was released in 1970 most of the possible scenarios had been played out. A new direction, setting and indeed drive was sought to re-vamp the vamp. And so in the early 70’s Hammer decided to move their Dracula movie cycle from the 19th Century villages of Europe to the swinging London of the 20th.

Monday, 4 March 2013

I Drink Your Blood (1970)

Country: USA

In the years since its release, the hysterically titled I Drink Your Blood (a bit of a misnomer as not a single drop is imbibed) has built a steady and resolute cult following. This is largely due to the fact that the film was the first to receive an X certificate from the MPAA for violence alone, and also due to the legendary double bill that paired it with Del Tenney’s largely forgettable zombie dross I Eat Your Skin (1964). This inspired double feature was the brainwave of exploitation producer/distributor Jerry Gross. A semi-legendary figure whose skill at creating alluring film titles (it should be noted that David E. Durston the director of I Drink Your Blood wanted the film to be called Phobia), eye catching posters, and outrageous promotional campaigns resulted in numerous commercial successes in the Grindhouses and drive ins. By and large the films Gross produced and distributed are exploitation trash, but the man deserves a place of importance in film history for producing one of the most significant films of the 1970’s – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971). Another reason for I Drink Your Blood’s cult success is the resulting effect of the X certificate. In a desperate move to reap some kind of financial reward from the film, Gross gave permission for exhibitors to cut the film to their own liking. The resulting multitude of cuts meant that for decades what constituted the complete or director’s cut of the film was a matter for debate and conjecture rather than fact.

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