Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sarno's RED ROSES OF PASSION An Overlooked Gem

Patricia McNair is up to some suburban witchcraft in Joe Sarno's RED ROSES OF PASSION.

You may have had the same feeling, but sometimes I see a film that so impresses me I'm reluctant to go back and watch it again. I once put Eric Rohmer's PERCIVAL in my Top Ten on the basis of a single viewing, and - even as a long-standing Rohmer champion - was nowhere near so impressed on the second pass. Such has also been the case since my first viewing of Joe Sarno's RED ROSES OF PASSION (1966) about 15 years ago, which I reviewed with great favor back in VIDEO WATCHDOG #85. I love Sarno's work - I'm even writing a book about it now - but could this really be the knock-out I remembered?

I hate to say it (because I would have much preferred it to come out as part of Film Movement's Joseph W. Sarno Retrospect Series, and had the chance to do a proper commentary for it), but I was - if anything - even more impressed by my second viewing of RED ROSES OF PASSION last night. Vinegar Syndrome has now released it in a DVD/BD dual pack and the camera neg-sourced transfer is gorgeous. (The main titles appear to have been digitally overlaid.) Not really about sex so much as sensuality, it's not only one of Sarno's best realized pictures, but perhaps his most strikingly original story; it's a kind of horror fable (in that regard, rather like Jess Franco's LORNA THE EXORCIST) that looks at erotic inhibition and licentiousness through an occult lens. If you can imagine what Herk Harvey, for example, might have done with a remake of Romero's HUNGRY WIVES - that'll point you somewhere near the right direction.) It's astonishing to me that a film this potent and original could still be so little-known.

The VS set is a limited edition of 2000 copies and apparently prone to the odd bad pressing; I had to return mine to Amazon today because the soundtrack on the Blu-ray disc was badly distorted. (Knowing how cheaply Sarno was sometimes obliged to work, it took me about 15 minutes to question the sound quality by putting on the other disc.) The DVD looked almost as sharp as the BD and sounded fine.

The only extra is a 20m monologue by Sarno authority Michael Bowen. He's a genial talker and knows his stuff. I smiled a lot because I've been covering much of the same tricky ground and coming up against the same questions in my own research.

(c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.


Monday, August 07, 2017

First Look: Kino Lorber's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

Kino Lorber Studio Classics is set to release their 50th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1967) one week from tomorrow, on August 15. I had the good fortune of being invited to provide the audio commentary for the US theatrical cut of the film, which most fans seem to feel is the definitive version and is making its Blu-ray debut in this release. It's a two-disc set and both the theatrical cut (162 minutes) and the extended cut (179 minutes) are included, both versions treated to 4K restorations. The extended cut is offered in this same set with optional audio commentaries by Sir Christopher Frayling and Richard Schickel.

As a contributor to the set, I received an advance copy of the set today, so I thought I might whet my readers' appetites with an advance peek. (Click on images to enlarge.) There has been some concern among the film's most ardent devotées about how this release is going to look, since MGM's previous Blu-ray release had a pervasive golden tint that was never part of the film's cinematography. As you see, that aspect has been eradicated. The blues in this new transfer are handsomely reasserted, and the depth of some compositions is actually dizzying. This film was shot in Technicolor and Techniscope, the latter being a two-perforation scope process that led to it being termed "the poor man's CinemaScope" back in the day. When I was a kid, and seeing a lot of sword-and-sandal pictures at my local theater, I could pick a Techniscope film out of a line-up because they were prey to excessive grain and a coarseness of detail, especially in depth. So I am sometimes astounded today by how much detail and depth it is now possible to digitally exhume from old Techniscope film - and Leone and Tonino Delli Colli choose their shots in this film as though they could see the technology coming that would someday unlock all of its power. Love seeing the original UA logo card back, too.

Pre-order now and get yours... for a few dollars less.

Text (c) 2017 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Catching Up With Your Friendly Neighborhood Blogger

It has been awhile since I've posted anything like an autobiographical blog entry, and many of you have kindly encouraged me to keep you posted on my current activities since we don't have the Kennel listings to guide you anymore. As it happens, I've been extremely productive and fortunate this year, and here's a sampler of just some of the things I can tell you about (or at least a little about):

I'm over 100 pages into a new book about a maverick filmmaker, but I'm not quite ready to announce that project.

I've also agreed to write two books for Neil Snowdon's Midnight Movies Monograph series (Electric Dreamhouse/PS Publishing) - one about Georges Franju's JUDEX (which will probably happen second) and another that hasn't yet been announced.

Speaking of PS Publishing, and Neil, my lengthy chapter on Nigel Kneale's literary works is part of their new book WE ARE THE MARTIANS: THE LEGACY OF NIGEL KNEALE, edited by Neil Snowdon.

And in what I personally consider my most exciting news, a very well-respected publishing house overseas recently accepted the first piece of lengthy fiction I've sold in twelve years. It will likely be published sometime late next year or early the following. It seems something happens with my fiction every twelve years; there were a dozen years between THROAT SPROCKETS and THE BOOK OF RENFIELD, and now a dozen years between RENFIELD and this one. It's not for lack of writing, just for lack of energy in showing that work around.

I'm also pleased to report that my work in audio commentary is continuing to pile up. My commentaries for the 50th Anniversary edition of Sergio Leone's THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (Kino Studio Classics), Mario Bava's ERIK THE CONQUEROR (Arrow Films), and no less than three already-recorded Joe Sarno titles are presently awaiting release, as well as a few other as-yet-unannounced titles. I am presently working on two commentaries simultaneously, and they will be followed later this month my continuation on the Sergio Leone series with A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS.

So there is a lot of me to look forward to! If you would care to know more in the meantime, I am the guest on the current episode (#27) of Bill Ackerman's excellent podcast Supporting Characters. In my day-to-day life, I actually speak very little, but somehow Bill managed to keep me talking for more than four hours! Fortunately he tightened the recording up a bit by extracting some hemming and hawing, and I am pleased to direct you to the final result here.