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Blu-ray Review: American Horror Project Vol. 1

This release is Arrow Video’s symbolic demand to unlock the auteurist prescriptions of many prestige, home-video releases.

4.5

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American Horror Project Vol. 1

Few periods of American cinema are as neglected by critics and historians as independently produced, 1970s horror, and conventional wisdom might point to the lack of available titles on home video, aside from a handful of the usual suspects like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween, for this dearth. Indeed, that lack explains the impetus for American Horror Project Vol. 1, which sees three titles from the era buffed up and made presentable for the demands of cinephiles who now want nothing less than a film in its original, theatrical presentation, and for it to be accompanied by a boatload of extras.

Yet another, less naïve, explanation understands how the neglect of ’70s horror derives from the valorization of the New Hollywood during the same period, as American cinema became Europeanized or, at least, brought European aesthetics to Hollywood studio films of the period. What’s dismaying, then, is how little has been written about the independent horror film as a more innovative locus of aesthetic change, one which challenges the very premise of an art-house/genre divide, but often does so not through Godardian alienation, but textual play with ideological questions—the status of the body, feminism, maternal angst. These films may take cues from the art house, but they aren’t following the trail of bread crumbs laid by the Nouvelle Vague and other transnational new waves.

A film like The Witch Who Came from the Sea, with its emphasis on the female gaze and the aftermath of childhood abuse, addresses these themes with a daring formal structure. In the film’s opening sequence, middle-aged Molly (Millie Perkins) sees, and is triggered by, weightlifting beefcakes on a desolate beach. Instead of simply utilizing eye-line matches for Molly’s field of vision, director Matt Cimber provides a mobile, omniscient camera to offer an absurdist presentation of muscle-bound masculinity, as if Molly’s eyes were capable of being detached from herself as the camera roams around, and frames, these bodies from a multitude of perspectives.

Cimber makes similarly reality-altering gestures throughout. When Molly, whose seduction and apparent murder of two men becomes the film’s narrative locus, writhes in ecstasy, the filmmaker distorts the soundtrack to hollowing effect, as if Molly’s taken her male catches to an underwater lair. Perkins anchors these traumas with simultaneous restraint and hysteria, and Cimber matches the character’s conflicted psychology not through expressionistic gestures, but by altering the film’s sensorial register, so that genre thrills start to bleed into larger, more abstract questions regarding mental health and bodily autonomy. With its emphasis on folkloric violence, the misogyny of fairy tales, and the powers of seduction, The Witch Who Came from the Sea is an essential, thematic precursor to The Fog and Under the Skin.

The Premonition implicitly challenges how art cinema of the ’60s and early ’70s typically utilizes female anxiety as a source of masochistic pleasure for the viewer, with Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini being the primary offenders. The film’s simple premise involves Andrea (Ellen Barber), a spurned mother and possible witchcraft practitioner, trying to reclaim (or, kidnap) her daughter, who’s been recently adopted by Sheri (Sharon Farrell), a demure housewife enjoying surrogate motherhood after years of trying to have children of her own. Such a melodramatic conflict could invite a simplistic resolution where the film’s allegiances clearly reside with one woman over the other, but there are no such reductive outs or ridiculing of these women here, nor a sentimentalizing of motherhood.

In fact, given that The Premonition is set largely within a carnival and opens with a sad(istic) clown named Jude (Richard Bell) dancing in almost abject, extreme close-up, director Robert Allen Schnitzer immediately foregrounds Fellini as a referent, but rejects the Italian director’s fondness for making childhood memories precious, as in The Clowns and Amarcord. Instead, a certain anti-nostalgia treats the circus as a symbol for the ways mythologies function to conceal murder and kidnapping. Moreover, it’s men who are hysterical or ineffectual, as Sheri’s vacant husband mostly watches from the sidelines and Jude emerges as the source of the film’s true madness, itself prompted by a challenging of his manliness.

More conventionally absurdist, though still acutely satirical, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood rather unsubtly combines the premises of Freaks and Carnival of Souls into a phantasmagoric bloodbath, as a carnival barker named Malatesta (Daniel Dietrich) and a gaggle of cannibalistic ghouls led by Blood (Jerome Dempsey) feast on an unsuspecting family searching for their son. What resonates here isn’t the rote grindhouse premise, but director Christopher Speeth’s integration of silent cinema into the cannibals’ daily routine, as they’re seen watching The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari before a night of carnage. However, Speeth wisely refrains from making a direct correlation between cinematic spectatorship and violence, since horror films are but a piece of what invites bloodlust and, in reality, are likely not the culprit when images of dead soldiers in Vietnam litter the nightly news. A lost son to the institutional machinations of cheap thrills—an apt and devastating metaphor for American international diplomacy.

Image/Sound

Arrow Video has gone to extensive restoration lengths to locate the “original film materials” in order to conduct each 2K transfer from a 35mm print or, in the case of The Premonition, Color Reversal Immediate (CRI), meaning that every phase of these films’ preservation has been overseen by the Arrow crew—a fact that makes this set all the more commendable and amazing. And image quality, on the whole, is excellent, though in all cases visible scratches, marks, and cigarette burns remain in sight, which suggests these defects could not have been removed without compromising the image’s original integrity. To those ends, the transfer for The Witch Who Came from the Sea fares the worst, while Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood looks like it’s received the most comprehensive scrubbing treatment, though it’s quite likely its negative was in better shape. All of these quibbles are relatively moot, however, since the color timing and 2K scans look utterly fantastic in widescreen and restored to an approximation of what audiences in the ’70s saw upon release. Similarly, each audio track is serviceable and strong throughout, balancing dialogue and ambient sounds as a score, though there are noticeable pops and cracks here or there.

Extras

Each film receives enough supplements to be worth of an entire box set unto itself. Film historian Stephen Thrower offers a brief introduction for each film, in which he makes an argument for each film’s complexity and placement within the ’70s horror canon. Three separate audio commentaries, all excellent, offer a different perspective on the value of these films. Film historian Richard Harland Smith’s commentary for Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is the highlight, since he consistently provides insight across a spectrum of topics, including production locations and history, but best of all, he seems to love the film, and his infectious enthusiasm, tempered by level-headed context, makes for a compelling listen.

For The Witch Who Came from the Sea, a track with director Matt Cimber, actor Millie Perkins, and DP Dead Cundey settles into more conventional and leisurely terrain, as the trio let the film’s scenes dictate their recollections. Also, there’s a minor issue with the audio here, which sounds as if it were recorded in a large room with poor acoustics. The final commentary track features director Robert Allen Schnitzer, whose style tends to narrate what’s happening on screen, which occasionally leads to an aside about either Allen Schnitzer’s influences or the film’s production.

Two expertly composed featurettes, one for The Witch Who Came from the Sea and one for The Premonition, reconstruct a timeline for each film’s production from the recollections of those involved. Cimber and Perkins are especially acute and perception in their talks, which overviews the film’s tumultuous beginnings and struggles to find distribution. For The Premonition, Allen Schnitzer explains how he and writer Anthony Mahon added “metaphysical elements” to the script, while composer Henry Mollicone demonstrates, on his piano, how he used a pieces of classical music to construct his own score. Also included are three of Allen Schnitzer’s short films: Vernal Equinox, Terminal Point, and A Rumbling in the Land, as well as an assortment of trailers and TV spots for The Premonition.

There are interviews galore and most of them, miraculously, are contemporary. Christopher Speeth explains how he came to direct (and went broke making) Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood, as well as producer Richard Grosser’s essential role in gaining the film distribution. Writer Werner Liepolt talks about his collaboration with Speeth and how the film ended paradoxically far away from, and close to, their interest in documentary. Art directors Richard Stange and Alan Johnson complete the initial trio, detailing how their years spent at the University of Pennsylvania led to their participation in the film.

There’s also a brief interview with Cimber, who speculates on why his film continues to resonate with audiences and a brief archival chat with Allen Schnitzer, who repeats several of the points made during the newer featurette, and star Richard Lynch, who talks about the evolution of his craft over a 50-year span. Finally, each disc includes an assortment of outtakes and photo galleries, and the set contains a 58-page booklet with four essays, one on each individual film and one about the collection as a whole.

Overall

Arrow Video’s American Horror Project Vol. 1 is certainly a triumph of film-preservation efforts, but it’s also the label’s symbolic demand to unlock the auteurist prescriptions of many prestige, home-video releases. By shifting focus away from directors and more toward eras and curatorial sensibility, Arrow is implicitly asking for more adventurous (and ambitious) Blu-ray releases from outside of the Hollywood canon.

Cast: Janine Carazo, Jerome Dempsey, Daniel Dietrich, Lenny Baker, Millie Perkins, Lonny Chapman, Vanessa Brown, Peggy Feury, Sharon Farrell, Edward Bell, Danielle Brisebois Director: Christopher Speeth, Matt Cimber, Robert Allen Schnitzer Screenwriter: Werner Liepolt, Robert Thom, Anthony Mahon, Robert Allen Schnitzer, Louis Pastore Distributor: Arrow Video Running Time: 251 min Rating: PG, R Year: 1973 - 1976 Release Date: February 23, 2016 Buy: Video

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Blu-ray Review: Julien Duvivier’s Panique

This dynamic and balanced restoration makes a significant case for the film as one of the most moving and beautiful of unjustly neglected noirs.

4.5

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Panique

Julien Duvivier’s Panique informs small-town life with rich menace, suggesting a correlation can exist between vicious gossip and physical violence, as people seek to assert dominion over the reputations of their neighbors out of boredom and resentment. Throughout the film, a doubling motif links classism with atrocity, and rumor-mongering with the tragedy it incites—such as linked images of two funerals, one of the murder victim that drives the film’s plot, the other of a person framed for the murder, essentially for being an eccentric outcast. As in many a film noir, Panique has, at its center, the structural rigidness of a mathematical equation, which it fleshes out with macabre comedy, piercing pathos, and a mad blend of realism and rococo expressionism.

The outcast is Monsieur Hire, played by Michel Simon, in casting that recalls Jean Renoir’s La Chienne. In both films, Simon plays a frumpy, lonely, and artistic man stuck in his own head, who falls for a beautiful woman who exploits his affections with the encouragement of her true lover. Renoir allows us to understand from the outset that Simon’s character is trapped, by his self-loathing as much as by his manipulators, while Duvivier offers a panorama that gradually closes in on Hire. In fact, one of the driving pleasures of Panique’s first act is in attempting to discern where it’s going, as Duvivier studies the respective habits of a baker, a prostitute, a shifty young man, a hypocritical accountant, and so forth. The film’s foreboding emphasis on daily life sometimes suggests The Marseille Trilogy by way of Shirley Jackson.

Hire initially appears confident, accepting his status in this picturesque country as the resident weirdo. After resisting the butcher’s attempts to talk with him, Hire orders a bloody pork loin and proceeds to the cheese shop to search for its “ripest” Camembert. Such details, which are plentiful in Panique, are amusing for their own sake while revealing that Hire fashions himself a ghoulish aesthete who’s somewhat difficult for the sake of being difficult. (The emphases on blood and ripeness also suggest a rechanneling of thwarted sexual hungers.) Unlike the immediately pitiable hero of La Chienne, Hire allows the audience to enjoy his loneliness. Perhaps this is a man who’s figured out how to live apart from society with dignity intact. In other words, Hire, who possesses the gifts of Simon’s own inherently introverted magnetism, flatters similarly-minded people in the audience.

This narrative misdirection mirrors Hire’s fooling of himself, underscoring how he’s attempted to transcend his human need for companionship—a nuance that renders his fall from grace all the more moving. As Hire becomes intoxicated with Alice (Viviane Romance), Simon’s physicality becomes subtly heavier and more awkward, as the actor understands Hire to be reverting to a vulnerable state that’s been long suppressed. Duvivier’s compositions complement this notion, particularly when Hire is framed in his cluttered apartment, regarding Alice’s residence from below as carnival lights luridly illuminate him. The carnival isn’t only a metaphor for the “show business”—the manipulations, the play-acting—that govern everyday life, but for how society always requires freaks for projection and ostracizing.

A beautiful and merciless film, Panique has been read as an allegory for Vichy France’s complicity with Nazis, which is apparent in the way the conspiring villagers are shown to unify against a diseased cause that’s been engineered by a third party. And such an association is complicated further by the controversy of Duvivier leaving his country for Hollywood during WWII, which is helpfully illuminated in the essays in the booklet included with this disc. But humankind has so often betrayed itself—honoring its irrational base instincts above issues of morality or common sense—that Panique now operates as a free-floating nightmare of persecution, one which offers a vividly haunting victim. As Hire ascends a building to his doom, fleeing his vengeful neighbors, one may think of Merian C. Cooper’s King Kong, only in this case there’s no mythical creature to offer one the distancing assurance of the fantastic.

Image/Sound

The image has a few minor blemishes but is generally quite sharp and rich in tactile detail. Throughout the film, this superb clarity particularly emphasizes the relationship between the various foregrounds and backgrounds of the frames, underscoring the vitality of tracking shots that elaborate on the various connections between the characters, emphasizing how small this troubled community really is. Blacks are rich, and whites are delicately soft, the latter of which is important in rendering characters’ flesh, particularly in the surprisingly erotic images of a woman teasing her male voyeur with glimpses of her body. The monaural soundtrack expertly preserves the film’s intricate soundstage, which often pivots on a contrast between the sounds of everyday work (carpentry and butchery) and those of the carnival, which physicalize the lurid thoughts driving the narrative’s action.

Extras

“The Art of Subtitling,” a new short documentary by Bruce Goldstein, founder and co-president of Rialto Pictures, offers an unusual and fascinating glimpse into the day-to-day challenges of translating foreign dialogue into English text. Like a lot of things many of us take for granted, subtitling requires an exactitude and discipline that’s invisible at first glance. For instance, a subtitle must disappear before one image segues into another, so as to not jar the audience. And, for the sake of flow, subtitles must also summarize dialogue rather than literally transcribe it, so that an audience doesn’t spend a film’s entire running time reading. Goldstein also examines the process of updating and improving subtitle tracks over the years as films are restored, including the production of the new track of Panique that was commissioned for this release, as modern audiences have grown to crave a precise rendering of the slang and humor that give characters and narratives texture.

A new interview with author Pierre Simenon, the son of legendary Belgian novelist Georges Simenon, offers an inside look at how Julien Duvivier altered one of his father’s novels to arrive at the screenplay for Panique, while providing a short overview of Georges’s life, particularly during WWI and WWII. (Georges wasn’t especially fond of the many films made from his work, though Pierre has high praise for Panique.) Meanwhile, a conversation from 2015 between critics Guillemette Odicino and Eric Libiot succinctly covers a variety of topics, especially the rocky reception that Duvivier received when he returned to France after working in the United States so as to dodge the Nazi occupation. French audiences, somewhat understandably, were resistant to a critique of mob justice from someone who managed to avoid the danger and turmoil of the mob altogether. The essays by film scholar James Quandt and Duvivier expert Lenny Borger also discuss the political context of Panique, while reveling in the film’s brilliant melding of realist and expressionist textures. The theatrical trailer rounds out a slim but informative supplements package.

Overall

With this dynamic and balanced restoration, Criterion makes a significant case for Panique as one of the most moving and beautiful of unjustly neglected noirs.

Cast: Michel Simon, Viviane Romance, Paul Bernard, Charles Dorat, Louis Florencie, Max Dalban, Émile Drain, Guy Favières Director: Julien Duvivier Screenwriter: Charles Spaak, Julien Duvivier Distributor: The Criterion Collection Running Time: 98 min Rating: NR Year: 1946 Buy: Video

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Blu-ray Review: Brian De Palma’s Obsession

Brian De Palma’s showy Vertigo tribute gets a significant A/V upgrade from Shout! Factory.

4

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Obsession

Geneviève Bujold was a little bit like the Björk of late-‘60s, early-‘70s cinema. She worked between predominately pop-minded American films and hermetic, aggressively Euro productions, coasted a long way on adorably pliable looks, and kept you perpetually off-balance with her off-kilter line readings and interpretations. She was a sterile cuckoo with a voice whose grit confirmed the darkness in her eyes. Paul Schrader may have ended up having to capitulate Obsession’s original (ridiculous) scripted ending to the will of Brian De Palma, but the casting of Bujold in what is essentially Kim Novak’s role in Vertigo results in a literary emphasis not seen in De Palma’s work again until the strong-arm showboating of Oliver Stone and David Mamet.

Obsession is, as far as De Palma’s tributes to Hitchcock go, half-baked and far-fetched without even the benefit of being audacious-unto-tasteless. It’s the film in which the only dearth of a metaphoric “double” is the comedy mask that ought to complement the dour visage of tragedy. (Is that the reason that it’s Obsession, and not any other De Palma film up until Femme Fatale, that’s included in the top 1,000 film list of Jonathan Rosenbaum, who sneered at the director for delighting in audience reactions to Dressed to Kill?)

While Bernard Herrmann’s rapturously funereal score (with at least four separate dirge leitmotifs swirling around the opulent, central “Valse Lente”) ratchets up Obsession’s metastasized, polluted doom-gloom, Bujold takes her role in the opposite direction, at least initially. (The character is a screenwriter’s “pitch” if there ever was one—e.g., “What if we took the idea that Kim Novak was practically young enough to be James Stewart’s daughter and just ran with that?”) Within minutes of meeting Cliff Robertson’s sad sack Michael, Bujold’s Elizabeth bites heartily into Schrader’s symbolic dialogue about the ethical implications of discovering an original draft of art and restoring the revision.

That’s clearly an expression of self-deprecating guilt from a writer who felt a little dirty turning Vertigo into a teary-eyed sick joke. But Bujold’s enthusiasm as a performer redeems the entire picture, especially when she’s asked to perform flashback scenes that shouldn’t work, but, thanks to her, represent another of De Palma’s fearlessly experimental whims.

Image/Sound

Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography has looked too washed-out on previous home-video editions of the film, but it finally looks right on Shout’s Blu-ray. Colors are natural and the exaggerated lighting dazzles when refracted off of mirror surfaces. Even more impressive is the surround-sound remix, which amplifies Bernard Herrmann’s bombastic, swelling score to deafening levels while leaving all dialogue clear in the center channel. The original mono track is also included and sounds every bit as crisp despite the lack of separation.

Extras

On his commentary track, Douglas Keesey offers a drily academic breakdown of the film. The author of Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film sounds too much like he’s reading from a script, but he still provides intriguing observations on the director’s stylistic flourishes. Interviews with producer George Litto and editor Paul Hirsch see both men reminiscing about their careers and work with De Palma, with the former more gregarious about his own life and the latter more specific about the details of his work on Obsession. An archival documentary on the film features interviews with De Palma, Cliff Robertson, and Geneviève Bujold, who all reflect on the film’s production and how well they worked together. The disc also includes a trailer, radio spots, and an image gallery.

Overall

Brian De Palma’s showy Vertigo tribute gets a significant A/V upgrade, highlighting the dreamy haze of Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and Bernard Herrmann’s score better than any home-video release of the film to date.

Cast: Cliff Robertson, Geneviève Bujold, John Lithgow, Sylvia Kuumba Williams, Wanda Blackman, J. Patrick McNamara, Stanley J. Reyes, Nick Kreiger, Stocker Fontelieu Director: Brian De Palma Screenwriter: Paul Schrader Distributor: Shout! Factory Running Time: 98 min Rating: PG Year: 1976 Buy: Video, Soundtrack

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Blu-ray Review: Forty Guns

Samuel Fuller’s libido-fueled, feverishly stylized B western gets a lavish reincarnation on home video courtesy of Criterion.

4.0

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Forty Guns

Though shot in a drum-tight 10 days, and on a low budget, writer-director Samuel Fuller’s raw, punchy noir-western Forty Guns isn’t a film of half-measures. As it acquaints us with Tombstone, Arizona, the parched Cochise County town where its action takes place, the 1957 film does so with an unbroken dolly shot that runs the entire length of main street, taking in something like 50-plus actors in choreographed motion and encompassing both an exposition dump and a startling zoom-and-pan reveal.

When Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck), the territory’s domineering land baroness, conducts her daily business via horseback, she does so with all 40 of her grizzled hired hands in tow, a thunderous spectacle trotted out for matters both large and small. And when a tornado rips over the hills, realized by Fuller and his crew as a high-powered dust storm that renders the landscape a grainy, swirling abstraction, Stanwyck is right in the middle of the fray; the script called for Jessica to be dragged along with the hoof of a runaway horse, and Stanwyck insisted on performing the daredevil maneuver herself, much to the chagrin of producers.

Bold expressionism and brawny physicality were staples of Fuller’s filmmaking career—qualities surely indebted in some part to his experiences as an infantryman and cameraman during World War II—and in Forty Guns the entire cast is synchronized with that sensibility. The film is possessed of an earthy eroticism, evident in a number of scenes dedicated to watching Tombstone’s men bathe openly under the afternoon sun, as well as in an insistent streak of sexual innuendo in the dialogue, wherein any talk of a man’s gun is quite transparently an allusion to his cock.

Upon the arrival of pacifistic U.S. Marshal Griff Bonell (Barry Sullivan), carrying a warrant for the arrest of Jessica’s rotten brother, Brockie (John Ericson), in town with siblings Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix), the townsfolk’s dormant sexual energies are expulsed, with Wes angling for local gunsmith Louvenia (Eve Brent) and Griff himself going after Jessica. In a place where gunfire is the prevailing expression of emotion, violence and sex thus become intimately entangled—a link visually represented when Wes and Louvenia’s mutual desire is consummated by an eccentric down-the-rifle-barrel POV shot that Jean-Luc Godard would crib for Breathless only three years later.

This suggestive visual punnery aside, the structure of Forty Guns ultimately accommodates a shift from lewd flirtation to emotional vulnerability, with the at-first caricatured threat of violence becoming a real and deadly threat indeed, as new bonds are sewn and prior allegiances are fissured. Griff, having vowed to retire his six-shooter, awakens Jessica’s sensitive side in the process of spending time with her, breaking down her desperado roughness with his nonviolent, levelheaded enforcement of the law.

The moment when Jessica seems to have fully emerged as a more complicated woman than she initially appeared is among the film’s most beautiful: When she and Griff find shelter from the aforementioned tornado in an abandoned barn, a lilting crane shot descends from the rafters to find the lovers entangled from head to toe in a pile of hay, the camera finally landing in an intimate two-shot to survey their nostalgic exchange without a single cut. It’s a scene of aching tenderness in the midst of bawdy farce and jolts of brutality, but such a commiseration of souls proves fleeting in a land of hardened alliances and quick triggers, and it’s this very union that acts as the catalyst for an accumulating body count.

The film’s tonal swing from goofiness to severity is best exemplified in the three Tombstone ambushes conducted by Brockie. The first, seemingly the result of a drunken whim, is a maniacal shooting spree played mostly for shock laughs (save for the mood-puncturing casualty of an innocent blind man), and concluded by Griff’s swift pistol-whipping of the terrified Brockie. Mirroring this is a more coordinated attack later in Forty Guns when a wedding is interrupted by a surprise bullet, immediately throttling the mood from revelry to tragedy—and leading to a hymnal-led funeral scene to rival those in John Ford westerns. Finally, the third ambush in Tombstone finds Griff again marching calculatedly toward a menacing scene, only this time unsure of the whereabouts of the aggressors. Fuller stages the scene as a high-wire standoff between three disparate points of threat, juicing the dramatic irony to a breaking point until Griff expertly diffuses the situation, but not without preventing another death.

Shot in black-and-white CinemaScope at a time when the format was largely reserved for color productions, Forty Guns‘s deep chiaroscuro anticipates the characters’ deadly impulses and the grave directions that the drama takes. It all leads to a climactic showdown of remarkable savagery that seems to confirm an irrepressible violence within the hearts of even the most upstanding among us—though it’s followed then by a studio-mandated corrective to it, a scene that partially aims to clear the dust churned up by such a bleak capper. Fuller includes a line of dialogue that complicates the uplift, but even if he hadn’t, Forty Guns‘s damning treatise on gun infatuation and the incapacity to transcend one’s nature had already landed its heaviest blows, leaving a bitter aftertaste that no smearing of schmaltz could quite undo.

Image/Sound

Studio-shot interiors are granted a superb degree of contrast, with the deep, inky shadows doing full justice to the film’s celluloid origins, in addition to mirroring the bottled-up anxiety and rage in the characters. Meanwhile, location work in the foothills of Arizona is awesomely vivid. When Barbara Stanwyck or Barry Sullivan ride across the landscape on horseback, the subtle gradations and tones of the arid ground are as compelling as the action being depicted. And suitably for a film at least partly about the destructiveness of firearms, the howling gun blasts heard on the audio track are enough to get the attention of the neighbors, if not too loud to overwhelm the at-times hushed dialogue and gentle desert ambiance.

Extras

The meatiest supplement here is “A Fuller Life,” Samantha Fuller’s affectionate feature-length tribute to her father’s experiences as a journalist, infantryman, and filmmaker, unconventionally presented as a series of readings from his autobiography, A Third Face, by directors and actors who knew him. Not all these participants seem equally enthusiastic about the project, and the documentary consequently has some dry, overly wordy passages. But the access to Fuller’s treasure trove of personal material—clips from his old bylines, footage from WWII, and production files—makes it never less than a fascinating excavation for acolytes of the artist.

Similarly rewarding in this regard are the three other bits of deep-dive Fuller content: an entertainingly candid 1969 interview with the director that can be played as a commentary track, a printed excerpt from A Third Face that goes into some detail about Forty Guns‘s production, and a newly shot interview with Fuller’s second wife, Christa Lang Fuller, and daughter that plays like a heartfelt stroll down memory lane. Rounding out the package is an essay by film scholar Lisa Dombrowski and a new interview by critic Imogen Sara Smith, who, in a welcome pivot from all the attention lavished elsewhere on Fuller, conducts a fairly thorough examination of Barbara Stanwyck’s performance in Forty Guns, hailing it as an impassioned summation of a career that was on the decline by the late ’50s.

Overall

Samuel Fuller’s libido-fueled, feverishly stylized B western gets a lavish reincarnation on home video courtesy of Criterion.

Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan, Dean Jagger, John Ericson, Gene Barry, Robert Dix, Jidge Carroll Director: Samuel Fuller Screenwriter: Samuel Fuller Distributor: The Criterion Collection Running Time: 80 min Rating: NR Year: 1957 Release Date: December 11, 2018 Buy: Video

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