Crime and Punishment (1935)
Where’s it on? Arrow Academy Blu-ray
The second American gig for “celebrated European star” Peter Lorre, as his billing here goes, coming just a year after his English-language debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934), Crime and Punishment rarely gets a mention in the context of director Josef von Sternberg’s greats. Difficult to see for many years, this superlative Arrow release plays up its best qualities: Lorre’s striking performance and von Sternberg’s characteristically resplendent lighting schemes. It may not be a great Dostoyevsky adaptation, or top tier von Sternberg, but there’s little arguing with the force of Lorre’s performance as ‘Roderick’ Raskolnikov. Director and star hated each other, and the film bombed, but it’s well worth seeking out for a performance from an actor so often typecast and increasingly afforded less opportunities for the psychological nuance seen here.
A Blonde in Love (1965)
Where’s it on? Second Run Blu-ray
Second Run brings a magnificent 4K restoration of Milos Forman’s A Blonde in Love to UK Blu-ray this week, in what is sure to be one of the home video releases of 2019. There’s a strong case to be made for this being Forman’s finest film, even when held up against his major Stateside successes, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Amadeus (1984) – incredible when you consider it was just his second feature film. On the one hand it’s a typical teenage tale of loving, longing and disillusionment, made atypical by the specifics of its cultural and satirical bent. The included booklet essay by Michael Brooke is a model of the form, but this would be an essential purchase even if it were a bare-bones release.
The House That Dripped Blood (1971)
Where’s it on? Second Sight Blu-ray
No one loved an anthology horror film quite like Milton Subotsky, head honcho of Amicus Productions. The pretender to Hammer Studios’ throne had carved out its own niche in the British market with the success of Dr Terror’s House of Horrors (1965) and Torture Garden (1967), and Subotsky wasn’t about to alter his approach. With a top drawer cast on board – Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Ingrid Pitt hired at US distributor Columbia’s insistence – and Robert Bloch on writing duties, The House That Dripped Blood was the third, and one of the best, of Amicus’s portmanteau films. These things tend towards unevenness, but all four of the stories here work a charm. The best is saved for last, as Jon Pertwee’s actor sources a suitable cloak for his role as a vampire in a low-budget horror film, unaware of its power to turn him into an actual bloodsucker.
Where’s it on? Second Sight Blu-ray
The second of Amicus’s anthology films beautifully restored and released in a top notch collector’s edition by Second Sight this week, Asylum continued the studio’s partnership with Psycho novelist Robert Bloch, who adapted four of his own short stories. The framing device here sees Robert Powell appointed head of a madhouse, tasked with discovering which of the inmates was formerly in charge. Featuring an early role for Charlotte Rampling as a schizophrenic who finds she has an evil twin in the form of Britt Ekland, and another Amicus turn for Peter Cushing, who seeks to fashion a suit capable of bringing his dead son back to life, it’s perhaps the lesser of the studio’s two joints this week, but ends with another doozy in the form of madman Herbert Lom’s miniature robot army.
The Legacy (1978)
Where’s it on? Indicator Blu-ray
Not an Amicus fan? Hammer loyalists might want to check out this late 70s UK-US co-production from the studio’s pre-eminent scribe, Jimmy Sangster. The feature debut of erstwhile Ewok-wrangler Richard Marquand (Return of the Jedi, 1983) and cut by the legendary Anne Coates (Lawrence of Arabia, 1962), The Legacy finds a pair of Americans trapped in an English mansion with a secret in the attic. A run of grisly deaths and a ridiculous cameo from Roger Daltrey (in whose mansion the film was shot) ensue, but it all makes for a fun riff on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with Katharine Ross – who’d go on to marry co-star Sam Elliott – cast as both Mina and Jonathan Harker.