As you know, this year I’ve been doing quite a bit of reviewing for Eureka Entertainment, one of the best cult and classic movie labels out there in the UK who have been kind enough to send me screeners of their upcoming films. I’ve seen a bunch of movies I never would have independently watched via this method and it’s been terrific fun.
A stack of Eureka titles all came at once recently and many without the in-depth extras most of their other titles have, so I thought I would badge them up into one post as I clear the decks for this year.
I’m probably going to review less Blu-Ray content in 2020 from Eureka and elsewhere, to be honest, only cherry picking what really takes my fancy. I have Book 2 which I need very much to be getting on with as we enter the New Year and I want to devote time to a few other bits & pieces as well, such as more Scene by Scene film breakdowns & my upcoming 2000 in Film project.
So anyway, here we go. The last (but one) stack of Eureka titles to consider for 2019…
From director Adrian Panek, Werewolf is probably the strongest entry of the titles being discussed here.
Polish made, it details a group of children and young adults at the very end of World War 2 who, while being transported out of the concentration camp that has held them, end up stranded in an abandoned country manor where they and their Nazi captors end up terrorised by a pack of savage, feral wolves from the surrounding forest.
It’s not nearly as exploitative as that concept sounds. Panek instead strives for something more artful and measured, with moments of horror punctuated by genuine comradeship between the largely young cast, touching on aspects of sexuality (and sexual assault) along the way.
Werewolf isn’t as tight, taut or powerful as it might have wished it would be, but it’s a fairly unique approach to the WW2 sub-genre.
- A limited edition collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Dr. Anton Bitel.
OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959)
At the very end of the classic age of the studio picture, Blake Edwards churned out what has to be one of his singular misfires in Operation Petticoat.
All the omens are there for a fun romp. An ageing Cary Grant is the grumpy old US submarine commander who is being inspected by a young Tony Curtis, playing a quite straight-laced, fresh-faced naval officer, and subsequently we get two hours of light comedy, echoes of farce, and finally the novelty of a pink submarine as the attempts to save the ship from mothballs gets a feminine touch.
Operation Petticoat is, even with such a flimsy and throwaway concept, threadbare. There is barely a semblance of plot, the jokes have perhaps simply aged beyond salvation, and even Grant’s curmudgeonly charm can’t prevent this being an overlong, dull experience.
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Richard Combs.
The late Argentinian director Hector Babenco must have thought he struck gold by casting Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep in Ironweed, his adaptation of William Kennedy’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel, as a pair of bums in Depression-era America.
Ironweed is probably the most artfully put together picture on this Eureka selection, as Babenco puts together a chilly, stark portrayal of Albany following the Crash and just before WW2; a place of lost dreams, false hopes and desperate existences. Nicholson and Streep, equally, are as impressive as you might imagine; the former as a sundered family man haunted by accidentally killing his son in infancy and of others whose deaths he’s responsible for, and the latter as a drunken, ranting shadow of a woman who lurches and heckles her way through the film.
Nonetheless, Ironweed is quite a glum and intense experience, lacking the dramatic punch that would have made a film marked by superb performers turn into unmissable period drama.
- A collector’s booklet featuring new essays on the film by Lee Gambin, and Simon Ward.
WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT? (1965)
The behind the scenes legend of What’s New, Pussycat? is far more entertaining than Clive Donner’s mid-60’s saucy comedy, forged in the midst of counter-culture at the birth of the American New Wave.
Aside from Tom Jones’ memorable title song, which accompanies the credits and is threaded through Burt Bacharach’s impressive score (one that makes a nice accompaniment to his masterful work on 1967’s Casino Royale), the title comes from a line Warren Beatty would use when calling women, given Beatty was originally developing the project as a starring vehicle. Easy Riders, Raging Bulls will give you the story as to why this didn’t happen and it’s far more entertaining than anything in this powerfully dated piece of 60’s culture.
It’s notable perhaps as the breakout performance and script for Woody Allen, who fills the piece with a lot of his nebbish wit and self-deprecating quirks, and it’s hard not to enjoy Peter Sellers & Peter O’Toole sparring on screen, but… try watching this after you’ve seen Austin Powers now and it’s hard work.
- Brand new and exclusive audio commentary by film critics Emma Westwood and Sally Christie.
- A collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Simon Ward.