www.list.co.uk/film DRAMA I AM A CAMERA (12) 100min (Park Circus) ●●●●●
Made in 1955 this, the first major film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin, is largely forgotten, eclipsed by the multi- award-winning stage and film musical Cabaret, also adapted from Isherwood’s tales of 1930s Berlin. Directed by Henry Cornelius, I Am a Camera has much more in common with the director’s earlier harmless goofball comedy Genevieve than Isherwood and Bob Fosse’s paeans to divine decadence.
Julie Harris provides a lively turn as Sally Bowles, the childlike, outrageously affected nightclub singer who becomes the constant companion and muse of Laurence Harvey’s aspiring writer. Their attempts to live off their wits while dancing around the fringes of Berlin high society lead to some mildly amusing set pieces, including a frantic hotel party sequence. But there’s none of the creeping sense of social rot of Isherwood’s original, and the rise of the Nazi menace is barely a footnote to this bowdlerised version of the story. (Allan Radcliffe)
SILENT/COMEDY CHAPLIN AT KEYSTONE (U) 561min (BFI) ●●●●●
Before he became an international star and acclaimed filmmaker, Charlie Chaplin learned to make movies at Mack Sennett’s Keystone Film Company. Spotted in Fred Karno’s touring vaudeville troupe, Chaplin was snapped up by the silent comedy mogul in 1913 and during his meteoric rise
Canadian film co-written and directed by first- timer Andrew Thomas Hunt lacks the wit of Tarantino’s opus, the grit of Abel Ferrara’s earlier film and the panache and impact of either. And despite its skuzzy production values and downbeat conclusion, the film also fails to achieve the kind of 1970s cult exploitation flick vibe that Hunt was evidently aiming for with his debut. Instead, Sweet Karma simply comes across as a pedestrian homage to other and much better films. All of which is a shame, because there was promise in the initial idea. No extras. (Miles Fielder) DOCUMENTARY DOWN HOME MUSIC (E) (Arhoolie) ●●●●●
In 1963 German filmmaker Dietrich Wawzyn set out to shoot a series of films for German television that took him through the southern states in search of American jazz and roots music. He asked Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz, an expert in regional musical traditions, to be his guide and together they made three films, dealing with blues, gospel, and hillbilly music. The negatives to those films were then lost. This fascinating film retraces that journey with the help of left over footage, much of which is previously unreleased.
A kind of lightweight Germanic half cousin to Harry Smith’s mighty Anthology of American Folk Music, Wawzyn’s is still a fairly awesome record of the likes of Lightnin’ Hopkins, the Blind James Campbell String Band, The Hodges Brothers and King Louis H Narcisse performing at the top of their game. In the extras,
to stardom made 35 films in a single year, half of which he also directed. Only 34 of them survive. Happily, they’re all here in this excellent four-disc set, reconstructed and restored from fragments found all over the world. Among them is the only recently rediscovered Keystone Cops comedy A Thief Catcher (1914), which marks Chaplin’s very first appearance on film.
Aside from the sheer pleasure of watching these great slapstick films, the collection also provides a fascinating insight into Chaplin’s evolution as a filmmaker and how he developed his beloved ‘Tramp’ character. Extras: booklet with extensive notes, Charlie’s White Elephant (cartoon featuring Chaplin), restoration documentary, Keystone doc, stills gallery. (Miles Fielder)
THRILLER SWEET KARMA (18) 85min (Anchor Bay) ●●●●●
There are echoes of female vigilante benchmarks Ms 45 (aka Angel of Vengeance) and the Kill Bills in this femme fatale revenge thriller in as much as it features a gorgeous girl (model-turned-actress Shera Bechard) brutally dispatching members of a gang of Russian mobsters operating in Toronto who forced her sister into the sex trade and then murdered her. But this low-budget
DVD REVIEWS Film
A Bay of Blood
PAUL DALE LOOKS FORWARD TO THE RE-ISSUE OF A HORROR CLASSIC
Out of all Arrow’s lush new DVD and Blu-ray issues of films from the American and Italian masters of horror, this is the one I have been looking forward to most. I was first introduced to Mario Bava’s 1971 film by friend, colleague and screenwriter Eddie Harrison, who at the time was working on the screenplay to his own (albeit Scottish) rural horror Dark Nature. The first time I watched A Bay of Blood, I was drunk and I fell asleep. The second time, however, it was a revelation. This gruesome, inventive and unrelenting horror about a killing spree
that leads all the way back to old money and its inheritance seems to lay out the very foundations of the house upon which the modern day slasher flick is built on. After one sober viewing of Bava’s remarkable horror, old Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees’ exploits didn’t seem so sharp anymore. Even Australian Colin Eggleston’s brilliant 1978 mystery thriller Long Weekend (a personal favourite) suddenly looked like it owed Bava’s film a huge debt.
Harrison, a long time fan and student of the film, puts it best when he explains to me: ‘A Bay of Blood is, without doubt, one of the most influential and imitated horror films ever made, from Friday the 13th to Halloween. It’s pretty much the template for every slasher film ever made, but it also gave rise to the ecological thriller genre. It’s stylish, imaginative and darkly humorous, and like all of Bava’s work, deserves more recognition than it gets.’
He goes on to explain: ‘One of the key ideas behind Dark Nature was to pay tribute to great directors like Argento and Fulci. But the biggest influence was Bava; his notion of a whodunnit in which the environment is the real killer is a brilliant one. And the specific idea for Dark Nature came from a meeting in Rome with actress Laura Betti, who played the fortune teller in A Bay of Blood. If the references in Dark Nature help redirect horror fans to Bava’s work, that can only be a good thing.’
A ton of extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray editions a documentary about the giallo big three, collector’s booklet, Italian cut of film, Joe Dante on Bava, documentary about cameraman Gianlorenzo Battaglia, commentary by Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright and much more. ■ A Bay Of Blood, Mon 20 Dec (Arrow); Dark Nature (Region 1 only), out now.
Chris Strachwitz’s audio commentary is definitely worth listening to. (Paul Dale) ACTION/THRILLER SHOGUN ASSASSIN (18) 85min (Eureka/Masters of Cinema) ●●●●●
Heavily cut by the British Board of Film Censorship for its original cinema release and subsequently banned as a video nasty, this bloodthirsty 1980 martial arts flick has since become a chanabara (samurai cinema) cult classic.
It’s actually a reassembly of the first
son to become a sword for hire in medieval Japan. Despite, or perhaps
because of, being unceremoniously hacked apart and stitched back together, Shogun Assassin is a delirious treat. Misumi’s flare for comic brutality (check out the razor sharp flying carrots) remains intact, while his already frenetic style of direction is, if anything, enhanced by the disembowelment of two of his films. Extras: appreciation by Samuel L Jackson, commentary tracks, trailers to original Lone Wolf and Cub films. (Miles Fielder)
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two of the six films directed by Kenji Misumi adapting the hugely popular manga series Lone Wolf and Cub which tell the story of the ronin Itto Ogami who, framed and disgraced by his clan lord, goes on the run with his three-year-old