Saturday, July 25, 2015

CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES (1969) Blu-Ray from Arrow Video / WOMAN OF STRAW (1964) Blu-Ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics

A quick two-fer today from the 1960s. First up, Robert Hossein's 1969 spaghetti western, Cemetery Without Crosses OR The Rope and the Colt:

Robert Hossein is probably most well known for his role in Jules Dassin's crime thriller masterpiece, Rififi, but he also directed a handful of films. Director Hossein (who also stars in the picture) dedicated his film, Cemetery Without Crosses, to famed spaghetti western master Sergio Leonne. Piggybacking off the success of Leonne's Dollars trilogy, and adding another entry to the Italian western canon, Hossein's film, despite incorporating many of the tropes associated with the genre, manages to rise above the more mediocre efforts of his contemporaries. Kicking off with a fantastic theme song (check!) sung by Scott Walker, the first 15 minutes or so is largely without dialogue. A man is lynched by a terrible gang of bandits in front of his wife (check!). The man's wife, played wonderfully by Michele Mercier, travels to a desolate, almost post-apocalyptic ghost town and recruits a lone wolf gunslinger (check, check, check!) to seek revenge (check!) against the gang that murdered her husband. The gunslinger, played by director Robert Hossein, reluctantly joins this woman in her quest for vengeance. The film portrays an almost hopeless series of events, showing that the cycle of violence and revenge never ends (AND check!).

One of Arrow Video's more bare releases, there are still a couple of interesting items in the special features category.

First, a brand new interview with director and star Robert Hossein, entitled "Remembering Sergio." The disc also includes an archived interview with the director.

Aside from the original theatrical trailer, the final supplement is a short segment from a French news show reporting on the making of the film. There's some cool behind the scenes stuff here.

The full color booklet features two essays, the first by Ginette Vincendeau, and the second, written by Rob Young, focusing on singer/songwriter Scott Walker, the man who sings the extremely catchy theme song for Cemetery Without Crosses.

Finally, I'd like to point out the stellar new cover art by Sean Phillips. Phillips has done cover artwork for the Criterion Collection (Blast of Silence, 12 Angry Men, Sweet Smell of Success, and the upcoming Breaker Morant) and reportedly is involved in two upcoming Arrow releases (can't wait to see those!). He is also most well known for his work in comic books, including Criminal, Sleeper, Fatale, and is currently working with Ed Brubaker on the incredible Hollywood noir, The Fade Out.

Next up, a short thought on Kino Lorber Studio Classics' Woman of Straw from 1964.

I'm worried that this particular release may have slipped under the radar and gone mostly unseen by my fellow lovers of movies and collectors of home video. I was first exposed to British director Basil Dearden with Criterion Collection's side arm of DVD-only releases, the Eclipse Series. The "Basil Dearden's London Underground" set houses four incredible films from this largely underrated director. Ever since renting The League of Gentlemen (1960) on a whim, I've been eager and hungry to hunt down and see as much of this director's work as possible. 1964's Woman of Straw is only the second film from Dearden to make it's way to glorious high definition courtesy of Kino Lorber Studio Classics. Woman of Straw, while not being Dearden's best (to my eyes, that distinction belongs to the aforementioned The League of Gentlemen), is still a solid thriller. A ruthless, old, racist millionaire hires a new Italian nurse and falls in love with her. The millionaire's nephew, played by Sean Connery, is eager to get his hands on his uncles fortunes and seduces the young, beautiful nurse and convinces her to accept his uncles advances in the hopes that the old man will die and leave his millions to them.

Unfortunately, the Kino Lorber Studio Classics tend to be free of supplements. Not even a subtitle track. But, it's all about the film, isn't it folks?

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