Friday, September 29, 2023

Notes on Film: Kino Sale!

 by Anthony King

The Kino Lorber Fall Sale is upon us! With over 700 discs on sale (not including the While Supplies Last perpetual sale) with prices as low as $4.99, it's hard not to fill up your cart with a house payment-worth Blu-rays. Here are ten recommendations from yours truly.

Force of Evil
Abraham Polonsky | 1948
One of the greatest film noirs of all time starring the incredible John Garfield in his best performance. Garfield is Joe Morse, a lawyer who's trying to bring together all the small-time number runners into a one big enterprise. His brother, though, is a hold-out who doesn't want to get involved with the big time crime bosses. Co-starring Thomas Gomez and Marie Windsor, Force of Evil is an unforgettable thriller full of moments that will live with you forever. The Blu-ray boasts a 2022 4K restoration, a new audio commentary by historian Imogen Sara Smith, and an introduction by Martin Scorsese.

Curse of the Undead
Edward Dein | 1959

How about a vampire-western just in time for Scary Movie Month? Eric Fleming stars as Preacher Dan who goes head to head with Drake Robey (Michael Pate), a gunslinger in black who may be a vampire. Along with Doc Carter (John Hoyt) and his daughter Dolores (Kathleen Crowley, Preacher Dan gets to the bottom of the epidemic striking young girls in their small western town. From a new 2K master, Curse of the Undead comes with a fantastic commentary by one of my favorite historians, Tom Weaver.

Night Tide
Curtis Harrington | 1961
From influential experimental filmmaker Curtis Harrington comes this hypnotic romantic tale centered around a sailor on leave (Dennis Hopper) who falls for a woman who may be a mermaid (Linda Lawson). Night Tide is a quintessential cult film rediscovered with help from director Nicolas Winding Refn that at once treads the shores of fantasy, horror, and romance. A young Dennis Hopper leads us through a dreamlike setting that will leave you breathless from all of Harrington's imagery. This Blu is an HD master from 35mm elements and comes with a commentary by Harrington and Hopper, and an interview with Harrington by David Del Valle.

Diary of Mad Housewife
Frank Perry | 1970

One of my top 10 discoveries of 2022, Frank Perry's film, from a screenplay by his wife Eleanor, about a bored housewife in New York City brings three absolutely incredible performances. Carrie Snodgrass is the titular housewife, whose husband played by Richard Benjamin spends most of the time trying to please his co-workers and neighbors by keeping up with the Joneses. As the doting wife begins to think ill of the life she now leads, she meets a mysterious and arrogant writer played by Frank Langella like you've never seen him. Snodgrass gives one of the most memorable performances of all time that leans fully into upper class realism. The disc comes with a new commentary by screenwriter Larry Karaszewski and historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchel.

Trick Baby
Larry Yust | 1972
Trick Baby is in the rare breed of Philadelphia movies. “White Folks” (Kiel Martin) and Blue Howard (Mel Stewart) are adopted brothers who lead a life of small time crime. The film follows the two men as they dodge heat from crooked cops and gangsters. As much of a crime movie as Trick Baby is, it's also about racial politics and how blacks and whites and co-exist in the streets. It's funny, it's touching, it's a taught thrill ride through the streets of Philly. Included on the Blu is a new interview with director Larry Yust.

Theater of Blood
Douglas Hickox | 1973

While House of Haunted Hill (1959) is my favorite Vincent Price movie, Theater of Blood may very well be my second favorite. Price has been allowed to go full-bore Vincent Price numerous times (Madhouse [1974] and The Abominable Dr. Phibes [1971] in particular), I think Theater is the MOST Vincent Price performance out there. The story follows an actor getting his brutal revenge on critics that have panned him, and it's full of costumes and disguises and incredible London locations. Not only do we get a perfect VP performance, we also get a perfect Diana Rigg performance. This movie is entertaining from top to bottom! The disc comes with a commentary by screenwriter/producer Alan Spencer, a commentary by historians David Del Valle and Nick Redman, a Trailers From Hell with Alan Spencer, and several tv and radio spots.

The Long Riders
Walter Hill | 1980
You don't get just one western on this list! Real life brothers in acting play real life brothers in crime in this highly underrated and underseen Walter Hill joint. Carradines David, Keith, and Robert are the Youngers; Keaches Stacy and James are the James brothers; Quaids Dennis and Randy are the Millers; Guests Christopher and Nicholas are the Fords. The film follows the exploits of the James Gang and offers an empathetic eye to the most famous outlaws in American history. Co-starring Harry Carey Jr., James Remar, and a host of Hill regulars, The Long Riders is some of the most fun you could have in 99 minutes. The disc is from a new 4K restoration, has a commentary by historians Berger, Mitchell, and Nathaniel Thompson, interviews with the Carradines, Keaches, Randy Quaid, Nicholas Guest, Hill, composer Ry Cooder, producer Tim Zinnemann, a making-of documentary, scene breakdown, and a Walter Hill interview about Sam Peckinpah.

The Outsider aka Le Marginal
Jacques Deray | 1983

Jean-Paul Belmondo stars as a renegade cop who will do anything to get his man. The Outsider shows Belmondo at his bravest and wildest when it comes to stunts. Famously known for doing his own stunts, here you'll see the French dreamboat run across cars, hang from helicopters, race speed boats, and so much more. While American cop movies of the 80s were all about excess, this '80s cop movie from France fits right in. Included on the disc is fabulous commentary from historian Samm Deighan.

Nightmare Beach
Umberto Lenzi | 1989

While Lenzi is credited as the director, he was only really there in spirit as writer James Justice called most of the shots from the director's chair. It's spring break in Miami and the beaches and bars are full of horny college kids. John Saxon is the detective whose personal vendetta is to arrest any drunken teens that look at him sideways. Among the shirtless bodies is a biker dressed head to toe in black who is going around killing the co-eds in fabulously creative ways. While Lenzi didn't necessarily direct this film, it feels right at home in his later filmography. This disc comes with a commentary by Deighan, and an interview with composer Claudio Simonetti.

Mo' Better Blues
Spike Lee | 1990
The song “Mo' Better Blues” forever lives in my head, as this was a weekly watch for me in my formative years as a jazz musician. The film follows trumpeter Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington) and his quest for balance as one of the world's greatest musicians and one of the world's greatest lovers. While Bleek's focus is almost always on his music, he can't deny his love of women, in particular two women played by Joie Lee and Cynda Williams. Bleek's band consists of Wesley Snipes on tenor, Giancarlo Esposito on piano, Bill Nunn on upright, and Jeff 'Tain' Watts on drums. Other players include Robin Harris, John Turturro, Nicholas Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlie Murphy, and Ruben Blades. The Blu comes with a new commentary by critic Kameron Austin Collins.


  1. I had a chance to talk to (in a crowd) Samm Deighan at the Mahoning Drive-In this summer. It was at the I Spit On Your Grave screening. I recognized her from her voice at a couple of shows last year; a short woman in a leather jacket does not stand out much at the Mahoning. This was the first time I exchanged words with her.

    'Tis the time of year for physical media sales. Though there are many tempting titles in the Kino Lorber sale, I will likely be focusing my resources on getting some Mondo Macabro releases when that sale starts next month.

    The Kino sale titles that stand out to me for recommendation are three French films. Le Magnifique is a charming action comedy starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jacqueline Bisset. Francois Truffaut's The Story of Adele H. has a standout performance from Isabelle Adjani. The last is the gangster film Touchez Pas au Grisbi, which reinvigorated the career of the legendary Jean Gabin.