Arrow Heads Roundup — GOSFORD PARK, BLOODY BIRTHDAY, SERPENT’S EGG, De Palma/De Niro, and more

Recapping Arrow Video and Arrow Academy releases from November & December


Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.

Our Arrow Heads Roundups trail the actual releases a bit, but that’s because we try to actually view and review as many of these as we can first to provide some meaningful commentary.

It’s been an interesting last few months for Blu-ray distributors, factory delays have shifted a number of release dates for many companies and discs across the board. In an additional wrinkle, a pair of highly anticipated Franco Nero spaghetti westerns were pulled from Arrow’s slate, Django and Texas, Adios. Their fate remains unknown due to untangling a rights dispute with Blue Underground.

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Editor’s Pick: Gosford Park

Director: Robert Altman

The premise: take a huge ensemble of the best established and up-and-coming British actors and put them into a witty dramedy of manners, spending most of the film simply getting to know the large cast of wealthy socialites and their servants, allowing a plot to sort of organically brew up out of the concoction. Gosford Park is an endlessly interesting exploration of the foibles of humanity, a whirlwind of politics, social etiquette, hypocrisy, and desire.

This very British film is actually helmed by Robert Altman, flexing his powers in telling a tale far outside his Kansas City origins. But there’s an even bigger presence as a guiding hand. It’s almost impossible not to compare this to Downton Abbey, both being about the drama between and among the British ruling class and the servants who run their houses. I learned that writer Julian Fellowes is in fact the creator of that series as well, which explains a lot.

The disc features a new 2K restoration supervised and approved by director of photography Andrew Dunn. Extras include:
• Three audio commentaries by director Robert Altman, production designer Stephen Altman &producer David Levy; writer-producer Julian Fellowes; and authors Geoff Andrew and David Thompson
• Introduction by critic Geoff Andrew
• Brand new cast and crew interviews recorded exclusively for this release
The Making of Gosford Park archive featurette
Keeping Gosford Park Authentic archive featurette
• Q&A Session with Altman and the cast
• Deleted scenes with optional Altman commentary
• Trailer
• Packaging: reversible sleeves with original and new artwork by Matthew Griffin, booklet by critic Sheila O’Malley with an archive interview with Robert Altman (first pressing only)

Orgies of Edo

Director: Teruo Ishii

Another eru guro Japanese pulp release from Arrow, this anthology trilogy blurs the lines of arthouse and grindhouse in three bizarre tales of jidaigeki (period piece) decadence. Weird and definitely surreal, this is not my thing but kudos to Arrow for treating this subgenre with respect and making these often difficult to find films available.

  • The Orgies of Ishii — new interview with author Patrick Maccias
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Packaging: Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; booklet with new writing by Tom Mes

Gas Food Lodging

Director: Allison Anders

The story of a single mother raising her two teenage daughters in a trailer park, 1992’s indie Gas Food Lodging follow the three women, each with distinct personalities, as they grapple with life and each other. elizabeth stoddard reviewed it for an edition of Arrow Heads:

The new Arrow BluRay offers an opportunity to rediscover this work, with its director-approved high-definition print. The techniques used by Anders and her crew — especially the movie-within-a-movie sequences — give Gas, Food, and Lodging a modern, yet timeless, feel. The director says at the time distributors were “looking for a voice, basically,” and her film provides a story that is distinctly woman-centric.

Arrow’s Special Edition is approved by director Allison Anders and includes these extras:

  • The Road to Laramie: A Look Back at Gas Food Lodging, a brand new interview with Allison Anders and Josh Olson
  • Cinefile: Reel Women (Chris Rodley, 1995), a documentary looking at the challenges women face in the film industry, with Allison Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Penny Marshall, Gale Anne Hurd and others
  • Packaging: Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; booklet

Bloody Birthday

Director: Edward Hunt

Born on the same day under a foreboding eclipse, three cursed kids form an inseparable trio — and become a 10-year-old murderers’ row. Playing a bit like a really scuzzy take on Village of the Damned, this nutty slasher was previously release on Blu-ray by Severin. Arrow’s new edition features a greatly improved new 2K restoration on which we ran a screenshots comparison.

Extras on this one:

  • New audio commentaries with director Ed Hunt and The Hysteria Continues
  • New interview with actress Lori Lethin
  • Bad Seeds and Body Counts — an appreciation by film journalist Chris Alexander
  • Archival interview with producer Max Rosenberg
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Packaging: Reversible sleeve new artwork by Timothy Pittides; booklet by Lee Gambin (first pressing only)

The Serpent’s Egg

Director: Ingmar Bergman

David Carradine stars as a depressed and alcoholic Jewish-American man in pre-WWII (but rapidly radicalizing) 1920s Germany. Reeling from the suicide of his brother and reconnecting with his widowed sister-in-law, he finds himself at the center of a series of deaths for which he may be the prime suspect — this veers off into a bizarre conspiracy that mixes historical drama with a dab of science fiction.

The film is ugly, bleak, and frequently nasty piece of work, and for all their real-world problems and a fascinating political climate and setting, our mopey protagonist can be difficult to empathize with. A key revelation is made at the film’s climax but doesn’t carry enough weight to make the rest feel worthwhile. I really disliked this one, and that seems to be a common sentiment — it’s little regarded among Bergman’s oeuvre.

  • Audio Commentary by actor David Carradine
  • Bergman’s Egg — new appreciation by critic and author Barry Foreshaw
  • Away From Home, archival featurette including interviews with David Carradine and Liv Ullman
  • German Expressionism, archival interview with Author Marc Gervais
  • Stills gallery
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Packaging: reversible sleeve, limited booklet by author Geoffrey Macnab (first pressing only)

Note this film is also included in Criterion’s massive, recently released Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema box set.

De Niro & De Palma : The Early Films [The Wedding Party / Greetings / Hi, Mom!]

Director: Brian De Palma

It’s kind of amazing that Robert De Niro and Brian De Palm got their start together, with De Niro appearing (but not necessarily starring) in three of the director’s first five films.

De Niro plays character Jon Rubin in ultra-timely sociopolitical satires Greetings and Hi, Mom!, partially set in and around the world of adult films and commenting on Vietnam, sex and dating, race, conspiracy theories, and the general malaise of adulthood. Most interestingly to me, one vignette directly references Blow Up in a humorous context, demonstrating that the film was already rooted in De Palma’s headspace — a preface to his later film Blow Out.

The oddity of the package is The Wedding Party, a chaotic black and white comedy about a cold-footed groom which has the least amount of their fingerprints — De Palma co-directed the film as part of a trio, and De Niro has a supporting role. It’s unique but perplexing, with an non-stop prattle of inane dialogue, occasionally breaking for silent-film style action sequences.

All three films come from a place of observational humor… which isn’t particularly funny. These aren’t great films but show some of the makings of a great filmmaker.

  • New exclusive restorations from 2K scans of all three films
    New commentary on Greetings by Glenn Kenny, author of Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor
  • New appreciation of Brian De Palma and Robert De Niro’s collaborations by critic and filmmaker Howard S. Berger
  • New interviews with Charles Hirsch, writer-producer of Greetings and Hi, Mom!
  • New interview with actor Gerrit Graham on Greetings, Hi, Mom! and his other collaborations with Brian De Palma
  • New interview with actor Peter Maloney on Hi, Mom!
  • Hi, Mom! theatrical trailer
  • Packaging: New artwork by Matthew Griffin, limited booklet by Brad Stevens, Chris Dumas and Christina Newland, with an archive interview with Brian De Palma and Charles Hirsch

A/V Out.

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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system. All package photography was taken by the reviewer.

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