Recapping Arrow Video’s Dynamite US new releases for January 2019
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.
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Editor’s Pick: Waterworld (1995)
Director: Kevin Reynolds
Famously derided as a box office dud (though it did relatively well on a global scale and was ultimately profitable), Waterworld was at the time the most expensive film ever made, thanks to runaway production budget. Negative perception and a tepid response fed each other, and the film has never really been appreciated for what it is:
Mad Max at sea.
Rewatching Waterworld after viewing it once several years ago, I was surprised how much I enjoyed it this time. It’s campy, sure, but it’s charming how crazy and huge this thing is, with some amazing spectacle and cinematography complementing the silliness and deep world-building.
The film is not only great, but feels a fitting piece in director Kevin Reynolds’ bold and adventurous filmography that includes Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Count of Monte Cristo, Risen, and TV’s Hatfields & McCoys, among others.
Waterworld has a previous barebones theatrical Blu-ray release, but Arrow’s new version is an incredible, comprehensive statement on the film. Ed Travis reviewed this astoundingly stacked deluxe 3-disc limited edition, which includes three cuts of the movie as well as physical extras: a 60-page book, set of postcards, and a 2-sided poster.
THREE-DISC LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Three cuts of the film newly restored from original film elements by Arrow Films
• Six collector’s postcards
• Double-sided fold-out poster
• Limited edition 60-page perfect bound book featuring new writing on the film by David J. Moore and Daniel Griffith, and archival articles
• Reversible sleeve with original and new artwork by Paul Shipper
DISC ONE — THE THEATRICAL CUT
• Maelstrom: The Odyssey of Waterworld, an all-new, feature-length making-of documentary including extensive cast and crew interviews and behind the scenes footage
• Dances With Waves, an original archival featurette capturing the film’s production
• Global Warnings, film critic Glenn Kenny explores the subgenre of ecologically themed end-of-the-world films
• Production and promotional stills gallery
• Visual effects stills gallery
• Original trailers and TV spots
DISC TWO — THE TV CUT [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended US TV cut, which runs over 40 minutes longer than the theatrical cut
DISC THREE — THE “ULYSSES” CUT [LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE]
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation of the extended European “Ulysses” cut, which include previously censored shots and dialogue
Willie Dynamite (1974)
Director: Gilbert Moses
At first, Willie Dynamite plays similarly to a lot of brash and over-the-top exploitation films of the era. We meet Willie Dynamite (Roscoe Orman, best known as Sesame Street’s Gordon), an enterprising and flamboyant pimp with a cadre of high-end prostitutes who serve in his employ. A bouncy intro demonstrates his process: rather than simply have them work the streets, he strategically places his girls in an upscale hotel so they can lure wealthy men attending business conferences.
Willie soon comes into conflict with Cora (Diana Sands), a former prostitute who now dedicates her life to helping girls break free from the life. With her DA boyfriend (Thalmus Rasulala!), she plots to take Willie D down. This plot probably sounds like a crime comedy, and to an extent it is certainly that, and loud, wild and colorful. But as the film progresses, the tone becomes gradually more serious as both Willie and Cora reexamine their motivations and the impact of their actions, each finding no joy in their respective victories.
That shift into drama, in addition to an absence of the rougher aspects of the genre (despite the film’s wild aesthetic and mature themes, there’s no nudity and relatively little violence and language) make Willie Dynamite a surprisingly sober blaxploitation entry.
Gilbert Moses directed only one other feature film, the abysmal (but cult-cached) The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, giving him a small but very colorful and unique filmography of which Willie Dynamite is certainly his best work.
This disc is leaner than most Arrow offerings, with only a trailer and commentary as extras, but worthwhile nonetheless.
- Brand new audio commentary by critic and lecturer Sergio Mims
- Theatrical trailer
- Reversible sleeve featuring original and new artwork by Sean Phillips
Crimson Peak (2015)
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Similar to the treatment of Waterworld, Arrow’s Limited Edition of Crimson Peak is a feature-packed, comprehensive release of del Toro’s lushly designed gothic horror-romance about a young woman who is whisked away by her dashing new husband, only to learn her new life hold horrific and dangerous secrets.
Whereas del Toro’s films had previously traded off between artsy independent pictures and bigger-budgeted mainstream genre pictures, Crimson Peak blends these approaches into a pure del Toro aesthetic, a trend which continued in the hugely lauded, multiple Academy Award-winning follow-up The Shape of Water.
The film is still relatively recent and already has an incredible Blu-ray release, which makes it perhaps a harder sell, but Arrow’s gorgeous edition one-ups even that already stellar package. Jon Partridge reviewed this release in full, which you can read here:
• Original 5.1 and 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and optional English 2.0 DTS Headphone:X Audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Optional Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®) for the visually impaired
• Audio commentary by co-writer and director Guillermo Del Toro
• The House is Alive: Constructing Crimson Peak, a newly edited, feature-length documentary with cast and crew interviews and extensive behind the scenes footage
• Previously unseen Spanish language interview with Guillermo Del Toro
• The Gothic Corridor, The Scullery, The Red Clay Mines, The Limbo Fog Set; four featurettes exploring different aspects of Allerdale Hall
• A Primer on Gothic Romance, the director and stars talk about the key traits of Gothic romance.
• The Light and Dark of Crimson Peak, the cast and crew talk about the film’s use of color
• Hand Tailored Gothic, a featurette on the film’s striking costumes
• A Living Thing, a look at the design, modelling and construction of the Allerdale Hall sets
• Beware of Crimson Peak, a walking tour around Allerdale Hall with Tom Hiddleston
• Crimson Phantoms, a featurette on the film’s amazing ghosts
• Kim Newman on Crimson Peak and the Tradition of Gothic Romance, a newly filmed interview with author and critic
• Violence and Beauty in Guillermo Del Toro’s Gothic Fairy Tale Films, a new video essay by the writer Kat Ellinger
• Deleted scenes
• Original trailers and TV spots
• Double-sided, fold-out poster
• Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions
• Limited Edition packaging designed by concept artist Guy Davis
• Limited edition 80-page, hard-bound book featuring new writing by David Jenkins and Simon Abrams, an archival interview with Guillermo del Toro, and original conceptual design illustrations by artists Guy Davis and Oscar Chichoni
The Forbidden Photos of a Woman Above Suspicion (1970)
Director: Luciano Ercoli
The doting wife of a wealthy businessman becomes the tortured plaything of a depraved sadist in Luciano Ercoli’s dramatic giallo The Forbidden Photos of a Woman Above Suspicion. Armed with evidence implicating her husband in a recent murder, the perverse abuser (Simón Andreu) confronts and blackmails innocent Minou (Dagmar Lassander), further strengthening his position of leering dominance by photographing their coerced encounter. As Minou gets further and further in over her head, her husband Peter (Pier Paolo Capponi) and friend Dominique (Nieves Navarro) also get pulled into the deepening and increasingly paranoid mystery.
Despite the perverse themes, the film is not given to exploitation, leaning more into its intrigue and artsy presentation than lewd or bawdy tendencies (it’s certainly much tamer than its own salacious trailer implies). The mystery is a solid one, in which the audience is right there with the protagonist, wondering who can be trusted in the increasingly paranoid whirlwind of furtive behaviors and compounding red herrings.
• Brand new 2K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original lossless mono Italian and English soundtracks, with English subtitles for both versions
• New audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine
• Private Pictures, a newly-edited documentary featuring archival interviews with actress Nieves Navarro and director Luciano Ercoli, and new interview material with writer Ernesto Gastaldi
• The Forbidden Soundtrack of the Big Three, a new appreciation of the music of Forbidden Photos and 70s Italian cult cinema by musician and soundtrack collector Lovely Jon
• The Forbidden Lady, a Q&A with actress Dagmar Lassander at the 2016 Festival of Fantastic Films
• Original Italian and English theatrical trailers
• Image gallery
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and new artwork by Twins of Evil
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.