This is the final part of my 30 Favorite DVD Releases of 2006 list that I’ve been slowly putting together. You can find Parts I. and II. HERE.
Please keep in mind that these are all official NTSC Region 1 DVDs of films originally released between 1960 and 1979 and the numerical order means absolutely nothing except that I got these brief reviews written up in the order that they appear.
30 FAVORITE DVD RELEASES OF 2006 PART III.
The Fifth Cord
21. The Fifth Cord (Blue Underground)
Luigi Bazzoni’s impressive giallo stars the handsome Italian actor Franco Nero in one of his best roles as a journalist struggling with alcoholism, while trying to solve a series of brutal murders. The cast also includes acclaimed actors and genre favorites Wolfgang Preiss, Edmund Purdom, Renato Romano, Silvia Monti, Ira von Fürstenberg and Rossella Falk, who all give fine performances in the film. The Fifth Cord (1971) also features some truly incredible photography by cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and an amazing score by Ennio Morricone, which really compliments Bazzoni’s story. Blue Underground released some terrific gialli titles last year, but The Fifth Cord was easily my favorite of the bunch and I can’t recommend it enough. The DVD is presented in widescreen and looks terrific. It also comes with an extra feature called Giornata Nera (Black Days) which contains some insightful interviews with actor Franco Nero and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, as well as a theatrical trailer. Hopefully Blue Underground will continue to release more hard-to-find gialli titles this year!
The Loved One
22. The Loved One (Warner Home Video)
After the talented British filmmaker Tony Richardson won the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars in 1964 for Tom Jones, Hollywood was at his feet and MGM offered him complete creative control over his next project. No one expected that Richardson would take the opportunity to make “The motion picture with something to offend everyone,” but that’s exactly what he did. The Loved One is a blacker then black comedy that satirizes the Hollywood funeral business and definitely contains something to offend everyone. The script was written by Christopher Isherwood & Terry Southern, and it’s based on the original novel by Evelyn Waugh. Isherwood & Southern manage to retain Waugh’s uncompromising wit while giving the story a completely modern twist. The Loved One has an impressive cast that includes Robert Morse, John Gielgud, Roddy McDowall, Jonathan Winters, Anjanette Comer, Dana Andrews, Milton Berle, James Coburn, Tab Hunter, Paul Williams and Liberace, but the real star of the film is Rod Steiger who gives one of his best performance as the embalmer Mr. Joyboy. The Loved One should appeal to anyone who’s ever imagined what it might be like if John Waters had directed Dr. Strangelove. The DVD is presented in widescreen and features some great extras including the theatrical trailer and a new featurette called Trying to Offend Everyone. The film was universally panned when it was originally released and that’s probably because it was so ahead of its’ time. It’s gained a sort of cult following over the years and I think modern audiences might be able to appreciate it’s humor more so it’s great to see Warner making an impressive effort to release it on DVD.
Spirit of the Beehive
23. Spirit of the Beehive (Criterion)
The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) is a beautiful and spellbinding film that will stay with you long after it has ended. It centers around an enchanting six-year-old girl named Ana (a very young Ana Torrent) who attends a traveling movie show of James Whale’s classic Frankenstein and becomes haunted by her memory of the film. This memory begins to shape her world view and effect the way she see’s the harsh world around her. The story takes place in 1940 following the Spanish Civil War and offers a deeply moving look at a troubled nation trapped under Franco’s tyranny. Director Víctor Erice bathes the film in honeycomb colors and recurring metaphors that give the film a timeless and ethereal quality. The sparse score by Luis de Pablo adds to the somber mood of the film and Luis Cuadrado’s breathtaking cinematography beautifully captures the rural landscapes. The impressive 2 Disc Criterion DVD features a restored widescreen print of the movie and contains lots of great extras including a documentary about the making of the film called The Footsteps of a Spirit and an extensive interview with the director conducted by Japanese filmmaker Hideyuki Miyaoka.
24. The Conformist (Paramount Home Video)
Director Bernardo Bertolucci has made a lot of terrific films and The Conformist (1970) is easily one of his best. The story centers around the disturbed and repressed Marcello, who works as an assassin for the Italian Fascist movement in 1938 and is desperately trying to “conform” to societal expectations. In various flashbacks we learn about his troubling past. Jean-Louis Trintignant gives one of his best performances in the demanding role of Marcello and the rest of the cast is also exceptional. Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography (previously mentioned above in my review for The Fifth Cord) is especially impressive here and Georges Delerue score for the film is haunting. Aldo Lado also worked on the project as Assistant Director and I think fans of Lado’s great giallo films and various thrillers will notice his fingerprints on the movie along with Bertolucci’s. Previous prints of the The Conformist that I’ve seen have been very dull in comparison to the beautifully restored widescreen Paramount print featured on this DVD. The DVD also contains important previously cut footage and features some wonderful extras including three new featurettes about the making of the film.
25. Deadfall (20th Century Fox)
In Deadfall (1968), Michael Caine plays a jewel thief who finds himself caught up in a complex romantic relationship. Is he being played, or is he the player? The movie will keep you guessing and offers plenty of unusual twists and turns along the way. The exotic locations, stylish period clothing and shiny sport cars provide a lot of eye-candy in the movie, but British director Bryan Forbes’ real achievement in Deadfall is getting the incredible composer John Barry to score the film and make an appearance as himself. In one of the greatest combinations of music and cinema that I’ve ever come across, John Barry conducts a concert while Michael Caine makes a desperate attempt to steal some jewels in unison with the music. It has to be seen! Deadfall is presented in widescreen and includes a theatrical trailer as well as an interesting new featurette about the life and music of the British composer John Barry, who’s scored many great films. Deadfall is an under appreciated movie that really deserves another look.
26. Succubus (Blue Underground)
Succubus (1968) is one of my favorite Jess Franco films so I was thrilled when Blue Underground announced that they were going to remaster the film and re-release it on DVD in widescreen for the first time last year. The film stars Janine Reynaud in one of her best roles as an exotic nightclub performer named Lorna who is plagued with sadistic hallucinations that she doesn’t understand. As her dream world becomes more violent and depraved, Lorna seems to loose her grip on reality and the audience is left wondering if she is a victim of some plot to drive her insane, suffering from demonic possession or are her psychedelic hallucinations just a product of her wild imagination and decadent lifestyle? Franco regular’s Jack Taylor and Howard Vernon both have interesting roles in the film, but Janine Reynaud is especially memorable as the seductive Lorna. Franco’s directing is really impressive in Succubus and he manages to beautifully capture Lorna’s frenzied dream states. Extras on the DVD include an insightful interview with Franco and actor Jack Taylor as well as the original theatrical trailer.
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion
27. The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (Blue Underground)
2006 was a great year for fans of the Italian director Luciano Ercoli. It marked the first time that any of his films had been released officially on DVD in the US and we were treated to three impressive gialli films made by the director. I’ve already reviewed the terrific Luciano Ercoli Death Box Set released by NoShame that contained Death Walks on High Heels & Death Walks at Midnight, so I couldn’t resist including this Erocoli thriller released by Blue Underground in my list of Favorite 2006 DVDs as well. In The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion (1970) the beautiful Dagmar Lassander plays a repressed newly married woman named Minou who’s traumatized by a sexual assault as well as obsessed with her attacker. Passions turn deadly and soon Minou finds herself being blackmailed. Genre favorite Nieves Navarro shows up in a memorable supporting role and really spices up the film. Ercoli’s directing is impressive and it’s complimented by Ennio Morriocne’s fantastic score, which is easily one of his best. The film is presented in widescreen and looks fabulous. The DVD also includes the theatrical trailer and a nice featurette called Forbidden Screenplays which contains an interview with co-writer Ernesto Gastaldi. The basic premise of The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion is bound to offend some, but if you enjoy erotic films from the 60s & 70s that are more concerned with eroticism & aesthetics then political correctness, you might enjoy the film as much as I did.
28. The Passenger (Sony Pictures)
In The Passenger (1975), the talented Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni once again explores his favorite themes involving identity and isolation. Antonioni has made many brilliant films and I think The Passenger is one of his best, as well as one of his most accessible due to the presence of Jack Nicholson. Nicholson gives one of his most interesting performances here as a burned out journalist named David Locke who decides to assume a dead man’s identity and start his life again as a new person. Locke doesn’t know about the dead man’s past or what he did for a living, and he soon finds himself in over his head. The beautiful Maria Schneider is memorable in her role as the “Girl” and Luciano Tovoli’s cinematography is really impressive, but Antonioni’s directing is the real reason to watch The Passenger. Antonioni knows how to perfectly capture the isolation that his characters feel as well as the world they occupy, which is filled with detached people who rarely understand one another’s motives. The Sony DVD is presented in widescreen and the print looks terrific. I’ve never seen the movie look or sound better. The DVD also includes some insightful commentary tracks by Jack Nicholson, screenwriter Mark Peploe and journalist Aurora Irvine. It’s a shame that it has taken Sony so long to release the film on DVD, but thankfully this release was well worth the wait.
The Black Belly of the Tarantula
29. The Black Belly of the Tarantula (Blue Underground)
Director Paolo Cavara started his career making “Mondo” movies alongside filmmakers like Gualtiero Jacopetti. In 1970 Cavara decided to try his hand at making a genre thriller and The Black Belly of the Tarantula (1971) was the interesting result. This unusual giallo stars the talented Giancarlo Giannini as the suave Inspector Tellini. Tellini finds himself investigating a series of vicious murders involving a killer who injects his victims with the paralyzing poison of a rare wasp and then forces them to witness their own deaths. The rest of the cast includes many beautiful Bond girls as well as actresses who have appeared in other gialli films including Claudine Auger, Barbara Bouchet, Rossella Falk and Barbara Bach. Paolo Cavara’s directing is inspired and complimented by Ennio Morricone’s effective score. One of the most interesting elements of the movie is Cavara’s use of documentary footage showing deadly insects fighting for their lives, which is added throughout the film. It brings to mind the directors previous Mondo films and adds an interesting touch to this entertaining giallo. The Blue Underground DVD is presented in widescreen. It also includes the theatrical trailer and an interview with the scriptwriter’s son Lorenzo Danon. The Black Belly of the Tarantula is not the best giallo Blue Underground has released, but it is one of the most unique and I couldn’t resist adding it to this list.
Two Undercover Angels
30. Red Lips Double Feature: Two Undercover Angels & Kiss Me Monster (Blue Underground)
This great double feature DVD contains two of director Jess Franco’s best spy spoofs. Both films star Franco regulars Janine Reynaud & Rosanna Yanni who seem to be having a lot of fun playing the “red lips” spy team of Diana (Janine Reynaud) & Regina (Rosanna Yanni) while they seduce their enemies, solve crimes and travel to exotic locations wearing stylish late-60s fashions. Two Undercover Angels (1969) is definitely the best of the two films, while Kiss Me Monster (1969) seems a lot less inspired. Both movies are played for laughs and filled with slapstick comedy routines that get a little tired at times, but Janine Reynaud & Rosanna Yanni keep things entertaining. These are not Franco’s best films but they will appeal to anyone who enjoys spy spoofs featuring beautiful female agents like Modesty Blaise (1966) and Fathom (1967) backed by terrific jazzy scores. Previous DVDs of these films were rather bland and the movies were presented in fullscreen so viewers missed a lot of the action. Thankfully Blue Underground remastered them and the DVD features nice widescreen prints of both films as well as the original trailers and interviews with director Jess Franco.
– DVDs that might have made my list if I had the chance to see them: The Witch’s Mirror (1962), Brainiac aka El Baron Del Terror (1963), The Curse of the Crying Woman (1969), , The Quiller Memorandum (1966), Red Angel (1966), Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales (1970-72) and The Anniversary (1968).