"Sitting Target" (Douglas Hickox, 1972)
Why You Should Care: Kept alive by various retrospective screenings (including a series of grindhouse classics hosted by "Maniac" and "Vigilante" director Bill Lustig), "Sitting Target" is an explosively violent thriller that concerns a pair of convicts (Oliver Reed and Ian McShane) who break out of prison and are supposed to lay low, but instead Reed gets word that his wife has had an affair with another man and become pregnant with that man's child. So instead of quietly escaping to another country, the two men plot to murder Reed's wife and lover. If that doesn't make you want to desperately see this movie, consider that the cop on their trail is no other than Edward Woodward, the inquisitive Sergeant Howie from "The Wicker Man." Director Hickox would go on to helm genuine cult classic "Theatre of Blood" (with Vincent Price and Dianna Rigg) and, most famously, "Zulu Dawn," a historical epic about the clash between British and Zulu forces in South Africa that starred Peter O'Toole, Burt Lancaster, John Mills, Bob Hoskins and Denholm Elliott. His son, Anthony Hickox, is something of a genre legend himself, having directed modern B-movie classics like "Waxwork" and Playlist favorite "Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat."
What's On It: Nothing. This is a Warner Archive burn-to-order disc
Release date: Out now via Warner Archive
"Black Sunday" (Mario Bava, 1960), "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" (Mario Bava, 1970) & "Lisa and the Devil" (Mario Bava, 1974)
Why You Should Care: If you haven't familiarized yourself with the work of influential Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, now is a perfect time, because three of his most beloved, well-known works are getting re-upped for Blu-ray and DVD. Bava is known for his expressionistic use of color and suspense set pieces that were both brutally violent and also strangely glamorous (he was Italian, after all). The black-and-white "Black Sunday," released in the United States by grindhouse gatekeepers American International Pictures (at the time it was considered shockingly violent) to respectable box office numbers and critical notices, is probably his most well-known and influential movie. It's a tale of murder and witchy revenge and starred a beautiful and powerful Barbara Steele. (All the flashback stuff in Tim Burton's "Sleepy Hollow" is explicitly based on this movie.) "Hatchet for the Honeymoon," filmed in color and therefore more leery and lurid, is a more straightforward murder mystery (what's known in Italian as "giallo" – named after the pulpy yellow-paged paperbacks). More stylish than psychological, it starred Stephen Forsyth and concerned a murderer who owns a bridal shop. Released a decade after "Psycho," it feels somewhat like the Italian answer to Alfred Hitchcock's classic. And "Lisa and the Devil" (released here as "The House of Exorcism") is less coherent than the other two, with a plot and accompanying visuals that dangle near the precipice of psychedelia, but is still genuinely compelling, mostly due to Elke Sommer's spirited performance (this was her at her optimum cuteness, too) and an appearance by Telly Savalas, laying on the menace pretty thick. In the long lead-up to Halloween, these three would make an amazing triple-feature.
What's On It: "Lisa and the Devil" features the "House of Exorcism" producer's cut, while "Hatchet for the Honeymoon" features a commentary by Video Watchdog's Tim Lucas (he also wrote a great Bava biography called "Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark"). "Black Sunday" features Lucas' commentary, along with trailers for a number of Bava films (some of which inspired Edgar Wright's "Don't!" trailer from "Grindhouse" – let's see them try to make that into a standalone feature).
Release date: All three on September 18th via Redemption/Kino
"Going Home" (Herbert B. Leonard, 1971) & "The Wrath of God" (Ralph Nelson, 1972)
Why You Should Care: Because Robert Mitchum is a bad motherfucker and if you've exhausted your copies of "Cape Fear" and "Night of the Hunter" and want to dig a little deeper in the Mitchum catalog, then these two movies are a good (and really weird) place to indulge. "Going Home," which Vincent Canby of the New York Times (we picture him writing the review while adjusting a bowtie) called "an exceedingly nasty movie," concerns a man (Mitchum) who served time for murdering his wife. Once he's released, his son (played by the once-awesome Jan-Michael Vincent) still wants payback. An odd combination of revenge thriller and maudlin family melodrama, it received little critical love although Jan-Michael Vincent did get nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Ben Johnson for his peerless performance in "The Last Picture Show." Sorry, JML. Even stranger is "The Wrath of God," an existential western directed by Ralph Nelson, a filmmaker known for more respectable work like Rod Serling's "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and Oscar-winning dramas "Charly" and "Lilies of the Field." "The Wrath of God" is not very respectable. A delirious western filmed in Mexico, it was based on a novel by best-selling U.K. thriller writer Jack Higgins (writing as James Graham), and focused on a bank robber who dresses up like a Catholic priest and is spared from the firing squad and then sent to kill a local gangster. Uh what? Historically notable for being the last screen appearance by Rita Hayworth, whose Alzheimer's made it impossible for her to work after that, and an early, memorable turn by Frank Langella. It also features a jazzy Lalo Schifrin score to go along with all the western wildness.
What's On It: Neither disc have anything, as they are burn-to-order discs.
Release date: Out now from Warner Archive
Also released this month: Orson Welles' "Macbeth" on Blu-ray and DVD (September 18th); "The Dark Mirror," an awesome Olivia de Havilland/Lew Ayres movie about twins – one good, one incredibly fucking evil (out now); "King of the Underworld," which marked Humphrey Bogart's first starring role (out now); "Mad Monster Party," a charmingly herky-jerky Halloween stop-motion animated feature by Rankin-Bass, the gentlemen behind the Christmas classics (out now); Stuart Gordon's gross-out horror-comedy "Re-Animator" – now with a brand-new HD transfer (out now); a new Criterion edition of Italian neorealist classic "Umberto D" (out now); Fritz Lang's atmospheric take on the legend of Bluebeard "Secret Beyond the Door" (out now); one of our favorites from last year's Tribeca Film Festival, the surreal sci-fi thingmajig "Beyond the Black Rainbow" (out now); a velveteen new Blu-ray edition of Tim Burton's best movie, "Ed Wood" (September 18th); a two-disc Blu-ray edition of "The Great Mouse Detective," the movie that unofficially kick-started Disney's Second Renaissance of Animation and features Vincent Price as a singing rat (September 18th); Shout Factory's new horror imprint Scream Factory begins its reign of terror with deluxe reissues of "Halloween II" and "Halloween III: Season of the Witch," the former, sadly, without the "Terror in the Aisles" documentary that made last year's Blu-ray release so indispensible (September 18th); new Criterion issues of Michael Carne's "Children of Paradise" and "Les Visiteurs Du Soir" (September 18th); the "Indiana Jones – Complete Adventures" Blu-ray set doesn't offer the movies individually, so if you want to watch "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in Blu-ray you're going to have to pay for "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" (and not just spiritually), a movie we often forget exists at all (September 18th); the "Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection" from Universal means you're probably going to have to buy them all over again, this time on Blu-ray (September 25th); and "This Is Cinerama" is a fascinating, handmade documentary about the large-screen format, more than apt given the discussion surrounding IMAX and 70 mm this year (September 25th).