Thriller

Edge of Eternity (Blu-ray)

Gold + Guano + Grand Canyon. From Twilight Time, a remastered version of the 1959 thriller that, because it’s Twilight Time, you won’t be able to buy. But, hey, that’s your problem. Anyway: it’s Arizona, specifically the Grand Canyon, and some dead bodies are starting to turn up. Enterprising–and smoldering!–Deputy Les Martin (Cornel Wilde) sticks his nose into the mystery and begins to uncover a hive of corruption and betrayal. At center of it? You guess it: gold. Apparently, there’s some gold to be had an old mine and someone has got the glitter-eye so bad, he’s been offing locals. As Martin investigates he meets the lovely Janice Kendon (Victoria Shaw), a kindred spirit and teammate in mayhem. Eventually, the investigation culminated with a legit-impressive done-for-real fight on a U.S. Guano bucket hauler that’s crossing the Grand Canyon (mixed with some bodaciously awful  rear-projection effects). I don’t get the title–“Edge of Eternity” strikes me more as a 30 Seconds to Mars B-side–but this little film is a fun slice of cinematic action history. In these days of Bayhem and whatnot, where your senses are so thoroughly pulverized by two and a half hours worth of gonzo action, a film with a modest runtime (77 minutes), an uncomplicated plot (bad guy wants gold, kills people, gets dropped into the Grand Canyon), and an absolutely gorgeous female lead (seriously, Victoria Shaw, in all her flamboyant Technicolor glory is a stunner) is a welcome retreat. That’s what Edge of Eternity is: a short, simple, streamlined throwback thriller (throwback is wrong of course as this was already thrown back at the time of its production). It won’t remain in your thoughts for long, but if you want a nicely staged, decently-acted (have I mentioned how beautiful Victoria Shaw is??) mystery film with a stand-out stunt sequence and a buttload of aerial photography of the Grand Canyon, here you go. Good disc from Twilight Team, starting with the rich 1080p. 2.35:1 transfer, a 1.0 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, and extras including an isolated music score and audio commentary with a pair of film historians. That said, good luck trying to find it! THE VERDICT Not Guilty. Add this to your bucket list.

Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Blu-ray)

Don’t Tell Anyone What Happened In The Summer House!

Split (Blu-ray)

“We are what we believe we are.”

The Internecine Project (Blu-ray)

Internecine: a fancy word for multiple murder.

Nocturnal Animals (Blu-ray)

When you love someone you can’t just throw it away.

Pretty Poison (Blu-ray)

What brought a nice kid like Sue Ann to a shocking moment like this?

Blood Simple (Blu-ray) Criterion

“What I know about is Texas, and down here you’re on your own.”

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) (Blu-ray) Limited Edition

When Wes Craven passed away in 2015, there was a huge rush to re-affirm his place in the cinematic pantheon of horror directors. His last film was a sequel to his long-running series Scream, and he hadn’t sat in the director’s chair for four years when he passed. The combination of his late-career quiet and his penchant for sequels meant the world was taking him for granted. It’s pretty easy to do in Craven’s case, because few American horror directors have been as prolific as Craven, whose highs were the highest, but whose lows were also the lowest. But he gave us two iconic franchises that pushed back the boundaries of what sequels could do — both in terms of story and in terms of making a studio (in this case the late, lamented New Line) tons of cash. By the time of Scream 4’s polished techniques and star-heavy cast, it was easy to forget that Craven got his start in blood ’n’ guts cinema of the 1970s. Now we have a new, Limited Edition version of The Hills Have Eyes to remind us of how gung-ho Craven could be. The Carter family are travelling through Nevada’s desert when they are warned to stay on the main road. When an accident forces them and their camper off the main drag, the Carters are menaced by another family, one that puts the “nuclear” in “nuclear family.” It becomes a brutal fight for survival in the desert. If I had to make an argument, Wes Craven doesn’t really come into his own as a writer/director until A Nightmare on Elm Street. Before that, he was getting his feet underneath him, and that shows most especially in his first two features. The Last House on the Left is explicitly a remake of Bergman’s Virgin Spring combined with contemporary exploitation filmmaking techniques. The Hills Have Eyes is a similarly combinatory film. It plays out like Tobe Hooper remaking an atom-age 50’s sci-fi film. The film’s slightly shopworn vibe actually helps it along. We know from the opening moments, when we’re introduced to some of Jupiter’s family that things are not going to be normal in Nevada. Then once we see the Carter family caravan, we know it’s on. The parallels to Texas Chainsaw Massacre are both obvious and subtle. Like Hooper’s masterpiece, Hill starts out on the road, with a weird looking young woman contrasted with a less-weird group on the road. The brilliant move of Hills, however, is to go slightly more extreme than TCM.  That film contrasted a forgotten family of butchers, left behind by industrialization, with a rag-tag bunch of young, hippie types. Hills goes further and makes the protagonists an honest-to-goodness family, while the antagonist are freakier, with the connection to Nevada suggesting nuclear fallout and isolation more extreme than in Texas. Though it would take Craven a few more tries to really strike out on his own, what sets Hills apart is the strong sense of mood and tone. Because we don’t have the associations for Nevada that we do of some place like Appalachia, Craven has bit more room to maneuver. Jupiter’s family is intense and scary, and the Carter family’s overt “goodness” puts viewers in an off-kilter position. Rooting for the killer wasn’t yet a mainstay of horror films (the way it would become with slashers in the years following Hills), but I suspect that the film has become a cult favorite because it’s possible to root for the Carter’s as a wholesome family in contrast to Jupiter’s. But it’s equally possible to watch the film rooting for Jupiter and his clan to wipe out the Carter’s for their logic-defying behavior. The film’s appeal almost four decades after release comes down to Craven’s willingness to look unflinchingly at the plot he has devised. Though his work would grow more bloodless as he grew older, as a younger man Craven was part of the renaissance of practical effects and low budget horror filmmaking. The Hills Have Eyes delivers the goods in terms of late-70s horror, even if it doesn’t rise about its cult status. This Limited Edition Blu-ray is pretty great, though not quite perfect. The films’ 1.78:1/1080p AVC-encoded transfer is sourced from 35mm elements taken from lost 16mm originals. What’s here looks pretty good, and short of a return of the lost 16mm elements, this is as good as the film is likely to look. Color saturation is most impressive, with plenty of gamut in the skies and the clothing. Detail is okay – this is a second-generation source from 16mm – especially in close-ups. But the overall look is a bit softer than is ideal. Longtime viewers will appreciate what’s been done to enhance the film for hi-def, but new viewers should prepare themselves for a pretty rough experience. The film’s DTS-HD 1.0 mono track fares a bit better. Dialogue is always clean and clear, with no serious hiss or distortion. There’s no directionality, but effects are well mixed, as is the film’s score. Extras start with a trio of commentaries. One includes the cast, another Wes Craven and producer Peter Locke, with a final one by critic Mikel J. Koven. Between the three we get a really good sense of how Hills came to be, what it was like working on it, and how it fits into the cultural landscape of the late 1970s, especially horror cinema. There’s also a 55 minute retrospective documentary that talks to all the expected participants. We get separate interviews with star Martin Speer and composer Don Peake. If you want more Hills we get an 11 minute alternate ending and 19 minutes of outtakes. For promotion, there’s two trailers, some TV spots, and an image gallery. If you put the disc in your computer, you can access the film’s screenplay. The release comes in a thick cardboard case that houses a regular Blu-ray case and a thick booklet featuring essays and stills. There’s a poster and postcards included as well, with reversible cover art. It’s a worthy-feeling package for a classic. The Hills Have Eyes hasn’t aged quite as well as Craven classics like Last House and Nightmare on Elm Street. But it’s head-and-shoulders above forgettable dreck like Swamp Thing. For the film’s fans, this is probably the definitive version to own. The presentation isn’t perfect, but it’s unlikely to be bettered anytime soon, and the extras are both extensive an informative. THE VERDICT Mutant, but not guilty.

Eye of the Needle (Blu-ray)

“The war’s come down to the two of us.”

Raising Cain: Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)

Hickory Dickory Dock. Cain has picked his lock.

Slasher (Blu-ray)

Sometimes you just gotta know when to cut your losses.

Kill Your Friends (Blu-ray)

What is the meaning of life young Stelfox? “To drive your enemies before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.”

Standoff (Blu-ray)

Protecting a life will mean taking one.

The Badger Game (Blu-ray)

These people give badgers a bad name.

Circle (DVD)

Who deserves to live, and who should die?

Se7en: Platinum Series (DVD)

Gluttony. Greed. Sloth. Lust. Pride. Envy. Wrath.

Rear Window (DVD)

“Why does a man leave his house three times on a rainy night and comes back three times?” “Maybe he likes the way his wife welcomes him home.”

Dirty Pretty Things (DVD)

“How come I’ve never seen you people before?” “Because we are the people you do not see. We are the ones who drive your cabs. We clean your rooms. And suck your c**ks.”

Basic Instinct: Uncut Limited Edition (DVD)

A brutal murder. A brilliant killer. A cop who can’t resist the danger.

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