Editor’s Note: As champions of physical media at REBELLER, I thought it was important to highlight some Blu-rays outside of North America that you can purchase. Please keep in mind that many of these discs WILL NOT PLAY in a standard Blu-ray player if you live in America. If you need any advice on acquiring a region-free Blu-ray player, please tweet questions to @SonnyBunch. I love helping people navigate this thicket.
elcome back to REBELLER’s Out-of-Region Rays, your guide to the best of import Blu-ray with an outlaw edge. From Arrow Video to Indicator, Eureka to 88 Films, the United Kingdom has some of the best discs, and it’s our job to sift through them. From new releases to the obscure cuts you need in your collection, we’ve got your back.
'Harpoon' (Arrow Video)
Okay, so you remember that scene in Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood where Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth accidentally (or not) kills his wife with a speargun? Harpoon is basically a cross between a feature-length adaptation of that moment, and several episodes of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. What I’m saying is (wait for it): It’s a boat-load of fun.
The pitch-black comedy thriller follows three best friends, Jonah, Richard, and Sasha, as they head out on a yacht-based day trip to scatter the ashes of Jonah’s parents. Lurking in the background is the aforementioned speargun, a gift from Jonah and Sasha to Richard.
We get a little set-up on dry land, with the majority of the run time based on the boat. Three actors, one location: The entertainment quality of these kind of low-budget set-ups can vary, but through a mixture of clever staging and lens switch-outs, you never feel bored on the boat. Trapped, yes. Bored, no.
Excellent performances and sharp writing combine to create three truly unpleasant characters (some worse than others) who you still manage to enjoy hanging out with. And that’s all I’ll say on the movie itself: It’s a twist-filled experience best had seawater fresh.
But, speaking of enjoying hanging out, the Arrow Video disc is more packed with gems than a pirate’s pants, offering plenty of opportunities to spend time with the film’s creators. You get two commentaries, one from writer/director Rob Grant, who’s openly under the influence of psychedelics, and one slightly more professional take featuring Grant and producers Michael Peterson and Kurtis David Harder.
You also get a bunch of FrightFest stuff, recorded around the film’s premiere at the festival last year, and a decent making-of documentary. Add in some b-roll footage (with commentary), and this is a packed set for a dark and witty movie. Highly recommended!
New boutique player Anti-Worlds has released three fine films to launch their label this month, and one of them, Danish crime thriller Holiday, works perfectly alongside Harpoon. Tonally, the two couldn’t be more different, but both force you to spend time with difficult characters, and both feature significant sequences on boats.
But, as Holiday is an infinitely more harrowing experience, maybe stick it on first. The story’s told from the perspective of gangster’s moll Sascha (Victoria Carmen Sonne), who is hanging out with her drug-dealing boyfriend, Michael (Lai Yde), and his family (gang members, their wives and kids) on holiday at a luxury villa in the Turkish Riviera.
This simple set-up is executed with extreme tension from first-time writer/director Isabella Eklöf, with slow-burn pacing creating an increasingly uncomfortable tone, as Sascha gradually realizes the price she’s paying for the moral question at the heart of the film: What would you do for money?
The threat of violence (both physical and sexual) lingers over pretty much every single second of the run time, but if you can handle it, Holiday is an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to see what Eklöf does next.
And the same goes for Anti-Worlds as Chained For Life and Relaxer (which comes with the excellent feature-film Buzzard as a special feature) have been released alongside Holiday; if the label’s selections continue with this level of quality, they’ll be one to watch.
As for the disc, there’s plenty of access to the director, thanks to “On Holiday,” a 20-minute interview with Eklöf talking about the development of the project, and a 30-minute Q&A with Eklöf conducted at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in 2019. Add in a deleted scene, and a short documentary directed by Eklöf about poet Willy Kyrklund, and it’s clear Anti-Worlds care as much about special features as they do about the movies they’re distributing.
'Night Tide' (Indicator)
This was released in January, but there are still limited edition sets of the excellent Night Tide available, so I’m taking the opportunity to shout about this haunting and eerie movie.
It continues the unintended nautical vibe of this fortnight’s column, with the film following sailor Johnny (an early role for Dennis Hopper), as he falls in love with a stunning woman, Mora (Linda Lawson), while on shore leave.
He’s warned away from the woman as, thanks to the deaths of her former boyfriends, she’s been labelled as dangerous, and, eventually, even as a mermaid. Can it be true? Will love conquer all? Pick up the movie to find out.
It might sound like a typical splashy trashy late ’50s/early ’60s b-movie, but Night Tide has more in common with The Lighthouse and Spring than Attack Of The Crab Monsters. It’s a hypnotizing experience, with a unique atmosphere, thanks in no small part to Hopper’s method-influenced naturalistic performance. You believe in the stakes of this very weird situation, because Hopper’s so convincing.
The disc is like a film-school course on outsider director Curtis Harrington, who made his feature debut with Night Tide after a long career of short films. Those excellent and experimental (Harrington was friends with Kenneth Anger) shorts are included and are worth the cost of shelling out for the disc alone. Starting with his first, The Fall of the House of Usher (which he made aged 14), and ending with his last, Usher, the shorts range from 1942-2002, and get a disc of their own.
On disc one, you get an archival audio commentary for the film with writer-director Curtis Harrington and actor Dennis Hopper from 1998, as well as a new-to-this-disc commentary from Tony Rayns.
There’s a “Harrington on Harrington” archival interview with the filmmaker from 2018, as well as two episodes of “Sinister Image: Curtis Harrington” from 1987, which spans his career up until that point.
It’s a great movie, but Indicator’s extras make this a must-buy. Outsider figures such as Harrington are easily forgotten; it’s great that boutiques like Indicator are ensuring he has such a firm legacy.
'The Last Movie' (Indicator)
Speaking of legacy, there’s few with a greater cinematic reputation than the superb Dennis Hopper, whose The Last Movie is also on Indicator. Released two years after Easy Rider changed cinema, The Last Movie wasn’t as well-received (despite winning the Critics Prize at Venice), shifting from European darling to an apparent vanity project when it landed in the States.
The backlash was so extreme, Hopper didn’t direct again for almost a decade. Revisiting The Last Movie now, it’s heartbreaking to think of the films we lost during that wilderness period.
Sure, it’s a confusing jumble of ideas (apparently influenced by Hopper’s pal Alejandro Jodorowsky, who’s said to have encouraged Hopper to re-cut the original linear narrative), but what ideas, and what a jumble. Ostensibly about a wrangler named Kansas (Hopper) working on a western movie in Peru, The Last Movie poetically explores the potentially dangerous impact of films and film culture on the lives of those who make and watch them.
As ever with Indicator, the extras are as much of a draw as the film itself, especially if you’re rational enough to be a Dennis Hopper fan.
There’s a fantastic archival Guardian audio interview with Dennis Hopper from 1990, in conversation with Derek Malcolm at London’s National Film Theatre. It’s as free-flowing and fascinating as you would expect.
There’s also Some Kind of Genius (1986), Paul Joyce’s documentary portrait of Dennis Hopper (made around the time of Blue Velvet), and a short 2012 documentary directed by Alex Cox on the making of The Last Movie, “Postcards from Peru,” which features new interviews with members of the original Peruvian cast and crew, and a great Dick Cavett interview with Hopper from 1971.
Add in a Hopper Introduction from 2007 and, if you can find the limited edition, a book featuring new writing by Alex Cox, this is the definitive release of a true cult classic.
Sam Ashurst is the director responsible for Frankenstein’s Creature and A Little More Flesh. He’s also the co-host of the Arrow Video podcast.