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August 2016
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October 2016

MOSTLYFILM: The Samurai Trilogy

The illustration accompanying my MostlyFilm review of The Samurai Trilogy features Yuko Shimizu's beautiful cover art for the box set. This picture here, however, shows how my screener copy was packaged, which is much less visually exciting.I've been a long-time fan of what Criterion do with home video releases. I was saying as much back in March 2000, a time when apparently a list of ten randomish DVDs from my collection could be passed off as meaningful content. One of those DVDs was the Criterion release of Rushmore, and it allowed me to list the things I liked about their standards of film presentation. I didn't get to mention the one thing I didn't like, though: it was that Criterion only released discs in the US, so I had to deal with the hassle of ordering these already expensive editions from overseas, and then battling with HMRC's demands for import fees on top.

Jump forward to earlier this year, and the announcement that Criterion were setting up shop in the UK. Inevitably, Europe's Best Website was on the case immediately. From day one, MostlyFilm has been reviewing Criterion UK's releases as they hit the shelves, covering movies as diverse as Only Angels Have Wings, L'Avventura, Here Comes Mr Jordan, Dr Strangelove, The In-Laws and many more.

And now it's my turn, as I've just posted a review there of Criterion's restoration of The Samurai Trilogy, a single epic story told across three films released between 1954 and 1956. As usual, I'll be providing Red Button Bonus Content for the piece here, including trailers and posters for all three films, plus the opportunity to buy a couple of related books - the Eiji Yoshikawa novel the trilogy was based on (originally published as a daily newspaper serial over several years), and its real-life leading character's Samurai For Dummies manual, The Book Of Five Rings.

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MOSTLYFILM: Psychomania

If you believe the Spanish poster art for Psychomania, this is apparently what George Sanders looks like. As you'll see if you read the MostlyFilm piece, this is astonishingly only the *second* most inaccurate piece of promotional art associated with the film.It's there in my bio at the end of every article I write for MostlyFilm: "his specialist subjects are Asian cinema, cult movies and TV, and watching foreign films without the benefit of subtitles." So far in 2016, I've written quite a bit that falls into the first and last of those categories, but nothing that really counts as culty.

Well, today that changes, with a review I've written of Psychomania, one of the cultiest of British movies. Ignore the ridiculously inaccurate poster image over on the left there: if you have a vague memory of an undead Nicky Henson misbehaving on a motorcycle while his devil-worshipping mother Beryl Reid tuts in the background, then you've probably already seen Psychomania in a late night telly slot and doubted the evidence of your own eyes. (Much like I did when I first saw it over three decades ago, as you'll see.)

Psychomania is currently doing a tiny tour of UK cinemas as part of the Scalarama festival, but the big news is that it's just about to come out in a lavishly restored Blu-ray/DVD set with tons of bonus features. And speaking of bonus features, I've assembled a wee YouTube playlist of related bits and bobs as backup material for the MostlyFilm article.

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Simian Substitute Site Of The Month September 2016: Monkey Toast UK


Comedy: After the full-tilt frenzy that was Edinburgh 2016, you might imagine that there’s very little worth saying about Comedy, Food & Drink or Theatre in August outside of the Festival. Well, you’d be wrong. That’s especially the case when it comes to comedy, as the Camden Fringe has been evolving over the years into a major London event, designed specifically as counter-programming to its Edinburgh counterpart. As the top end comics treat the Edinburgh Fringe as a mere warm-up for a national tour, while the lower end ones are forced to avoid it altogether because of the hellacious financial risks, you can see the appeal of a comedy event that doesn’t require them to travel out of the capital. Put it this way: two years ago, Andrew O’Neill Is Trapped Down A Well would have been exactly the sort of show you’d have expected to catch in a room somewhere inside the Pleasance Dome, whereas this year we were able to see him at Aces and Eights and still get the tube home afterwards. Trapped Down A Well - not a metaphor, apparently - is a showcase for the usual delightful O’Neill silliness. This time, however, it's bolstered with a few musical interludes, crossing over nicely with his second job as guitarist for The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing. He seemed to be enjoying himself immensely at the Friday night performance we were at, commenting on the fact that there were quite a few people of, um, our age in the audience. “Promoters always tell me, you need to avoid older audiences, they don’t like surreal humour. Wouldn’t Spike Milligan have been 100 by now?” Oi! We’re not that old, but fair point.

Food and Drink: It’s a little shocking – though ultimately predictable – to go to the Great British Beer Festival and hear so many people dropping the C word. Real ale brewers are now trying to suggest that their beers were craft long before these hipster types came in and ruined everything with their evil kegs. Meanwhile, hipster types like BrewDog are travelling in the opposite direction with their own experiments in pseudocask. I suspect there are a lot of beer drinkers like The BBG and myself who quite like the overlap between the Real Ale Twats and the Craft Beer Wankers, and this year’s GBBF provides plenty of evidence of that overlap. More interesting hop combinations in the beers, continuing a trend we first noticed last year: more tats and well-tended beards on the punters: more women, generally. The opening night was a little underattended, though that might be down to Southern trains and their ongoing issues. Here are our beers for the night, for those of you who want to play at home (responsibly, mind). I sampled Lees’ CyclHops, Tiny Rebel’s Stay Puft, Stathaven Ales’ Summer, Blue Monkey’s Infinity, Lervig’s White Dog and Titanic’s Chocolate & Vanilla Stout: meanwhile, The BBG tried Brewsters’ Hophead, Tiny Rebel’s Loki, Battledown’s Gin House, Double Top’s Nelson, To Øl’s Cloud 9 and Titanic’s Plum Porter. None of them were especially earth-shattering, but there are certainly worse ways to spend a schoolnight.

Theatre: When Jon offered me tickets for The Threepenny Opera at the National Theatre, I suddenly had a flashback to a previous production at the same venue. I could remember precisely nothing about it other than that I’d seen it. It turns out, looking at the programme for the current production, that the one I'm thinking of happened 30 years ago, and Tim Curry played Macheath. You’d imagine that detail would have stuck, but apparently not. Still, the current iteration of Brecht and Weill’s classic (directed by Rufus Norris) is a perfect hoot. It’s been adapted by Simon Stephens, who’s cranked up the rudeness in the book to just the right degree, and the cast are obviously relishing every minute of it. Rory Kinnear is great as Macheath, but the real scene-stealer is Haydn Gwynne, risking life and limb as she drunkenly hurls herself around the stage as Mrs Peachum. Excellent programme notes, too, as long as you skip the usual wank from Iain Sinclair about East London’s psychogeography, and head straight for Dan Rebellato’s lovely piece on why Brecht is still relevant today. "Some people think the theatre is at its most important when it is at its most solemn. These people are wrong and Brecht knows it." See it in London before it closes on October 1st, or catch it at a cinema near you on September 22nd.

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