24 August 2014

Blu-ray (Masters Of Cinema) Review - Fritz Lang's Frau im Mond (1929)

Sci-fi, Drama
Eureka! Entertainment
BD Release Date:
25th August 2014(UK)
Running Time:
170 Minutes
Fritz Lang
Klaus Pohl, Willy Fritsch, Gustav von Wangenheim,
Buy:Frau Im Mond [Woman In The Moon] (Masters of Cinema) (DUAL FORMAT Edition) [Blu-ray]

Frau im Mond was the last science fiction film Fritz Lang ever made, as well as his last silent film. It was also the first film to present the idea of rocket travel to a mass audience and even the first ever countdown of a rocket launch not only in film but ever. It may not have the fame of his other science fiction film Metropolis but it’s equally important.

The film has a sprawling narrative, which includes espionage (a theme Fritz Lang often used), melodrama and space travel. A group of spies blackmail the entrepreneur Helius (Willy Fritsch) to let them join him on his mission to the moon. It’s believed there is gold to be found on the far side of the moon.

Fritz Lang’s cinematic storytelling is some of the most precise ever, so it’s hardly surprising Alfred Hitchcock idolized him. The film is the better part of tree hours in length and it certainly takes its time to tell the story, it beautifully unfolds over the running time. Fritz Lang is meticulous with every small detail and plot point; it’s awe-inspiring to watch a film by such a master.

The film was billed as “the first scientific science fiction film” and the “science” aspects of the film are certainly laughable to modern audiences, but the set design and special effects are utterly breathtaking. It’s truly stunning to think this film came out in 1929 and remains one of the quintessential journey to a moon films ever made. It’s also one of the great shames of cinema: Fritz Lang never made anymore science fiction films after this; he tried for years to get them made in the US to no avail.

The Blu-Ray disc includes a new High Definition transfer from the F.W Murnau-Stifung. It also includes a short German documentary about the film by Gabriele Jacobi, along with the usual length booklet with a film analysis and a casebook expect with a Eureka release. Frau im Mond makes a very welcome Blu-Ray debut and hopefully Eureka can release some more Fritz Lang films in the future such as Destiny and even some of his American Noirs down the road.

Ian Schultz

18 August 2014

DVD Review - Lizzie Borden Took an Axe (2014)

Crime, Drama
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Rating: 15
DVD Release Date:
18th August 2014 (UK)
Nick Gomez
Christina Ricci, Billy Campbell, Clea Duvall, Stephen McHattie, Hannah Anderson
Buy:Lizzie Borden Took An Axe [DVD] [2014]

In 1892, a young American woman named Lizzie Borden was tried and acquitted for the axe murders of her mother and father after a controversial trial. Even if you didn’t know about the acquittal you’ve most probably heard the name or the rhyme:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father 41

In all seriousness, the blows actually only number 19 and 11, showing how the story of a young woman murderer in a small town can cause quite the uproar. Add the lesbian undertones found in Borden’s relationship with actress Nance O’Niell, and Borden becomes understandable as a late 19th century figure of controversy. This is the part of the story Nick Gomez’s TV movie Lizzie Borden Took an Axe focuses on, telling the story in a fairly historically accurate way and making room for sibling dispute and a bit of zeitgeist whilst briefly alluding to the Borden story’s potential gay aspect.

Here, Lizzie is reimagined as a burgeoning bad girl, at least the closest thing 1892 would allow; getting moody with her father, stealing from her mother, shoplifting, axe murdering. Christina Ricci is pretty good as Lizzie, but the film’s attempts to muddy the waters of Borden’s story are upset by her continuous relapses into acting guilty as sin. If the film wants to depict a turn of the century trial with reasonable doubt, it lets Borden away with looking too cool for school and that pops the bubble. It both wants her to be calculating whilst introducing significant doubt and that ends up a bit too aimless.

Another thing that oddly works for and against the feature is its contemporary soundtrack of blues rock. The first few times you hear it, it might have the Marie Antoinette effect, updating a certain sensibilities to reveal the roots of contemporary interests. After a while, the idea becomes laboured: Borden is the blue print in our lust for scandal and outrage, rock music follows her down the streets, up the stairs, everywhere and anywhen. A good old fashioned house party shot like a discarded scene from Skins, covered by garage blues, kind of works, whereas the blaring rock chords that momentarily follow Andrew Borden (the fantastic Stephen Mchattie) on a wander down the street, reveal a film uncomfortable with silence or contemplation. This film had great potential to examine a hundred facets of a 19th century woman’s trial along with our frankly unsettling desire for controversial figures, but it seems wasted on an overtly bland retelling of a well-known story.

Lizzie Borden continued to live in her small town for 34 years after the acquittal until her death, it would have been interesting to examine that part of her life and how she lived since we know little of it. Still Lizzie Borden Took an Axe is a fine wee examination of the Borden case, lacking in zest or flare, but fairly passable as a rounded version of the story.


Scott Clark

18 August 2014

Masters Of Cinema DVD/Blu-ray Review - Faust (1927)

18 August 2014

Blu-Ray Review - The Quiet Ones (2014)

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