Top 10 Blu-rays (UK) for May 2022

From a J-Lo romcom to not one but TWO Gaspar Noes, via Oliver Reed’s moustache, a Noir Masterpiece and mind-controlling antipodean zombies, if there’s nothing for you here then maybe physical media is no longer for you...

by Mark Costello

One of the best months of releases on Blu-ray so far this year, May gives us a dazzling array of films and discs to provoke all manner of feelings from romantic longing, to seething rage, to quiet existential contemplation before finally landing on actual physical sickness. Twice.

A brilliant schedule to delve into this month, while all those big tentpole releases on shiny 4K discs can just bally well go and get their own reviews elsewhere on AVF, we’ll take a look at these 1080p only releases from all our favourite labels and this month, even a couple of honest to goodness Hollywood Studios to boot… let’s tuck in shall we?

10. The Funeral

(1984, Criterion, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 9th May 2022)

There’s a scene part way through Juzo Itami’s languid film that sums up the entire thing perfectly – a small boy holds a piece of paper to camera that reads ‘Record of a Funeral’. Simple. Eloquent. And absolutely what this film is.

Wabisuke, an actor in commercials, is told of his father-in-law’s recent death and as he and his wife head back to the small village where his now widowed mother-in-law lives, the film and he, as narrator, follows the acts of the next three days – the immediate aftermath of the death and the returning of the body back home; the wake; and the titular funeral itself.

It’s a mannered and measured film, focussed solely on the minutiae of the funeral itself – the traditions to be observed, the processes to be followed and the simple observations of how the family deal with both. More traditional cinematic conceits threaten to plant themselves into the snail-like pace of the film – Wabisuke is having an affair; several nephews bemoan a money-hungry uncle; an obsessive focus on how much everything costs – but these come and go within a single scene, never really stepping in the way of the primary focus of Itami’s work.

Some reviews state that this is a riotous affair, a ‘biting satire’ packed full of archly observed and wry comedic witticisms… however only if you’re familiar with Japanese society. To many western eyes, including my own, these went almost completely unnoticed, rendering the film as a slow, ponderous look into the cultures and traditions around the passing of a loved one. Sure, there are odd moments of broad farce – an aging uncle preoccupied with which way north is; the most action-packed sandwich handover ever committed to film – that register as something akin to western ‘comedy’ but the film as a ‘comedic’ whole might be just a step too far for most audiences outside of Japan.

So sadly, to this viewer, unfamiliar with most things outside of Japan that's not kaiju, kung-fu or J-Horror, this was a listless, lethargic film that offered nothing outside of a semi-interesting glimpse into a society's traditions that had hitherto been unknown.

But YMMV…

Criterion offers the 1.33:1 image up in a decent HD presentation – it's shot in a very naturalistic style, so colours are pleasingly realistic and detail is fine, with as usual, print damage being absent, as are any other horrible digital anomalies. The lossless mono Japanese soundtrack is clear of all hiss or crackle and subtitles offer up no obvious errors or issues. Extras include new interviews with two of the lead actors, a short but interesting look at the creative pair behind the film and some amusing commercials that were part of the film itself.

Film: 5/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 5/10 Overall: 5/10

The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present Round Midnight on 9th May 2022 and The Funeral and Double Indemnity on 30th May 2022, on Blu-ray.


9. The Boy Behind the Door

(2020, Acorn/Shudder, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 2nd May 2022)

A very modern remix of Wes Craven’s The People Under the Stairs and Don’t Breathe, this Shudder original shows admirable restraint in its taut and focussed plot, yet never quite lives up to its lean and brutal ambitions.

Two young boys are kidnapped and taken to an old house. There, Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) is left to escape the boot of an old car while Kevin (Ezra Dewey) is chained in the attic, awaiting a disturbing fate. However, instead of going for help, Bobby decides to stay and free Kevin, navigating all manner of threats both inside and outside of the large, foreboding structure that could soon become a tomb for them both…

Superb performances from our young leads anchor the film and give it some emotional heft, Chavis especially as he carries almost the first half of the film on his own. Keeping the narrative horribly plausible and eschewing all manner of ridiculous plot contrivances (the main one of a young boy deciding to stay instead of going for help aside… more on that later), the film uses some clever devices to ratchet up the tension – a wristwatch with a timer counting down, etc.

A third act reveal gives the film a different kind of energy and the whole thing is expertly constructed by writer/directors David Charbonier and Justin Powell. An inorganic, atonal soundtrack, underscored by the changing heartbeats of the protagonists also help set nerves jangling and the entire film feels a very cohesive singular work that knows exactly what it wants to be and sets about its business very well...

… yet it’s not wholly a triumph. Heavy handed politicking can’t help but sneak in as if somehow mandatory and while every narrative blunder our protagonists make can be explained away by the fact they are youngsters (how many times can a weapon be left within easy reach of our antagonist as they lie unconscious..?), there’s simply too many of them to not have you rolling your eyes at the sheer incompetence of even these youths. And finally, sacrifices have to be made for that focus – there’s no character work at all, that lean 88 min runtime allowing no time for any development of any of the characters at all, save the oddly timed interludes of a rolling ocean, based on a single line of dialogue that ultimately means nothing.

A nicely dark and intense thriller that makes a few too many clumsy mis-steps as it hurtles to its conclusion.

The picture on this Acorn disc has a lot of work to do given its dark, drab interior setting. It looks decent, but the perma-darkness isn’t a demo for fine detail or blazing colours. The lossless 5.1 surround track is better, having some fun with creaking stairs and that underpinning LFE driven soundtrack. Extras are poor though – an odd music video and set of bloopers is your lot.

Film: 6/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 3/10 Overall: 6/10

Acorn Media International, in connection with Shudder, presents The Boy Behind the Door on Blu-ray from 2nd May 2022.


8. Girls Nite Out

(1982, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-Ray, Release Date 16th May 2022)

Inessential early 80s slasher that while fumbling the raison d'etre of the genre (the kills) packs a whole lot of surprising character work and a genuinely chilling final shot into a frothy soufflé of bubble-gum pop music and college campus shenanigans.

It's Scavenger Hunt time at an unnamed Ohio College and while the girls (and the guys, although you wouldn’t know it from the anachronistic title) are listening to the local radio station for clever clues to find the missing objects scattered across campus, a dead mental patient and a mysterious stranger with a penchant for pre-Freddy Krueger home made knife gloves and a sports mascot costume fetish decide it’s time to crash everyone’s party…

There are a huge amount of characters, not helped by all the men all looking exactly the same, and while the emphasis of the relationship merry-go-round between them all often bewilders as you’re trying to keep up who’s now sleeping with whom, it’s done in such a way to feel a little more grounded and real than most of the film’s peers. The actors are all decent and this criss-crossing of characters, together with the compelling reason behind why so many of them are wondering strange locations late at night on their own, creates a strange yet refreshing air of grounded believability about the whole thing… that is until the giant man-bear with kitchen knives taped to their hands starts carving their way through the populace.

The kills are perfunctory with little grue or tension and while the killer’s reveal will come out of left field and test any slasher fans patience, the eerie and literally chilling final shot sends the film off into the night on a high. Solid slasher fun, but the dull and bloodless kills prevent this from taking its place on the pantheon of genre greats.

An interesting message flashes up as the film begins that the 2K scan is taken from unrestored 35mm prints, meaning it's riddled with print damage. It's ok looking for what it is, but it's massively softer than other restorations and it looks as rough as it's probably supposed to be. The lossless mono track is much cleaner but has little really to do, however there is a decent platter of supplementals, including a commentary and short (between 8 and 15 minute) interviews with at least half of the cast, who pretty much all admit to not having a clue what the film was about whilst filming. Does the term ‘due diligence’ mean nothing to anyone anymore??

Film: 6/10 Video: 5/10 Audio: 6/10 Extras: 7/10 Overall: 6/10

Arrow presents Girls Nite Out on Blu-ray.

7. 'Round Midnight

(1986, Criterion, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 2nd May 2022)

A jazz fan’s wet dream, this look at the life of a fictional musician relocating to Paris in the late 1950s is at times absorbingly fascinating, while being equally drawn out and often dazzlingly dull, thanks to a huge emphasis on long jazz performances played out on small, smoky stages.

Real life musician Dexter Gordon brings gravitas and all the pain he could muster to jazz veteran and near terminal alcoholic Dale Turner. His relationship with obsessive fan Francois Cluzet as he tries to help inspire Turner into one last burst of genius is touching and nicely played by both actors, covering so much ground around men, family, legacy and the impact of addiction in all its forms.

Yet with so much music on show, your appreciation of the film will live or die simply by how much you like jazz. The numbers, while technically dazzling, started to blur into one for me, and at over 130 minutes, Turner’s story was stretched far too thinly for this non-jazz fan. Even the presence of Martin Scorsese in an acting role as one of Turner’s US bookers couldn’t help but steer the sadly all too obvious story away from exactly where it was always going to go.

But between famous French director’s Bertrand Tavernier’s oddly beguiling visuals (somewhere between grimy documentary and beautifully false golden age musical) and Herbie Hancock’s Oscar winning score, there’s just enough in this love letter to underground clubs and the musical genius of the greats of the time to satisfy.

A new 4K restoration from Criterion sees a decent image produced – colours are naturalistic, while fine detail is not bad, but never sharp enough to cut glass. Print damage is completely absent and grain is noticeable but organic. The lossless stereo soundtrack is beautiful – Hancock’s arrangements are full of life and body and really place the listener in those small, dingy rooms, it will have you practically wafting away the non-existent smoke in front of your eyes. A solid array of extras looks at the film and of those behind it, including a great featurette from jazz critic Gary Giddins about how his critique of the film when it first came out led to a life-long friendship with Tavernier.

Film: 6/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 9/10 Extras: 7/10 Overall: 6/10

The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present Round Midnight on 9th May 2022 and The Funeral and Double Indemnity on 30th May 2022, on Blu-ray.


6. DC Showcase Animated Shorts - Constantine: The House of Mystery

(2022, Warner Bros, Region Free UK Blu-ray, Release Date 2nd May 2022)

Anthology films are ten a penny across most genres. But this was most unexpected – four short DC animation stories taking in mostly unknown characters from the company’s rich and varied history. And like most anthology movies, some work better than others…

The first is an epilogue to Justice League Dark: Apokalips War, with John Constantine being made to pay for his interference in the universe’s timeline by being trapped in the titular magical abode, living out horror after horror involving his close friends and family he doesn’t even have yet; the second sees Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth, undertake a series of gruelling tasks from a very Planet of the Apes future Earth; The Losers are envisaged as a ragtag group of WWII soldiers washed ashore on a strange island populated with strange scientific phenomena and a host of carnivorous dinosaurs; and finally, The Blue Beetle and sidekick Question take on a group of jewel thieves who’s latest haul is planned to be used for the usual nefarious purposes involving mind control and global domination.

What adds to the variety is that each is given a very distinctive art style – the Constantine story looks like a continuation of the usual DC Animated style, while Kamandi has leapt straight from the insane 1970's technicolour pages of Jack Kirby’s original comics, while the best is saved for last – The Blue Beetle is stylised and shot like an original 60's cartoon episode, complete with grain, print damage and purposefully wonky animation. Given how each are so different, it doesn’t have that classic anthology feel and as most stories are around the fifteen-minute mark, there’s hardly any time to really get to know these characters outside of the immediate storylines. However, the stories themselves do showcase these mostly unfamiliar characters really nicely and as a taster for some of these more esoteric back catalogue characters, it's nigh on perfect… but sadly, knowing we’ll likely never see most of these characters again, that’s exactly how the overall film feels: a teasing glimpse of something completely out of the ordinary that we’ll likely never see again. Which is a massive shame because I’d kill for more Blue Beetle.

The transfer is really rather good. The different animation styles all feature big, bold colours and thick clean animation lines and all are rendered really nicely on the disc. Even the purposefully added print damage adds a lovely twinge of nostalgia! The lossless 5.1 sound mix has some lovely depth and fun surround moments and when needed goes very BIG indeed. The only extra is a 15 min chat with the film makers that adds little to the endeavour – some history of these characters would have been a much mor welcome addition given their unfamiliarity.

Film: 7/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 3/10 Overall: 7/10

Constantine – The House Of Mystery is set for release on Blu-ray™ on 2nd May 2022 and on Digital Download on the 3rd May 2022.


5. Enter the Void

(2009, Arrow, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 30th May 2022)

No-one makes films like Gaspar Noé. Brutally aggressive, unflinching, technically bravura, he makes cinema a truly visceral experience, his works physically affecting his audience on many levels. Enter the Void is possibly his most audacious film, a brilliantly obtuse fusion of his most experimental and his most narratively traditional.

Nominally it could be described as an existential murder-mystery – Oscar, an American drug dealer living in Tokyo is gunned down in a grubby nightclub toilet, and the film then follows his life both in fractured flashback and in the aftermath of his death, capturing the devastating impacts of this event on those who knew him while trying to piece together what was the cause of his horrific death.

Yet it is so much more… Noé shoots initially through the most realistic POV committed to screen (the camera even ‘blinks’), before the POV shifts to that of Oscar’s afterlife (his soul?), flying like an omnipotent deity around Tokyo – through walls, into people’s minds, even into various bodily fluids as certain adult proclivities are being undertaken. It’s dazzling, truly. And whilst you’re marvelling at the technical expertise on show to get half of these shots, thematically we’re also in very deep territory: whilst the film touches on Buddhist themes of reincarnation, Noé is famously anti-religion and has said that the POV in this isn’t Oscar’s soul but his likening of the afterlife to a “bad trip”, his often-seen nihilism pointing to the fact that the most traumatising event in Oscar’s life is his actual birth… so make if that what you will!

Yet of all Noé’s films, the more extreme side of him here feels forced and unnecessary – everyone is having explicit sex or tripping out and it’s all shown in his usual graphic style, yet it doesn’t add anything to that main narrative conceit. It feels exploitative for exploitation’s sake, rather than feeling part of the whole experience (as in say Irreversible). And at over 150 minutes, it's far too long, Noé’s brutal techniques becoming more of an endurance test as the film reaches its, erm, climax.

It really should be seen as it's also possibly Noé’s most accessible film to mainstream audiences (!). But as with all his films, it's not an easy watch and certainly not for everyone.

Shot on all manner of formats (16mm and 35mm film and digital), the transfer is tricky. Hugely manipulated and artificial at times, it's heavy with noise/grain and detail levels fluctuate wildly. Colours are bright and saturated and the print looks clean and free from any nasties, but it's not anyone’s idea of demo material. The lossless English 5.1 track has as much fun as Noé’s camera, with surrounds engaged fully throughout and some lovely effects add to the overall cinematic sleight of hand (the voice of Oscar as he speaks, etc). Extras are light – a new 14 min video essay, a 37 min interview with the creator of the insane titles and a 10 min VFX breakdown are the key supplementals. Word of warning – the ‘full length director’s cut’ as advertised by Arrow is 154 mins... however, the same ‘full length director's cut’ released in other territories is 161 min. Is there anything missing? Is it due to something else (the time difference is suspiciously 4%, PAL lovers everywhere)? We’ve reached out to Arrow to find out but buyers beware...

Film: 7/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 5/10 Overall: 7/10

Arrow presents Enter the Void on Blu-ray.

4. Wyrmwood Apocalypse

(2021, 101 Films, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 16th May 2022)


Riotously gonzo, this Australian zombie splatter fest takes the gloriously established world of the first Wyrmwood film and gives us a breakneck Mad Max-meets-Wolfenstein adrenalin rush direct to our unsuspecting eyeballs.

Writing, producing and directing brothers Kiah and Tristan Roche-Turner drop us straight into their world, meaning Wyrmwood virgins may need to just hold on for dear life as we see their insane dystopian landscape through a blood-drenched lens – a landscape of zombies whose breath is now the only means to power any form of engine or electrical equipment, a landscape of super hybrid zombies who can telepathically control armies of the undead and a landscape of wonderfully antipodean sensibilities from Olympic levels of creative swearing through to the superb and seemingly never-ending use of practical gore effects.

The Brothers Turner waste no time with their plot, throwing us straight into the story and taking the George Miller approach to trusting the audience and not having to explain everything to sell a rollocking yarn. This time, we see the battle for the soul of a ‘delivery boy’ – a soldier who rounds up the living and the dead alike for the military science establishment to use in creating a cure for the zombie plague – who discovers his paymasters haven’t been telling him the whole truth about their nefarious experiments.

Brother and sister Brooke and Barry return and we plunge into a non-stop exploitation rollercoaster ride involving crazy brain swaps, cybernetic zombies, Soylent Green-esque plot reveals and enough blood to recreate The Shining’s lift doors opening several times over. It's simply a huge amount of fun, the gritty outback landscapes serving as a beautiful backdrop to the kind of film we all wanted flashy Hollywood zombier Overlord to be and got nowhere near. The very best example of a brilliant ‘Friday Night Film’ seen since, well, the first Wyrmwood film.

The sweaty Australian sun-drenched colour palette is perfectly captured in the transfer from 101 Films. Colours are blindingly hot but I’m assuming that’s on purpose, while fine detail isn’t quite top tier thanks to an overly grungy aesthetic. However, it does serve the film perfectly. The lossless 5.1 track is raucous, with thrashing guitars mixed perfectly with all manner of gloopy squelches, gunfire and grenades exploding. Dialogue can get lost a little in a few scenes but it's still a fun listen. However, the fact that there’s not a single extra on the disc leaves a sour taste given how good the film is.

Film: 8/10 Video: 7/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 0/10 Overall: 8/10

Wyrmwood: Apocalypse is set for its Blu-ray, DVD, and digital release on 16 May from 101 Films.


3. Revolver

(1973, Eureka, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 16th May 2022)

With Italy’s booming film industry in the 70s, all manner of stars found their way into all manner of glorious spaghetti genre fare – and the match of Oliver Reed and the Poliziotteschi genre (corruption and violence, with the cops often more violent and more corrupt than the criminals) is one made in cinematic heaven.

This lesser-known entry from Sergio Sollima is lighter on the more exploitation elements of the genre, but it works perfectly for Reed – he plays a prison warden whose wife is kidnapped, with the demands that a specific inmate (Fabio Testi) is immediately freed. Given Testi has no idea why he is to be freed or who wants him out of prison, the pair have to work together to uncover the faceless power men and the deadly conspiracy that involves a beautiful people smuggler, a world-famous rock star and all manner of gritty underworld thugs that is behind it all.

Lighter on the car chases and wanton action, but heavier on the corruption and moral murk of faceless corporations and authoritarian regimes, and with a thoughtful, yet starkly bleak ending, this has a much darker and meditative tone than many of its brethren. Reed and Testi make a great double act, Reed especially, channelling his frustration and rage perfectly into a character that feels constantly on a knife edge, keeping the audience on its toes in trying to work out what he’s going to do next. Sollima marshals his key collaborators – Aldo Scavarda as DoP gives a gritty sheen to the Italian locales, while maestro Morricone produces yet another superb score, complete with its main theme cribbed by QT for his Inglorious Basterds – wonderfully to ensure the whole thing is constructed as tightly as its plot, leaving us with a minor gem in the genre, one that has much more to ponder than many would credit it for.

Eureka’s 4K restoration looks wonderful – fine detail and fine grain are all present and correct, with negligible print damage and colours that burst with life. It’s a great image. The two soundtrack options – Italian and English lossless mono – sound equally good, with that Morricone score having a beefy midrange to give it some real presence. Extras also include a new commentary, a fascinating look at the film from renowned academic Stephen Thrower and an archive interview with Testi, plus all the usual Eureka goodies outside of the disc itself (gorgeous slip, detailed booklet, etc).

Film: 8/10 Video: 9/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 7/10 Overall: 8/10

Eureka Entertainment is to release Revolver; a suspenseful crime thriller starring Oliver Reed, co-written and directed by the legendary Sergio Sollima, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK from a brand-new 4K restoration. Available as part of the Eureka Classics range from 16 May 2022, the first print-run of 2000 copies will feature a Limited-Edition O-card Slipcase & Collector’s Booklet.

2. Vampyr

(1932, Eureka, Region B Blu-ray, Release Date 30th May 2022)

A fantastic release for one of silent cinema’s most influential and fascinating horror films.

Not one for lacking in ambition, Danish film maker Carl Theodor Dreyer followed up his classic The Passion of Joan of Arc with a film that he wanted to ‘make something not seen before in cinema’. And through this loose adaptation of two Sheridan Le Fanu short stories, he did…

Largely eschewing straightforward storytelling, Dreyer concocts a woozy, dreamlike, surreal nightmare, packed full of strange yet unsettling imagery that instantly brings to mind the works of later auteurs such as Cronenberg and Lynch. A young man interested in the occult is visited one night in a remote inn by a strange old man who warns him that “she must not die”. Unable to get this visit out of his head, he follows a strange shadow to an abandoned outbuilding whereby further ghosts play out strange narratives for him. Following them he comes across the old man’s home where a troubling illness is plaguing the man’s daughters, one that seems to be inflicted by the supernatural…

Images overlap and sequences ooze into one another as Dreyer goes all in on the atmospherics. While the first two acts hint at something more linear and traditional, with readings from a handy textbook filling us into the mythology of the supernatural antagonist, the third act explodes with some truly haunting scenes that get under the skin – a journey to a grave from inside a coffin, a man drowning under milled flour and Dreyer’s trademark close ups conveying extreme emotion as the daughter begins to succumb to her illness.

It's strange, it's lyrical, it's odd, it's not something you associate with cinema of this time – post synched dialogue that sounds detached from the images further enhance the strangeness of it all and while it's not for all thanks to its surrealism emphasising mood over storytelling, it is a film that deserves to be seen.

The image is never going to be what anyone would call ‘pristine’ and coupled with Dreyer’s use of gauze over the lens to create the hazy visuals, it certainly looks an awful lot softer than similar restorations of its peers. Obviously print damage is extensive even with restoration work going on but for its vintage and its history, it looks pretty great, on a par if not slightly better than the Criterion disc’s image. A range of soundtrack choices are cleaner but still have inherent source issues, however it’s the range of extras that elevate this disc – two commentaries from ace historian Tony Rayns and Guillermo Del Toro start things off brilliantly, but a range of video essays on the film and on Dreyer, together with insightful interviews from the likes of Kim Newman on its cultural importance as well as wider ranging looks at the author and the music mean there’s little else that anyone could need from a list of supplementals. Together with the usual high quality Eureka booklet (not seen sadly, but now expected) and ace packaging, this is simply a superb release.

Film: 8/10 Video: 6/10 Audio: 7/10 Extras: 9/10 Overall: 9/10

Eureka Entertainment to release a 2K restoration of Carl Th. Dreyer’s Vampyr, one of the finest and most enduringly mysterious of all horror films, IN CINEMAS (UK & Ireland) and ON BLU-RAY (for the first time in the UK), unveiled for the film’s 90th anniversary. Released in cinemas on 20 May 2022 and available on Blu-ray from 30 May 2022 as a part of The Masters of Cinema Series in a Limited Edition set of 3000 copies featuring a Hardbound Slipcase & 100-page Collector’s Booklet.

1. Double Indemnity

(1944, Criterion, Region B UK Blu-ray, Release Date 30th May 2022)

As Fred MacMurray bowls through the LA night, gunshot wounded, pumping blood, we’re right there with him – as he begins his slow confession in the empty offices of his insurance firm, the audience are as trapped as his Walter Neff is, unable to escape the inexorable yet terrifyingly real and sadly all too human plummet into darkness that the greats of genre cinema and literature have produced here.

Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler and James M Cain conjured up the archetypal noir, a tale so steeped in the cornerstones of the genre that when most think of the term ‘noir’, they think of this film – the stunning femme fatale that did for anklets what Psycho did for showers; the man seduced by her beauty yet with an inherent streak of darkness running through him she just awakened; and the plan... to take out an insurance policy on her husband unbeknownst to him, then kill him with a fool proof plan that even the most dogged and ruthless investigators will never be able to prove, all while collecting the pay out and disappearing into the night together…

Wilder shoots with shadows as dark as Stanwyck’s own heart, the inky visuals beautifully revealing only part of the story with each passing minute and as the lovers’ plan slowly starts to crumble and dissolve in front of their eyes and their true natures starts to be revealed, we’re left wondering which one of them is the real monster. Wilder’s trademark dialogue fizzes out of MacMurray, Stanwyck and Edward G Robinson’s mouths, that rat-a-tat delivery the perfect mechanism for the snappy lines and the fire and passion with which they’re dispensed make this, even by today’s standards, one of Hollywood’s greatest products.

Deliciously twisted and utterly indispensable, this stands as one of the bleakest and very best examples of film noir. Simply superb.

The new 4K restoration looks pretty great, given the source materials. Those all-important blacks are deep and rich and there’s a glorious high contrast look to it that screams ‘NOIR’. Grain is present and nicely managed and the fine detail, while not best in class, still looks fantastic across faces, clothes, etc. The lossless mono track is similarly clean and crisp. Supplementals on this two-disc set include a commentary, two new interviews and legacy features from previous releases, including three hours of Arena documentary looking at Wilder’s superlative career and the superb look back at the film, Shadows of Suspense. In fact, the only downside is that in the US, this is being released on 4K, while we over here have to make do with regular old 1080p… why Criterion, WHY??

Film: 10/10 Video: 8/10 Audio: 8/10 Extras: 10/10 Overall: 10/10

The Criterion Collection and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment present Round Midnight on 9th May 2022 and The Funeral and Double Indemnity on 30th May 2022, on Blu-ray.


Final Thoughts

One of the best months this regular article has had the good fortune to stumble across. Packed full of legitimate Hollywood classics, genre cornerstones, singular works of famous (and infamous) auteurs and quirky little indies, it’s been tough to whittle these releases down into a top ten. Films that didn’t quite make the list this month include:

  • The Battle at Lake Changjin (Cine-Asia) – commissioned by the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party to celebrate its centenary, this massively overblown Korean War epic boasts the largest budget ever in Chinese cinema history, anywhere from three to six (6!) directors including Tsui Hark (depending on your source) and a near $1bn worldwide gross. Telling the story of one of the key battles of the war, it's the most war porn movie ever with some truly staggering battle scenes that sadly make Pearl Harbor look like a Ken Loach film. Acting ranges from average to woeful, as does the massive amount of CG and greenscreen work used and at nearly three hours long, it has little emotional resonance due to the overwhelming cast of characters that we spend so little time with. Overwrought, melodramatic and little more than a series of often-impressive battle scenes strung together, it sadly wastes all that glorious visual excess on a sprawling, messy and plodding narrative. 5/10 ( )
  • Lux Aeterna (Arrow), Gaspar Noé’s 8 ½, part meta exploration of the exploitation of women through both history and cinema, part insane audience torture device, it’s Noé’s most obvious attempt at literally making his audience a horribly uncomfortable part of his film experience. Split screens, fifteen-minute strobes that physically hurt the eyes, reality uncomfortably overlapping with fiction in its treatment of its actors, it’s the usual decent into madness from Noé, this time behind the scenes on the world’s most dysfunctional film set. It's 51 minutes of the oddest film within a film you’ve ever seen……. WTF/10
  • Johnny Mnemonic (101 Films) – does Keanu Reeve’s other mind-bending cyberpunk sci-fier stand up as well as his other one? Well I’m not gonna know until much later in May as this hasn’t been released by the time of publication and 101 Films hasn’t sent us a screener copy. My money is on that it probably hasn’t… plus early reports on the transfer aren’t great.
  • Marry Me (Universal) – J-Lo and Owen Wilson try their damndest to make me like them, and I do... so it’s a shame this ludicrously conceited rom-com is so horrifically ridiculous in its central theme (that all world-famous megastars want to do is sit in on Maths Club) that it derails the entire effort. Genre fans will lap it up and those two are never less than watchable, but the film and its obsession with social media is utterly risible (4/10).

But, I hear you cry, enough of the films that weren’t your choice for Blu-ray of the month, Mark, tell us what was?

Mark’s Pick of the Month

A tricky one this…..so let’s get the obvious out of the way first…

Double Indemnity

No doubt the best film released this month, a superlatively perverse treatise on the darkness inherent in all of our souls, Billy Wilder’s noir is utterly superb and the package from Criterion rounds up a fascinating array of extras that look into both the film and the men behind its creation… so while this is most certainly my pick of the month, there is a nagging doubt at the back of my mind… the US get this exact same release but on a region free 4K disc (granted the extras disc will likely be region A locked)… which all but renders this UK release somewhat redundant, does it not? So while I can’t not recommend this, I’m also going to recommend another, for those who will bypass this release and pick up the 4K version instead...

THE WYRMWOOD BOXSET

… and that is the Wyrmwood twin film set (containing both Road of the Dead and Apocalypse). Released on the same day as the standalone release of the second film, this delightfully cheap boxset contains both extraordinary splatter classics for less than the price of a single 4K disc release. For those who have yet to sample the delight of the Turner Brother’s apocalyptic vision, this is the perfect way of jumping in feet first, both films a glorious throwback to early Peter Jackson and George Miller. So while you’re waiting for your 4K Billy Wilder to make its way across the Atlantic, you can revel in the best Friday night zombie films of the last two decades.


Top 10 Blu-rays (UK) for May 2022

So let’s raise our glasses and say goodbye to May. Another fascinating release schedule that has something for everyone, no matter what your cinematic predilections are. Yes, some of these may be a little niche, but that’s sort of the point of these regular articles – to help shed some light on the releases that may go unnoticed by most. So I hope that you do take a chance on one or two of these new discs as they really do represent some superb cinema and the very best of what physical media can do.

But before we go, how is June looking? Well with more auteurs (Fassbender, Jarmusch), more noir (Indicator have another in their excellent boxsets coming out), more martial arts films than ever before, a clutch of interesting documentaries and Arrow doing what Arrow do best, it's full steam ahead and business as usual from our favourite labels. So get ready for summer and I’ll be seeing you in just a few short weeks…

Please let us know how right or wrong we are, and tell us what most enjoyed on Blu-ray in May 2022 in the discussion!

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