by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
The last time we saw Queen of France Marie Antoinette on screen, she was running around in Converse and giggling like an imbecile in Sofia Coppola’s abysmal retelling of the famed history lesson. That misstep is beautifully rectified in the lush, near-operatic Farewell, My Queen, which views one of history’s bloodiest revolutions through the eyes of a lowly, but favored, servant. As the hungry teeming masses outside boil over with rage, the decadence and opulence inside the palace walls is paralleled by this servant girl’s growing romantic devotion her Queen, which, in light of events, was probably not the smartest thing, but hey … the things we do for love. Gorgeously directed by Benoit Jacquot and starring the radiant trio of Diane Kruger, Lea Seydoux and Virginie Ledoyen, Farewell, My Queen isn’t a political film, and it isn’t an overly dramatic period piece; it’s a moving treatise on emotional loyalty that is something that the previous incarnations seem to have forgotten.
The premise for the Finnish horror flick War of the Dead reads great on paper: highly trained, elite American and Finnish troops in World War II find themselves squaring off against hordes of Der Fuhrer’s latest weapon: zombies! That being said, why is it all so boring? There are plenty of zombies, sure, but the action is so stilted and the actors so wooden that it feels like someone’s big-budget backyard home video. Even worse, the two things that should be scarier than anything else — zombies and Nazis — don’t ever provide any blood-filled scares or any remotely involving fear-driven drama. Never once does the audience get enthralled or invested in the undead plight that the GIs are facing from all corners. I would actually suggest skipping this effort altogether and instead tracking down the much better Finnish Nazi zombie movie (yes, there is more than one) Dead Snow, which manages to get everything right that War of the Dead gets so wrong.
Brand-new upstart cult-film label Vinegar Syndrome comes bursting out of the gate, guns a-blazin’, with its attention-grabbing inaugural release The Lost Films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. First, a history lesson: HG Lewis, the inventor of the gore film with 1963’s Blood Feast, shot numerous movies throughout the ’60s and ’70s on the cheap and, while many of them have been recovered thanks to diligent cinephiles, many have been destroyed, lost or simply locked away. Viewed at the time as trash, a low-budget schlock filmmaker’s output was the last thing fly-by-night studios and distributors cared about preserving. Flash forward decades later, and Lewis is now something of a revered hero, and just about everything he’s done, from his horror flicks to his nudie-cutie pictures, is in high-demand. Vinegar Syndrome has found and restored three of his soon-to-be-classic titles: the torrid dramedy Ecstasies of Women, the erotic western Linda and Abilene and the Blaxploitation sex-comedy (!) Black Love, all gathered together in one beautiful Blu-Ray package that any cult collector should be rushing out to find.