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Savage Messiah Remastered Edition (R)

Warner Bros. Archive Collection

Director Ken Russell is a mad genius who's made demented, wholly demonic character studies of some of history's most outré celebrities, from Tchaikovsky and Mahler to Liszt and Shelley, all to wide acclaim. Somehow, Savage Messiah, his 1972 biopic on pre-World War I French sculptor Henri Gaudier and his love affair with a Polish woman 20 years his senior, got lost in the mire. It's a shame because, like most of Russell's work, it's engagingly passionate and maddeningly challenging in its twisted, satirical view of sex and art, sex and dementia, and sex and love (or lack thereof). When not mingling with pretentious art buyers, we're dropped into the gutter with starving artists, feasting on scraps of thrown-away cabbage. A tragic ending cut Gaudier's days short; this restored version of Savage Messiah offers him new life. — Louis Fowler


The Inheritance (NR) (Blu-ray)

Image Entertainment

It's good to see an African-American horror flick that isn't set in the projects, doesn't rely on a honky land developer as the bad guy, and spares us a Flavor Flav appearance. Director Robert O'Hara has done a smart, scary and downright ballsy horror movie, a straight-to-DVD flick filled with originality and new ideas. Five cousins gather for a family reunion, presumably to discuss wills and loans with the family elders. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when head elder Uncle Melvin (a chilling Keith David) tells the cousins that, during slave times, their ancestors made a deal with an undead holy man for freedom and prosperity, all at the sacrifice of their children ... these children, who start disappearing one by one. It's a truly creepy twist on Rosemary's Baby, and I can actually say that I enjoyed The Inheritance more. — Louis Fowler


Rope of Sand (NR)

Olive Films

Paul Henreid is best known as the anti-Nazi resistance leader in Casablanca, but he gave a better performance as an ex-Nazi sadist in William Dieterle's 1949 Rope of Sand. Henreid plays Commandant Paul Vogel, the violent and corrupt head of the police force for a ruthless African diamond syndicate. Vogel has an old score to settle with game hunter Mike Davis (Burt Lancaster, miscast but adequate), but neither realizes he's being played like a puppet by syndicate CEO Claude Rains. Rope is a true curiosity, a mix of feathery adventure and severe noir that borrows liberally from Casablanca (Rains and Peter Lorre play almost identical characters), but lacks the compelling leads, strong story and snappy dialogue. At its best, Rope plays like the illegitimate father of Wages of Fear, but too often feels like great pieces in search of a script. — Daniel Barnes

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