Arrow Video’s Erik The Conqueror and The Ghoul

The B-Movie Isle (09/20/2017)

The B-Movie Isle a small written (sometimes) weekly companion piece to the B-Movie Podcast.

Every B Movie is an Isle onto itself.  The B-Movie Isle recommends a few films either being released or already released in theaters, VOD, streaming or on Blu-Ray/DVD.  These are not going to be blockbusters but those movies you’ll probably find in the door buster clearance bin.  Films that people told you weren’t worth your time or you may have not heard about.  You and I know they’re just un-enlightened to the beauty of a killer B-Movie!!!


The Ghoul – Blu-Ray

The Film: Wow.  Simply wow.  Some films surprise you in the most delicious of ways.  That is Gareth Tunley’s debut feature The Ghoul.  To discuss the plot or give you reference points of what this small scale piece of brilliant story telling would be to unlock all that is held within.  I don’t want to unlock what’s with in.  This is a trip worthy of taking a few times.

Produced by Ben Wheatley, Tunley is a Stand-up Comic by trade and it shows in the way he tells his story. Most Stand-ups, at least the great ones, know how to parse out details of a story for maximum effect, here that skill set is put to the test.  Tunley co-writes and directs with his own stylish way that recalls equal parts Nic Roeg and David Lynch.  Never going for anything easily or trite, The Ghoul constantly and consistently defies your expectations.  That is due in large part to Tunley.

Much of the film is rested on the shoulders of Tom Meetan (Mighty Boosh).  The work he does as Chris the central character in the film is nothing short of brilliant.  What is asked of him from Tunley is a high wire act that you’re asked to believe all the way through even though you’re not necessarily sure what that particular high wire act is.  Even in the most challenging of scenes, Meetan as Chris brings a realism that grounds the film even in its most daring of moments.

Meetan is given huge support by Alice Eve, Rufus Jones, Dan Renton Skinner, Niamh Cusack and Geoffery McGiven.  Many of the actors have worked with both Meetan and Tunley previously on Mighty Boosh or Wheatley directed films. That familiarity helps with some of the short hand that is necessary in the film. Though some of that work is cleverly hidden to hide expectations.

Without giving anything away The Ghoul is quickly rising through the ranks of the B-Movie Podcast Best of 2017.  This little seen UK Genre film is not just a calling card for Tunley and Meetan’s work to come (we’re stating it here, they’re going to be a huge deal) but a great unexpected film.

The Transfer: Transfer is near perfect. The contrast levels are perfect here; much of the film is shot in darkness or shadow.  Arrow has done a great job in the care they’ve taken with the film though it’s a new release.

The Extras: They include the following:

  • Commentary by writer-director Gareth Tunley, actor-producer Tom Meeten and producer Jack Healy Guttmann
  • In the Loop, a brand-new documentary on the conception and making of The Ghoulproduced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release. Featuring interviews with Tunley, Meeten, Guttmann, actors Alice Lowe, Geoff McGivern, Niamh Cusack Rufus Jones and Dan Skinner, composer Waen Shepherd, and executive producers Dhiraj Mahey and Ben Wheatley.
  • The Baron, a 2013 short film with optional commentary by writer-director Tunley and writer-actor Meeten
  • Theatrical trailer

The 36 minute Making-of Documentary is the best feature of the disc showing how Gareth Tunley (who is by trade an actor and stand-up comic) developed and made this serious piece of filmmaking.  It’s a grown level look at the nuts and bolts of indie movie making.  Though it’s just shy of 40 minutes the making-of is as detailed as you’d like it to be.  It’s a great look at how this debut feature came to be and how a lot happened by good luck and chance.

The commentary (which was only sampled, about forty five minutes) is like the making-of a great nuts and bolts discussion between Tunley, Meeten and producer Guttman.

The Baron is a fascinating short film and gives you a slight clue at what Tunley is possible of.  Also included with the 10 minute short is a commentary by Tunley and Meeten.

The Bottom Shelf: The Ghoul is great.  The disc is great.  HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!!

Erik the Conqueror – Blu-Ray

The Film: No matter what is said about your critique of Mario Bava’s films one thing can be said, they are striking visual feasts.  Erik the Conqueror has Bava literally ripping off Richard Fleischer’s The VikingsThe Vikings was a Kirk Douglas vs. Tony Curtis vehicle meant to cash in on another Douglas and Curtis vehicle Spartacus.  Bava makes a Viking epic the same way he made gladiator pictures and horror films; fast, cheap and with as much style as possible.

The film has George Aridsson and Cameron Mitchell cast as long lost Viking twins separated during a raid.  One grew up English (Mitchell), the other Viking (Aridsson).  They meet again as combatants two decades later.  Craziness ensues and it’s good brother versus bad brother until the end.  This is a pulpy action film that’s bathed in technicolor glory.

Bava’s visual are near hallucinatory in the way that he plays with striking colors and smoke.  The lair of the Vikings doesn’t look like a normal Viking keep, it’s a kaleidoscope of primary colors and pseudo-Pagan and Catholic Imagery.  The stage bound boats that appear to be at sea feel like they’re in outer space rather than the northern Atlantic.  Yes, Bava may care nothing of historical accuracy or traditional visuals but that works in the films favor.  Even as Erik the Conqueror lacks storytelling historical accuracy its brilliant use of visuals will win even the most ardent of B-Movie geeks agree its enjoyable at the very least.

The Transfer: Arrow has gotten a beautiful Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative.  It shows as the film is just gorgeous.  The colors pop.  The image is razor sharp.  I watched the film three times thus far, the second and third viewing were to just watch the grandeur of the imagery and the picture represented so perfectly here.  I’m pretty sure that Bava never saw the film as clear as it’s presented here.

The Extras:  They include the following:

  • New audio commentary by Tim Lucas, author of Mario Bava – All the Colors of the Dark
  • Cameron Mitchell Audio Interview
  • Gli imitatori, a comparison between Erik the Conqueror and its unacknowledged source, The Vikings
  • Original ending

The best of the features is the Gli imitatori the visual essay from Tim Lucas included on the disk.  His break down between the Bava and Fleischer film proves to be very enlightening.

The Audio interview with Cameron Mitchell (conducted by Lucas) is a 68 minute interview discussing Mitchell’s work with Bava and his career writ-large.

Audio commentary is an extension of Lucas’ visual essay detailing Bava’s style, the production, how the film came about and Italian cinema and it’s boring of so many rip offs.

The Bottom Shelf: If you’re a Bava enthusiasts you’ll love Erik the Conqueror. The beautiful new transfer sourced from the negative is the reason to buy this one.  It’s one of the best that Arrow has delivered.

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