DVD Round-up, 16 December 2010

In recent years we’ve been deluged with horror films from the East, Japan producing it’s fair share of shockers which then end up being remade and sanitised by American film makers looking to cash in on their success.

One film which has somehow avoided the craze is 1977’s House (Masters of Cinema) from director Nobuhiko Obayashi which was possibly given up on by Hollywood executives when somebody tried to explain the plot to them.

This psychedelic frenzy of a film comes across as a mashup between Scooby Doo and Hammer Horror, a story of young schoolgirls going to the countryside and staying at an old house, only to find their accommodation brings their nightmares to life and leads to a series of deaths that are both gory and inspired.

Director Obayashi is keen on visual tricks, one recurring image, that of a blue sky behind our heroines, constantly turning out to be a painting on a wall or billboard. Along with garish colours and wild camera angles, mere description can’t possibly do justice to the spectacle on offer here.

With a soundtrack from Godiego, the band behind that other 70s oddity Monkey!, this is a crazed and wonderful little film that might not make much sense but does demand repeated viewing, either under the influence of alcohol or stone cold sober.

Interviews with the film’s creators, a trailer and booklet complete the set.

Taking a breather from the madness, the BFI open the vaults to bring us two discs worth of films from the Central Office of Information (COI), the organisation set-up after the Second World War to promote the culture and concerns of a nation reeling from the dismantling of the British Empire by the Atlee government.

After the war there was a worry among the populace regarding the state of the nation’s youth, the results of rationing and economic hardship putting a strain on Britain’s youth culture. The films on these discs represent the cream of the crop from hundreds made in the 1940s and beyond.

With the set subtitled Police and Thieves, disc one concerns itself with the reform of children caught up in crime, their reform of paramount importance to both parents and worried friends and neighbours.

Starting with 1946’s Children on Trial, an odd little story about teenage boys sent to an institution for a few years only to be returned to their parents as well regarded young men, we’re taken on a tour of the various methods employed in the reformation of naughty boys and girls around the country.

Not to be left out, Edinburgh is showcased in 1944’s Children of the City while films such as Probation Officer, Youth Club and A Chance for Brian show that the methods used to tame the kiddoes of the past weren’t as tough as we might have expected from productions such as Alan Clarke’s Scum.

Disc two moves onto a series of police recruitment films from through the years, again mixing scripted stories and documentary to depict a profession which always seems to be changing. Most films go to great lengths to portray the bobby as a friend of everyone in the neighbourhood, even going so far as to help one old dear with her tax return forms.

While occasionally quaint, these films are also important glimpses into our cultural heritage and it would be interesting to see how a modern day director would approach such material when the life of the British copper has changed so much over the decades.

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