Blu-Ray Today: Gates of Hell, Gates of Heaven, Gates of Hobbits


The Beyond – If you count yourself as a horror fan of any stripe, then you’re likely already familiar with Lucio Fulci’s 1981 horror classic The Beyond. The film, about a hotel that is resting on the mouth of Hell, is colorful, oddly paced, and wonderfully gory. It is perhaps the prime example Italian Euroschlock, definitely a proud genre for genre fanatics. The film will be released in a special three-disc set from Grindhouse releasing, which includes a soundtrack CD (those Italian horror films had some pretty groovy soundtracks). Also, the cover glows in the dark. The Beyond straddles a wonderful line between chintzy trash and cinema classic. I encourage you to check it out.

The Thin Blue Line, Gates of Heaven, and Vernon, Florida – Errol Morris is one of the best documentarians working, having created a candid, artificial style to unlock the mysteries of extreme mysteries. The Criterion Collection, God bless them, have just released two Blu-rays of Morris’ work, which consist of his earlier hits. In 1978’s Gates of Heaven, Morris looks at a pet cemetery in California, and the strange ins and outs of such a business. In 1981’s Vernon, Florida, Morris treks into the titular town to explore what might be America’s oddest – and most sincere – township. And finally, in 1988’s The Thin Blue Line, perhaps Morris’ most notorious film, the director gently – and damningly – uncovers corruption in a Texas police department, ultimately exonerating a man condemned for murder. Morris would eventually become more skilled, but these earl efforts are marvels of observation and contemplation of the off-kilter and the unseen.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Mercifully the final film (and the shortest film) in the long-winded and long-limping Lord of the Rings series, The Battle of the Five Armies is less a grand hurrah as it is a final collapse over the finish line. The film is essentially a single extended action sequence, and in terms of spectacle, it doesn’t disappoint. If you’re going to complete your collection, you’re going to want to have the crispiest, fudgiest edition you can find. There are several versions, of course. And there will, no doubt be an extended cut later down the line. There is, however, and concurrent with the release of Armies, a box set containing all three of the Hobbit films.

Gone with the Pope – Grindhouse Releasing also dug up – and cleaned up, and edited, and completed – this obscure Italian crime flick for your eagerly awaiting eyeballs. Gone with the Pope, started in 1976 but not completed until 2009, was making its way through the nation’s art houses a few years back, and is finally finally available for home viewing. The story follows a team of kidnappers who intend to kidnap the Pope and ransom him one dollar for every Catholic in the world. As of 2015, that’s about 1.1 billion. The film’s late director, Duke Mitchell, is one you might recognize from Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla. The story of the film’s making is just as fascinating as the film itself.

The Fast & Furious Collection – It comes in a tire, and it’s your ideal chance to pick up an entire series of movies (sans one), and have them all (sans one)! It might be worth it just for Fast Five.