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Category:    Home > Reviews > Western > Drama > Spaghetti Western > Action > Counterculture > Exploitation > Erotic > Japan > Fantasy > Ho > Cemetery Without Crosses (1969 aka The Rope & The Colt)/Stray Cat Rock: The Collection (1970 - 71/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-rays w/DVDs)/Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders (1970/Criterion Blu-ray)

Cemetery Without Crosses (1969 aka The Rope & The Colt)/Stray Cat Rock: The Collection (1970 - 71/MVD Visual/Arrow Blu-rays w/DVDs)/Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders (1970/Criterion Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B/B Sound: C+/B-/B- Extras: C+/C+/B- Films: C+

Here's a selection of genre films with difference and variance that may not always work, but have their moments...

Robert Hossein's Cemetery Without Crosses (1969 aka The Rope & The Colt) is an entry into that cycle of the Western before the humor started to kick in, about a woman (Michele Mercier) who wants revenge on the gang who killed her husband for no good reason. Though this could have (and should have) turned into a 'black widow revenge' thriller, it is more of a drama with a bit of character study as she reaches out to an old lover/gunslinger (played by the director) to make them pay.

Though I thought it was uneven, it has its moments and at least attempted to do something most of the films in the cycle had not. Unfortunately, there are a few missed opportunities, but all fans need to put it on there must-see list and it is worth a look for the good things that work and work well.

Extras include an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing by Ginette Vincendeau & Rob Young and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by James Flames, while the Blu-ray adds Remembering Sergio - an all-new interview with star and director Robert Hossein, taped exclusively for this release, French television news report on the film's making, containing interviews with Hossein, and actors Michèle Mercier and Serge Marquand, an archive interview with Hossein and original theatrical trailers.

Stray Cat Rock: The Collection (1970 - 71) offers five films about Japanese teens who want to drink, party, drive, run around naked, have sex, steal, fight, use drugs, get down to Rock music and get crazy in a series from the Nikkastu Studios that still resonates to this day as their AIP counterparts of counterculture craziness does in the U.S. and has Lady Snowblood and Blind Woman's Curse star Meiko Kaji heading the cast every time.

The films include a girl gang taking on an established Yakuza gang over fixed boxing matches entitled Delinquent Girl Boss, robbery and even kidnapping against a religious group makes things a bit crazier in Wild Jumbo, then we have the original (much imitated) and legendary Sex Hunter with gangs, violence and racism in the mix. Machine Animal has rival gangs getting crazy over LSD and Beat '71 concludes the madness has our heroine is falsely sent to prison by her boyfriend's vindictive father, but her counterculture friends will fix everything and reunited, they got a score to settle.

These are amusing, energetic time capsules too few have seen in recent decades, so it is great they are finally hitting Blu-ray, et al, but they are also formulaic. Because they have good directing, a good cast, nice locales and are as well made as they are, they don't remain mere B-movies and they are all worth a look.

Extras for this Limited Edition Blu-ray (only 3,000 copies are being made) include an illustrated collector's booklet featuring new writing on the films by the great Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp and regular DVD versions of the films, while the discs add 2 Original Trailers for five of the films, an interview with Yasuharu Hasebe director of Delinquent Girl Boss, Sex Hunter and Machine Animal, an Interview with actor Tatsuya Fuji, star of all five films and an interview with actor Yoshio Harada, co-star of Beat '71.

Jaromil Jires' Valerie & Her Week Of Wonders (1970) is a mix of fantasy, abstract storytelling, the fantasy genre, horror genre and touches of erotica in a pretty avant garde film with Jaroslava Schallerova in the title role; innocent but able bodied enough to almost handle the madness (subtle and explicit) about to visit upon her and all around her. This will remind some also of Holy Mountain and El Topo by Jodorowsky, if with less nudity, but I felt this was a mixed experience like those films despite the good directing, cast and how well the film was shot. It looks good here and those interested should see it in this format to really appreciate what he is doing here. I also liked the short films (especially Hall Of Lost Footsteps) in the extras, so this is a great introduction to the director's talents.

Extras include a thick, folded paper pullout on the film including informative text and an essay by Jana Prikryl, while the Blu-ray adds a 2007 alternative ambient Rock music soundtrack, a featurette with the makers of that music, Czech film scholar Peter Hames on the film, separate 2006 on-camera interviews with actors Jaroslava Schallerova & Jan Klusak and three earlier short film by Director Jires: Uncle (1959), Footprints and The Hall Of Lost Footsteps (both 1960).

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Crosses has some expected grain, roughness and slight damage on the element copies used to save it, but there's little room for improvement otherwise in this 2K scan with mostly consistent color. The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition images on the five Cat films may have slight variances between them in their scope aspect ratio presentations, but the Fujicolor (some of the best examples ever on video) in Nikkatsuscope on all the films have some great demo shots throughout, so fans of filmmaking and this series in particular are in for a very pleasant surprise. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Valerie can sometimes show the age of the materials used, but this is an amazing 4K transfer off of the original 35mm camera negative. There is a slightly diffused look in many shots, but one can clearly see it is the way the film was lensed, plus color is often impressive.

The lossless PCM 1.0 Mono across all the Blu-rays offer sound for the films that sound as good as they are ever going to, all restored, though Crosses is a little more brittle and varied beyond Arrow's control. The Italian track has detail and clarity on certain sound elements the English track does not have and vice versa. Too bad a third combined track was not here for fun. The DVD versions of the Arrow releases offer lossy Dolby Digital Mono.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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