Dillinger: the 1973 directorial debut of John Milius features beloved tough-guy actor Warren Oates as the titular Depression-era bank robber. Milius’ script plays fast and loose with the facts but action fans won’t care as it delivers an interesting, skillfully-crafted meditation on the nature of the self-mythologizing outlaw. Better yet, his direction shows that his knack for muscular action and poetic machismo was already fully in-place. Oates is both charismatic and forebodingly tough in the title role and Ben Johnson matches him step-for-step as G-Man Melvin Purvis. The film also has a support cast to die for: Richard Dreyfuss, Cloris Leachman, Harry Dean Stanton, Geoffrey Lewis, John P. Ryan, etc. Arrow’s new blu-ray edition offers a fresh transfer plus a commentary track and a few interviews.
Hired To Kill: Greek indie exploitation specialist Nico Mastorakis replaces the guys in the “guys on a mission” action-thriller concept with women to create something that feels like Charlie’s Angels meets The Dirty Dozen. Action movie regular Brian Thompson stars a mercenary hired by an industrialist (George Kennedy) to rescue a foreign leader (Jose Ferrer) that has been imprisoned by his country’s military leader (Oliver Reed, using a Greek accent!) using a group of tough chicks posing as models. It’s a modest but solid programmer with lovely Greek locales, a wry lead performance from Thompson and plenty of action in the last half-hour. There’s the occasional slow stretch but the quirky sensibility of Mastorakis (who co-directs with Peter Rader) will keep exploitation fans amused: look out for a scene where Thompson has to protect his cover identity as a gay photographer by smooching Reed! Arrow added this title to their line of Mastorakis reissues via a blu/DVD set with interviews, a commentary and the script in BR/DVD-ROM form.
The Stuff: This 1985 horror/conspiracy thriller hybrid from Larry Cohen is another example of why he’s one the great originals amongst American genre specialists. The off-the-wall plot involves a wildly popular dessert that is actually an organism that inhabits and takes over those who eat it, leading to an Invasion Of The Body Snatchers thriller where a corporate espionage specialist (Michael Moriarty) leads a ragtag group trying to stop this scourge as Stuff-controlled zombies try to thwart them. Cohen’s script and direction are playful, poking fun at everything from yuppies to the U.S. military to corporations. The low budget crimps its style in places, particularly the FX, but it’s kind of amazing what Cohen pulls off as he blends genres and tones with satirical abandon – and Moriarty gives another great Method-style performance for Cohen. Look out for Garrett Morris as a Famous Amos-style business owner and Paul Sorvino as a military leader who acts like he just walked out of Dr. Strangelove. Arrow’s U.K. special edition blu-ray for this film was recently reissued in the U.S., featuring a new transfer and an excellent, nearly hour-long documentary about the film.