The Hourglass Sanatorium

Polish director Wojciech Has harbored no desire to make a political film. But in Poland under Soviet rule, where film promoting social realism was the mandate, not being political was the most political thing he could do.


Colossus and the Amazon Queen

People unfamiliar with genre films sometimes have this weird idea that the movies all carry themselves with an air of complete seriousness, that a particular type of film can’t possibly be aware of its own cliches and pitfalls until some smarmy mainstream director steps in and makes a spoof. That spy movies, even James Bond,…


Legend of Suram Fortress

Based on a retelling by author Daniel Chonkadze of a Georgian folktale, the simple plot at the core of the movie is about Georgia in a tumultuous time, caught in the middle of a war between Muslims and Christians. Although its borders are largely secure thanks to a network of fortresses, one of these strongholds is a weak link owing to the fact that no matter what manner of architectural and engineering know-how is applied to it, the walls inevitably crumble after a short while.


Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka

Depending on whose folklore upon which we rely, Satan’s midwinter rascalry was combatted by a variety of traditional characters. In Mexico, since time immemorial, they have told the tale of how Pitch the Devil was thwarted in his efforts to corrupt the young and innocent by Santa Claus, who lives on the moon and employed the assistance of his most trusted friend, Merlin the Magician. In The Ukraine, which these days is more concerned with contesting the antics of Vladimir the Bare-Chested Yuletide Goblin, the corrupting efforts of the more unsaintly of the famous Nicks had to be foiled by a hearty peasant in a big furry cap.


Punching Cthulhu in the Face

My latest on The Cultural Gutter is Punching Cthulhu in the Face. Pulp fiction writer Robert E. Howard is best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian. How does Lovecraft’s style of vague dread and horror experienced by perpetually terrified academics hold up when the main player is, say, a skull-cracking Pictish king who laughs at the eldritch horror of the Elder Gods?


Chinese Ghost Story

Partially a remake of a Shaw Bros. classic, partially an adaptation of an old Chinese folk tale, Chinese Ghost Story became one of the defining films of the Hong Kong New Wave and inspired countless imitations, including its own sequels and remakes. There is little in the short story “The Magic Sword,” part of the…