Arrow Video is a UK-based label known for releasing forgotten genre gems and cult classics onto DVD and/or Blu-ray, and they’ve been doing so since 2009. Their titles run the gamut from well-established horror films (The Beyond, Phenomena) to action masterpieces (Lady Snowblood, Battle Royale) to cult comedies (The ‘Burbs, Big Trouble in Little China) to the mad, sleazy, little-known genius of Island of Death, and the one constant between them all has been Arrow’s commitment to producing exciting, worthwhile and frequently self-restored releases for movie fans old and new.
Sadly, these titles have been region locked for a while now meaning they’re designed to only work on Blu-ray players in Region 2 which consists of (most of) Europe, Japan, the Middle East, Swaziland and a few other places. The United States and Canada are Region 1… but hold off on that sad trombone film fans.
Arrow recently announced a move into North America – although yes, those of us with region-free Blu-ray players have been sneaking Arrow releases into our American homes and hearts for years now – and they’ve done so via an Indiegogo campaign. They were looking for $100k to prove not only that a market consisting of dedicated movie lovers existed for their kind of releases but also to invest immediately into securing rights, restoring picture/audio where needed, creating extra features and more for as-of-yet unannounced titles in the near future.
The campaign still has over five weeks to go, but as of yesterday they’ve already reached that goal. Now imagine what additional cinematic treasures and pleasures they’ll bring us if they surpass it.
The beauty of pledging support to Arrow’s American endeavor is that instead of the typical swag-oriented perks where your reward is valued well below your contribution the majority of the available perks here are the actual upcoming dual format Blu-ray/DVD) releases currently slated to begin rolling out in February of next year. (Although $15 will still get you the more traditional t-shirt.) They’ve only announced the first four of their titles as of now, and the various reward levels offer everything from a single announced Blu/DVD to five years worth of Arrow Video USA’s releases for $1500. (Four releases a month on average for five years equals 240 releases, and that works out to just over $6 per Blu/DVD.)
The first of the four announced titles is a little known but highly regarded spaghetti western from 1967 called Day of Anger. It’s a Lee Van Cleef vehicle that sees him as an aging gunfighter who takes a weak young man under his wing only to find himself forced into a duel with his upstart student. Sounds like The Mechanic in the old west, and I’m immediately sold. Next up is the frequently banned 1970 German film, Mark of the Devil, starring Udo Kier and Herbert Lom as witchfinders who arrive in a small village in 18th century Austria. As you’d expect, torture, death and bodily abuse soon follow.
The third announced title is Teruo Ishii’s 1970 genre mash-up, Blind Woman’s Curse. It stars Meiko Kaji (Lady Snowblood, Stray Cat Rock) as a yakuza leader who accidentally blinds a girl during a fight only to see her fellow clan members succumb one by one years later to the wrath of a mysterious blind woman. It’s swords and sorcery, Japanese-style. The fourth title to be announced – and the only one that fails to appeal to me personally – is Walerian Borowczyk’s 1981 film, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne. It’s making its Blu/DVD debut with Arrow so fans of Borowczyk’s work should be pleased with the work the label is putting into it release.
There are still some unanswered questions regarding Arrow’s upcoming venture across the pond – chief among them being will their North American releases be mirrors of UK titles or will there be some titles unique to here. It all comes down to rights as some of the films they’ve released in the UK are licensed to other labels in the US and therefore out of their reach. Second biggest question? When can we expect a remastered Blu-ray release of Clive Barker’s Rawhead Rex? (I would also accept a special edition of Hell Night.)