Needless to say, the undead do not tread lightly in this week’s Friday Night Double Feature, now playing on the Criterion Channel on FilmStruck. With the bloodcurdlingly tense Night of the Living Dead (1968), shot on a shoestring budget outside Pittsburgh, George A. Romero and his collaborators revolutionized the horror form, situating their tale of a farmhouse under brutal siege by brain-dead “ghouls” as an urgent diagnosis of American social ills. In director Jacques Tourneur’s similarly resourceful I Walked with a Zombie, a darkly atmospheric incarnation of the genre from 1943 produced by horror impresario Val Lewton, a Canadian nurse travels to a sugar plantation in the West Indies to care for its owner’s wife, eventually turning to voodoo rituals in a quest to cure her charge’s eerily supernatural trance.
Also up this week:
The iconic movie monster gets a chance to pound his chest on the Channel, in the effects-laden Hollywood spectacular that introduced him to the world. Part globe-trotting fantasy and part hair-raising nightmare, the 1933 King Kong, produced and directed by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, follows a movie crew to the remote Skull Island, where the gargantuan gorilla winds up taking an actress (Fay Wray) captive. But it’s only after the beast is brought back to New York and exhibited as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” that all hell really breaks loose. An important piece of film history, Cooper and Schoedsack’s technically innovative thrill ride also represented a milestone for Criterion: the 1984 edition was our first laserdisc release and featured our first audio commentary track, by film historian Ronald Haver, which remains a state-of-the-art example of the possibilities of the form. Get a sneak preview of Haver’s insights here.
Spanning fifty-three movies and forty-one editions of the Olympic Games, 100 Years of Olympic Films: 1912-2012 is the culmination of a monumental, award-winning archival project encompassing dozens of new restorations by the International Olympic Committee. In celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Black Power salute at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, one of the most politically resonant and controversial acts in the history of the games, we’re premiering forty-three titles from the box set, making the entire collection available for the first time on the Channel. This remarkable movie marathon showcases a hundred years of human endeavor and reflects the social, cultural, and political changes that have shaped our recent history.
There’s no better friend than a horse in these two moving coming-of-age films. Elnura Osmonalieva’s 2015 Seide, a beautifully shot short set amid the snowy mountain terrain of Kyrgyzstan, centers around a young girl who feels most at home astride her horse. But when her parents move to arrange her marriage and vow to kill the animal as part of a wedding tradition, she faces the prospect of losing her closest companion. In Carroll Ballard’s Oscar-nominated 1979 feature The Black Stallion, an emotionally resonant and visually arresting adaptation of a beloved children’s novel, a wild horse and a young boy form a tight bond while shipwrecked on a deserted island.
At his secluded chateau in the French countryside, a brilliant, obsessive doctor (Pierre Brasseur) attempts a radical plastic surgery to restore the beauty of his daughter’s disfigured countenance-at a horrifying price. Eyes Without a Face, directed by the supremely talented Georges Franju, is rare in horror cinema for its odd mixture of the ghastly and the lyrical, and it has been a major influence on the genre in the decades since its release. There are images here—of terror, of gore, of inexplicable beauty—that once seen are never forgotten. Supplemental features: a 1949 documentary by Franju about the slaughterhouses of Paris, archival interviews with Franju, an interview with actor Edith Scob, and more.