The Love Witch (15)
Icon Home Entertainment, £12.99
Hot on the heels of a limited theatrical release which brings it to the Glasgow Film Theatre for four nights from March 20, Anna Biller's bizarre, day-glo tale about a modern-day witch looking for love also comes to DVD courtesy of Icon. As well as directing, writing and producing, Biller designed the set and costumes for a film she describes as a tragedy but to which you could also apply the terms pastiche, black comedy, supernatural horror and feminist essay.
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The plot: glamorous witch Elaine Parks (Samantha Robinson) arrives in some small Californian town where there is already an established coven bringing her potion-making equipment with her in her red, convertible Ford Mustang, and looking for a man who will love her without limits. Unfortunately, however, those who try seem to end up dead – such as college lecturer Wayne (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) and businessman Richard (Robert Seeley), husband of Elaine's friend Trish (British actress Laura Waddell). Hunky detective Griff Meadow (Gian Keys) is soon on her trail.
There's a lot going on, and just as much to absorb both in terms of the message – the film is about sex, femininity in all its aspects, how women view themselves, each other and men – and the visual aesthetic. In one of the most vivid scenes, Elaine joins Trish for tea in a women-only, Victoriana-themed tea-room dressed like Eliza Doolittle at Ascot: elsewhere she wanders around looking like a cross between a Biba-era fashion model and Samantha from Bewitched. Biller's influences, for the record, are as wide-ranging as Hitchcock, Jacques Demy, Douglas Sirk, German provocateur Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the Italian “giallo” films of Dario Argento – in which respect Peter Strickland's Berberian Sound Studio might be (sort of) comparable. But in truth, The Love Witch is in a genre of one.
Hell Drivers (12)
For the cast alone, this 1957 oddity is worth the admission price. Stanley Baker and Patrick McGoohan play rival drivers for a haulage company which requires their employees to speed through English country lanes at breakneck speeds to meet their order requirements and pick up their bonuses. But also in the crew are Sean Connery, William Hartnell, Gordon Jackson, Sid James, Herbert Lom and Alfie Bass, while elsewhere there are early roles for David McCallum and Jill Ireland. In other words you have James Bond, Dr Who, Danger Man, The Prisoner, one half of the men from UNCLE, one third of The Professionals and the actor with the dirtiest laugh in the Carry On team. Ireland, who married McCallum after meeting him on set, also featured in The Man From UNCLE, though she later married Charles Bronson. The director is Cy Endfield, who would go on to make cast Baker in his 1964 epic, Zulu.
But indulging in actor-spotting and film trivia gathering shouldn't detract from what is a pretty gripping film, as new boy Tom (Baker) and old hand Red (McGoohan) go head to head in a locking of horns which isn't going to end well for either of them. Tom is just out of prison for an unspecified crime that seems to have involved driving and also lost his brother Jimmy (McCallum) the use of his legs. Red, meanwhile, is skimming off money from the haulage operation in cahoots with bent boss Cartley (Hartnell). And in an age of zero hours contracts and workplace pressure, Hell Drivers has some contemporary relevance too.
Multiple Maniacs (18)
Sony Pictures Entertainment, £19.99
The ramshackle, outrageous, blasphemous, funny, brave and utterly tasteless second feature from self-styled Pope of Trash John Waters comes to DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection in a 4K digital restoration supervised by Waters himself. Mind you there's nothing he or restoration can do about a cast who often look as if they're reading lines from prompt cards just off camera. But then that's part of the cult charm of early John Waters films. This one, shot in 1969 and released in 1970, followed his debut, Mondo Trasho, in spirit if nothing else.
All the familiar faces from the director's so-called Dreamland troupe of actors are present and incorrect, notably Divine and Mink Stole, but also David Lochary, Edith Massey, Cookie Mueller and Waters' childhood friend, Mary Vivian Pierce.
Divine plays Lady Divine, who along with her gang of freaks and oddballs travels the suburbs of Baltimore putting on her Cavalcade of Perversion – a Puke Eater and “actual queers kissing” are just two of the attractions – and then robbing the squares who turn up to watch. Soon she and her lover Mr David, also the Cavalcade MC, are squabbling and both planning the other's murder – Divine in the company of Mink Stole, who has just given her a “Rosary job” in the local church (don't ask). Eventually there are bodies everywhere, Lady Divine has been raped twice (once by a giant lobster) and her homicidal spree has brought the National Guard out onto the streets to shoot her down as the soundtrack plays God Save America.
“Violence was this generation’s sacrilege, so I wanted to make a film that would glorify carnage and mayhem for laughs,” Waters wrote in his 1985 autobiography. Mission accomplished. God bless John Waters.