Beyond Variety:
Lovely Jon's Top 10 Boutique Blu-ray Recommendations

Words by Lovely Jon
March 2024

To celebrate the Other Parties limited edition release of Bette Gordon's transgressive 1983 cult New York gem Variety, let's dig deep in to those other 'sister-hood' master works out there on the DIY Blu-ray scene that re-shapes our stereotypical perceptions of 'cinema femme'.  

Other Parties sends out much love and respect to the bespoke labels who genuinely care and covet such paramount nuggets of leftsider cinema - salute!  

Pre-order your copy of Variety now:

1. Handgun aka Deep in the Heart (1983/US + UK/Director Tony Garnett/ Fun City Editions Blu Ray - US).

Essential boutique selectors Fun City presents Tony Garnett's masterful meditation on female power and gun control via the director's usual 'docu-drama' style.  

Starring the majestic Karen Young (who really should have been utilised in more 'important' film work) as meek pastoral school teacher Kathleen transformed in to black clad bandana wearing gun club avenger following a terrible sexual assault.  

Garnett disposes of the usual 'Cannon Cinema' revenge templates for a deeper study of self empowerment and awareness.  

Seeing this underrated sleeper upon its initial theatrical run with exploitation teenage vigilante favourite Young Warriors was a highlight (with Handgun instantly clearing the populist audience within ten mins of its running time). No mean feat!


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2. Blonde Death (1984/US/Director James Dillinger/Bleeding Skull Blu Ray - US).

Here's a proper DIY shot on video urban 'queer' opus that has nose firmly placed in the ghetto. Tammy (Lynn Beaverdorf aka Sara Lee Wade) is your typical teenage dreamer, however, the scourge of drugs takes hold and she is soon on a 'Manson-esque' rampage of nihilism and violence.  

Bleeding Skull (whose 'Bleeding Skull: A 1990s Trash-Horror Odyssey' tome is an essential purchase for all you Grade Z gutter snipers out there) genuinely understands the inner personalised dynamics of the 'do it all' SOV boom and this insane ahead of its time trans-gressive atrocity kicks out the jams to an awaiting, hungry LGBTQ audience.     


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3. Pandora's Box (1929/Germany/Director G.W. Pabst/Eureka Blu Ray - UK).

The iconic Louise Brooks (sporting a timeless and hip 'short-bob' hair cut) resonates as the tragic 'lady of the streets' Lulu - a free thinking/strong willed prostitute desperate to climb the social ladder of 'respectability' via a convenient marriage, only to spiral further in to depravation and a predetermined encounter with Jack the Ripper.    

An expressionistic masterpiece of personalised transference and inner inability to shake off the shackles of sexualised individualism, Pandora's Box remains as relevant and forward thinking all these 95 years later since its initial scandalous, censor baiting release. Long standing boutique imprint Eureka presents a sumptuous remaster housed in gorgeous limited boxing - don't sleep!


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4. The Drivers Seat aka Indentikit (Italy/1974/Director Giuseppe Patroni Griffi/BFI and Severin Blu Ray - UK + US).

Here's a previously AWOL psychological arthouse 'thriller' directed by the interesting playwright auteur Griffi (whose 1969 'swapping couples' elegy Love Circle is very much a genre favourite thanks to an iconic Ennio Morricone score and Dario Argento co-script who Griffi very much appears to be riffing on here alongside Godard and Antonioni - especially Blow Up).

Elizabeth Taylor (in her most hysterical improvisory off the hook performance) is the mysterious Lise (based on original Driver's Seat novelist Muriel 'Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' Spark) - an unpleasant, uptight (possibly personality disordered) holidying would be femme fatale looking for 'that special man' - how she finds her perfect 'partner' and what she intends to use them for is the film's unique M.O. - via a bewildering series of flashbacks/flashforwards the audience is asked to piece together (including a chance meeting with Andy Warhol's oddball prince at Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino International Airport).

Watching this for the first time after renting out Deep Red and Noir-esque Spaghetti Western God Forgives I Don't on UK pre-cert video label Fletcher as a young teenager was a bewildering, alienating experience (the only reason I rented it back then was because Deep Red was such a revelation - I'd rent anything on that label!).     

Hindsight, history and re-evulation of course has bought the film back (originally via Kier-La Janisse's influential 2012 book House of Psychotic Women) and La-Janisse has resurrected the film (alongside thematically linked oddities Footprints on the Moon, I Like Bats and The Other Side of the Underneath) for a hefty boxset edition via mighty US imprint Severin.  Those in the UK have the option of diving in via the ever reliable BFI.  


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5. I, The Executioner (1968/Japan/Director Tai Kato/Radiance Films Blu Ray - UK). 

An unhinged psychopathic serial killer (the stoic Makato Sako - recognisable character actor in countless Sonny Chiba movies) begins a predetermined murdering spree targetting five well to do Mah Jong playing female friends. The reasons for the killer's pathological murder play and his gentle relationship with a quirky noodle bar hostess (Japan's Vanessa Redgrave - Chieko Baishô) are the centrepieces of this classic ahead of its time dark as night noir - influencing everything from the Italian Giallo (the 'naturalistic daytime' murder in Argento's Tenebrae is firmly encased here) and Michael Mann's much loved Manhunter (the maniacal serial killer 'falling in love' motif).

And the reason it's on the list? Famed Auteur Tai Kato (never one to 'play by the rules') -  concentrates on the five female victims (flipping the usual 'victimised' femme stereotypes) - these are in fact stern 'masculine' Alpha gender reversed personalities with Kato digging deep in to their own psycho-sexual provocalities (socially respectable on the outside - impulsive primal beasts on the inside).  It's a rivetting, deeply disturbing vision where due caution is recommended. 


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6. Ladyworld (2018/US/Director Amanda Kramer/Yellow Veil Pictures Blu Ray - US).

"No-one needs to be in charge when everyone has a knife"....

New York/LA Distribution boutique company Yellow Veil sure answer the prayers of all those 'cine-outsider' devotees out there in a rousing Statment of Purpose -    "focusing exclusively on boundary pushing genre cinema, seeking to highlight filmmakers who exist on the cusp of commercial and arthouse cinema".

This boundary breaking imprint certainly has the panache and confidence to take on such universally acclaimed production houses as the influential A24 (in which Ladyworld feels exactly like the non-catagorizable filmplay they would peddle).

Maya Hawk (poster-idol of many a transgressive youth's bedroom wall) heads a cast of eight celebratory house party teens trapped following a huge earthquake.  Bizarre 'Lord of the Flies' ceremonial rites follow in which each teen aspires to their own gendered dominance over others.  With a clear visualised patina of Washington's finest Bikini Kill (alongside Mink Stole era John Waters) - the teens certainly command an arresting prescence whilst director Kramer (one to watch) pushes all the requisite cult buttons.


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7. Heart of Midnight (1988/US/Matthew Chapman/Kino Lorber Blu Ray - US).

Perennial heavy weight Jennifer Jason Leigh (presently killing it as the brutal matriach in Season 5 of Fargo) is handed an eerie former night club from her deceased uncle.  A recovering mental healthee, Leigh's fragile Carol is soon ensconced within the building's history as a perverse sex club - cue violent Lynch-esque visions and inner Freudian metaphors as alternative personalities engulf her psyche.  

Out of all the releases covered here, Heart of Midnight would make the best double bill (with the charcters of Carol and Sandy McLeod's Christine almost doppelgangers in their dangerously transformative quest to explore 'the dark side' of sexuality).  

Sadly the Kino Lorber Blu-ray is long sold out but can be obtained here via an identical Spanish Release (in English):

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8. The Panther Women (1967/Mexico/Director Rene Cardona/Indicator Blu Ray - US + UK).

A mind blowing 'luchadoras' horror hybrid featuring a heroic tag team of female wrestlers (Loreta Venus and the magnificent Golden Rubi) confronting an evil satanic sect of shapesifters (straight out of a Jacques Tourneur movie). 

Way ahead of stereotypical female conceptions, legendary genre auteur Cardona was globally over the curve with his Luchadoras and 'female centred' pictures (including 1965's She Wolves of the Ring). 

Here we see leading 'sexy', 'feminine' women kick brutal serious ass, performing moves usually blueprinted by masculine physicality  (imagery that would not make its accepted global mark until  TV's Charlies Angels).


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9. Thrill Kill Video Club (1991/US/Director Robert Prichard/Art Label Blu Ray - US).

Here's a proper 'low rent' New York shot jam that could easily be classed as Variety's 'next door neighbour'.  Shot on Video over a period of 24 hours - Thrill Kill Video Club is part of bonkers improvisory actors group Surf Reality's 'Movie of the Month' projects - shot from the hip counter culture urban nightmares spewed out quick for the cities underground scene. 

Directed and produced by Class of Nuke 'em High's Robert Prichard and Jennifer Babtist - Thrill Kill Video Club (partially shot at legendary NY video hang out Kim's!), centres on a group of psychotic misfits who advertise for potential unknowing 'actors' to feature in their new snuff movie. Cue a cavalcade of demented performers (including Dr Who's Sylvester McCoy!) meeting a grisly video taped end.  Enter the mysterious Kimberly Flynn (an improvisational genius) - a manipulative strong willed would be victim who will turn the groups filmmaking intentions  on its head.

Wild, crazy, bizarre, hysterical - nothing quite prepares you for the insane madness of this SOV jewel.  Part of a retrospective release of Surf Reality's work, don't forget to check out the equally beserk Dick and Jane Drop Acid and Die (a psyched out punk rock ode to those old LSD scare films).    


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10. The Bigamist (1953/Director Ido Lupino/Kino Lorber Blu Ray - US).

"Wanted by Two Women!"

In the anals of Hollywood female actor directors, the rapacious Ido Lupino stands tall and proud (her controversial censor baiting productions were far too ahead of their time - including disturbing rape/recovery drama Outrage and infamous dark noir The Hitchhiker).

Here Lupino stars (alongside Joan Fontaine) and directs this topical 'ripped from the headlines' melodrama expose on bigamy featuring the two leads as dual wives to the hapless Harry (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance's  stogie smoking Edmund O'Brien).

In the hands of a male director, the film would easily spin in to cliched 'love rat' territory, however, Lupino (always one to dig deeper in to the psyche of both genders) - mischievously spins the trope presenting Harry with an empathetic curve whilst procuring her and Joan Fontaine's characters with unlikable 'non victimised' traits (Lupino's LA based hard as nails Phyllis contrasting against Fontaine's 'too good to be true' San Franciso dwelling Eve).  

Part of an essential Ido Lupino: Filmmaker Collection boxset (alongside single mother expose Not Wanted, Polio drama Never Fear and The Hitchhiker). 


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Lovely Jon 3/24


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