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Red Rock West & Little Darlings from Cinématographe


Today on KIOS at the Movies, I'm thrilled to delve into the revival of two nearly forgotten cinematic gems, propelled by the emergence of boutique movie labels like Vinegar Syndrome, Second Run, Arrow Video, and notably, The Criterion Collection. These labels are not only reshaping the landscape of film preservation but also amplifying the voices of overlooked works in cinema.

Both of the films I'll be discussing have undergone remarkable transformations, receiving new 4K restorations and exquisite Blu-ray box sets courtesy of a new sub-label under Vinegar Syndrome called Cinematographe. Their mission to unearth and showcase American films that may have been ahead of their time or simply missed their mark upon initial release is commendable.

With their inaugural releases hitting the mark spot-on, I find myself brimming with anticipation for the future of physical media. It's not just about preserving films; it's about honoring their legacy and serving as custodians of cinematic history.

Little Darlings

First, I'd like to shine a spotlight on the film "Little Darlings." This teen comedy, originally released in 1980, was directed by Ronald F. Maxwell and written by Kimi Peck and Dalene Young. At its core, the story revolves around two teenage girls from vastly different backgrounds: Angel, portrayed by Kristi McNichol, raised by a struggling single mother and sporting a tough tomboy persona, and Ferris, played by Tatum O'Neal, the prim and proper daughter of affluent parents. Despite their initial animosity, they find themselves thrown together at summer camp.

In a departure from the typical teen comedies of the era, usually geared towards boys, the film focuses on two teen girls. When the other campers wager on who can “become a woman” first, they embark on a journey of cringe-inducing situations, genuinely funny moments, and a lot of heart and care. This film was a modest theatrical success and it was eventually released on VHS but never on DVD or Blu-ray until now. It’s notable how ahead of it’s time “Little Darlings” is, not only the fact that the golden age of teen comedies had yet to materialize, but the film is primarily focused on young women and their sexuality, which is unfortunately still a hard sell for most movie studios today but must have been radical in 1980.

Despite societal taboos, the film's relevance endures, offering layers of heart and humanity. It's a work that feels sincere and unapologetic, refusing to shy away from the complexities of its characters' experiences. Without revealing too much, I can attest to the deeply satisfying conclusion that ties the narrative together.

The recent 4K restoration from the original camera negative is a visual treat, with lush cinematography and a natural color grade that enhances the experience. The clarity of the music and sound design further elevates the film's impact. Additionally, for those considering the Blu-ray edition, the packaging and accompanying book are meticulously crafted, reflecting a deep respect for the film's legacy.

In summary, "Little Darlings" is a delightful cinematic discovery that deserves a wider audience. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to share it with all of you.

Red Rock West

Next up from Cinematographe is the 1993 neo-noir film by director John Dahl, “Red Rock West.”

Starring Nicholas Cage as Michael Williams, a down-and-out ex-marine with a bum knee struggling to find work, the story unfolds in a small Wyoming town named Red Rock. Here, a case of mistaken identity thrusts him into a web of intrigue when the bartender confuses him for a hitman hired to eliminate his wife. What ensues is a gripping journey filled with twists and turns, blending both unexpected and familiar elements into an engrossing narrative.

I'm genuinely surprised that this film had eluded my radar for so long. Having grown up on Nicholas Cage's action-packed repertoire, from "The Rock" to "Con Air" and "Face/Off," I've remained a steadfast fan throughout his career.

“Red Rock West” captivated me from its opening moments and held my attention throughout. The characters are impeccably realized and thoroughly engaging. J.T. Walsh delivers a compelling performance as the shady bar owner, complemented by Laura Flynn Boyle's portrayal of his ill-fated wife, brimming with both humanity and intrigue. Dennis Hopper, drawing from his role in "Blue Velvet," delivers a unhinged performance as the would-be assassin. The cinematography seamlessly blends western aesthetics with the noir sensibilities of the 1940s and 1950s, while the soundtrack enhances the film's atmosphere. Coupled with a top-notch script, the film is a masterclass in storytelling.

The new transfer from Vinegar Syndrome and the Blu-ray presentation are visually stunning, accompanied by crisp and layered sound design. Furthermore, the packaging, if you opt for the physical media, is meticulously crafted, reflecting a genuine care for the film's presentation.

I refrain from delving too deeply into the plot to avoid spoilers, but rest assured, “Red Rock West” is a cinematic journey well worth embarking on.

"Little Darlings" and "Red Rock West" are now available on special edition Blu-rays from Cinematographe and can be found at Vinegar Syndrome.

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Joshua LaBure is a documentary filmmaker, radio producer and podcaster based out of Omaha, Nebraska. His experience includes having directed and produced several short films, two narrative features and two documentary features, with his works featured at the Lone Star Film Festival, The Bureau of Creative Works and other filmmaker showcases. His most recent documentary had a sold-out premiere and received a standing ovation at the Benson Theatre. Furthermore, he founded the Denver Filmmakers Collective, which hosted local filmmaker showcases, has served on jury for major film festivals and has hosted countless film screenings.
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