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Bigelow does Universal

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Two of Katherine Bigelow’s films were released on DVD in the past year, effectively her second and third film. Both are horror genre movies which defy the genres. The first “Near Dark” is a prototypical cult classic which has been given an outstanding treatment on DVD as a two disc set with commentaries and extras.

The second is “Blue Steel” which has been given a bare-bones release. Where “Blue Steel” is mis-understood is that it is a cop thriller, it isn’t. It is a werewolf movie and makes a great companion to “Near Dark” which is one of the best unconventional vampire movies of the 80s.

Bigelow’s movies have had problems where they just go to stupid in the last third. I think this is symptomatic of how Hollywood works, but I don’t know for sure. All I know is that there is a great set-up, interesting characters, a good take on an genre, and then in the last act it all goes stupid. I don’t think such a consistent pattern can be placed on the director, but on the pseudo-studio system which runs Hollywood.

The first movie, “Near Dark” is a cult classic about vampires, but you don’t see fangs, and except for one scene, almost no violence. The commentary is spare, but relevant. The extras are great such as Lance Henricksen talking about picking up hitchhikers in character. Thankfully Christopher Walken doesn’t do that. It’s about a family of vampires versus a western family. The protagonist, Caleb has to choose between families.

The second movie “Blue Steel” is seen as a cop thriller, which is only predictable since it deals with a rookie cop in contemporary New York City. But it’s really a werewolf movie. The main villain is played by Ron Silver, a stock broker who pockets a gun during a robbery. Like the werewolf’s bite, he is infected and starts shooting strangers. As the movie progresses, he gets more hairy and disheveled, getting wilder as the chase progresses. As in the Universal and Hammer classics, he can only be killed by the silver bullet of the heroine.

Two really good movies which are worth seeing because they are more than they appear. Which leads me to wonder, if she’s done vampires and werewolves, what are “Point Break” and “K-19” really about?

Also the coincidence that she used a lot of the players from James Cameron’s films such as Lance Henriksen and Jenette Goldstein isn’t a coincedence, since she was married to Cameron.

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