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The Unknown Man Of Shandigor (Deaf Crocodile) Blu-ray Review

    Ian Jane

  • The Unknown Man Of Shandigor (Deaf Crocodile) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: Deaf Crocodile
    Released on: February 22nd, 2022.
    Director: Jean-Louis Roy
    Cast: Marie-France Boyer, Ben Carruthers, Jacques Dufilho, Daniel Emilfork, Serge Gainsbourg
    Year: 1967
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    The Unknown Man Of Shandigor – Movie Review:

    Quite difficult to come across prior to this fantastic Blu-ray release from upstart boutique label Deaf Crocodile, Swiss-born filmmaker Jean-Louis Roy’s debut feature, 1967’s The Unknown Man Of Shandigor, really should be much better known in Eurocult and arthouse film circles than it is.

    A wild mix of Euro-spy trappings, French New Wave-styled visual flourishes and quirky, black comedy, the movie begins wheelchair-bound scientist Herbert Von Krantz (Daniel Emilfork) as he passes through a throng of reporters to get to his van. As his assistant, Yvan (Marcel Imhoff), helps him through, he answers some questions about his latest invention, a device that can sterilize all of the world’s nuclear arsenal.

    Unfortunately for Von Krantz, a few rival enemy agents are out to get the device and in doing so, control the world. The coolest of these is a group of bald French men in matching turtlenecks led by 'Le Chef des Chauves' (Serge Gainsbourg), a man as talented on the organ as he is deadly (and yes, he does perform a fantastic musical number in the film, a song called ‘Bye Bye Mister Spy’ that is worth the price of admission alone). Not to be outdone, the pistol – but more frequently knife - wielding American Bobby Gun (none other than Howard Vernon), has also got his eyes on the prize. There’s also a Russian agent named Schoskatovich (Jacques Dufilho) doing what he can to beat the others to the device, and a Japanese scuba diver out to get it as well. Von Krantz’s weakness would happen to be his beautiful blonde daughter, Sylvaina (Marie-France Boyer), who longs for her lover Manuel (Ben Carruthers) to return. If that isn’t enough, there’s a beast of some sort that lives in a pool outside Van Krantz’s mansion!

    Highlighted by some absolutely stunning cinematography by Roger Bimpage and a great score from Alphonse Roy, The Unknown Man Of Shandigor is really a bit of a pop art masterpiece. The plot gets more than a little convoluted at times, but you get the impression that’s intentional as Roy’s film gets increasingly playful as it reels towards its finish. Both inspired by and parodying popular spy films like the James Bond franchise and quirky, criminal superhero movies like the Fantomas films, the whole thing feels like it could have been directed by Jean-Luc Godard during the early phase of his career (in fact, there are shades of Alphaville present throughout, not the least of which is Vernon’s presence in the picture). The whole thing moves at a very quick pace, never slowing down for even a second, just constantly throwing one absurd twist after the next at its audience, the quick editing accentuating this quite effectively.

    The movie is perfectly cast. The instantly recognizable Daniel Emilfork is great as the reclusive, deceptive and acerbic scientist at the heart of all of this. His unique features suit the part and he really throws himself into the role. Marie-France Boyer is very good as his daughter, essentially playing a damsel in distress for much of the film but doing it well. Howard Vernon, almost always clad in sunglasses and an overcoat, brings a serious sense of cool to his role while Ben Carruthers, looking a bit like a young Lou Reed in this role, is also quite amusing. Serge Gainsbourg is underused, stealing the film with his musical number, performed in the bowels of an aged building lit by candles while an autopsy is being performed right beside him!

    The Unknown Man Of Shandigor – Blu-ray Review:

    The Unknown Man Of Shandigor arrives on Region A Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 1.66.1 widescreen with the feature taking up 27.8GBs of space on the 50GB disc. Taken from a “new 4K Restoration from the original 35mm picture and sound elements by Cinémathèque suisse with additional digital restoration by Craig Rogers of Deaf Crocodile” the picture quality on this disc is excellent. Contrast looks great, detail is really strong and at times looks reference quality and we get nice deep blacks, clean whites and a good grey scale covering everything in between. There are no problems with any obvious noise reduction, edge enhancement or compression artifacts and the image always looks perfectly film-like. This is a very impressive transfer.

    A French language audio option is provided in 24-bit LPCM 1.0 Mono with optional subtitles provided in English only. Audio quality is good, there are no problems with any hiss or distortion and the track is nicely balanced, with everything coming across crisply and clearly.

    Extras start off with a new commentary by film journalist Samm Deighan that is worth listening to. She covers a lot of ground in a very listenable, laid back manner, giving us a bit of a crash course in Switzerland’s cinematic endeavors, the career of Jean-Louis Roy, the film’s connections to the French New Wave movement, details on the cast and crew, quite a lot of thought on Gainsbourg’s part in the movie, the film’s score, the locations and more.

    The disc also includes a new interview with Francoise Roy, the wife of director Jean-Louis Roy, and Michel Schopfer, the first assistant director on the feature. This sixteen minute segment goes over Roy’s life and career, his work in the French and Swiss TV and film industries, how Gainsbourg came on board the film and how his musical number became an important part of it, casting the picture and quite a bit more. There’s some good information in here.

    Up next is a rare 1967 making of documentary that originally aired on Swiss TV's "Cinema VIF" show. This is a great piece, as it includes some really good interviews with director Jean-Louis Roy, cast members Daniel Emilfork, Jacques Dufilho, and Marie-France Boyer and a bunch of really cool behind the scenes footage shot on set. The full frame black and white piece runs for twenty-eight minutes and it really is a treat to get to see this piece as it proves very interesting, particularly Roy’s input on the making of the movie.

    Finishing up the extra features on the disc is a restored original trailer, menus and chapter selection options.

    As to the physical extras included with this release, inside the clear keepcase alongside the disc is a full color booklet that contains an essay on the film titled “The Familiar, Yet Just Plain Strange Lineage Of The Unknown Man Of Shandigar” Chris D.

    The Unknown Man Of Shandigor - The Final Word:

    The Unknown Man Of Shandigor is a seriously great slice of twisted pop art, a visually stunning film that benefits from some excellent performances and a twisted sense of humor. Deaf Crocodile has done a very impressive job with the film’s first official North American home video release, presenting the feature in a beautiful presentation and with a nice selection of extra features. Highly recommended!
    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized The Unknown Man Of Shandigor Blu-ray screen caps!

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