Satanic Verses

Strangely serene: Dust Devil
photo: Subversive Cinema

A self-aggrandizing mythmaker, world traveler, and gadfly, South Africa–born Richard Stanley is something like a post–Cold War Erich von Stroheim, more famous for the wrecked projects and production horror tales than the films themselves. His most cult-ified feature, Dust Devil (1992) is a supremely odd and strangely serene fantasy about a mysterious white hitchhiker (Robert Burke), who's actually a soul-stealing evil spirit on a homicidal spree through Namibia. The film's lackluster narrative ideas are subsumed by its visual restlessness, which can barely pause for a scene in a ghost town's sand-filled movie theater before hitting the dusty highway again. Maimed upon its first release by producers, here is its final "director's cut," plus Stanley's work print edition, paler, nine minutes longer, and a little more hermetic still.

Three more discs are taken up with Stanley's enthralling documentaries: Voice of the Moon (1990), the best film I've ever seen about Afghanistan; The White Darkness (2002), a politicized portrait of Haitian voodoo; and The Secret Glory (2001), an archival montage detailing the rise and fall of SS officer Otto Rahn, the troubled Nazi in charge of searching for the Holy Grail. Among the DVD stuffing are copious interviews with Stanley, who's sometimes more compelling in conversation than he is behind the camera.

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