Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
What is it? A lion goes out to eat in Amsterdam.
Why see it? Dick Maas films are always worth a watch as he blends horror and fun in gloriously effed up ways, and you need look no further than gems like Amsterdamned (1988) and Sint (2010) for proof. His latest is another great one delivering laughs, bloody carnage, and a wonderfully controlled disrespect for approved behaviors. Some CG tempers the fun, but it’s fleeting and usually followed by more gore and black humor.
Alice Guy Blache: Vol.1 and Vol. 2
What is it? Two separate volumes of short films by a pioneer female filmmaker.
Why see it? Kino Lorber continues to do fantastic work bringing together restorations of long forgotten silent films, and these two volumes narrow that focus to a female innovator from France who made silent shorts from the late 19th century into the early 20th. Volume one focuses on The Gaumont Years from 1897 to 1907 and includes fourteen shorts ranging from the dramatic to the comedic. Volume two follows her move to the United States as The Solax Years covering 1911 to 1914 and includes eighteen films including some of her later efforts that explored longer efforts. The only real extras are booklet essays and short featurettes showing a bit of the restoration process, but the collections are important on their own.
[Extras: New 2K and 4K restorations]
Man in the Shadow [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A modern day (ie 50s) western.
Why see it? The setup here is every bit familiar to fans of western genre fare as an honorable sheriff is challenged by his town’s most powerful man — and his own townspeople whose fear of the powerful tycoon played by Orson Welles see them side against the sheriff. Jeff Chandler plays the reluctant hero fighting his own battle with morality, and while it’s nothing new the film does a fantastic job moving from setup to exciting execution.
A Pure Formality [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man with amnesia is interrogated about a murder.
Why see it? Gerard Depardieu and Roman Polanski don’t make for the most beloved pair of actors, but both do good work here as an amnesiac and an inspector, respectively, going head to head in a remote police station. The intriguing premise unfolds slowly as turns and truths are revealed, and viewer allegiance can’t help but shift along with it. Some viewers will be ahead of things before the end, but even if you put it together before the characters do there’s still an emotionally satisfying finale awaiting them. It’s good stuff.
The Stalking Moon [Warner Archive]
What is it? A scout is targeted by an angry Native American.
Why see it? Director Robert Mulligan and star Gregory Peck have better known collaborations (To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962), but this grim and engaging western deserves more attention too. Peck plays a scout who rescues a white woman (Eva Marie Saint) long ago abducted by the natives and takes her and her son home, but the boy’s father is on their trail. The film takes its time with the characters, and that in turn builds suspense as the danger grows. it’s a beautiful western.
Superman: Red Son
What is it? An alternate history that sees Superman grow up in Communist Russia.
Why see it? This is a fascinating alternate take on the Superman we all know and love as it explores a superhero born into a system far different from our own. His journey takes some interesting turns, and the film also includes alternate takes on both Batman and Lex Luther — although Wonder Woman remains a badass individual. We get plenty of animated action and big battles, but it’s the story and character shifts that entertain the most. Fans of Supes and of history itself may want to give this one a spin.
[Extras: Featurette, cartoon episodes]
What is it? A young woman discovers secrets about her home town.
Why see it? Part urban fantasy, part adventure, and all YA earnestness, this Russian adventure is competent enough. The visuals are equally okay meaning while it won’t wow anyone with its effects or set-pieces, but young viewers who aren’t too picky might find some fun. The story involves a fascist government, quarantines, and people yearning for freedom, so your young ones may have some questions about the real world when they’re done.
Cannibal Apocalypse [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Soldiers return from Vietnam with a taste for human flesh.
Why see it? Director Antonio Margheriti got a shout out in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and is best known for action films, but this cannibal-focused detour blends action with horror in somewhat clunky fashion. John Saxon headlines as a man who discovers one of his fellow soldiers is loose and hungry, and as police work to track him down the cannibal urge spreads. We get some fun beats involving bloodletting and an exploding dog, but there are also some uneventful stretches. It’s interesting, though, and entertaining enough. Even better, Kino’s new Blu-ray offers up a 4K master that sharpens the film and makes the blood reds pop.
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary, documentary, interview, featurette]
Force 10 From Navarone [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A squad of American and British soldiers take on a risky mission behind enemy lines.
Why see it? This sequel to The Guns of Navarone (1961) came too late for the original stars to return, but Robert Shaw and Edward Fox pick up where those others left off and bring Harrison Ford and Carl Weathers along for the ride. The objective is once again to blow something up in order to hamstring the Germans, and as the team makes their way forward they encounter ups and downs and plenty of bad guys. It’s a solid adventure, and it looks quite good via Kino’s new Blu-ray.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
Intrigo: Death of an Author
What is it? A writer kills his wife. Maybe?
Why see it? This is a twisty little tale that earns points for the number of story turns but loses others for the convoluted and highly contrived nature of those beats. There are a lot of coincidences that have to line up just right for this narrative to work, and it detracts from some of the fun viewers would otherwise have trying to figure it all out. Ben Kingsley is at his most Ben Kingsley in a supporting role, and the locales are attractive, so there’s that anyway.
Jumanji: The Next Level
What is it? The survivors of Jumanji return to Jumanji!
Why see it? 2017’s Jumanji reboot is a big, fun, CG-filled comedy for undemanding viewers, and this sequel is more of the same. That’s not a bad thing as Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, and Karen Gillan return with new comedic turns, and director Jake Kasdan once again delivers some big, effects-heavy set-pieces. It’s harmless fun with some real laughs and some minor themes about friendship.
[Extras: Gag reel, featurettes]
What is it? The true story of a news media fuck-up.
Why see it? Richard Jewell was a security guard whose actions helped saved lives during the 1996 Olympic bombing, but a desperate news media and immoral federal agents were so convinced that he was involved that they essentially ruined his life. Clint Eastwood’s latest explores this miscarriage of justice, but it handles the tale so poorly as to be obnoxious and overtly angry to the point of doing what the media did and manufacturing a false truth about a journalist. Paul Walter Hauser is fantastic as Jewell, and Sam Rockwell is good fun, but it’s told so basically that you may as well just read the Wikipedia page instead.
Universal Horror Collection – Volume 4 [Scream Factory]
What is it? Four more films from Universal’s horror heavy golden years.
Why see it? Night Key (1937), Night Monster (1942), The Climax (1944), and House of Horrors (1946) aren’t among Universal’s top shelf releases, but each plays a part in the studio’s long history with the genre. Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi pop up throughout, often in supporting roles, and the films deliver varying degrees of entertainment. Your mileage may vary, but for my money the standout feature is
What is it? An anthology of incompetent horror tales.
Why see it? Wowsers. It’s entirely possible that fun can be had with this horrible film in a group setting heavy with alcohol, but that doesn’t make it an even remotely good movie. There’s a high degree of amateur incompetence from beginning to end in every aspect from the script to direction to lighting to camera work to performances to effects to sound to editing… it’s bad news throughout. There’s a very brief tease of a Fulci-like approach in the opening moments, but that’s it for highlights. Not even a topless woman with eyeballs nipples can lift this film’s quality, and the stories (a generous term) unfold as if conceived by someone with no sense of narrative or entertainment. Sad indeed.
[Extras: Soundtrack CD]
Also out this week:
Black Christmas, Fit to Kill, Hard Hunted, A Hidden Life, The Nines