An Angel, a Lady and a Ballplayer

Posted on April 12, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

Here’s a delightful, often overlooked gem from director Howard Hawks, starring a notoriously suave and daredevil Cary Grant and the always lovely, bewitching Jean Arthur, and featuring Hawks’ penchant for verbal wit and visual craftsmanship. “Only Angels Have Wings” (1939) stars Arthur as a traveling entertainer who gets more than she bargained for during a photo for Only Angels Have Wingsstopover in a South American port town. There she meets a handsome yet aloof pilot, played by Grant, who runs an airmail company, staring down death while servicing towns in treacherous mountain terrain. Both attracted to and repelled by his romantic sense of danger, she decides to stay on, despite his protestations. This masterful and mysterious adventure, featuring Oscar-nominated special effects, high-wire aerial photography, and Rita Hayworth in a small but breakout role, explores Hawks’s recurring themes of masculine codes and the strong-willed women who question them. On DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.

“The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun” (2015 — France) is a very stylish psychological thriller about a beautiful secretary who uses her absent boss’ blue Thunderbird to go joyriding in the South of France but ends up involved in murder and intrigue — and begins to doubt her own sanity. After she shuttles her boss and his family photo for The Lady in the Car With Glasses and a Gun to the airport where they depart on a short vacation, Dany (Freya Mavor) decides to take a fantasy joyride along the Mediterranean coast — but her trip quickly turns into a nightmare. At every stop along the way, people recognize her — even though she’s never been there before. And to make matters worse, a dead body is discovered inside the trunk of the car. Has she lost her mind? Director and comic book writer Joann Sfar (“The Rabbi’s Cat,” “Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life”) puts his graphic novel background to good use here with interesting dissolves, split screens, diagrams, flashbacks, flashforwards and flashsideways super-saturated colors and oblique camerawork. It’s a fun and mysterious ride, highlighted by the gorgeous lead whom the camera just loves. Co-stars Benjamin Biolay, Elio Germano and Stacy Martin. The film is based on a novel by Sebastien Japrisot (“One Deadly Summer,” “A Very Long Engagement”); it was originally turned into a film of the same name in 1970 by Anatole Litvak with Samantha Eggar (as Dany), Oliver Reed, John McEnery and Stephane Audran. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.

“Ken Burns’ Jackie Robinson” (2016) is the new, must-see four hour documentary, directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, airing on PBS April 11 and 12. The documentary tells the story of Jack Roosevelt Robinson, who rose from humble origins to break baseball’s color barrier. Robinson waged a fierce lifelong battle for first-class citizenship for all African Americans that transcends even his remarkable athletic achievements. In addition to Rachel, Sharon and David Robinson, “Jackie Robinson” features interviews with President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama; former Dodgers teammates Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine and Ralph Branca; writers Howard Bryant and Gerald Early; Harry Belafonte; Tom Brokaw; and Carly Simon. Jamie Foxx is the voice of Jackie Robinson, reading excerpts from his newspaper columns, personal letters and autobiographies. In a two-disc DVD, Blu-ray Disc from PBS Distribution.

‘Star Wars’ Reboot Gets Help From Oldsters

Posted on April 5, 2016
Filed Under Culture, DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

photo for Star Wars: The Force Awakens This first of three sequels to “Star Wars” shattered box office opening-week records to become the highest grossing U.S. film of all time with over $930 million domestic, and the second-highest worldwide grossing film (behind “Avatar”) with $2.82 billion worldwide. Thirty years following the battle of Endor, the Resistance is still hard at work rebuilding the galaxy from the ashes of the Empire — but find themselves in trouble when Luke Skywalker, the last of the Jedi, disappears — and remnants of the Empire, calling themselves the First Order, threaten to unleash the Dark Side on the universe. A young Resistance pilot (Oscar Isaac) teams with a scavenger from the planet Jakku (Daisy Ridley), an ex-Stormtrooper named Finn (John Boyega) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) to track down Skywalker, keeping one step ahead of the nasty dark warrior Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the forces of the Dark Side. There’s plenty of new faces (including a new droid, BB-8, and a new Supreme Leader, Snoke, played by Andy Serkis) and old (in addition to Ford, Mayhew and Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher shows up as General Leia Organa) — there’s even a guest appearance by C-3PO. Almost a retelling of the original “Star Wars” saga, director J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens” infuses this myth — and the franchise — with new blood and energy. There are some faults, mainly the underwhelming performances by Ridley and Boyega, some cheesy special effects sequences (in particular the attack of the rathtars on the freighter manned by Solo and Chewbacca), and a bit too much buddy-boy gee-whiz excitement on the part of Isaac and Boyega. For the most part, though, this “Star Wars” is a terrific sci-fi joy ride with clear cut heroes and villains, fairly tight direction, and, aside from my quibbles above, good acting. The home video release is a class act, from the cool, jet-black plastic Blu-ray case to the plethora of neat bonus features. And don’t forget the best part of the film — the forever young Harrison Ford as Han Solo, still a wisecracking, hard-fighting, intergalactic hipster. Vitals: Director: J.J. Abrams. Stars: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew. 2015, CC, MPAA rating: PG-13, 136 min., Science Fiction, Box office gross: $930 million, Disney. Extras: “Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey” behind-the-scenes documentary; “The Story Awakens: The Table Read”; “Building BB-8”; “Crafting Creatures”; “Blueprint of a Battle: The Snow Fight”; “John Williams: The Seventh Symphony”; “ILM: The Visual Magic of The Force”; “Force For Change”: Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. See how the “Star Wars: Force for Change” initiative has united Star Wars fans all over the globe to help others; deleted scenes.

‘From the East’ to the West

Posted on March 28, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

Highlight of the week is the impressive five-disc set, “Chantal Akerman: Four Films.”
Among the many films that Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1955–2015, best known for her 1975 masterpiece “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels”) made over 40 years, four documentaries stand out. Beginning with “From the East,” filmed across Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall, through “South” and “From the Other Side,” photo for Chantal Akerman: Four Films two films in the United States as relevant today as when first released, to her epistolary “Down There” from Tel Aviv (released for the first time in North America), Akerman’s documentaries combine her formal discipline with engagement and empathy. Disc 1: “From The East” (1993): A journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. Disc 2: “South” (1999)” The heart of this journey is the brutal murder of James Byrd, Jr. in Jasper, Texas. But this is not an anatomy of his murder; rather, it is an evocation of how this event fits into a landscape and climate as mental as it is physical. Disc 3: “From The Other Side” (2002): With technology developed for the military, the INS has stemmed the flow of illegal immigration in San Diego. But for the desperate, there are still the dangerous deserts of Arizona. Disc 4: “Down There” (2006): Akerman spends a brief period on her own in an apartment by the sea in Tel Aviv, contemplating her family, her Jewish identity and her childhood. Disc 5: “Chantal Akerman, From Here” (62 minutes, 2010): An hour-long, single-shot conversation with Akerman about her films and her directorial philosophy. In English, French, and Spanish with English subtitles. From Icarus Films … Les Blank (“Burden of Dreams”) considered his free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, “A Poem Is a Naked photo for A Poem Is a Naked Person Person” (1974), filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his recording studio in northeast Oklahoma, Blank ended up constructing a unique, intimate portrait of a musician and his environment. Made up of mesmerizing scenes of Russell and his band performing, both in concert and in the studio, as well as off-the-cuff moments behind the scenes, this singular film — which also features performances by Willie Nelson and George Jones — has attained legendary status over the years. It’s a work of rough beauty that serves as testament to Blank’s cinematic daring and Russell’s immense musical talents. From The Criterion Collection … In director Delmer Daves’ psychological thriller “The Red House” (1947), Edward G. Robinson plays an aging farmer with a dark secret he’s trying to keep hidden. He and sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) have raised Meg (Allene Roberts) since she was a little girl, after her parents mysteriously disappeared. But now Meg is coming of age, and bringing a male friend from high school around to help with chores on the farm. The teens are warned against wandering into the nearby woods, where terrifying screams have been heard in the night emanating from an abandoned red house. But curiosity threatens to get the better of them … Features an original, eerie score by Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa. Transferred from 35mm archival film elements. On Blu-ray Disc from The Film Detective.

A ‘Candidate’ and a ‘Rage’

Posted on March 22, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

Two wonderfully thrilling films are due this week, one each from The Criterion Collection and Arrow Video. Criterion’s release of “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) does justice to this classic film (which, rumor had it, was removed from distribution by the film’s star, Frank Sinatra, after the John F. Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963; that has been denied by those close to the film but, still, “The Manchurian Candidate” was out of photo for The Manchurian Candidate circulation for two decades until the late 1980s). John Frankenheimer directed this quintessential 60s political thriller that was notable for its critique of Machiavellian politics and — for its time — extreme violence. Set in the early fifties, this razor-sharp adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon concerns decorated U.S. Army sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), who as a prisoner during the Korean War is brainwashed into being a sleeper assassin in a Communist conspiracy, and a fellow POW (Frank Sinatra) who slowly uncovers the sinister plot. In an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance, Angela Lansbury plays Raymond’s villainous mother, the controlling wife of a witch-hunting anti-Communist senator with his eyes on the White House. The film also features a sexy, stunning performance by Janet Leigh. The rare film to be suffused with Cold War paranoia while also taking aim at the frenzy of the McCarthy era, “The Manchurian Candidate” remains potent, shocking American moviemaking. One of our all-time favorites. On DVD and Blu-ray, with a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with photo for Rage of Honor uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Arrow has this week the ultimate in martial arts revenge: Sho Kosugi’s “Rage of Honor” (1987) on Blu-ray only. Following his star turns in ’80s actioners “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja,” Sho Kosugi continued his domination of the U.S. martial arts movie world with 1987’s “Rage of Honor” — helmed once again by “Pray for Death” director Gordon Hessler (“The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”). Federal agent Shiro Tanaka (Kosugi) used to live for his job — now, he lives only for revenge. When his partner is killed during a bungled drug bust, Shiro throws away his badge and the rule book with it: Arming himself with an array of deadly weaponry — including nunchucks, blades and ninja stars — he sets out to Buenos Aires to settle the score with the bad guys. Packing explosions, flying kicks and somersaults aplenty (as well as some truly logic-bending stunt sequences), “Rage of Honor” sees Kosugi at the top of his game as he battles his way from the streets of the urban jungle to the very literal jungles of South America. In a high definition presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM.

Varda, Rivette Belong to Us

Posted on March 8, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

“Jane B. Par Agnes V. and Kung-Fu Master!”: Agnes Varda is the unsung heroine of cinema, a masterful auteur and feminist director who shook up the world of cinema with her “Cleo From 5 to 7” in 1962 and has continued to shake the branches of filmdom with documentaries, fictions, biodramas and autobiographies that focus on women’s issues, social criticism, and the art of filmmaking itself. Cinelicious Pics has brought out today two underseen works by Varda, paired in a two-disc Blu-ray set that counterpoint each other: photo for Jane B. Par Agnes V. and Kung-Fu Master! “Jane B. Par Agnes V,” a phantasmagorical bio-pic of Jane Birkin, actress (“Blow Up”), fashion icon (the Hermes Birkin bag), longtime muse to Serge Gainsbourg, and singer (“Je t’aime … Moi non plus,” with Gainsbourg); and “Kung-Fu Master!”, a seemingly straight-ahead drama also starring Birkin; both were released in 1988. In “Jane B. Par Agnes V,” Vardas uses her camera to paint a portrait of the actress — but not in a traditional way — “It’s like an imaginary bio-pic,” Varda says. Tapping her training as a photographer, Vardas gives us still “photos” that come alive with Bunuelian sequences of expressionistic action, juxtaposing reality with fantasy all while celebrating Birkin’s life as well as the life of films, filmmaking, acting, art, love and sex. Newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative overseen by Varda, “Jane B. Par Agnes V” is dripping in gorgeous big screen color. “Kung-Fu Master!” is a gentle, bittersweet companion piece to “Jane B. Par Agnes V” that explores the world of a lonely woman facing middle age who may or may not be falling in love with a 14-year old boy (played by Varda’s real-life son with husband Jaques Demy, Mathieu Demy); the film’s title comes from the fact that the boy is a champion arcade video game player. Birkin’s daughters, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Lou Doillon (her child with well-known filmmaker Jacques Doillon) also appear in the film. Long unavailable in the U.S., the film has been newly-restored from the original 35mm camera negative. Extras include an interview with Varda by Miranda July and an essay by Sandy Fitterman-Lewis.

“Paris Belongs to Us” (1961): If critic-turned-filmmaker Jacques Rivette had buttoned-down post-production financing and distribution, his 1957 debut would have been the flagship kickoff to the French New Wave, well before “The 400 Blows” and “Breathless” took the world by storm. Ultimately released in 1961, the diabolically simple film — rich in subtext and the concerns that would steer Rivette’s 50 years of filmmaking (happenstance, the use of theatre pieces and theatrical motifs, conspiracy) — was not as widely hailed as those by photo for Paris Belongs to Us Jean-Luc Godard and Francois Truffaut; still it’s a swirling maelstrom of a film that follows a young literature student (Betty Schneider) who gets involved with a mixed bag of Parisian twentysomethings — radicals, intellectuals, artists — all united by the apparent suicide of an acquaintance and the possibility of an unknown conspiracy lurking behind things. Rivette would later hone his ideas of serendipity, conspiracy and theatricality in such masterpieces as “L’amour fou” (1969), “Out 1” (1972) and one of the greatest films of modern times, “Celine and Julie Go Boating” (1974). Rivette died January 29 of this year at age 87. “Paris Belongs to Us” has been released by The Criterion Collection on DVD and Blu-ray, in a new 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include a new interview with Richard Neupert, author of “A History of the French New Wave Cinema”; Rivette’s 1956 short film “Le coup du berger,” featuring cameos by fellow French New Wave directors Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard, and Francois Truffaut; and an essay by critic Luc Sante.

We Knew Them Well

Posted on February 23, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

 
Two films critical of the 1960s status quo — one an undiscovered gem, the other a verified classic — get the Criterion Collection treatment this week. First up is “I Knew Her Well” (1965), a disarmingly delightful portrait of the days and nights of a party girl in sixties Rome. On the surface, “I Knew Her Well,” directed by Antonio Pietrangeli, plays like an inversion of “La dolce vita” with a woman at its center, following the gorgeous, seemingly liberated Adriana (Stefania Sandrelli) as she dallies with a wide variety of men, attends parties, goes to modeling gigs, and circulates among the rich and famous. Despite its often photo for I Knew Her Welllight tone, though, the film is a stealth portrait of a suffocating culture that regularly dehumanizes people, especially women. In a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. One of the most beloved American films of all time, “The Graduate” (1967) earned Mike Nichols a best director Oscar, brought the music of Simon & Garfunkel to a wider audience, and introduced the world to Dustin Hoffman. Benjamin Braddock (Hoffman) has just finished college and is already lost in a sea of confusion and barely contained angst when he becomes sexually involved with the middle-aged mother (Anne Bancroft) of the young woman he’s dating (Katharine Ross). Visually imaginative and impeccably acted, with a clever, endlessly quotable script by Buck Henry (based on the novel by Charles Webb), “The Graduate” had the kind of cultural impact that comes along only once in a generation. In a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include commentary from 2007 featuring Nichols in conversation with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh; audio commentary from 1987 featuring film scholar Howard Suber; a new interview with actor Dustin Hoffman; new conversation between producer Lawrence Turman and actor-screenwriter Buck Henry; “The Graduate at 25,” a 1992 featurette on the making of the film; interview with Nichols by Barbara Walters, from a 1966 episode of NBC’s “Today” show: excerpt from a 1970 appearance by singer-songwriter Paul Simon on “The Dick Cavett Show”; screen tests; trailer; booklet with an essay by journalist and critic Frank Rich, more.

‘Diamonds’ Are Forever

Posted on January 26, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

Nikkatsu, the oldest film studio in Japan, inaugurated a star system in the late 1950s, finding talent and contracting to their Diamond Line for a series of wild genre pictures. “Nikkatsu Diamond Guys – Vol 1” (1958/59) celebrates these “Diamond Guys” with three classic films from directors Seijun Suzuki (“Branded to Kill”), Toshio Masuda (“Rusty Knife”) and Buichi Saito photo for Nikkatsu Diamond Guys - Vol 1 “(Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril”). An old hand at tough guy action roles, Hideaki Nitani (“Tokyo Drifter,” “Massacre Gun”) stars in “Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow.” Asako, a former telephone operator, once heard the voice of a murder suspect that has continued to haunt her. Years later her husband invites his boss, Hamazaki, over for dinner and she realizes his voice is suspiciously like that of the killer. Before she can investigate further, Hamazaki is found dead and her husband becomes the prime suspect. Next, 50s subculture icon Yujiro Ishihara (“Crazed Fruit”) stars in Masuda’s “Red Pier” as “Jiro the Lefty”, a killer with a natural talent. Shortly after arriving in Kobe, he witnesses a man die in a crane accident, which turns out to be a cover-up for a murder. Jiro soon finds himself on the run, tailed by a determined cop. Finally, in Saito’s” The Rambling Guitarist,” mega star Akira Koabyashi (“Battles Without Honour and Humanity”) stars as wandering street musician Shinji, who falls in with mob boss Akitsu after saving one of his henchmen in a bar fight. Tasked by Akitsu with evicting an offshore fishery, Shinji finds himself in the middle of a very unusual domestic dispute. High Definition digital transfers of all three films from original film elements by Nikkatsu Corporation, with original uncompressed mono audio and newly translated English subtitles. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group.

“Comin’ at Ya!” (1981 – Italy) is a fan-favorite spaghetti western, here in a 35th Anniversary re-release that includes its debut on Blu-ray 3D. Directed by Ferdinando Baldi (“Django”) and written, produced and starring spaghetti western legend Tony Anthony. Independently produced, “Comin’ at Ya!” was originally released theatrically in 1981 by Filmways Pictures and went on to gross over $12 million domestically in only 200 theaters in North America (over $30 million in 2016 dollars photo for Comin' at Ya! when adjusted for inflation), long before independent films were a regular staple in multiplexes. “Comin’ at Ya!” happily embraced the 3-D technology of its time, not only taking advantage of the depth that the technology provided, but also taking every opportunity possible to throw, shoot and point things at the viewer at every possible turn and created a cult classic movie as a result. The new home video version was supervised and produced by Tony Anthony himself and Tom Stern (“In God’s Hands”), through his company Sternco 3D. Sourced from a new 4K master, the film boasts a frame by frame digital conversion of the polarized over-and-under format of the original print, sourced from a brand new internegative into the MVC 3D format and new 5.1 surround sound. The story line: Tragedy strikes as two ruthless brothers burst into a chapel and kidnap a bride during her wedding, shooting the groom (Anthony) and leaving him for dead. Hurt and angry, he begins his quest to find his love, and take vengeance upon the wicked. Sound familiar, Mr. Tarantino? On Blu-ray 3D/2D and 2D DVD from MVD Entertainment.

 

‘Llewyn Davis,’ ’60s Folkies Play for Criterion

Posted on January 19, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

The Coen brothers’ 2013 hit “Inside Llewyn Davis” gets The Criterion Collection treatment this week and what a splendid release it is. Their film — about a singer barely eking out a living on the peripheries of the flourishing Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties — captured the angst and excitement of an era whose protagonists would forever change the world, both culturally and politically. Not so for Llewyn Davis (played by Oscar Isaac in his breakout performance) an irascible, rude, and self-defeating folkie whose career is going nowhere. With no place to live, he sleeps on the couches of friends and patrons, making a circular odyssey through an unforgiving wintry New York cityscape that is realized photo for Inside Llewyn Davis with poignant humor and the occasional surreal touch — including the appearance and disappearance of a cat Davis “babysits.” Davis — no matter how hard he tries — just doesn’t make the right decisions, and he’s left behind as the times pass him by. This director-approved special edition boasts a new 4K digital transfer, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, and features new audio commentary with writers Robert Christgau, David Hajdu, and Sean Wilentz. Other extras include “The First Hundred Feet, the Last Hundred Feet,” a new conversation between filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and directors Joel and Ethan Coen about the evolution of their approach, from “Blood Simple” to “Inside Llewyn Davis”; “Inside Inside Llewyn Davis,” a 45-minute 2013 documentary; “Another Place, Another Time” (2014), a 101-minute film documenting an “Inside Llewyn Davis” tribute concert, featuring Joan Baez, Mumford & Sons, Punch Brothers, Gillian Welch, Jack White, and others; a new piece about Dave Van Ronk (on whom “Inside Llewyn Davis” was roughly modeled) and the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early sixties, featuring music writer and historian Elijah Wald; and “Sunday,” a short 1961 documentary by Dan Drasin about the riots that took place in Washington Square Park after folk musicians were prevented from gathering and playing there. Stupendous.

Due January 25 is a high definition, digitally restored edition of “Kansas City Confidential” (1952), a Film Noir classic from the tail end of the Noir era. An ex-con trying to go straight is framed for a million dollar armored car robbery and must go to Mexico in order to unmask the real culprits. Ex-con Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is on the road to rehabilitation. Framed for a $1 million robbery, he gets off for lack of evidence … but photo for Kansas City Confidential BLU-RAY DEBUT with his face plastered in the headlines and still hurting from a brutal beating in police custody, he’s already lost all that he’s doggedly worked to achieve. Embittered and with steely determination, he sets out to track down the real criminals and render his own justice. Clues trail over the border to a Mexican fishing resort, and straight into the path of an inconvenient beauty (Coleen Gray). The seductress’ ties soon pit Rolfe — who has nothing left to lose — against a crooked ex-cop (Preston S. Foster) and some of the ugliest, most-menacing thugs in the cinematic underworld, portrayed by Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand and Jack Elam (all extremely well known to classic film fans as villains, henchmen, gangsters and tough guys). Director Phil Karlson worked with an array of Hollywood’s biggest talent — including Abbott & Costello, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Elvis Presley, Elke Sommer and Sharon Tate — and helmed the mega box-office hit “Walking Tall” (1973). But it was his raw, unflinching filmmaking about disagreeable truths — punctuated by exaggerated and shadowy cinematography — that left his most indelible mark. From The Film Detective.

 

‘American Friend’ Gets Criterion Treatment Jan. 12

Posted on January 12, 2016
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

There’s two knock-out releases from The Criterion Collection, headed up by one of the greatest films of the modern cinema: “The American Friend” (1977). Wim Wenders pays loving homage to rough-and-tumble Hollywood film noir with “The American Friend,” a loose adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “Ripley’s Game.” Dennis Hopper oozes quirky menace as an amoral photo for The American Friend American art dealer who entangles a terminally ill German everyman, played by Bruno Ganz, in a seedy criminal underworld as revenge for a personal slight — but when the two become embroiled in an ever-deepening murder plot, they form an unlikely bond. Filmed on location in Hamburg and Paris, with some scenes shot in grimy, late-seventies New York City, Wenders’s international breakout is a stripped-down crime story that mixes West German and American film flavors, and it features cameos by filmmakers Jean Eustache, Samuel Fuller and Nicholas Ray. New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director Wim Wenders, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Extras include an photo for Bitter Rice audio commentary from 2002 featuring Wenders and actor Dennis Hopper; a new interview with Wenders; a new interview with actor Bruno Ganz; deleted scenes with audio commentary by Wenders; a trailer; and an essay by author Francine Prose … “Bitter Rice” (1949): During planting season in Northern Italy’s Po Valley, an earthy rice-field worker (Silvana Mangano) falls in with a small-time criminal (Vittorio Gassman) who is planning a daring heist of the crop, as well as his femme-fatale-ish girlfriend, played by the Hollywood star Doris Dowling. Both a socially conscious look at the hardships endured by underpaid field workers and a melodrama tinged with sex and violence, this early smash for producer extraordinaire Dino De Laurentiis and director Giuseppe De Santis is neorealism with a heaping dose of pulp. New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.

‘Blood Rage,’ ‘Burroughs’ Shake Things Up Dec. 15

Posted on December 15, 2015
Filed Under DVD, Films, Main | Leave a Comment

DREAMSVILLE’S WEEK IN DVD

What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, American TV star Louise Lasser (“Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman”), killer 80s synths and some of the most gruesome special effects in all of slasher history courtesy of Ed French. Why, it’s “Blood Rage” (1983) of course! Todd and Terry seem like sweet kids — that is, until one of them takes an axe to face of a fellow patron at the local drive-in. Todd is blamed for the bloody crime and institutionalized, whilst twin brother Terry goes free. Ten years later, as the family gather around the table for a Thanksgiving meal, the news comes in that Todd has escaped — and he’s heading their way. But has the killer twin in fact been in their midst all along? One thing’s for sure, photo for Blood Rage there WILL be blood … Filmed in 1983 at the tail-end of the slasher golden era but not released until 1987, “Blood Rage” (also re-cut and released to theatres as “Nightmare at Shadow Woods”) has been lovingly restored from the original vault materials for its first ever appearance on Blu-ray and DVD. New 2K restoration from original vault materials of three versions of the film: “Blood Rage,” the original “hard” version, completely uncut and uncensored in a Blu-ray/DVD world premiere; the R-rated “Nightmare at Shadow Woods” 1987 re-cut, and a third “composite” cut combining all the footage from both “Blood Rage” and “Nightmare at Shadow Woods.” From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group … at the other ends of the cinematic spectrum — but no less freaky — is “Burroughs: The Movie” (1983). Made up of intimate, revelatory footage of the singular author and poet filmed over the course of five years, Howard Brookner’s 1983 documentary about William S. Burroughs was for decades mainly the stuff of legend; that changed when Aaron Brookner, the late director’s nephew, discovered a print of it in 2011 and spearheaded a restoration. Now viewers can enjoy the invigorating candidness of “Burroughs: The Movie,” a one-of-a-kind nonfiction portrait that was brought to life with the help of a remarkable crew of friends, including Jim Jarmusch and Tom DiCillo, and that features on-screen appearances by fellow artists of Burroughs’s including Allen Ginsberg, Herbert Huncke, Patti Smith and Terry Southern. New, high-definition digital restoration, on DVD, Blu-ray Disc from The Criterion Collection.

Stephen King surely must have watched “The Car” (1977) before writing (and directing) “Maximum Overdrive” and then “Christine.” In the film, starring James Brolin, Kathleen Lloyd, John Marley, Elizabeth Thompson, Ronny Cox and R.G. Armstrong, the peaceful tranquility of a small Western town is disturbed when a murderous car wreaks havoc by viciously mowing down innocent victims. The new sheriff, Wade Parent (Brolin), may be the only one who can stop this menace in its tracks. But what Wade Parent doesn’t realize is that the driver of this indestructible vehicle is far more dangerous than any man … because it is driven by pure evil. “The Car” makes its Blu-ray debut this week from Scream Factory … In the mid-1970s, writer-producer-director-actor Frederick R. Friedel went to North Carolina to film a pair of enigmatic yet startling low-budget thrillers — “Axe” and “Kidnapped Coed” — only to see them both presumed lost to shady dealings, sudden tragedies, photo for Axe/Kidnapped Coed moral outrage and drive-in oblivion. In “Axe,” depraved killers on the run hold a young woman and her invalid grandfather hostage in an isolated farmhouse. In “Kidnapped Coed,” the teenage daughter of a wealthy family forms a perverse relationship with her abductor. Once thought doomed to drive-in obscurity, fans and grindhouse historians have begun to compare Freidel’s films to those of David Lynch and Terrence Malick, and now the complete story behind this strange journey can finally be told. Severin Films is presenting both features restored from their original negatives, plus “Bloody Brothers,” Friedel’s recut of the two features as one twisted crime epic, loaded with bonus features that reveal the startling saga behind the casts, crews, disastrous fate and surprising rediscovery of these nearly forgotten grindhouse/arthouse classics — the ultimate look at one of the most fascinating sagas in indie exploitation history. “Axe/Kidnapped Coed” arrives on DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Severin Films/CAV Distributing) … From director photo for What Have You Done to Solange? Massimo Dallamano, cinematographer on both “A Fistful of Dollars” and “For a Few Dollars More,” comes “What Have You Done to Solange?” (1975), a giallo classic and the debut feature of actress Camille Keaton (“I Spit on Your Grave”). A sexually sadistic killer is preying on the girls of St. Mary’s school. Student Elizabeth witnessed one of the murders, but her hazy recollections of a knife-wielding figure in black do nothing to further the police’s investigations. Why is the killer choosing these young women? And what does it have to do with a girl named Solange? The film features all the hallmarks of classic gialli — the amateur detective, the black-gloved killer — as well as a lush score from Ennio Morricone. New 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.

There’s two important documentaries coming to Blu-ray this week, both from Synapse Films/CAV Distributing: “Triumph of the Will (2015 Remaster)” (1935). Leni Riefenstahl’s classic piece of historical filmmaking, filmed during the 1934 Nazi Party Rally in Nuremberg, Germany, is considered by many to be one of the most important films ever made. Realized by Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, this film was created to influence all of Germany to support the power of the Nazi Party. Historically photo for Triumph of the Will (2015 Remaster) BLU-RAY DEBUT significant and, at times, a horrifyingly manipulative exercise in propaganda for the Nazi regime, “Triumph of the Will” continues to be controversial 80 years after its original release and has been banned in Germany for many decades. Until her death in 2003, Riefenstahl was under fire for her personal relationship with Adolph Hitler, spending her life haunted by the shadow of the Nazi Party. This all-new remastered version is derived from a new 2K scan, digitally corrected and restored under the supervision of film historian and preservationist Robert A. Harris … “Stalingrad” (2003), a high-definition presentation of the original three-part 2003 mini-series. The Eastern Front experienced the viciousness of World War II on a scale of unimaginable horror and brutality. The bloodiest and most savage fighting took place in Stalingrad between August 1942 and February 1943. Stalin’s city on the Volga had military significance for Hitler, as it carried the name of his enemy and therefore had to be destroyed. The ensuing battle sealed the fates of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians, marked the turning point of World War II, and was the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. This three-part documentary by award-winning documentary filmmakers Sebastian Dehnhardt, Christian Deick and Jorg Mullner presents both the German and Russian perspective, contains rare footage shot by soldiers during the siege, and reveals new historical facts with moving eyewitness accounts and confessions from some of Stalingrad’s last survivors. The Russian archives opened their doors to the filmmakers, granting exclusive access to a wealth of previously unreleased material. Originally broadcast in both Germany and Russia in slightly truncated editions, this Blu-ray contains all three “Stalingrad” documentaries including “The Attack” (54 min.), “The Kessel” (56 min.) and “The Doom” (55 min.) in their original uncut, English dubbed versions.

keep looking »