Here’s what’s new to DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD this week.
Top pick: Classic
My Darling Clementine (Criterion)
John Ford’s sublime reworking of the Wyatt Earp legend gets the kind of exhaustive, scholarly release that only Criterion seems capable of pulling together. In addition to a new restoration of the film, this edition includes a longer pre-release cut, a 1947 radio adaptation, a 1916 short directed by Ford’s brother, and, last but definitely not least, a new video essay from special-features MVP and Fordian extraordinaire Tag Gallagher.
Other classic releases
“Pity the man who tries / To make an auteurist case for Robert Wise.” The stolid studio journeyman—distinguished by his late-career obsession with split-focus diopters— tackled psychological horror with Audrey Rose (Twilight Time), yielding typically professional, anonymous results.
John Schlesinger’s Mark Frost-penned The Believers (Twilight Time)—which pits Martin Sheen against santería practitioners in very pre-Giuliani New York—is what happens when a button-down actor’s director tries his hand at supernatural, hysterical material. Schlesinger shows plenty of skill in balancing the character and milieu, but his direction of the suspense sequences is clunky, sometimes even laughable.
Deep-pocketed Spielbergians might want to pick up The Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection (Universal), which features the Blu-ray debuts of Duel, The Sugarland Express, 1941, and Always, the closest Spielberg has produced to a forgotten film. Also included are lesser-known titles like E.T., Jurassic Park, and Jaws.
In between making two of his best movies, Citizen’s Band and Melvin And Howard, Jonathan Demme directed Last Embrace (Kino Lorber), an impersonal, twisty spy-versus-spy thriller. For a better showcase of Demme’s talents, viewers should turn to his broad Mafia comedy Married To The Mob (Kino Lorber), which, like the director’s earlier Something Wild, benefits from his eye for ostentatious ’80s tackiness.
A German predecessor to Italy’s gialli, the krimi films of 1960s combined lurid, potboiler detective story plots—invariably drawn from the work of the prolific English writer Edgar Wallace—with low-budget stylization. Edgar Wallace Collection, Vol. 3: Terrible People / Inn On The River (Bayview / Widowmaker) collects two typical examples of the genre, directed by its most famous practitioners, Harald Reinl and Alfred Vohrer.
We’re almost halfway through October, which means it’s time for distributors to dig into their back catalogs and dump horror-movie Tootsie Rolls on the unsuspecting public: the generic Carrie clone Jennifer (Kino Lorber); the almost endearingly incompetent vampire-alien sex comedy Evils Of The Night (MPI); the Spanish-made Cauldron Of Blood (Olive), starring an 80-year-old Boris Karloff; the late George Sluizer’s much-maligned American remake of The Vanishing (Twilight Time); and the cult-ready The Nostril Picker (Massacre). Meanwhile, Dragonfly Squadron (Olive) is a strong contender for the week’s oddest release—a forgotten Korean War flick shot in 3-D, but only released after the stereoscopic craze of the early 1950s had petered out.
Also out this week: Roger Spottiswoode’s Under Fire (Twilight Time), which portrays a love triangle set against the backdrop of the Nicaraguan Revolution with all the sensitivity one would expect from the future director of Turner & Hooch and Tomorrow Never Dies; Susan Seidelman’s enjoyable Desperately Seeking Susan (Kino Lorber), which throws Rosanna Arquette and Madonna into a busy mistaken-identity adventure that somehow finds space for cameos by Richard Hell and John Lurie; the Poverty Row mystery The Death Kiss (Kino Lorber), featuring most of the cast of Tod Browning’s Dracula; James Bridges’ tightly paced “issue thriller,” The China Syndrome (Image); and new editions of the lively low-brow quasi-classics Kingpin (Paramount) and Zoolander (Paramount). The latter unfortunately lacks an introductory appreciation from Terrence Malick; oh, well, there’s always room on the next one.
Top picks: Catch-up
Guilty Of Romance and Himizu (Olive)
Prolific, trilby-wearing punk-dad filmmaker Sion Sono (Suicide Club, Love Exposure) recently made the leap to bigger budgets with Why Don’t You Play In Hell? and the rap musical Tokyo Tribe. The two released by Olive this week—both of which premiered in 2011—represent the last part of what Sono has dubbed his “middle period.” Guilty Of Romance—presented here in its shorter international cut—is a grisly underworld tale; Himizu a post-Fukushima disaffected-teen movie. Neither is for every taste, but Sono’s restless worldview rewards adventurous viewers.
White Tiger (Entertainment One)
An amnesiac Soviet soldier who claims to be able to communicate with tanks is dispatched to hunt down a ghostly white German tank in Karen Shakhnazarov’s Eastern Front parable. The movie’s animistic view of warfare is equally engrossing and puzzling; Shakhnazarov’s use of music and long Steadicam takes adds to the pervasive air of tantalizing mystery.
Other catch-up releases
Having reworked a French play into a New York setting with Carnage, Roman Polanski resets an American play to Paris in Venus In Fur (MPI), his adaptation of David Ives’ two-hander about a director (Mathieu Amalric, styled to look like Polanski) auditioning an actress (Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner) for a stage production based on the eponymous novel. The material offers Polanski plenty of opportunities to exercise his longstanding, not all coincidental fixations on sexual power dynamics and confinement.
Speaking of stylized, artificial sex: Yann Gonzalez’s live-action Nagel print, You And The Night (Strand), hits DVD this week. Set to a decadent score by M83 (Gonzalez is the brother of frontman Anthony Gonzalez), the movie walks a fine line between being faux-pretentious and actually pretentious.
Álex De La Iglesia’s typically nutzoid Witching & Bitching (IFC / MPI) pits a couple of hapless criminals against a coven of man-eating Basque witches. There’s a germ of a satire—the guys all subscribe to a worldview that could be called “anti-feminist”—behind the movie’s grotesque effects and pop-culture riffs.
The geeky, loopy X-Men: Days Of Future Past (20th Century Fox) comes closer than any other recent superhero movie to replicating the multiple-continuity texture of comic books. Those who prefer Fox-owned, Cold War-derived time travel of the dog-and-boy variety can pick up Mr. Peabody & Sherman (20th Century Fox), which expands the Rocky And Bullwinkle interstitial to indifferently received feature length.
Chinese Puzzle (Cohen) finds French director Cédric Klapisch returning to the characters of his previous films L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls. If Klapisch’s brand of middle-brow Euro fluff isn’t your thing, stay away.
Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly’s potato-flower-colored, Maine-set pill-smuggling flick Beneath The Harvest Sky (Tribeca) is rich with authentic-seeming regional details and accents; unfortunately, it’s also somewhat overburdened with screenwriting-lab clichés and facile metaphors.
Also out this week: the documentary WHITEY: United States Of America V. James J. Bulger (Magnolia), about the Boston gangster who inspired Jack Nicholson’s coked-up strap-on enthusiast in The Departed; and the French biopic Violette (Adopt Films), which casts the great Emmanuelle Devos as writer Violette Leduc.