The Man From Laramie (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), Anthony Mann’s seventh and final collaboration with James Stewart and his first widescreen film, is a frontier “King Lear” by way of Mann’s favorite themes of splintered families and filial betrayal. Stewart plays his usual brooding loner, a former army scout searching for the man responsible for his brother’s death. He rides into a town run by a cattle baron (Donald Crisp) with an irresponsible son (Alex Nicol) who despises him and a dutiful foreman (Arthur Kennedy) who desperately craves his father-figure’s affection and respect.
The complicated web of love, hate, and betrayal sprawls over the entire town and Stewart, less psychologically haunted than in previous Mann collaborations, becomes a catalyst that pitches the conflict into violence, usually directed at him. While the Apaches are the ostensible threat, Mann’s brutal violence reaches a new level of cruel glee in Nicol’s sadistic psychopath of a delinquent with a six shooter. At his direction, Stewart is dragged through a burning campfire, shot point-blank in the hand, beaten, ambushed, and generally made unwelcome. Kennedy provides the psychotic edge as the spurned son with a black secret. As usual Mann’s landscapes are magnificent in a country where beauty and danger lie in the same handsome wilderness. Also stars Cathy Downs as a Kennedy’s long-suffering fiancée, googly-eyed Jack Elam as shady informant, and Wallace Ford as a tracker who becomes Stewart’s ally.
Twilight Time offers a lovely widescreen transfer and offers the usual trademark extras: an isolated musical score and effects track and an eight-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. Limited to 3000 copies, available exclusively from Screen Archives and TCM.
The Train (Twilight Time, Blu-ray) makes a timely arrival for anyone who was disappointed with Monuments Men. This too is a true story of the Nazi looting of Europe’s art treasures during their retreat and the efforts to stop them, but this is a tough, muscular war thriller that pits the stakes against one another: just what price are you willing to pay to protect your artistic legacy? Burt Lancaster is the proletariat resistance leader who bristles under orders to stop the art from being taken out of France – he’s more focused on killing Germans and saving civilians – and Paul Scofield is his nemesis, the aristocratic Nazi officer who oversees the mass looting of France’s greatest paintings.
John Frankenheimer (who replaced the film’s original helmer, Arthur Penn, at Lancaster’s request) directs with a muscular style that puts the themes into action and the crisp black and white photography captures the busy industrial detail of the train yard and the gritty war-torn atmosphere of France in the final days of the German occupation. The great Michel Simon is the burly engineer who sabotages the initial run and Suzanne Flon and Jeanne Moreau co-star.
This Twilight Time release features the original commentary recorded by Frankenheimer for the laserdisc release almost 20 years ago plus a new commentary track with Twilight Time founder and historian Nick Redman and film historians Julie Kirgo and Paul Seydor, as well as the usual isolated score track and eight-page booklet. Limited to 3000 copies, available exclusively from Screen Archives and TCM.
L’eclisse (Criterion, Blu-ray+DVD Combo), Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic tale of dislocation and ennui in the modern material (and materialistic) world and the conclusion of the informal trilogy that that began with L’Avventura, gets an upgrade to Blu-ray with a newly remastered HD transfer of a fine grain 35mm print. Monica Vitti is a translator who drifts out of one relationship into another, this time with a handsome but glib stockbroker (Alain Delon), while the architecture of Rome serves as a handsome but impassive backdrop to their doomed affair and alienated lives. The supplements are carried over from the 2005 DVD release: commentary by film scholar Richard Peña, the 56-minute documentary Michelangelo Antonioni: The Eye That Changed Cinema and the 22-minute featurette The Sickness of Eros (about Antonioni and L’eclisse), and a 32-page booklet.
Amen. (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD) is Costa-Gavras’ 2002 indictment of the Catholic Church’s abdication of moral leadership during World War II. Ulrich Tukur plays the real life SS scientist and devout Christian Kurt Gerstein, who tried to tell the world about the holocaust, and Mathieu Kassovitz plays the (fictional) priest with the Vatican’s ear who attempts to bring Gerstein’s message to Pope Pius XII. Faced with the truth, the Vatican kept quiet about the mass exterminations. Costa-Gavras is not the most subtle of directors, but he is passionately committed and he pulls no punches. This is a movie about people who betrayed the moral duty of their positions and their beliefs and the direction is as blunt as is the unholy rage. With commentary by Costa-Gavras and film critic Wade Major and the BBC documentary Pope Pius XII: The Pope, the Jews and the Nazis.
Ravenous (Shout Factory, Blu-ray) is the definitive frontier cannibal movie. Guy Pearce is the new arrival to an isolated army outpost in the Sierra Nevadas that could be a lost insane asylum but these eccentrics are nothing compared to wild-eyed disaster survivor Robert Carlyle, who stumbles in with horrific stories of cannibalism in the mountains and then starts planning which soldier will serve as his next meal (he’s not above tasting them as he sizes up his options). Very, very loosely inspired by the Donner Party incident and then pushed into psycho-killer territory, there’s a thick streak of black comedy running through this grungy, gory, grotesquely funny battle for survival. You could say it’s a vampire tale without the supernatural dimension – it turns out human flesh is addictive – or call it a particularly gruesome metaphor for manifest destiny. However you label it, it is off-the-charts crazy, an eat-or-be-eaten thriller served very, very rare. Antonia Bird directs and Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones and David Arquette co-stars. Features three commentary tracks (one with Bird and composer Damon Albarn, one with screenwriter Ted Griffin and co-star Jones, and one with actor Robert Carlyle), deleted scenes with optional commentary, and still galleries among the supplements.
Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide (Severin, DVD) is a three disc set built around Jake West’s 2010 documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Videotape. Films that were banned in theaters were readily available on video in the 1980s and the parliament, led by the tabloid press and self-appointed moral watchdog Mary Whitehouse, pushed for strict censorship on horror films. The film features plenty of gruesome clips between the interviews with critics, historians, and former officials and archival clips, but the most appalling revelations have to do with the willful misrepresentation and wholesale fabrication of research that was parroted in the press and in parliament, and the sense of moral superiority of those who tried to impose their will on a public they deemed too immature to deal with it. The bonus discs feature the trailers for all 72 films that were placed on the list of banned “Video Nasties,” with optional introductions and commentary.
One of those Video Nasties, the depraved Italian Nazisploitation film Gestapo’s Last Orgy (Intervision, DVD), arrives this week from another label, along Deported Women of the SS Special Section (Intervision, DVD), both presented in uncensored form and featuring bonus interviews.
The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary (Warner, Blu-ray) is Jerry Lewis’ masterpiece, a twisted take on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde that was directed, produced and co-written by Lewis, who stars as nerdy college chemistry professor Julius Kelp and his smarmy, self-absorbed alter-ego Buddy Love. It gets a special edition, and I’ll go into detail on it later this week.
Alexander: The Ultimate Cut (Warner, Blu-ray) is Oliver Stone’s third cut of his ancient world epic, over 30 minutes longer than his theatrical cut but a few minutes shorter than the “Final Cut” he released to disc in 2007. But it’s not just a matter of running time: Stone returned the film to the structure of his original conception. With new commentary and two new featurettes, plus a bonus disc with the theatrical cut and the supplements from that earlier release, an UltraViolet Digital HD copy, and other extras.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (Twilight Time, Blu-ray) brings John Huston’s widescreen war story / romance to Blu-way. Deborah Kerr and Robert Mitchum star. The Mechanic (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), with Charles Bronson as the veteran hitman and Jan-Michael Vincent as his protégé, features commentary by cinematographer Richard H. Kline and film historian Nick Redman, and Resurrected (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), the 1989 British drama directed by Paul Greengrass, includes video interviews with Greengrass and star David Thewlis. All three discs include an isolated musical score and an eight-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. Limited to 3000 copies, available exclusively from Screen Archives and TCM.
All That Heaven Allows (Criterion, Blu-ray+DVD Combo) is another Criterion upgrade to Blu-ray and it features commentary, Mark Rappaport’s 1992 essay film Rock Hudson’s Home Movies, the 1979 BBC documentary Excerpts from Behind the Mirror: A Profile of Douglas Sirk, and archival interviews among the supplements.
The Spike Lee Joint Collection: Vol. 1 (Touchstone, Blu-ray) collects The 25th Hour and He Got Game and The Spike Lee Joint Collection: Vol. 2 (Touchstone, Blu-ray) is a double feature with Summer of Sam and Miracle at St. Anna. Lee recorded new commentary tracks for each film.
Sorcerer (Warner, DVD) and Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday The 13th (1428 Films, DVD) present SD DVD releases of films previously on Blu-ray.
The Man With No Name Trilogy (Fox, Blu-ray)
The Outsiders: The Complete Novel (Warner, Blu-ray)
I Vinti (Raro, Blu-ray)
Tightrope (Warner, Blu-ray)
Kissing Jessica Stein (Fox, Blu-ray)
The Birdcage (MGM, Blu-ray)
The Ringer (Fox, Blu-ray)
Bloodsucking Freaks (Troma, Blu-ray)
Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (Cult Epics, Blu-ray)
42nd Street Forever: The Peep Show Collection Vol. 2 (Impulse, DVD)
Orozco the Embalmer (Massacre, DVD)
Junk Films: The Collected Short Shockumentaries of Tsurisaki Kiyotaka (Massacre, DVD)
Female Gym Coach: Jump and Straddle (Impulse, DVD)
Office Love: Behind Closed Doors (Impulse, DVD)