Midnight Run: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory Select, Blu-ray) – The midnight run of Martin Brest’s 1988 action comedy refers to what is supposed to be an easy job for skip tracer and bounty hunter Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro). He’s hired to capture Jack “Duke” Mardukas (Charles Grodin), a mild-mannered accountant who stole $15 million from the mob and then skipped out on his bail, and haul him across the country from New York City to Los Angeles in time to testify in a mob trial. What is supposed to be an easy job (for which Jack is to collect $100,000) is complicated by Duke’s fear of flying (which means going overland by car, bus, train, or whatever is available), a rival bounty hunter sabotaging his efforts, the FBI determined to take Duke in themselves, and mobsters out to assassinate him before the trial.
The film is packed with impressive action scenes but is carried by the odd couple humor and comic chemistry between De Niro, playing his first comedy role in a major Hollywood film as the street smart ex-cop turned wily bounty hunter, and Grodin at his low-key best as a hapless schlub who turns out to be smarter, and more honorable, than appears at first glance. Handcuffed together for most of the film, their sparring is hilarious and growing affection for one another reshapes the entire enterprise and gives the fast-paced film a beating heart. In the boom of action comedies and mis-matched buddy films in the eighties, this is one of the best, thanks to a Brest’s balance of comedy and action, a clever script, excellent casting (including Dennis Farina as the mob boss and Joe Pantoliano as the double-crossing bail bondsman), and two superb performances at the center of the craziness.
Newly remastered from the film’s 2K interpositive, this new Blu-ray Collector’s Edition (a part of the Shout Select imprint) includes a new a featurette with clips and brief comments by Robert De Niro plus interviews with actors Charles Grodin, Joe Pantoliano, John Ashton, and Yaphet Kotto and writer George Gallo, plus an archival making-of featurette.
Road House: Collector’s Edition (Shout! Factory Select, Blu-ray) – “Pain don’t hurt,” proclaims Zen bar bouncer Patrick Swayze, a former philosophy PhD who gave up empty ruminations for a life of broken bottles, drunken brawls, and tough guys who want to test the reputation of the famous saloon bouncer. Though it came after the era of inner-city grindhouses and rural drive-ins, this absurd yet wildly entertaining honky-tonk B movie is perfect fodder for both barroom philosophy and bare-knuckle action. Swayze’s tai-chi practicing good ol’ boy romances Emergency Room doctor Kelly Lynch and takes on small town crime boss Ben Gazzara (appropriately amiable in his evil plans) while taming the rowdiest bar in the region. The dime story philosophy is absurd but who cares amidst the bar fights and blood? Sam Elliot is his usual laconic self as Swayze’s drawling mentor and the Jeff Healey Band knocks out a few tunes.
This bare-knuckle brawler B-movie classic is newly remastered from a 2K scan of the interpositive supervised by director of photography Dean Cundey. New to this edition are the hour-long documentary “I Thought You’d be Bigger: The Making of Road House” with new cast and crew interviews, a half-hour interview with director Rowdy Herrington, and an interview with the stunt team, plus remembrances of Swayze and Jeff Healey, behind-the-scenes footage, and archival interviews.
Carried over from the 2006 deluxe DVD are two commentary tracks—one by director Rowdy Herrington, the other by professional fan-boys Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier—and interview featurette “What Would Dalton Do?” with Patrick Swayze and others.
Modesty Blaise (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD), a goofy and rather aimless mix of sixties spy movie romp and pop-art comic book farce, casts Monica Vitti, the sixties cinema queen of restrained elegance and Italian ennui, in a camp queen role. It’s an awkward fit for both Vitti and director Joseph Losey, an otherwise superb filmmaker who never really showed much of a flair for humor in his filmography and doesn’t start here.
Though ostensibly based on the newspaper comic strip spy series of the same name, Losey and screenwriter Evan Jones apparently mistook her for fellow comic strip heroine Barbarella (which was turned into an even more outrageous style-bomb two years later) by way of James Bond. The result is more silly than funny: she changes outfits and hair color with the snap of her fingers while her prissy arch-nemesis (Dirk Bogarde, having a ball in a platinum coif and dandy-ish suits) plots increasingly more ludicrous schemes. It’s impossibly convoluted and deliciously designed, a real visual treat with moments of inspired weirdness, but ultimately just empty calories. Think of this lark as a vacation from seriousness for Vitti and Losey. Terence Stamp is all cockney cheek as her street-smart sidekick and Harry Andrews grins wide as if he’s in on the joke.
It makes it Blu-ray debut in what appears to be an old master that has been digitally sharpened for HD, resulting in some digital artifacts and edge enhancement issues. It features commentary by film historian David Del Valle and filmmaker Armand Mastroianni and new interviews with first assistant director Gavrik Losey, screenwriter Evan Jones, and assistant art director Norman Dorme
Wild in the Streets (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD) – Produced during the late sixties explosion of youth culture and protest movies, this drive-in feature stars Christopher Jones as a rock star who leads a teen uprising to drop the voting age (“14 or fight,” is the chant) and then rocks the vote into the Oval Office. Shelley Winters actually takes top billing as his doting mother, a smothering caricature who rides his coattails to power oblivious to her vulnerability as a parental figure in a teenage revolution, with Diane Varsi and Millie Perkins as part of the youth brain trust, Hal Holbrook and Ed Begley representing “the man,” and Richard Pryor in his screen debut as Stanley X, resident revolutionary and the drummer in Jones’ band.
What presents itself as a youth empowerment fantasy about the mutual distrust in the generation gap is actually a scare film, a sour satire of youth culture gone fascist, more in line with adult fears than teenage fantasies. It presents youth culture as a force of chaos, decadence, and reckless anarchy. Once in power, the radical teens dose the reservoirs across the nation with LSD and toss everyone over 35 into concentration camps. That’s par for the course for AIP, which had a habit of spiking their drive-in youth films with portraits of their teen and young adult heroes as immature, misguided, self-destructive, and ultimately in need of guidance from the adult generation. This is no different, but it does have fun with the sheer outrageousness of the entire enterprise. The film also marks Richard Pryor’s screen debut (as the band’s activist drummer, Stanley X) and the film’s signature theme “Shape of Things to Come,” penned by Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann and performed by an anonymous line-up of Mike Curb studio musicians, remains one of the great anthems of the sixties.
Also note that The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray) and Haunted Honeymoon (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD), both written and directed by and starring Gene Wilder, make their respective Blu-ray debuts this week. Originally slated for later in the month, the release dates were moved up in light of Wilder’s death.