My Darling Clementine (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), John Ford’s sublime reinterpretation of the Wyatt Earp story and the Gunfight at OK Corral, rewrites history to become a mythic frontier legend and one of the most classically perfect westerns ever made.
Henry Fonda plays a hard, serious Wyatt Earp leading a cattle drive west with his brothers when a stopover in the wild town of Tombstone ends in the murder of his youngest brother. Wyatt takes up the badge he had turned down earlier and tames the wide open town with his brothers (Ward Bond and Tim Holt), waiting for the barbarous Clanton clan, led by a ruthless Walter Brennan (“When you pull a gun, kill a man!” is his motto), to give him an excuse to take them down. Victor Mature delivers perhaps his finest performance as gambler Doc Holliday, an alcoholic Eastern doctor escaping civilization in the Wild West and slowly coughing his life away from tuberculosis.
Ford takes great liberties with history, bending the story to fit his ideal of the west, a balance of social law and pioneer spirit. Though the film reaches its climax in the legendary gunfight between the Earps (with Doc Holliday) and the Clantons, the most powerful moment is the moving Sunday morning church social played out on the floor of the unfinished church. As Earp dances with Clementine (Cathy Downs), Fonda’s stiff, self-conscious movements showing a man unaccustomed to such social interaction, Ford’s camera frames them against the open sky: the town and the wilderness merge into the new Eden of the west for a brief moment. It’s a lyrical ode to the taming of the west when manifest destiny was an unambiguous rallying cry. Ford’s subsequent westerns became less idealistic.
Along with the 97-minute release version, Criterion has included a new HD transfer of the 103-minute pre-release version (which was also on the earlier DVD), which features footage cut from the release version as well as alternate scenes and other minor differences (such as alternate musical cues). The differences are illustrative of the differences between Ford’s artistry and love of communal atmosphere and 20th Century Fox boss Darryl Zanuck’s efficiency. Ford’s preview cut (which is not a director’s cut) is more open and lanky, always responsive to the community around him, and quieter (he resists burying scenes in orchestral scoring). The release version is tighter, more dramatically pointed, scored more emphatically, and features new shots inserted into Ford’s scenes. It’s a companion, not a replacement, for as we may mourn the loss of Ford’s sensitive and subtle moments, the release version is still the Ford masterpiece. It just got some help from Zanuck, who pared Ford’s loving background to strengthen the characters at the core.
My Darling Clementine has been released in multiple editions on DVD by Fox. Criterion has created a new 4K digital master from the 35mm nitrate composite fine-grain held by the Museum of Modern Art for the Blu-ray debut and DVD upgrade. The previous DVD edition looked very good. Criterion’s release looks amazing, crisp and clean with a rich gray scale. The 103-minute pre-release version is an HD master which has not gone through the same digital restoration and shows scratches and grit but otherwise looks mighty fine in its own right.
Criterion has packed this edition with supplements. New to this release is informed and informative commentary by John Ford biographer Joseph McBride (who provides historical and production background as well as critical observations), the 19-minute video essay “Lost and Gone Forever” by Ford scholar Tag Gallagher (one of the best practitioners of this relatively new form of critical analysis), and a new interview with western historian Andrew C. Isenberg about the real Wyatt Earp. Carried over from the Fox DVD is the 40-minute documentary “What Is the John Ford Cut?” with UCLA archivist Robert Gitt, comparing the versions, commenting of the differences, and filling in the gap with production details and studio records.
First among the collection of archival supplements is the 1916 silent western short A Bandit’s Wager, directed by Francis Ford (his brother) and starring John and Francis. This is not a restoration and shows a lot of wear and tear but this transfer is stable and shows great detail, and it features a bright piano score by Donald Sosin.
Also features excerpts from the TV programs David Brinkley Journal (on Tombstone, from 1963) and Today (on Monument Valley, from 1975), the Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the film from 1947 starring Henry Fonda and Cathy Downs, and a fold-out leaflet with an essay by critic David Jenkins.
Venus in Fur (IFC, DVD, VOD), adapted by Roman Polanski with playwright David Ives from his Tony Award-winning play, is Polanksi’s second theater piece in a row, this one a two-hander between a playwright (Mathieu Amalric) auditioning actresses for his adaptation of the novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) who arrives late and turns the audition into a kind of seduction by way of a mind game. She is clearly up to more than she fesses up to as she challenges the author’s portrait of adult relationships as power games and sexual domination.
Polanksi doesn’t open up the play—the action takes place entirely in an empty Paris theater—or add any characters. He keeps his camera prowling the interplay of the two as Seigner slips in and out of character (and outfits as well; she has layers of lingerie under her coat and a bag full of gear for her transformation into a dominatrix) to tease the director along and probe his misogyny. It’s a witty chamber piece that Polanski keeps moving with a visual and narrative fluidity as Seigner reveals the layers of her character. Where she is big and bold, a performance within a performance playing to the back row, Amalric is more subtle and precise. He’s a better actor but Polanski draws a career best performance from Seigner (his wife) and her energy helps keep her at Alamric’s level, making this duet work. It’s more witty than cutting, but it’s engaging and very entertaining.
In French with English subtitles, with video interviews with director Polanski and actors Seigner and Amalric.
Chinese Puzzle (Cohen, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD) completes Cédric Klapisch’s trilogy of films (after L’Auberge Espagnole and Russian Dolls) about growing up crossing the porous national and social borders of the European Union with a story that takes free-spirited novelist Xavier (Romain Duris) to Manhattan after his ex-wife (Kelly Reilly) marries an American and moves there with their children. Apparently he hasn’t grown up much in the 15 years since the first film, and this lighthearted comedy find him still flitting around with old friends (Cécile de France) and lovers (Audrey Tautou) in his New York adventure. Sandrine Holt and Flore Bonaventura co-star in the international soup.
In English and French with English subtitles, with cast and crew interviews and a featurette.
The Honorable Woman (BBC, DVD) is Ness Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a British-Israeli woman trying to transform the legacy of her family’s fortune—her father was an arm manufacturer and a dedicated Zionist—into a tool for peace and prosperity in the Middle East, focused specifically on the peace process between Israel and Palestine. Her efforts are, naturally, met with suspicion from all and trust is at the heart of this 8-epiosde mini-series as spies and government agencies haunt the shadows of the process. She is honorable, but she is also naïve to the ways in which her ideals can be manipulated. Hugo Blick writes and directs all eight episodes, Andrew Buchan plays her brother, Stephen Rea a British intelligence chief, and Lubna Azabal, Janet McTeer, Katherine Parkinson, Tobias Menzies, Eve Best, and Lindsay Duncan co-star. This BBC series was co-produced by Sundance in the U.S. With a behind-the-scenes featurette.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (Fox, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD) brings the two generations of X-Men movies together in a time-travelling story and brings back the franchise’s defining director, Bryan Singer, from the first time in a decade.
Guilty of Romance (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD), the third film in Sion Sono’s “hate trilogy” (Love Exposure, Cold Fish), is a dark thriller that sends a female police detective into the sexual underworld of Tokyo. Olive’s release presents both the 113-minute international cut and the longer 144-minute Japanese cut of the film.
Also from Sion Sono is Himizu (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD), about a pair of teenagers who go on a vigilante murder spree after their town is devastated by the 2011 tsunami. Both in Japanese with English subtitles.
Kingpin (Paramount, Blu-ray), the Farrelly Brothers’ follow-up to their debut Dumb and Dumber, stars Woody Harrelson as a washed up bowler joins forces with an Amish kid (Randy Quaid) and hits the road to take back his crown. Vanessa Angel and Bill Murray co-star in this flamboyantly foul comedy, which wasn’t a big hit with general audiences but it embraced as a cult comedy by many. Features both the PG-13 theatrical version and a longer R-rated cut, with director commentary and a new featurette.
You can tell it is October because the horror library gets opened up for re-releases, upgrades, special editions, and the occasional disc debut.
The Blob (1988) (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), the eighties remake of the fifties creature feature classic, stars Kevin Dillon and Shawnee Smith as teen heroes who battle a gelatinous blob of acidic Jell-O and a government conspiracy to keep the thing secret and well fed. Gooey, gory, and energetic, this slurping but surprisingly good low-budget remake from director Chuck Russell and co-screenwriter Frank Darabont is a modern take on a drive-in horror with grungy style and a B-movie sensibility. Jeffrey DeMunn, Art LaFleur, Donovan Leitch and Candy Clark co-star (she gets digested in a telephone booth).
With new commentary by director Chuck Russell and horror movie authority Ryan Turek, a featurette, Twilight Time’s trademark isolated musical score and an eight-page booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo. This is the first Twilight Time release to get more than the standard 3000-copy limit, bumped up to 5000 for this release, anticipating strong cult response and hoping to slow the speculator market that buys multiple copies to sell later at inflated prices. Available exclusively from Screen Archives and TCM.
The 1932 thriller The Death Kiss (Kino Classics, Blu-ray, DVD) reunites Bela Lugosi with two of his Dracula co-stars, David Manners and Edward Van Sloan, but it’s not actually a horror movie. This low-budget production from poverty row studio Tiffany Pictures is a murder mystery set in a film studio, with Manners as a junior screenwriter turned amateur sleuth and Lugosi in a small role as the studio manager, trying to keep a lid on the news before a scandal threatens the teetering fortunes of the struggling studio. The mystery is purely by the numbers and the direction by Edwin L. Marin is largely functional (though livelier than most films from the poverty row studios), but the behind-the-scenes angle gives it a unique character and the added gimmick of hand-painted color for gunfire flashes and other select effects adds to the novelty of the film. It’s a minor but entertaining little programmer with some cult movie value, thanks to the cast and the novelty, and Kino’s release is mastered from an archival print preserved by the Library of Congress and preserves the hand-tinted sequences. Includes commentary by horror movie historian Richard Harlan Smith.
New to disc is Witching and Bitching (IFC, DVD), the latest from Spain’s Álex de la Iglesia, which pits a gang of jewel thieves on the run against a coven of witches. In Spanish with English subtitles. Also available to stream on Netflix.
The Devil’s Business (Mondo Macabro, Blu-ray+DVD Combo), the acclaimed debut feature from British director Sean Hogan, is a low-budget thriller built around two hitmen who end up on an assignment tangled up in the supernatural.
Reaching back in the horror catalog, we find Cauldron of Blood (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD), one of Boris Karloff’s late Euro-horror productions, co-starring Viveca Lindfors and Jean-Pierre Aumont.
Much classier is the spooky Audrey Rose (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), a reincarnation thriller starring Marsha Mason and Anthony Hopkins and directed by Robert Wise. John Schlesinger directs the supernatural thriller The Believers (Twilight Time, Blu-ray), starring Martin Sheen and Helen Shaver as a couple caught up in a Caribbean voodoo cult and scripted by Mark Frost (co-creator of “Twin Peaks”). And The Vanishing (Twilight Time, Blu-ray) is George Sluizer’s American remake of his own Dutch thriller, this one starring Jeff Bridges and Keifer Sutherland. All feature Twilight Time’s trademark 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.
Who knew that the romantic zombie comedy (or rom-zom-com, if you prefer) would become a real thing? You can now see Life After Beth (Cable VOD), with Parks and Recreation‘s Aubrey Plaza as a dead girlfriend come back to life with unusual hungers, on Cable VOD before disc.
Debuting on Friday, October 17 (same day as theaters) is the military drama Camp X-Ray (Digital and Cable VOD), starring Kristen Stewart as a soldier at Guantanamo Bay who befriends a prisoner of war held without trial.
Also arriving on Friday, October 1, same day as theaters: the musical drama Rudderless (Cable VOD) with Billy Crudup as a grieving father who forms a band to perform his late son’s music, the science fiction survival thriller Young Ones (Cable VOD) starring Elle Fanning, Nicholas Hoult, and Michael Shannon in a drought-stricken future, and the Australian crime thriller Felony (Cable VOD) with Joel Edgerton and Tom Wilkinson. Debuting on Friday in advance of theaters is the sci-fi horror Extraterrestrial (Cable VOD) from The Vicious Brothers.
America: Imagine the World Without Her (Lionsgate, Digital HD)
Money for Nothing: A History of the Music Video (Virgil, Digital VOD)
Wolves (Cable VOD) on Thursday, October 16, one month before theaters
Begin Again (Anchor Bay, Digital) on Friday, October 17
Two and a Half Men: The Complete Eleventh Season (Warner, DVD)
Two Broke Girls: The Complete Third Season (Warner, DVD)
Murdoch Mysteries: Season 7 (Acorn, Blu-ray, DVD)
Robot Chicken DC Comics Special 2: Villains in Paradise (Warner, DVD)
Courage the Cowardly Dog: Season Two (Warner, DVD)
A Haunting: The Television Series (Timeless, DVD)
Pawn Stars: A Very Vegas Christmas (Lionsgate, DVD)
Dick Cavett’s Watergate (PBS, DVD)
Secrets of Iconic British Estates (PBS, DVD)
Secret History of World War II (Acorn, DVD)
The Steven Spielberg Director’s Collection (Universal, Blu-ray)
Van Damme 5-Movies Action Pack (Universal, Blu-ray)
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Black Maria Limited Edition (Dark Sky, Blu-ray+DVD Combo)
White Christmas: Diamond Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray+DVD Combo, Paramount)
Under Fire (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
The Vanishing (Twilight Time, Blu-ray)
Fedora (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
Desperately Seeking Susan (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Billion Dollar Brain (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Topkapi (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
True Confessions (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Mulholland Falls (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Last Embrace (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Married to the Mob (Kino Lorber Studio Classics, Blu-ray, DVD)
Dragonfly Squadron (Olive, Blu-ray, DVD)
The First Power (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Jennifer (Kino Lorber, Blu-ray, DVD)
Vanilla Sky (Paramount, Blu-ray)
The Westerner (Warner, DVD)
The Princess and the Pirate (Warner, DVD)
The Hercules Collection (6 films) (Timeless, DVD)
The Nostril Picker (aka The Changer) (Massacre, DVD)
Mr. Peabody and Sherman (Fox, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD)
You and the Night (Strand, DVD)
Violette (Kino Lorber, DVD)
The Last Supper (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD)
Nothing Bad Can Happen (Drafthouse, Blu-ray, DVD)
Whity: The United States of American vs. James J. Bulger (Magnolia, Blu-ray, DVD)
Beneath the Harvest Sky (Cinedigm, Blu-ray, DVD)
The Equation of Life (Shelter Island, DVD)
Every Three Seconds (First Run, DVD)
Growing Cities (First Run, DVD)
Citizen Autistic (Cinema Libre, DVD)
Ballin’ at the Graveyard (Virgil, DVD, Digital)
Mortal Kombat: Legacy II (Warner, Blu-ray, DVD)
Mystery Road (Well Go, Blu-ray, DVD, Digital)
Persecuted (Millennium, Blu-ray, DVD, VOD)
Don’t Blink (Vertical, DVD)
Looking for Johnny: The Legend of Johnny Thunders (MVD, DVD, Digital, VOD)
Boobs (Garden Thieves, DVD, VOD)
Small Town Santa (Screen Media, DVD)
The Equation of Life (Shelter Island, DVD)
Throwdown (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Chemical Peel (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Werewolf Rising (RLJ, DVD)
Devil’s Deal (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Locked In (Lionsgate, DVD, Digital HD, VOD)
Dry Bones (Camp, DVD)
Under Wraps (Arc, DVD)