MoonriseMoonrise Kingdom (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD) – Wes Anderson has made a career exploring the childhood neuroses that keep adult characters in an arrested state of adolescence and stasis. It’s been a lively career with creatively energetic high points like Rushmore and The Royal Tennenbaums but an approach with diminishing returns. Until Fantastic Mr. Fox, a film that refracted his portraits of dysfunctional families and modern anxieties through a storybook world.

In Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Anderson finally builds a film around the troubled kids themselves. Kara Hayward’s Suzy, a book-loving loner with anger issues, and Jared Gilman’s Sam, an eccentric orphan out of step with his fellow Khaki Scouts, are two misfit adolescents who instantly recognize the other as a kindred soul and run away together into the wilds of a small New England island. Which, admittedly, makes escape a little difficult, what with a small army of Khaki scout trackers and a storm on the way.

It’s funny, it’s playful, it’s full of nostalgic blasts and period trappings, but most of all it is loving: accepting of the headstrong kids determined to find their place in the world, forgiving of the oblivious adults around them, affectionate in its storybook imagery and narrative playfulness.

There’s a great cast around the kids—Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as distracted yet protective parents, Edward Norton as a nerdy but sincere scoutmaster, Harvey Keitel as a genially despotic scout commander, Tilda Swinton as the coldly officious Social Services, and especially Bruce Willis as a sad, lonely island lawman who gets a second chance—but the film belongs to the two kids. For all their issues, they are healthier than the adults of Anderson’s previous films, and their commitment inspires these adults to take stock of their failings and make an effort to become better, more honest people.

Like all of Anderson’s previous films, the sixties-set Moonrise Kingdom is filled with the period music and fashion and the offbeat textures he loves so much, but there’s more restraint this time. The delightful details are merely that, grace notes to the culture around our characters. And while Anderson plays with the conventions of young love, runaway adventure, and family comic-drama with a knowing, modern sensibility, he never makes fun of it. The sincerity is genuine, and it makes the film glow.

It’s been on Blu-ray and DVD before in simple but handsome editions but Anderson apparently saved up his goodies for the Criterion edition. He supervised the 2K digital transfer and is joined on the commentary track by Criterion President Peter Becker and child actor Jake Ryan, and they call up co-writer Roman Coppola and supporting actors Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Jason Schwartzman to elicit comments from them. “The Making of Moonrise Kingdom” consists of an 18-minute featurette shot on the set of the film plus four storyboard animatics and narrator tests, five minutes of screen tests of the child actors, and a short piece on the miniatures used in the flood sequence. Edward Norton’s home movies from the set (shot on iPhone) run about 20 minutes and are introduced by Norton.

The rest of the supplements are bite-sized pieces: “Welcome to New Penzance” features footage of the locations, “Set Tour with Bill Murray” is a quick 3 minutes, Bob Balaban introduces short segments of actress Kara Hayward (Suzy) reading excerpts from the (fictional) books featured in the film, and “Cousin Ben” features additional footage of Jason Schwartzman as Cousin Ben. The 20-page booklet an essay by critic Geoffrey O’Brien, short pieces by young writers on the film, and art from the film, and there’s a small collection of additional ephemera including a map of New Penzance.

honeymoonkillersThe Honeymoon Killers (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD), Leonard Kastle’s alienating B&W story of a dim Latin gigolo (Tony Lo Bianco) and a frumpy, unfulfilled overweight ex-nurse (Shirley Stoler) who team-up to romance and murder a series of lonely women is based on a true story, but his jarring docu-style, with its mix of black humor and blood chilling horror, is anything but a realistic portrait.

Alternately ferocious and tender, mundane and terrifying, it’s the most perverse of love stories and Kastle directs the toxic tale as if off the pages of “True Detective” and accompanied by the startling flashbulb-bright photography by Weegee. Kastle was an opera composer by profession and had never directed a film when he took over from the initial director, Martin Scorsese (he was fired after a week). Kastle never made another, but based on the strength of this unsettling early American indie he should have. His direction of Stoler and Lo Bianco is strong (despite yourself, you can’t help but be moved by their devotion to one another) and his use of claustrophobic close-ups is wonderfully unnerving, especially as he hones in on the helpless, terrified face of a victim awaiting her execution while the conversations of the killers and the scrapes of the murder weapon can be heard out of frame.

Previously released on DVD by Criterion, it has been digitally remastered in 4K from a recent restoration for its Blu-ray debut (it looks stunning: B&W looks so good on a well-mastered Blu-ray) and features two new supplements: the 25-minute interview featurette “Love Letters” with actors Tony Lo Bianco and Marilyn Chris and editor Stan Warnow and produced by Robert Fischer, and the video essay “Dear Martha…” by Scott Christianson, which looks at the real Martha Beck and Ray Fernandez and their trial and incarceration with rare photos and documents.

Carried over from its earlier release is a 2003 video interview with director Leonard Kastle and the essay “Broken Promises” by Gary Giddins featured in the 10-page foldout insert.

DogDayDog Day Afternoon: 40th Anniversary (Warner, Blu-ray, Digital HD) – After making Serpico together, Al Pacino and director Sidney Lumet reunited for this gritty, funny, electric drama about a failed New York bank robbery turned gripping hostage situation turned energetic media circus. Based on a real incident, it’s shot by Lumet on the streets with a documentary-like immediacy and a dramatic intensity that builds on complications both surprising and startlingly real. The rising temperatures don’t necessarily bring out the worst in these characters, they just bring them out with more intensity: Sonny (Pacino) charged up in front of the cameras, crowds cheering him on with chants of “Attica! Attica!,” the cops simply trying to keep everyone alive in the midst of an outlandish media circus. Don’t you love summer in the Big Apple?

John Cazale (who played Pacino’s brother in the Godfather films) plays his accomplice here, Charles Durning is the police detective trying to keep the situation under control as crowds start cheering for the robbers, and Chris Sarandon earned an Academy Award nomination in a small but memorable role as Pacino’s lover. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, it won for Frank Pierson’s screenplay. James Broderick co-stars as the FBI agent and Carol Kane, Lance Henriksen and Dominic Chianese co-star.

The Blu-ray includes commentary by director Sidney Lumet, a four-part documentary on the making of the film, and the featurette “Lumet: Film Maker,” all carried over from the previous Blu-ray release.

The bonus disc presents the 40-minute documentary I Knew it was You: Rediscovering John Cazale, a lovely tribute to the actor who only appeared in five features—each of them an Oscar nominee for Best Picture—and never received a single Oscar nomination. Richard Shepard profiles this actor’s actor, a New York stage veteran who worked with and earned the respect of some of the greatest actors of his generation, among them Gene Hackman, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino (who said Cazale that him more about acting than any other actor). The disc also includes commentary by director Shepard, extended interviews with Al Pacino (which overflows with love and friendship) and playwright Israel Horowitz, and two short films Cazale made in the sixties: The America Way (1962) and The Box (1969).

EatenAliveEaten Alive (Arrow / MVD, Blu-ray+DVD), Tobe Hooper’s follow-up to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, is another rural horror, this one in the swampy southeast. Neville Brand stars as Judd, the addled owner and manager of the Starlight Hotel, a backwoods place that makes the Bates Motel look like five star luxury lodgings. Imagine the night man from Touch of Evil with PTSD, anger issues, a trusty scythe, and a pet crocodile kept in a pen next to the hotel porch. Over the course of one night he manages to kill almost every customer in his rotting little home away from hell and terrorize the rest, including a little girl he chases under the porch and then has his croc chase back out.

The film is shot entirely on soundstages and lit with hot red hues that make the place look like a suburb of Hades, it’s an unreal thing that Hooper treats more like a mad nightmare of a hothouse swamp horror than the mad realist terror of Chainsaw. Carolyn Jones is a brothel manager with a green pallor that makes her look like a corpse and William Finley as an overwrought husband and father on the verge of a nervous breakdown (or perhaps his own psychotic break) before Judd dispatches him to the jaws of his pet. The radios and jukeboxes blast rural cowboy and Tex-Mex tunes and the locals (including Stuart Whitman as a sheriff whose manner suggests a serial killer with superior impulse control and Robert Englund as a sneering redneck and sex addict) have a rural drawl out of “L’il Abner.” Even more surreal is the way no one seems phased by how much this place looks like a secret torture dungeon in the midst of being reclaimed by the swamp. It’s more perverse than scary, weirdly entertaining but inconsistent and often awkwardly directed with a handful of wooden performances (Mel Ferrer is barely present) alongside the crazed caricatures, but Brand embraces the schizophrenic energy of Judd, the slow, hard-working backwoods simpleton who turns psychopath at the slightest suggestion of sex or the first sign of aggression toward his croc (a lifeless puppet that mostly remains a shadow in the swamp). I can see how it became a minor cult horror film, but I would put the emphasis on “minor.”

Arrow provides a solid presentation from a new restoration and fills the disc with new and archival supplements. Tobe Hooper offers a new introduction (so brief it’s hardly there) and 14-minute video interview that digs into the origins of the project and the film’s production, plus new interviews with actress Janus Blythe and make-up artist Craig Reardon. Carried over from the 2006 MPI / Dark Skies release is commentary by producer/co-writer Mardi Rustam, actors Roberta Collins, William Finley, and Kyle Richards, and make-up artist Craig Reardon, video interviews with Hooper and actors Robert Englund and Marilyn Burns, plus an interview with Richard “Bucky” Ball, whose uncle Joe Ball, a Texas serial killer with an alligator pit, is the inspiration for Judd. Also features alternate titles (the film had a half-dozen titles at various times, including Death Trap in England, as seen in these alternate opening credits), trailers and promos, and galleries of stills and art. The accompanying booklet features an essay by Brad Stevens.

ImmoralTalesArrow presents two of the most notorious films from cult filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk, which make for a fitting pair. The 1974 anthology film Immoral Tales (Arrow / MVD, Blu-ray+DVD) offers four erotic tales through the centuries, including one episode inspired by the legend of Elisabeth Bathory and another featuring the Borgias in an orgy involving pretty much every member of the clergy in the Vatican. It straddles art movie and high-class porn, with Borowczyk making sometimes witty, sometimes contrived little tales filled with sex, explicit nudity, and a self-aware kinkiness. The Beast (Arrow / MVD, Blu-ray+DVD), the filmmaker’s notorious erotic fantasy revision of “Beauty and the Beast” began life another short in the anthology, more of a sketch than a story, about a countess (Sirpa Lane) who is ravaged by a bear-like beast with an insatiable sexual appetite and a honker of a hard-on. That has become the dream sequence/flashback/sexual fantasy of a bride-to-be as the dark secrets and sexual history of her groom’s mansion seeps into her consciousness. Borowczyk gives some grace to a truly perverse dream play of primal urges and corrupt aristocrats but its reputation has less to do with the murky symbolism and obscure morality than the flesh feast of nudity and special effects money shots from the fantasy phallus of the hairy beast of the title. Twas beauty killed the beast indeed.

Arrow previously reeleased both film in the UK mastered from new 2k restorations. Those discs form the basis for the American releases, which each include Blu-ray and DVD versions of the film and the supplements.

BeastImmoral Tales includes a longer cut of the film with a fifth chapter (“The True Story of the Beast of Gévaudan”) that Borowczyk removed and expanded into the feature The Beast, a new interview with production manager Dominique Duvergé-Ségrétin and cinematographer Noël Véry, an hour-long archival interview with Borowczyk, and short piece on Borowczyk’s fine art, plus a booklet with stills and an essay.

The Beast includes the hour-long “The Making of The Beast” with behind-the-scenes footage accompanied by commentary by camera operator Noël Véry, the short featurettes “Frenzy of Ecstasy” and “The Profligate Door,” the interview featurette “Boro Brunch” (with Borowczyk collaborators), Peter Graham’s short film Gunpoint (which was edited by Borowczyk) and the accompanying making-of featurette “Behind Enemy Lines,” and a collection of commercials directed by Borowczyk, plus a booklet with stills and an essay.

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