Keen on Kino: The company best known for their foreign and silent releases and occasional independent films has gotten into the studio game in a big way, as Kino Home Video finalized a licensing deal for the MGM/United Artists library. Upcoming titles announced—new to Blu-ray, returning to DVD—include:
Cast a Giant Shadow (1966): Kirk Douglas plays real-life American soldier David “Mickey” Marcus, who was made the leader of Israel’s military as they strove for their independence. The all-star supporting cast includes John Wayne, Yul Brynner, Angie Dickinson, Frank Sinatra and Senta Berger.
On the Beach (1959): Stanley Kramer’s creepy doomsday saga centers on the crew of a submarine set on leaving the post-apocalyptic seas of Australia for San Diego when they hear a faint signal of life. Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins star.
What’s New, Pussycat?: A swinging 1960s sex farce with Peter O’Toole scoring as a seductive fashion editor who wants to walk the straight and narrow with girlfriend Romy Schneider. When Peter Sellers, O’Toole’s shrink, checks into the hotel where he and Schneider are staying, wacky events occur. With Woody Allen (who wrote the screenplay), Capucine, Paula Prentiss and that Tom Jones theme song.
Mr. Majestyk (1974): Charles Bronson is his toughest in this rip-snorting adaptation of an Elmore Leonard story, featuring Chuck as a Vietnam veteran and former ranger who battles a mobster while trying to protect his watermelon farm.
Breakheart Pass (1975): Bronson again, this time in Alastair MacLean’s sagebrush thriller, playing an undercover agent onboard a train carrying important medicine, politicians and Army troops threatened by a secret plot involving gun-trading.
The Party (1968): One of Peter Sellers’ funniest films casts the comic genius as an Indian actor mistakenly invited to a wild Hollywood soiree, where he turns things upside down. Blake Edwards directs this rollicking comedy with a Henry Mancini score.
The Children’s Hour (1961): In an all-girls’ boarding school, a malicious student accuses teachers Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine of a lesbian relationship. As he had with 1936’s These Three, William Wyler adapts Lillian Hellman’s controversial play for the big screen; James Garner co-stars.
The Unforgiven (1960): John Huston helmed this western spiked with social consciousness, starring Audrey Hepburn as a white woman suspected of being raised by the Kiowa Indians; Burt Lancaster, Audie Murphy and Doug McClure as her brothers; and Lilian Gish as her adoptive mother.
Criterion Corner: Those folks at Criterion are up to their old tricks, pushing out gems on DVD and Blu-ray that collectors simply can’t live without. Down the road, we’ve learned that the company has slated David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., the 2001 Hollywood-set mystery that actually started life as a pilot for a TV series. The film deals with an aspiring actress, an amnesiac woman, a film director, and a lesbian liaison and stars Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Robert Forster and Justin Theroux. This will be a nice companion piece to Criterion’s upcoming Eraserhead. Also due from the company is Terry Gilliam’s fantasy Time Bandits, available in a mega-deluxe edition. Just licensed for future release is Federico Fellini’s 1960 masterpiece La Dolce Vita with Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg. This will make a nice companion with The Great Beauty, the recent Oscar winner inspired by La Dolce Vita.
You, Me, and Now, Little Noodles: Best known for such westerns as “The Man with No Name” trilogy with Clint Eastwood and the epic Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone got an opportunity to bring his operatic touch to the gangster genre with the epically violent Once Upon a Time in America, the saga of Jewish New York hoods starring Robert De Niro as Noodles and James Woods as Max. Notoriously re-edited as it made its way to its American theatrical release in 1984, the film will soon be presented as Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director’s Cut, with 22 minutes of extra footage added to the film’s chameleon-like running time, bringing its length to 251 minutes. Available in DVD and Blu-ray, the two-disc set includes a documentary, commentary by film critic Richard Schickel, and a booklet, along with the truncated 1984 American cut.
Michael More: John Carpenter’s Halloween debuted in 1978, and the film about masked killer Michael Myers terrorizing small-town babysitters rapidly became a sensation, becoming the most successful independent film of all time—taking in over $60 million around the world on a $300,000 budget. The film was highly influential and spawned multitudes of sequels and Rob Zombie reboots. Now, Anchor Bay has amassed the entire collection of ten films for the Blu-ray release Halloween: The Complete Collection. If you really like Mike, there’ll also be Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition), a 15 -disc monster that also includes a Producer’s Cut of Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers (that’s the sixth installment if you are counting) and a 40-page booklet. Happy Halloween!
Johnny on the Spot: The son of Russian immigrants, John Garfield rose from studying at the Actor’s Studio and impressive turns on Broadway and to becoming a movie star for Warner Brothers, gaining fervent fans with a steady stream of movies. But tragedy struck after he refused to name names during the Hollywood Blacklist era, as a heart attack claimed him at the age of 39 in 1952. Warner Archives has issued some long-demanded Garfield gems, including Dust Be My Destiny (1939), where he plays a convict whose romantic interest in the tough warden’s daughter leads to trouble; Blackwell’s Island (1939), based on true incidents, posits Garfield as a reporter who goes undercover in a prison to see how a mobster operates while incarcerated; East of the River (1940), an atmospheric crime melodrama about two brothers—one a good kid (William Lundigan), the other a crook (Garfield)—who vie for the attention of the same beauty (Brenda Marshall); Flowing Gold (1940), in which ex-con Garfield is hired by wildcatter Pat O’Brien to work in the oil fields, but find his past—and feelings for boss’s girl Frances Farmer—getting in the way; Saturday’s Children (1940), where clerk Garfield has to choose between an opportunity to market his inventions or supporting new spouse Anne Shirley; and Dangerously They Live (1941), boasting Garfield as a doctor treating car accident victim Nancy Coleman, whose claims of being an Allied spy might not be delusional.
Everybody Loves Raymond: Robert Mitchum starred in two atmospheric films in the 1970s where he played Raymond Chandler’s ace detective Phillip Marlowe. The first was Farewell, My Lovely from 1975, co-staring Charlotte Rampling and Sylvester Stallone. But that title seems to be missing in action on DVD and Blu-ray. On the other hand, we’ll soon be seeing The Big Sleep (1978), in which the setting of 1940s Los Angeles is abandoned for modern-day London, where Marlowe attempts to help an elderly American general (James Stewart) find out why he is being blackmailed. Oliver Reed, Sarah Miles, Joan Collins, Richard Boone and Candy Clark also star in this unusual reboot of the Humphrey Bogart/Howard Hawks classic.
Pork Chop Hill: When it comes to macho directors, you have your John Milius and your Walter Hill. Milius recently had a documentary distributed about him, and Hill returned to filmmaking after a long absence with the Sylvester Stallone film Bullet to the Head. Hill’s The Driver finally made it to Blu-ray, and now his underrated 1981 actioner Southern Comfort gets the dual DVD/Blu-ray treatment. The movie is set in the bayous of Louisiana, where a group of National Guardsmen on a training maneuver are confronted by a pack of raging Cajuns after the men “borrow” their canoes. The altercation leads to an all-out war where the guardsmen’s survival skills are tested. Fred Ward, Powers Boothe, Keith Carradine and Peter Coyote star, and Ry Cooder supplied the fine score. If you liked other Hill efforts like The Warriors, Last Man Standing, The Long Riders or Hard Times, Southern Comfort is definitely worth a shot.
Werner Winner: German filmmaker Werner Herzog has had a career that can’t be categorized, filled with twists and turns. He’s made features in different languages and documentaries; he’s acted in several films; he’s made shorts and experimented with 3-D, and has made commercial Hollywood productions. The varied scope of his output is represented in the limited Blu-ray release of Herzog: The Collection, a 13-disc set. Included are films that give you a look at the iconoclastic auteur’s world view: Even Dwarfs Started Small, Land of Silence and Darkness, Fata Morgana, Aguirre, the Wrath of God, The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser, Heart of Glass, Stroszek, Woyzeck, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Fitzcarraldo, Ballad of the Little Soldier, Where the Green Ants Dream, Cobra Verde, Lessons of Darkness, Little Dieter Needs to Fly, and My Best Fiend. The set adds documentaries, trailers, commentaries and more. This is one of the most impressive releases of the year, designed for the Herzog fan that has everything.
Television Tidbits: Some impressive TV movies—recent and of the classic type—are arriving on DVD in the near future.
Rosemary’s Baby (2014): A mini-series translation of Ira Levin’s story (and Roman Polanski’s creepy movie), re-set in Paris, with Zoe Saldana as the pregnant woman who believes Satanists live in her building and are out to nab her child after it is born.
The Normal Heart (2014): Long in the works, this acclaimed adaptation of Larry Kramer’s play stars Mark Ruffalo as an activist trying to get out the facts as the AIDS epidemic ran rampant during the Reagan years. Julia Roberts is the caring doctor who befriends Ruffalo, and the rest of the cast includes Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Alfred Molina and Taylor Kitsch.
Friendly Fire (1974): Acclaimed TV movie is a riveting true story about an Iowa couple (Carole Burnett and Ned Beatty) striving to find out the truth about the circumstances surrounding their son’s death in the Vietnam War.
The Elephant Man (1982): Phillip Anglim is superb in this television adaptation of the Broadway play about John Merrick, a deformed man exploited by those around him, who is saved by some thoughtful caregivers.
Lynch Mob: Everything that has to do with anything regarding David Lynch’s groundbreaking, idiosyncratic early ‘90s ABC drama can be found on Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery. Included on this 10- disc Blu-ray compendium are fantastic extras like documentaries, deleted scenes and the feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. It’s a must-have for fans of the show which tried to answer the question “Who killed Laura Palmer?,” a sensation that featured Kyle MacLachlan, Sherilyn Fenn, Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Jack Nance, Michael Ontkean and Joan Chen.
Barry Town: Based on a 1965 TV movie called Fame is the Name of the Game, The 1968-1971 NBC series The Name of the Game rotated its spotlight on three characters who worked at a Los Angeles publishing firm. Gene Barry played the company’s publisher, Anthony Franciosa was a skilled investigative reporter for (fictitious) People Magazine, and Robert Stack served as the editor for Crime Magazine, while Susan Saint James was the assistant for all of them. Intriguing plots, a cool theme song (by David Grusin) and great guest stars (Zsa Zsa Gabor, Carter, John Saxon, Robert Loggia, Larry Storch, Susan Oliver and Darren McGavin among them) made the show a slick winner, and the first 26 episodes can be found on The Name of the Game: Season One.
The Windy City Way: Dick Wolf’s Chicago P.D.: Season One, a crossover from his Chicago Fire, surveys the detectives and cops at a rough precinct in Chicago where everyday life is unpredictable and dangerous. Jason Beghe, Jon Seda, Sophia Bush and Jesse Lee Soffer star in this gripping series, offered in a four-disc set.
Where Wolves: Bitten: The Complete First Season is the SyFy Channel hit centering on a female werewolf who attempts to leave her clan for the world of humans, where she has a boyfriend and works as a photographer. The problem is that she keeps getting pulled back into her pack’s supernatural problems in this adaptation of the popular Women of the Otherworld Young Adult novels. All 13 episodes are available in this four disc package which stars Laura Vandervoot, Greyston Holt and Greg Burk.
It’s Millers Time: A funny situation comedy from Greg Garcia (“My Name is Earl”), The Millers: Season One stars Will Arnett as a TV reporter who has separated from his wife and moved back into his old house with parents Margo Martindale and Beau Bridges. Arnett’s faltering marriage seems to put his dysfunctional family—including vegan restaurateur sister Jayma Mays—in the mood for lifestyle changes of their own, that are hilarious and disturbing at the same time.