Criterion Corner: “The Rolls Royce of DVD and Blu-ray Companies” is really spreading its wings in regard to the variety of titles they are releasing. Once the home of classic, foreign and independent offerings, Criterion still specializes in those things—and, now, a whole lot more. Consider the upcoming release of The Big Chill (1983), the ensemble comedy from Lawrence Kasdan about a couple of college pals who reunite after of their crowd commits suicide. Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Tom Berenger, Jeff Goldblum, Glenn Close, JoBeth Williams, and Mary Kay Place are the stars. No, there will not be any of the excised footage of Kevin Costner (who’d been cast as the deceased comrade), but there will be other extras galore… Also Criterion-bound is Scanners (1981), David Cronenberg’s foray into the exploding head genre. Things blow up real good here and, along with the expected dollop of cool add-ons, there’s an early Cronenberg film called Stereo (1969) to check out. Down the road, creepy little critters terrorize experimental psychiatrist Oliver Reed in Criterion’s edition of The Brood (1979), an offering from Canada’s always-disturbing filmmaker that may be his creepiest effort ever…And keeping with horror, Criterion has a treat up its sleeve for Halloween with the arrival of The Innocents (1961). This adaptation of Henry James’ “The Turn of the Screw” is a gothic spooker, with Deborah Kerr as a new governess encountering unnatural circumstances at a country estate. Expect premium extras on this one.
The Horror…The Horror: And speaking of movies designed to scare us, Synapse has acquired the rights to Suspiria (1977), Dario Argento’s eerie outing set in a school for ballet dancers in which bizarre events occur. Jessica Harper is the new American student who faces the horrors. Synapse has hinted this will be THE version of the film to end all previous digital incarnations.
In passing, you can expect other horror outings to make their way to DVD and Blu-ray before Halloween of 2014. There will be special editions of Pumpkinhead (1988) and Pumpkinhead 2 (1993), as well as Roddy McDowall in The Legend of Hell House (1973) and Motel Hell (1980), which reminds viewers that “it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent’s fritters”….If it’s underwater shocks you like, Leviathan (1989) with Peter Weller is floating your way…Paul Williams, in the news recently for his Grammy appearance and a new documentary, has his moment in big screen glory again with the release of a deluxe version of Phantom of the Paradise (1974), Brian De Palma’s cult classic…In Without Warning (1980), a group of folks encounter a bounty hunter from another planet. Martin Landau, Jack Palance, Cameron Mitchell, Neville Brand, Ralph Meeker and Larry Storch as “The Scoutmaster” star.
Request Line: For years we have received your requests for many titles, and we’re thrilled to tell you that some of them are finally starting to surface on DVD.
Forever Amber (1947): Otto Preminger’s lavish historical drama, based on a saucy bestseller, is loaded with sensuality, duels and lurid material. It is set in the 17th Century, where we focus on the adventures of Linda Darnell, an orphan raised by stepfather Leo G. Carroll, who leaves her small town to pursue love and romance in London. Dashing Cornel Wilde and manly Richard Greene are two guerilla fighters she gets close to, and George Sanders is King Charles II, with whom she also becomes acquainted. The rest of a supporting cast that’s as colorful as the lush cinematography includes Richard Haydn, Anne Revere, and Jessica Tandy.
Kentucky (1938): A long-running feud between two Bluegrass State families plays a part in this romantic drama with horse-racing as an important element. Walter Brennan won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his portrayal of a patriarch involved in horse breeding whose niece (Loretta Young) falls in love with horse trainer Richard Greene, a member of the rival clan.
Show Boat (1936): Considered the best version of the Edna Ferber/Oscar Hammerstein/Jerome Kern musical, James Whale’s production set on a showboat travelling the Mississippi stars Irene Dunne as the captain’s daughter and Allan Jones as the dashing gambler who falls for her. The film also stars Paul Robeson as the ship’s cook, who sings “Ol Man River”; Hattie McDaniel, Helen Morgan, Charles Winninger and Helen Westley also star.
Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955): This sentimental favorite stars Jennifer Jones as a strict teacher who surveys the highlights of her life after she takes ill during class. Robert Stack, Chuck Connors and Jerry Paris are among the ex-students who rally to her side.
Best of the West: There’s a fascinating sagebrush double feature trotting our way. The Hills Run Red (1966) is a spaghetti western in which two Confederates try to keep a cache of gold from the Union troops on their trail. Henry Silva and Dan Duryea share the screen with stars Thomas Hunter and Nando Gazzolo, who played Sherlock Holmes in an Italian TV series. It is paired with Robert Aldrich’s saga Apache (1954), in which Native-American warrior Burt Lancaster attempts to settle down with his family after Geronimo is captured, but returns to action after finding that the white man doesn’t want peace. Jean Peters and Charles Buchinsky (Bronson) also star.
Wilder Times for Kino: Kino-Lorber is going Hollywood. The independent/foreign/silent specialist is ushering in a new era by licensing 70 titles from the United Artists library for DVD and Blu-ray.
Among the titles on the docket are two directed by the great Billy Wilder: Witness for the Prosecution (1957), his all-star adaptation of Agatha Christie’s courtroom thriller with Charles Laughton, Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich and Elsa Lanchester; and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970), in which the great sleuth searches for the Loch Ness Monster.
Also on the way are Duel at Diablo (1966), a rugged sagebrush saga with James Garner and Sidney Poitier; Paris Blues (1961), with Poitier and Paul Newman as American jazz musicians in the City of Lights; Coming Home (1978), showcasing Jane Fonda as the wife of a soldier who falls for disabled Vietnam veteran Jon Voight; Marty (1955), winner of Best Picture and Best Actor Oscars, boasting Ernest Borgnine as a lonely butcher looking for romance; and The Scalphunters (1968), a macho oater starring Burt Lancaster as a fur trader who teams with escaped slave Ossie Davis to go against mercenary scalphunter Telly Savalas and his crew.
More info later on these and other Kino titles.
TV Stuff: Reel Dicks: One of the most critically acclaimed series of the last several years is True Detective, which was a ratings winner on HBO and had the water coolers across the country buzzing on Monday morning. While the casts will change each season, the initial entry was set in Louisiana in the mid-1990s and featured Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as homicide detectives tracing the murder of a prostitute. The investigation leads to weird places, disturbing situations and skeletons in the closets of both those under suspicion and the detectives themselves. The three-disc set contains all eight episodes.
Dead Bang: How could you have avoided all of the promotional spots? The much-hyped ABC series Resurrection: The Complete First Season tells of a small Missouri town where residents who’ve been dead for years turn up on their families’ doorsteps without aging since they’ve been seen last. A young boy, thought to have drowned, returns with help from immigration agent Omar Epps, which triggers a series of dramatic events. Kurtwood Smith, Frances Fisher, Matt Craven, Devon Kelly are among the stars. All eight episodes are on two discs.
He’s Gonna Git Ya Sucka!: It all started as a 2009 spoof of Blaxploitation films—tacky tech credits, bad acting, even worse fashions, and cheesy musical score intact. Then it became a comic book, and now this cult animated TV show offers Michael Jai White, the screen’s cool private dick, bringing his voice to Black Dynamite: Season One, as he proves he’s bad and getting badder. Hilarity, zany references and politically incorrect humor blaze across the screen. There are ten episodes from the first season spread over two discs.
Sex Masters General: The smash Showtime series Masters of Sex: The Complete First Season takes a provocative survey of the lives of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the pioneering sex researchers working out of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. The show opens in the late ‘50s, when Masters (Michael Sheen) first hired (Lizzy Caplan) as a research assistant. During their groundbreaking experiments on sensuality and physiology, the two get romantically involved. But will the ups and downs of their real-life relationship have an effect on them? All 12 episodes from its initial season are available on four discs.
Billions and Billions of Facts: We’ll all relate the original Cosmos, a bold and fascinating look at the universe, to late author Carl Sagan. Now, Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, a reimagining and update of the original, has arrived and, with state of the art special effects, it’s a doozy, an eye-opening experience hosted by astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. All 9 ½ hours of this—surprise!—Seth McFarlane production are available in this 12-episode package.
A New Liev: Liev Schreiber takes the title role in Showtime’s Ray Donovan: The First Season, playing a Boston-bred “fixer” who works for a high-powered L.A. law firm specializing in high profile clients. Not only do the actors, athletes, and executives caught in criminal acts or compromising positions provide challenges for Ray, but so does his family, including his two brothers, former boxer Eddie Marsan and drug addict Dash Mihok, and ex-con father Jon Voight. The first 12 episodes of this compelling drama are collected on four discs.