by Bryan Theiss
This week’s new arrivals include some last minute pre-Halloween horror revivals, three loaded special editions of Clint Eastwood westerns, two Michael Caine spy thrillers, a Criterion edition of last year’s best picture winner (including a black and white version), a Thanksgiving comedy, documentaries about movie theaters and The Monster Squad, and much more.
BABYLON BERLIN: SEASONS 1&2 (2017)
Acclaimed German neo-noir series set in 1929, concerning a morphine-addicted combat vet turned vice squad cop and a police clerk by day, flapper by night who dreams of being a homicide detective. Co-created by Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run, Cloud Atlas), based on a series of novels.
THE BLACK CAT (1990)
This very meta Italian horror film from writer/director Luigi Cozzi (Paganini Horror) is about the production of a highly anticipated horror sequel causing the resurrection of an evil witch called Levana. The only person who can stop her from taking over the world is the actress who plays her in the movie (Florence Guérin). Though credited as an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe story and originally released in the U.S. as Demons 6, The Black Cat’s origins are actually in Dario Argento’s Three Mothers trilogy. It started as a Daria Nicolodi script for a followup to Suspiria and Inferno, but Cozzi transformed it from a direct sequel to a tribute to Argento. Severin’s new edition includes an interview with Cozzi and co-star Caroline Munro.
THE CHALK GARDEN (1964)
Hayley Mills plays an emotionally troubled raised by her grandmother (Edith Evans) in a stately English manor. Deborah Kerr plays the mysterious governess who finally gets through to her. From the director of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and the writer of Rear Window. With commentary by film historian Tim Lucas.
Oscilloscope Labs released this indie romantic drama about a woman (Otmara Marrero) staying at her ex’s lake house after a breakup and starting a complicated relationship with a new woman (Sydney Sweeney). Nell Minow of RogerEbert.com described it as “more a mood piece than a narrative, an exploration of the shifting power in relationships.”
DRIFTING (1923) / WHITE TIGER (1923)
Last week we got Outside the Law, one of the hard-boiled crime pictures director Tod Browning (Dracula) did with the actress Priscilla Dean. Here are two more of them. In the first she plays an opium trafficker in a remote Chinese village. In the second, which introduces some of the horror elements Browning would later become known for, she’s part of a group of jewel thieves using a chess-playing automaton to get into rich people’s homes. Includes commentaries by film historians Anthony Slide and Bret Wood and the only remaining footage of the 1919 Browning/Dean film, The Exquisite Thief.
THE FACE AT THE WINDOW (1939)
British horror featuring a killer called Le Loupe and a lecherous schemer played by Tod Slaughter. The Third Man author Graham Greene was a fan: “You find yourself immediately—from the ingenious titling on—in the grip of the fine firm traditional dialogue, the magnificent casting, sets and camerawork which plank you surely back into that vague Victorian period, when anything might happen.” Includes commentary with film historian Jean-Claude Michel.
Abby (Kat Dennings) wants to have a drama-free Thanksgiving with her best friend (Malin Akerman), but then a few other people get invited, and you know how it goes. The cast includes Jane Seymour, Aisha Tyler, Chelsea Peretti, Margaret Cho and Wanda Sykes.
GOING ATTRACTIONS: THE DEFINITIVE STORY OF THE MOVIE PALACE (2019)
In this strange time when some of us would be overwhelmed with emotions just stepping into the lobby of any soul-less multiplex, here’s a documentary in praise of “the splendor and grandeur” of the great movie palaces of yore, “built when movies were the acme of entertainment and the stories were larger than life, as were the venues designed to show them.” Elias Savada of Film International calls it a “loving, exhaustive tribute to the large architectural wonders of indoor entertainment.”
GRAVE ROBBERS (1989)
This Mexican horror film inspired by the American slasher movie trend is about teenage grave robbers accidentally reawakening a satanic cult leader who starts butchering people who get in the way of his mission to spawn the son of Satan. Another interesting find from Vinegar Syndrome, who have included an interview with director Rubén Galindo Jr. and a commentary track from the podcast The Hysteria Continues!.
THE GREAT: SEASON 1 (2020)
Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult star as Catherine the Great and the Emperor of Russia in this well-reviewed satirical historical drama created by The Favourite co-writer Tony McNamara, based on his play. Ten episodes.
HIDDEN: SERIES 2 (2018)
Welsh crime drama about two detectives (Sian Reese-Williams and Sion Alun Davies) who investigate the murder of a reclusive former schoolteacher found dead in his bath tub. A group of local teenagers may know more about it than they’re letting on. Six episodes.
HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) (SPECIAL EDITION)
Clint Eastwood stars (and directs) as a more anti than usual anti-hero hired to defend a town from approaching outlaws. Kino’s new special edition is loaded with extras including a commentary by Repo Man director Alex Cox, interviews with stars Marianna Hill, Mitchell Ryan and William O’Connell, a vintage promo called A Man Named Eastwood, Trailers From Hell commentaries by Josh Olson and Edgar Wright, and more.
Honestly I have read several descriptions of this and I’m not totally clear what it is. The box calls it a documentary, but it also seems to be a science fiction film taking place in three timelines? The promotional materials say it “explores deep social issues… such as racism and environmental destruction” and talks about “a dramatic global revolution” called “The Great Transition.” It’s written and directed by Peter Joseph (of the popular/controversial Zeitgeist series) based on his book The New Human Rights Movement.
IPCRESS FILE (1965)
Michael Caine first became a star playing ex-thief turned Cold-War-era spy Harry Palmer investigating a rash of scientists being kidnapped and reappearing brainwashed. (Caine also played Palmer in Funeral in Berlin and Billion Dollar Brain.) This Kino edition features two commentaries (one with director Sidney J. Furie and editor Peter Hunt, the other with film historians Troy Howarth and Daniel Kremer), interviews with Caine and production designer Ken Adams, and more.
JAWS (1975) (45TH ANNIVERSARY)
Finally, one of Steven Spielberg’s top ten most unassailable classics has arrived in the 4K Ultra-High Definition format. Just when you thought it was safe to use a standard blu-ray, we’re gonna need a higher definition TV, etc.
(4K-UltraHD + standard Blu-Ray)
JOE KIDD (1972) (SPECIAL EDITION)
John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) directs Clint Eastwood and Robert Duvall as an ex bounty hunter helping a land owner track down a Mexican revolutionary (the late John Saxon). The screenplay is by the great Elmore Leonard and the score is by Lalo Schifrin. This special edition includes new commentary by Straight to Hell director Alex Cox and interview with co-star Don Stroud, plus trailer and TV and radio spots.
MEMORIAL VALLEY MASSACRE (1989)
John Kerry (not the former secretary of state, but the actor who was in Dolemite), William Smith and Cameron Mitchell star in a wild slasher movie set on a campground. Also known as Memorial Day and Valley of Death, this is its first time on disc. In addition to their usual painstaking restoration, Vinegar Syndrome includes interviews with Kerry and director Robert C. Hughes (Hunter’s Blood).
NEWMAN’S LAW (1974)
George Peppard stars in a gritty ‘70s cop movie about an LAPD detective trying to clear his name after being framed by an international drug syndicate. With commentary by film historian Peter Tonguette and four radio spots.
(We recently got this on DVD and have now added a Blu-Ray)
In Algeria during the civil war of the ‘90s, a young fashion design student defies the oppression of women by trying to put on a fashion show. This has a 90% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and most of the critics who reviewed it seem to expect great things of first time writer/director Mounia Meddour.
PARASITE (2019) (2 VERSIONS) (CRITERION)
By now maybe most of us have seen Bong Joon Ho’s best picture winning film about a family of hustlers insinuating themselves into a rich family as their employees, so we can agree that it’s worthy of this instant canonization via-Criterion edition. I’ll leave it to home theater experts to determine whether the new 4K digital master is anything to get excited about, but they’ve also included the black and white version that Bong was so fond of. That’s interesting. Other features include a commentary with Bong and critic Tony Rayns, conversation between Bong and critic Darcy Paquet, interviews with the director of photography, production designer and editor, a program about the New Korean Cinema movement, Cannes Film Festival press conference, master class featuring Bong, and a storyboard comparison.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
RAPTURE IN BLUE (2020)
Young Jason is feeling pressured by his girlfriend, and questions his sexuality after meeting a boy living in his childhood home. Described as “like a David Lynch thriller through a queer lens.” Runs approximately 50 minutes, plus director commentary, outtakes, making-of, music video and trailer.
REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) / THE CREATURE WALKS AMONG US (1956)
The two sequels to Universal’s The Creature From the Black Lagoon. Revenge of the Creature includes a 3D version and commentary with actress Lori Nelson and film historians Tom Weaver and Bob Burns; The Creature Walks Among Us has a commentary with Weaver and Burns.
S.O.S. TITANIC (1979)
The ‘70s version of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic is heavily researched like the James Cameron version, and also follows the survivors’ lives after the disaster. The all star cast includes David Janssen, Cloris Leachman, Susan Saint James, Ian Holm, Helen Mirren, Harry Andrews and David Warner (who was also in Cameron’s film). This edition includes the 102-minute theatrical cut as well as the 144-minute TV version. With commentary by film historian Evgueni Mlodik, original 1912 newsreel and tour of Titanic sister ship the Olympic.
SECRET WAYS (1961)
An American soldier of fortune (Richard Widmark) helps an anti-communist professor escape Eastern Europe in this black and white spy thriller from director Phil Karlson (Walking Tall). The score is by John Williams! Includes commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell.
TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA (1970) (SPECIAL EDITION)
Right before Dirty Harry, Clint Eastwood and director Don Siegel made this fun western classic with Clint playing a cynical drifter who rescues a nun (Shirley MacLaine) and ends up helping her and her Mexican revolutionary friends attack a French garrison. This includes new 4K restorations of the 104 minute domestic cut and the 113 minute international cut, plus commentary by Walker director Alex Cox, vintage interview At Home with Clint, and radio and TV spots.
WHISTLE BLOWER (1987)
Suspense thriller from the director of Smiley’s People, with regular guy Michael Caine thrust into a government conspiracy after his son, who works for the British Secret Service, is mysteriously murdered. Co-starring John Gielgud as a traitorous spy.
WOLFMAN’S GOT NARDS (2018)
If you know where that title comes from, you might want to see this: a documentary about Fred Dekker and Shane Black’s excellent, initially ignored 1987 cult classic The Monster Squad, a favorite of many Scarecrow staff members. While there have been many cult movie documentaries made by fans, this one is directed and co-written by Andrew Gower, who played the main kid in the movie.
ZOMBIE 5: KILLING BIRDS (1987)
College ornithology students go into the woods to study a rare species of bird. Soon it’s the students who are near-extinct. Produced by Joe D’Amato (Antropophagus). Includes both Italian and English soundtracks, interviews with director Claudio Lattanzi and sound man Larry Revene, and commentary by film historian Samm Deighan. From Vinegar Syndrome.
Expected later this week:
A man and a woman (Thomas Cocquerel and Camille Stopps) wake up in an abandoned sanitarium, severely injured, unsure who they are or what happened. But their caretaker/captor “The Man” (Angus Macfadyen from Braveheart) might know. Allen Adams of the Maine Edge writes, “It’s fun to watch a movie so committed to being what it wants to be. It is exactly what you expect, yet also manages to have a trick or two up its sleeve. Alive is blood-soaked and sinister, a gory good time featuring some B-movie thrills.”
DR. JEKYLL AND SISTER HYDE (1971)
Often considered one of the best from Hammer Studios, Ralph Bates stars as a Dr. Jekyll whose evil alter ego is a beautiful woman played by Martine Beswick. Scream Factory’s new edition includes an interview with Beswick, Inside Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde featurette, and two commentaries: one with film historian Bruce G. Hallenbeck and another with Beswick, director Roy Ward Baker and writer Brian Clemens.
GAPPA: THE TRIPHIBIAN MONSTER (1967)
Trespassers on a forbidden part of Obelisk Island find a bird-lizard egg, bring a baby monster home to Japan, and receive a visit from its giant parents. Though the special effects are by Akira Watanabe, who helped design many of the iconic monsters of the Godzilla series, this is the only kaiju movie from Nikkatsu, the studio most famous for its gangster films. This long out of print cult favorite is presented uncut with a new high definition transfer and option for Japanese or English audio.
THE PLEDGE (2001)
Sean Penn directed this acclaimed thriller starring Jack Nicholson as a soon-to-retire homicide detective who feels obligated to fulfill his promise to the victim’s family when he doesn’t believe the man who confessed and committed suicide is the real killer. How’s this for a supporting cast: Benicio Del Toro, Aaron Eckhart, Patricia Clarkson, Helen Mirren, Tom Noonan, Robin Wright Penn, Vanessa Redgrave, Mickey Rourke, Sam Shepard, Harry Dean Stanton and Dale Dickey!
WATERLOO BRIDGE (1940)
A dancer (Vivien Leigh) and an army captain (Robert Taylor) meet and fall in love while sheltering from an air raid, and plan to get married. But when the dancer hears false reports of the captain’s death during war, she turns to prostitution, her spirit shattered by the time he returns from a P.O.W. camp.