by Bryan Theiss
This week’s arrivals include horror from Russia and Argentina, German thrillers both old and new, a variety of documentaries, a killer sax player, Megan Fox fighting a lion, Boris Karloff and Rutger Hauer both playing good guys (not in the same movie though), an indigenous Canadian zombie film, anime from the studio that made Mind Game, two Malcolm McDowell movies, two early-‘90s Stephen King adaptations, a swimmer biopic, and much more.
BABA YAGA: TERROR OF THE DARK FOREST (2020)
In this new Russian horror film, a family moves to a new apartment on the outskirts of the city, and their oldest son notices something scary about their new nanny. Specifically that she’s Baba Yaga, terror of the dark forest, I’m guessing!
THE BALCONY (1963)
Customers of a brothel live out their fantasies oblivious to a revolution going on outside in director Joseph Strick (Tropic of Cancer)’s adaptation of a Jean Genet play. The all-star cast includes Shelley Winters, Peter Falk, Leonard Nimoy and Ruby Dee. With commentary by film historian Tim Lucas and a new interview with star Lee Grant.
A BIGGER SPLASH (1974)
A hybrid of improvised fiction and documentary about artist David Hockney at the end of an affair with his American muse Peter Schlesinger. With commentary by director Jack Hazan and two shorts – Love’s Presentation (1962) and Portrait of David Hockney (1972). (Note: This is not the basis of the 2015 film starring Tilda Swinton – that was named after the same painting, but loosely based on the 1969 French film Swimming Pool.)
BLACK CASTLE (1952)
Boris Karloff plays a doctor, but not a mad one – he’s the hero trying to rescue his friends trapped in a castle by a sinister Austrian count (Stephen McNally). New 2K scan from a fine grain film element, with commentary by author/film historian Tom Weaver and a new featurette about Universal Horror in the ‘40s. (From Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 6 box set.)
BLACK GRAVEL (1961)
A hard boiled German film set in a vice district in post-WWII Germany, where men work in the black market and women serve as entertainment for American soldiers. It was re-edited after people were upset by its frank depiction of antisemitism – this release includes both the censored and original versions, plus commentary by film historian Olaf Möller.
BLACK TEST CAR (1962) / BLACK REPORT (1963)
Arrow presents a double feature by director Yasuzo Masumura (Blind Beast). Black Test Car is a satire about a bitter war of industrial espionage between two car companies, while Black Report is a police procedural and court room drama about the murder of a food company boss. Includes a new critical appreciation by Jonathan Rosenbaum.
BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)
Believe it or not, Canadian writer/director Jeff Barnaby has come up with a new spin on the zombie genre; this is about the residents of a First People’s reservation who find they’re immune to the zombie outbreak, set up an island compound and have disagreements about whether or not to shelter uninfected white people. In the classic George Romero tradition it has plenty to say, but not at the expense of delivering the goods with gory zombie encounters and cool hero characters like the sheriff turned leader played by Michael Greyeyes (True Detective). We also have Barnaby’s first film, Rhymes For Young Ghouls (2013).
BREWSTER’S MILLIONS (1985)
Shout Select presents a collector’s edition of Walter Hill’s ‘80s version of this oft-remade tale of a regular guy inheriting a bunch of money with weird stipulations about how to spend it. In this case Richard Pryor plays a minor league ball player who has to figure out how to spend every penny of $30 million within 30 days without giving it away, investing it or telling anyone he’s trying to go broke. John Candy is very funny as his catcher friend. Includes new commentary by Critically Acclaimed podcast hosts William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold, new interview with screenwriter Herschel Weingrod, and a full 1945 version of the same story starring Dennis O’Keefe and Helen Walker.
BRITANNIA HOSPITAL (1982)
Director Lindsay Anderson and star Malcolm McDowell conclude their series on the character Mick Travis from if… and O Lucky Man! as he becomes the victim of a Frankenstein-type experiment in this sci-fi black comedy. With commentary by film historian Samm Deighan and an interview with McDowell about Anderson.
CHILDREN OF THE SEA (2019)
Based on the manga of the same name, Children of the Sea tells the story of a junior high student on summer vacation who meets mysterious brothers with a connection to supernatural phenomena happening in and near the sea. Animation by Studio 4°C (Mind Game, Tekkonkinkreet) and a score by Miyazaki’s regular composer Joe Hisaishi.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
CITY OF THE SUN (2017)
Meditative documentary about the residents of a near-ghost town in Chiatura, Georgia that once supplied more than half the world’s supply of manganese. “Brings to mind scenes from Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, infusing the post-industrial environment with a post-apocalyptic feeling,” writes Eurobeam.
CULT OF THE COBRA (1955)
A woman who can turn into a cobra (Faith Domergue) haunts American soldiers after they intrude on a Hindu ceremony. New 2K scan from a fine grain film element, with commentary by film historians Tom Weaver, Steve Kronenberg, David Schecter and Rober J. Kiss, and TV spots. (From Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 6 box set.)
CUT OFF (2018) (UNRATED EDITION)
After a coroner finds his daughter’s phone number inside the skull of a murder victim he must follow a trail of clues to rescue her from a deranged killer. Based on the international best-seller by Sebastian Fitzek and Michael Tsokos, and directed by Christian Alvart (Antibodies, Pandorum). Includes options to watch in German with English subtitles or dubbed into English.
THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK (1933)
Fredric March, Cary Grant and Carole Lombard star in an anti-war drama about rival WWI pilots. With new commentary by author/film historian Lee Gambin and actress/film historian Rutanya Alda.
ENTER THE FORBIDDEN CITY (2018)
Two exiled opera singers risk their lives to perform for the Emperor Qianlong’s 80th birthday celebration in this origin story of Peking Opera from director Hu Mei (Confucius).
FULCI FOR FAKE (2019)
The first biographical documentary of Italian horror legend Lucio Fulci, told through interviews, home movies and behind-the-scenes footage as an actor (Nicola Nocella) conducts research to play him. This is released by Severin, so it has tons of special features, including more home movies (with commentary), audio tapes, outtakes, and interviews with director Simone Scafidi and Fulci’s daughter Camilla.
GIRL CRAZY (1943) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland’s ninth and final film together was this adaptation of the George & Ira Gershwin stage musical about putting on a show with the Tommy Dorsey band to save a small agricultural college. Songs include “But Not For Me” and “I Got Rhythm.”
GRAVEYARD SHIFT (1990)
A mysterious large creature and/or a whole lot of rats terrorize the employees of a textile mill at night in this adaptation of a short story from Stephen King’s Night Shift collection. Brad Dourif shows up as “The Exterminator.”
HO, DENISE: BECOMING THE SONG (2020)
Documentary about Denise Ho, a Hong Kong-based Cantopop singer who was arrested and blacklisted for supporting the students of the Hong Kong free elections movement. Director Sue Williams follows her on her 2017 tour of the UK and North America, as she tries to rebuild her career, before the protests explode again in 2019.
Jon Stewart wrote and directed this political comedy starring his Daily Show cohort Steve Carrell as a Washington DC political consultant. After being impressed by a Marine Colonel’s speech in a viral video, he tries to get him to run for mayor as a Democrat in his rural Wisonscin town, leading to various cultural tensions. Co-starring Rose Byrne, Chris Cooper, Mackenzie Davis, Topher Grace and Natasha Lyonne.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
KIDDING: SEASON 2 (2018)
Final season of Showtime’s Michel-Gondry-produced dark comedy starring Jim Carrey as a beloved children’s puppet show host adapting to life after a tragedy. Episodes are directed by Gondry, Jake Schreier (Robot & Frank), Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry) and Bert & Bertie (Troop Zero).
MARIN, MAGUY: TIME TO ACT (2019)
Documentary about “one of the most important figures in French modern dance,” with live footage and interviews. “The son of the experimental choreographer Maguy Marin covers her revolt against conventional beauty, her love of the grotesque and the awkward, her political principles and struggles, in this career documentary. “
MILLION DOLLAR MERMAID (1952) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
American swimming champ turned entertainer Esther Williams stars in a biopic of Australian swimming champ turned entertainer Annette Kellerman. Directed by Mervyn Leroy (Gypsy, Quo Vadis, Mister Roberts), co-starring Victor Mature and Walter Pidgeon, and featuring choreography by Busby Berkeley.
THE NEWSPAPERMAN: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF BEN BRADLEE (2017)
HBO documentary about the legendary Washington Post editor who published the Pentagon Papers and helped break open the Watergate scandal, or as we know him around here, “the guy Tom Hanks played in The Post.” (The Post is really good if you haven’t seen it.)
OUR TIME WILL COME (2017)
Zhou Xun stars as a school teacher who becomes involved with resistance guerrillas in Japanese-occupied Hong Kong. Directed by Ann Hui (July Rhapsody, Night and Fog, The Golden Era).
THE OUTPOST (2020)
Caleb Landry Jones, Orlando Bloom and the sons of Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson play some of the small team of American soldiers attacked by hundreds of Taliban fighters at “the deadliest outpost in Afghanistan.” Directed by Rod Lurie (Deterrence, The Contender), based on the “untold story of American valor” book by CNN’s Jake Tapper.
PAT AND MIKE (1952) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
Romantic comedy about a sports promoter (Spencer Tracy) who signs a golfer (Katharine Hepburn). Co-starring Aldo Ray, featuring Charles Bronson (when he was still Buchinski), Jim Backus and Chuck Connors, directed by George Cukor (A Star Is Born, My Fair Lady) and co-written by Ruth Gordon, who received an Oscar nomination for it.
RAGING MOON (1971)
Malcolm McDowell stars in a romantic drama about a man who mysteriously loses the ability to walk and strikes up a relationship in a convalescent home. With commentary by film historian/filmmaker Daniel Kremer.
Surprisingly well-reviewed action vehicle for Megan Fox (Jennifer’s Body), who plays a mercenary trapped during a mission in Africa and hunted by a lion. Directed by M.J. Bassett (Deathwatch, Solomon Kane), written with her daughter Isabel. “Fox is a strong heroic presence, bringing a bit more emotional depth to her performance than I anticipated,” writes Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak.com.
SANTIAGO, ITALIA (2018)
Documentary about the 1973 coup d’État that ended Salvador Allende’s democratically elected government in Chile and the Italian Embassy’s part in relocating citizens targeted by the new fascist regime. (DVD)
SHADOW OF THE CAT (1961)
A cat must avenge the murder of its owner by her servants and husband (Andre Morell). New 2K scan from a fine grain film element with commentary by author/film historian Bruce G. Hallenback, new interview with star Barbara Shelley and TV spot. (From Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 6 box set.)
SPLIT SECOND (1992)
Rutger Hauer stars as a burnt out homicide detective hunting a monstrous serial killer in this ‘90s sci-fi cult classic set in the futuristic year 2008. MVD Rewind Collection’s special edition features a new 4K transfer and a ridiculous bounty of special features including commentary by action film historian Mike Leeder, interviews with producers, actors, the composer, creature effects designer and cinematographer, plus the original 1992 making-of special, a 95 minute Japanese cut, deleted scenes, promos, and trailers.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
STREAMLINERS COLLECTION V.4: THE MUSICALS (1942)
This latest collection of streamliners (producer Hal Roach’s series of movies designed to be longer than shorts but shorter than features) includes All American Co-ed (1941), Fiesta (1941) and Flying with Music (1942).
STRIKE BACK: SEASON 7 (2010)
The final season of the Cinemax action series has the team on a mission to contain a stolen virus and coming into conflict with terrorist brothers possessing an even deadlier weapon.
SUBWAY RIDERS (1981)
A New York City psycho (John Lurie) lures his victims to deserted places by playing saxophone, then shoots them. Robbie Coltrane, Susan Tyrrell and Lydia Lunch co-star. Written and directed by NYC No Wave pioneer Amos Poe (The Blank Generation, Alphabet City).
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE: THE MOVIE (1990)
Scream Factory brings us a collector’s edition of the slept-on horror anthology written by Michael McDowell (Beetlejuice) and horror master George Romero, based on stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and Stephen King. The cast includes Debbie Harry, Steve Buscemi, Julianne Moore, Christian Slater, William Hickey, David Johansen, James Remar, Rae Dawn Chong and Robert Klein. This edition includes a commentary by co-producer David R. Kappes, a feature length making of documentary, and more. Trivia: director John Harrison not only composed the score for Romero’s Day of the Dead, but played the screwdriver zombie in Dawn of the Dead.
Acclaimed Argentinian horror film about a neighborhood in Buenos Aires plagued by crazy supernatural business, beginning with a women hearing voices from her sink. Germain Lussier of io9 praises it as, “A very unique and surprising horror film. It not only delivers legitimate scares from beginning to end, it also has delightfully disgusting images, interesting characters, and a fascinating story.”
THE THING THAT COULDN’T DIE (1958)
You know how it is – you’re a psychic and you dig up a crate that’s been buried on your aunt’s ranch for hundreds of years and inside you find the head of a 16th century devil worshipper and it’s still alive. Shenanigans ensue. New 2K scan from a fine grain film element with commentary by authors/film historians Tom Weaver and C. Courtney Joyner. (From Scream Factory’s Universal Horror Collection: Vol. 6 box set.)
THE VAGRANT (1992)
The late great Bill Paxton stars as a businessman who buys a new house and is harassed and driven crazy by the drifter (Marshall Bell) who was previously squatting there. This darkly comic cult classic thriller was directed by special effects makeup genius Chris Walas (The Fly II).
VIRAL: ANTISEMITISM IN FOUR MUTATIONS (2020)
PBS documentary about the ways antisemitism is spreading across the US and Europe, “mutat[ing] across cultures, borders and ideologies, making it all but impossible to stop.”
THE WILD GOOSE LAKE (2019)
Acclaimed Chinese crime-noir about a small time mobster hiding out in Wuhan after he accidentally kills a cop and has to hide from the police as well as criminals who want to claim a bounty on him. Jonathan Romney of Screen Daily writes, “This hyper-stylish manhunt drama laces slow-burn atmospherics with abrupt outbursts of staccato action, and boils down characterization to the leanest of bare bones, making for minimalist existentialism in the style of Jean-Pierre Melville.” From the director of Black Coal, Thin Ice.
WITHOUT LOVE (1945) (WARNER ARCHIVE)
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn star in a romantic comedy about a WWII era scientist and his assistant in a marriage of convenience. Also starring Keenan Wynn, Lucille Ball and Gloria Grahame.
When a kid exhibits destructive behavior that he blames on his imaginary friend Z, his mother medicates him, only to find that now Z wants her to be his friend. Come on, Z. Leave these people alone. Meagan Navarro of Bloody Disgusting says, “Z offers up a fairly familiar premise, but it does deliver on atmosphere, chills, and a couple of memorable moments that had the audience gasping.” We also have another movie by the same director called Still/Born.