by Bryan Theiss
This week we have some noir, some murder mystery, some WWII, some unsettling documentaries, some Paul Schrader, a couple of super heroes (one animated and Rated R, one live action and LGBT), some very dark comedy, a super-deluxe re-release of a Vin Diesel classic, Flash Gordon in 4K-Ultra HD, and much more!
And hey, remember last week we got in that Criterion box set of the complete films of Agnes Varda? This week we have another incredible blu-ray box set honoring the complete works of an icon of international cinema: Arrow’s Gamera: The Complete Collection. All twelve of the giant flying turtle’s adventures are presented on eight discs, which we’re making available as separate rentals. Scroll to the bottom to see the list of films, or keep reading for non-turtle-related entertainment!
ALI BABA AND THE FORTY THIEVES (1944)
From the director of The Phantom of the Opera comes the spectacular adventure of the former orphan raised by thieves setting out to avenge the murder of his father and reclaim the throne. With new commentary by critic Phillipa Berry.
ALL THE SINS OF SODOM / VIBRATIONS (1968)
Double feature from “the Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street” Joe Sarno. Both films are about artists in New York City – a man working as a fashion photographer, and a woman who’s a poet. These are sexploitation movies renowned for their beautiful photography.
ARABIAN NIGHTS (1942)
New HD transfer of the Oscar-nominated Technicolor epic about half brothers fighting over a woman and a throne. Co-starring Shemp Howard! Includes commentary by critic Phillipa Berry.
A scientist at a secret mountain facility code-named “The Garden” nears completion of an android, hiding that he’s trying to resurrect his late wife. Might be unethical. Starring Theo James, Rhona Mitra and Toby Jones.
Atmospheric western revenge tale from director John Sturges (The Great Escape) and the writer of Red River, starring Richard Widmark, Donna Reed and Harry Morgan. With commentary by film historian Samm Deighan.
BATWOMAN: SEASON 1 (2019)
Ruby Rose (John Wick Chapter 2) stars as a stubborn combat vet who becomes Gotham City’s top vigilante when Bruce Wayne is missing and the police have been replaced by her dad (Dougray Scott)’s private security force. I like that she wears a long red wig to make sure a man doesn’t get credit for her deeds. This takes place in the same world as Arrow and is notable as the first super hero show with a lesbian lead character.
THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW (1971)
The children of a 17th century English village slowly convert into a coven of devil worshipers. And this was way before heavy metal!
BROOKLYN NINE-NINE: SEASON 6 (2013)
18 episodes of the popular work place comedy/cop show from the producers of The Office and Parks and Recreation. After being cancelled by Fox, they were resurrected on NBC with this season.
THE COLLINI CASE (2019)
A young lawyer (Elyas M’barek) stumbles on a vast conspiracy when he’s appointed to defend a 70-year old (Franco Nero) accused of murdering an industrialist. Includes original German audio with English subtitles as well as an English dubbed track.
THE COMFORT OF STRANGERS (1990) (CRITERION)
Rupert Everett and Natasha Richardson play a couple who are on a retreat in Venice to work on their relationship when they’re lured into some weirdness by Christopher Walken and Helen Mirren. Paul Schrader (Mishima, First Reformed) directed the screenplay by Harold Pinter. Criterion’s edition is a new 4K transfer supervised by cinematographer Dante Spinotti, with new interviews with Spinotti, Schrader, Walken and editor Bill Pankow, plus a 1981 interview with novelist Ian McEwan and a 2001 one with Richardson.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
DC NOIR (2019)
An anthology based on the short stories of George Pelecanos, known for his crime fiction as well as writing and producing for The Wire and The Deuce. These suspenseful tales about the dark side of the nation’s capital (well, the other dark side) are all filmed in DC, and for true regional authenticity they have rapper Wale in the cast, a score by Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and go-go music by the Backyard Band.
DEATH IN PARADISE: SEASON 9 (2011)
Detective Inspector Jack Mooney and pals chase stabbers and serial killers in the Caribbean. And then a new detective shows up! What now!? I mean, come on!
DEATHSTROKE: KNIGHTS & DRAGONS: THE MOVIE (2020)
Michael Chiklis provides the voice of Slad “Deathstroke” Wilson, assassin-for-hire using his deadly skills to save his family and atone for past wrongs in the latest DC Comics animated feature. “Rated R for strong bloody violence throughout, some language and brief sexuality/partial nudity.”
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
THE DEEPER YOU DIG (2019)
The 14-year old daughter of a tarot card reader is killed by a neighbor. So she haunts the guy and tries to make sure her mom knows what happened.
THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD: SEASON 1 (2017)
This British dark comedy-drama based on a series of comics by Charlie Covell is about misfit 17-year-olds who run away and go on a road trip together. One piece of relevant information that Alyssa is missing is that her new friend James is a budding psychopath who had initially intended to kill her.
FATHER BROWN: SEASON 8 (2013)
Eight more episodes of mystery in the Cotswolds as the bicycle-riding English priest solves the murders of a beekeeper, a gossip columnist, a nanny, etc.
FLASH GORDON (1980)
Arrow brings us the one of a kind sci-fi fantasy camp rock ’n roll epic in a brand new 4K restoration with extras approved by director Mike Hodges, including a preposterous amount of archival commentaries, interviews and documentaries, deleted scenes, and a new documentary about a Flash Gordon movie that Nicolas Roeg almost made. The standard blu-ray version includes a bonus disc with the 2017 documentary Life After Flash.
(4K ULTRA-HD or standard Blu-Ray)
FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL (1974)
In the sixth and final Hammer Studios Frankenstein movie, the good doctor is sick and tired of being hassled by the normies, so he hides out at a home for the criminally insane, where he can get all the body parts he needs to build a weird, hairy and cool looking monster played by Darth Vader himself, David Prowse.
FRANKY AND HIS PALS (1990)
Intervision has dug up a crazy no budget shot-on-video monster mash shot in Redding, California, and transferred from the original self-distributed VHS for this already sold out limited edition oddity. Dracula, a mummy, Wolfie the Werewolf, Humper the Hunchback and Franky the Monster are released from the cave they’ve been trapped in and get involved in dance numbers, rap theme songs, and other wackiness. Includes interviews with actors, FX artists and musicians, and a music video.
GUEST OF HONOUR (2019)
The latest from writer/director Atom Egoyan (Chloe, Felicia’s Journey, The Sweet Hereafter) involves a teacher (Laysla De Oliveira) jailed for a crime she didn’t commit, but refusing help from her father (David Thewlis) because she feels she deserves to be punished for something else she did do.
GWENDOLINE (1984) (2 VERSIONS)
Director Just Jaeckin (Emmanuelle, The Story of O)’s kinky cult favorite starring Tawny Kitaen (Bachelor Party, Whitesnake videos) as a runaway nun on a mission to find her missing father in the Land of the Yik Yak. New uncut 4K scan from a print recently discovered in a Paris vault, with alternate U.S. version, commentaries by Jaeckin and Kitaen (with co-star Brent Huff), and several interviews with the director, creators of the source comic strip, production designer and more.
HOW TO BUILD A GIRL (2019)
In this coming of age comedy based on the novel by Caitlin Moran, Beanie Feldstein (Booksmart, Lady Bird) plays an eccentric ‘90s teen who escapes her boring life by reinventing herself as an impossible-to-please rock critic named Dolly Wilde. Co-starring Alfie Allen, Paddy Considine, Jameela Jamil, Emma Thompson and Chris O’Dowd.
JETT: SEASON 1 (2019)
At least two staff members have told me to watch this Cinemax series starring the always-great Carla Gugino as a master thief who’s trying to stay straight after the birth of her daughter, but Giancarlo Esposito enlists her for a jewel heist in Cuba.
LIFE IS A LONG QUIET RIVER (1988)
The most popular French comedy of the ‘80s is about a rich family and a poor one who discover their 12 year olds were switched at birth. With newly translated subtitles and archival interviews with the director, star and producers.
MIKEY (1992) (MVD REWIND COLLECTION)
Last week we finally got a DVD to replace our VHS copy of this cult killer kid movie, and now we’re stepping it up to Blu-Ray! Finally you can watch in state-of-the-art high definition as a family is terrorized by adorable moppet Brian Bonsall, just a few years after his tenure as late-addition little brother Andy on Family Ties. Also starring Hellraiser’s Ashley Laurence and Josie Bissett of Melrose Place. You may remember the tagline: “Remember… Jason and Freddy were kids once, too!” They also used, “With evil, size doesn’t matter!”
MILITARY WIVES (2019)
Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan star as women from different backgrounds who form a choir for military wives while their partners are serving in Afghanistan. From the director of The Full Monty.
OLD BOYFRIENDS (1979)
How’s this for a team up: the writer of Nashville, Joan Tewkesbury, made her directorial debut with a script by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), cinematography by William Fraker (Rosemary’s Baby) and a score by David Shire (The Taking of Pelham One Two Three). It’s a drama starring Talia Shire as a woman who, after her marriage falls apart, seeks out some of the men from past relationships, including John Belushi (!) and Keith Carradine. Also starring John Houseman, Buck Henry and P.J. Soles. This is a new 4K master with a new commentaries by Tewkesbury and film historian Peter Tonguette.
ON A CLEAR DAY YOU CAN SEE FOREVER (1970)
Vincent Minnelli (Meet Me in St. Louis) directs Barbra Streisand as a woman who goes to a hypnotist (Yves Montand) to kick her smoking habit, and ends up regressing into her past lives. Also starring Bob Newhart and Jack Nicholson.
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF (2020)
A Czech artist goes to meet the career criminal who stole her paintings, and makes him the subject of her work. And it’s a documentary!
PITCH BLACK (2000) (SPECIAL EDITION)
Arrow gives a well-deserved special edition to David Twohy’s sci-fi action gem about space travelers stranded on a desert planet with hungry monsters. Their only hope is to free their convicted murderer prisoner Riddick (Vin Diesel in his breakthrough role). New 4K restoration of both the theatrical and director’s cuts, with two archival commentaries (one with Twohy and Diesel), half a dozen newly filmed interviews, early CG tests, the bonus features from the 2004 DVD, the excellent animated short Dark Fury (from Aeon Flux director Peter Chung), a motion comic, a short prequel narrated by Cole Hauser, a TV special, footage of a promotional dance music event called “Raveworld,” trailers for the movie, its sequels and video game— okay, I just convinced myself I should buy this. But also you can rent it from us.
Speaking of pitch black, this is a very dark British horror comedy about a pregnant woman (director Alice Lowe) whose misanthropic unborn baby tells her to kill. As the cover brags, it has a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes – not bad for something so transgressive. We’ve had an import of this for a while, but now it’s available for region 1. (
RAID ON ROMMEL (1971)
Richard Burton leads a ragtag band of commandos in the WWII action-adventure by director Henry Hathaway. Includes an interview with actor Clinton Green and commentary by film historian Steve Mitchell with Combat Films: American Realism author Steven Jay Rubin.
RED BALL EXPRESS (1952)
Director Budd Boetticher’s WWII film is about the true story of an elite military truck force delivering goods to Patton’s Third Army. With commentary by historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism author Steven Jay Rubin.
Director Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s documentary memoir shows how he dug through his father’s vast archive of home videos to reconstruct and expose generations of abuse. Peter Keough of the Boston Globe wrote, “Throughout it all Neulinger remains undaunted and relentless but also artful, as he shows how cinema can both conceal and reveal, how it can evade the truth, or confront it, and by so doing transcend it.”
RUBIN & ED (1992)
Quirky Salt Lake City indie auteur (and former guest of Scarecrow) Trent Harris (The Beaver Trilogy) is perhaps best known for this hard-to-find weirdo comedy cult favorite starring Crispin Glover and Howard Hesseman on a road trip with a dead cat. Until now it was only available on VHS or on a DVD bought straight from Harris, making this the film’s most significant home video upgrade ever.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF THE LONG ROAD (2019)
A teenager (Sabrina Carpenter, The Hate U Give) who grew up traveling in an RV with her dad and working odd jobs is forced to live on her own. Also starring Danny Trejo and Rusty Schwimmer.
SOLDIER BLUE (1970)
Candice Bergen, Peter Strauss and Donald Pleasence star in a “graphic and uncompromising anti-racist western” about a soldier transporting a white woman whose sympathies, he’s shocked to find, lie more with the Cheyenne she once lived with than the U.S. government he represents. With commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger and Steve Mitchell.
THE TERROR: SEASON 2 (2018)
Subtitled Infamy, this season of the AMC anthology horror drama series is mostly set in a Japanese internment camp, and features George Takei in its primarily Japanese-American cast. Created by Alexander Woo (True Blood) and Max Borenstein (writer of the recent American Godzilla movies).
THOSE WHO DESERVE TO DIE (2019)
Supernatural revenge drama inspired by the novel The Avenger by Thomas De Quincey involves a series of gruesome murders by a caped figure accompanied by a little girl. Includes deleted scenes and promotional video.
TOWN BLOODY HALL (1979) (CRITERION)
Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker (who also teamed on The War Room) directed this documentary about a standing-room-only 1971 New York debate between Norman Mailer and four prominent women: Jacqueline Ceballos, Germaine Greer, Jill Johnston and Diana Trilling. Criterion’s 2K restoration includes a new interview with Hegedus, a 2004 commentary from Hegedus and author Germaine Greer, footage from a 2004 celebration of the film including many of its participants, a 1971 appearance of Mailer on The Dick Cavett Show, and archival interviews with Greer and Mailer.
(DVD and Blu-Ray)
THE VOTE (2020) (AMERICAN EXPERIENCE)
“Women weren’t given the vote – they took it.” The story of the movement that led to the 19th amendment.
WAKE ISLAND (1942)
This best-picture nominated true life drama about a handful of U.S. Marines holding out against an overwhelming Japanese attack is considered to be the first realistic American film about World War II. Includes commentary by historian Steve Mitchell and Combat Films: American Realism author Steven Jay Rubin.
THE WRETCHED (2019)
A rebellious teenager sent to live with his dad for the summer discovers that a malevolent forest spirit is messing with the rental house next door. This indie horror movie from IFC Midnight has the distinction of being the first film since Avatar to top the box office for six weeks in a row (thanks to a release in drive-in theaters during the pandemic). Includes commentary tracks with directors The Pierce Brothers and composer Devin Burrows.
GAMERA: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION
As mentioned above, we’re making all eight discs of Arrow’s beautiful giant turtle Blu-Ray box set available as separate rentals. They’re all high definition 1080p transfers of the movies with choice of original Japanese language with English subtitles or English dub, commentaries, introductions and other extras.
The discs are:
GAMERA THE GIANT MONSTER (1965)
The one that started it all. Includes American Gamera the Invincible version and archival featurettes from 1991 and 2002 (featuring interviews with director Noriaki Yuasa).
GAMERA VS. BARUGON (1966) / GAMERA VS. GYAOS (1967)
Gamera fights a lizard guy and a pterodactyl guy. Includes the American edit of Barugon, War of the Monsters.
GAMERA VS. VIRAS (1968) / GAMERA VS. GUIRON (1969)
Gamera fights a pointy-headed squid guy and a four-legged guy with a giant knife for a head. Includes three different cuts of Viras, new featurette with actor Carl Craig showing his souvenirs and props from Viras, highlights from a 2003 G-Fest convention, and director Noriaki Yuasa’s 1966 Boy Scouts of Japan promotional film The 4th Nippon Jamboree.
GAMERA VS. JIGER (1970) / GAMERA VS. ZIGRA (1971) / GAMERA SUPER MONSTER (1980)
Gamera fights another dinosaur type, a killer shark, and everybody. Super Monster is my favorite giant monster movie – made in desperation after a nine year gap, it collages fights from all the previous movies, a couple inexplicable clips from anime classics, and a new story about “Space Women” disguised as ordinary citizens who shrink themselves to doll size to sleep in a carrying case and befriend a little boy who believes his pet turtle turned into Gamera.
GAMERA THE GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE (1995)
New 4K restoration of the movie that kicked off the best giant monster series of the ‘90s. Director Shusuke Kaneko (Godzilla GMK, Azumi 2, Death Note) revitalized kaiju traditions for a new era with this hugely entertaining, sometimes darkly humorous trilogy that elaborates on traditional “man in suit” and miniature model technologies for the emerging digital age. When Roger Ebert reviewed this one he called it “precisely the kind of movie that I enjoy, despite all rational reasoning” and explained why he found it more entertaining than the #1 movie at the time, Air Force One. The three Heisei trilogy discs include parts 1-3 of the documentary A Testimony of 15 Years.
GAMERA II: ATTACK OF LEGION (1996)
The sequel gets really elaborate, with a really cool new monster antagonist. Includes documentary, on-set footage and comedy dub track.
GAMERA III: REVENGE OF IRIS (1999)
A masterpiece of the genre, Revenge of Iris features a little girl who has a grudge against Gamera because her cat died from one of his destructive battles. So when she finds a strange monster egg she keeps it a secret and names it “Iris” after her fallen pet. This has the period’s best FX combining rubber monster suits with digital enhancement. Includes deleted scenes and a montage of behind-the scenes footage and work-in-progress FX.
GAMERA THE BRAVE (2006)
The final Gamera movie (so far) is directed by Kamen Rider veteran Ryuta Tasaki and takes the Halloween 2018 approach of ignoring most of the series, with Gamera having been dead since sacrificing himself in 1973’s Gamera vs. Gyaos. Fortunately just when the earth could use a giant turtle defense a little boy finds an egg that hatches Gamera’s son Toto. Includes the How to Make a Gamera Movie featurette hosted by Tasaki, a making-of documentary, series retrospective The Men That Made Gamera, a featurette about the premiere, an interview with the film’s young star, and a an FX shot montage.