A few years ago when discussing giving people DVDs and Blu-rays for gifts, I was met with a sense of skepticism. Why would want a to clutter up their shelves with shiny discs when all those movies and TV shows will be streaming on various internet sites. When the networks/movie studios launched their apps, people were under the impression that all their shows would be a click away. That seemed to be a major selling point when they various streaming services were launched. But then reality happened. Those rare films you like were never put up. A TV series would be missing seasons. I won’t mention the company, but they began to yank down series without a warning. Frustrated viewers wanted to know what they could do? The answer was to buy the DVD and Blu-ray so what you enjoy doesn’t vanish on the whim of a network stooge.
The best new is that there are so many smaller and boutique labels that create Blu-rays and DVDs that are more than just the movie. They champion the movies with bonus features that give a context to the movie, allow the filmmakers to speak about their experiences and let film historians explain why an obscure film deserves a bigger audience. They upgrade the transfers, so they look better on your large screen TV than when they came to your town on a well-used 35mm print.
Physical media is your way to have a little control over the TV shows and movies you enjoy instead of paying every month to subscribe to a dozen studio-controlled services. Blu-rays, DVDs and 4K UHDs are the perfect gift for the entertainment rebel in your life.
The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Series & The Bionic Woman: The Complete Series on Blu-ray (Shout! Factory)
If you grew up in the ’70s, there was no cooler shows on TV than The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. A generation rejoiced in 2010 when The Six Million Dollar Man was released on DVD and 2011 when The Bionic Woman came out. The show began in 1973 as a series of TV movies about Col. Steve Austin (Lee Majors) being an astronaut/test pilot who nearly dies in the crash of an experimental spaceship. The only thing keeping him alive is the revolutionary bionic legs, arm and eye created by Dr. Rudy Wells (played by Martin Balsam in the pilot, Alan Oppenheimer until the first episode of Season 3 and Martin E. Brooks for the rest of the way). The Bionic program is overseen by Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) who is Director of the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). After he gets the six-million-dollar operation, Steve Austin finds himself working as a secret agent. He has the speed, power and scope to do things a normal agent can’t approach. He was like James Bond with his gadgets under his skin. His super-robotic power became all the rage on playgrounds as kids would make the Bionic noise as they ran or lifted things. Towards the end of the second season, Steve Austin would reunite with his longtime love Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner). She was a tennis pro and their love is rather awkward since her parents died when she was in high school and Steve’s parents raised her since she was so close to Steve. The duo decide to marry this time around. Except during skydiving fun, Jaime’s parachute fails. At Steve’s request, Jaime’s put into the bionic program. Things go great as they become a superhero couple except her body begins to reject the robotic elements. Her character was only supposed to be a one-off character. But the ratings for the two-part special soared. ABC not only wanted her back, but given her own spin-off series. Thus after halfway through the third season, Jaime returns, she quickly departed for The Bionic Woman. While her show also featured her doing espionage missions for Oscar Goldman and OSI, Jaime brought a deeper element compared to The Six Million Dollar Man. She lived with two major fears: what if her body rejects the bionics again and how does she emotionally fit in with society when she’s part robot. There’s an emotional tone shift between the shows. The shows did have a few crossover episodes including them dealing with Bigfoot and the Fembots. While the ratings were good, ABC decided to cut The Bionic Woman after two seasons. NBC picked up the show for its third season. Because of the change, Steve and Jaime weren’t allowed on each other’s shows although Oscar Goldman was in charge of both. The final season gave Jaime a bit of a love interest in Chris Williams (Cujo‘s Christopher Stone). He was a normal agent so he had to deal with Jaime’s extraordinary powers. Both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman came to an end in the spring of 1978. But the attraction between Steven and Jaime wasn’t over as they appeared in three TV movies that featured early performances from Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and Sandra Bullock. Both boxsets contain the three reunion movies and Bryan Cranston discussing his role as a doctor. Shout! Factory has really upgraded the transfers for both The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman. You get plenty of detail on the screen that wasn’t around in 1977. You’ll swear you’re watching the episodes with Steve Austin’s bionic eye and listening to the sounds with Jaime Sommers bionic ear. There’s plenty of bonus features to take you back to the ’70s when Bionic was all the rage on the playground.
Belle: Collector’s Edition 4K UHD (Shout! Factory) Suzu (Kaho Nakamura/Kylie McNeill) is a shy and troubled schoolgirl. She wasn’t always this way. But a bad situation involving her mother caused her to become sullen. She no longer sang or wrote songs in the wake of the incident. She only has only a few friends at school and very little social life. Her friend Hiro gets her to sign up for a virtual metaverse known as “U.” Part of what makes this VR world popular is that instead of picking an avatar and assuming a secret identity, the computer uses a bio scan to determine what you are fully capable of being and creates a character around those elements. For Suzu, she becomes Bell, a woman with pink hair and a beautiful singing voice. She can sing again in the virtual city. She quickly becomes popular. She also brings out the haters because on the internet, the haters come out fast no matter what you’re doing. This doesn’t do her fragile psyche well, but her close friend tells her to focus on the good response. She keeps on performing and getting big enough that fans call her Belle since it’s fancier. One of her concerts gets ruined by a melee with The Dragon. It’s not a cyber world without a form of moral combat popping up. She gets curious about this fighter who is equally as popular as her Belle. What is real identity? Belle also lives with the fear that her real identity will be exposed by others. She can’t be the shy Suzu at school. When the Blu-ray of Belle came out last Spring, the animated film begged to be upgraded to 4K UHD for the tale about the virtual world. Shout! Factory and GKIDS are adding even more to the boxset including an extra Blu-ray disc with even more bonus features. There’s also a booklet, poster, art cards and a sticker. The Belle: Collector’s Edition boxset allows you to get immersed into the tale of an immersive experience.
The Deer King (GKIDS and Shout! Factory) The Deer King is an epic yet intimate tale of this world with invading armies and a deadly disease. Even when things zoom out to show major confrontations between armies, the story comes back to Van and Yuna’s relationship. He is a man who has lost his own wife and child and has a chance to protect his adopted daughter against so much. There is a bit of surprise that the MPAA rated The Deer King with an R. Somehow the animated violence was too much for their tender eyeballs. Nothing in the film feels more graphic than a PG-13 movie.
Three Films From Celebrated Filmmaker Makoto Shinkai
When you enjoy an imported animated film, there’s an instinct to immediately track down the director’s earlier work. Sometimes this is a tough thing since their previous films might not have been imported or are out-of-print and cost a small fortune on the secondhand market. After watching Weathering With You, I really was curious about Makoto Shinkai. Luckily Shout! Factory and GKIDS were already with Blu-ray editions of Shinkai’s first three films.
The Place Promised in Our Early Days (GKIDS) is Makoto Shinkai’s first feature film. This science fiction epic has Japan being split in half after World War II. A giant and mysterious tower is constructed that captivates a group of 9th graders Years later one of the kids gets sick and falls into a coma. The others decide that the tower has something to do with it. They adapt a drone plane so that they can investigate the truth of what is going on.
5 Centimeters Per Second (GKIDS) tells the story of relationship in three acts. During elementary school, Takaki Tōno becomes friends with Akari Shinohara. The duo both have allergies which keep them indoors during P.E. time. As time goes by, the end up in different place. During a winter break, the duo makes a plan to meet up, but a snowstorm hampers their travel plans. This is a story about two people who have to come to terms that timing just doesn’t work out well for them. Will things ever go right so both can be together? Makoto Shinkai creates a world where these two can be so madly in love and keep missing the connection. It’s a beautiful film. One of the bonus features includes his early short film Voices Of A Distant Star.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices (GKIDS & Shout! Factory) has Asuna Watase, an elementary school student dealing with the loss of her father. While her mother is working as a nurse, she finds herself listening to music on a radio that her father gave her. During one of her journeys in nature, she encounters a boy who saves her from a strange creature. Eventually she finds herself being taken to a mysterious place where the dead can come back to life. The process of bringing someone back to life involves a catch that might be too much for Asuna. Once more Makoto Shinkai has created a fascinating world worth descending within. If you enjoyed Weathering With You, these three earlier films are essential viewing.
Panda! Go Panda! (GKIDS & Shout! Factory) might seem like a goofy kids cartoon, but it is the monumental uniting of two filmmaker that would change how Japanese animation would be received around the world. The just over 30 minute film was created in the wake of China loaning Japan a few pandas in 1972. Kids love pandas so why wouldn’t they embrace a fun movie about pandas? That’s what brought together director Isao Takahata and screenwriter Hayao Miyazaki. One morning after being left alone, a girl Mimiko discovers a large panda and his child panda have found her house because she has plenty of bamboo growing in the yard. Miyazaki also worked on the layout of the films. The movie was such a success that they studio made a sequel with the duo in 1974. Panda! Go Panda! Rainy Day Circus has a tiny tiger from a nearby circus wander into Mimiko’s house. Later in the film Mimiko and the Pandas have to rescue the circus animals after a flood. Takahata and Miyazaki reunited on the project. Eventually the duo would team up to form Studio Ghibli. The bonus features includes a 1994 special with the animators talking about their careers together. This double feature is an interesting peek into what the duo did before they became award winning feature film animation directors.
If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli, more of their films have been released on SteelBooks in the last year including Only Yesterday, The Tale of Princess Kaguya and When Marnie Was There.
FernGully: The Last Rainforest (30th Anniversary Edition) (Shout! Factory) FernGully: The Last Rainforest has maintained both its message and charm over the last 30 years. It’s a beautifully animated film. The rainforest has such lush textures on the screen. You do want it to be preserved from the various buzz saws that slice apart the trees. Robin Williams’ manic performance as Batty Koda is memorable. He’s flying as much as the character including his “Batty Rap” segment. The 30th Anniversary Blu-ray is perfect if you were a fan as a kid when it came or if you want to share the film with your own children today. There’s enough magic and harsh reality to keep the story engrossing. FernGully: The Last Rainforest – 30th Anniversary Edition is vital for both its heart felt message and being Robin Williams’ first animated film.
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon (Shout! Factory) Things are a bit odd around Farmer John’s fields. Shaun the Sheep and his friends want to have a cookout, but get stopped. Shaun decides to save the evening by ordering pizzas to be delivered. That gets complicated when most of the order gets intercepted by Blitzer, the farm dog and a mysterious third party. Who is the mysterious third party? Farmer John and Blitzer found a crop circle in the fields. Is there an alien on the loose? When Shaun discovers a trail of pizza crusts, he’s led to a strange colored dog named Lu-La that doesn’t look local. He and Shaun became fast friends and cause havoc on the farm. Also causing problems are government agents lurking in the area after finding evidence of an alien encounter. Things get even more bizarre when Shaun, Lu-La and Blitzer take a spin in the UFO.
Goodbye, Don Glees! (GKIDS & Shout! Factory) Goodbye, Don Glees! is an animated coming of age story about three teenage boys that take a massive adventure in the woods. This is director Atsuko Ishizuka’s first feature film. There is a glow to this tale that includes a forest fire and a bear encounter. Goodbye, Don Glees! comes out in December in various home video formats.
Old Henry 4K UHD (Shout! Factory) Tim Blake Nelson is back on the cinematic range. After being the title character in the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Tim Blake Nelson puts back on his spurs and visits the Wild West in Old Henry. He plays a simple farmer who might have a complicated past. When he finds himself with a satchel filled with cash and people claiming to be lawmen, he’s not quite sure who to trust besides his trusty gun. The western has been upgraded to 4K UHD so you can feel the frontier on your TV screen. Tim Blake Nelson delivers another gritty performance.
Child’s Play 4K UHD (Scream Factory) upgrades the resolution of the first three of the Chucky movies. During the winter of 1985, a most horrific thing appeared under Christmas trees. Elementary school boys were given an almost as big as them. It was called My Buddy and it was a full-fledged doll. After decades of action figures, boys were embracing a doll and dragging them all over town as if they were their new best friend. It was quite creepy to see this since I’d wonder which one was the plastic doll and who was the child. It was spooky when one of the heads moved. I must not have been the only person given a scare by My Buddy. In the Fall of 1988, moviegoers were given the true nightmare of My Buddy when Good Guys were introduced in Child’s Play and one of them went bad. Forget Die Hard. Child’s Play is the real Christmas movie for the whole family.
Sesame Street: My Favorite Holidays! (Shout! Factory) The compilation program starts with Halloween and takes your kid to New Year’s Eve. It’s around two months of special events and plenty of holidays. Grover gets a bit of a quiz about the various holidays that are celebrated during the year. Elmo goes trick or treating on Sesame Street and gets freaked out by someone wearing a cooler version of his costume. Rosita gives her friends the meaning behind El Día de Los Muertos or The Day of the Day. The Muppets make the holiday less scary than the title suggests. There’s a group Thanksgiving party where all the residents of the street bring foods that are special to them. Leon Bridges sings about the holiday with Elmo. Cookie Monster has a food truck and shows us how to make an Apple Pie starting with getting apples from an orchard. Gonger is a new chef character. Elmo’s World gets into the winter holidays. Oscar introduces us to Crankymas, the official Grouch holiday. Kwanzaa gets explained as to what is done on the various nights. Cookie Monster does his variation of the 12 Days of Christmas. It has plenty of cookies. Kids explain holidays such as the Korean Harvest Moon Festival, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Eid, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We see how the Muppets and people get excited about celebrating New Year’s Eve on the street. The Count and Cookie Monster team up to count some cookies. Elmo has to figure out how to stay awake until midnight.
Three Wishes For Cinderella (Shout! Factory) Three Wishes For Cinderella doesn’t fall back on elements in other versions. She doesn’t have a Fairy Godmother that pops out of nowhere to get her into the ball. She leaves the ball for a reason other than the clock striking midnight. The ending is much more action packed as the Stepmother comes up with an evil scheme to dupe the Prince into marrying her daughter. Cinderella doesn’t have to run down the stairs and show off her foot to get the glass slipper. There’s an icy chase, jeopardy, dangling and weaponry. This is the kind of Cinderella story that you can watch with your kids during the upcoming holiday season. The tweaks on the story remove the feeling that you’ve seen this story hundreds of times before. Three Wishes For Cinderella alters the elements of the classic story without losing the love at its core.
Charmed: The Original Series Blu-ray (Paramount) brings the witching sisters to 1080p. The series started in 1998 with the three Halliwell sisters, Prue (Beverly Hills 90210‘s Shannen Doherty), Piper (Picket Fences‘ Holly Marie Combs), and Phoebe (Whose The Boss ?’ Alyssa Milano). Dealing with their supernatural lives. During the fourth season, Prue went away and their half sister Paige Matthews (The Doom Generation‘s Rose McGowan) arrived to keep it a threesome for spell purposes. Charmed lasted 8 seasons and 178 episodes that always seem to be playing on the TVs when I’m at the gym. But now you can see even more of their witchery with all the episodes transferred to Blu-ray. Charmed‘s entire run took place on the WB before it merged with UPN to become CW.
Fraiser: The Complete Series – Blu-ray (CBS Blu-ray) allowed Dr Fraiser Crane to flourish without being a character on Cheers. Before viewers could mourn the closing of their favorite Boston watering hole, Fraiser set up shot in Seattle. Instead of drinks, he dispensed his mental health advice on a talk radio station. The main focus was his home life where he shared an apartment with his father (John Mahoney). Constantly visiting was his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). The boxset contains all 264 episodes that aired over 11 seasons on 33 Blu-ray discs. They’ve upgraded the picture to 1080p so it looks better then when you watched it in the ’90s. The audio has been tweaked so you can listen to Dr. Crane more clearly. You might figure out more of the celebrity callers on his radio show portions.
Hogan’s Heroes – The Complete Series Blu-ray (CBS Blu-ray) contains one of those TV shows that will never be made again. You really think any network is going to air a comedy about prisoners of war running a spy operation out of a Nazi POW camp? This was a great show because Col. Hogan (Bob Crane) knew how to run his operation. He had Col. Klink (Werner Klemperer) and Sgt Schultz (John Banner) wrapped around his fingers. As a kid the show was terrific because they had a bunkbed that turned into an entrance to an underground tunnel complex. Who didn’t want that under their house? The sitcom might be the deadliest ever. You hear a lot of explosions and gunfire and yet it is funny since you don’t want the Nazis to get away with their plots. The show has been a mainstay on MeTV over the last decade. There are people who get upset about the series. Recently Rober Clary who played Corporal LeBeau passed away. He had survived a concentration camp during World War II. If Clary enjoyed making the show instead of being crippled by PTSD, it’s ok to laugh at the World War II humor. The series lasted six seasons and 168 episodes. Now all the episodes are out on Blu-ray so you can spot the spy gadgets around Klink’s office.
Dexter: The Complete Original Series + Dexter: The New Blood Monster Pack (CBS Blu-ray) Rarely has the revival of a show saves its legacy. Most of the time when they bring a series back either for reunion movie or a series, it’s a not an elevating experience. It’s nice to see most of the cast working again, but the experience is one of nostalgia. When a new Dexter series was announced, there wasn’t exactly fans eager to revisit the cult series. The Showtime series became must see viewing its first four seasons. The last four seasons were enjoyable although nothing truly topped Dexter vs. the Trinity killer season. When the final episode aired with its “what happened to Dexter” reveal was as disappointing as the endings of The Sopranos, M*A*S*H*, Cheers and Sons of Anarchy rolled into one. If this was merely a review of Dexter: The Complete Series, I’d be moaning how the show just went off the rails. But since this is Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood, I’m praising the Blu-ray collection.
Star Trek Series: Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season Two, Star Trek: Picard – Season Two and Star Trek: Discovery – Season Four. (CBS Blu-ray) We are in the middle of an abundance of Star Trek show thanks to the various series running on Paramount+ Streaming. Although if you live in a place with very low internet speeds or you enjoy preserving your Star Trek shows on physical media, you’ll enjoy that fact that all of the new shows are out on Blu-ray and DVD after they stream. This is a much better deal than Disney is doing with its Star Wars and Marvel shows.
The arrival of Paramount+ (formally CBS All Access) has allowed the world of Star Trek to expand in ways fans only rumored would happen. The lack of having to follow the traditional season of 22 episodes has freed up the limits of pondering if a new show can meet the demands of a new network or syndication package. A perfect example of how a spin-off can break the established rules is Star Trek: Lower Decks. Who thought an animated Star Trek show not featuring a previous cast could become a hit? There was Star Trek: The Animated Series that was an extension of the original series in reuniting the Enterprise crew and having the same tone as the live action series. Star Trek: Lower Decks follows the support staff of the USS Cerritos who don’t have the glamor positions. They are the ones who have to keep things going on the ship so the officers can have most of the adventure. Star Trek: Lower Decks – Season 2 is the next 10 episodes.
Star Trek: Picard has allowed Sir Patrick Stewart to return as Admiral Jean-Luc Picard. For seven seasons and four feature films, Picard took the U.S.S. Enterprise across the galaxy. Nearly two decades after the last film, Stewart was given an unusual opportunity to revive the character. Instead of making another movie, he could lead a series that didn’t have the same demands as ST:TNG. Star Trek Picard was set up to only last 3 seasons and 10 episodes. This was a little bit easier than the 26 episodes per season. Star Trek Picard: Season Two gives us the middle adventure and the return of more familiar faces.
Star Trek: Discovery has made it to a spot that the original Star Trek never made on its quest for to reach the end of a final frontier. Discovery was able to arrive on a fourth season. Michael Burnham (The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green) is getting used to her promotion to Captain. The season starts with them persuading planets to rejoin the United Federation of Planets. But someone is trying to stop these happy reunions by extreme measures. The season proved to be a hit and now all 13 episodes are coming out on Blu-ray, DVD, Limited Edition Blu-Ray Steelbook and Digital on December 6.
Yellowjackets: Season One (CBS DVD) As soon as word got out that Yellowjackets deals with a group of kids that survive an airplane crash and are stuck in a remote location, I had flashbacks to Lost. Remember that show? Nearly 20 years ago, the series was a sensation with a plane crashing on a remote island and we learned about so many mysteries. Except after an intense first season, Lost illustrated the law of diminishing returns. The final season with the big reveal was so bad that it made me really regret wasting six years watching a mystery unravel to expose a creative writing sin. It was a bit of relief that Yellowjackets has very little in common with Lost outside of a plane dropping from the sky. Instead of a bunch of random strangers on a commercial flight, this is a chartered flight to transport a girls high school soccer team from Wiskayok, New Jersey to a national tournament in Seattle. How do the bonds between the students change when they crawl from the wreckage? Yellowjackets: Season One goes deep into what happened and why the survivors don’t tell like to talk about it.
Ray Donovan: The Complete Series (CBS DVD) Liev Schreiber took a bit of a chance back in 2013 when Ray Donovan debuted on Showtime. Liev was the voice of HBO’s sports specials. He narrated their documentaries and Hard Knocks preseason football series. The rumor was that when Showtime announced it was going to begin airing Ray Donovan starring Liev, HBO let Liev know that they no longer needed his services in the voice over booth. Why would HBO want their voice to have a face on Showtime? Liev gave up a sweet easy gig for the risk of launching a TV series. Was it worth it? Ray Donovan had the highest debut rating of a series on Showtime. The series lasted seven seasons and a finale movie. Liev went from a supporting character and indie film darling to a TV star. The risk was worth the reward and HBO hired him back when viewers were upset that the “Voice” wasn’t the same on their sports specials. It was the kind of win-win that Ray Donovan specialized in arranging for his clients.
Melrose Place: The Complete Series (CBS DVD) Whenever I think of Melrose Place, my mind goes back to how my friend Lisa K. hosted a spaghetti dinner when the series was at its height in the mid-90s. Every Monday night, you’d fill a plate full of noodles and watch the tawdriness evolve. There were plenty of people hooked on the series. Her second floor apartment didn’t have an empty space on the sofas. The guests would wait until the commercial breaks to either comment on the over-the-top Soap Opera moments or get a quick backstory on what happened previously. We were young people in our twenties fresh out of college. The show seemed like it was talking to us although none of us were having a steamy affair with Heather Locklear. Melrose Place is about the residents of 4616 Melrose Place in Los Angeles. This is an intimate apartment complex that surrounded a pool. The eight residents were all about being intimate with each other. There was the stud Jake Hanson (Grant Show). Dr. Michael Mancini (Thomas Calabro) and his wife Jane (Josie Bissett) are managing his medical career and being the building supervisor. Matt Fielding (Doug Savant) was the not so obvious gay social worker. Rhonda Blair (Vanessa Williams) was an aerobics instructor. Sandy Harling (Amy Locane) was a bartender looking for her big acting break. Alison (Courtney Thorne-Smith) is working her way up an advertising agency when she finds her roommate has bailed on her. Thus she brings in aspiring screenwriter Billy Campbell (Andrew Shue) to split the rent. The show has all 8 characters always interacting as if they’re best friends and sometimes lovers. For those of us who had moved into apartment complexes, we’d realized nobody wanted to get to know your neighbors in the complex. Half the time you were too busy working to pay the rent. There was always something creepy about the water in the apartment’s pool and rarely was anyone that looked like Josie Bissett were suntanning near the diving board. The show was so unrealistic with its depiction of apartment living. Even though we hung out at Lisa’s apartment, most of us didn’t live in her neighborhood.
Red Angel (Arrow Video) If you take an international cinema class at college, the instructor is going to program one of the movies of Akira Kurosawa. If they want to give the nation focus a second night, they’ll let you see a film by Yasujiro Ozu. They might talk about the movies of Takashi Miike or Seijun Suzuki. They probably will not mention Yasuzo Masumura. This isn’t really the teacher’s fault since Masumura’s movies weren’t readily available on video in America. Over the last few years, Arrow Video has been making a case that Masumura’s name deserves to get mentioned with them in conversations. The recent releases of Giants And Toys, Irezumi, The Black Report, Black Test Car and Blind Beast has shown him to be a top tier director as he delved into the shadows of Japanese culture. Even though I’d already considered him a top tier director, Red Angel is a masterpiece. This is an extreme war movie from the perspective of nurse who doesn’t experience the nobility of battle.
Blu-ray Review: Lies And Deceit – Five Films by Claude Chabrol and Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol (Arrow Video) Lies And Deceit – Five Films by Claude Chabrol is a fine collection of the director’s later works. Unlike many of his French New Wave peers, Chabrol didn’t have an issue making an entertaining film that wasn’t completely obtuse. He has characters that aren’t absolutely crowd pleasers. The first two films could easily be seen as murder mystery films except we’re given a director who doesn’t mind bending the law and his suspects to get the truth. Madame Bovary and Betty deliver characters that have a mile wide self-destructive streak. Torment delivers a perfect relationship set on fire. Chabrol is worth digging deep into after class. This boxset allows you to put on a Chabrol retrospective in your TV room. Twisting The Knife: Four Films By Claude Chabrol shows the French director was making nimble cinematic mysteries even late into his career. He would take us to the quaint parts of the country with the most noble of characters, but wouldn’t produce cute movies. Between this boxset and last February’s Lies & Deceit – Five Films by Claude Chabrol, we’ve received a retrospective of his later years that show the director shouldn’t be overlooked in the arthouse. This is the perfect way to discover Chabrol and make up for your International Cinema teacher skipping his filmography.
Giallo Essential – Black Edition (Arrow Video) Giallo Essentials is a boxset with three films that haven’t previously been released on Blu-ray in America. The Killer Reserved Nine Seats, The Weapon, the Hour & The Motive and Smile Before Death are great for three nights of after dinner entertainment. While they are not landmarks of the genre, they are perfect for fans eager to digest more
Rogue Cops And Racketeers: Two Crime Thriller From Enzo G. Castellari (Arrow Video) As the Giallo was losing steam in Italian cinema, producers and distributors were looking for the next genre to catch heat. Hollywood gave them an answer in 1971 when Dirty Harry and The French Connection became blockbusters. Italy was getting more unlawful as home-grown terrorist organization such as the Red Brigade were getting more brazen in their attacks. They were robbing banks, kidnapping the rich and firing bullets all over cities. The country wanted cops that weren’t going to back down during this lawless time. Filmmaker were ready to create this new breed of hero. After a genre where nobody wanted to call the cops, Poliziotteschi arrived in the mid-70s with waving badges and plenty of bullets. Rogue Cops And Racketeers: Two Crime Thriller From Enzo G. Castellari gives us film that cover the themes of both of the influential movies. Castellari had just come off making one of the last great Spaghetti Westerns with Keoma starring Franco Nero. He brought the wild west to Rome with this double feature starring Fabio Testi (What Have You Done to Solange?). First is The Big Racket which gave us a Dirty Harry level cop taking on the outlaws. The Heroin Busters was the French Connection with narcotics being smuggled into Italy.
Plenty of favorite films were upgraded to 4K UHD in the last year. You can bring home an even better resolution experience to your house. It’s almost as good as what’s being run at your local movie theater. Here are a few of my favorites that were put out by Arrow Video:
Robocop (Arrow Video) When RoboCop arrived in the summer of 1987, it seemed like a distant dystopian world where law enforcement is privatized, people would get merged into machines and Detroit would be a lawless hellhole. The part about Detroit being a nightmarish hell hole wasn’t that unbelievable. The city was already seen as a decaying ruin as the Japanese automakers had ravaged the city. The only time America focused on the city was Thanksgiving Day when the Detroit Lions would get torn apart like a turkey on the buffet at the K&W Cafeteria. RoboCop was part science fiction with a huge dose of reality.
Wild Things (Arrow Video) John McNaughton started out the ’90s with one of the most brutal and ugly films with Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer. The film was actually made in 1985, but only played a few film festivals that were able to stomach the black and white nightmare. The MPAA refused to give it a rating lower than X no matter what McNaughton cut out. The film couldn’t even get a decent video deal. After Ebert raved about it during a “revival” screening at Telluride in ’89, the film played a few daring art houses in 1990 and proceeded to gross out audiences. McNaughton found himself getting director gigs at studios for “nicer” films. As the ’90s were coming to an end, McNaughton gave us another murderous film that had to be cut down since it was too spicy for an R rating. Wild Things promised a twisting tale of carnality and crime in sexy South Florida and it delivered.
True Romance (Arrow Video) In the early ’90s Quentin Tarantino exploded. When Reservoir Dogs became a hit at Sundance, there was so much press hyping the video store clerk who was revolutionizing film with his mixture of pop culture and gunplay. You couldn’t pick up a movie magazine at Borders without reading stories about him. People were eager to see his next film. But before Pulp Fiction stole Cannes, people were treated to Tarantino in script form when Tony Scott directed True Romance. Tony had done large action films with Top Gun, Days of Thunder and The Last Boy Scout. What was Tony going to do with a script by the hot wunderkind of the indie world? The director turned out a star-studded cross-country romp.
American Werewolf In London
During the summer of 1981, the publicity blitz started up for An American Werewolf In London. You’d pick up a magazine and there were photos from the set showing off the new face of horror. This was going to be a bit more intense than any of the Wolf Man movies that starred Lon Chaney Jr and aired during the Creature Double Feature on WLVI 56 in Boston. There was no chance that I could see the film. My parents were cool enough to take me to see an R-rated horror flick. We didn’t have HBO that wasn’t a down the road option. Since it was 1981, there was no VCR in the house. The only way I could find out about the film was to have someone talk about it at lunch in high school. I could only imagine the film and the hairy mayhem. After getting to college a few years later, I had my chance to see finally see it on the big screen. After all those years of waiting, the movie lived up to the publicity tease. Over the decades, I’ve seen it on VHS, laserdisc, DVD and Blu-ray. Now An American Werewolf in London is out on 4K UHD with a resolution to rival what I saw on the big screen.