From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Given the paucity of new releases this month, it’s a pleasure to report on the many fine remastered, collectible and classic films due this week. In alphabetical order:
“A Bill of Divorcement” (1932): Directed by George Cukor and starring John Barrymore, Katharine Hepburn, Billie Burke, David Manners, Henry Stephenson, Paul Cavanag. David O. Selznick produced this witty romantic comedy starring screen legends John Barrymore and Katharine Hepburn in her screen debut. After 15 years in a mental asylum, Hilary Fairfield (Barrymore) has suddenly regained his sanity, escaped from the institution and come home. But a few things have changed in his absence. For one, his strong-willed daughter Sydney (Hepburn) has grown up and is planning to marry. For another, his wife (Billie Burke) has divorced him and is planning to re-marry. It’s enough to drive a man crazy — or a woman, for that matter. Especially when Sydney learns it wasn’t “shell shock” that sent her father to the asylum, as she’d been told, but family madness — and now she’s sure she’s inherited it. A mixture of comedy, pathos and farce is handled brilliantly by master director George Cukor. On DVD, Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
“Bull Durham” (1988): Former minor leaguer Ron Shelton hit a grand slam with his directorial debut, one of the most revered sports movies of all time. Durham Bulls devotee Annie Savoy (Susan Sarandon) — who every year takes a new player under her wing (and into her bed) — has singled out the loose-cannon pitching prospect Nuke LaLoosh (Tim Robbins), a big-league talent with a rock-bottom maturity level. But she’s unable to shake Crash Davis (Kevin Costner), the veteran catcher brought in to give Nuke some on-the-field seasoning. A breakthrough film for all three of its stars and an Oscar nominee for Shelton’s highly quotable screenplay, “Bull Durham” is a freewheeling hymn to wisdom, experience, and America’s pastime, tipping its cap to all those who grind it out for love of the game. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Ron Shelton, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray; Alternate 5.1 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
“Detective Bureau 2-3: Go To Hell Bastards!” (1963 — Japan): Starring original Diamond Guy, Jo Shishido, Seijun Suzuki’s “Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!” is a hard hitting, rapid-fire yakuza film that redefined the Japanese crime drama. Detective Tajima (Shishido) is tasked with tracking down a consignment of stolen firearms, and as the investigation progresses things take an anarchic, blood-drenched grudge match. Rapidly paced, darkly funny, and extremely stylish, “Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!” is unlike anything seen before and rightly deserves its cult status. Suzuki’s send-up of post-war greed would go on to cement his domestic and international status as one of the leading directors to come out of Japan. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD.
“Dragon Inn” (1967 — Taiwan): The art of martial-arts filmmaking took a leap into bold new territory with this action-packed tale of Ming-dynasty intrigue. After having the emperor’s minister of defense executed, a power-grabbing eunuch sends assassins to trail the victim’s children to a remote point on the northern Chinese border. But that bloodthirsty mission is confounded by a mysterious group of fighters who arrive on the scene, intent on delivering justice and defending the innocent. The first film King Hu made after moving to Taiwan from Hong Kong in search of more creative freedom, “Dragon Inn” combines rhythmic editing, meticulous choreography, and gorgeous widescreen compositions with a refinement that was new to the wuxia genre. Its blockbuster success breathed new life into a classic formula and established Hu as one of Chinese cinema’s most audacious innovators. On DVD and Blu-ray, with a new 4K digital restoration, supervised by cinematographer Hua Hui-ying, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection.
“The French Way” (1945): The incomparable Josephine Baker dances and sings her way through a thought-lost French classic. Born into poverty, Josephine Baker rose from a childhood living in a St. Louis slum to become the toast of France — captivating audiences through the stage, recordings and motion pictures. “The French Way” is a farcical romantic-comedy set in contemporary WWII France, about young lovers forbidden to marry by their respective families. Baker, as “Zazu,” the owner of a nightclub, inherits a job restoring harmony between the two families and allowing the young lovers to “se marier.” A mélange of French character actors add to the fun, but when Josephine’s on the screen she is as Ernest Hemingway once said, “the most sensational woman anyone ever saw.” “The French Way,” filmed in 1940 — literally amidst bombing raids — was released in France in 1945, and briefly shown in the USA in 1952, where the order of some scenes was changed and about 2-3 minutes of “dramatic” footage was cut. In all other respects, it is virtually complete as originally released. Note: In real life Josephine Baker aided the French Resistance and was awarded, among other honors, the Croix de Guerre by the French military. On DVD, Blu-ray. From MVD Visual.
“Hitler’s Hollywood” (2017 — Germany): Narrated by Udo Kier, the film asks what the Nazi cinema of the Third Reich reveals about its period and its people. About 1000 feature films were made in Germany in the years between 1933-1945: musicals, melodramas, romances, costume dramas and war films. Only a few were overtly Nazi propaganda films. But by the same token, even fewer of them can be considered harmless entertainment. How did the open lies and hidden truths in these films affect the future of German cinema? Director Rudiger Suchsland presents these films and the people behind them. It explains how propaganda works: how stereotypes of the “enemy” and values of love and hate managed to be planted into viewers’ heads through the screen. From Kino Lorber.
From TV to Disc:
“Masterpiece Mystery!: Endeavour Season 5” (2018) is a three-disc set with all six episodes. As 1968 dawns, a year of change promises to disrupt the private and professional lives of Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) and his colleagues. Endeavour’s recent promotion leads him to reluctantly mentor new recruit Fancy (Lewis Peek), while Thursday (Roger Allam) is beginning to think about life after the police. But in Oxford, crime never sleeps, and the team continues to be challenged by mysterious and intriguing cases of murder, greed, and deception. On DVD, Blu-ray, from PBS Distribution … The six-part limited series “Mosaic” (2018) is a twisting tale of passion, intrigue and deception, set against the backdrop of a mountain resort town, that follows popular children’s book author and illustrator Olivia Lake (Sharon Stone), whose literary success makes her a local celebrity in the tight-knit community. When Olivia disappears on New Year’s Eve, leaving behind a blood-soaked studio, the town’s suspicions turn to the two new men in her life: handsome, young aspiring graphic artist Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund) and charming stranger Eric Neill (Frederick Weller). The four-year investigation that follows leaves local law enforcement lead by detective Nate Henry (Devin Ratray) and Eric’s sister Petra (Jennifer Ferrin), to unravel the mystery in this captivating series that explores the psychological underpinnings of love and murder in a small town. On DVD, Blu-ray, from HBO … “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In: The Complete Fifth Season” (1971-72) is a six-disc set with 24 complete, remastered episodes. Political correctness met its match with “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” NBC-TV’s groundbreaking variety series that became a cultural touchstone and part of the fabric of ’60s-’70s era America. Every Monday night at 8pm from 1968-1973, straight man Dan Rowan and wisecracking co-host Dick Martin led a supremely talented comic ensemble through a gut-busting assault of one-liners, skits, bits and non sequiturs that left viewers in hysterics and disbelief. In “The Complete Fifth Season,” after years of shameless name dropping, Dick finally gets his wish when bombshell Raquel Welch kicks off the new season with her first and only appearance on the show. Former “Hogan’s Heroes” POWs Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis escaped CBS to join the cast. And, along with alumni Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Teresa Graves, they help to celebrate Laugh-In’s landmark 100th episode (September 1, 1971). “The Complete Fifth Season” also trots out many of the 20th century’s greatest talents, including Steve Allen, Johnny Carson, Johnny Cash, Carol Channing, Charo, Petula Clark, Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Henry Gibson, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Arte Johnson, Paul Lynde, Liza Minnelli, Agnes Moorehead, Joe Namath, Carroll O’Connor, Vincent Price, Carl Reiner, Debbie Reynolds, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell, Vin Scully, Doc Severinsen, Jacqueline Susann, Tiny Tim, John Wayne, Raquel Welch, Henny Youngman, and more. From Time Life.