Have a safe and sane Fourth of July. Happy Birthday USA
From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
Here’s a collectible package that cinema lovers have long been waiting for:
“Dietrich & von Sternberg in Hollywood.” Tasked by studio executives with finding the next great screen siren, visionary Hollywood director Josef von Sternberg joined forces with rising German actor Marlene Dietrich, kicking off what would become one of the most legendary partnerships in cinema history. Over the course of six films produced by Paramount in the 1930s, the pair refined their shared fantasy of pleasure, beauty, and excess. Dietrich’s coolly transgressive mystique was a perfect match for the provocative roles von Sternberg cast her in — including a sultry chanteuse, a cunning spy, and the hedonistic Catherine the Great — and the filmmaker captured her allure with chiaroscuro lighting and opulent design, conjuring fever-dream visions of exotic settings from Morocco to Shanghai. Suffused with frank sexuality and worldly irony, these six deliriously entertaining masterpieces are landmarks of cinematic artifice. “Morocco” (1930), “Dishonored” (1931), “Shanghai Express” (1932), “Blonde Venus” (1932), “The Scarlett Empress” (1934), “The Devil Is a Woman (1935). On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 2K or 4K digital restorations of all six films, with uncompressed monaural soundtracks on the Blu-rays. Extras include new interviews with film scholars Janet Bergstrom and Homay King, director Josef von Sternberg’s son, Nicholas, Deutsche Kinemathek curator Silke Ronneburg and costume designer and historian Deborah Nadoolman Landis; new documentary about Dietrich’s German origins, featuring film scholars Gerd Gemünden and Noah Isenberg; new documentary on Dietrich’s status as a feminist icon, featuring film scholars Mary Desjardins, Amy Lawrence, and Patricia White; “The Legionnaire and the Lady,” a 1936 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of “Morocco,” featuring Dietrich and actor Clark Gable; new video essay by critics Cristina Álvarez López and Adrian Martin; “The Fashion Side of Hollywood,” a 1935 publicity short featuring Dietrich and costume designer Travis Banton; television interview with Dietrich from 1971; a book featuring essays by critics Imogen Sara Smith, Gary Giddins, and Farran Smith Nehme. In a gorgeous boxed set from The Criterion Collection.
More good stuff this week:
“The Last House on the Left (Limited Edition)” (1972) is the directorial debut of Wes Craven, the man behind such horror favorites as “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Scream,” and the film justly retains its reputation as one of the most harrowing cinematic experiences of all time, nearly half a century on from its original release. On the eve of her 17th birthday, Mari and friend Phyllis set off from her family home to the big city to attend a concert by shock-rockers Bloodlust. Attempting to pick up some marijuana on the way, the pair run afoul of a group of vicious crooks, headed up by the sadistic and depraved Krug (David Hess). Gagged and bound, the young women are bundled into a car trunk and driven to the woods, where the gang subject them to a terrifying ordeal of sexual humiliation, torture and murder. Unleashed on an unsuspecting public in 1972, “The Last House on the Left” shocked audiences with its graphic and unflinching portrayal of interpersonal violence, paving the way for a whole host of cheap imitators looking to capitalize on its success. It is Wes Craven’s original alone, however, that remains one of the true watershed moments in horror (and indeed, film) history. Three cuts of the film, newly restored in 2K from original film elements, with original uncompressed Mono Audio, on Blu-ray, with a CD of the soundtrack. Extras include new and archival audio commentaries; interviews; “Celluloid Crime of the Century” archival documentary; “Still Standing: The Legacy of The Last House on The Left” archival interview with Wes Craven; “Scoring Last House on the Left” archival interview with actor/composer David Hess; “It’s Only a Movie: The Making of The Last House on the Left” archival documentary’ “Forbidden Footage” with the cast and crew on the film’s most controversial sequences; deleted scene; outtakes and dailies; trailers, TV Spot & radio spots; image gallery; double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork; six lobby card reproductions; limited edition perfect-bound book featuring new writing on the film by author Stephen Thrower. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
Bill Gunn — actor, playwright, novelist, and director of the art-horror classic “Ganja and Hess” (1973) — teamed with novelist/essayist Ishmael Reed and poet/publisher Steve Cannon to produce what Reed has called a “meta-soap opera,” “Personal Problems” (2017). This extraordinary, rough-edged ensemble piece explores black working-class lives with candor and emotional intensity and features a who’s who of important artists including Walter Cotton, Vertamae Grosvenor, Jim Wright, and Sam Waymon, with music by Carman Moore, and cinematography by Robert Polidori. Rarely shown and, when screened, seen in a mutilated cut hampered by the poor quality of available materials, it appears for the first time in a full-length, two-part version restored from the original camera tapes. Seen in its proper form, “Personal Problems” is nothing short of a revelation. New HD restoration, reconstructed from the original 3/4″ U-matic camera tapes, with remastered audio. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Classics … Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name spawned imitations, variations and shameless rip-offs keen to emulate his success at the box office. Within months of “A Fistful of Dollars” release, Giuliano Gemma was playing Ringo, who was then followed by Franco Nero’s Django, Tony Anthony’s The Stranger and Gianni Garko’s Sartana — each providing their own twist on the Eastwood antihero, and each of them then subject to their own spate of unofficial sequels, spoofs and cash-ins. Sartana tapped into more than just his Spaghetti Western predecessors — a mysterious figure, he has a spectral quality, aided by his Count Dracula-like cloak that also nods towards comic strip figure Mandrake the Magician, with whom he shares a penchant for card tricks. He takes pride in his appearance unlike Eastwood’s dusty wanderer or Nero’s mud-caked drifter. And there’s a dose of James Bond too in his fondness for gadgetry and the droll sense of humor. Unsurprisingly, this unique figure in the genre was treated to four official follow-ups.“The Complete Sartana [Limited Edition)” collects all five films, presented here in brand-new restorations: “If You Meet Sartana… Pray for Your Death,” “I Am Sartana, Your Angel of Death,” “Have a Good Funeral My Friend… Sartana Will Pay,” “Light the Fuse… Sartana Is Coming,” and “Sartana’s Here… Trade Your Pistol for a Coffin,” in which George Hilton replaced Garko in the lead role. Extras include commentaries; interviews; galleries; Brand-new video essay on the major actors and supporting players in the official Sartana films; limited edition packaging with reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the films by Roberto Curti and an extensive Spaghetti Western timeline by Howard Hughes. In a six-disc Blu-ray set. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“Don’t Grow Up” (2018), starring McKell David, Natifa Mai, is a A horrifying look at impending adulthood. In the outskirts of London, six teens find themselves without supervision and immediately take to making the most of their new liberty. No longer limited to the space of their detention center, they explore the inner city with Liam as their self-appointed leader. After Liam’s girlfriend walks off after an argument, she has an aggressive confrontation with the group’s supervisor that leaves her wounded. Discovering that the attack is not isolated and is the result of a widespread epidemic that affects adults — making them blood-thirsty and deranged — but that leaves children and adolescents unaffected, the group must defend themselves against manic adults, paranoid children and, ultimately, growing up in this post-apocalyptic world. On DVD, Blu-ray, and in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Shudder! … In the apocalyptic thriller “The Cured” (2018), starring Sam Keeley and Ellen Page, the world has been ravaged for years by a virus that turns the infected into zombie-like cannibals, until a cure is at last found and the wrenching process of reintegrating the survivors back into society begins. Among the formerly afflicted is Senan, a young man haunted by the horrific acts he committed while infected. Welcomed back into the family of his widowed sister-in-law, Senan attempts to restart his life — but is society ready to forgive him and those like him? Or will fear and prejudice once again tear the world apart? On DVD, Blu-ray from IFC Midnight/Scream Factory … In the apocalyptic drama “Sunset” (2018), starring Austin Pendleton, Suzette Gunn, Juri Henley-Cohn, Liam Mitchell, David Johnson and Barbara Bleier, a group of friends and lovers are confronted with the very real probability of a nuclear attack on the US east Coast — and each must choose to prepare … or not. From Random Media … In “Jet Trash” (2016 — UK), starring Sofia Boutella, Robert Sheehan, Jasper Paakkonen and Craig Parkinson, Lee and Sol are hiding out on a beach in Southern India living a slacker life of sex, drugs and parties. Trouble comes to paradise when Vix, a beautiful girl from Lee’s past, turns up. Things get worse when Lee accidentally kills a holy cow and the gang find themselves up against crooked cops, local hoodlums, gangsters … and mysticism. From Indican Pictures … In “Finding Your Feet” (2017), starring Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, David Hayman, Joanna Lumley, John Sessions and Josie Lawrence, a newly single middle-aged woman gets a new lease on life — and love — when she signs up for a community dance class. When “Lady” Sandra Abbott (Staunton) discovers that her husband of 40 years (Sessions) is having an affair with her best friend (Lawrence), she seeks refuge in London with her estranged, older sister Bif (Imrie). The two could not be more different — Sandra is a fish out of water next to her outspoken, serial dating, free-spirited sibling. But different is just what Sandra needs at the moment, and she reluctantly lets Bif drag her along to a community dance class, where she starts finding her feet. From Sony … In “Another Wolfcop” (2018), starring Leo Fafard, Yannick Bisson, Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, Serena Miller and Kevin Smith, a year has passed since the dark eclipse transformed hard-drinking Officer Lou Garou (Fafard) into the infamous lycanthrope crime-fighter. Although the evil that controlled Woodhaven was defeated, the community is far from returning to normal. A villainous entrepreneur (Bisson) is looking to open a new brewery and revive the local hockey team, but it’s clear he has ulterior motives. With a new mayor (Smith) and the new chief of police (Matysio), WolfCop has his work cut out for him when he has to save the town all over again. On DVD, Blu-ray, from RLJE Films.
“Ismael’s Ghosts” (2017 — France), starring Marion Cotillard, Mathieu Amalric, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Louis Garrel. Twenty-one years ago, she ran away. And 21 years later, Carlotta (Cotillard) is back from the void. But Ismael (Amalric) has been busy rebuilding a life for himself with Sylvia (Gainsbourg) and working on his next feature film. As Ismael’s trials and tribulations unfurl, so too do those of his film’s protagonist: the idle, funny and reckless diplomat Ivan Dédalus (Garrel). The character is a nod to the ghost of another of director Desplechin’s creations, the brother of Paul Dédalus, three-time hero of “My Sex Life … or How I Got Into an Argument,” “A Christmas Tale” and “My Golden Days.” A film within a film — and then some, director Arnaud Desplechin layers narrative upon narrative. From Magnolia Home Entertainment.
“American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs” (2018) is a new documentary that traces the history of American populism by exploring the life and times of Eugene Victor Debs, the man whose progressive ideas fueled generations to come – from FDR’s New Deal to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Here is an objective but passionate history of the movement as founded and championed by Debs, a movement that continues to have an impact on our lives today. From First Run Features … President Donald Trump’s first year in office has been marked by ongoing turmoil — including in his own Republican party, where presidential tweetstorms, inflammatory rhetoric and high-profile dissent have fueled open conflict. “Frontline: Trump’s Takeover” (2018) tells the story of Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party — from the perspective of Republican lawmakers and insiders themselves. The documentary examines the president’s unorthodox governing style, showing how after taking office, he displayed a lack of interest in the ins and outs of legislation and policy, and instead took to Twitter, attacking opponents. The film goes behind closed doors in the negotiations to repeal and replace Obamacare — Trump’s first major legislative test — revealing through accounts of people who were there how little Trump seemed to understand or care about the details of the bill. From PBS Distribution.