From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
The Criterion Collection has two disparate releases this week: With the trailblazing musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” (2001), writer-director-star John Cameron Mitchell and composer-lyricist Stephen Trask brought their signature creation from stage to screen for a movie as unclassifiable as its protagonist. Raised a boy in East Berlin, Hedwig (Mitchell) undergoes a traumatic personal transformation in order to emigrate to the U.S., where she reinvents herself as an “internationally ignored” but divinely talented rock diva, characterized by Mitchell as a “beautiful gender of one.” The film tells Hedwig’s life story through her music, an eclectic collection of original punk anthems and power ballads by Trask, matching them with a freewheeling cinematic mosaic of music-video fantasies, animated interludes, and moments of bracing emotional realism. A hard-charging song cycle and a tender character study, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is a tribute to the transcendent power of rock and roll. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new 4K digital restoration, supervised by director John Cameron Mitchell and cinematographer Frank DeMarco, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray … and “War and Peace” (1966-67) At the height of the Cold War, the Soviet film industry set out to prove it could outdo Hollywood with a production that would dazzle the world: a titanic, awe-inspiring adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic tome in which the fates of three souls — the blundering, good-hearted Pierre; the heroically tragic Prince Andrei; and the radiant, tempestuous Natasha — collide amid the tumult of the Napoleonic Wars. Employing a cast of thousands and an array of innovative camera techniques, director Sergei Bondarchuk conjures a sweeping vision of grand balls that glitter with rococo beauty and breathtaking battles that overwhelm with their expressionistic power. As a statement of Soviet cinema’s might, “War and Peace” succeeded wildly, garnering the Academy Award for best foreign-language film and setting a new standard for epic moviemaking. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with new 2K digital restoration, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
In honor of its upcoming 70th anniversary, the timeless animated classic “Cinderella” (1949) waltzes into the highly celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection. Recently added to the prestigious National Film Registry, the animated classic centers on kind and hardworking Cinderella, who is ordered around by her cruel stepmother, her awful stepsisters — even the big clock in the church tower tells her when to start another day of drudgery. But they can’t stop ” />her from dreaming, and Cinderella has faith that someday her wishes will come true. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, with a host of new features including “Cinderella” trivia and fun facts, hosted by Ruth Righi and Ava Kolker from Disney Channel’s “Sydney to the Max,” and “In Walt’s Words: Enhanced Edition,” a special edition of “Cinderella” featuring fascinating production details, original storyboards, archival photos, thumbnail sketches and transcripts throughout the feature film. Vintage extras include “Diane Disney Miller Cinderella Film Intro”; “The Real Fairy Godmother” real-life inspiration, Mary Alice O’Connor, wife of Disney layout artist Ken O’Connor”; “The Art Of Cinderella” concept art, character model sheets, live-action reference, pencil animation, behind-the-scenes stills, feature stills; music and more. From Disney … “Fatso” (1980), the only film written and directed by the legendary Anne Bancroft, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. This boisterous, heartwarming comedy about a man caught between his health, his self-esteem and his appetite, highlights Dom DeLuise’s genius for blending pathos and comedy. All his life, Dominic DiNapoli (DeLuise) has found comfort in food. But when his sister Antoinette (Bancroft) implores him to stop eating himself into an early grave, Dominic begins bouncing from crash diets to the support group “Chubby Checkers” to all manner of binges in between. In the end, Dominic discovers that what he needs most is a steady diet of love — from his family, from a new and lovely neighborhood acquaintance — and most importantly, from himself. From Shout! Factory Select … Never before released on Blu-ray in North America, “Heroes Shed No Tears” (1986 — Hong Kong) is the explosive precursor to John Woo’s breakout film “A Better Tomorrow.” Here he demonstrates the genesis of his trademark style of hyperkinetic action and violence. The action movie that he identifies as his “first real film” broke a string of low-budget slapstick farces, and built the foundation for his over-the-top genre films that would follow. Hong Kong action veteran Eddie Ko stars as soldier-of-fortune Chan Chung, the leader of an elite Chinese commando force enlisted by the Thai government to capture General Samton, a powerful drug lord from the Golden Triangle. After a successful raid on the general’s headquarters, the mercenaries cross into Vietnam and encounter a barbaric colonel (Lam Ching Ying), who is determined to stop them at any cost. Now pursued by both Samton’s henchmen and the colonel’s troops, the heroes flee for the border of Thailand, out manned and out gunned by their enemies. 2K digital restoration. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Film Movement Classics … “Double Face” (1969 — Italy): In the post-war years, the proliferation of transnational European co-productions gave rise to a cross-pollination of genres, with the same films sold in different markets as belonging to different movements. Among these, Riccardo Freda’s (“I vampiri,” “The Horrible Dr. Hichock”)”Double Face” was marketed in West Germany as an Edgar Wallace “krimi,” while in Italy it was sold as a giallo in the tradition of Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace,” combining elements from both genres for a unique and unforgettable viewing experience. When wealthy businessman John Alexander ( Klaus Kinski, giving an atypically restrained performance)’s unfaithful wife Helen (Margaret Lee) dies in a car crash, it initially looks like a freak accident. However, the plot thickens when evidence arises suggesting that the car was tampered with prior to the crash. And John’s entire perception of reality is thrown into doubt when he discovers a recently-shot pornographic movie which appears to feature Helen — suggesting that she is in fact alive and playing an elaborate mind game on him. Psychological, psychedelic, and at times just plain psychotic, “Double Face” stands as one of the most engaging and enjoyable films in Freda’s lengthy and diverse career — a densely-plotted, visually-stunning giallo. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
From TV to Disc:
“Manhunt” (2019) is a single disc with three episodes. Based upon the memoirs of former London Metropolitan police detective DCI Colin Sutton, the three-part drama stars one of the most popular British actors on television in the United States, BAFTA- and SAG-award winning actor Martin Clunes. Clunes stars as DCI Sutton who determinedly and tenaciously pursued serial killer Levi Bellfield. When the battered body of a French student is found on Twickenham Green in London, hardworking and humble DCI Colin Sutton (Clunes) is appointed the lead detective on his first big case. After connecting the young woman’s murder to a previous attack, Sutton embarks on a quest to catch a serial killer. With the press in a frenzy and the public demanding answers, his team grows discouraged as they find no motive, witnesses, or forensic evidence. But Sutton’s commitment never wavers, often at the expense of his relationship with his wife. Realistically portraying the ins and outs of police investigations, “Manhunt” tells the story of one detective’s uncompromising search for justice. On DVD, Blu-ray from Acorn Media … “Marcella, Season 2” (2018) is a two-disc set with all eight episodes. Emmy award-winning actress Anna Friel (“Pushing Daisies”) reprises her role as DS Marcella Backland, a London detective who experiences violent blackouts. In Season 2, when a body is found inside a wall, Marcella is horrified to discover that she knew the victim: a young boy who went missing years ago while walking home with her son. As more corpses turn up, Marcella wades through a complex web to catch a serial killer, but her deteriorating mental state threatens to derail the investigation. From Acorn Media.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
“The Aftermath” (2019), starring Keira Knightley, Jason Clarke and Alexander Skarsgård, is set in 1946 and follows Rachael Morgan (Knightley), a British woman whose colonel husband (Clarke) is charged with rebuilding war-ravaged Hamburg. When she joins him there during the bitter winter months, she learns they will be sharing their home with a German widower (Skarsgård) and his troubled daughter. Before long, the unusual arrangement intensifies political divides and stirs deep personal wounds.On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Fox … In “The Poison Rose” (2019), starring John Travolta, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser, Famke Janssen, Kat Graham, Peter Stormare, Ella Bleu Travolta and Robert Patrick, Travolta plays Carson Philips, a hard-drinking L.A. private eye who takes a case in his old hometown of Galveston, Texas. While searching for a missing woman, Philips must confront a crime boss (Freeman), a shady doctor (Fraser), a sexy club singer (Graham), his former lover (Janssen) — and his own dark, disturbing past. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lionsgate … In “Furie” (2019 — Vietnam), starring Veronica Ngo, Phan Than Nhien and Mai Cat Vi, when a little girl is kidnapped by a trafficking ring, they soon find they messed with the wrong child. Her mother, a notorious former gang leader, is close on their trail and will go to any lengths to bring her daughter home. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo, from Well Go USA … “Maze” (2018 — Ireland), starring Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward and Martin McCann, is a drama inspired by the true events of the infamous 1983 prison breakout of 38 IRA prisoners from HMP, which was to become the biggest prison escape in Europe since World War II.On DVD, Blu-ray, from Lightyear Entertainment … In “The New York Ripper” (1982), a blade-wielding psychopath is on the loose, turning The Big Apple bright red with the blood of beautiful young women. As NYPD detective Fred Williams (Jack Hedley) follows the trail of butchery from the decks of the Staten Island Ferry to the sex shows of Times Square, each brutal murder becomes a sadistic taunt. In the city that never sleeps, the hunt is on for the killer that can’t be stopped. Co-written and directed by acclaimed horror maestro Lucio Fulci (“Zombie,” “City Of the Living Dead”) and filmed on location in the mean streets of New York City, this is one of Fulci’s most savage and controversial thrillers. In an exclusive Limited Collector’s Edition that includes a Blu-ray, DVD, Soundtrack CD, collectible booklet, reversible sleeve, and 3D lenticular slipcover (First Pressing Only). New 4K restoration from its original camera negative, completely uncut and uncensored. From Blue Underground … In “Night Killer” (1989 — Italy), starring Peter Hooten, Tara Buckman and Richard Foster, writer-director Claudio Fragasso, here under the name Clyde Anderson, set out to direct a suspense thriller about a suicidal beauty, an unstable sleazebag and a masked killer with a razor-fingered glove … somewhere between “Zombie 4” and “Troll 2.” But when the producers received Fragasso’s cut, they hired his former partner Bruno Mattei (“The Other Hell,” “Robowar”) to shoot additional scenes of graphic gore and released it in Italy as “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3”. The result is part sicko giallo, part depraved slasher and 100% batsh*t insanity. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films … “Night of the Creeps Collector’s Edition” (1986), starring Jason Lively, Tom Atkins, Steve Marshall and Jill Whitlow, contains both theatrical and director’s cut versions of the film. When an alien experiment goes awry, it crashes to Earth in 1959 and infects a young college student. Twenty-seven years later, his cryogenically frozen body is thawed out by fraternity pledges … and the campus is quickly overrun by alien creatures whose victims turn into zombies. Director Fred Dekker’s thoroughly enjoyable throwback chiller deftly mixes all sorts of genres while simultaneously having fun with them (the college and all the leading characters are named after famous horror movie directors). On Blu-ray from Scream Factory … Continuing its mission to unearth the very best in weird and wonderful horror obscura from the golden age of US independent genre moviemaking, Arrow Video presents the long-awaited second volume in its American Horror Project series co-curated by author Stephen Thrower (“Nightmare USA: The Untold Story of the Exploitation Independents”): “American Horror Project Volume 2 [Limited Edition].”Starting off with a little-seen 1970 offering from underrated cult auteur John Hayes, “Dream No Evil” is a haunting, moving tale of a young woman’s desperate quest to be reunited with her long-lost father — only to find herself drawn into a fantasyland of homicidal madness. 1976’s “Dark August” stars Academy Award-winner Kim Hunter in a story of a man pursued by a terrifying and deadly curse in the wake of a hit-and-run accident. Lastly, 1977’s Harry Novak-produced “The Child” is a gloriously delirious slice of horror mayhem in which a young girl raises an army of the dead against the people she holds responsible for her mother’s death. All three films have been newly remastered from the best surviving film elements. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Robowar” (1988 — Italy), starring Reb Brown, Catherine Hickland, Massimo Vanni and Jim Gaines, is a brain-melting mash-up of “Predator,” “Robocop” and Philippines war movie mayhem. When a team of badass commandos is hired for a jungle rescue mission, they instead find themselves hunted by a kill-crazed creature that is part man, part machine and all glorious 80s ItaloSleaze. Now scanned in 4k from the original negative. There will also be a limited Edition of 3,000 units with a Bonus CD soundtrack composed by Al Festa. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Severin Films.