From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
Directed with a keen sense of ambiguity by William Wyler, “The Heiress”
(1949), based on a hit stage adaptation of Henry James’s “Washington Square,” pivots on a question of motive. When shy, fragile Catherine Sloper (Olivia de Havilland, in a heartbreaking, Oscar-winning turn), the daughter of a wealthy New York doctor, begins to receive calls from the handsome spendthrift Morris Townsend (Montgomery Clift), she becomes possessed by the promise of romance. Are his smoldering professions of love sincere, as she believes they are? Or is Catherine’s calculating father (Ralph Richardson) correct in judging Morris a venal fortune seeker? A graceful drawing-room drama boasting Academy Award-winning costume design by Edith Head, “The Heiress” is also a piercing character study riven by emotional uncertainty and lacerating cruelty, in a triumph of classic Hollywood filmmaking at its most psychologically nuanced. New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. From The Criterion Collection … “The Grand Duel” (1972) is an archetypal Spaghetti Western that boasts many of the genre’s classic hallmarks, including action-packed gunfights, wild stunts and an impressive climactic showdown. Genre stalwart Lee Van Cleef stars as a gnarled ex-sheriff called Clayton who comes to the aid of a young Philipp Wermeer (Alberto Dentice), a fugitive framed for the murder of a powerful figure called The Patriarch. Clayton helps Philipp fend off attacks from bounty hunters in a series of thrilling gunfights before the two make their way to Jefferson to confront three villains known as the Saxon brothers, and reveal who really killed The Patriarch. A complex tale of revenge penned by prolific giallo writer Ernesto Gastaldi (“Torso,” “The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail”), “The Grand Duel” benefits from a beguiling central performance from Lee Van Cleef and assured helmsmanship from Giancarlo Santi (assistant director to Sergio Leone on “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West”). Add to this brew a memorable and tuneful score by composer Luis Bacalov (“Django”) and the stage is set for one of the grandest of all the Italian westerns. On Blu-ray from Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
From TV to Disc:
“Agatha Raisin, Series 2” (2018) is a three-disc set with three feature-length episodes. Based on M.C. Beaton’s bestselling books, Agatha Raisin stars Ashley Jensen as a London PR whizz turned amateur sleuth, who becomes entangled in mischief, mayhem, and murder when she opts for early retirement in a small village in the Cotswolds. Drawn into the town’s murders, Agatha attempts to solve the crimes … often in rather unorthodox ways. From Acorn Media … “Better Call Saul: Season Four” (2018) is a three-disc set with all 10 episodes. In the critically acclaimed drama’s fourth season, his brother’s death catalyzes Jimmy McGill’s transformation into “Saul Goodman.” Now Jimmy steps into the criminal world, putting his future as a lawyer — and his relationship with Kim Wexler — in deep jeopardy. Meanwhile, Mike Ehrmantraut’s work for Gustavo Fring throws the cartel into chaos, with tragic results.On DVD, Blu-ray, from Sony … “No Offence, Series 3” (2018) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the female-driven police procedural with fierce characters and a shrewd, irreverent take on crime that follows an unorthodox team of cops in Manchester, England. Series 3 finds dynamic DI Vivienne Deering (Joanna Scanlan) and her team providing security at a contentious election debate, but tragedy strikes when a gunman attempts to assassinate one of the candidates. Deering and her right-hand woman, DC Dinah Kowalska (Elaine Cassidy), vow to apprehend the culprit, despite warnings from their superiors that the investigation could jeopardize an undercover officer who has infiltrated an extreme right-wing group. From Acorn Media … “Unforgotten, Season 3” (2018) is a two-disc set with all six episodes of the British procedural. When human remains are found by a motorway near London, the crime-solving duo Cassie and Sunny are called to the scene. Dogged work leads the team to Hayley Reid, a 16-year-old girl who went missing on the eve of the millennium. The police’s failure to find out what happened to Hayley wrecked her family’s life. Cassie’s compassion makes her determined to correct the mistakes made by the original investigating team — whatever the cost is to herself. From PBS Distribution.
Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:
Playfully exploring the outer reaches of cult film fandom, “Sex Madness Revealed” (2018), starring Patton Oswalt, Rob Zabrecky and Patrick Cooper, is both an ingenious twist on the audio commentary and a satire of the wisecrack track (featuring the voice of “MST3K” regular Patton Oswalt). Using as it foundation a low-budget sex hygiene picture from 1938 (“Sex Madness,” aka “Human Wreckage”), Jimmy Morris (Oswalt) of the popular “Film Dick” podcast hosts an irreverent conversation with the filmmaker’s grandson, the eerily emotionless Chester Holloway (Rob Zabrecky) while the film streams behind them. But as the on-screen plot unfolds, a much darker story unravels within the recording booth, about the sinister mastermind behind the film, and the unorthodox methods he employed. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber … “Blaze” (2018), directed, co-written, and produced by four-time Academy Award-nominee Ethan Hawke, is a musical biopic inspired by the life of Blaze Foley (Ben Dickey), the unsung songwriting legend of the outlaw music movement that gave the world the likes of Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. “Blaze” weaves together three different periods of time, braiding re-imagined versions of Blaze’s past, present, and future. The different strands explore his love affair with Sybil Rosen (Alia Shawkat); his last, dark night on Earth; and the impact his music had on his fans, friends, and foes. Featuring unforgettable performances and stylish direction, “Blaze” is a glorious exploration of the profound highs and lows of Foley’s life. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Shout! Factory … In “Lady Killers” (2019), starring Arye Gross, Alexandra Barreto, Peter Shinkoda, Christina Grance and Shaun Parker, homicide detective Pete Martel gathers his old college frat brothers for a reunion game of high-stakes sexual conquest. Joined in their escapades by two new players, the men commit several crimes in their quest for bragging rights. Once the new winner is crowned, the real game begins as one-by-one the men turn up dead. From Indican Pictures.