From the Big Screen:
“Fast & Furious 6,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Battle of the Year” and “Adore.” For more releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
If you like Spaghetti Westerns, then you just have to get a copy of “The Big Gundown,” probably the greatest Italian Western after the Sergio Leone “Man With No Name” trilogy. The legendary Lee Van Cleef, who was the “bad” of “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly,” stars as Jonathan Corbett, a relentless bounty hunter hired to track down Manuel “Cuchillo” Sanchez (Euro-film superstar Tomas Milian), a Mexican outlaw accused of the rape and murder of a 12-year-old girl. Cuchillo’s trail takes Corbett south of the border and his trip brings him in contact with prostitutes, a wagon train of Mormons, ex-gunslinger priests, corrupt Mexican federales and innocent peasants. Along the way he gets to know his prey, and begins to doubt the man’s guilt. The film has a strong political subtext, about a wealthy, unscrupulous landowner with political aspirations who has no qualms about rising to power on the backs of the powerless. Director Sergio Sollima’s epic boasts stylish and beautiful widescreen photography, dripping with space and color, and a great Ennio Morricone score, and was written by “Once Upon a Time in the West” screenwriter Sergio Donati. Grindhouse Releasing has put together the first-ever U.S. home video release of the “The Big Gundown” in a four-disc deluxe limited edition combo pack (two Blu-rays, one DVD and one bonus CD) that offers a new 2K digital restoration of the original uncensored English-language version of the film; “La Resa Dei Conti,” the complete, 110-minute director’s cut presented in Italian with optional English subtitles and special musical subtitles; a DVD of the U.S. version; and the original soundtrack by Morricone. Extras include in-depth interviews with director Sergio Sollima, star Tomas Milian and screenwriter Sergio Donati; commentary by Western film experts C. Courtney Joyner and Henry C. Parke; extensive still galleries; trailers and TV spots; and a 24-page booklet with “Sergio Sollima’s Political Gundown,” an article on the history of the film by C. Courtney Joyner, “Cutting to the Chase: The Tale of the Two Gundowns,” an article about the cuts made to the original version for U.S. distribution, by Gergely Hubai; and an article on the Morricone soundtrack, also by Hubai. Highly recommended.
The Criterion Collection has two strong releases this week; the Blu-ray debut of “Grey Gardens,” the 1976 documentary by Albert and David Maysles about Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis, who manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton, New York, mansion, making for an eerily ramshackle echo of the American Camelot. The cult classic established Little Edie as a fashion icon and philosopher queen. This special edition also features the 2006 follow-up to the film, “The Beales of Grey Gardens,” constructed from hours of extra footage in the filmmakers’ vaults. In a new 2K digital film restoration, approved by co-director Albert Maysles, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack … Established by Martin Scorsese in 2007, the World Cinema Project expands the horizons of moviegoers everywhere by preserving and presenting marginalized and infrequently screened films from regions of the world ill equipped to provide funding for major restorations. “Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project” collector’s set brings together six films from various countries, including Bangladesh/India (“A River Called Titas”), Mexico (“Redes”), Morocco (“Trances”), Senegal (“Touki bouki”), South Korea (“The Housemaid”) and Turkey (“Dry Summer”); each is a cinematic revelation, depicting a culture not often seen by outsiders. In a three Blu-ray/six-DVD combo set for $124.95.
Just in time to for the Dec. 20 release of “Saving Mr. Banks,” the Emma Thompson-Tom Hanks starrer about Walt Disney’s efforts to persuade author P.L. Travers to let him make a movie of her beloved children’s book, “Mary Poppins,” Disney has remastered the 1964 hit and released “Mary Poppins” in 50th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo and DVD editions. Julie Andrews stars as the titular nanny, who magically appears to take care of the children of the stodgy Banks family at Number Seventeen Cherry Tree Lane in London and succeeds to upend the household by taking the kids on a variety of fantastic adventures — with the help of a carefree chimney sweep named Bert (Dick Van Dyke). Co-stars David Tomlinson, Glynis Johns, Karen Dotrice and Mathew Garber. Andrews won the Academy Award for Best Actress and the film won an additional four Oscars for Best Original Song (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”), Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Original Score. New Blu-ray extras include “Mary-OKE’s” sing-along, “Becoming Mr. Sherman” featurette with Jason Schwartzman as he sits down for a musical-filled afternoon with Richard Sherman, half of the famous composing team the Sherman Brothers, who wrote all the classic songs from “Mary Poppins,” as well as many other favorites (Schwartzman portrays the Disney legend in “Saving Mr Banks”).
Though Barbara Stanwyk’s career was well under way by the time she signed on to director King Vidor’s “Stella Dallas” (1937), her role as a mother from the wrong side of the tracks who gives up everything for the benefit of her beloved daughter certainly solidified her status as one of Hollywood’s top actresses and top boxoffice draws; she received her first Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role. The devastatingly tear-jerker of an ending is one the greatest in all of cinema. Warner Home Video has remastered the Samuel Goldwyn classic and re-released it on DVD (but not Blu-ray for some reason) … With Ben Still’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” opening Christmas Day, it’s time to take a look at the original Danny Kaye 1947 version, which Warner has also just released in a remastered DVD version. Based on James Thurber’s story, the film stars Kaye as a pulp-fiction magazine proofreader whose dull life with his overprotective mother (Fay Bainter) is made livable by his daydreaming, in which he imagines himself a hero in fantastic adventures around the world. His dreams become real, however,when he meets a mysterious woman (Virginia Mayo) and embarks on a real-life adventure. Co-stars Boris Karloff, Ann Rutherford, Gordon Jones and Thurston Hall.