From the Big Screen:
“Nightcrawler,” “Kill the Messenger,” “Rosewater” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Highlights:
The Movie Gods have been kind this week, opening up their vaults for a slew of wonderful films that have been newly transferred to DVD and Blu-ray.
The Criterion Collection has on hand this week two lyrical films from both ends of the filmic spectrum: The bittersweet “A Day in the Country” (1936) from Jean Renoir and the frightening “Don’t Look Now” (1973) from Nicolas Roeg. Based on a story by Guy de Maupassant, “A Day in the Country” is a tenderly comic idyll about a city family’s picnic in the French countryside and the romancing of the mother and grown daughter by two local men. Conceived as part of a larger project that was never completed, shot in 1936, and released 10 years later, this warmly humanist vignette ranks among Renoir’s most lyrical films, with a love for nature imbuing its every beautiful frame. New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christi mesmerize as a married couple on an extended trip to Venice following a family tragedy in “Don’t Look Now.” While in that elegantly decaying city, they have a series of inexplicable, terrifying, and increasingly dangerous experiences. A masterpiece from Roeg, “Don’t Look Now,” adapted from a story by Daphne du Maurier, is a brilliantly disturbing tale of the supernatural, as renowned for its innovative editing and haunting cinematography as its explicit eroticism and unforgettable denouement, one of the great endings in horror history. New 4K digital restoration, approved by Roeg, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.
From the Cohen Film Collection comes “Syncopation” (1942), director William Dieterle’s long-unseen 1942 musical feature, restored in 2K from one-of-a-kind cinematic extravaganza, “Syncopation” is both a love story about two young musicians and a celebration of some of the greatest popular music of the first half of the 20th century. The romance between a young trumpeter (Jackie Cooper) and a New Orleans-born piano player (Bonita Granville, the silver screen’s original Nancy Drew) serves as the narrative plot line. But the core of the film is its an archival 35mm fine grain master struck by the Library of Congress from the nitrate negative. A celebratory history of “syncopated” music — jazz — tracing it from the turn-of-the-century sounds of ragtime, through Dixieland, the blues, Chicago jazz and the swing era. Musical greats of the day are featured in performance, including Benny Goodman, Harry James, Gene Krupa, Charlie Barnet and many more. Also in the cast are Adolphe Menjou, George Bancroft, Robert Benchley and singers Todd Duncan and Connee Boswell. Putting all of the elements together is prolific golden age director William Dieterle “(The Life of Emile Zola,” “Portrait of Jennie,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”). Formats: DVD, Blu-ray Disc. Extras: Nine short musical films showcasing some of the most iconic performers in jazz history: “Symphony in Black” (1935 w/Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday), “Rhapsody in Black and Blue” (1932, w/Louis Armstrong), “St. Louis Blues” (1929, w/Bessie Smith), “Cab Calloway’s Hi De Ho” (1933), “Bundle of Blues” (1933, w/Duke Ellington), “Hoagy Carmichael” (1939, w/Carmichael and Jack Teagarden), “Artie Shaw’s Class in Swing” (1939, w/Shaw), “Jazz a la Cuba” (1933, w/Don Azpiazu), “Black and Tan Fantasy” (1929, w/Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington). A must have.
Disney has opened its vaults for “101 Dalmatians Diamond Edition” (1961). Pongo, Perdita and their super-adorable puppies are in for thrills, hilarious spills and an epic action-packed adventure when they face off with Cruella De Vil, Disney’s most fabulously outrageous villainess. When Cruella dognaps all of the Dalmatian puppies in London, brave animal heroes launch a daring plan to save all puppies from Cruella’s clutches. With the voices of Rod Taylor, J. Pat O’Malley, Betty Lou Gerson, Martha Wentworth, Ben Wright, Cate Bauer.
The beginning of the 20th century was known as “The Age of Beauty” (La Belle Epoque), a period before the first World War that saw an incredible blossoming of literature and art as well as the birth of the cinema. One of cinema’s first explorations was erotica, and “Forbidden Films From the Age of Beauty: Anthology of Erotic Cinema – The 1900s” (2015) presents some of the earliest film adventures from around the world during 1900-1910, erotica that featured straights, trios, bisexuality and sadomasochistic acts. Wild fantasies range from and include vacuum cleaners, family life, nuns, priests, satanic rituals and school teachers, just to name a few. On DVD only from Risque Cinema.
And, lastly, Scream Factory has put together two new Blu-ray double bill debuts: “Love at First Bite/Once Bitten” and “Vampire’s Kiss/High Spirits.” “Love At First Bite” (1979) stars George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Arte Johnson, Dick Shaw, Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford. “Once Bitten” (1985) stars Jim Carrey, Lauren Hutton, Karen Kopins and Cleavon Little. “Vampire’s Kiss” (1988) stars Nicolas Cage and “High Spirits” (1988) stars Daryl Hannah, Peter O’Toole, Steve Guttenberg, Beverly D’Angelo, Jennifer Tilly, Peter Gallagher and Liam Neeson.