From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets:
The long-awaited “A Matter of Life and Death” (1946) comes to home video shelves this week in a scrumptious Criterion Collection edition. After miraculously surviving a jump from his burning plane, RAF pilot Peter Carter (David Niven) encounters the American radio operator (Kim Hunter) to whom he’s just delivered his dying wishes and, face-to-face on a tranquil English beach, the pair fall in love. When a messenger from the afterlife arrives to correct the clerical error that spared his life, Peter must mount a fierce defense for his right to stay on earth — painted by production designer Alfred Junge and cinematographer Jack Cardiff as a rich Technicolor Eden — climbing a wide staircase to stand trial in a starkly beautiful, black-and-white modernist heaven. Peppered by humorous jabs intended to smooth tensions between the wartime allies Britain and America, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s richly humanistic “A Matter of Life and Death” traverses time and space to make a case for the transcendent value of love. On DVD and Blu-ray, with new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray … In the noirish classic “I Walk Alone” (1947), starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Lizabeth Scott, partners-in-crime Frankie (Lancaster) and Noll (Douglas) split up to evade capture by the police. Frankie is caught and jailed, but Noll manages to escape and open a posh New York City nightclub. Years later Frankie is released from the clink and visits Noll with the intention of collecting his half of the nightclub’s profits. But Noll, who has no intention of being so equitable, uses his ex-girlfriend Kay (Scott) to divert Frankie from his intended goal. Co-starring Wendell Corey and legendary noir baddies Marc Lawrence and Mike Mazurki. Brand new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm safety dupe negative by Paramount Pictures Archive. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber Studio Classics … Legendary serial and western director William Witney directed the film noir “A Strange Adventure” (1956), starribng Ben Cooper, Joan Evans, Marla English, Nick Adams and Jan Merlin, about a trio of armored-car robbers who make their getaway by forcing a young hot-rodder (Cooper) to be their driver. The vicious criminals take over a mountain cabin for a hideout after overpowering its occupants. Beautifully shot in black-and-white by Bud Thackery. Brand new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm original negative by Paramount Pictures Archive. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
Also due this week: “The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey” (1988): Following the release of his 1984 debut feature “Vigil,” Vincent Ward returned four years later with “The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey,” a film that would cement his position as one of the most exciting filmmaking talents to emerge during the eighties. Cumbria, 1348 — the year of the Black Death. Griffin, a young boy, is plagued by apocalyptic visions that he believes could save his village. Encouraging a small band of men to tunnel into the earth, they surface in 1980s New Zealand and a future beyond their comprehension — but they must complete their quest. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, “The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey” is a bold and often startling fusion of medieval fantasy and time travel science fiction, quite unlike anything you’ve seen. Formats: Blu-ray. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment … “Dagon” (2001): H.P. Lovecraft’s iconic tale comes to life when the Vestron Video Collector’s Series releases the modern retelling of the horror classic “Dagon” on limited edition Blu-ray. Directed by horror mastermind Stuart Gordon and starring Ezra Godden, evil rises and a legend unleashes the rage of Hell after a yacht crashes on the Spanish coast and the survivors are forced to face their nightmares. Restored and remastered.In a Blu-ray debut from Lionsgate.
From TV to Disc:
“Keeping Faith” (2017 — UK) is a three-disc set with all eight episodes about Faith Howells, a fun-loving lawyer with a happy marriage and three children, enjoying an extended maternity leave from the law firm she founded with her husband, Evan. One day, however, Evan leaves for work but never arrives. Faith scrambles to handle the clients Evan left behind, all while trying to find out what happened to her husband. As the days go by with no sign of him, Faith becomes the police’s prime suspect, and her search for the truth leads her to the criminal underbelly of her quiet Welsh town. When long-buried family secrets come to light, Faith wonders if she ever really knew her husband at all. On DVD, Blu-ray from Acorn Media … The long-awaited new season of the hard-hitting Parisian cop thriller “Spiral” makes its way to DVD this week. “Spiral Season Six” (2017) is a three-disc set with all 12 episodes of one of my favorite TV series. Originally released in France as “Engrenages” in 2005, the series became a critically acclaimed blockbuster success across Europe and Australia and won the International Emmy Award for Best Drama. It’s been a well-kept secret here in the US but more and more people are finding out about this gritty, down-to-earth Parisian crime drama that goes “Law & Order” one better by focusing on criminals, police, prosecutors and defense attorneys — with all their successes and failures. Many of the flawed characters are not very likeable but their humanity sucks you into their stories from episode to episode. The main emphasis is, of course, on the working class cops — fighting working class crime in working class neighborhoods in working class clothes — and fighting the self-serving higher-ups only concerned with promotions and monetary compensation. BAFTA nominee Caroline Proust returns as Captain Laure Berthaud, as she and her team begin a complex new investigation after a human torso is discovered in the 20th arrondissement in Paris. Backed up by her team of detectives including Thierry Godard as Lt. Gilou and Fred Bianconi as Tintin, the investigation is overseen by Judge Roban, played by veteran French actor Philippe Duclos. Audrey Fleurot also returns as lawyer Joséphine Karlsson, who continues to juggle her professional ambitions with her personal demons. From MHz Network. “Engrenages,” by the way, translates as “the act of putting into gear” or just “gears.” From MHz Network. (You can stream previous seasons via MHz Network or Hulu).
“Buzzin’ the ‘B’s:”
There’s three Blu-ray debuts this week from Scream Factory, all directed by John Carpenter: “In the Mouth of Madness [Collector’s Edition]” (1994), starring Jürgen Prochnow, Charlton Heston and Sam Neill. Sutter Cane (Prochnow) is the best-selling author whose newest novel is literally driving readers insane. When he inexplicably vanishes, his publisher (Heston) sends special investigator John Trent (Neill) to track him down. Drawn to a town that exists only in Cane’s books, Trent crosses the barrier between fact and fiction and enters a terrifying world from which there is no escape. 4K scan of the original film elements. From Scream Factory … “Memoirs of an Invisible Man” (1992), starring Chevy Chase, Sam Neill and Daryl Hannah, makes its Blu-ray debut this week. Thanks to a nuclear accident, Nick Halloway (Chase) has become invisible. Invisibility makes it easier to spy on agents (particularly chief adversary Neill) who’ve put him in his predicament. And he can romance a lovely documentary producer (Hannah) in a way she’s never “seen” before. New 2K scan of the original film elements … “Someone’s Watching Me” (1978), starring Lauren Hutton, David Birney and Adrienne Barbea. Los Angeles newcomer Leigh Michaels (Hutton) moves into a chic high-rise apartment building. She loves the view. So does the Peeping Tom who lives somewhere in the adjacent tower. Leigh fights back, matching her tormentor’s obsession with her own relentless drive to uncover his identity. The prey is now predator — and that escalates the stalker’s game to a deadly new level. New 2K scan from the original film elements — in both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 aspect ratios.
In “Tiger by the Tail” (1970), starring Christopher George, Tippi Hedren, Dean Jagger, Charo, R.G. Armstrong, Lloyd Bochner, Skip Homeier, John Dehner, Alan Hale Jr. and Dennis Patrick, a Vietnam War veteran (George) returns home to restore his relationship with his estranged brother (Patrick), a principal shareholder of a California racetrack. Upon arrival, he discovers that his brother has been murdered during a robbery. After being framed for his brother’s murder, he looks up his old flame (Hedren) to assist him in solving the robbery and murder. The ex-lovers are now caught in the callous greed of corrupt and vicious shareholders responsible for the cover-up and his brother’s murder. Brand new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm original negative and interpostive by Paramount Pictures Archive. On DVD, Blu-ray, from Kino Lorber Studio Classics … In “Love Me Deadly” (1972), starring Mary Charlotte Wilcox, Lyle Waggoner, Christopher Stone, Timothy Scott and H.B. Halicki, Lindsay (Wilcox) has an unusual fascination with the dead, she often finds herself at funerals for people she doesn’t even know. Once the mourners have cleared out, she’s drawn to the corpse by an unspeakable sexual curiosity. It appears that this obsession with the recently deceased has been brewing within Lindsay for quite some time and might have been something to do with her late father. She makes an attempt at a normal relationship with Lyle Waggoner, but is also lured into a corpse-loving cult by a creepy undertaker. Equal parts sick soap opera and exploitation, “Love Me Deadly” still has the power to disturb and disgust 46 years later after its original release. Brand new 2K scan of the original camera negative. On Blu-ray from Code Red/Kino Lorber … In “Operation Red Sea” (2018 — China), starring Zhang Yi, Huang Jingyu, Hai Qing, Du Jiang, Jiang Luxia, Yin Fang, Wang Yutian and Simon Yam, famed action director Dante Lam returns with an explosive follow-up to his 2016 “Operation Mekong.” When a terrorist plot to obtain nuclear materials is hidden under the cover of a violent coup, only the Chinese Navy’s elite Jiaolong (Sea Dragon) Assault Team have the deadly skill and precision needed to take on the situation and rescue Chinese citizens and foreign refugees. Set amid militant unrest in a fictional Middle Eastern country.On DVD, Blu-ray, from Well Go USA … In “Beyond Re-Animator” (2003), starring Jeffrey Combs, Jason Barry, Elsa Pataky and Javier Sandoval, everyone’s favorite mad scientist continues his re-animation research, turning the penitentiary he’s been incarcerated in for the past 14 years into a new branch of hell. After causing the Miskatonic University Massacre, Dr. Herbert West has been serving a prison sentence for the past 14 years. When Howard, a new young doctor, comes to work as the prison MD and requests Dr. West’s assistance, Dr. West discovers that Howard has something he left behind 14 years ago. On Blu-ray from Vestron Video Collector’s Series/Lionsgate … In the horror-comedy “The Night of the Virgin” (2016 — Spain), starring Javier Bódalo, Miriam Martín and Víctor Amilibia, Nico, a naive 20-year-old, sets out to lose his virginity — at all costs — at a New Year’s Eve party. In the middle of the party, his gaze crosses Medea, a cunning and attractive mature woman. Look out Nico. From Cleopatra Entertainment.
In “You Will Be Mine” (2009 –France), starring Judith Davis and Isild Le Besco, Marie Dandin (Davis), a promising young concert pianist, leaves home to study at the prestigious Lyons National Conservatory. Shy and innocent, she moves in with her childhood friend Emma (Le Besco) who has lived alone since the death of her father years earlier. The intimate bond that the two women share eventually develops into an intense sexual relationship. But as Emma grows more possessive and controlling, Marie struggles to reconcile her feelings of desire with the need to escape Emma’s suffocating passion. From Film Movement … “Tainted Souls” (2017 — Italy), starring Vinicio Marchioni, Anna Foglietta and Giulia Bevilacqua, is set in a working-class apartment building in Rome where the lives of a bisexual former body builder, his wife, his male lover, and a pair of ambitious criminals intersect against a backdrop of crime, confused sexual feelings, and tainted relationships. Soon these lost souls will come to find that the hunger for power is an unstoppable disease from which there is no cure. From Breaking Glass Pictures … “Indivisible” (2016 — Italy) is an award-winning Italian drama about the unbreakable bonds of sisterhood. Dasy and Viola (Angela and Marianna Fontana) are conjoined twin sisters living in the suburbs of Naples. They are blessed with beautiful voices and, thanks to their performances at local weddings, communions and baptisms, have become the breadwinners for their entire family. Kept isolated from the world by their exploiting father, their lives are turned upside down when one of them falls in love for the first time … and they discover that it is possible for them to be separated. On DVD, Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics … In “The Great Game” (2015 — France), starring Melvil Poupaud, André Dussollier and Clémence Poésy, Pierre (Poupaud), a onetime daring novelist disgusted with the publishing world, lets a duplicitous government insider (Dussollier) tempt him into ghostwriting a manifesto designed to transform French public opinion. This act has risky consequences for the activist (Poésy) with whom he soon becomes involved. Nicholas Pariser’s debut feature is an elegant political thriller that makes much use of its stellar cast, particularly in the performance of André Dussollier, who commits to his character’s malevolence with relish. From Distrib Films/Icarus Films … In “The Three-Way Wedding” (2010 — France), starring Pascal Greggory, Julie Depardieu, Louis Garrel and Agathe Bonitzer, renowned playwright Auguste (Greggory) is struggling to complete his latest play. Looking for inspiration, he invites the cast to join him at his country estate. Harriet (Depardieu), his leading lady, is also his ex-wife, and her leading man, Théo (Garrel), is her new lover. Sensing their attraction, Auguste decides to seduce Fanny (Bonitzer), his beautiful young assistant. But as sparks fly and resentments flare, Auguste wonders whether he could have a three-way marriage with both women. From Film Movement … In this searing and mesmerizing drama “Razzia” (2017 — Morocco), starring Maryam Touzani, Arieh Worthalter, Amine Ennaji, Abdelilah Rachid and Dounia Binebine, five Moroccans from different social and religious strata are pushed to the fringe by their extremist government. Spanning three decades and several storylines, director Nabil Ayouch weaves an intricate tale of lost loves, forbidden desires, and fragile dreams in modern day Morocco. The Moroccan Entry for the 2018 Academy Awards. On DVD from First Run Features … “O Fantasma” (2000 — Portugal), starring Ricardo Meneses, Beatriz Torcato and Andre Barbosa, is an erotic cautionary tale about a marginalized young man (Meneses), a trash collector living and working in the seedy north of Lisbon, exploring his sexuality. The film charts the young man’s odyssey, with its potential for self-discovery as well as self-obliteration, with psychological insight and visual power. From Strand Releasing.
“American Masters — Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived”
(2018): During his remarkable career with the Boston Red Sox, Ted Williams earned many nicknames — The Kid, The Splendid Splinter and Teddy Ballgame, but the only nickname that he wanted was “the greatest hitter who ever lived.” In that pursuit, he combined his preternatural gifts with a fierce work ethic to become widely regarded as one of the greatest ever to play the game of baseball and in the process elevated the science of hitting in ways still emulated today. Through never-before-seen archival footage and in-depth interviews with those who knew and studied Williams, including his daughter Claudia Williams, author/journalist Ben Bradlee, Jr., veteran baseball writer Roger Angela, and award-winning broadcasters Bob Costas and the late Dick Enberg, the program demonstrates the power of the heroic myth-making culture in which Williams flourished. Lesser-known topics explored include Williams’ Mexican-American background, his experiences serving during World War II and the Korean War, and his deep rage over his mother’s virtual abandonment of him and his younger brother. Narrated by Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Jon Hamm, the documentary also looks at the legendary player’s impact on the game of baseball and his relevance in the almost 60 years since his retirement, highlighted by Williams’ iconic achievement — he is the last player to hit over .400, finishing the 1941 season batting .406. Former players — including Baseball Hall of Famers Willie McCovey and Wade Boggs, three-time All-Star Jim Kaat, and current Cincinnati Reds first baseman and former National League MVP Joey Votto — share how Williams’ philosophy, commitment to greatness and approach to hitting influenced them in the film. From PBS Distribution.
All DVDs and Blu-rays are screened on a reference system consisting of an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray Disc Player w/SACD & DVD-Audio, a Rotel RSX-972 Surround Sound Receiver, and Phase Technology 1.1 (front), 33.1 (center), and 50 (rear) speakers, and Power 10 subwoofer.