From the Big Screen:
“Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter,” “While We’re Young,” “Danny Collins,” “The Gunman” and “Get Hard.” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Best Bets:
“The Decline of Western Civilization Collection”: This is the one rock fans (and cultural critics) have been waiting for: remastered editions of Penelope Spheeris’ critically acclaimed rock films “The Decline of Western Civilization,” “The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” and “The Decline of Western Civilization: Part III.” Each film in the four-disc set has a new 2K high-definition scan, supervised by Spheeris. The set includes a 40-page book containing an essay written by rock historian Domenic Priore (“Riot on Sunset Strip: Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Last Stand in Hollywood”) and rare stills. Spheeris, who also directed “Suburbia,” “Black Sheep” and “Wayne’s World,” regards the “Decline” films as her most personally rewarding work. “I am so grateful to the fans of these films, and the bands that appeared in them, for their loyalty and patience. This is my life’s work, and I like to think that when I go to my grave, “The Decline” is what I’ll be remembered for.” In 1981 Spheeris was able to book only one midnight screening for the Los Angeles premiere of “The Decline of Western Civilization.” Even though mainstream Hollywood didn’t get it, thousands of fans showed up, spilling onto Hollywood Boulevard, and over 300 policemen arrived on scene. Police Chief Darryl Gates wrote the filmmakers a letter banning further screenings in the city. However, times change, and in 2014 the three “Decline” films were restored by The Academy Film Archive, and screened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Part of the appeal of “The Decline of Western Civilization” was its appearance in the midst of a backlash against disco, and slick, mainstream music films. The film garnered rave reviews from press, becoming one of the most written about movies of 1980. Perceived as shocking and outrageous, the film captured the essence of the punk scene, and provided a front row seat to the mosh pits, violence, humor and anti-establishment view of the world, as well as unparalleled access to some of the most influential and innovative musicians and groups of the time, including X, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Fear, and Germs. Largely unknown at the time, many of the punk bands first seen here have become legendary.
The second in Spheeris’ music documentary trilogy, “The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years” (1988) takes a fast-paced look at the outrageous heavy metal scene of the late 80s. Set in Los Angeles, the film explores fascinating portraits of struggling musicians, fans and star-struck groupies. Featuring Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Poison, members of Aerosmith, Kiss, Motorhead, and performances by Megadeth, Faster Pussycat, Lizzy Borden, London, Odin and Seduce, this raucous and uproarious chapter also chronicles the lonely naivete of the striving bands, and the endless flow of alcohol and drugs.
In 1998, the last in the series, “The Decline Of Western Civilization Part III”, hit select theaters but was never released in any home video format. A disturbing social commentary on homeless youth who have often left home due to abuse or neglect, the film has themes of alienation and alcoholism. Spheeris personally financed the film, bringing to the screen the real-life squatter lifestyle and angry rejection of mainstream society two decades after she wrote and directed the cult classic Suburbia. Sadly there are plenty of tragic endings in this story: overdoses, a squat fire, and the murder of a kid named Squid, who was thrilled to be included in the film because he thought it might turn his life around. A fitting last chapter in the Decline trilogy, this film includes performances by Final Conflict, Litmus Green, Naked Aggression and The Resistance and won the Freedom of Expression award at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival.
On DVD: $39.98, Blu-ray Disc: $59.98. Extras: include commentary by Dave Grohl; Penelope Spheeris interview with Tawn Mastrey of KNAC; never-before-seen original footage, performances and interviews; Mark Toscano of the Academy Film Archive interviews Penelope Spheeris; theatrical trailers. From Shout! Factory. Thank you, guys.
Here’s a bang-em up you have to see: “Pit Stop” (1969). The most dangerous game ever devised, to pit man against man, flesh against steel — is the figure-8 race. Jack Hill (“Coffy,” “Foxy Brown”) follows up “Spider Baby,” once again teaming up with Sid Haig (“House of 1000 Corpses”). Richard Davalos (“East of Eden”) stars as Rick Bowman, a street punk who winds up in jail after a street race goes wrong. Bailed out by race promoter Grant Willard, Davalos is put in the deadly track where he comes up against Haig’s maniacal winner Hawk Sidney. Featuring an outstanding supporting cast including Brian Donlevy in his last film appearance, Ellen Burstyn, billed as Ellen McRae, and Beverly Washburn, “Pit Stop” is one of Hill’s lesser known films but arguably one of his greatest. Filmed on a real figure-8 track, Hill and his crew were able to capture gripping real-life car wreck scenes lending the film a brilliant sense of realism. New high-definition digital transfer supervised and approved by director Jack Hill. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo with high-definition Blu-ray (1080p) and standard definition DVD presentation. With original mono 1.0 audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-ray). From Arrow Video/MVD.
From The Criterion Collection comes “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” (1970): A girl on the verge of womanhood finds herself in a sensual fantasyland of vampires, witchcraft and other threats in this eerie and mystical movie daydream. “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” serves up an endlessly looping, nonlinear fairy tale, set in a quasi-medieval landscape. Ravishingly shot, enchantingly scored, and spilling over with surreal fancies, this enticing phantasmagoria from director Jaromil Jires is among the most beautiful oddities of the Czechoslovak New Wave. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc, with a new 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray.