From the Big Screen:
This Week’s Best Bets
Two wonderfully thrilling films are due this week, one each from The Criterion Collection and Arrow Video. Criterion’s release of “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) does justice to this classic film (which, rumor had it, was removed from distribution by the film’s star, Frank Sinatra, after the John F. Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963; that has been denied by those close to the film but, still, “The Manchurian Candidate” was out of circulation for two decades until the late 1980s). John Frankenheimer directed this quintessential 60s political thriller that was notable for its critique of Machiavellian politics and — for its time — extreme violence. Set in the early fifties, this razor-sharp adaptation of the novel by Richard Condon concerns decorated U.S. Army sergeant Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), who as a prisoner during the Korean War is brainwashed into being a sleeper assassin in a Communist conspiracy, and a fellow POW (Frank Sinatra) who slowly uncovers the sinister plot. In an unforgettable, Oscar-nominated performance, Angela Lansbury plays Raymond’s villainous mother, the controlling wife of a witch-hunting anti-Communist senator with his eyes on the White House. The film also features a sexy, stunning performance by Janet Leigh. The rare film to be suffused with Cold War paranoia while also taking aim at the frenzy of the McCarthy era, “The Manchurian Candidate” remains potent, shocking American moviemaking. One of our all-time favorites. On DVD and Blu-ray, with a new, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray. Arrow has this week the ultimate in martial arts revenge: Sho Kosugi’s “Rage of Honor” (1987) on Blu-ray only. Following his star turns in ’80s actioners “Enter the Ninja” and “Revenge of the Ninja,” Sho Kosugi continued his domination of the U.S. martial arts movie world with 1987’s “Rage of Honor” — helmed once again by “Pray for Death” director Gordon Hessler (“The Golden Voyage of Sinbad”). Federal agent Shiro Tanaka (Kosugi) used to live for his job — now, he lives only for revenge. When his partner is killed during a bungled drug bust, Shiro throws away his badge and the rule book with it: Arming himself with an array of deadly weaponry — including nunchucks, blades and ninja stars — he sets out to Buenos Aires to settle the score with the bad guys. Packing explosions, flying kicks and somersaults aplenty (as well as some truly logic-bending stunt sequences), “Rage of Honor” sees Kosugi at the top of his game as he battles his way from the streets of the urban jungle to the very literal jungles of South America. In a high definition presentation from a transfer of original elements by MGM.
Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney (“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” “The Armstrong Lie,” “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” “Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place,” “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”) is an expert at exploring controversial subjects, exposing political and economic corruption, investigating the vagaries of pop culture, and debunking the myths surrounding the rich and famous. Here he turns his lens on Apple founder Steve Jobs and his legacy in “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine” (2015), pulling no punches as he examines the life and career of the bold, brilliant and at times ruthless iconoclast (he was quick to step on friends as well as enemies to maintain his power, and even disavowed his oldest daughter). The documentary covers his rise from a Silicon Valley garage to his ouster as Apple CEO and subsequent return, along with high-profile controversies including stock backdating, poor working and living conditions for factory workers, and the use of overseas tax shelters. Gibney’s brilliance is in putting Jobs’ life into the context of the culture of Silicon Valley: a cutthroat world masquerading as benevolent provider of high-tech gadgets. Jobs was a visionary, but he was also a very flawed human. Features archival footage, intimate photos, rare videos, and exclusive interviews with Chrisana Brennan, the mother of his oldest daughter, and former Apples execs Andy Grignon, Jon,Rubinstein, Bob Belleville and Daniel Kottke. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from Magnolia Home Entertainment.