From the Big Screen:
“Veronica Mars” For more information on these and other releases this week, see the Weekly Guide to Home Video Releases.
This Week’s Highlights:
There’s a flurry of impressive Blu-ray debuts this week:
“The Big Red One: The Reconstruction” (1980) is Samuel Fuller’s classic antiwar film that follows a quartet of U.S. soldiers from “The Big Red One” (the nickname of the 1st Infantry Division that Fuller himself served in, making the film semi-autobiographical) serving in a rifle squad from 1942-1945 as they push from North Africa to Sicily to D-Day to the liberation I of France, the invasion of Germany and finally to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia. The story is told in a series of anecdotal vignettes as a core group of soldiers talk about life, love and war, fight off the Germans, and greet new squad recruits and mourn their passing. The film was heavily edited by the studio on its original release, but was restored and premiered at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. Stars Lee Marvin, Mark Hamill, Robert Carradine, Bobby Di Cicco, Kelly Ward and Stephane Audran. The Blu-ray disc includes both the original theatrical version and the reconstruction but, infortunately, only the theatrical version is presented in 1080p and DTS-HD Master Audio. Still, a must buy. Extras include alternate scenes, “Anatomy of a Scene” before and after restoration comparisons, “The Real Glory: Reconstructing The Big One” featurette, “Profile: The Men Who Make the Movies: Samuel Fuller,” a War department film “The Fighting First,” commentary on the restoration version by film critic Richard Schickel. From Warner.
“Blazing Saddles 40th Anniversary Blu-ray” (1974) is one of the funniest and most outrageous comedies of all time. It stars Cleavon Little as an unlikely sheriff in the Wild West town of Rock Ridge, Harvey Korman as the villain, Madeline Kahn as a Marlene Dietrich-style chanteuse, Gene Wilder as the wacko Waco Kid and director Mel Brooks as a dimwitted politico. Once the lunatic film gets started, logic is lost in a blizzard of gags, jokes, quips, puns and outrageous assaults upon good taste or any taste at all. Takes the No. 6 spot in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Comedies. Also stars Slim Pickens, Alex Karras, John Hillerman and Dom DeLuise. Extras include a new featurette, “Blaze of Glory: Mel Brooks’ Wild, Wild West”; commentary by Brooks; “Back in the Saddle” cast/crew reunion documentary; “Black Bart” 1975 TV pilot inspired by the movie, starring Lou Gossett Jr. and Steve Landesberg; deleted scenes; theatrical trailer. From Warner.
“The Bridges of Madison County” (1995) is Clint Eastwood’s luscious filmic adaptation of Robert James Waller’s romantic novel set in 1965 about Robert Kincaid (Eastwood), a photographer and free spirit searching for the covered bridges of Madison County, Iowa, and Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep), an Italian-born farm wife waiting for the fulfillment of a girlhood dream, who meet and have an incredible four-day torrid love affair while her husband and children are off at the Illinois State Fair. Extras include “An Old-Fashioned Love Story: Making The Bridges of Madison County,” commentary by editor Joel Cox and cinematographer Jack N. Green, theatrical trailer. From Warner.
Billy Wilder’s “Ace in the Hole” (1951) is one of the most scathing indictments of American culture ever produced by a Hollywood filmmaker. Kirk Douglas gives the fiercest performance of his career as Chuck Tatum, an amoral newspaper reporter who washes up in dead-end Albuquerque, happens upon the scoop of a lifetime — a treasure hunter is trapped in a mine collapse — and will do anything to keep getting the lurid headlines. Wilder’s follow-up to Sunset Boulevard is an even darker vision, a no-holds-barred expose of the American media’s appetite for sensation that has gotten only more relevant with time. Restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack. From The Criterion Collection in a Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD release.
CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount has ported three of its most popular TV series to Blu-ray:
“I Love Lucy – Ultimate Season One” (1951-52) features all the hilarious first episodes of the groundbreaking series starring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Alongside such classics as the “Lucy Does a TV Commercial” episode selling Vitameatavegamin are never-before seen treats, including Lucy and Desi’s makeup and wardrobe tests where the off-screen couple are filmed together just days before full-scale production began. Also included is the pilot episode, re-mastered from its recently discovered original 35mm negative, radio broadcasts, on-set color home movies and backstage photos. Six-disc set, $129.99 … “The Andy Griffith Show – Season One” (1960-61) includes all 32 episodes of the first season, restored in high definition, with original sponsor openings and closings. Starring Andy Griffith, Ron Howard, Don Knotts and Frances Bavier, the beloved series about small-town America includes rare special features, including color on-set home movies shot by Ron Howard’s father Rance, Edward R. Murrow’s insightful interview of Andy Griffith on “Person to Person” in 1957 and a new HD transfer of the “Return to Mayberry” television movie. Four-disc set, $129.99. … “The Honeymooners – Classic 39 Episodes” (1955-56) features re-mastered full-length episodes of the iconic series, starring the one and only Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph. Special features include a never-before-released, hour-long musical “The Honeymooners: The Adoption” from 1966; a memorable 1984 “60 Minutes” profile of Jackie Gleason; both “The Honeymooners Anniversary Special” (1990) and “The Honeymooners 50th Anniversary Celebration” (2002); Jackie Gleason interviewing a Queens bus driver as guest host for Edward R. Murrow on “Person to Person”; original openings, closings and cast commercials. Five-disc set, $129.99.
Also this week: “China Beach: The Complete Season Three” (1989-90), a six-disc set with 22 uncut episodes of the TV series set during the Vietnam War in a part-EVAC hospital, part-USO entertainment center that was an outpost of craziness and compassion that mingled horror and laughter, heroism and sacrifice, as seen through the eyes of the women who served there. Season Three explored the most unlikely relationship between nurse Colleen McMurphy (Dana Delany) and “entrepreneur” K.C. Kolowski (Marg Helgenberger), both of whom are held hostage in the notorious tunnels in Vietnam; introduced Holly Pelegrini (Ricki Lake); took Dodger (Jeff Kober) home; and jumped back in “F.N.G.” to when new guys Dr. Richard (Robert Picardo) and McMurphy first arrive in the country. Guest stars included Ruby Dee, Vince Vaughn, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Haden Church, Don Cheadle and Helen Hunt. And don’t forget the great 60s rock music soundtrack! On DVD only, $29.95 from Time Life/StarVista Entertainment … In “Generation War” (2013 — Germany) a group of five young friends — eager to become heroes — gather together on the eve of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Nothing could have prepared them for the extreme realities that await each and every one of them. As told through the eyes of young adults on the brink of adulthood in Nazi Germany, director Philipp Kadelbach and writer Stefan present a sweeping saga, aired as a TV minseries in Germany. Produced over a period of eight years and filmed on over 150 sets across Germany, Lithuania and Latvia, the film is a stunning German epic drama spanning over five years beginning in Berlin in 1941 through the immediate aftermath of WWII in 1945. The lives of five young German friends are defined when they are forced to navigate the unconscionable moral compromises of life under Hitler. Among the quintet of young people are level-headed officer Wilhelm (Volker Bruch), who is full of patriotic fervor as he heads for the eastern front with his sensitive younger brother Friedhelm (Tom Schilling); Charlotte(Miriam Stein), a young nurse in love with Wilhelm who is serving in the Red Cross; Greta (Katherina Schuttler), an ambitious singer who longs to become another Marlene Dietrich; and Greta’s boyfriend Viktor (Ludwig Trepte), who faces a daily struggle for survival as a Jew in an increasingly oppressive regime. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc with a special 12-page booklet containing photos, an essay and more. From Music Box Films.