By Gary Dretzka Dretzka@moviecitynews.com

The DVD Wrapup: Hateful 8, Winter, Child of Century, Chantal Akerman, Mediterranea, Leon Russell, Death Valley Days and more

The Hateful Eight: Blu-ray

Released on Christmas in its limited 70mm road-show presentation, The Hateful Eight served both as an extravagant gift from Quentin Tarantino to his many fans and a happy reminder of how movies once were made and exhibited. It also demanded of critics that they find new ways to assure readers that experiencing the film’s visual grandeur on the wide, wide screen balances the pain associated with enduring Tarantino’s trademark excesses: the sting of the so-called n-word is felt 65 times in the three-hour version, with an extremely grisly body count of 16. Experiencing the Colorado-for-Wyoming Rockies in winter, as captured by Robert Richardson’s Ultra Panavision 70 cinematography and accompanied by Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-winning score, is nothing short of exhilarating. So, too, are nasty-as-sin performances by such familiar faces as Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Channing Tatum, Walton Goggins and especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who continually steals the spotlight from the other heavy hitters in this Agatha Christie-meets-The Thing adventure. For all of the attention paid to the spectacular panoramas and landscapes, however, most of The Hateful Eight takes place within the confines of a stagecoach stop, deep in the mountains, while a fast-rising blizzard constricts the characters’ mobility. Set several years after the close of the Civil War, in a corner of the Union where old wounds have yet to heal, The Hateful Eight opens with Russell’s dogged bounty hunter John Ruth trying to get his prisoner, Daisy Domergue, to the town of Red Rock, where she’s scheduled to be brought to justice. Along the way, Ruth, who’s paid for the exclusive use of the stagecoach, allows the driver to pick up two strangers stranded in the snow: another bounty hunter and former union soldier, Major Marquis Warren (Jackson) and a former southern renegade who claims to be the new mayor of Red Rock (Goggins). When the impending storm forces them to bivouac at Minnie’s Haberdashery, they are confronted by four seemingly unrelated strangers, absent Minnie and her co-workers. Shackled to Ruth, Domergue exploits the tense atmosphere by slinging insults and racial epithets like sharp sticks at the other trapped characters. The Southerners also taunt the black bounty hunter, although it’s nothing he hasn’t heard before in his travels. It isn’t until halfway through the picture, though, that the disparate characters start dropping like Christie’s 10 little Indians. The impeccable Blu-ray and digital edition includes the 167-minute version that was released into the many theaters that weren’t retrofitted for 70mm projection. It’s likely that the 187-minute road-show edition will be released sometime down the road, with a few more featurettes than the perfunctory “Beyond the Eight: A Behind the Scenes Look” and slightly more insightful “Sam Jackson’s Guide to Glorious 70mm.”

The Winter

Konstantinos Koutsoliotas compelling debut feature, The Winter, takes place in a long abandoned house haunted by memories of the stories told to him by his wildly eccentric father. The remote rural setting is essential, because it represents a way of life gone to seed in Greece and a future as unstable as the country’s economy. Like so many Greeks born after World War II, Nikos Gounaras (Theo Albanis) is the product of parents who were forced to choose between eking out a subsistence living in the village they were born and moving to Athens, Thessalonica, northern Europe, America, or anywhere else the jobs were. Nikos’ father bucked the trend by remaining in the tiny village of Siatista, causing his wife to decide that she’d had enough of his nutty fantasies and antisocial behavior and split for the city with Nikos. Years later, perhaps inspired by his father’s bedtime stories, Nikos would write a novel accorded a fair measure of international acclaim. When we meet him, the visually eccentric hipster is living in London, completely blocked and dodging a flock of savagely persistent debt collectors. He can’t bear to reveal his true economic state to his mother, who’s tethered herself to her son via cellphone, so he invents little white lies to keep her from hopping on a plane and moving in with him. Even when Nikos is ensconced in the dilapidated family home in Siatista, he pretends to be living the life of a successful writer in Scotland.

 

Increasing delusional, the old man had died there, years earlier, under what Nikos considers to be mysterious circumstances. As the title suggests, he’s picked the coldest time of the year to work out his problems. The electricity has been turned off and the conveniences of modern plumbing have yet to make it to the mountains of north-central Greece. Unable to sleep comfortably, he has plenty of time on his hands to be confronted with the supernatural forces that plagued his father. Neither has Niko been welcomed back to the neighborhood with open arms. The elderly woman next-door is hospitable, if wary of his motives. It’s the priests who are most suspicious of the young man’s unexpected presence and they rule village life with an iron hand. Not only do they prey on their parishioners’ religious fears and superstitions, but they create new ones, as well, whenever the younger ones begin to show their independence. Koutsoliotas’ visual-effects background serves him well in The Winter. The animated fantasy sequences run the gamut from delightfully whimsical to downright nightmarish. The abandoned house in which the movie is filmed belongs to the co-writer/director’s family and, yes, the locals believe it to be haunted.

 

Confession of a Child of the Century: Blu-ray

French writer/director Sylvie Verheyde’s Confession of a Child of the Century feels very much like one of those lush period dramas that don’t quite fit the confines of a two-hour movie – even one that’s 125 minutes long – but might not carry enough literary heft for a “Masterpiece” mini-series. Like Diane Kurys’ 1999 rom-dram, The Children of the Century, it was inspired by Alfred de Musset’s 1836 semi-autobiographical novel. In it, the French dramatist, poet, and novelist describes his tempestuous two-year love affair with writer George Sand, who also counted composer Frédéric Chopin among her conquests. She is represented here, as Brigitte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), a widow 10 years older than the self-described libertine and all-around dandy Octave (Pete Doherty), who is sitting in for Musset. Upended by the death of his father and crushed by the betrayal of his mistress (Lily Cole), Octave is laying low in the French countryside. Like so many other rich young men of his generation, he suffers from the “disease of the century,” caused by drink, debauchery and ennui. It’s where he meets Brigitte, who allows herself to be wooed and won, but only for as long as their stars remain uncrossed. Ultimately, the younger man is undone by jealousy. Like the book, the movie doesn’t belabor the facts of their relationship, which, by all accounts, was something of a roller-coaster ride. Not surprisingly, Gainsbourg is well-cast in the lead female role. The choice of rock musician Doherty as Octave probably was a bit too on-the-nose, however. Having already survived more than his fair share of debauchery, he looks the part of someone who’s been used up and thrown away a time or two. Opposite Gainsborough, he is clearly out of his league. Verheyde’s design team really got the job done, though. The Cohen Media Blu-ray adds the featurette, “Confession of a French Literature Fanatic” to lend scholarly context to the proceedings.

 

Chantal Akerman: Four Films

If all one knows about Chantal Akerman’s significant body of work has been gleaned from the many glowing tributes published after her untimely death last year, or even from her 1975 breakthrough film Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai de commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, there’s a great deal more to be savored. Even from the perspective of an arthouse habitué, Akerman’s sometimes excruciatingly personal movies demanded great intellectual and visual forbearance. Although the Brussels native could easily be categorized as a “critics’ darling,” she presented challenges to them, as well. Akerman did what she what wanted to do, however and whenever she was moved to do it. Icarus’ newly released compilation, Chantal Akerman: Four Films, contains four mid-period documentaries that stretch the limits of the non-fictional discipline, by presenting alternative points of view, framing devices and sound designs. It wouldn’t be the first place most admirers would recommend as a starting place for an appreciation of her oeuvre – that, too, probably would be “Jeanne Dielman” – but it will do in a pinch.

 

From the East (1993) retraces a journey she made from East Germany, across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow, to capture a crumbling post-Soviet world “before it is too late.” Set largely in the fall and winter, much of From the East was filmed using long, lingering tracking shots taken from a static, car-borne camera, pointed at lines at emotionless people waiting at points of transit. Their expressions tell us all we need to know about what life must have been like for people as yet unsure of what to expect from the new democracies. In South (1999), Akerman examines the facts and faces behind one of the most heinous crimes in post-Civil War history. Rather than continue her preparations for a project involving Mississippi writer William Faulkner, she traveled to rural Jasper, Texas, where 49-year-old James Byrd Jr. had been dragged behind a pickup truck to his death by a trio of white supremacists. The meditative film’s most striking sequence, perhaps, is a real-time ride along the same three-mile stretch of asphalt where parts of Byrd’s mutilated body had been scattered by his killers. It’s contrasted by matter-of-fact interviews and shots taken inside local churches.

 

Never more timely, From the Other Side (2002) examines life along both sides of the America’s porous border with Mexico, in Douglas, Arizona, and the Sonoran town of Agua Prietra. Unlike most reports from the region in the late-1990s, Akerman chose not to pursue political or coldly economic motives for the migration north and Arizonans’ reaction to it. Rather, she puts a tight focus on the human dilemma faced by people living alongside or traveling through the then-incomplete fence separating the two countries. Although the cultural differences are obvious, the common unifying factor is the harsh and forbidding wasteland unnaturally bisected by metal barrier. In Down There (2006), Akerman set up her camera inside an apartment in Tel Aviv and pointed it directly at the residential building across the street. In her narration, she muses on issues concerning her family, Jewish identity, her childhood and the fragility of life in the embattled Jewish state. A bonus film, Chantal Akerman, From Here (2010), consists of an hour-long, single-shot interview — directed by Gustavo Beck and Leonardo Luiz Ferreira – during which she discusses her methodology and her directorial philosophy with an out-of-frame reporter. That person is either terribly unprepared for task or uncomfortable with the language gap. Akerman’s body language is as interesting as anything said in the interview. A 12-page booklet with new essays by Jonathan Rosenbaum and Amy Taubin is included in the five-disc box set.

 

In May, Icarus will release I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman, which explores some of the Belgian filmmaker’s 40-plus films, carrying viewers from Brussels to Tel Aviv and Paris to New York. On April 1, Fandor subscribers can stream Akerman’s intimate final film, No Home Movie, to their home theater or mobile units. It is a stylized portrait of her perhaps too-close relationship with her mother, Natalia, a Holocaust survivor, who died a few months before Akerman is believed to have committed suicide. I also recommend checking out her early feminist films on YouTube. Her first feature, Je Tu Il Elle (1974), and first short, Saute ma ville (1968), could easily have provided the templates upon which Leah Dunham built “Girls.”

 

Mediterranea

Before the Syrian refugee crisis began in earnest, European media outlets decried the seemingly unstoppable flow of African immigrants from Tunisia, Libya and other countries that profit from the trafficking of humans. Reports of beaches littered with the bloated bodies of people who fell short of fulfilling their dream still threaten the tourist trade in southern Italy, even if the world’s attention has shifted further east. In 2011, Emanuele Crialese’s excellent Terraferma tackled the problem from the point of residents of the island of Lampedusa, where individual lifestyles have been dramatically altered by a decline in the fishing industry, new laws governing the rescue and harboring illegal immigrants, and the annual influx of tourists. Aki Kaurismäki’s Le Havre, also released in 2011, describes how residents of one French port city interact with recently arrived Africans. Jonas Carpignano’s debut feature, Mediterranea, follows best friends Ayiva and Abas as they make their way from landlocked Burkina Faso, through Libya, and, by boat, to the small town of Rosarno, in southern Italy. Each step of the journey is fraught with danger and an expectation of being ripped off in a dozen different ways. The young men are determined to fulfill the promises made to their family and friends back home, but nothing comes easy, even when they reach the promised land.

 

By extending the story beyond the immediacy of the journey, itself, Mediterranea echoes Cary Joji Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre and Gregory Nava’s El Norte, which anticipated the current crisis on the U.S./Mexico border. Like the immigrants who are welcomed by farmers and agricultural interests in the U.S., a large number of Africans who make their way to Europe find work in the fields and orchards. The more recently arrived they are, however, the more exploited they tend to be. Moreover, the Africans are subject to a form of racism as insidious as any that’s reared its head in the U.S., without the benefits won by Cesar Chavez and the UFW. Carpignano succeeds in taking viewers beyond the orchards and juice factories, to the camps, relief and social agencies, and places in Rosarno where the Africans interact in various ways with the locals. The movie’s most touching moment, perhaps, comes when Ayiva (Koudous Seihon) is given access to a computer capable of facilitating a Skype reunion with his sister and 7-year-old daughter. Mediterranea was inspired, in large part, by Carpignano’s award-winning 2012 short, “A Chjàna,” which was informed by Seihon’s own experiences and the 2010 Rosarno riots, which resulted in 1,000 African workers being removed from the area for their own protection.

 

Pigs: Blu-ray

Dickshark

Cherry Falls: Blu-ray

Murders in the Rue Morgue/The Dunwich Horror: Blu-ray

Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXV

One of the things Hollywood-based reporters hear when assigned to write about movies that aren’t very good is that no one sets out to make a bad film. According to their stars and directors, the real stinkers were doomed from the start, wildly misunderstood or butchered by the suits. Actors rarely go into a project thinking they can phone in their performance from home. Directors, writers, cinematographers, grips and designers all hope to be congratulated by friends and relatives after the opening weekend. After the first round of budget cuts are announced, however, and pages begin to be ripped out of the working script, everyone begins to expect the worst. I only mention this because none of the genre specimens reviewed this week can be recommended for any other reason than being a guilty pleasure or for an individual performance or technical credit. I generally leave it up to the individual to decide whether a movie is “so bad it’s good.” These titles, I believe, are so bad that they almost defy description. Even so, the filmmakers and actors interviewed in the bonus features describe the movies we’ve just seen as being a lot better than they were, by any objective or critical standard. other than objectively inferior to most movies that have preceded it into the ancillary markets. It’s truly refreshing when a director comes clean as to how his dog picked up its fleas. In Hollywood, though, the truth isn’t a valued quality.

 

One definite tipoff to a picture’s distinct absence of quality is the number of titles its carried on its arduous journey to DVD/Blu-ray. Pigs was veteran character actor Marc Lawrence’s second and final foray into the business of making a feature film from behind the camera. Released briefly in 1972 as “The 13th Pig,” its working title was “Daddy’s Deadly Darling.” In Pig’s many re-edits and re-issues, it’s also been called “Blood Pen,” “Daddy’s Girl,” “Roadside Torture Chamber,” “The Secret of Lynn Hart,” “The Strange Love Exorcist” and “Horror Farm.” As far as anyone knows, the new Vinegar Syndrome DVD/Blu-ray represents the only time Lawrence’s vision has been realized intact. In it, Lawrence’s very attractive and amazingly buxom daughter, Toni, plays a young woman who one day shows up in a dusty speck on the map of California, where she takes a job at a restaurant owned by Zambrini (Lawrence), an elderly former circus performer who runs a small café and pig farm. Local legend has it that his pigs only eat human flesh and that in order to satisfy their growing appetites, Zambrini has begun to murder drifters. Coincidentally, his new waitress is an escapee from a mental facility and not at all averse to supporting her boss’ hobby. In fact, Lynn had killed her father after he raped her and now senses his abusive behavior is a condition shared by most men. Because it was made before the introduction of sophisticated special makeup effects and CGI, the titular stars of Pigs are limited to grunting before cinematographer Glenn Roland’s in-your-snout camera and terrorizing Lynn’s suitors by running through their legs. The pigs owned by the Chinese butcher in “Deadwood” were far more convincing, as was the wild boar in Razorback and the masks worn by the killers in Motel Hell, Saw and Berkshire County. Several movies have been inspired by Canada’s most prolific serial killer, pig farmer Robert Pickton. As bad as it is, VS has sent Pigs out in Blu-ray with a new 2K restoration from the 35mm Interpositive; featurettes with Toni Lawrence, also noteworthy for being Billy Bob Thornton’s second wife, composer Charles Bernstein (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Cujo) and Roland (Ilsa She Wolf of the S.S.); two alternate openings and alternate ending; and a gallery.

 

Anyone familiar with the work of sleazoid New Jersey auteur Bill Zebub already will have a pretty good idea what to expect when picking up his latest micro-budget extravaganza, Dickshark. Based on the jacket notes, we already know it will combine elements of creature horror, sci-fi experimentation and bargain-basement porn in the service of a story that satirizes the cottage industry of performance-enhancing ointments and other quackery pitched in late-night infomercials and pop-up ads on porn sites. The only thing open to question is the degree of depravity Zebub will achieve. Dickshark opens with a poorly endowed man borrowing what he believes to be his roommate’s penis-enlargement cream. In fact, the substance is the penile equivalent of Victor Frankenstein’s monster. The misinformed Romeo now is able to mold his unit into the shape of a small shark, which comes as bad news to his girlfriend. After shooting the dickshark off the body of her lover, she makes the tactical mistake of flushing it down the toilet. Its ability to survive the toxicity of the sewer water also allows it to grow larger and develop a penis-like appendage at the tip of its fin. When he isn’t busy fondling bimbos in the forest, the slovenly scientist must find a way to stop his monster while also preventing his experimental formula from falling into the wrong hands. If this doesn’t sound very promising, consider that Dickshark is only slightly less convincing than the many half-baked sequels to Jaws. I’m not a connoisseur of death-metal music, but Zebub finds a way to make it work for him here.

 

When it comes to genre parodies, timing is everything. In his American debut, promising Aussie filmmaker Geoffrey Wright (Romper Stomper) came up a month short to Keenen Ivory Wayans’ Scary Movie, a spoof of the already tongue-in-cheek Scream series. Cherry Falls not only was intended as a subtle sendup of the teens-in-jeopardy genre, but David Lynch’s nearly bulletproof “Twin Falls.” The central conceit in Ken Selden’s screenplay is that the killer is targeting virgins, instead going after the promiscuous teens usually slaughtered in the opening minutes of a slasher picture. It takes a while for the local sheriff (Michael Biehn) to figure out why the fiend is carving a “V” into the corpses of the victims and, when he does, he’s left with a dilemma. If the only way to avoid being killed is to be promiscuous, he’ll be put in the precarious position with their parents of promoting such behavior. Having gotten wind of the sheriff’s news, the students at Cherry Hills High don’t wait for permission to organize a potentially life-saving orgy. To prevent the mass deflowering and stop the killer, Sheriff Brent will have to revisit an episode in his distant past that might have prompted the crimes. The problem is that Cherry Falls is basically a two-gag comedy and, when the fun is wrung out of them, there’s nothing left to keep us interested. Wright probably could have salvaged something by making the comedy darker and the orgy a lot raunchier. The studio, by now probably eying a straight-to-TV release, decided to tighten the reins on him, instead. Apart from very decent performances by the eternally youthful Brittany Murphy and transitioning standup comic, Jay Mohr, there isn’t much else here to savor. The unfortunate backstory is explained in audio commentary with Wright and extended interviews with writer and co-executive producer Selden and producer Marshall Persinger and co-star Amanda Anka. Vintage interviews with Murphy, Biehn, Mohr and Wright, behind-the-scenes footage and the original script, via BD-Rom, also are included on the Blu-ray.

 

The new Scream Factory double-feature opens with Murders in the Rue Morgue, a truly unfortunate mashup of the Edgar Allan Poe story and The Phantom of the Opera. Director Gordon Hessler didn’t think he could wring any more excitement from what many people consider to be the first modern detective story, so he added an unconvincing psychosexual angle that might have been more interesting if it weren’t so tame. Although the period look isn’t bad, Jason Robards Jr. seems ridiculously out of place as the director of a Grand Guignol-type theater, where the players have suddenly become real-life victims. Victor Lom plays the disfigured actor, who no one considers to be the culprit because he’s believed to be long dead and buried. Adolfo Celi plays Inspector Vidocq, whose detecting skills are subordinate to the silly stuff happening in and around the theater. Michael Dunn and Lilli Palmer fare better in supporting roles. The Dunwich Horror was co-adapted from a short story by H.P. Lovecraft by future Academy Award winner Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential). Its primary claim to fame is a cast that includes Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley Sr., Talia Shire and Sam Jaffe and music by       Les Baxter. Otherwise, the story feels like a Druid take on Rosemary’s Baby. Dee plays the college girl who falls in love with the last descendant of a race of strange creatures that once inhabited the Earth. In an attempt to use her as a sacrifice in an unholy rite that will bring his people back to life, the young man comes face to face with a university professor whose knowledge of the occult is more than a match. The Blu-ray package adds commentaries with author and film historian Steve Haberman and the featurette, “Stage Tricks & Screen Frights.”

 

Normally, the “MST3K” compilations offer a movie or two that transcends its cornball reputation and offers something truly noteworthy to savor. Not so, with “Mystery Science Theater 3000: XXXV,” which inadvertently tests the aforementioned theory that no one sets out to make a bad movie. Take Teenage Cave Man … please. This film was shot under Roger Corman’s quick-and-dirty direction under the title “Prehistoric World.” American International Pictures changed the title to Teenage Cave Man to exploit the popularity of its own I Was a Teenage Werewolf, which made a small fortune for the company, prompting calls for an instant sequel. Hence, Teenage Cave Man, starring 25-year-old rising star Robert Vaughn, as the rebellious son of the clan’s Symbol Maker. After the dust clears from battles with dinosaurs, wild dogs and other monsters borrowed from previous AIP releases, screenwriter R. Wright Campbell delivered a surprisingly good ending, which presaged Planet of the Apes. In 1982, Corman’s New World Pictures would put its fingerprints on another future MST3K classic, Being From Another Planet (a.k.a., “Time Walker”). In it, professor Douglas McCadden (Ben Murphy) is exploring the tomb of King Tutankhamun when an earthquake causes a wall in the tomb to collapse, revealing a hidden chamber. Inside, McCadden discovers what he believes to be a mummy in a sarcophagus. After bringing it to his lab in California, the mummy reveals itself to be an extraterrestrial alien in suspended animation, wrapped up and covered with a dormant green fungus. Chaos ensues. Corman’s video production and distribution interest, Concorde Pictures, was responsible for Deathstalker and the Warriors From Hell, a 1988 sword-and-sorcery fantasy and the third film in the “Deathstalker” tetralogy. It anticipated the cosplay phenomenon by two decades. The fourth entry in the “MST3K” compilation, 12 to the Moon, is a 1960 science-fiction film depicting a moon landing by an international crew. As laughable as it is, David Bradley’s picture deserves kudos for anticipating President John F. Kennedy’s commitment to “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth” by the end of the 1960s. Moreover, it foresaw the International Space Station, which didn’t launch into orbit until 1998. Even as prehistoric sci-fi goes, however, it’s pretty lame, which is to say, perfect for Joel, Mike and their robot compadres Crow and Tom to satirize.

 

A Poem Is a Naked Person: Criterion Collection: Blu-ray

Rhythm ‘n’ Bayous : A Road Map to Louisiana Music

Today, with his long white hair and beard, Leon Russell more closely resembles a relic from a bygone age of rock ’n’ roll than a living legend still capable of raising hell on stage and in concert. Even before he helped Joe Cocker organize the 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with, Don Preston, Rita Coolidge, Claudia Lennear, Carl Radle, Jim Price, Jim Horn, Jim Keltner, Jim Gordon and Chris Stainton – a who’s who of eminent sidemen and background singers – was known far and wide for his contributions to the recordings of rock’s biggest stars. The tour, along with several successful hit songs of his own creation, turned him into a marquee attraction in his own right. Deep down, however, Russell never stopped being a good ol’ boy from Tulsa, albeit one who looked like a character out of the Old Testament. In 1972, Russell and his British production partner Denny Cordell hired Les Blank – based on his 1968 film, The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins – to make a documentary set largely at his recording studio on Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, in northeastern Oklahoma. It also would include footage from concerts, rehearsals, recording and interview sessions. That was the intention, anyway. After Blank moved into a cabin at the onetime fishing camp, complete with a first-rate Moviola editing machine, the project evolved into something very different. The result, A Poem Is a Naked Person, is as much Blank as it was supposed to about Russell. That’s because, while Russell was out of town, Blank was left alone to record things he believed made Russell what he became. They included interpretive images of the lake, woods, sunsets, hippies, artists and eccentric characters who lived between the lake and Tulsa. That the finished product clashed with Russell and Cordell’s idea of A Poem Is a Naked Person should be is an understatement. They hated it and, because they financed it, held it from general release for 40 years. Blank’s son, Harrod, would resurrect the project, with Russell’s tacit approval, shortly before his father’s death in 2013, securing clearances for the music and returning it to tip-top shape. Last March, a restored version of the documentary was screened publicly at the South by Southwest Film Festival, with Russell in attendance. It’s pretty easy to see why he wouldn’t have been thrilled with the finished product, as a lot of it bears a closer resemblance to a hillbilly freak show than and a rock-doc. It can be appreciated today, however, if for no other reason than it represents a missing chapter in Blank’s catalogue of bizarro Americana. The sparkling Criterion Collection edition adds a conversation between Harrod Blank and Russell; excerpts from an interview with Les Blank; a new making-of documentary; a short film by Blank’s creative assistant, “Out in the Woods,” Maureen Gosling; and an essay by Kent Jones.

 

Although Robert Mugge’s films are far less eccentric than those on Blank’s repertoire, they’re no less musically eclectic. The self-described ethnomusicologist has ridden along the same roads as Blank and partaken in the same ethnic and regional cuisine. Mugge’s camera is far less subjective, however absent the trademark idiosyncrasies and freak-show impulses. Like Blank, Mugge has repeatedly been drawn back to Louisiana, if not specifically for the food, then the great regional music. Rhythm ‘n’ Bayous: A Road Map to Louisiana Music is one of several recent explorations of the state’s musical heritage and current stars. What originally was intended to be a film about a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame bus tour through New Orleans and southwestern Louisiana grew into a slightly broader appreciation of foot-stomping music, including Cajun, Creole, country, gospel, roots-rock, R&B, zydeco and “swamp pop.” The musicians to whom we’re introduced aren’t household names outside their own communities. The most familiar among them are old-timers, Dale Hawkins, who performs his 1957 single “Susie Q”; Claude King, doing his 1962 hit “Wolverton Mountain”; the duo, Dale and Grace, reprise their 1963 swamp- pop chart topper, “I’m Leaving It Up to You”; and Frankie Ford, best known for his 1959 hit, “Sea Cruise,” performs the A-side number, “Roberta.” (Ford died last September, at 76, in Gretna.) The younger and less known musicians are every bit as entertaining.

 

Sam Klemke’s Time Machine

I don’t know if Denver native Sam Klemke is the first person to have begun chronicling his life on the Internet, but, by the time YouTube got rolling, in the mid-aughts, already had 30 years’ worth of material to share with international geekdom. A caricature artist by profession, Klemke decided at 17 to begin recording annual updates on his life, using newly affordable and lightweight video technology. At the time, he was a reasonably handsome young man, bearded, but not one who would stand out from a crowd at a rock concert. As time went by, however, Klemke practically wrote the book on what it meant to be someone so obsessed with the Internet that everything, including his physical appearance, become subordinate to what’s happening there. It isn’t a pretty picture. Obese and disheveled, he barely makes an effort to avoid an early grave. Klemke isn’t a recluse, precisely, but he might as well be, because normal life held so far options for him. Somehow, he managed to find a like-minded girlfriend, who, eventually, would go to seed, too, but his friends were Web-based. Then, in 2011, Klemke (Shut Up Little Man!) decided to edit his videos into a reverse-aging clip, which went viral and resulted in Australian filmmaker Matthew Bate contacting him to make Sam Klemke’s Time Machine. It compares the subject’s ongoing self-portraiture to the 1977 NASA Voyager mission, which carried Carl Sagan’s golden recording of life on Earth to deep space. It’s a pretty neat conceit, especially considering the unappealing portrait of the protagonist.

 

Killing Them Safely

Anyone who’s watched more than a few episodes of “Cops” has seen how TASERs are supposed to work, when employed by police officers who’ve been trained how not to abuse the so-called non-lethal law-enforcement tool. Bad boys and even worse men, almost exclusively, are the targets of the electrical barbs shot by police, who, otherwise, might have considered using bullets or siccing police dogs on them. It looks safe enough, both for the offenders and cops, although it’s unlikely the producers would televise the death – or savage beating, for that matter – of an offender. As a corrective, first-time documentarian Nick Berardini offers Killing Them Safely (a.k.a., “Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle”), which argues that the rush to find a non-lethal alternative to lethal force helped create a different sort of monster. It turns out that stun guns can kill people, too, and some of them are only guilty of having rage issues. Berardini stacks the deck by introducing the power of the device with footage of a buffalo being stung and re-stung with electric charges in what amounts to a macabre dance. The point is that early stun guns could topple a large beast, even though the charges were far less powerful than the ones used today to incapacitate humans. Hideous, but, so far, no smoking gun. It isn’t until we watch a few of the hundreds of people who’ve suffered fatal heart attacks after being zapped multiple times. Berardini also wants us question the ethics of the company, TASER International, created by brothers Rick and Tom Smith, that’s profited mightily from the demand for non-lethal technology by police and the public. The Smiths may not be the most charismatic corporate spokesmen on the planet, but neither do they seem particularly evil. They don’t appear to have cooked the books to misrepresent the dangers inherent in the use of their product or market their products to children or demonstrably crazy people, as is the case with gun manufacturers. The interviews and data are fairly presented and balanced. Neither do they encourage police to zap suspects multiple times, when one might do. Some police officials are as concerned with the findings – and lawsuits – as any of us should be and no longer allow officers to use them. It’s possible that the only proven solution to charges of police brutality and misuse of tactical equipment is to equip all units with camera crews, so that arrests and chases can be chronicled for posterity. Hey, it works on TV.

 

Felicity: Blu-ray

Infrasexum

Blue Ice: Blu-ray

Newly upgraded to Blu-ray by the folks at Severin Films, the 1978 Aussie sexploitation romp, Felicity, plays like a dirty old man’s fantasy about what a 17-year-old girl fantasizes about before coming of age sexually. Fresh-faced Canadian Glory Annen looks every inch the obsessively horny convent-school student, who, in her free time, peruses the source novels of the films Emmanuelle and The Story of O. She’s proud of her still-developing body and doesn’t care who knows it. If that isn’t a textbook example of a male fantasy, I don’t know what is. She’s given the opportunity to live out her fantasies when she receives an invitation to visit a relative in Hong Kong. And, boy, does Felicity make up for lost time. Naturally, the nudity and sex scenes are handled with all the delicacy due a seriously soft-core Emmanuelle imitator. Writer/director John D. Lamond makes great use of his Hong Kong locations, which range from hilltop mansions to floating brothels, teeming markets to world-class restaurants. Besides Emmanuelle, Lamond says he was heavily influenced by The World of Suzie Wong. As these things go, Felicity is professionally made and rarely dull. The Blu-ray adds Lamont’s two previous Ozploitation flicks, The ABCs of Love & Sex … Australia Style and Australia After Dark, accompanied by commentaries on all three films; outtakes from the Not Quite Hollywood documentary; a fresh interview with Annen; and a John Lamond trailer reel.

 

It’s always fun to discover the first film made by a soon-to-emerge director or actor. Typically, they reveal at least a spark of talent, upon which a career can be built. Either that or an ability to turn in a reasonably coherent film on time and under budget. That, at least, was the Corman model. Three years before the commercial success of Deep Throat challenged creators of feature-length porn to incorporate recognizable narratives in their peep-show-ready sex scenes writer/director Carlos Tobalina introduced himself with Infrasexum, a sleazy affair Vinegar Syndrome deems worthy of being restored in 2K from a 35mm camera negative. Tobalina would go on to make nearly 50 more films, in a career that spanned 20 of the genre’s more productive years. With the possible exception of the 1975 sexploitation romp, Marilyn and the Senator, few of Tobalina’s pictures have stood the test of time and that’s only because he used exterior shots of the Watergate Hotel. Infrasexum represents a time in porn history before cameramen figured out how to make sex look interesting on camera and producers recruited hippie checks to make good on their dedication to the sexual revolution. Here, a middle-aged businessman, Errof Lynn (Brad Grinter), is sexually constipated and, on his doctor’s advice, leaves home to find relief. His path takes him to post-Rat Pack Las Vegas and post-Summer of Love California. I can only imagine how little the poor flower children were paid to have sex on camera with the impotent old fart. Beyond that, the story is nearly incoherent. Still. Tobalina scores points for trying, anyway.

 

Flash forward 17 years and things have improved immeasurably, in front and behind the XXX-rated camera. Blue Ice has a plot, passable production values and an all-star cast male stars. The women are less familiar, but professional. Herschel Savage plays hard-boiled San Francisco private eye Ted Singer, who has been hired by an eccentric high-roller (Jamie Gillis) to find an ancient and mysterious book that has the power to grant anyone who can open it the gift of eternal life and power. Also hot on the trail is a group of unrepentant Nazis, who believe that the book contains the formula for sexual bliss. Phillip Marshak’s effects-laden sci-fi “thriller” also features Jacqueline Lorians, Shanna McCullough, Paul Thomas, Ron Jeremy and character actor Reggie Nalder (The Man Who Knew Too Much). VS presents Blue Ice on Blu-ray and DVD in a new 2K restoration from its original 35mm camera negative. It adds an audio commentary track with Savage and co-star William Margold.

 

Stories of the Baal Shem Tov

Los Angeles-based animator Tawd B. Dorenfeld uses stop-motion techniques to illustrate the tales of handed down by Yisroel ben Eliezer, widely known as the Baal Shem Tov (Master of the Good Name), the 18th Century scholar, mystic and holy man who’s credited with founding the Hasidic movement. The Baal Shem Tov left the dissemination of his teachings to his disciples, who passed them along in the oral tradition or in print. According to the Holy World Productions’ mission statement, “Baal Shem Tov was renowned for his love of simple people and their honest pure ways of serving God.” That’s been translated into a series of short animated films – collected in the 80-minute anthology, Stories of the Baal Shem Tov – that are embedded in Jewish tradition and lore. “We visit poor Jewish families, who find hope in their spirituality … not because of their religious acts, but because of their human kindness.” Even if the hand-crafted stop-motion characters will appeal most to younger viewers, parents and grandparents should stick around to add their own impressions and interpretations. The universal messages needn’t be limited to strictly Jewish or Hasidic audiences, either. Mayim Bialik, Roseanne Barr and Du Du Fisher are featured in the voicing cast.

 

TV-to-DVD

Death Valley Days: The Complete First Season: Collector’s Edition

PBS: Frontline: Netanyahu at War

PBS: American Experience: The Perfect Crime

PBS: Nature: Moose: Life of a Twig Eater

PBS Kids: Kate & Mim-Mim: Flight of the Flowers

The Nanny: The Final Season

CPO Sharkey: The Best of Season Two

Before Death Valley was accorded national park status, in 1994, and expanded to include Saline and Eureka Valleys, it’s likely that most American tourists were made aware of its unique properties and history through the long-running radio and television anthology series, “Death Valley Days.” Most of the episodes focused on the notoriously harsh environment and stamina of the pioneers who attempted to cross through it, mine its riches or make it home. The continuing sponsor was 20 Mule Team Borax, a cleaning product manufactured from boron mined in Death Valley. The ore was transported from the valley floor by team of mules pictured on the box of soap. The radio program was created in 1930 by Ruth Woodman and broadcast until 1945. From 1952 to 1975, “Death Valley Days” was produced as a syndicated television series. The hosts for the 532 episodes, repeats of which were syndicated under different titles, included Stanley “The Old Ranger” Andrews, Dale Robertson, Will Rogers Jr., Ray Milland, Rory Calhoun, John Payne and, finally, Ronald Reagan. Shout! Factory’s nicely scrubbed and polished DVD collection, “Death Valley Days: The Complete First Season,” features all 18 episodes in a three-disc set. We’re told that the straight-forward narratives are based on true events. Because the entire series was shot on location on black-and-white film, the unique scenic beauty of the park wasn’t readily apparent. The only things tourists knew to expect was the potentially deadly heat and lack of rain. What they didn’t know was that the extreme heat was only a factor for four months of the year and that, in winter, the even infrequent rainfall could produce blooms of normally dormant desert flowers. Visitors to Death Valley today can find many weathered remnants of the days represented in the series. In terms of storytelling, the first year’s episodes of “Death Valley Days” could have been repurposed from original radio scripts. Even so, they’re fun to watch, if only to see the occasional acting star of the past or future.

 

Anyone concerned about the situation in Mideast and our increasingly tense relationship with Israel should take a look at the “Frontline” presentation, “Netanyahu at War.” Historically, the U.S. has been a staunch supporter of the whatever government is in power in the Jewish state, over the last 65 years. The program uses Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal background to demonstrate how his hardline policies have impacted his relationship with President Obama, who has shown more of an open mind toward Arab concerns than previous presidents. Our recent negotiations with Iran over its nuclear stance and Netanyahu’s decision to back Republican congressional candidates are closely studied, as well. The results make for depressing, if necessary viewing, especially in an election year in which none of the candidates can be trusted to tell the truth about their intentions for the Middle East.

 

PBS’ “American Experience” presentation “The Perfect Crime” chronicles tells the shocking story of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, wealthy University of Chicago students, who amused themselves one day in 1924 by abducting and killing 14-year-old Bobby Franks, ostensibly to see if they could get away with it. They didn’t. At issue in the trial wasn’t their guilt or innocence, but whether defense attorney Clarence Darrow could convince the judge to spare them a date with the electric chair. It’s an amazing story, even if it only represented the third so-called trial of the century. (There would be more, of course.)

 

The most distressing news disseminated in the “Nature” presentation, “Moose: Life of a Twig Eater,” is the populations across many parts of North America is in steep decline and it has almost nothing to do with trophy hunters. The intimate nature documentary, filmed over 13 months in the spectacular wilds of Canada’s Jasper National Park, follows the birthing cycle and weighs alternative explanations for the drop in population.

 

From PBS Kids comes the pre-school favorite, “Kate & Mim-Mim: Flight of the Flowers,” which helps youngsters navigate some of the more difficult challenges facing them. They include Kate’s riding her bike for the first time without training wheels and Mimiloo’s efforts to learn to fly giant wind flowers.

 

Finally married, Fran and Maxwell Sheffield have all of Season Six to savor bliss of the marital variety. Alas, the first thing they experience together is being stranded on a deserted island, after falling off of the yacht carrying them to their honeymoon destination. Expect plenty more turmoil and excitement in “The Nanny: The Final Season,” not the least of which is a tenuous date with the stork for Fran and new opportunities for producer Maxwell, 3,000 miles away from New York, in La-La Land.

 

CPO Sharkey: The Best of Season Two” is strictly for those who haven’t already purchased “The Ultimate Don Rickles” set, which includes both seasons of the sitcom, or a la carte editions of the first and second seasons. This release features six episodes, supposedly “selected by Mr. Warmth himself”: “The New Captain,” “Sharkey Flies Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Close Encounters of the Worst Kind,” “Captain’s Right Hand Man,” “Fear of Flying” and “The Used-Car Caper.”

 

April 5

 

Stealing Cars

Billy Wyatt (Emory Cohen) is a young man with tremendous promise, but a troubled past leads him to the Bernville Camp for Boys. Billy must navigate his way through dangerous inmates and a cruel and punishing staff, but during it all, he learns to inspire others and find out the truth about himself in the process. STEALING CARS is a compelling drama with powerful performances by Emory Cohen, John Leguizamo, Mike Epps and Academy Award nominees William H. Macy – Best Supporting Actor, FARGO, 1996 and Felicity Huffman – Best Actress, TRANSAMERICA, 2005.

 

Dixieland

Featuring explosive chemistry between rising stars Chris Zylka (The Leftovers) and Riley Keough (Mad Max: Fury Road) and impressive supporting performances from music legends Faith Hill and Steve Earle, Dixieland is an intoxicating portrait of life and love on the margins. Fresh out of prison, Kermit (Zylka), a mostly good kid mixed up with local drug dealers, returns home to his rural Mississippi trailer park. As he struggles to keep his nose clean, he falls for Rachel (Keough), his sultry neighbor who s turned to dancing in a club to support her sick mother. Determined to overcome their inauspicious circumstances, the star-crossed lovers make a desperate, last-ditch effort to escape their dead-end town but soon find themselves ensnared in a cycle of crime.

 

The Great Hypnotist

Xu Ruining (Xu Zheng), a nationally renowned therapist incredibly skilled in hypnotherapy. But when his career takes off, he meets a patient named Ren Xiaoyan (Karen Mok) who brings him a complex problem. Xu Ruining discovers that with this particular case, the struggle between the doctor and the patient is not as easy as he expected. Despite her thin and weak appearance, Ren Xiaoyan always reacts violently to any problems with Xu Ruining. He wonders what exactly makes her closed-off to everyone. Is it from a painful memory in her childhood or the ring mark still visible on her middle finger? While sparing no efforts to figure out what has happened, he finds himself falling into a horrible trap…

 

#Horror [Blu-ray]

You’ve got followers… Cyberbullying goes offline during one deadly night. Inspired by a shocking true story, #Horror follows a group of preteen girls living in a suburban world of money and privilege. But when their obsession with a disturbing online game goes too far, virtual terror becomes all too real. Chloe Sevigny leads an ensemble cast that includes Natasha Lyonne, Taryn Manning, and Timothy Hutton in Tara Subkoff’s directorial debut.

 

The Hallow [Blu-ray]

A family moves to a remote house in rural Ireland and finds themselves in a fight for survival with an ancient evil living in the secluded woods.

Special Features Include:

-Audio commentary with director Corin Hardy

-“Surviving the Fairytale: The Making of “The Hallow””

-Behind-the-Scenes: “The Story”

-Behind-the-Scenes: “Influence”

-Behind-the-Scenes: “Practical F/X”

-Director’s storyboards gallery

-Director’s sketchbook gallery

-“The Book of Invasions” original illustrations gallery

-Creature concepts gallery

-Theatrical Trailer

 

Tumbledown [Blu-ray]

Pop culture scholar Andrew (Jason Sudeikis) comes to Maine to interview Hannah (Rebecca Hall), the protective widow of an acclaimed singer. When the unlikely pair strike a deal to co-write a biography, Andrew finds himself clashing with a cast of locals, including Hannah s hunky suitor (Joe Manganiello), and her loving but defensive parents (Blythe Danner, Richard Masur). When Hannah and Andrew’s stormy partnership blossoms into an unexpected connection, they face the possibility that the next chapter in their lives may involve each other. Dianna Aragon and Griffin Dunne costar in this startlingly funny and sweetly romantic tale of moving on and finding love in the unlikeliest of places.

 

Dreams Rewired’

Tilda Swinton’s hypnotic voiceover and a treasure trove of rare archival footage culled from hundreds of films from the 1880s through the 1930s much of it previously unseen combine to trace the anxieties of today’s hyper-connected world back a hundred years.Review

This film essay features an intricately, crafted voice-over by Tilda Swinton, melding together historic fact and contemporary theories. –Screen International

4 Stars! A marvelous essay film [that] leaves you fantasizing about what things there are to come. –Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

Explores the history and ongoing narratives and idealizations that new advents in technology brought, like end to global crisis, less barriers to the outside world, as well as the end of privacy and security. –Aimee Murillo, Orange County Weekly

 

Mutual Friends

Liv is throwing a surprise birthday party for her too-perfect-to-be-true new fiancé, Christoph. And, the party must be flawless so all their friends will know how excited Liv is to be his wife. An amazing party might also help Liv atone for sleeping with her best friend Nate on the night of her engagement. Which meant nothing. Nate is averse to commitments, so he should just add Liv to his long list of women. And he usually could. But, as party time approaches, Nate begins to question his no-strings mantra and decides to make a full court press for Liv’s affections. As Liv is busy party planning and resisting Nate’s awkward advances, the rest of their friends head on a collision course through New York City. Prim, proper and newly pregnant Beatrice wants someone to admire her cabinets, while her husband, Paul is freaked out by the baby news. Paul admires Nate’s unattached ways and urges his buddy towards Ms. Sexy Hot Boss. Paul may not be able to take advantage of her charms, but he’s excited to know that Nate can. It may be torched Earth for Paul, but Nate still has a world of women to conquer. Across town, Liv’s older brother, the non-communicative Sammy, takes his stoner assistant to stakeout Sammy’s cheating wife. Where the fault lies in the break up of Sammy’s marriage may be unclear, but ignoring the problem, as Sammy tends to do, is not the answer. Meanwhile, drop-out brother Thomas has hired a stripper instead of a bartender and bought piñatas and disco balls to spice up Liv’s stuffy soiree. To make matters worse, Christoph’s ex, Annie, just showed up to win back her man or to punch him in the face. And, the party is just getting started–with or without the cock cake. When this tangled web of friends finally gathers, some people get lucky, some get even, and some go home in tears.

 

Deceived

Alejandro returns to his home in Puerto Rico, to help his sister Magdalena get her life together. Only to find out from an old acquaintance, Detective Garcia, that Magdalena has gone missing. Led to a bar in old San Juan, he discovers that not only was Magdalena working as an exotic dancer, but she was dating a drug dealing surfer, Laz. Here Alejandro tries to piece together the events that led to her disappearance and struggles to wrap his head around the interconnected nature of all the characters. Upon discovering that the bar manager, Michael, has a dark history and a millionaire philanthropist, Roman, is not just here to build an orphanage, Alejandro starts to realize that not everything is as it seems

 

Rows

is a horror/ fantasy/ thriller inspired by Grimm’s tales. ROSE works for her father, MARK, who turns cornfields into subdivisions. Rose must deliver eviction papers to HAVILAND, a squatter in a condemned farmhouse. Haviland is an evil enchantress– she puts Rose under a spell. Rose’s friend, GRETA, will also come under Haviland’s powers. They become lost in a seemingly infinite cornfield and must repeat a series of surreal or terrifying events in order to solve the mystery and break the spell. Rose and Greta (seemingly) murder Haviland, drag her into a cornfield, and bury her. But they cannot find their way out. Rose finds a portal, escapes and runs home. Inexplicably, Rose finds Greta waiting for her there. Events seem to repeat, but with shocking variations. When Rose and Greta return to the farmhouse, Haviland impales Rose with a knife. Greta and JACK (pawn of Haviland) drag Rose through the cornfield and throw her into the grave. The enchantment warps the laws of time and nature; Rose finds herself resurrected. She learns through a changeling that if the house dies, Haviland dies. Rose must fight back against Haviland and save her Father. The cycle repeats. This time however, Rose disrupts Haviland’s spell by “murdering” Jack. Rose attempts to set the farmhouse afire. Greta leads Rose underneath the farmhouse to a weird circular room. Rose’s father is drawn into the mystery, and Rose’s relationship with him is tested. A series of shocking reversals leads to a haunting climax: Rose finds her catatonic father. Greta, as Haviland’s mouthpiece, tells Rose that she must plunge the knife through her father’s chest, in order to break the spell. It won’t really kill him. Rose can’t make herself do it. In the end, Mark and Rose succumb to the Haviland’s powers. Rose will live as caretaker to the farmhouse, and Haviland, forever.

 

That Uncertain Feeling

Beautiful but neglected housewife Jill Baker visits a psychologist for treatment of her psychosomatic hiccups. There she meets neurotic pianist Alexander Sebastian and sparks fly. While boring insurance salesman Larry Baker ignores his wife, Sebastian is soon squiring her around town to art galleries, concerts and romantic lunches. When Jill requests a divorce, Larry reluctantly consents. She sets up housekeeping with Sebastian and learns that the grass that seemed so much greener, may be full of weeds.

After her performance as Lady Marguerite Blakeney in The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934), gorgeous Merle Oberon headed for Hollywood and stardom. Some of her standout performances included The Dark Angel (1935), The Divorce Of Lady X (1938), Wuthering Heights (1939) and Desiree (1954). One of Hollywood’s greatest actors, Melvyn Douglas took home a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1963 for his role in Hud and added a second Oscar in 1979 for his role in Being There. The excellent cast of That Uncertain Feeling includes Eve Arden, Alan Mowbray as the psychiatrist and a hilarious turn by Burgess Meredith as the wacky artist. Brilliant director Ernst Lubitsch was known for his witty and sophisticated handling of adult themes often referred to as the “Lubitsch Touch.” He is best remembered for his classics Ninotchka (1939), To Be Or Not To Be (1942) and Heaven Can Wait (1943).

 

Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli: Blu-ray

Emerging at the peak of the giallo boom of the early 70s, Luciano Ercoli s Death Walks films are two superlative examples of the genre linked by their shared casting of the stunning Nieves Navarro (billed under her adopted stage name of Susan Scott) as the lead woman in peril.finds herself terrorised by a black-clad assailant determined on procuring her father s stolen gems. Fleeing Paris and her knife-wielding pursuer, Nicole arrives in London only to discover that death stalks her at every corner.

Returning in Death Walks at Midnight (1972), Navarro stars as Valentina a model who, in the midst of a drug-fuelled photoshoot, witnesses a brutal murder in the apartment opposite hers. But when it becomes clear that the savage slaying she describes relates to a crime that took place six months earlier, the police are at a loss – forcing Valentina to solve the mystery alone.

Offering up all the glamour, perversity and narrative twists and turns that are typical of the giallo genre at its best, Luciano Ercoli s Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight anticipate the super-stylized trappings of Brian De Palma s early psycho thrillers (most notably, Dressed to Kill).

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS

Limited Edition boxed-set (3000 copies) containing Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight

Brand new 2K restorations of the films from the original camera negatives

High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations

Original Italian and English soundtracks in mono audio (uncompressed PCM on the Blu-rays)

Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtracks

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtracks

Limited Edition 60-page booklet containing new writing from authors Danny Shipka (Perverse Titillation: The Exploitation Cinema of Italy, Spain and France), Troy Howarth (So Deadly, So Perverse: 50 Years of Italian Giallo Films) and writer Leonard Jacobs, illustrated with original archive stills and posters

DEATH WALKS ON HIGH HEELS

Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas

Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi

Newly-edited archive interview with director Luciano Ercoli and actress Nieves Navarro

Master of Giallo brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks on High Heels and offers up his thoughts as to what constitutes a good giallo

An interview with composer Stelvio Cipriani

Original Italian trailer

Original English trailer

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

DEATH WALKS AT MIDNIGHT

Audio commentary by film critic Tim Lucas

Introduction to the film by screenwriter Ernesto Gastaldi

Extended TV version of the feature [105 mins]

Crime Does Pay brand new interview in which Gastaldi discusses Death Walks at Midnight and a career script-writing crime films

Desperately Seeking Susan a visual essay by Michael Mackenzie exploring the distinctive giallo collaborations between director Luciano Ercoli and star Nieves Navarro

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Gilles Vranckx

Death Walks on High Heels and Death Walks at Midnight)

 

NYPD Blue: Season 09

The Emmy award-winning drama from co-creators Steven Bochco and David Milch returns for another twenty-three riveting episodes in NYPD Blue: Season Nine. Always a series that effortlessly adapted to change, Season Nine finds Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) experiencing several dramatic developments in his life, including a long-overdue promotion, a surprising new romance with Detective Connie McDowell (Charlotte Ross), and a new partner in the form of John Clark (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). The 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City are also employed into the series, reflecting both the evolving emotions about our public safety as well as the steadfast strength and dedication of law enforcement officers in the wake of those real-life events.

 

 

 

April 12

 

The Forest [Blu-ray]

A young woman’s hunt for her missing sister leads to horror and madness in this terrifying supernatural thriller starring Natalie Dormer (Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games franchise). When her troubled twin sister mysteriously disappears, Sara Price (Dormer) discovers she vanished in Japan’s infamous Suicide Forest. Searching its eerie dark woods, Sara plunges into a tormented world where angry spirits lie in wait for those who ignore the warning: never stray from the path. Exploring The Forest

Galleries

Feature Commentary with Director Jason Zada

 

Village of the Damned

A doctor battles children who exert deadly mind control over adults in a small Northern California town.

Special Features Include:

-“It Takes A Village: The Making of:” Featuring interviews with director John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, actors Michael Pare, Peter Jason, Karen Kahn, Meredith Salenger, Thomas Dekker, Cody Dorkin, Lindsey Haun, Danielle Wiener-Keaton, and make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero

-“Horror’s Hallowed Grounds:” Revisiting the locations of the film

-“The Go-to Guy:” Peter Jason on John Carpenter

-Vintage interviews featuring John Carpenter, Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Hamill, and Wolf Rilla (director of the original “Village of the Damned”)

-Vintage behind-the-scenes footage

-Theatrical Trailer

-Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery

 

Bob Dylan – Triumvirate

Frank Zappa: In His Own Words

Arguably the sharpest tool in the rock musician box, Frank Zappa was never lost for words when presented with another’s opinion and would counter any position he did not agree with, fluently, eloquently and with the style and wit normally reserved for the great orator or the finest raconteur. Frank could be funny, serious and just about anywhere in-between and could literally talk for hours without losing a single member of his audience. This DVD collects together over 90 minutes of video interviews and talking engagements with or undertaken by Zappa across his career, during which the great man is on form and on the money throughout. Talking on numerous subjects and displaying variously; charm, intelligence, humour and impatience – sometimes all within the same interview – this is Zappa away from the day job but at his fascinating, albeit at times fearsome, best.

 

More than 50 years ago Bob Dylan entered New York’s Greenwich Village and created a one man tidal wave of musical change which most commentators of substance would agree was near instrumental in kick-starting what has come to be thought of as ‘modern music’ or ‘the rock age’. Dylan would of course balk at the idea, but by taking elements of just about everything that had gone before and dragging from the resultant soup a coherent blend of something that no one has ever been quite able to put their finger on, but which appealed to masses of youngsters, he succeeded as though destined to do so for millennia; Elvis and Little Richard had gone part of the way but Bob drove in the final nails of the coffin that put the past to rest and changed music in a way it had never changed before. This three disc set celebrates and documents the era during which Bob Dylan pulled off this extraordinary feat and created a musical enlightenment by doing so. Featuring documentary and interview material as well as rare footage from the time, this collection will leave no viewer in doubt as to where the roots of what we now largely take for granted were sown.

 

 

April 19

 

Biophilic Design

BIOPHILIC DESIGN is an innovative way of designing the places where we live, work and learn. We need nature in a deep and fundamental fashion, but we have often designed our cities and suburbs in ways that both degrade the environment and alienate us from nature. The recent trend in green architecture has decreased the environmental impact of the built environment, but it has accomplished little in the way of reconnecting us to the natural world, the missing piece in the puzzle of sustainable development. Come on a journey from our evolutionary past and the origins of architecture to the world s most celebrated buildings in a search for the architecture of life. Encounter buildings that connect people and nature hospitals where patients heal faster, schools where children s test scores are higher, and communities where people know their neighbors and families thrive. BIOPHILIC DESIGN points the way toward creating healthy and productive habitats for modern humans.

 

Shadows of Liberty

SHADOWS OF LIBERTY reveals the extraordinary truth behind the news media: censorship, cover-ups and corporate control. Filmmaker Jean-Philippe Tremblay takes a journey through the darker corridors of the US media, where global conglomerates call the shots. For decades, their overwhelming influence has distorted news journalism and compromised its values. In highly revealing stories, renowned journalists, activists and academics give insider accounts of a broken media system. Tracing the story of media manipulation over the years, SHADOWS OF LIBERTY poses a crucial question: why have we let a handful of powerful corporations write the news? We re left in no doubt media reform is urgent and freedom of the press is fundamental.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Responses to “The DVD Wrapup: Hateful 8, Winter, Child of Century, Chantal Akerman, Mediterranea, Leon Russell, Death Valley Days and more”

  1. Julie says:

    Christoph Waltz was not featured in Hateful 8.

  2. Movieirv says:

    Waltz was in hateful 8; Robert culp in teenage caveman? Huh?

  3. Ray Pride says:

    [Thanks; edited]

Quote Unquotesee all »

This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin