It’s a light week for home video. Happy Memorial Day weekend!
Pick of the Week
Blood Bath [Arrow Video]
What is it? A painting seizes the attention of various men who scheme to own it as well as the hand of a beautiful woman in Operation Titian and Portrait in Terror. An artist finds success with a series of paintings of dead women, but his secret is actually murdering the models in Blood Bath and Track of the Vampire.
Why rent it? This is a rare case of a Blu-ray’s supplements and packaging being far more impressive and entertaining than the actual film(s) they’re supporting. None of the four movie variations ‐ all stemming from one film ‐ here are all that memorable, but it’s a fascinating tale as to how each iteration came about. Blood Bath is entertaining (and short) enough, but the others are interesting in more of an academic sense. Genre fans and folks who love the nitty-gritty of film production will find much to appreciate here as the films represent Roger Corman’s shrewd ingenuity at its best, and Tim Lucas’ documentary (an expansion of his earlier Film Watchdog article) explores the productions in detail with mentions of notable talents including Jack Hill and Francis Coppola. Arrow’s packaging is equally slick including a slipcase, poster, booklet, and reversible covers.
[Blu-ray extras: Documentary, interviews]
Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
What is it? Elizabeth Bennet (Lily James) and her four sisters are proper young Victorian ladies trained in both the fine arts and the martial arts ‐ the better to charm the living and decapitate the living dead ‐ and while their father is focused on teaching them survival skills their mom’s primary concern is seeing the girls married off to wealthy suitors. All of the sisters are fighters, but prideful Elizabeth shows no interest in societal expectations related to marriage ‐ at least, not until the prejudicial Mr. Darcy appears. Also, there are zombies.
Why rent it? The addition of zombies into Austen’s beloved world occurs easier than you might expect, and the characters we’re already familiar with from her novel lose little in the translation. The modified story leaves them the breathing room necessary to hit the beats required by their preordained arcs while still finding time for zombie hunting. Elizabeth and Darcy’s banter for example still occurs, but it does so with punches and kicks punctuating the verbal sparring. It’s a fun, slight watch that succeeds in regard to pairing a literary classic with a modern horror creation. Sure the plot grows convoluted with story turns that aren’t fully explored, but a game cast, zombie thrills, and Austen’s spirit make for a fast-moving and entertaining enough romp through England’s war with the undead.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Gods of Egypt
What is it? Horus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is set to inherit the throne in a world where man and god walk side by side, but his brother Set (Gerard Butler) has other plans. Set enslaves mankind, and Horus is forced to partner with one of those mortals in the hopes of defeating his malicious and murderous sibling.
Why rent it? Let’s get this out of the way first ‐ this is a bad movie. Director Alex Proyas can bitch all he wants about how critics were unfair to his latest film, but at the end of the day the movie speaks for itself. It’s messy, over the top, lacking in character development or real excitement, and guilty of excreting CG excess with every frame. So why rent it instead of skipping it? Because it is bad, gaudy fun that manages to entertain despite its ineptitude. You’re laughing at it instead of with it most of the time, but there are a few beats where Proyas and his cast seem to revel in the ridiculous long enough to earn a valid chuckle.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted storyboards, featurettes]
The Human Tornado [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Dolemite (Rudy Ray Moore) is back, and he’s as sexy, angry, and loquacious as ever! A racist sheriff and his posse of hillbillies runs Dolemite and his friends out of their hilltop mansion, so the gang heads back to Los Angeles and everyone’s favorite madam, Queen Bee, only to discover that mobsters have taken over the joint! Anyway, sex and kung-fu commence.
Why rent it? Moore’s Dolemite films are held in some manner of regard as blaxploitation success stories, but they are goofy-ass flicks. Moore is no actor, and his talents haven’t improved since the first film ‐ he talks a lot, often in rhyme, but never quite acts. The film once again uses some real martial artists and then just speeds up Moore’s fight scenes to compete. It’s even more of a comedy this time around complete with silly gags, action sound effects, and even some instant replays. Plus young, bald Ernie Hudson! Vinegar Syndrome’s love for Moore’s oeuvre continues with a bevy of special features accompanying the film’s Blu-ray debut.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary, interview, German-dubbed version called Der Bastard]
Psychic Killer [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Arnold (Jim Hutton) was wrongfully convicted of killing his ailing mother’s doctor and sentenced to a mental institution, but when the real killer confesses Arnold is released back into the world with a grudge. He also has the ability to project his consciousness outside of his body and manipulate objects with his mind. It would be the perfect alibi for all the murders he’s committing if only he’d stop bragging about it to the police.
Why rent it? This mid ’70s thriller is a revenge pic at its core as an innocent man seeks vengeance on those he holds responsible for his false imprisonment and his mother’s treatment, but it’s oddly executed. Hutton spends half the movie sitting in a chair with his eyes closed as other characters meet their fate at the wrong end of moving objects. The script seems particularly interested in the idea of astral projection and devotes real time to its discussion, but it’s rarely all that interesting. On the bright side the film earned a PG rating despite a naked woman in the shower, some other near nudity, and copious amounts of blood. Vinegar Syndrome’s new restoration gives the film a fresh look and a handful of interviews provide some background anecdotes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Russell (Norman Reedus) are ex-military contractors, Marcus (Anthony Mackie) and Franco (Clifton Collins Jr.) are active detectives, and Russell’s younger brother, Gabe (Aaron Paul), himself an ex-cop, join forces to rob a bank. They’re working for a Russian mobster, but while he sits in jail they’re taking orders from his wife, Irina (Kate Winslet). Further complicating that relationship is Michael’s history and child with Irina’s younger sister, Elena (Gal Gadot), a woman whose posterior holds some kind of magnetic pull on the camera’s gaze. The team is pressured into committing one more job, and they decide the only way to accomplish it requires killing a cop. They settle on Chris (Casey Affleck), a new transfer to the unit with a wife (Teresa Palmer), a child, a no-bullshit attitude, and a cop uncle named Jeffrey (Woody Harrelson).
Why rent it? Look at that cast! Those names alone justify a rental even though the film suffers from a big issue sitting somewhere in its dense yet simultaneously incomplete story. It feels too long, but it also feels like elements, threads, and subplots have been left on either the page or the cutting-room floor. Script and pacing issues hurt, but director John Hillcoat ensures there’s nary a dull moment to be found onscreen. Action scenes are choreographed with power and impact, and while the film enjoys the darkness at times its daytime set-pieces are stylish affairs. The opening is the first to introduce the film’s embrace of the color red ‐ red dye, red lights, red blood ‐ and the palette becomes a precursor to death. Action junkies will be more than satisfied, but hopes for anything deeper need not enter here.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Also Out This Week
City of Women, Horse Money, Race, Wim Wenders: The Road Trilogy (Criterion Collection)
Related Topics: Home Video