Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for February 8th, 2022!
This week’s home video selection includes Hiruko the Goblin, Miller’s Crossing from Criterion, a new Disney favorite, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Hiruko the Goblin [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? An archeologist and his nephew battle a demon.
Why see it? I’d avoided this one over the years as director Shinya Tsukamoto’s other films (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, etc) left me cold. Turns out that was a big mistake as his second feature is an absolute blast blending Indiana Jones, The Thing, and a real sense of dark fun into something special. So many geysers of blood! An empty school gives way to an underground tomb, heads are lopped off with abandon, and one even skitters around on spider legs.The energy and creativity on display here make for a great time, and Mondo Macabro deserves praise for bringing this glorious flick to our shores.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interviews, featurettes, commentary]
The Big Clock / This Gun for Hire [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? Two tales of noir-ish suspense from the 40s.
Why see it? I’m a sloppy fan of 1987’s No Way Out and contend that it’s a masterpiece, but the film its based on is no slouch. The Big Clock retains the same core story in a different setting, and the suspense and character beats work beautifully. Charles Laughton is great as the murderous boss man, and it’s a sharply shot thriller. Alan Ladd plays a killer in This Gun for Hire, one who’s screwed over by another baddie to the point that the killer starts plotting his own act of revenge. The film loses some steam when it tries to make Ladd’s cruel hitman the antihero deserving of viewer empathy, but getting there delivers some solid thrills and surprisingly dark beats.
[Extras: None,, but region-free]
Deathcheaters [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? Two stuntmen are sent on a military mission.
Why see it? Brian Trenchard-Smith’s follow-up to The Man from Hong Kong is far, far less plot driven and instead delivers a good time celebrating Grant Page and John Hargreaves. It’s playful as fuck and I love it. Great action, lots of laughs, and the plot — think the movie F/X but with stunt men — doesn’t even really start until 70 minutes into its 95 minute run-time. It’s laid-back mayhem that just has some stunt-filled fun before realizing they need to hurry up and introduce a story which they then wrap up just as quickly. There’s not a serious bone in its body.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interviews, documentary]
What is it? A magical family sees their future in doubt.
Why see it? We get it, some of you like the “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” song, but that’s far from the film’s highlight musically or otherwise. A magical family lives in a magical home in Colombia, but it’s their only non-magical member who discovers things are at risk of changing for the worse. Adventure, zaniness, musical numbers, and some truly touching moments between family members make for a wonderful time and a lovely finale.
[Extras: Short film, deleted scenes, featurettes]
La Dolce Vita
What is it? A journalist enjoys a purposeless life.
Why see it? Sometimes a film can be a bonafide classic and still not appeal to everyone. In this case, I’m the someone who doesn’t love Federico Fellini’s obvious masterpiece, La Dolce Vita. There’s no denying the film’s impact, though, meaning this new restoration should be on everyone’s radar as it’s never looked better. At just under three hours, the film captures a wild, carefree time in Marcello’s life as he comes to realize he’s just as empty a person as those around him. It reaches a fantastic conclusion, albeit an hour or so later than necessary (don’t hate me), and is definitely worth a pickup via Paramount’s new Blu-ray.
[Extras: Introduction by Martin Scorsese]
The Laughing Woman [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A woman is abducted and must play mind games in order to escape.
Why see it? The premise above doesn’t do this film justice as it’s no mere tale of a sicko kidnapping women. This is a battle of wits, and of the sexes, and its exploration of attitudes and observations winds thought-provoking commentary throughout the thrills. A terrific score by Stelvio Cipriani and some unforgettable production design bring the madness to life, and it all leads to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. Mondo Macabro is again doing great work, and that includes the addition of another engaging commentary by Kat Ellinger.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interview, commentary, featurettes]
Legendary Weapons of China [88 Films]
What is it? An ex-clan member with a big mouth is targeted by assassins.
Why see it? What seems like a generic setup on the page explodes into an immensely entertaining ride blending martial arts with big laughs, smart choreography reminiscent of Jackie Chan’s use of environments, and a playful approach to magic-infused shenanigans. Everyone’s great here, but Kara Wai deserves a specific credit for pairing athletic ability with real personality and charisma. Kudos to 88 Films for giving this gem of a film a terrific home video presentation with a sharp picture and some terrific extras. This is big fun, and not just because it features a scene with a dude stuffing his own intestines back into his belly so he can keep fighting.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries]
Miller’s Crossing [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A Coen Brothers film.
Why see it? I’ll be honest. When I first saw this one on opening weekend in 1990… I was not a fan. Rewatching it for the first time three decades later, though, and I realize that younger me was a real numbnuts. Their tale of mob loyalty is an engrossing slowburn with stellar performances by Gabriel Byrne, Marcia Gay Harden, John Turturro, Albert Finney, and an especially memorable turn by Jon Polito. There’s wonderfully dark humor here alongside some impactful violence, and the film is gorgeously shot to boot. Be sure to give a listen to the talk between the Coen Brothers and Megan Abbott as it’s fantastic.
[Extras: 2K restoration, interviews]
The Tin Drum [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A boy refuses to grow up, for reasons.
Why see it? I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting with this critically acclaimed award-winning feature, but it’s definitely not what I got. Oral shenanigans, tiny Nazis, flying nuns, a Mr. Slugworth cameo, and the lead gives one of the more disturbing child performances I’ve seen. It’s a comedy of sorts, one that’s as comfortable with explicit sex beats as it is sharp commentary on fascism and the misbehavior of adults, and as absurd as it gets its serious moments hit hard. Weird fucking movie that enjoys its metaphorical cake and eats it too. The extras aren’t new, but the interview with the director in particular is highly informative.
[Extras: Documentary, interviews]
Fist of Fury [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A student returns to avenge his master.
Why see it? Bruce Lee is an incredibly popular martial artist with too few films to his name, and this 1972 release is one of the good ones. Lee plays Chen-zhen, the white-suited young man furious at the murder of his teacher, and his search for answers leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. It’s pretty talky for a fight flick with an angst-ridden Lee at its core, but when the fights do happen they’re the good stuff you’re hoping for. Lee is fast as ever, and the film’s not afraid to get a little bloody along the way. Umbrella’s new Blu-ray, the second entry in their new Films of Fury collection, lacks a remaster of any kind and features only a handful of extras. It’s a solid pickup for those who don’t already own it though, and it is an all-region release (despite being labeled as region B).
[Extras: Documentary, interviews]
The Flag of Iron [88 Films]
What is it? A master is murdered, and his students fracture.
Why see it? Shaw Brothers Studio released tons of martial arts flicks, some better known than others, and this one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack. The story is straightforward and the dialogue is goofy at times, but there’s terrific fun to be had with the fight scenes. Everything from an abacus to chopsticks are used as weapons with the big finale fittingly shifting to some pretty deadly flag flying. Things get bloody too making for some memorable deaths and brawls. 88 Films’ recent move into the US continues to be a very good thing indeed.
[Extras: Commentary, booklet]
God’s Gun [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Aa man avenges his brother’s murder by a band of outlaws.
Why see it? This mid-70s western looks pretty good on paper — Jack Palance as the lead villain, Lee Van Cleef as a murdered priest and his twin brother pursuing vengeance, and Sybil Danning as a bar owner coming together for a spaghetti western about good, bad, and revenge. And yet… it’s a clunker. The tone wavers between mean-spirited action and goofy behaviors/dialogue, and neither half really succeeds. Worse, they dub Palance’s voice! Who dubs Jack Palance?! The action feels clumsy in its execution, and there’s just no real drama or tension at play to give weight to the the shenanigans.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
Playing Beatie Bow [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A teen from the 80s is transported back to the 1800s.
Why see it? This feature is based on a novel that’s reportedly well-written and bestselling by a respected writer, but you really wouldn’t know it. The story is surprisingly convoluted for a simple enough premise, and things take some oddly uninteresting turns. Rough acting, some poor choreography, and a lack of anything resembling energy don’t help. The intended emotions fall flat, and maybe I’m confused but the end reveal meant to be romantic is just creepy? Anyway, I think this is for kids, but I really can’t see how that’s supposed to work.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City [4K UHD]
What is it? A new Resident Evil film!
Why see it? The Resident Evil games continue to be popular, but the end of Milla Jovovich’s franchise adaptations seems to have ended that side of things for good. This attempt at a reboot failed to make its mark meaning no more sequels are likely, but while it drops the ball energy and pacing-wise, fans are given numerous gifts in the form of Easter eggs, references, and the film’s story/setting being a more direct adaptation of a couple of the games. The practical effects are solid when they’re not drowned in cg enhancements, and the cast is quite good, so that’s something I guess.
School of Death [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? Girls are disappearing from a weird private school.
Why see it? The premise here sounds all kinds of exploitative — a private school for girls in Victorian London, sadistic teachers punishing them and sending the odd one over to a murderous, mad, and disfigured scientist — and yet, it’s ultimately a pretty dull watch. The visuals are fine and the atmosphere is aided by a real gothic feel, but things never get even remotely bloody or saucy. The mad scientist’s experiments underwhelm too leaving only the visuals to entertain. Still, credit to Mondo Macabro for bringing another lesser known genre effort to disc.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, commentary]
Sukkubus [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? Three cow herders struggle after the arrival of a succubus.
Why see it? This German folktale is an odd little genre effort about two men and their teenage apprentice who live on the side of a mountain taking care of cows. They’re a horny bunch — one of the men starts eyeballing the boy — and their routine is thrown for a loop when a mysterious naked woman arrives to taunt their libidos. It’s dreamy, nightmarish, and strangely funny at times, and you can’t beat the views.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interview]
Surf Nazis Must Die
What is it? A woman seeks revenge against surf nazis.
Why see it? As Troma productions go, this one pretty much checks all the studio’s boxes. It works hard to be offensive, it features violence and sex, and its budget is clearly minimal. An earthquake destroys parts of Los Angeles leaving gangs to rule over the landscape, particularly the beach, and the toughest ones are ruled by Adolph. Like I said, it aims to offend. It’s cheapo exploitation, but this new Blu-ray is loaded meaning fans will want to pick it up.
[Extras: Introduction by Lloyd Kaufman, interviews, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Also out this week:
Catwoman: Hunted, Foul Play, France, Gintama: The Very Final, King Richard, Liar’s Moon, Some Like it Hot [4K UHD, KL Studio Classics], Stargirl – Season 2, Summer of Soul, Summer School [Shout Select], A Walk in the Sun