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 March 15th, 2022!
This week’s home video selection includes 4K UHD releases of Le Cercle Rouge, Shooter, An American Werewolf in London, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Le Cercle Rouge [4K UHD, Criterion Collection]
What is it? Three thieves come together for a jewelry heist.
Why see it? Jean-Pierre Melville knows a thing or two about heist films, and this 1970 feature is an example of his mastery over the genre. Alain Delon and Yves Montand headline as two of the three criminals who join forces to knock off an elaborately secured jewelry shop, and the film is as rich in character as it is in intelligence. Interactions, set-pieces, and quiet scenes all build towards an exquisitely crafted heist. It’s fantastic cinema, and Criterion’s new 4K UHD release brings the goods with engaging interviews and a terrific 4K transfer from Studio Canal. It should be pointed out that this was my first watch, and to me the transfer is a beautiful blend of clarity, contrast, and color. Viewers more familiar with the film, though, are aghast at the color timing here which warms up Melville’s intended blues — to them it’s a travesty going against the director’s intentions, but for first-time viewers the fifty-year-old movie is a visual treat — so proceed accordingly.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, essay]
An American Werewolf in London [4K UHD, Arrow Video]
What is it? An American man is bitten by a werewolf outside London.
Why see it? John Landis’ 1981 masterpiece remains an absolute masterclass in executing a horror/comedy with equal attention towards both genres. The film is very funny throughout with some highly quotable lines and unforgettable gags, and the horror beats deliver gore, scares, and some terrifically dark moments. David Naughton and Griffin Dunne show great chemistry with their banter — both before and after the werewolf attack — adding laughs and personality to the proceedings. The attacks are thrilling and bloody, and Rick Baker’s physical effects still impress as they bring to life a supernatural transformation filled with with awe and pain. This release carries over all of the same excellent extras that are featured on Arrow’s recent limited edition Blu-ray, but there are visible improvements in the already fantastic picture. The 4K captures the darkness with slightly better contrast allowing the film’s colors to stand out, so while it’s not a major improvement it’s still noticeable and possibly worth the upgrade.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, interviews, outtakes, poster, lobby cards, booklet]
Man’s Favorite Sport [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man doesn’t know how to fish.
Why see it? A romantic comedy directed by Howard Hawks? Yes please. This one is a loose redo of Hawks’ own Bringing Up Baby, but the differences are enough to keep things fresh. Rock Hudson and Paula Prentiss take the lead with both doing fantastically entertaining work — he as a man forced into nature despite secretly not being a fan, and her as the woman who upends his farce. Maria Perschy co-stars as Prentiss’ best friend, and she’s terrific as a sassy observer. The laughs may not be as sharp as some of the period’s rom-coms, and it’s definitely too long, but it’s a funny, romantic time.
Shooter [4K UHD]
What is it? A veteran is framed for an assassination.
Why see it? Stephen Hunter’s debut novel gets a terrific adaptation from Antoine Fuqua delivering great action and plenty of charisma. Mark Wahlberg succeeds at portraying an honorable and highly skilled soldier, and he’s joined by Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Ned Beatty, and Kate Mara. The focus on sniper shots results in some intricate and detailed observations on the weaponry and skills required to excel behind the scope. The film looks good too, an aspect elevated further by the new 4K transfer that brings the explosive set-pieces to life. The extras are slight, but the film itself remains a banger worth picking up for action fans.
[Extras: New 4K, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Sword and the Sorcerer [4K UHD, Scream Factory]
What is it? A mercenary avenges his family and his kingdom.
Why see it? Albert Pyun would go on to make dozens of films that never saw the inside of a movie theater, but his feature debut remains a sizable hit from 1982. Cashing in on the fantasy wave of the time, the film delivers sword fights, monstrous wizards, evil kings, and topless ladies along with heapings of atmosphere, sweat, and gooey practical effects. Its silliness and low budget are clear, but Pyun also stretches both to ensure the film is always a fun ride. Scream Factory’s new 4K UHD gives the movie the attention and affection it deserves with a terrific transfer heightening the contrast between color and darkness without losing the film grain. The disc continues to shine with the new extras including a fantastic commentary and interview with Pyun that sees him share some fascinating details and anecdotes from the production. Highly recommended.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interviews]
West Side Story
What is it? Steven Spielberg remakes a classic musical.
Why see it? Here’s the thing, this is a fine update to the original musical you already know and most likely love. Story/character changes are minor, and the tale remains the same. For me, that’s a negative as the story is West Side Story‘s weakest element — unlikable characters acting irrationally, meh — but the film is something magical with Spielberg in control. The set-pieces are electric and beautiful and bring the world to engrossing life, and the cinematography is filled with such vitality that the awe overcomes the story’s deficiencies.
The Boy Behind the Door
What is it? An abducted child risks his own freedom to save another.
Why see it? Two boys are kidnapped with an ominous fate ahead, but when one escapes he instead tries to help his friend instead of getting out on his own. It’s a solid enough premise, and the film finds some minor suspense along the way, but the script can’t quite justify itself. The age of the boys seems to keep things feeling a bit lighter than they should which in turn hurts the tension. It’s ultimately just fine with some solid performances by the young actors, but don’t go looking for some truly harrowing set-pieces.
[Extras: Music video, bloopers]
Dirty O’Neil [Code Red]
What is it? A cop-positive sex comedy!
Why see it? Ah, the 70s. This slice of T&A exploitation, co-directed by Lewis Teague, is an odd one as it plays out like a sex comedy for the bulk of its running time. The title character is a nice guy cop who enjoys the perks of the job when it comes to the ladies, but he’s not played as a serial abuser — he’s a lovable guy! The third act shakes things up, though, with rape, self-reflection, and a violent face-off that confirms our boy is a hero. Plays a bit awkward in today’s climate, but there’s some saucy fun to be had for those who can watch with an appreciation for the period.
[Extras: New 2K master]
Dream a Little Dream [Vestron Video]
What is it? An older couple experimenting with the mystical land in a teenager’s body.
Why see it? The divide between a film’s intentions and its execution are rarely as wide as the one here. What’s meant to be a teen romantic-comedy with aspirations on aging, love, and beyond is instead a strange, messy time capsule. Arguably the least entertaining/coherent of the “two Coreys” films (outside of the sequel that went straight to video), the laughs fall flat, the romance is a lark, and Corey Feldman’s obsession with Michael Jackson just feels disconnected from reality. At nearly two hours it’s also way too long, and while the cast is strong (Jason Robards, Piper Laurie, Harry Dean Stanton, Alex Rocco, Meredith Salenger, Corey Haim) none of them can overcome Feldman’s stranglehold on the screen time. That said, the new interview with him is about the film is telling.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
What is it? A WWI veteran hopes to win a cross-country motorcycle race.
Why see it? A Roger Corman production starring David Carradine is pretty much always going to be an enjoyable enough time, and that’s the case with this light-hearted romp. Carradine’s character is a playful scamp who falls for Brenda Vaccaro, teams up with LQ Jones, and finds adventure wherever he goes. Veteran director Steve Carver brings some fun action beats with cycle stunts and race shenanigans, and it’s a harmlessly enjoyable time.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
John and the Hole
What is it? A teen traps his family in a hole.
Why see it? There’s something to the idea here, a darkness in the way it captures the mind of a sociopathic young man, but it unfortunately builds to a terribly underwhelming ending. Getting there is engaging, though, as the boy’s family (Taissa Farmiga, Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle) are brought to life and allowed to wrestle with their predicament. There’s just not enough done with it which in turn deflates the ending’s intentions considerably. The terror inherent in the concept slowly wastes away.
What is it? An incorrigible man proves that some people can never change.
Why see it? Sean Baker’s latest explores a different kind of troubled life than he did with Tangerine and The Florida Project, and the difference is pretty stark. It’s still engaging, but it’s difficult finding the empathy for Baker’s lead character. Simon Rex is entertaining in the role, but his Mikey is a charming bad guy whose selfishness and obliviousness leads his daily existence. There are some laughs here as Mikey’s efforts spiral out of control, but the film loves him too much. Still, an interesting (and overlong) watch.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurette]
What is it? A hypersonic commercial flight encounters troubles on its maiden flight.
Why see it? As far as TV movies from the early 80s go, this one delivers a disaster film hitting familiar beats with plenty of dated optical effects along the way. The cast includes some familiar faces including Lee Majors, Lauren Hutton, Terry Kiser, and more, but the real star here is the space shuttle. The real-world craft comes to the rescue of the fictional one in a few different ways making this a solid advertisement for NASA. The film can’t find the kind of intensity or drama of big screen disaster films, but it’s fine.
[Extras: New 2K master]
Strange Bedfellows [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rashly married couple finally fall in love.
Why see it? Rock Hudson is always worth watching, and while this romantic comedy falls at the end of his real high period there’s enough charm here to warrant a watch. Gina Lollobrigida co-stars, and the pair manage a minor return to the rom-com magic they found in Come September. It’s amusing enough, but there aren’t really any big laughs or large romantic beats.
Zoot Suit [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A staged retelling of a real-life miscarriage of justice.
Why see it? Adapting a successful stage musical for the screen can go a few different directions, and the choice Luis Valdez makes is for the road less traveled. The story still unfolds on the stage, but rather than watch from a fixed point in the audience we move in and among the performers and around the props as if we’re with them on stage. It’s visually engaging, but it does create a barrier that interferes with the emotional attachment a straightforward dramatic adaptation might have achieved. The story retains its power, though, and captures a period-centric tale of racial injustice.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
Also out this week:
The Whaler Boy
Related Topics: Home Video