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Melvin Van Peebles Comes to Criterion for Our Pick of the Week

Plus 11 more new releases to watch at home this week on 4K, Blu-ray, and DVD!
Watermelon Man
Columbia Pictures
By  · Published on September 28th, 2021

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 September 28th, 2021!

This week’s home video selection includes a Stephen King chiller in 4K, the latest entry in the Purge franchise, an essential collection from Criterion, and more. Check out our picks below.

Pick of the Week

Melvin Van PeeblesMelvin Van Peebles: Essential Films [Criterion Collection]

What is it? A collection of four films from the late, great filmmaker.

Why see it? Melvin Van Peebles passed away earlier this month, but this celebration was already in the works. His first four feature films are brought together with new restorations and loads of extras. The films run the gamut from the romantic drama of The Story of a Three Day Pass (1967), a film Van Peebles had to make in France as Hollywood wasn’t exactly as welcoming, to the satirical Watermelon Man (1970) which tells the very entertaining story of a mildly racist white man who wakes up Black, to the cult classic Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) which blends dramatic commentary and indie action beats, to Don’t Play Us Cheap (1972), Van Peebles’ adaptation of his own supernatural comedy/musical Broadway show. They highlight both his talents and varied interests, and the extras included here offer an exhaustive look at Van Peebles’ life and the films’ production. It’s a monumental set from Criterion, and whether you’re a van of the filmmaker or new to his work it’s an essential release.

[Extras: 4K restorations, short films, Baadassss! feature film, interviews, commentary, documentary, featurettes, introductions]

The Best

Children Of The CornChildren of the Corn [4K UltraHD, Arrow Video]

What is it? A couple finds terror in the heartland.

Why see it? Stephen King’s original short story may or may not have been inspired by Who Can Kill a Child? which hit screens the year before its publication, but either way, King makes the tale his own. Kids kill all the adults in town at the request of a cultish teen and an unknown supernatural entity behind the corn rows. It’s a mean little movie with killer kids and kids who are killed, and while it’s rough around the edges at times it delivers some low budget thrills. Arrow’s new 4K release has the film looking better than ever — and better than anyone could have expected for the film — along with numerous extras, and fans will want to pick it up. Region-free horror fans may want to grab Arrow’s UK release which also features new Blu-rays of parts two and three as well.

[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, featurettes, interviews]

For Madmen OnlyFor Madmen Only

What is it? A look at the funny guy behind the funny people you know.

Why see it? Del Close was never a household name, and he never will be, but what this documentary presupposes is, maybe he should be? The late comedian turned instructor turned actor helped shape multiple generations of improv comedians with layovers in Chicago, Toronto, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. The roster of talents who learned from him is extensive — Bill Murray, Amy Poehler, Adam McKay, Bob Odenkirk, Tim Meadows, George Wendt, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Tina Fey, Mike Myers, Harold Ramis, and many more. The doc features archival footage, new interviews, and narration exploring the man’s accomplishments, struggles, and heartfelt goodbye.

[Extras: Commentary, extended interviews]

Wnuf Halloween SpecialWNUF Halloween Special [Terror Vision]

What is it? A beloved TV special for Halloween night.

Why see it? The premise here is a delight. A VHS recording of a local news channel’s broadcast that’s followed by a special sending a reporter into a purportedly haunted house. It unfolds in real time, complete with local television commercials advertising businesses and community events, and it’s a fun time. The horror aspect is pretty silly and pales beside the more successful Ghostwatch program from the UK in the 80s — it also purported to be a real news show exploring a supposed house of horrors, and in addition to being truly creepy it also fooled thousands of viewers — but as a love letter to 80s TV, local channels, genre fun, and simpler times it’s a joy. This new Blu-ray release is loaded with extras too.

[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, bloopers]

The Rest

A Day of Judgment [Severin Films]

What is it? Religious horror to scare your ass back into the pews.

Why see it? This early 80s chiller is more of a curiosity than a successful horror film, but that might just be enough for some viewers to give it a spin. A period piece taking place in the early 20th century, the film sees a mysterious visitor come to a small town and start cutting down the sinners. It’s a low budget affair, evident in everything from the acting to the production values, and it builds to its reveal as a morality tale designed to shame people back to church. It’s played straight despite being silly, but its POV feels atypical to most horror films making it somewhat unique.

[Extras: New 2K scan, interviews]

Death Screams [Arrow Video]

What is it? A killer is killing while others enjoy a nice carnival.

Why see it? Another early 80s horror film, this is another regional movie meaning low budget thrills are the name of the game. Unlike the film above, though, this one is a more traditional slasher with some bloody kills, T&A, and mystery elements as to the killer’s identity. It’s slow going at times, but there’s something charming about the handmade feel to it all. The film is far from flashy and won’t see anyone calling it a lost classic, but genre fans should enjoy it all the same. Arrow’s new Blu-ray gives the film more care than its makers ever could have expected, and while it still looks a bit rough at times its dark secrets are more visible than ever before.

[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentaries, documentary]

The Forever Purge

What is it? Purgers finally catch on…

Why see it? The Purge franchise is a mixed bag of beats, but none have answered the question I’ve had since the very first film — what’s keeping criminals from committing crimes every other day of the year? The idea that one free day would eradicate crime the rest of the year is dumb as bad guys and gals don’t work that way, and this latest sequel finally acknowledges that by seeing the violence spill over into the following days leaving some Americans trying to escape across the border in Mexico for their own safety. It’s a nice spin on the series’ usual commentary, and along with some solid action/suspense beats makes for a solid thriller.

[Extras: Deleted scene, featurette]

The Fourth Victim [Severin Films]

What is it? A man’s wives keep dying.

Why see it? The setup here leaves viewers probably a bit too much ahead of the characters in identifying the killer, but that predictability doesn’t hurt the unfolding thrills and drama. Both aspects are still fairly slight here, but it works as a simple tale of murder and mystery. Carroll Baker stars, and while it’s not nearly as wild or engaging as her better known giallos with Umberto Lenzi, it’s an interesting watch. The bumbling copper reminds of The Weekend Murders, a film that better embraces its tone, but he’s a fun addition all the same.

[Extras: New 2K scan, interview, deleted scene]

Kid Candidate

What is it? A doc about a young man running for city council.

Why see it? Hayden Pedigo is a creative young man who decided one day that his love for his hometown of Amarillo, TX makes him a potentially good candidate for office. This documentary follows along with his campaign as he spreads his views, tries to win over voters, and deals with an opponent who’s far better financed and more in league with the powers that be. The outcome is probably to be expected, but the journey is an engaging one with a charismatic, intelligent young man destined for bigger things.

[Extras: Q&A, deleted scenes, commentary]

Midnight [Severin Films]

What is it? Some travelers run afoul of dastardly Satanists.

Why see it? John Russo writes and directs this low budget thriller in which everyone’s either an asshole or a victim. A young woman runs away from home after her stepdad (Lawrence Tierney?) tries to rape her, and two nice young dudes pick her up. It’s all good until they cross paths with local yokels doing bad things to strangers to satisfy Satan and their dead mother. It’s low-rent thrills that never stands out with its set-pieces, gore, or suspense, but fans will dig what Severin’s done bringing it to Blu-ray.

[Extras: New 4K scan, interviews]


What is it? An update to the classic Charles Dickens tale.

Why see it? Ha! No. Michael Caine and Lena Headey give supporting turns here, but neither care enough to lift this dull update off the floor. The parkour doesn’t help either, if you can believe it, leaving viewers with a heist film that never manages anything resembling thrills, suspense, or fun. These are all things that a heist film should deliver, at a minimum, leaving this one just not worth the watch.

[Extras: Featurette]

What Really Happened to Baby Jane? [AGFA]

What is it? Drag spoofs of classic Hollywood.

Why see it? The 60s were home to all manner of filmmakers, and that includes gay directors and performers whose work sat in the shadows. This AGFA release collects four short films and one short feature, scanned for historical posterity so as not to be forgotten, and they offer an entertaining glimpse into drag talents. They spoof the likes of All About Eve and What Ever Happened to Baby Jane and deliver smart, silly romps along the way. Ray Harrison and His Gay Girls Riding Club are having a blast, and you might too.

[Extras: 2K restorations, commentary, outtakes]

Also out this week:

Beats, Chasing Madoff, The Damned [Criterion Collection], A Night at the Opera [Warner Archive], Primetime Panic, The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.