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 May 25th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes older movies new to 4K, a cynical classic from Criterion, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Nightmare Alley [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A carnival conman reaches too high.
Why see it? Hot damn do I love first-time watches of absolute bangers I’ve somehow missed over the years. Edmund Goulding directs this darkly cynical noir about a devious but charismatic charlatan whose greed ends up lifting him just so high before sending everything crashing to the ground again. Tyrone Power delivers a wonderfully dark turn in the role, a memorable shift from his more popular fare, and he’s joined by some equally terrific women including Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray, and Helen Walker. The film captures the dark heart of society, and it’s move from sleazy carnivals to high society (and back again) makes a compelling case for the two not being too far removed. Criterion’s new Blu is another beauty and gives this film the love it’s long been owed. Seek it out now before Guillermo Del Toro’s remake hits theaters later this year.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews]
The Final Countdown [4K UltraHD, Blue Underground]
What is it? A modern day aircraft carrier is transported back to December 6th, 1941.
Why see it? This terrific B-movie from 1980 holds up as a fun blend of sci-fi/action/”what if?” shenanigans, and Blue Underground’s new 4K release is a thing of beauty. They’ve scanned/restored the picture with fantastic results and gifted it with a kick-ass Dolby Atmos audio as well. The film itself is still great fun too as Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, and James Farentino struggle with the moral implications of their situation. Did the film run out of money before they could film a third-act action set-piece? Maybe, but the movie holds up all the same.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, soundtrack CD]
My Fair Lady [4K UltraHD]
What is it? An uncouth broad is classed up by a real gentleman.
Why see it? George Cukor’s still fantastic adaptation of the stage hit fills the screen with color, song, and unlikely romance, and Paramount’s new 4K release is something of a stunner. “Restored for 8K scans of the original 65mm elements with 96k resolution English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD audio” is a mouthful, but it’s all right there to please your eyes and ears. Audrey Hepburn shines, Rex Harrison controls his urge to talk to animals, and the two help deliver a fun, sweet, big musical that holds up. The extras are pretty slim, but this is a film you’ll want to own for the film alone given this new restoration and transfer.
[Extras: New 8K scan, featurettes, premiere footage]
Smile [Fun City Editions]
What is it? A beauty pageant brings together all kinds.
Why see it? Michael Ritchie’s genuinely sincere but playful look at an American institution gets its long overdue Blu-ray release from Fun City — a new label that’s already proven its interests and abilities with 70s/80s American cinema — and the result is evident. A new commentary from Pat Healy and his Jim Healy as well as a new interview with Bruce Dern highlight the extras, and the film itself offers up a lighthearted satire bringing some laughs and smiles. Bruce Dern plays a rare “normal” guy and does so wonderfully, and the young women are a mix of unknowns and Melanie Griffith, Annette O’Toole, and Collen Camp.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interview, commentary]
Athena [Warner Archive]
What is it? Song and dance and astrological body-building.
Why see it? Debbie Reynolds is a delight, as always, in this oddball musical/comedy about a family of health-conscious weirdos and the two suitors hoping to lock down the daughters. The music numbers are bright, energetic, and occasionally catchy, and they’re they real highlight here. The script and characters engage enough, but it’s due more to you wondering what’s exactly up with them… no real answers are coming, though, meaning they’re just odd.
[Extras: Outtake musical numbers]
What is it? A gender-swapped remake of My Fair Lady.
Why see it? Okay, Doug Liman’s latest isn’t really a remake of that beloved musical, but Tom Holland does play an unenlightened goober who’s taught how to be a bit more proper by Daisy Ridley. It’s also a sci-fi adventure about a planet where men’s inner thoughts appear uncontrollably in a bubble around their heads. What it isn’t, though, is thrilling or all that engaging. The script is silly, the action is underwhelming, and the two leads have little to no chemistry.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Deliver Us from Evil
What is it? A hitman discovers he has a daughter in danger.
Why see it? The plot setup for this new South Korean thriller is as traditional as they come — a retired hitman is pulled back towards violence when he discovers he has a young daughter and she’s been abducted — and you know exactly how it’s going to end. That said, it’s still a mean, energetic, and thrilling ride. Hwang Jung Min is the tired but capable assassin, and he’s out bad-assed by Lee Jung Jae’s merciless butcher. The action moves from Korea to Japan to Thailand and delivers plenty of kinetic set-pieces as people are shot, sliced, and blown up with abandon.
Eye of the Tiger [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A man stands up to meth-cooking bikers!
Why see it? Gary Busey, action star? Sure. This mid 80s romp is a low budget affair, but it finds ways to stand apart from the pack all the same. The bad bikers not only kill his wife, but they proceed to dig up her coffin and drag it through town just to piss him off too. William Smith plays the emotionless head biker, Seymour Cassel gets sleazy, and Yaphet Kotto gets to fly a plane while rocking out to some tunes. What’s not to love? And in case you’re curious, yes of course Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” plays three times throughout the film.
[Extras: New 2K scan]
What is it? A couple’s atypical happiness leads to death, mystery, and revelations.
Why see it? Kerry Bishe and Joel McHale star as a happily married couple who still bone on a daily basis, but things take a turn when they discover that their friends despise them for it. Worse, a stranger arrives with threatening intentions, and one dead body later everyone’s hopes for a peaceful weekend getaway have crumbled beneath distrust, suspicion, and weirdness. Comedy with a Twilight Zone twist is almost a subgenre unto itself, and Happily delivers well with some laughs and a terrific cast before losing stem in a third act that feels unsure how it wants to wrap itself up.
[Extras: Commentary with writer/director BenDavid Grabinski]
Honky Tonk Freeway [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A small town tries to draw tourists.
Why see it? The great John Schlesinger wasn’t always on top of his game, and that’s especially the case when the material just wasn’t in his wheelhouse. This comedic romp is case in point as its cynical take on Americans — a worthy target — feels one step removed from the Brit’s interests. Still, it’s legitimately fun at times and delivers some unexpected action beats including a pretty solid car crash set-piece. The cast is a bonafide who’s who of familiar faces including William Devane, Beau Bridges, Beverly D’Angelo, Daniel Stern, Teri Garr, and many more. The included commentary track offers some interesting insight into the production and fallout from its bombing in theaters.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary]
Million Dollar Mystery [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A group of strangers searches for four million dollars.
Why see it? Big ensemble road comedies range from the great (The Gumball Rally, 1976) to the unfortunate (Speed Zone, 1989), and unfortunately this entry leans closer to the latter. The usually better Richard Fleischer gathers a motley crew of Z-list actors for a cross-country race to find four hidden stashes of cash. We get some minor action beats, but the comedy is pretty weak and unmemorable. The film’s biggest claim to fame is instead the million dollar giveaway marketed between Dino De Laurentiis and the Glad trash bag company — the film ends with one million still unaccounted for, and viewers were asked to follow clues to guess its location. A teenager ultimately won the million even as the film grossed just shy of that in theaters.
The Night of the Following Day [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Kidnappers see their kidnapping scheme crumble.
Why see it? Marlon Brando heads up a morally ambiguous group of kidnappers here — his blond hair and newly trim physique see him stand apart in numerous ways — and he does good, intense work opposite his co-stars. Richard Boone is sleazy and dangerous, Pamela Franklin is the innocent caught between them, and Rita Moreno is terrific as a woman who should have said no to this job. There’s some suspense here and even less action, but the acting is strong enough to hold the attention through to the end.
Super 8 [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A group of preteens cross paths with an alien.
Why see it? JJ Abrams’s reboot of Amblin Entertainment’s YA interests is every bit a nod to Steven Spielberg, but it’s not as if Abrams is shy about that. He’s very upfront in his love, and that in turn makes the film a warm homage. Kids who love movies, family strife, and an unnatural intrusion from an alien creature suggest a pair of Spielberg classics, but here the alien is more than a little dangerous meaning we get some suspense beats, action-oriented set-pieces, and more. The third act turns to tightly towards sweetness and a happy ending for everyone (including the alien), but while that lessens the film’s impact noticeably it remains a solid ride. Abrams’s commentary is a great listen too.
[Extras: Commentary with JJ Abrams, featurettes, deleted scenes]
The Tender Trap [Warner Archive]
What is it? A ladies man settles down.
Why see it? While the film arguably opens with its strongest element — Frank Sinatra strolling along singing the title song — there’s still fun to be had in its dated romantic comedy notions. Sinatra plays a man used to playing the field, but he’s thrown for a loop when love enters his life in the form of Debbie Reynolds. Much of the relationship stuff is dated all to hell, but if you can get past its views on women it’s just entertaining enough. Credit solid turns from Sinatra, Reynolds, and Celeste Holm for that.
[Extras: Featurette, MGM Parade excerpts]
Also out this week:
Benny Loves You, City Slickers II [Shout Select], Deadly Force: Mission Budapest, Django [4K UltraHD, Arrow Video], Donny’s Bar Mitzvah, The Eurocrypt Collection of Christopher Lee [Severin Films], Explorers [Shout Select], The Hand [Scream Factory], Heavy Trip, Infinity Train: Book Two, Kinky Boots, Ponette, Prospect [4K UltraHD, Gunpowder & Sky], Sheep Without Shepherd, The Sound of Silence, Supernatural – The Fifteenth and Final Season, Walking the Edge [Fun City Editions], Weird Wisconsin: the Bill Rebane Collection [Arrow Video]