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 July 20th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes a French classic, a cult favorite in 4K, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
La Piscine [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A couple’s languid summer is interrupted by visitors.
Why see it? This French gem was remade in 2015 as A Bigger Splash, but while that film is perhaps more outwardly entertaining (thanks to in large part to Ralph Fiennes) this original captures the heat, sex appeal, and discomfort sitting just beneath the surface of its characters. Alain Delon and Romy Schneider are weathered stunners who captivate sitting still and mesmerize with their every movement. The second half shifts into darker territory, but it’s never less than compelling. Criterion’s new Blu-ray includes both the French and English-language versions — director Jean-Claude Carriere filmed both simultaneously — and while the differences are minor they’re notable.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, English language version, documentary, interviews, alternate ending]
Dead & Buried [4K UltraHD, Blue Underground]
What is it? A series of murders confounds a small-town cop.
Why see it? Gary Sherman’s genre bonafides include Raw Meat (1972) and Vice Squad (1982), but it’s the film that came between those two that has always been a personal favorite. Dead & Buried features some cruel and bloody kills and an unsettling atmosphere as the small town’s charm shifts quickly into a disturbing haze. It’s co-written by Dan O’Bannon, and its various reveals deliver a creepy ride through to a grim little ending. Blue Underground continues their brilliant streak of 4K upgrades with another winner, and while the disc retains the film’s intentional softness the finished product reveals new clarity. The extras add an in-depth look at the film’s production and reception as well.
[Extras: Soundtrack CD, commentaries, featurettes, interviews, poster]
G.I. Joe: Retaliation [4K UltraHD]
What is it? The saga continues!
Why see it? Like its predecessor (see below) this is a silly action movie that delivers goofy fun, nutty characters, and more. The difference is that director Jon Chu actually sets up some pretty fantastic action sequences. The cliffside fight, for example, is just a highly entertaining action scene that succeeds at delivering the goods while also feeling unique and fresh. Dwayne Johnson’s arrival into the franchise brings with it a hefty dose of over the top character, and while Bruce Willis is already doing his “I’m bored but can’t stop acting” shtick it’s still fun seeing him here too. It’s an entertaining movie that looks great in 4K.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, deleted scenes]
Gangs of London – Season One
What is it? A London crime family faces fights from both sides of the law.
Why see it? Shows about criminals and their families are nothing new, but even those prone to violence pale beside the latest effort from Gareth Evans. The director of The Raid (2011) and The Raid 2 (2014) brings his love for elaborate, intense, and bloody action to the small screen infusing the gangsters’ antics with absolutely thrilling fight sequences. The choreography and execution are legit, but even the non-action scenes hold the attention with sharp writing, solid acting, and suspense. It’s Macbeth with martial arts in modern day London, and it rules.
The Gilded Lily [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A love triangle comedy!
Why see it? The first of seven pairings between Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, and the first of two hitting Blu-ray this week, The Gilded Lily is arguably among their best. The two play strangers moving towards romance who are interrupted by the arrival of a classy dude from England plated by Ray Milland. The romantic antics may be predictable, but the laughs and characters deliver lots of enjoyment from a pair demonstrating great chemistry from the start.
The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films
What is it? A documentary on the rise and fall of Cannon.
Why see it? If you were a genre movie fan in the 80s then you loved Cannon Films. The gloriously mad mini-studio brought to life by cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus became a home to the likes of Charles Bronson, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and others, and they became major players in the industry. It didn’t last, though, and the doc charts both the rise and fall through interviews new and old, film clips, and more. It’s a fascinating look at the collision of ambition and hubris.
What is it? An ex-killer is forced back towards violence.
Why see it? The setup here is as familiar as they come, but at seventy-seven minutes this Japanese gem doesn’t waste much time worrying about it. Masanori Mimoto plays a man who left violence behind to run a small cafe and look after the daughter of a man he killed, but when a new organization moves into town he’s once more marked for death. There’s some strong character work here infusing scenes with calm and atmosphere, and while the action is minimal in frequency it’s epic in quality. The fights would make Donnie Yen proud, circa 2007’s Flash Point, as lightning-quick hits, fierce grappling moves, and painful intensity make for some thrilling sequences.
What is it? A killer is stalking a college campus.
Why see it? This little slasher quietly slipped by everyone this year in part because it looks overly familiar and generic, but when you actually watch the film — something I finally did when it hit Blu-ray — you realize it’s a damn good slasher. It’s attractive, features some vicious kills, and is better acted than a lot of genre fare. It’s also smartly scripted and tackles themes that were bungled in the recent Black Christmas reboot, and it fits naturally with the environment of frats and such.
What is it? A Canadian riff on Assault on Precinct 13.
Why see it? Did you not just read that synopsis? Any riff on Carpenter’s classic is a welcome watch, and happily this Canadian gem is also pretty great in its own right. The film takes its initial premise from a true event involving police going on strike, and then it spins it from there into a night of terror. Thugs slaughter people at a gay bar, but when one escapes they attack the building and residents giving him shelter. It’s a mean, smart little action/thriller, and it’s awesome to see it land on Blu-ray. Severin’s new disc gives it a sharp transfer, and while the extras are light the commentary track offers some engaging insight into the production and period.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary]
Thunderbolt [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A gangster plots revenge out of jealousy.
Why see it? Josef von Sternberg remakes his own silent classic, Underworld, and make some memorable advancements with sound along the way. George Bancroft plays the villain, and both the narrative and arc compel alongside von Sternberg’s style. The gangster frames the guy who stole his girl (Fay Wray) and then plots to kill him while the two are in the same prison, and the film finds suspense in the setup on its way to a softer ending. Good stuff.
Born for Hell [Severin Films]
What is it? A Vietnam vet heads to Ireland to kill nurses.
Why see it? The slaughter committed by Richard Speck in Chicago is the inspiration here as the focus is a disturbed young man who terrorizes and murders several nurses with only one living to tell the tale. It’s as disturbing as the subject matter warrants while also aiming for both exploitation and social commentary. The former comes courtesy of naked skin while the latter comes with the Belfast setting which sprinkles IRA attacks and religious feuds into the mix. It’s a cold film and far from entertaining or thrilling, but fans will be more than happy with this new release.
[Extras: Interviews, US cut]
The Bride Comes Home [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman is torn between two suitors.
Why see it? Robert Young doesn’t stand a chance against Fred MacMurray, but he puts up a good fight for Claudette Colbert’s hand and heart. The three manage some fun banter as financial straits, competition, and the struggle of running a magazine all filter through their varied personalities and interests. It’s an entertaining watch, but while it never reaches the highs of the genre screwball comedy fans should still give it a spin.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra [4K UltraHD]
What is it? An over the top live-action romp based on toys.
Why see it? Stephen Sommers big blast of CG, action, and ridiculous characters is an easy target for criticism, but while it ain’t great it’s still more entertaining than a Transformers movie. Channing Tatum hadn’t yet nailed his more carefree persona, but he’s clearly getting there, and while much of the action is silly it manages some fun.
I Wouldn’t Be In Your Shoes [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man struggles to prove his innocence on death row.
Why see it? Warner Archive brings a nifty little noir to Blu-ray, and while it’s held back a bit by its budget — there are maybe three locations in the entire film — it manages some engaging characters and minor suspense. Don Castle plays a man whose unfortunate choices land him the only suspect in a murder, and he’s banking on his wife and a lonely detective to prove his innocence. The third act is good stuff.
[Extras: Short film, cartoon]
J.C. [Code Red]
What is it? A hippie finds religion and violence.
Why see it? Biker exploitation films come in various forms, but they’re typically built around immoral or “misunderstood” thugs causing havoc and finding trouble. This early 70s effort takes a different tact, though, as J.C. runs a hippy-dippy gang who land in a Southern town to visit family only to find ignorant cops and townspeople. It’s an interesting choice to focus more on their pacifism, but when violence erupts it’s ultimately too little too late to make for a memorable slice of exploitation.
[Extras: New 4K restoration]
What is it? A woman snares a married man and ruins his life.
Why see it? Jean Renoir’s second film adapts Emile Zola’s novel into a handsomely mounted drama about one woman’s life. From an unfortunate childhood to a sad adulthood, Nana’s life is a ride ending with a married man who she pulls down into her own misery. It’s a well done drama that fans of Renoir and/or Zola will appreciate, and its Blu-ray debut offers a visibly successful restoration and an informative commentary track.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, comparison]
Skinned Deep [Severin Films]
What is it? A family is trapped with weirdos.
Why see it? If you’re on its wavelength, this horror/comedy promises to be a wacky ride you’ll never forget. But if you’re not, and I’m not despite my desire to be, it’s a dull, amateurish slog that feels neverending in its attempts at comedy and shock. Special effects wizard turned filmmaker Gabe Bartalos delivers an oddball riff on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre with deformed family members, exaggerated acts of twisted kindness, and a desperate effort to escape, but it all feels so cheap and ineffective and simply bores.
[Extras: Interview, commentary]
Spiral: From the Book of Saw [4K UltraHD]
What is it? Jigsaw is back, kind of, but not really, or is he?
Why see it? Chris Rock expressing interest in continuing the Saw series automatically makes this movie worth a watch, but the end result leaves more than a little to be desired. The writing is not good — dialogue is silly, the puzzles underwhelm, the killer’s identity is incredibly obvious — and it just doesn’t manage to thrill or entertain beyond its goofiness. But hey, that may be enough for some of you, and if that’s the case this new 4K release is a solid one with an informative commentary or two to boot.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes]
Step by Step [Warner Archive]
What is it? Nazis in the US!
Why see it? Lawrence Tierney and Anne Jeffreys star as a young couple whose budding romance is interrupted by Nazis. It’s a playful thriller that sees innocents framed for murder, mistaken identity, and spies co-mingling with sharp dialogue. The film deals with “serious” genre antics but feels loose enough to never be taken too seriously. That’s not a bad thing, but it leaves the film more firmly entrenched as minor entertainment than memorable classic.
[Extras: Short film, cartoon]
The Time Guardian [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A future city returns to the past.
Why see it? This Australian genre effort seems like a dumb cheapie on the surface, but look past the marketing and it’s a solid piece of action/sci-fi. It also looks damn good with some solid special effects bringing its creatures, high tech hardware, and action to life. Carrie Fisher co-stars in a supporting turn, but while the leads aren’t recognizable to US audiences they make for a good time. The concept — an entire city travels back in time — is fun stuff, and the action follows suit. Get your nose out of the air, and give this one a spin.
[Extras: New 2K scan]
The Wraith [Vestron]
What is it? A revenge thriller with cars and Clint Howard.
Why see it? Charlie Sheen and Sherilyn Fenn headline this little revenge tale that sees a new kid in town arrive just as a mysterious car does too — could they be related? Who knows. The car starts cutting its way through the local thugs while the kid (Sheen) moves in on the big bully’s girl (Fenn). Uh oh! There’s definitely some cool and fun beats here starting with the car itself, but it simply moves from one beat to the next with little energy and no real surprise. Still, it’s an entertaining enough genre ride, and Vestron’s new Blu-ray is a gift for fans.
[Extras: Commentaries, interviews, featurette]
Also out this week:
633 Squadron / Mosquito Squadron, The Plainsman [KL Studio Classics], Royal Deceit, Star Trek: Discovery – Season Three, Unconquered [KL Studio Classics], Whirlpool of Fate
Related Topics: Home Video