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 January 5th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes some Dean Martin westerns, a John Frankenheimer classic, some glorious exploitation, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Train [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Nazi-run train filled with stolen art becomes a target for the resistance.
Why see it? John Frankenheimer’s tense thriller is a beautifully paced tale set towards the end of World War II. The Nazis are trying to steal centuries worth of artwork, but they make the mistake of picking a mild-mannered official (Burt Lancaster) to help unaware that he’s part of the resistance. What follows is a suspenseful ride, an elaborate ruse, and some epic train action that today would be done with CG. Kino’s new Blu look fantastic, and the extras include a commentary by Frankenheimer.
[Extras: Commentaries, booklet]
The Black Gestapo [Code Red]
What is it? A Black neighborhood watch group faces off against the mob.
Why see it? Look, I contain multitudes, so while I love and celebrate critically acclaimed cinema I also get giddy for genre fare. This slice of over the top blaxploitation has a lot going for it including plenty of action sequences, gratuitous T&A, and some solid social commentary executed with 70s flair. The watch splinters to include a meaner, tougher faction (the gestapo of the title), and soon the three groups are battling it out over turf, protection, and revenge. It’s bloody and thrilling fun with a mean-spirited edge, and while the blood is overly bright the fights are well crafted.
[Extras: 2K master, interviews, commentary]
Love and Monsters
What is it? A young man risks death by monster in pursuit of love.
Why see it? 2020 was the year of Brian Duffield — he wrote Underwater, he directed Spontaneous, and he also wrote this fun, thrilling creature feature. Dylan O’Brien stars as a young man who survives the apocalypse only to lead a lonely life underground until he sets out in search of his girlfriend. The monsters are big and colorful, and they’re brought to life with sharp CG (that looks especially great in 4K UltraHD), and with Jessica Henwick and Michael Rooker along for the ride the result is a terrifically entertaining adventure. Consider it a coming of age story set during the apocalypse, and you’ll have a blast.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Three Films by Luis Buñuel [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Three late career gems by the surrealist filmmaker.
Why see it? Luis Buñuel’s filmography is a mix of the absurd and the acidic, often within the same movie, and while they don’t necessarily have mass appeal there’s a genuine uniqueness that demands attention. Criterion collects three of his films here — each previously released by the label — into one box set, and as late career titles they show an artist who held onto his scathing commentary through to the very end. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom Liberty are both inescapably Buñuel, but it’s That Obscure Object of Desire that captures both his interests and a compelling presentation with a film that’s as affecting as it is entertaining. This is an easy pick up for fans.
[Extras: Documentaries, interviews, featurettes, booklet]
Tintorera [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A killer shark does what it wants.
Why see it? Two quick caveats to this recommendation — first, this is the R-rated cut of the film and not the longer unrated one, but as it’s the first time on Blu-ray and in HD it’s still a winner. And second, it’s an exploitation film from the 70s so the underwater carnage features plenty of real sea creatures in varying degrees of distress. Animal welfare wasn’t a thing here. All of that said, the film is still a terrifically sleazy ride filled with sex, violence, blood, and a wonderfully game Susan George. It’s not exactly a predictable ride either which is saying something for genre fare.
Beach Red [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? War takes its toll on both sides.
Why see it? Cornel Wilde was an interesting and accomplished actor turned director delivering genre gems like The Naked Prey (1965) and No Blade of Grass (1970), and this war film fits their thematic mold. It’s a humane tale with an anti-war stance, but while those other films succeed as terrific entertainment, this one feels a bit too disjointed in its style. Voiceover — almost never a good idea — works to reveal inner thoughts, but it’s messy alongside similarly jarring editing and camera work. Fans should check it out, but it’s far from his strongest work.
Captain Newman, M.D. [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The ups and downs at a military hospital during World War II.
Why see it? Gregory Peck headlines this dramatic comedy as the lead doctor looking out for the broken minds of soldiers. The brass gives him flack for grounding men without physical injuries, but he fights the good fight in their defense. Tony Curtis and Eddie Albert co-star, and it’s a solid feature giving the time of day to mental health issues including PTSD long before they became more traditional topics for war films.
What is it? A wily young woman seeks revenge only to find trouble instead.
Why see it? Bella Thorne’s never really sought out challenging roles before, but this lead character sees her changing that up with somewhat successful results. She does good enough work as a determined daughter of a bad man who finds there are even worse ones — including Mickey Rourke — waiting in the wings. There’s some iffiness here in the writing, but the action works well enough to entertain for fans of “one woman versus bad dudes” cinema.
What is it? A thief tries to come clean with deadly consequences.
Why see it? The annual tradition of a new Liam Neeson thriller isn’t quite what it used to be, but he still manages to deliver some fun even in his lesser fare. His latest has its issues, from some questionable script choices to abysmal CG fire, but it’s entertaining. The good hearted thief finds himself double-crossed by conniving feds, and he’s forced into more crimes to prove his innocence. Just ignore the pretty terrible living room shootout and enjoy the rest including Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, and Robert Patrick.
What is it? A crazily racist film from 1930.
Why see it? Kino and Something Weird Video continue their work bringing “Forbidden Fruit” — exploitation cinema from early days — to home video in restored glory, and their latest entry is a doozy. Presented as a real documentary back in 1930, this makes our ancestors look pretty damn gullible. It’s a mix of existing footage and sequences shot just for the film, and it’s clear that it’s meant to entertain and disturb. It’s arguably unsuccessful on both counts, but as a curiosity it’s worth a watch.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries]
Rough Night in Jericho [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A lawman faces off against an ex-lawman.
Why see it? George Peppard and Dean Martin play the two leads, and while you think they’d be playing the villain and the hero, respectively, that’s not actually the case. Martin plays the bad guy here, and once you’re used to it you realize he makes for a pretty mean straight man. The film delivers a solid enough setup building to a final showdown between the pair, and it’s a worthwhile watch for western fans.
Savage Streets [Code Red]
What is it? A “teen” seeks revenge for the assault on her sister.
Why see it? This slice of 80s exploitation has eluded me over the years as I don’t typically seek out rape/revenge movies, but I’ve finally gotten around to it via this new re-release from Code Red. It is one mean and ugly movie with assaults, murders, abuse, and cruelty — but it’s also nasty fun, especially once it shifts into revenge mode, as none of these high-schoolers look remotely like teenagers and the dialogue is ridiculous. It’s a woman who ultimately kicks ass, which is ideal, and that woman is a pissed off Linda Blair who’s chewing up scenery after she cuts it to ribbons. The new Blu looks great, and there are plenty of extras here as well.
[Extras: Commentaries, interviews]
The Secret War of Harry Frigg [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A U.S. soldier prone to escaping prisons is tasked with escaping one more.
Why see it? Paul Newman headlines this late 60s comedy, and he does so with a slightly off accent choice. It takes getting used to, but once you’re past it the film becomes a fun enough Hogan’s Heroes-like movie about a soldier on a POW rescue mission. His first target is a lush Italian villa, but soon he’s trying to rescue captured generals from a proper camp. All of it’s played silly meaning the stakes are non-existent, but it’s an entertaining diversion.
Texas Across the River [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A western comedy.
Why see it? One year before the western above which stars Dean Martin as the bad guy, he made this western comedy. He’s closer to playing his more traditional character type here, but while that works elsewhere it’s a lost cause here. The comedy doesn’t really work — and Joey Bishop in redface as a Native American is only part of the reason why — but fans of Martin and Alain Delon will still want to give it a spin. Samm Deighan’s commentary is a more interesting highlight.
Also out this week:
12 Hour Shift, The Man Who Would Be King [Warner Archive], Yellow Rose
Related Topics: Home Video