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 27th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes the Blu-ray debut of a beloved Stephen King adaptation, the overdue arrival of an action classic from France, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Dead Zone [Scream Factory]
What is it? A man awakens from a coma with psychic abilities.
Why see it? One of the best Stephen King adaptations is also one of the best David Cronenberg films, and it’s somewhat surprising in that Cronenberg, long considered a cold, inhuman filmmaker, delivers his warmest film ever with this somewhat underappreciated tale. The same goes for Christopher Walken, an actor many view as eccentric and odd, who gives his most empathetic performance. The story’s pretty damn great too as one man’s ability to see the future has world-altering implications. Scream Factory’s new release features a smart new scan delivering a sharp picture in addition to extras both old and new. It’s a great one.
[Extras: New scan, interview, commentary, featurettes]
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage [Arrow Video, 4K UltraHD]
What is it? A writer witnesses an attempted murder and suffers the consequences.
Why see it? Dario Argento’s debut entry into genre cinema remains a great thriller, a smart mystery, and a clear trendsetter for the giallo genre. Tony Musante stars as an American writer in Italy who sees a woman attacked inside an art gallery, but after scaring away the assailant his otherwise uneventful life grows ever more dangerous. It’s stylish as all hell and features a legitimately engaging mystery, and while he had stronger films ahead of him it’s a remarkably assured feature that began the legend that is Argento. Arrow’s been home to the film for a while and have now shifted their glorious limited edition into a new 4K release. The film looks stunning as Argento’s use of color absolutely pops, and the special features are a fantastic mix of old and new.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, visual essay, booklet]
Brotherhood of the Wolf [Scream Factory]
What is it? A pair of ass-kickers help solve the mystery of a deadly beast.
Why see it? Christophe Gans’ epic action/adventure/period piece remains an all-timer, and it’s finally made its debut on Blu-ray after nearly two decades. The film sees Samuel Le Bihan and Mark Dacascos traveling the sordid halls and bloody fields of France in search of justice, and in addition to sumptuous visuals we’re also gifted with some terrifically entertaining action scenes. The story moves beyond the mere hunt for a beast, though, to involve twisted royalty, dark societies, social upheaval, and more. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray is a good release, but a handful of elements keep it from being a great one. It features the director’s cut only and doesn’t include the theatrical release, the picture hasn’t been remastered or scanned and is clearly lacking in some areas, and the subtitles are inconsistent.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Herculoids – The Complete Series [Warner Archive]
What is it? A different kind of stone age family.
Why see it? The late 60s saw a rise in creative cartoons from Hanna Barbera including this still entertaining family romp through a science fiction/prehistoric landscape. The human family at its core — a father, mother, and son — have a bevy of creature sidekicks with them, and together they fight off invaders and villains through weapons, wit, and a pair of amorphous weirdos named Gloop and Gleep. Add in a laser-eyed dragon, a stone gorilla, and a projectile-firing rhino, and you have a good time. All eighteen episodes are collected here.
The People Next Door [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A family struggles.
Why see it? There’s no shortage of films about the dangers of drugs and the fragility of family under duress, but this 1970 drama delivers the themes and realities with both style and heart. The great Gordon Willis shoots a beautiful film about the ugliness of life, and the cast — Eli Wallach, Julie Harris, Cloris Leachman, Hal Holbrook, Stephen McHattie, Rue McClanahan — gives fantastic performances showing people in pain fighting to make it through to tomorrow. Everybody hurts, and that includes the people next door who you think have it so much better than you. Scorpion’s new disc offers a sharp 4K scan and some revealing extras.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interview]
A Quiet Place Part II [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A family continues their fight for survival.
Why see it? John Krasinski’s original was a big hit for the filmmaker and studio as fans ate up its premise — alien monsters hunt via their super hearing, so you have to be quiet to survive — and execution, but the follow-up is arguably the stronger film. Krasinski’s character is only present for an opening sequence showing us the actual first day of the alien attack, and it’s a spectacular set-piece, while the bulk of the film sees his surviving family carry onward. The monsters are cool, the tension is well-crafted, and the scares are good fun. It all looks pretty great in UHD as well.
What is it? A young woman has a bad day at a funeral.
Why see it? Writer/director Emma Seligman’s feature debut is an awkwardly entertaining good time. We follow Danielle as she navigates relatives, strangers, lovers, and more over the course of one long shiva, and while her troubles are often of her own doing it’s no less emotional or stressful a time for it. Sometimes funny, sometimes tense, and always embarrassing for poor Danielle, it’s a fast watch that’s both fun and uncomfortable.
[Extras: Commentary, Q&A]
Vengeance Trails – 4 Classic Westerns [Arrow Video]
What is it? Four lesser known Italian westerns in a limited edition box set.
Why see it? Lucio Fulci, Maurizio Lucidi, Massimo Dallamano, and Antonio Margheriti bring four spirited, mean, and attractively shot westerns to life, and all four deserve some attention. Bandidos and And God Said to Cain are the two standouts with the latter featuring a strong and atypical performance from Klaus Kinski as the protagonist. All four are given the white glove treatment by Arrow resulting in some sharp visuals capturing the harsh landscapes primed for bloodletting. Here’s hoping this is the first of many volumes.
[Extras: 2K restorations, booklet, poster, commentaries, documentaries, interviews]
Alias Jesse James [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Bob Hope western.
Why see it? Bob hope’s comedic stylings may be one-note — he basically plays himself in every role — but if you’re on his laugh line his films typically offer some good fun. This western riff sees Hope’s insurance salesman mistaken for the infamous gunslinger, and the comedian plays up the funny business at every turn. It’s no laugh riot, but it’s a fun time and does good work riffing on western films. Fans of the “genre” will also appreciate the slew of familiar faces with small turns by Roy Rogers (and Trigger), Gary Cooper, Fess Parker, and others.
Baise Moi [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two women choose a path of violence and terror.
Why see it? Fans of extreme cinema, particularly examples out of France, will want to give this controversial shocker a spin, but it’s a tough one to say you really enjoy. A pair of women, both played by real-life porn stars, are fed up with the way they’re treated and decide to turn the tables — this is no revenge film, though, as the targets of their rage run the gamut from guilty pricks to innocent passersby. If you can stomach a second watch I highly recommend checking out Kat Ellinger’s commentary track for some insight, perspective, and history on the film.
[Extras: Commentary by Kat Ellinger, documentary, Q&A]
Killer’s Delight [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A killer stalks young women!
Why see it? 70s slashers come in all shapes and sizes, and this one leans in the direction of both the overly serious and the slightly silly. I know, seems odd, but it pairs a determined cop who frequently yells at people and a killer who uses disguises — lame disguises — to ensnare unwitting ladies. It’s never all that thrilling or suspenseful, but it’s a fun enough and very straightforward riff on the Ted Bundy style killers and the willingness of people to get into strangers’ vans.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, outtakes]
L’Amour Braque [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An odd bank robbery leads to love, I guess?
Why see it? Andrzej Zulawski (Possession, 1981) delivers a strangely manic tale that is something of an acquired taste due to its fluctuating tone and wildly erratic performances. Tcheky Karyo gets more screen time than most viewers are used to, and Sophie Marceau gets to have fun while falling apart. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to connect with these characters which in turn impedes any real dramatic tension or emotion, so you’re left watching the film for the experience alone. If that’s enough for you, this new Blu from KL offers up a restored picture and some informative extras.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary by Kat Ellinger, commentary interview]
The Lamp [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? Teens find terror in a museum!
Why see it? Also known as The Outing, this is little supernatural shocker that has a dry second act before cutting loose in the back half. A demon in a lamp is causing havoc, and while we only really see it towards the end, the carnage is pretty fun along the way. Some is bloody, some features practical effects, and a couple deaths come courtesy of live snakes. The genre beats that work do so well, but there is a lot of downtime here with thinly drawn characters and plot points that don’t amount to much. Still, Vinegar Syndrome’s new Blu is strong as expected with a fun making-of looking back on the production.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, documentary, commentary]
Shenandoah [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man stands on principle in the face of war.
Why see it? James Stewart in a western is always something worth watching, and this mid 60s effort is a solid one. He plays a proud Virginian who abstains from the Civil War — he doesn’t believe in slavery but still loves his land and peace — only to be dragged in anyway when his son goes missing. More drama than pure western or action film, it’s a sober tale of the seeming futility of standing up.
Stranger on the Run [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man arrives in town and soon finds trouble.
Why see it? Henry Fonda in a western is every bit as iconic as James Stewart above, but Fonda was known to take on darker roles on occasion. This late 60s effort from Don Siegel leaves Fonda’s motivations a mystery for a little bit at least, but even before the truth comes clear he cuts a captivating figure. The film morphs fairly quickly into a one innocent man versus the mob narrative, but Siegel shoots an attractive western punctuated with engaging bouts of violence and character.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary]
Also out this week:
American Gods – Season Three, Every Breath You Take, The Herculoids – The Complete Original Series, Treasure of the Ninja [AGFA]