One of the Best Thrillers of the 70s Is Our Home Video Pick of the Week

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Pick of the Week

The Silent Partner [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A bank teller helps himself during a robbery and angering the crook in the process.

Why see it? This Canadian production is thriller perfection. Elliott Gould plays the mild-mannered teller who’s constantly underestimated by everyone around him, while Christopher Plummer is both mesmerizing and terrifying as the incredibly mean madman. The eternally great Curtis Hanson wrote the script, and it’s brilliant as it shifts between plot, character work, and pure suspense. It’s truly thrilling and constantly engrossing, and even on multiple re-watches is just pure magic.

[Blu-ray extras: Interview, commentary]


The Best

Between the Lines

What is it? The staff at a small newspaper endures a shakeup.

Why see it? There really aren’t enough movies about those in the journalism field. Broadcast News is, of course, the greatest film of all time, and even Ron Howard’s The Paper offers some honesty and laughs. While those films are known, though, Joan Micklin Silver’s 1977 feature slipped through the cracks before finally being restored and recognized this year. Jeff Goldblum, John Heard, Lindsay Crouse, Bruno Kirby, Michael J. Pollard, and more bring life to this workplace comedy that teases the dramatic struggle inherent in the business even then. Terrific performances, fun personalities, and an engaging story make for a film worth rediscovering.

[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, interview]

Hotel Mumbai

What is it? The 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India come to vivid life.

Why see it? I can’t imagine there will be a more harrowing horror film this year than this terrifying, minute by minute look at a real-life terror incident. It’s captivating and intense from beginning to end, and it works beautifully as an ensemble highlighting the reality that we’re all in this together. Dev Patel, Armie Hammer, Nazanin Boniadi, Jason Isaacs, and others put a human face on the absolute terror. This is no action movie, but it will have your heart racing.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Universal Horror Collection – Volume 1 [Scream Factory]

What is it? Four films from Universal’s Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi years.

Why see it? Scream Factory brings together four tales of terror from Universal’s golden age with new extras and new 2K scans for three of the titles. The four included films are The Black Cat, The Raven, The Invisible Ray, and Black Friday. The first two offer intriguing riffs on familiar Edgar Allan Poe tales and are the strongest of the set as they’re less dependent on effects and more focused on character. The two legends, Karloff and Lugosi, each get to have some fun with varied creations across the four films,and the new extras reveal an immense love for the two performers. It’s a fantastic set for fans of the talent or of the Universal horror filmography in general, and we’re already looking forward to Volume 2.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, featurettes, new 2K scans]


The Rest

The Beach Bum

What is it? A beach bum sees his lifestyle threatened.

Why see it? Harmony Korine’s filmography isn’t for me — no, not even Spring Breakers, although that film’s okay — and his latest doesn’t change that opinion. We’ve seen Matthew McConaughey  in this skin before, and the meandering style and tone of the film dull interest instead of cultivating it. There are some fun and familiar faces here, but it’s really Isla Fisher who steals the show during her too-short screen time.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]

The Border [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A US/Mexico border agent is tempted by both greed and compassion.

Why see it? Jack Nicholson headlines this dramatic thriller that feels every bit as timely today as it may have back in the early 80s. Border agents show indifference and cruelty in doing their daily jobs, but corruption runs deep in their ranks. It’s a solid enough drama with some expected beats, but in addition to Nicholson the other highlights include some terrific third-act action and supporting turns by Harvey Keitel and Warren Oates.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]

The Brink’s Job [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? An unlikely group pulls off an unbelievable heist.

Why see it? Real crimes don’t always make for entertaining cinema, but oddball ensembles going against the grain and succeeding where no one thinks they will? That’s typically a good time. William Friedkin directs this comedic crime flick and adds both personality and energy to its tale. It’s hard to argue with the cast either as it includes Peter Falk, Peter Boyle, Warren Oates, Gena Rowlands, and Paul Sorvino. It’s no mold-breaker, but it’s a fun watch.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]

Corvette Summer [Warner Archive]

What is it? A teenager builds a Corvette then whines when it’s stolen.

Why see it? I kid Mark Hamill. His mechanic-minded teen is distressed when the car is stolen, but he’s soon on an adventure from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to recover the car, and it involves some hijinks, shenanigans, and a car chase or two. It’s lightweight fun to be sure, but it’s a delight once a young and energetic Annie Potts arrives. The core action involves the car, but the story growing around it involves Hamill’s reactive teen learning to control himself and take hold of his future.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

Killing Eve – Season Two

What is it? An agent and a psychopath circle each other again.

Why see it? Season one of this UK show offers a smart, thrilling game of cat an mouse between an engaging agent (Sandra Oh) and a fascinating killer (Jodie Comer), but as fun as it is the season paints itself into a corner with the agent’s behavior by the end. She becomes more obnoxious than interesting. Luckily, Comer’s killer grows even more dangerously lovable. Season two continues that trend as the show stays afloat through the charm of Comer’s playful assassin. It remains a fun, twisty show with great performances at its core.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]

Ordeal By Innocence [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A man realizes too late he was a convicted killer’s alibi.

Why see it? Agatha Christie’s tale comes to the screen with the typically impressive cast — Donald Sutherland, Christopher Plummer, Ian McShane, Faye Dunaway — and an intriguing premise. Sutherland plays a man who realizes his testimony could have saved a man from being put to death, but when he shares this with family and friends he’s surprised to see he’s the only one who seems to care. The mystery builds as he suspects the real killer is in his midst, and while it’s not on par with the Poirot or Marple tales it’s a solid little thriller.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

The Running Man [Arrow Academy]

What is it? A couple’s attempt to scam the insurance company leads to complications.

Why see it? Carol Reed will always be best known for The Third Man, but he made other thrillers including this sun-splashed mix of deception and romance. Lee Remick plays the wife along for ride after her husband fakes his death, while Alan Bates is the insurance man who crosses their path. We get some nice plot turns, but the real draw is the shifting relationship between the three leads. It’s a good flick with appealing locales and engaging leads.

[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette, interview]

Slaughterhouse Rulez

What is it? The earth spews out a monster near an elite boarding school.

Why see it? The premise and cast promise all kinds of fun here as how can you go wrong with a horror comedy starring Michael Sheen, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost? This is how, apparently, as the script gives them little to nothing funny to do or say, and while it’s gory at times there’s not enough fun to be found with it. It’s not terrible, and fans of the cast may find enough to enjoy here.

[DVD extras: None]

Slayground [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? A trio of robbers find themselves marked for death after accidentally killing a young girl.

Why see it? This little thriller was a cable staple for me as a kid, and while flaws are more visible to my adult eyes I still find a lot to love about its dark tale of vengeance. The great and underappreciated Peter Coyote takes the lead as a once-great crook now facing something well beyond his experience, and he makes for an interesting variation on Donald Westlake’s Parker character. We get some tough kills en route to a third act set-piece set in a closed down amusement park, but it’s a character piece more than anything. The new interview with Coyote is terrific as well.

[Blu-ray extras: Interview]

Us

What is it? A family faces a home invasion of people who look like them.

Why see it? Jordan Peele’s follow up to Get Out once again blends genre fare with social commentary, but this time around the dynamic is reverse on the success front. This is the better thriller, but its themes, metaphors, and ideas mostly crumble as the film tries too hard to explain it all. The logic and narrative just fall apart, but getting there still delivers some fantastic visuals,fun thrills, and engaging performances. My hope is that Peele someday direct a film from someone else’s script so he’s less invested in layering in a complicated commentary, but until then at least we’re getting good movies.

[4K UltraHD/Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]


Also out this week:

Crypto, Hale County, L’ Humanite [Criterion Collection], Mississippi Burning [KL Studio Classics], Modest Heroes, The Monolith Monsters [Scream Factory], Run the Race, Swingtown 1, La Vie de Jesus [Criterion Collection]

Rob Hunter: @FakeRobHunter "Rob is great. He likes movies. He writes about them. And he's a good person."