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Pick of the Week
What is it? The true-ish story the darkest day in Norwegian black metal.
Why see it? This is such a marvel of a film as it blends tones masterfully in its telling of a brutal and vicious true crime that rocked the music scene. Rory Culkin headlines as the lead singer of Mayhem, and along with Emory Cohen and others they push the extremes of evil expectations, but where does the showmanship end and real terror begin? It plays like a bloody and tragic I, Tonya (2017) as Culkin narrates his own tale, and while it’s frequently funny be warned it’s equally vicious. The movie alone is worth a pick-up, but this “limited” edition release is sadly devoid of extras outside of promotional bits.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A woman’s life spirals before a tragic twist of fate.
Why see it? Lana Turner headlines as a poor young woman pressured into leaving her husband, newborn son, and their high-class family roots behind only to return unexpectedly decades later. They think she’s dead, and when she winds up on trial for murder her now grown son — unaware of who she is — takes up her defense. I’m a sucker for tales like these offering up grandly devastating secrets and character wholly unaware of their relationship to someone close, and the film delivers real drama with its rendition. Turner is also excellent.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A woman forced to enter the nunnery struggles to find a way out.
Why see it? Not to be confused with the recent Conjuring universe horror movie, this French drama from the 60s is far more horrifying. A young woman wants out of this life, but those around her, from family to others in the convent, prefer she stays right where she is. Abuse follows leading to a tragic end, and while the film works as a character piece it’s also a damning indictment of the church and society’s restrictive morality. This is bleak but beautiful cinema, and while I don’t see myself ever re-watching it — seriously, it’s grim — fans will fall in love with Kino’s gorgeous new Blu-ray.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, making of]
What is it? Three drag queens find adventure on a road trip through rural America.
Why see it? I’m not convinced this movie would find three name actors today willing to take on these roles, but luckily we don’t need them to as the film already exists. Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo are terrific and sincere fun as men comfortable in women’s clothing who are led by circumstance to helping others be equally comfortable in their own skin. It’s a fun movie with heart, and there’s a real liveliness to it as well.
[Blu-ray extras: Making of, deleted scenes]
What is it? A young man’s quest for love is manipulated by Christopher Lee.
Why see it? Director Kevin Connor (The Land That Time Forgot, 1974) makes solid genre pictures that entertain while watching and then fade from memory. This late 70s entry is more of the same as he dabbles in Middle Eastern shenanigans, and while it can’t live up to the likes of something like Jason and the Argonauts (1963) it still finds adventure and fun. Having Christopher Lee as your big bad is always a good place to start.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary]
What is it? A wealthy woman welcomes a mysterious Lothario onto her private island with unexpected results.
Why see it? Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton made ten or so films together, but while Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and Cleopatra (1963) get most of the press some of their other collaborations are equally worth watching. Some are legit bad, of course, but this late 60s drama falls in the former camp — with the emphasis on camp. It’s fun at times without necessarily intending to be, and while it’s clearly not working at all it still manages to entertain a bit. The highlight of this release, though, is a new commentary track from the always amazing John Waters.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, interview]
Double Impact [MVD Rewind Collection]
What is it? Twin brothers reunite after decades apart to avenge their parents’ murder.
Why see it? Jean-Claude Van Damme beat Jackie Chan to the “twin action” game by almost a year, and while his film isn’t necessarily the better of the two it’s still good fun. The dude’s not a compelling fighter, but his moves and form are in their prime here. Some action and some laughs make up the film’s appeal, but the disc goes above and beyond to deliver some new and enlightening extras. The making of runs nearly two hours and features all new interviews and behind the scenes footage offering an engaging look into the film’s production.
[Blu-ray extras: Feature-length making of, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Eugenie and Marquis de Sade’s Justine [Blue Underground]
What is it? Jess Franco explores the writings of the Marquis de Sade.
Why see it? I’ve tried again and again to get into the filmography of Jess Franco, but the man’s shoddy productions and poor grasp on narrative just leave me cold. These two excursions are a step above, though, as Franco’s eye for the ladies was probably his strongest asset. He photographs sensuality and perversion with an eye for the arousing and disturbing. It’s an odd pairing, but both films work to tease and torture in equal measure. The included interviews give us a glimpse into Franco’s mindset and film sets.
[DVD extras: Interviews]
What is it? A thief finds himself caught up in legend, romance, and cultural appropriation.
Why see it? Tab Hunter stars as a character named Hassan, and I’m going to stop you right there. It’s as ludicrous as that bit of casting suggests, and from there it’s a bit silly as dialogue and action is played somewhat over the top too. That said, the widescreen, on location filming affords some beautiful landscapes and shots that help keep the film engaging despite itself.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A young woman returns a lost purse but discovers too late it’s a setup.
Why see it? The setup here is pretty fantastic as Chloe Moretz’s character pays the price for her act of kindness, and Isabelle Huppert returns her generosity with icy madness. Moretz is fantastic here, probably her best performance, but the script fails both actors as it turns in ways that disengage viewers and become far less interesting.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurette]
What is it? A white blind woman falls in love with a black man.
Why see it? This love story doesn’t quite get as much play as Sidney Poitier’s more well-known romances, but it’s a sold drama exploring the time (the 60s), relations, and expectations. Poitier is terrific as expected, but the real highlights here are Elizabeth Hartman as the blind woman and Shelley Winters as her mother dealing with her own traumas (albeit self-inflicted ones). The romance itself is a bit muted, but there’s power in their relationship all the same.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]
What is it? An anthology of cat heavy horror!
Why see it? Peter Cushing plays a writer who tells three stories in an attempt to convince his publisher (Ray Milland) that cats are the devil’s pet, and the variety of tales runs from revenge to witchcraft to… well, back to revenge. They’re silly even thought it’s all played straight, and the film is more fun than it is frightening, scary, or horrific. Extras are slight, but it’s great seeing this one brought into HD by Severin Films.
[Blu-ray extras: Interview]
What is it? A young woman is stalked by a madman and turns to another survivor for help.
Why see it? The original When a Stranger Calls (1979) features as terrifying an opening as any you’re likely to find, and while this follow up can’t compete it does manage one hell of an ending. Carol Kane and Charles Durning return to help new co-ed Jill Schoelen stop her own stalker, and it’s a solid enough thriller. This new restoration looks sharp, and the interviews are a good watch too.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, interviews, original short film]
Also out this week:
The Alligator People [Scream Factory], Blue Velvet [Criterion Collection], Climax, One Sings the Other Doesn’t [Criterion Collection], Penny Points to Paradise, Portrait in Black, La Prisonniere, South Park – The Complete Twenty-Second Season, The Unity of Heroes, A Vigilante