This Week in Home Video
‘Psychomania’ Brings a Stylish, Baby-Killing Biker Gang Back from the Dead
Plus 11 more new releases to watch at home this week on Blu-ray/DVD.
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Psychomania [Arrow Video]
What is it? A biker gang called The Living Dead discover their name may have been prophetic.
Why buy it? This early ’70s flick is a delightfully odd little thriller that blends the vibe of UK chillers with the motorcycle thrills of an American picture into a fun and unique experience. It never descends into zombie mayhem like the cover art teases, but its stylized thrills still bring the goods with some fantastic stunt work, character drama, and unabashed acts of evil. There’s an understated horror element here in favor of action and counter-culture antics, but that doesn’t mean they’re above driving over a baby carriage when the opportunity arises. The film also features a wonderfully propulsive and eclectic score that I’m dying to find on vinyl. Arrow’s special features mix the old and new, and while some of it feels repetitive there are still plenty of fun tidbits to be found for fans of film production.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2k restoration, interviews, featurettes]
Psychomania (2-Disc Special Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
Deluge [Kino Lorber]
What is it? An earthquake causes world-ending tsunamis that wipe out most of the life on earth, and a handful of survivors struggle among themselves.
Why see it? This 1933 epic is an absolute wonder for the time. It opens as a disaster picture with scenes of major destruction to cityscapes and then shifts into a post-apocalyptic adventure featuring individual survivors, small communities, and a roving band of men doing grisly things to women. Its pre-code status means the lead lady gets to gallivant in her underwear ‐ every time she enters the water she ends up in her underwear ‐ and it leads to some disturbing setups. This is a legitimately thrilling film that blends action big and small into a solidly entertaining, endlessly impressive early ’30s adventure. Kino’s new Blu uses a recently restored picture for the film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, feature film Back Page]
What is it? A pacifist in World War II saves the lives of dozens of men without ever firing a gun.
Why see it? Andrew Garfield does good work here as a young man whose religious beliefs prevent him from harming another but don’t discourage his desire to help serve during the war. There’s a slight cheesiness to some of the pre-war dialogue, but once he enters training and the battle itself the film finds its footing and delivers a harrowing, exciting, and frequently bloody experience. The knives were out for it from some corners due to Mel Gibson’s presence in the director’s chair, but if you’ve enjoyed his past directorial efforts ‐ most of which are focused on the suffering of man ‐ then you’ll be equally thrilled here. It’s a terrific action picture saddled with some unfortunate setup.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Hacksaw Ridge [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital]
What is it? A man still grieving his own loss is forced by circumstance into taking care of his teenage nephew.
Why see it? Kenneth Lonergan’s latest film is also his best and most-assured, and it manages to deliver scenes of levity and humanity alongside sequences of intense and immense sadness. He’s helped by some terrific performances, namely from Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams, with the former in particular offering something of a revelation. Ideas of grief, family, and responsibility are intertwined here in smartly engrossing ways, and the film’s two hour plus running time disappears in the process. If you’re a movie crier prepare to be drenched.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, interview, featurette]
No Retreat No Surrender [Kino Lorber]
What is it? A young man moves to Seattle with his father where he’s forced to stand up for what’s right and does so with the ghost of Bruce Lee in his corner.
Why see it? I’m ashamed to say that I’ve somehow missed this absolute gem over the decades, but now that I’ve seen it I don’t ever want to stop watching it. Jean-Claude Van Damme has a small role as a fearsome heavy, but the joy here ‐ and oh my do I mean joy ‐ is everywhere in this Karate Kid ripoff. And I say that lovingly. The dialogue is wonderfully cheesy, the fights are often impressive, and the spirit of Lee really does appear to train our hero into becoming a great fighter. Does this mean the kid is schizophrenic? Probably, but his mental illness only makes the movie that much more enjoyable. Toss is a fun ’80s score, a wise-cracking, break-dancing sidekick, and a strong message about not being a pussy and you have a fantastic piece of entertainment.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: US/international cuts, interview, commentary]
No Retreat, No Surrender [Blu-ray]
What is it? A woman drives herself to ruin before finding possible redemption in a stranger in Betty. A man’s belief that his wife is cheating on him leads to madness and tragedy in Torment. A pair of thieves and con artists meet their match in a man who doesn’t know any better in The Swindle.
Why see it? Three of Chabrol’s films from the ’90s are collected here, and while the plots differ the themes of deception and inhumanity remain. The final film is the most purely entertaining as Isabelle Huppert plays one half of the thieving duo with fantastic energy and wit, but Torment is probably the most powerful of the lot as Emmanelle Beart delivers a sexy, troubled performance as a woman at the whim of her husband’s fears. All three reveal Chabrol’s interest in the human condition and talent at capturing human foibles.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentaries, interview]
Bad Santa 2
What is it? Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is once again convinced to team up with his little friend Marcus and devious mother on a sure-thing score that turns out to be anything but.
Why see it? Fans of the first will probably enjoy this follow-up as it offers more of the same ‐ it’s filled with characters insulting each other, berating others, yelling, being yelled at, and generally acting like real assholes all around. If that sounds like your cup of tea then by all means enjoy. For the rest of us who hope for a little bit more than jerks being jerks we’re pretty much out of luck. The story beats feel predictable all the way through leaving viewers with only the comedy to move them forward, but that’s an iffy proposition.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes]
Grace and Frankie ‐ Season Two
What is it? Two old friends unite after their husbands leave them to marry each other.
Why see it? This is very much a sitcom in much of what happens plot and dialogue-wise, but that doesn’t diminish the fun of watching Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda banter and bond together. Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are equally fantastic as their ex-husbands, and the show does good work with the various relationships ‐ the couples each had grown kids too ‐ leading to story lines both dramatic and comedic. I’m still waiting on a Dolly Parton cameo, but for now it’s great enjoying two-thirds of the Nine to Five gang together again.
[DVD extras: Gag reel]
King Solomon’s Mines [Olive Films]
What is it? A famed explorer finds adventure and romance in his quest for a legendary fortune.
Why see it? H. Rider Haggard’s novels obviously predate the cinematic adventures of Indiana Jones, but it’s clear that this feature is hoping to ape Steven Spielberg’s films all the same. It never succeeds though as Richard Chamberlain is no Harrison Ford and director J. Lee Thompson is no Spielberg. It’s goofy fun to be sure, but it never manages to be truly exciting or charismatic.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Klansman [Olive Films]
What is it? A small Southern town ignites in violence after a black man is accused of raping a white woman.
Why see it? This mid ’70s action/drama is a grimy, sordid affair populated with terrible people ‐ seriously, OJ Simpson plays the most “likable” one here ‐ constant racial slurs, brutal violence, and not one but three rapes/attempted rapes. The cast, including Lee Marvin and Richard Burton, help elevate it somewhat, but despite its intentions toward social commentary it never rises above the level of a Cannon romp. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be a tough watch for the fun you get out of it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A woman experiencing a loveless marriage finds renewed desire after reading an ex-boyfriend’s terrible novel.
Why see it? Tom Ford’s A Single Man was a gorgeous and powerful debut, but his follow-up only manages to be pretty. The two stories add up to very little, and while they feature some strong performances from the likes of Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Aaron Taylor Johnson, and Michael Shannon they amount only to dull frustrations. Adams’ half is little more than her reactions to things around her, and the novel itself comes to life with a lazy brutality that bores when it should disturb and thrill.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
What is it? The wildlife that calls European landscapes home are captured here through the seasons.
Why see it? The filmmakers behind Winged Migration and Oceans return with another gorgeously-photographed exploration of our natural world, and the images they capture are rarely less than astounding. Buffalo, lynx, bears, and more are seen cavorting, hunting, feeding, and simply living, and it’s an endlessly beautiful sight. The film falters some though in its need for a narrative ‐ the arrival of man, often seen as blurry images in the background, threatens the natural order of things and the livelihood of these creatures. Humanity’s decimation of nature is no newsflash, and its presence here feels forced and manipulated which in turn raises questions about the rest of the footage and its authenticity. It never stops being pretty, but it loses some engagement when the story tries its hardest.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
Also Out This Week:
Beauty and the Beast, Karate Girl, The King of New Orleans, Mildred Pierce [Criterion], Police, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown [Criterion]
Related Topics: Home Video