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
The Plague Dogs [Shout Select]
What is it? Two dogs escape from a lab and embark on a cross-country journey.
Why see it? Richard Adams’ Watership Down is his most famous novel and resulting adaptation, but fans are missing out if they haven’t subjected himself to his other animal-centric classic. There’s less magic and mythology here as its focus is instead on friendship, dramatic thrills, and a fierce condemnation of animal testing and mob mentality. The animation is beautiful and devastating, and the characters trot into your heart with pure affection and loss. This should be an automatic buy for fans of stunning, under-appreciated cinema.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None?]
Obsession [Scream Factory]
What is it? A widower meets a woman who resembles abducted and dead wife, and soon she’s kidnapped too.
Why see it? Brian De Palma’s mid 70s thriller is severely underrated among his filmography and in desperate need of reappraisal as it’s easily among his top five films and is easily his most Hitchcockian with its riff on the likes of Vertigo in particular. It’s a twisted thriller with some fascinating story turns, fun performances, and a stellar score by Bernard Herrmann. Scream Factory’s new Blu offers up a sharp picture, a great doc on the film, and a new commentary with De Palma’s biographer. Pick this up if you don’t already own a copy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview, featurette]
The Plague of the Zombies [Scream Factory]
What is it? A mysterious plague is killing villagers, but what’s bringing them back to life?
Why see it? This Hammer film entry doesn’t get talked about all that much, but it’s an engaging and highly atmospheric little thriller. Scream Factory’s new Blu-ray also looks gorgeous and brings the living colors and undead chills to beautiful life. There’s an interesting take on the zombies here involving voodoo and slave labor, and the slow burn terror builds to an intense and fiery finale. It’s a solid watch, and the disc features some truly informative and entertaining extras including two new commentaries one of which is from the super knowledgeable Troy Howarth.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentaries, World of Hammer episode, making of, restoration comparison]
What is it? Chuck Norris made a karate slasher.
Why see it? Look, I know it’s strange putting a Chuck Norris movie under the “best” heading but I am a big fan of this flick. It’s essentially Norris’ Texas Ranger character going toe to toe with an unkillable slasher killer. He roundhouse kicks evil! Brian Libby is legit creepy as the scientifically enhanced murderer, and the film plays it like a slasher horror experience… just with final girl named Chuck.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A zombie girl “living” in the woods finds a kindred spirit in an abused boy.
Why see it? There’s an intriguing premise at the heart of this dark thriller as various genre elements come into play in atypical ways, but the pieces don’t quite come together in a wholly engaging way. (It’s worth noting that I’m in the apparent minority in that belief.) The performances are terrific, though, and they keep a watch from ever feeling like a waste. Director Justin P. Lange shows a real eye for character and atmosphere, and here’s hoping his next film will be based on a better script.
[DVD extras: None]
The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion [Arrow Video]
What is it? A woman is blackmailed by a bastard who accuses her husband of being a bastard.
Why see it? On its surface this 1970 feature gives off the sheen of another giallo — it’s Italian, there’s violence, and the great Ennio Morricone provides the score — but it’s actually something a bit more drama-oriented. That’s not a bad thing necessarily as it just means there’s more angst and psychological trauma and less (no) bloody murders. Dagmar Lassander does good work as the bored housewife at the center of it all, and your senses won’t be disappointed either. Just be prepared for a slower experience built more on drama than salaciousness. Arrow’s new Blu is gorgeous (as expected) and features some terrifically detailed extras.
[Blu-ray extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, documentary, featurettes]
What is it? A ventriloquist’s dummy comes to life and wreaks havoc on a small town.
Why see it? The story is relatively similar to the first film in that monsters from the pages of R.L. Stine’s books (along with Halloween decorations) terrorize people, and it’s a mix of CG/practical effects, creepy gags, and kids in fun danger. It’s a step up from the first film, though, because this time around the females aren’t treated like crap. The lead here in particular is allowed to be a smart hero who’s a writer — and she’s complimented by Stine (Jack Black). It’s slight entertainment in the grand scheme, but it’s a good spooky time with an ending that suggests an interesting direction for a third film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Gag reel, deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? Michael Myers returns to Haddonfield and goes after Laurie again.
Why see it? As Halloween sequels go this is definitely one of them, and I’d even say it’s among the top 3 of the franchise’s sequels. It’s a direct follow-up to the first film story-wise, and therein rests many of its issues. A Laurie who has spent 40 years pushing people away and preparing for Michael’s return is both uninteresting and dumb, especially as his arrival shows she’s woefully unprepared. Still, director David Gordon Green crafts some solid set-pieces and delivers some gory goods making for a solid enough slasher.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Happy Birthday to Me
What is it? A group of friends find themselves being picked off by a killer.
Why see it? As 80s slashers go this is the one with the girl from Little House on the Prairie. It’s actually pretty fun too with some bloody demises in varied ways, a cast that includes Melissa Sue Anderson, Matt Craven, and the great Glenn Ford, and one hell of a Scooby Doo ending. Seriously, it’s a doozy. It’s oddly long for a slasher at 111 minutes, but director J. Lee Thompson keeps things moving and interesting.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? A smooth operator helps educate three middle-aged men on how to score with younger women.
Why see it? The last time I watched this movie was around 1am one night as a young teen. It was via my dad’s secret stash of VHS movies taped off HBO, and of course my mom caught me. A re-watch reveals it to be exactly the movie I remember — lots of boobs, sunshine, boobs, stupidity. and boobs — but it’s also a bit more heartfelt than I recall. Make no mistake, it’s still the 80s T&A comedy you expect, but our hero also tells an aggressive dude that “no means no” and means it. It’s goofy but its heart (and boobs) are in the right place.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Howling III [Scream Factory]
What is it? Archival footage of a werewolf in Australia proves true.
Why see it? Philippe Mora’s second stab at the Howling franchise is an odd blend of local mythology and goofy humor. Much of it doesn’t quite work though. Trading the gothic-ish setting of part II for the Outback is a creative move on the story front, but it definitely deflates the atmosphere, and with the humor’s mixed bag we’re left with some odd elements. Happily, one of those elements is the presence of marsupial werewolves. One even gives birth to a pup (?) that crawls up her happy trail and into her pouch. So yeah, there are things to enjoy here. Scream’s new Blu-ray includes a commentary and interview with a very candid Mora that are well worth a listen.
[Blu-ray extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interviews]
Jack the Ripper [Severin Films]
What is it? Prostitutes are being murdered in the streets of London, and no one can stop the Ripper.
Why see it? There are lots of movies about history’s most infamous serial killer, but this late 1950s thriller stands apart for a couple reasons. It’s a good film, but in addition to having been a success upon release the film found attention for imagery and style choices that shocked audiences of the day. Depending on the version you watch there’s more or less nudity and violence, but the Technicolor splash of blood at the end — a visual surprise in a black & white film — is a memorable touch. The film offers a resolution that the real world never enjoyed, but it still finds thrills along the way.
[Blu-ray extras: UK and US versions, commentary, alternate nudie scenes, interview, featurette]
What is it? A prince sets out to rescue his princess.
Why see it? The 80s were home to plenty of big screen sci-fi/fantasy films hoping for blockbuster status, and this is one of the many misfires and box-office bombs to hit screens to empty theaters only to find audiences later on video and cable. You’d be hard-pressed to call it a good movie as script and performances can be all over the place, but the sheer degree and variety of imaginative beats and visual effects makes it impossible to dislike.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Once Upon a Deadpool
What is it? Deadpool 2 with no fucks given.
Why see it? The thought of crafting a PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 and then releasing it to theaters is ludicrous, and that makes it perfectly fitting for the franchise. The structure here sees Deadpool reading the story to an abducted Fred Savage, and while the film plays out like normal — minus vulgarities, bloodletting, and gore — with occasional interruptions from Savage. It’s fun, but as the disc is free of extras, old or new, it might be more of a rental than a buy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Prize [Warner Archive]
What is it? A Nobel Prize winner finds intrigue in Stockholm.
Why see it? Irving Wallace’s best seller gets a big Hollywood adaptation in this early 60s suspense drama, and Paul Newman sits at the center of it. He plays an arrogant writer drawn into a world of spies, social graces, and politics. It’s a big, sprawling film that gives time to creating its characters and world — fitting as it’s a big novel — and it then eases its way into a plot filled with Cold War shenanigans. It’s a good film.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
Also out this week:
Cannibals and Carpetfitters, Cliffhanger [4K UltraHD], Crimson Peak, Four Times That Night, The Glass Key [Shout Select], Jonathan, Knives of the Avenger, Madeline’s Madeline, Notorious [Criterion Collection], Oddsockeaters, Room 304, Saturday the 14th, Tea with Dames
Related Topics: Home Video