Ella Raines Shines In Our Film Noir Pick of the Week

Plus 10 more new releases to watch at home this week on Blu-ray/DVD.

Discs Phantom Lady

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Pick of the Week

Phantom LadyPhantom Lady [Arrow Academy]

What is it? A man is accused of murdering his wife and his only alibi has disappeared.

Why see it? Robert Siodmak’s mid 40s film noir sets up an intriguing premise and then lets Ella Raines run loose. She plays secretary to the condemned man, and her unspoken love for her boss drives her effort to prove his innocence. The story has some intriguing mystery and suspenseful beats, and Raines is an absolute stunner. She captivates with her performance that shifts effortlessly between sweet, intimidating, emotional, and terrified. The only downside to the disc is the doc on film noir — it’s an interesting watch, but unfortunately one of the talking heads is Bryan Singer.

[Blu-ray extras: Documentary on film noir, radio drama]


The Best

The CraftThe Craft [Scream Factory]

What is it? Four teenage girls tap the dark arts to make their lives better.

Why see it? This 90s slice of studio horror remains a fun time as much for its cast as for its story. Neve Campbell, Fairuza Balk, and Rachel True are high school outcasts who welcome Robin Tunney into their fold, and collectively their power grows. It builds into a good vs evil showdown with a hard lesson about the high price of supernatural shenanigans, and while the effects are dated the entertainment and message of friendship remains. Scream Factory’s new Blu looks great and features new interviews with several behind the camera talents.

[Blu-ray extras: Interviews, commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]

The EarthlingThe Earthling [KL Studio Classics]

What is it? Two people meet in the Australian Outback.

Why see it? William Holden’s second to last film was also one of Ricky Schroder’s first, and the two pair well together as disparate personalities and persons. The former plays an older man coming home to his birthplace essentially to die while the latter is an American tourist whose parents die while camping leaving him alone in the bush. Holden takes him under his wing, and both learn something about themselves along the way. It’s a simple two-hander, but director Peter Collinson takes beautiful advantage of the landscape.

[Blu-ray extras: US and international versions, deleted scenes]

The Kid BrotherThe Kid Brother [Criterion Collection]

What is it? A young man disrespected by everyone in his life finds a chance to shine.

Why see it? Harold Lloyd is a gift to fans of movies, period. He was a staple of the silent era thanks to films that blend comedy, action, and some surprising heart. His antics went on to inspire greatness from the likes of Jackie Chan, and it’s easy to see why as Lloyd’s stunts and set-pieces continue to thrill and delight nearly a century later. It’s a terrific feature, and Criterion’s new Blu-ray cleans it up and adds numerous extras including a pair of little seen shorts featuring Lloyd.

[Blu-ray extras: New 4K restoration, alternate scores, commentary, interviews, featurettes, short films]

Mans Best FriendMan’s Best Friend [Scream Factory]

What is it? A reporter investigating an animal testing lab unwittingly takes home a killer mutt.

Why see it? Animal attack films are something of a rarity these days, but one of the last great ones is this over the top sci-fi tinged horror romp starring Ally Sheedy and Lance Henriksen. The dog is a pairing of real and puppet/animatronic effects, and while the kills get bloody the film maintains a sense of ridiculous fun about it. The dog buries the postman under the porch like a bone! And it has cloaking technology! Anyway, it’s a good time, and Scream Factory’s sharp transfer makes it look good too in the process.

[Blu-ray extras: New 2K scan, commentary]

Mortal EnginesMortal Engines

What is it? A post-apocalyptic Earth sees mobile cities and mad leaders causing more havoc.

Why see it? This should have been a franchise starter as its based on a series of YA novels, but like the fantastic Beautiful Creatures before it the audience just didn’t show up. Not that it’s to that film’s level of quality, but there’s still so much creative fun and vision here with some truly thrilling sequences of large cities cruising across the barren landscape. It’s overly convoluted at times and packs too much into its running time, but the highs far outweigh those missteps. It’s a complete story, but it’s still just one part of a bigger tale.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]


The Rest

Beyond AtlantisBeyond Atlantis

What is it? Treasure hunters find pearls and adventure.

Why see it? On its surface this looks like it should be an R-rated adventure romp filled with violence and inappropriate T&A — I mean, it’s directed by Eddie Romero, stars Sid Haig, and features a blonde Sheena-like native woman. But it’s PG! The rating takes the bite out of a lot of it, but what remains is ridiculous enough to be highly entertaining. From the bug-eyed natives to their underwater abilities to the ragtag group of folks who go looking selfishly for pearls, the film is never dull. And its ending avoids the expected bloodbath by filling the screen with laughter instead. Crazy.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, essay, interviews]

Cannibal TerrorCannibal Terror [88 Films]

What is it? A trio of crooks kidnap a little girl and hide out in the “jungle” where they’re attacked by cannibals.

Why see it? Oh my. The incompetence here is fairly staggering as it looks like it was filmed in a small park within mere feet of civilization. Cars drive by in the background, trails seem well maintained, and it’s just a small grouping of trees. Bad performances, uninteresting story beats, poor direction, and more combine for a waste of time. That said, well the movie is horrible the new featurette “That’s Not the Amazon!” offers some fun anecdotes and details on the production company Eurocine that entertain.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, deleted scene]

Fantastic BeastsFantastic Beasts and the Crimes of Gindelwald

What is it? A wizard escapes custody and only Newt can stop him.

Why see it? I’m not sure what it is with these Fantastic Beasts films, but while I dig the Harry Potter movies this spinoff franchise leaves me cold. There’s never a moment of normalcy here as every frame is filled with magical antics and obnoxious character beats, and for me at least those characters are dull as hell. Add in Johnny Depp continuing in his quest to never play a human being again and you have a movie that just feels like noise.

[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Extended and theatrical versions, featurettes, deleted scenes]

Green InfernoGreen Inferno [88 Films]

What is it? Four friends head to the jungle in search of a missing professor.

Why see it? What an oddity this is. Marketed as an entry in the Italian cannibal subgenre, the film doesn’t actually feature any flesh eating. Well, human flesh anyway. And while there are animals being eaten it’s never in an exploitative way — instead our characters actually resuscitate a monkey! They get into shenanigans with the various tribes, but rather than be grim and gory it’s weirdly playful. The film also appears to have a solid budget as evidenced by scenes of a plane driving down a highway, a guy skiing behind a seaplane, and time spent exploring the jungle. It’s far from great, but viewers looking for a kinder “cannibal” flick will have fun.

[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, deleted scene]

Man From AtlantisMan from Atlantis [Warner Archive]

What is it? A humanoid from beneath the ocean surface helps the US Navy and stuff.

Why see it? The 70s and 80s were a wild time for television with all manner of action/genre hyrbid shows from bionic guys to guys who could transform into animals, and one of the first out of the gate was this TV movie/pilot about a guy who can breathe underwater, out-swim a dolphin, and fall in love with a lady doctor. It’s a well-produced adventure with the expected feel of TV, and it ends with a solid set-piece in a Bond-like underwater lab. It’s cheesy but fun.

[Blu-ray extras: None]

ShowdownShowdown [MVD Rewind Collection]

What is it? The new kind in town is bullied and then fights back with Tae Bo.

Why see it? As quickie riffs on The Karate Kid go this is the one with Billy Blanks as the wise martial artist who uses montages to train a “teenager” so he defend himself and the honor of Ben Stiller’s wife. Sounds confusing, but it’s really not. It’s a fun slice of 90s action with tough bullies, dumb teachers (RIP Brion James), and Christine Taylor. The action itself is far from flashy with choreography that will never impress anyone, and the story goes exactly where you expect, but for fans of the genre (and decade) it’s an enjoyable flashback.

[Blu-ray extras: Feature-length making-of, featurettes]


Also out this week:

A.I. Rising, Dark River, Green Book, Kolobos, The Legend of Billie Jean, London Fields, The Magic Flute [Criterion Collection], Neighbors, Someone to Watch Over Me, Tyrel, Unknown Soldier, Vengeance: A Love Story

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