Streaming might be the future, but physical media is still the present. It’s also awesome, depending on the title, the label, and the release, so each week we take a look at the new Blu-rays and DVDs making their way into the world. Welcome to this week in Home Video for March 30th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes the arrival of an Albert Brooks classic to Criterion, two Alex de la Iglesia films in 4K, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Defending Your Life [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A man’s death opens a world of possibility for him.
Why see it? Albert Brooks is a comedic giant, and his run of directorial efforts from the 70s through the early 90s is just aces. Real Life, Modern Romance, and Lost in America are all comedy classics, but my personal favorite has always been Defending Your Life. Brooks stars as a guy who dies in the opening minutes and awakes in a way station of sorts where your life is put on trial to see if you deserve to move on or if you have to live all over again. It’s endlessly hilarious, witty, and creative, but there’s also a real warmth to it as Brooks and Meryl Streep — having a ball here long before she became synonymous with big, comedic roles — find romance in the afterlife. Add in a pitch perfect Rip Torn as his public defender, and you have an extremely funny and sweetly inspiring tale for the ages.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews]
The Day of the Beast [4K UltraHD, Severin Films]
What is it? A priest attempts to stop the birth of the antichrist.
Why see it? The synopsis makes it sound like a riff on The Omen or other more traditional horror tales, but Alex de la Iglesia’s spirited romp has funnier, more twisted thoughts in mind. The priest decides to summon Satan by doing evil deeds, and while it brings demented laughs it also brings him in touch with a heavy metal-loving retail clerk and a “psychic” talk show host. It’s probably a bit overlong as the energy occasionally stalls, but it’s a fun ride with some old school stop-motion effects adding to the charm. Severin’s new 4K release is a gorgeous restoration, and the Blu also includes some enlightening new extras.
[Extras: Documentary, interviews, short film]
Lust, Caution [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Assassination and love make strange and sexy bedfellows.
Why see it? Ang Lee’s lush, sweeping tale of love and danger made a noisy splash with its NC-17 rating, but there’s far more to it than its sexuality. It’s an absolutely gorgeous period piece, and while Tony Leung is expectedly fantastic in a lead role and Joan Chen matches him in support there’s clear talent in newcomer Tang Wei. The romance is every bit as important here as the intrigue-filled plot, and both work to enhance the drama and suspense of the other.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
Perdita Durango [4K UltraHD, Severin Films]
What is it? A couple are entwined with love and violence.
Why see it? Alex de la Iglesias’ filmography features a few titles familiar to Western audiences, but this True Romance-adjacent romp will be new to many. Thankfully, its arrival comes courtesy of a beautiful new 4K offering capturing all of the action, madness, and fun in sharp detail. Rosie Perez and Javier Bardem are the criminal couple, and the great James Gandolfini delivers as a mean DEA agent hot on their trail. It’s an at times bonkers movie pushing various boundaries as it fills the screen with blood and bad behavior, and it’s well worth discovering,
[Extras: interviews, featurette]
Secrets & Lies [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A older white woman’s life is given a new wrinkle.
Why see it? Brenda Blethyn gives a terrific performance here as a single woman who is visited by the now adult child she gave up for adoption at birth — played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste. Race complicates things as the two come to terms and other family members struggle with the revelation, and while some moments are tense writer/director Mike Leigh finds the warmth of humanity in their story and journey. It’s a lovely film.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interviews]
The Bermuda Depths [Warner Archive]
What is it? A man finds a mystery in his childhood.
Why see it? This late 70s TV movie was a familiar watch in my own childhood, but seeing it through more mature eyes reveals quite a few cracks. Leigh McCloskey makes for a bland lead, but Carl Weathers steals the show in a supporting role as a doomed science student. There’s fun to be had with the giant, murderous turtle — brought to life by the Rankin/Bass folks — and Connie Sellecca’s immortal siren brings a dark romantic foil. It remains an interesting slice of nostalgia.
[Extras: Broadcast and international versions, commentary]
The Greatest Show on Earth [Paramount Presents]
What is it? The story of a big circus.
Why see it? Cecil B. DeMille made big movies, and this 1952 effort is no different as it brings the lives, troubles, and triumphs of a circus crew into colorful glory. The spectacle is more entertaining than the drama, and at two and half hours there’s a bit of both. Charlton Heston, Cornel Wilde, Dorothy Lamour, and other screen giants lead the way, and it’s easy to see why the film thrilled audiences and Academy members alike.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, featurette]
Isn’t She Great [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A comedic biopic from beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
Why see it? Andrew Bergman brings a game cast together for this comedic romp about a woman who struck it big despite her questionable talents. Bette Midler brings Jacqueline Susann to life with a manic energy, and Nathan Lane matches her beat for beat. The supporting cast is equally strong including Amanda Peet, Stockard Channing, John Cleese, and others. It’s not quite a hilarious film, but there are plenty of laughs thanks to the cast.
Nosferatu in Venice [Severin Films]
What is it? An intended sequel to Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu.
Why see it? This loose follow-up to Herzog’s cult classic had something of a messy production, and it’s pretty clear in the finished product. It opens with Christopher Plummer arriving in search of the vampire, he hangs around preparing, he has a single encounter with the undead dude and then bails! Fifteen minutes before the end of the movie! Klaus Kinski brings his own madness, but while he and the brief bits of violence/sex can’t quite make this a winner the disc delivers with a feature-length documentary on Kinski’s final years. It’s a wild watch.
[Extras: New 2K scan, documentary, featurettes]
Rosebud [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Terrorists take hostages.
Why see it? When the Palestinian Liberation Army abducts several young women the authorities do the only thing possible, they call in Peter O’Toole. Eventually. He arrives a while into the film and is charming as expected, but he feels at odds with the film’s otherwise dryly methodical approach. Add in a second-billed Richard Attenborough who shows up in the final ten minutes — as the head of the Muslim terrorist organization — and you have an odd thriller.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
A Scream in the Streets [Severin Films]
What is it? A killer is pursued by cops.
Why see it? This is a pretty rough piece of exploitation at times seemingly more interested in low budget sex scenes, crass antics, and pushing buttons than in focusing on a story, but there’s enough to warrant a watch. The highlight is the cop duo, Dirty Harry-like ruffians with a badge who give cops a bad name in their pursuit of “justice,” and there’s also some unintentional humor — a woman calls the cops on her rotary phone while in the middle of a sixty-nine with her girlfriend. Just don’t expect too much nuance from the cross-dressing rapist/killer…
[Extras: New 2K scan, short films]
The Ten Commandments [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A story from the world’s best-selling fiction anthology.
Why see it? Cecil B DeMille never went small, and this biblical epic remains one of his best known productions. Charlton Heston headlines as Moses, a man of the people who doesn’t know until he’s an adult who exactly those people are. The film is all about honoring the Christian bible, and because of the times it was made in that means both the highs of massive production design and the lows of lots and lots of brownface to make its white actors look Egyptian and Middle Eastern. (It doesn’t work, but again, that was the times.) The new 4K transfer is fantastic, though, so fans will want to pick it up.
[Extras: Commentary, featurette]
Also out this week:
Journeys Through French Cinema, Jungle Trap, Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV [4K UltraHD], A Pain in the Ass [KL Studio Classics], Persona [Criterion Collection],The Projectionist, Stiletto [KL Studio Classics], The Toll, The Widow, Wonder Woman 1984