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 October 17th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes three classics from Tod Browning and Criterion, The Last Voyage of the Demeter, The Way We Were in 4K, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers [Criterion]
What is it? Three films from Tod Browning.
Why see it? The big title here is Freaks, Browning’s fantastically dark look at justice in carnival culture as a greedy couple are targeted by sideshow “freaks” looking — and crawling through the mud — for revenge. The film remains as powerful as ever, and it’s joined here by The Unknown and Browning’s lesser seen The Mystic. The former came five years before Freaks and again focuses on a carnival as a bad man hides out only to find he just might be outclassed in the dark department. The Mystic, while still a thriller of sorts, is the lightest of the three with more of a crime element, but the carnival’s shadows remain. A great collection for a master filmmaker who crafted nightmares nearly a century ago.
[Extras: New 2K restorations, commentaries, interview, documentary, podcast, short story]
Barbie [4K UHD]
What is it? The most famous doll in the world finds the real world.
Why see it? It’s no easy task making an official Barbie film that both tows the line and gives voice to the very real criticisms of the doll’s effect on our unhealthy body culture, but Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie manage to walk that tightrope. It’s a fun, bright time exploring the male dominated real world through the lens of someone who’s never experienced it, and while Ryan Gosling’s Ken gets more laughs, both find the heart in their situation. Musical numbers, fantastic production design, and worthwhile (if not sometimes convoluted and confused) themes make this a winner. Gerwig’s latest was a box-office behemoth, and issues with the film aside, that billion dollar take is remarkably impressive.
The Desperate Hours
What is it? Escaped convicts hold a family hostage.
Why see it? Michael Cimino remade this one decades later, but it’s William Wyler’s original that finds real suspense and strong character work in its tale of a family under siege. Humphrey Bogart is the lead baddie holding tentative sway over two younger villains, while Fredric March is the straightlaced head of the household struggling to get his family through this home invasion unscathed. It’s a well-paced and crafted thriller with tension simmering just beneath the surface, occasionally bubbling up into the open air. Arrow’s new release adds some new looks at the film and its characters, and they add some engaging context.
Douglas Fairbanks Double Feature
What is it? The Three Musketeers and The Iron Mask, both newly restored.
Why see it? Douglas Fairbanks ruled the adventurous roost of silent cinema’s action genre, and two of his greatest romps are collected here with new restorations offering up the best they’ve ever looked. Crisp details and sharp black & white photography capture the swashbuckling action while new scores accompany the films offering up a rousing auditory side to the otherwise silent films. My tastes run more towards versions of these tales from the 70s, but Fairbanks was a star for a reason meaning both movies bring the goods.
[Extras: New restorations]
John Wick – Chapters 1-4
What is it? One of the greatest action franchises ever.
Why see it? Right up front, this slick-looking set is a Blu-ray, DVD, and digital only release, meaning those wanting these movies in their finest form — aka 4K UHD — will want to look elsewhere. That said, all four movies looks fantastic in HD with clean presentations and sharp contrasts, each disc is loaded with previously available extras, and you really can’t beat the price for four of the best action movies of this millenium. Keanu Reeves shines through all four alongside some memorable supporting actors and tons of unforgettable action in the form of brawls, martial arts fights, gun battles, car stunts, dog-fu, and more. The case has an exposed front panel meaning you can swap out the image using the cards included inside, and it’s just a slick package overall.
[Extras: Featurettes, commentaries, deleted scenes]
The Night of the 12th
What is it? Police investigate the horrific murder of a young woman.
Why see it? Most films about a killing involve identifying and capturing the murderer, but this engrossing and taut thriller lets you know up front that sometimes that catharsis never comes. Instead, the focus here is on the detective investigating the killing and how its dark truths reveal to him a far grimmer, meaner world than he knew existed. Toxic masculinity, misogyny, and sexism in general have worked together to build a world where these things can happen — and where it doesn’t make nearly the mark it should on those around it. It’s a tense, suspenseful watch, and while the ending gives no satisfaction on the crime, the film itself is immensely so.
[Extras: Short film]
The Way We Were [4K UHD]
What is it? The ups and downs of a couple in love.
Why see it? Sydney Pollack was one of those directors who could move between genres, from dramas to thrillers, with relative ease. This one lands on the drama side of things, and it’s a captivating, often beautiful ride. Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand play people who meet in college but connect later, and the film offers an honest look at their insecurities, shallowness, strengths, and weaknesses. It’s not a sugar-coated romance, and the result is a truthful and affecting look at relationships, ambition, and self-sacrifice. Didn’t expect to love it, but I do.
[Extras: Commentary, documentary]
3 Days in Malay
What is it? A small band of U.S. Marines fights overwhelming odds.
Why see it? Louis Mandylor directs and stars in this World War II tale of heroism and courage, but while the intentions are sound the results are anything but. Part of the issue here is a budget that doesn’t allow for the kind of action and set-pieces that Mandylor understandably craves, but the bigger problem is the tonal imbalance between the drama and the action. That split attention leaves neither half feeling all that successful.
What is it? A haunted house needs its ghosts busted.
Why see it? The Walt Disney theme park ride has been adapted to the screen before back in 2003 with Eddie Murphy at its heart, and this new adaptation can’t match that star power. Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, and Danny DeVito are all fine, and it also stars Jared Leto. Families looking for harmless entertainment will most likely be the target audience here as the rest of us will be underwhelmed by both the comedy and the spooky antics.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, bloopers]
The Last Voyage of the Demeter
What is it? Dracula goes boating.
Why see it? There have been numerous screen adaptations and interpretations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula over the years, but while most try to tell the complete story, this latest endeavor focuses on a single chapter from the original novel. The focus here is Dracula’s trip across the waters to London which we know ends with the empty ship washing up on the shore. So we know where it all ends up, but the film still finds some moments and thrills making it worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s way too long for what we get with a grey, samesie feel to far too much of it. Worth a watch.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, commentary, featurettes]
Rabbit Hole – Season One
What is it? A new Kiefer Sutherland series.
Why see it? Kiefer Sutherland is an odd duck. He had success on the big screen, but his biggest hits we’re always as part of an ensemble. Television, though, made him a star, thanks to a little show called 24. He continues to pop up on both mediums pretty regularly, and now he’s headlining another fast-moving series. This time around it’s all about conspiracies, persuasion, espionage, and deception, and it’s a fun time despite crossing the lines of believability more than once. There’s action and death, but the whole still feels fairly light in tone.
Also out this week:
The Blob [4K UHD, Scream Factory], The Dive, The Edge of the World, Golda, The Innocent, Passion, Robodoc: The Creation of Robocop