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 19th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes new and old films in 4K, a Richard Matheson gem from Criterion, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Silence of the Lambs [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A stone-cold classic.
Why see it? Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’ bestseller is as perfect a thriller as you’re likely to find. Jodie Foster stars as a young FBI agent whose interactions with incarcerated killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) might help stop another murderer. It’s an immensely entertaining and beautifully crafted film with stellar performances, sharp cinematography, a fantastic score, and legitimate thrills. This new 4K release from Kino Lorber brings the film home looking better than ever with deep blacks, vibrant colors, and a retention of grain. The only downside? Demme’s commentary track is gone (thanks Criterion!) and replaced with one by Tim Lucas — it’s still pretty great, but Demme’s voice on his own film is missed.
[Extras: 4K transfer, commentary by Tim Lucas, documentaries, featurettes, interviews, deleted scenes, outtakes]
Come September [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A wealthy man returns to his Italian villa to discover it’s been turned into a hotel.
Why see it? Rock Hudson stars and is absolutely delightful as a guy who simply wants to relax in his mansion with his main squeeze, Gina Lollobrigida. His housekeepers have taken advantage of his long absences leading to goofy tourists in his home, his lady has possibly fallen for another man, and Italy is endlessly gorgeous. Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee share a subplot with a romance of their own, and Walter Slezak steals the show with his own wit and warmth. It’s a funny, sweet, and attractive watch.
Demons I & II [4K UltraHD, Synapse Films]
What is it? A pair of wild Italian horror films, in 4K.
Why see it? You don’t watch Italian horror movies for straightforward narratives or common sense, you watch them for their wildly entertaining experiences. Lamberto Bava’s Demons remains the epitome of a bonkers horror as a free screening draws in unsuspecting patrons who soon find themselves either turning into monsters or being hunted by the already transformed. It’s bloody, gooey, sexy, crazy, and absolutely Italian. Demons 2 can’t quite reach the first film’s highs, but there’s still fun to be had as the madness climbs through a high rise building. Synapse’s new limited edition collects both films in gorgeously lurid 4K UltraHD. Plenty of extras are included exploring both films including a new commentary by Kat Ellinger on Demons. The new restorations are fantastic, and you’ll want to pick up this set if you don’t already own the Arrow release.
[Extras: New 4K restorations, movie ticket reproduction, birthday invitation, poster, original version and US cut, new and old commentaries, visual essay, interviews, Q&A]
The Incredible Shrinking Man [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A metaphysical horror for the ages.
Why see it? Richard Matheson’s horrifying slice of sci-fi/terror came to the screen at the peak of the Cold War with fears over radiation and atomic horror riding high in America. Jack Arnold’s film captures the fear, anxiety, and paranoia well as our protagonist gets smaller and smaller, and while a modern-day telling would probably shift its end towards a somewhat more positive ending, this original adaptation lands with a wonder-filled dread. Not even the dated visual effects can damper the emotional and harrowing effect.
[Extras: 4K restoration, commentary, featurettes, conversation with Joe Dante and Dana Gould, interviews]
Injustice [4K UltraHD]
What is it? A bad day in the life of Superman.
Why see it? I’m not a comic guy and have no loyalty to either of the superhero houses, so my take here may differ from the crowd, but I enjoy the hell out of this bloody descent into superhero carnage. The Joker kills Lois Lane and Supe’s unborn child — along with millions of other people — and the Man of Steel loses his shit. Murder follows, the Justice League suffers an ideological divide, heroes and villains are slaughtered… it’s a blast. The third act get a bit silly, as is expected, but it remains a solid entry in the animated DC line (and arguably a better movie than many of their live-action releases).
[Extras: Featurettes, cartoons]
The Night House
What is it? A recent widow discovers secrets about her dead husband.
Why see it? David Bruckner has delivered a few bangers over the years, but while we wait for his take on Hellraiser it’s safe to say The Night House is his best effort to date. The always terrific Rebecca Hall stars as the distraught widow who finds dark secrets, a ghostly presence, and something in the woods. The creepy vibe runs throughout, and Bruckner shoots the film with an unsettling eye for beauty and hidden terrors — you’ll swear you’re seeing something even when you’re not, and you’ll occasionally miss what’s actually hiding in plain sight. It’s a beautifully atmospheric film with some legit scares, and horror fans owe it to themselves to give it a watch.
Ratcatcher [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A young boy comes of age amid squalor and violence.
Why see it? Sometimes a film can be both great and not for you, and this debut from Lynne Ramsay is one such film. It’s a dour, depressing, fairly cynical hour and a half in the filthy slums of Scotland, but its intensity and craftsmanship (on a budget) are undeniable. From stark realism to dreamy imagery, the film gives us the boy’s world nearly through his eyes as he encounters grief, guilt, and bullying. There are moments of beauty amid the mess, but they’re hard-fought and brief leaving the bulk to leave a feeling of unease and dirtiness hanging over it all. Worth a watch, but I’m not exactly sure of folks who would have it on a regular rotation.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, short films, essay]
Scream [4K Ultra HD]
What is it? A killer stalks high schoolers and anyone else who gets in his way.
Why see it? Wes Craven’s 1996 slasher classic gets a re-release, and while the new supplements are limited to a featurette basically advertising the upcoming Scream 5, it’s worth the pick up for the 4K Ultra HD. Some take issue with color correction, but their problem is that it looks different — but it doesn’t look bad! Anyway, the film is still a blast of violent thrills and smart laughs. The commentary track is also worth a listen with Craven and writer Kevin Williamson. It remains a slick, highly entertaining film.
Casual Sex? [Retro VHS]
What is it? Friends go looking for great guys but find Andrew Dice Clay instead.
Why see it? 80s sex comedies have a certain air about them, one typically peppered with T&A and not so casual sexism, so it’s always good to say tables turned and expectations upended. This late 80s entry features two female leads and is written/directed by women, and it kicks off with some sweet character beats and fun times. Things shift, though, when the plot kicks in as the film’s more basic comedy elements come to the forefront and all of its charm fades away.
Change of Habit [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Elvis wooes a nun with his rhythm.
Why see it? Elvis Presley’s film career saw him found success with silly, musically inclined movies blending romance, song, and humor, and it came to an end in 1969 with this, his final film appearance. It’s less goofy on its face, but his attempt at playing a doctor still amuses. Three young women enter his life, and he falls for one unaware that she’s already promised her giblets to god. Mary Tyler Moore plays the lucky lady, and she’s ultimately just as much of a draw as the King. The two main takeaways, though, are this — Presley’s character name is John Carpenter! And when asked years later if he slept with any of his leading ladies, he replied “all but one.” In a later interview, Moore clarified adding “that was me.”
Dirty Laundry [MVD Rewind Collection]
What is it? A mixup at the laundry sends an innocent man on the run.
Why see it? Sometimes a film is rediscovered on home video as people realize it’s something of a hidden gem. Other times? It was forgotten clearly for a reason. Dirty Laundry belongs in that latter camp, unfortunately, and while it probably has its fans (maybe?) it’s a comedy that struggles even as it goes for the lowest kinds of laughs. Leigh McCloskey stars, and he’s joined by Frankie Valli, Sonny Bono, Nicholas Worth, and others working for that paycheck.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
Kull the Conqueror [Retro VHS]
What is it? A barbarian becomes a king.
Why see it? Regardless of where you stand on today’s Kevin Sorbo, his work in the 90s saw him having fun with fantastical adventures. His television series is harmless fluff with swords, sorcery, and PG-13-levels of skin, and this late 90s entry delivers more of the same, albeit with a somewhat more serious tone. That’s ultimately a big part of what holds it back, but it still delivers some solid enough 90s DTV thrills.
Last Man Down
What is it? A Swedish action movie with shades of Commando!
Why see it? There’s a lot to be excited about heading into this one as it brings action to Sweden, stars a musclebound lead, and promises carnage against a snowy backdrop. Unfortunately, it is a complete and utter misfire in every regard. You expect the performances and script to be iffy, so that’s fine, but the editing? Scenes jump around with abandon at times, and when it comes to the action — the poorly choreographed and captured action — the editing is equally ineffective. Worse, the film ends before the third act begins, but hey, I guess that means we have a sequel to look forward to.
No Man of God
What is it? Ted Bundy chats with an FBI profiler.
Why see it? Based on the actual transcripts between serial killer Ted Bundy and FBI Agent Bill Hagmaier, this drama offers a glimpse into both the mind of madness and the process by which we try to understand such people. Luke Kirby plays the killer while Elijah Wood plays the agent, and both actors do good work engaging in the highs and lows of their conversations and confrontations. More interesting than thrilling, it’s a solid character piece.
What is it? Tourists find weirdness and death at the beach.
Why see it? M. Night Shyamalan’s latest sees him once more taking a big swing with a high-concept thriller, and some people love it! I am not some people, though, and for me the film is simply a misfire as it tries to pair a serious tone with some truly ridiculous story turns. It also hits a suitable ending, the best it could hope for, and then continues for another fifteen minutes or so that just drives home the stupidity of it all. The actors are all stellar, in theory, but Shyamalan has apparently made them forget how to act? Watch it for the laughs, I guess.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
The Protege [4K UltraHD]
What is it? An assassin tries to avenge her friend.
Why see it? Martin Campbell is a typically reliable filmmaker when it comes to action films, and on that front at least he somewhat delivers with this new feature. Maggie Q plays an assassin — orphaned as a child and trained to be a killer, as is often the case with movies about female assassins — whose mentor (Samuel L. Jackson) is gunned down. She goes for revenge and crosses paths with Michael Keaton, and the two offer up some highly entertaining and dirty banter before hopping into bed. Unfortunately, she’s suddenly an idiot post coitus leading to a highly disappointing third act all around.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, deleted scenes]
Renegades [Retro VHS]
What is it? Two rogue cops go rogue on some rogues.
Why see it? Buddy cop movies with clashing personalities have a long history in American cinema, but despite the personality of the two leads this is a pretty lackluster affair. The bickering and plot are fairly meh, and the action never quite feels fresh or big enough. Still, Kiefer Sutherland and Lou Diamond Phillips are young guns with spirit and enough charisma to keep things moving.
Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins [4K UltraHD]
What is it? An origin story of both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
Why see it? The idea here is solid enough as there’s fun to be had with the G.I. Joe universe on screen, but this film is inexplicably dull for its intent and content. Yes, we get some action, and a few beats are pretty solid, but Henry Golding and Snake Eyes are just a bit too bland. the better film sits in the margins as Andrew Koji brings vibrant life to his darker ninja, Storm Shadow. Koji is an action star, Golding is not, and the difference is starkly evident. Add in the Baroness — a terrific Ursula Corbero who’s playing it bigger than the film itself — and you have a mixed bag of a movie.
[Extras: Short film, deleted scenes, featurettes]
Splitting Heirs [Retro VHS]
What is it? A goofy American joins the Royal family.
Why see it? Sometimes you wonder why Rick Moranis left the movies, and then you see this and think good for him on getting out. Eric Idle’s script manages some laughs — he also costars — and Moranis is always a joy, but too much of the film falls flat. The story and circumstances can’t find the funny, but thankfully the cast picks up some of the slack.
Also out this week:
Corridor of Mirrors, Final Set, Joe Bell, Mad Love [Warner Archive], Needle in a Timestack, Ouija Japan, The Rifleman, Summertime, Superman & Lois – Season One, Yokai Monsters Collection [Arrow Video]