‘The Man in the Moon’ joins five more new releases from Twilight Time!
In addition to the Reese Witherspoon film, last month’s new releases from Twilight Time include Inferno 3D, Brutal Tales of Chivalry, The Stone Killer with Charles Bronson, Who’ll Stop the Rain, and the William Goldman-penned trifle that is Year of the Comet. We take a look at all six below.
The Man in the Moon (1991)
It’s 1957, and the Louisiana summer is another warm one. Dani (Reese Witherspoon) is barely a teen and still motivated by childlike impulses, and that’s nowhere more clear than in her reaction to a new neighbor, the 17 year old Court (Jason London). She despises him at first before realizing — or thinking anyway — that she’s actually madly in love with him. Trouble arises though when her older sister Maureen discovers similar feelings.
The two begin to compete, but the older girl has the advantage for understandable reasons, and the drama forms a split among the family. Life isn’t done with her coming of age lesson just yet though, and soon a tragedy bonds those left behind.
Director Robert Mulligan (To Kill a Mockingbird) shows the same grace and skill with handling a child’s tale as he demonstrated in his beloved Gregory Peck-starring classic. It’s a story of innocence lost to the steady march of adulthood and life itself, and the film captures it all against an immersive backdrop of the ’50s and the South. We can’t help but feel a part of the story and these people’s lives, and that means we feel both the joy and the heartbreak.
Performances are strong throughout, but Witherspoon proves her talent in her feature debut through a combination of pure talent and genuine humanity. We’ve all been that child on the cusp of growing up, and she encapsulates all that was beautiful and terrible about the experience. It’s a sweet film, sometimes bittersweet, confirming the importance of love and family, and that’s a message we should never tire of hearing.
The disc only includes an isolated music track and a trailer.
Year of the Comet (1992)
A very special — and very large — bottle of wine was crafted and sealed during the passing of a comet in the early 19th century, and its present day discovery in a Scottish basement has set the wine world abuzz. Margaret (Penelope Ann Miller) is set to retrieve it for hand-off to its new owner who sends along the roguish Oliver (Tim Daly) to ensure delivery.
They’re not alone though as three other interested parties have made themselves known. One is a Greek tycoon, one is a thug, and another (Louis Jourdan) is a scientist who’s after the wine not for its taste or history but for its apparent rejuvenation powers. It’s a big bottle, but there’s not enough to go around.
If ever there was a film demonstrating the differences between quality on paper and quality in practice it’s this early ’90s action/comedy. Peter Yates (Breaking Away) directing a script by William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) that’s set in the gorgeous landscapes of Scotland and France and starring the wholly likable Miller and Daly? And yet somehow, the end result is… this.
There are some fun beats here to be sure, and in another life Daly would have had a Tom Selleck-like career, but the pieces just fail to come together again and again. The humor is frequently flat, the action is lackluster, and at the end of the day the movie is still about a bottle of wine. A better film might have made it a MacGuffin of sorts, but here it’s the entirety of the adventure.
The new Blu-ray is absent real extras and only features an isolated music track and trailer.
Who’ll Stop the Rain (1978)
John (Michael Moriarty) is a war photographer ready to head home from Vietnam, but amid the chaos and carnage of it all he’s developed a taste for something dangerous. He convinces his friend Ray (Nick Nolte) to help him smuggle heroin back to San Francisco, but what should have been a simple deal takes an almost immediate turn for the worst when Ray arrives in the U.S. and meets John’s wife, Marge (Tuesday Weld).
Not only is she an addict with tastes of her own, but there’s also a hard-ass trio of thugs on their trail. Soon Ray and Marge are on the run leaving John to deal with the increasingly violent bad guys, and their desperate time together throws another wrench into the mix when they begin to fall in love.
The marketing for this flick suggests something more akin to a straight romance, but while there’s love in the air here the film is actually more of a somber action/drama. These are broken people reminiscent of the trio in Cutter’s Way, and there’s little to suggest their desperate efforts stand a chance in hell of bringing them the peace and joy they so desperately crave. The film pairs their sadness with brutality and action beats, and yes, romance, to deliver a film that could only have been made in the ’70s.
All three leads to great work with Nolte in particular making it clear that he’d be going on to stardom, but for my money the thugs are every bit as charismatic and memorable. Anthony Zerbe and Ray Sharkey both bring life to their villains, but I’m all about Richard Masur in bad guy mode. He’s a teddy bear in most things, and it’s a joy to see him portray a monstrous and cruel prick.
The disc includes an isolated music track, a trailer, and an interview with supervising editor John Bloom discussing the film’s production.
The Stone Killer (1973)
Lt. Lou Torrey (Charles Bronson) is new to the west coast, but he’s an old hat at kicking ass on the streets. He stirs up trouble though when he begins to suspect a connection between a series of assassinations of crime family higher-ups. It’s a connection that points him back to his old stomping grounds of New York City.
It seems a mafia boss is settling an old score — a very old score — and he’s doing it with hired labor. Instead of using his own people, he’s tasking Vietnam vets to do the work. They’re stone killers instead of made men, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. It just makes them more tragic.
Director Michael Winner made six films with Bronson, and this, their third, is probably the most sedate of the bunch. Sure Bronson plays a tough cop, but he’s still a lawman compared to the hitman he portrayed in The Mechanic or the enraged husband he brought to life in Winner’s Death Wish films and the under-appreciated Chato’s Land. That’s not to suggest this is a tepid thriller though as Torrey is still a no-nonsense cop determined to get his man.
As it is with every Bronson film he’s the main attraction here, but the supporting cast adds greatly with the likes of Paul Koslo, Stuart Margolin, Martin Balsam, and others cementing the ’70s vibe. The story feels a step above the norm too thanks to the backstory of the assassins adding social context as well as a fun twist.
The new Blu-ray includes an isolated music track, a trailer, and a commentary featuring Bronson biographer Paul Talbot.
Brutal Tales of Chivalry (1965)
Seiji (Ken Takakura) served his country well during World War II, but with the conflict over he heads back home to the small town where he grew up only to find it irrevocably changed. Bombed-out buildings and economic despair are the new norm, and watching over it all are two feuding gangs. One consists of violent punks more interested in causing mayhem than maintaining order, and the other — the family in which Seiji once reigned — is struggling to hold power through honor, respect, and order.
A recent vacancy in Seiji’s yakuza family sees him reluctantly step in to fill the boss’ shoes, but the methods he once used aren’t as effective in the face of rampant nihilism and chaos. His attempts to stay true to himself come at a cost both with his men and the woman he loves. The war is over, but Seiji’s — and Japan’s — fight continues.
Just as Hollywood loves its mobsters, Japanese cinema loves its yakuza. Like many of the entries (from both countries) this one focuses on a gangster tired of the life and hoping for something better. It’s a familiar tale, and that means most viewers will have a very good sense of where things are heading plot-wise. That lack of surprise doesn’t hurt the film as much as it could though as Seiji’s world is an engaging one.
The other plus keeping the film’s engagement levels up high is the presence of Takakura. This is an early take on a character type that would reappear later in his career, and his performance here feels every bit as sincere as the character should. There’s heart and pain to spare, and as the story ticks inevitably forward he channels it towards what needs to be done.
The Blu-ray includes an interview with Toei producer Toru Yoshida.
Inferno 3D (1953)
Three friends head into the desert, but as the film opens only two of them are leaving. Geraldine (Rhonda Fleming, Spellbound) and her lover Joseph (William Lundigan) are heading home with big plans for their future, and the only obstacle in their way is her husband, Donald (Robert Ryan, Bad Day at Black Rock). He’s the one they’ve left behind in the desert with a busted leg and the false belief that they’ll be returning soon with help.
They’re not of course, and while the dutiful wife appears to cooperate with police — by telling them he went off in the opposite direction of where he actually sits — she’s actually happy to see him gone. Donald’s always been something of an entitled jerk, so good riddance as far as the lovers are concerned, but that jerk is about to surprise them and himself.
Inferno is a solid little thriller offering suspense and action beats all while allowing its main character an engaging arc from obnoxiously conceited dullard to something far greater. The predicament challenges him in ways beyond the physical as he struggles both with practical matters like water and shade and emotional ones. He moves from angry thoughts of revenge to a more sedate understanding of life and death, and while the side characters never rise to his level of engagement he’s more than enough to carry the film.
Director Roy Ward Baker — just Roy Baker at the time of this production — had a long, well-respected career as a genre filmmaker with horror favorites like Asylum, The Vampire Lovers, and The Monster Club to his name. This early effort is a straight survival thriller but is every bit as good as Baker milks suspense and drama from Donald’s situation. He captures the desert in all its blazing, stark beauty while reminding us of the danger at every turn, and it turns what starts as a murder thriller into a tale of self-improvement.
The new Blu-ray includes a trailer, an isolated music track, a featurette on filming in 3D, and a commentary featuring film historian Alan K. Rode and star Robert Ryan’s daughter Lisa Ryan. The disc also includes both the 3D and 2D presentations.