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 February 7th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes new 4K UHDs of Bubba Ho-Tep and The Return of Swamp Thing, the Black Panther sequel, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Bubba Ho-Tep [4K UHD, Scream Factory]
What is it? That time Elvis and JFK fought off a mummy in a retirement home.
Why see it? Don Coscarelli’s filmography is often celebrated for films like Phantasm and The Beastmaster — and rightfully so — but Bubba Ho-Tep arguably among his best and equally deserving of praise. Scream Factory is giving the film the full treatment here with a double-disc release including tons of extras and a sharp new 4K scan of the original negative. The film’s shadows are richer and details crisper, but the real joy remains in the film itself as Bruce Campbell’s Elvis and Ossie Davis’ JFK delight with conspiracy talk, commentary on treatment of the elderly (and unstable), and mummy-fighting antics. It’s a fun movie, an oddball adventure, and a great introduction into the fiction of Joe Lansdale too.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video]
Chicago [20th Anniversary steelbook]
What is it? A
Why see it? I’m not much of a classic musical guy — meaning I’m more partial to the oddball ones like The Happiness of the Katakuris or Meet the Feebles — but there’s a lot to love with Rob Marshall’s Chicago. From a stellar cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Renee Zellweger, Richard Gere, Queen Latifah, John C. Reilly, Lucy Liu, Taye Diggs, and more, to production design that wows in its glitzy recreation of the roaring 20s. The women get the best roles, but don’t sleep on Gere as the lawyer seeing big things in his future. The song and dance numbers are beautifully produced, and while it probably shouldn’t have won the Best Picture Oscar it’s still a damn fine time for fans of musicals.
[Extras: Featurette, commentary]
Don’t Deliver Us From Evil [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? Two unruly teens push boundaries in their small Catholic village.
Why see it? It’s wild to think that this French film played Cannes only to be banned some places and unreleased in the US, but our puritanical ways are still around. The movie focuses on two friends, teenage girls who attend Catholic school and church and generally behave like good girls — except they’ve both sworn allegiances to Satan if only to alleviate the boredom of being good. They seduce and tease simple men (redundant, I know), spy on lusty nuns, and kill a couple birds, and when the threat of separation rears its head they devise a plan. It’s an exploitation film, but it’s one that skillfully and stylishly observes how teens explore and push their own sexuality. Mondo’s new Blu looks fantastic with rich color and sharp details (a detriment during the bird scenes).
[Extras: New restoration, interviews, commentary]
The Return of Swamp Thing [4K UHD]
What is it? The best Swamp Thing movie.
Why see it? Wes Craven’s Swamp Thing is a fun enough time, but Jim Wynorski’s sequel succeeds at ramping up the humor and personality while still delivering on the action front. Heather Locklear joins the fun as Louis Jourdan’s step-daughter — yes, he died in the first film, but that’s irrelevant as he returns here still up to his nefarious ways. We get some entertainingly goofy genetic hybrids and plenty of explosions, but the laughs steal the film from an unlikely place. Locklear is wholly in on the joke and displays a fine sense of comedic timing and delivery here, and her interactions with the big green guy bring a good amount of humor. This new 4K UHD highlights the creature designs and makes the nighttime antics clearer.
[Extras: Interviews, music video, commentaries]
A Woman Kills [Radiance]
What is it? A rash of killings baffles police.
Why see it? With a nice running time of just sixty-nine minutes, this French film doesn’t waste much in the way of time on character. Well, with one exception. The killer is the focus here, and that’s what makes this 1968 film an important one as it explores the psychology behind the murders. Its observations are maybe a bit dated, but it’s still an engaging find — it was produced in the late 60s and then lost only to be discovered and completed in 2010. It’s presented in a blend of the experimental and the documentary-like as it moves through a roster of female victims. The hook involves a female serial killer whose execution is followed by murders continuing her M.O., and while there’s no real mystery as to who the killer is, the film marks an early look into murderous psychosis. While the resulting film is a mixed bag due to its style and length, this Blu-ray from new label Radiance shows them to off to a fantastic start with a quality package.
[Extras: Documentary, short films, commentary, booklet]
.Com for Murder [Arrow Video]
What is it? A wheelchair-bound woman suspects shenanigans “next door.”
Why see it? The early 2000s were home to an abundance of films infused with the high tech and cutting edge style of the new century, and almost none of them hold up as anything but curiosities. Nico Mastorakis’ 2002 feature fits that mold to a T with edgy editing, captivating computer screens, and a whole lot of uninterested actors. Nastassja Kinski, Huey Lewis, Roger Daltrey, Nicollette Sheridan, Melinda Clarke, and others seem wholly unmoved by Mastorakis’ attempts at aping Hitchcock — an early shower kill, the wheelchair-bound protagonist witnessing crimes — and the result is a film that can’t touch the highs of Mastorakis’ career (or the lows of Hitchcock’s). Some solid extras here, though, for fans of the film.
[Extras: Featurettes, interviews]
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
What is it? An unusual Marvel sequel!
Why see it? My more detailed thoughts can be found in my full review, but in short, this follow up succeeds better than you might expect for a film that lost its lead actor. Ryan Coogler crafts a compelling story about what comes after we’ve lost someone we love and paired it with a perfectly okay comic book adventure. The introduction of Namor offers up some interesting story turns, and the handful of action beats are executed well enough, but the film’s strength rests in its approach to grief and memory. It’s enough to make it an okay film with a great one within — something perhaps evident in the nearly three-hour running time — and well worth a watch for viewers looking to feel the love for Chadwick Boseman.
[Extras: Featurettes, gag reel, deleted scenes, commentary]
The Vagrant [Arrow Video]
What is it? A man’s new home becomes ground zero for a battle of wills.
Why see it? Sometimes it takes a repeat viewing or a long time before a film’s appeal finds you. I first saw (and hated) Chris Walas’ dark comedy when it opened back in 1992, and having just rewatched it? It’s still incredibly annoying and frustrating. Bill Paxton, Colleen Camp, and Michael Ironside are all doing good work, but the script’s desire to find humor in a lead character who makes every wrong choice and lets the world walk all over him just falls flat. Any commentary is lost in the frustration, and with no one to connect with or root for you’re left hoping only for it to end. All of that said, fans will appreciate the fine work done by Arrow here.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interviews]
Also out this week:
Cinematic Sorceress: The Films of Nina Menkes, Legion of Super-Heroes, Spoiler Alert, That Man Bolt [KL Studio Classics], Three Colors [4K UHD, Criterion Collection]
Related Topics: Home Video