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 August 30th, 2022! This week’s home video selection includes Cat People on 4K UHD, a Hong Kong double feature, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Cat People [4K UHD, Scream Factory]
What is it? A remake of a genre classic.
Why see it? Paul Schrader’s best film as director is arguably Blue Collar, but my favorite remains this bloody, atmospheric, and weird redo of 1942’s Jacques Tourneur classic. It somehow manages to be both sexy and the antithesis of sexy? Credit the pairing of Nastassja Kinski and Malcolm McDowell as siblings with a secret for part of its strangeness, and Schrader’s blend of high art and schlock is something magical. Giorgio Moroder’s score adds to the otherworldly wonder, and by the time the gory beats, salacious sibling antics, and near mythical narrative threads come in to play it’s just a highly memorable time. Goofy at times, a bit nerdy even, but Schrader’s eye for the earthy and the weird is just something to behold. Scream Factory’s new 4K UHD brings the film’s colors and attractive visuals to beautiful life alongside some legacy extras.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary by Paul Schrader, interviews, featurettes]
1883: A Yellowstone Origin Story
What is it? The prequel to your dad’s favorite television show.
Why see it? Taylor Sheridan has found massive success moving his old school American entertainment from the big screen to the small, and while Yellowstone chugs on (season five is the current one, right?) he also found the time to deliver a prequel series exploring the family’s 19th century roots. Sam Elliott, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill take the lead here as a wagon master and a couple heading west with family and immigrants in tow. Bad guys, hostile Natives, and the landscape itself all come into play ensuring lots of action and drama along the way. Sheridan and team do good work on the period western front capturing the details and dirt with equal enthusiasm, and it all makes for a compelling show. It’s worth a watch before his next saga hits with 1923 continuing the story with Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren (presumably as the couple in their later years).
Running Out of Time 1 & 2 [Arrow Video]
What is it? A pair of Johnnie To bangers.
Why see it? Lau Ching-wan stars in both films as a smart detective faced with wily crooks. The first film sees Andy Lau as a man with a terminal illness and a grudge, and Johnnie To delivers thrills, suspense, and fantastic character beats between the two talented actors. It’s a fun ride despite the serious themes and has set-pieces and heightened drama to spare. The sequel lightens things up more than a bit, and while To is only a co-director this time the film still feels like effortless entertainment. Neither film has necessarily been hard to find over the years, but it’s fantastic seeing Arrow restore and release the pair in this two-disc set. More please!
[Extras: New 2K restorations, commentaries, interviews, documentary]
What is it? A Finnish epic comes to life.
Why see it? A witch, a hero, and a magical mill are at the center of this epic tale from director Aleksandr Ptushko. It’s a fantastical ride brought to life with big performances and bigger special effects, all done through practical means. Giants, magical spells, lands of wonder, some of the effects may be dated, but it never looks anything less than beautiful. The film delivers drama, adventure, action, and more, while also managing to enlighten viewers as to another culture’s literary fables.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, essay, interview
Symphony for a Massacre
What is it? A group of crooks behave like crooks.
Why see it? This French thriller from the early 60s kicks off with a familiar enough setup as a band of criminals come together to steal profits from other villains, but it shifts soon enough. The heist is a success, and then the real duplicity begins. Mistrust and suspicion rear their heads after one betrays the rest, and it’s an increasingly dark road they all head down. One of the real highlights here is seeing Jean Rochefort play a terrible, terrible man. The film could easily have been a bit shorter as its nearly two hour running time definitely feels like it’s being stretched, but its atmosphere and suspense work wonders.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, featurette]
The Birds II: Land’s End [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A sequel to a Hitchcock classic.
Why see it? You’d think the presence of Alan Smithee as the credited director would suggest this movie to be absolutely terrible, but it’s not. It is fairly incompetent and pretty bad, though. The film references the events from Bodega Bay (the Hitchcock original) but casts Tippi Hedren in a supporting role anyway? Not a cameo, an actual role! Anyway, it’s also poorly written, poorly wrapped up, and stacked with bird effects that range from the good to the laughably horrendous. Be sure to check out the extensive making-of documentary, though, as it delivers far more entertainment.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, commentary, documentary, interviews]
The Incredible Melting Man [4K UHD, Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? An astronaut returns with a droopy face.
Why see it? First the good, there’s loads of goopy fun to be had with the visual effects in this horror flick, and some of beats are unintentionally funny. The bad, though, is legion as poor acting, rough writing, impossible pacing, and an enormous degree of filler makes for a bad movie. That said, this new 4K transfer — it’s crazy that this film got one — delivers gory goods looking far better than they ever have before. The extras are ported over from an earlier release, but be sure you watch the Rick Baker interview. The guy’s honest thoughts on the film and lead actor are priceless.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
Mata Hari [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The story of a legendary and atypical spy.
Why see it? Cinema history is filled with movies that wouldn’t have been made at later times, and this skin-filled tale of intrigue and wartime drama could only have come from The Cannon Group in the mid 80s. Sylvia Kristel stars for director Curtis Harrington as Mata Hari, a nightclub performer who finds her life interrupted by World War I as she uses her powers of seduction to steal secrets and pass them on between the warring factions. Historical angle be damned, Harrington has Kristel topless before the opening credits end and keeps her that way for much of the running time. The film takes its dramatic relationships seriously, though, and offers up a pretty lavish production. That said, its desire to appeal to the T&A crowd frequently overwhelms other intentions.
Mysterious Island of Beautiful Women [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A visit to a remote island reveals a group of lost women.
Why see it? While the title and premise sound more in line with direct-to-video fare, this is actually a late 70s made-for-television flick. It’s fairly slight for that reason in both its sauciness and its rise to violence, but fans of the particular subgenre (70s TV movies) will enjoy its cast — Jayne Kennedy, Deborah Shelton, Steven Keats, Peter Lawford, and Clint Walker — and minor thrills. The core sets up a sharp contrast between the men and women while weaving in a small mystery and some outside threats.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
What is it? A teen gymnast misses her home country’s revolution.
Why see it? This drama is an intriguing blend of coming of age, sports competition, and modern history. Olga is Ukrainian, living and training in Sweden, and watching from afar as her countrymen and women give rise to the Ukrainian revolution.The three narrative threads are varying degrees of engaging, and the effect of the whole feels similarly solid enough, but the one constant that works throughout is the lead performance by Anastasiia Budiashkina. You feel the push and pull between enthusiasm for her current opportunities and the regret of leaving home behind.
Satan’s Children [AGFA]
What is it? A troubled teen finds comfort in Satan.
Why see it? As far as no-budget chillers made in Florida go, this one is fairly forgettable. It’s a tonal mix as it tries to find horror while also adding an odd commentary regarding homosexuality — is it critical? supportive? who knows really — and none of it really works. There’s no empathy built or earned despite the acts of cruelty, both due to the acting and the writing. It’s strange.
[Extras: 2K presentation, commentary, Q&A, TV special, short film]
Shriek of the Mutilated [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A group of students go looking for a yeti.
Why see it? Bigfoot films hold a special appeal for me, and I couldn’t tell you why. Most of them, including this mid 70s stinker, are not good in any demonstrable way. Michael Findlay’s cult “classic” is a very talkative affair making for a dull adventure, and by the time the beast rears its head it looks like nothing more than a big, fluffy dog frolicking on its hind legs. It’s a bad movie that gets by (almost) on its unintentional laughs, and the fact that it turns out to be more about a crazy cult than a bigfoot doesn’t help matters.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, featurette
Summer Heat [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A young couple finds trouble after welcoming a young man into their home.
Why see it? It’s arguably a curious choice making a sultry thriller with Anthony Edwards, Lori Singer, and Bruce Abbott, but that’s the game here with mixed results. At eighty minutes, the film feels very rushed with early dramatic beats happening far too fast to land with any real weight or drama. We don’t understand the couple before the infidelity kicks in, and we haven’t felt the tension before the relationship turns towards violence. The result is a film that probably works better as a character piece than a dramatic thriller.
The Tenth Man [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man makes a deal to avoid the firing squad and must deal with the consequences.
Why see it? Anthony Hopkins headlines this adaptation of the Graham Greene novel, but even the shared presence of Derek Jacobi and Kristin Scott Thomas can’t make it as dramatic as it wants to be. The kernel is there in the man’s journey — he avoids the firing squad by giving his fortune to the other man’s family only to visit them years later under a false name — but so much of it is played out so slowly as to miss the impact of the dramatic beats. Still, there’s some fun in seeing Hopkins and Jacobi square off.
[Extras: Both 1.78:1 and 1.33:1 versions]
Also out this week:
Belle, Brian and Charles, Faceless [Severin Films], Faya Dayi [Criterion Collection], The Female Executioner [Severin Films], Tremble All You Want, Viktoria
Related Topics: Home Video