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 January 10th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes Dragons Forever in 4K, a Terry Gilliam classic on UHD, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Dragons Forever [4K UHD, 88 Films]
What is it? Three morally wobbly men stand up for Mother Nature.
Why see it? Arguably the best of the “three brothers” collaborations, this film remains a blistering good time showcasing some spectacular action beats. Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, and Sammo Hung all shine (duh) as three guys who come together, put their petty arguments aside (eventually), and join forces to take down a ruthless, cigar-chomping baddie. The comedy lands more often than not, and the fights/stunts are just outrageously great. The film’s plot and script are something of a mixed bag, something made even clearer when comparing the versions, but none of it drags down the film’s energy or momentum. Smaller fights and stunts throughout keep things moving well, and the big finale is an endlessly enjoyable brawl between the three leads and dozens of villains. 88 Films’ previous release is still a top notch effort, but the upgrade to 4K UHD is magical. Colors pop, textures and details are crisp, and there’s a newly stunning clarity to the wickedly fast fights.
[Extras: New 4K presentations of all three cuts, commentaries on Hong Kong and Japanese cuts, interviews, outtakes, poster, booklet, lobby cards]
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen [4K UHD, Criterion Films]
What is it? A nobleman leads a motley ensemble on an imaginative 18th century quest.
Why see it? Terry Gilliam’s films carry two certainties — their style can be an acquired taste, and the production is almost always a troubled one. This late 80s feature is no different as evident in both the finished product and the journey getting there (as explored in the included documentary). The two-hour adventure/comedy offers up a colorful romp filled with fun effects and set-pieces and elaborate production design in nearly every frame. The comedy is maybe a bit hit or miss, but the adventure and themes keep both energy and investment up as the concept of aging and wrapping up your life come into play. It’s a silly film with a serious message, one that celebrates imagination and the need to feel needed. The picture has always been a visually impressive one, and it pops even more in 4K with rich contrasts and depth. Criterion’s new UHD is a terrific release loaded with entertaining and informative extras.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, documentary, featurettes, deleted scenes, short film]
House of Terrors [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A woman heads to her dead husband’s hidden home and finds surprises.
Why see it? Gothic horrors are deemed by some to be the domain of British castles, but the genre has a home in other cultures as well. This Japanese production seems at first to touch on various British/American tropes as a group of friends head to a remote home, but new conceits soon find their way with a spooky atmosphere, an unsettling hunchback, and a body count. The black & white cinematography is as eerie as it is sumptuous, and the tone grows increasingly darker leading to a solid finale. Kudos as always to Mondo for finding these rarities.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, introduction, commentary, featurette]
Sergeant Ryker [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A soldier is tried for treason during the Korean War.
Why see it? This late 60s courtroom thriller delivers the goods with a stacked cast and a compelling tale. Heroism or treason? That’s the question hanging over Lee Marvin’s head — a head that may be hanging if the military tribunal goes against him — and the film finds real suspense as the truth comes out one reveal at a time. Bradford Dillman, Vera Miles, Peter Graves, Murray Hamilton, and Norman Fell co-star. The usually brash Marvin gets some quieter moments here, and while they of course tip over into rage it’s a welcome sight seeing the actor play scenes with shame and regret. Good movie!
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
Warning Shot [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? An L.A. cop is in trouble after shooting a seemingly unarmed man.
Why see it? The premise makes this dramatic tale of suspense sound like it’s right out of the headlines, but it’s actually from 1967. David Janssen does great work as a cop sticking to his guns (pun intended) when everyone suggests he was wrong about the suspect having a gun. A twisty mystery evolves from the drama alongside a stellar supporting cast including Steve Allen, Joan Collins, Lillian Gish, Carroll O’Connor, Walter Pidgeon, Stefanie Powers, Keenan Wynn, and more. A modern retelling would undoubtedly have a different ending, but it remains a solid watch.
A Haunted Turkish Bathhouse [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A misguided woman is tricked by her brutish husband and deceitful employer.
Why see it? This early 70s effort from Japan is something of a roughie for its first hour. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse unfolds against a young woman working as a bathhouse prostitute — not from her customers, but from her husband and coworkers. It’s mean-spirited before becoming, well, spirited, as she returns from the grave for vengeance. Get past the cruel sleaze and there’s a solid little slice of revenge exploitation cinema here with engaging camerawork and visuals.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, interview, featurette, commentary]
Prey for the Devil [4K UHD]
What is it? A nun becomes an exorcist.
Why see it? Daniel Stamm’s 2010 breakout hit The Last Exorcism was apparently a lie as his latest sees a nun trained in the dark art of exorcisms to stop a devious devil. Jacqueline Byers does good work as the nun with a past who’s pulled into the priesthood (kind of) in order to become an exorcist. That core idea is the best element here as the sexism and misogyny of the church is targeted, but the horrors are less successful. To be fair, it’s an issue of taste, and most possession films leave me cold. It’s still well-crafted and well performed, so there’s that.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
What is it? Two reporters crack the sexual harassment story around Harvey Weinstein.
Why see it? Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan headline as the two real-life reporters for the New York Times who dug deep and worked hard to find the truths behind Harvey Weinstein’s criminal behaviors. The details may be new even if the big beats are well familiar by this point, and the film ultimately works best as a showcase for Mulligan and Kazan. It’s a solid watch, but the script never finds the gripping moments managed by something like Spotlight.
Also out this week:
Armageddon Time, Black Adam, The Dunwich Horror [Arrow Video], The Executioner Collection, Groundhog Day [4K UHD], Imitation of Life [Criterion Collection], Memories of My Father, Our Dancing Daughters [Warner Archive], Piggy, Rancho Notorious [Warner Archive], Vesper
Related Topics: Home Video, Jackie Chan