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 June 29th, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes a Sam Peckinpah western, a stunning debut, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Major Dundee [Arrow Video]
What is it? A soldier seeks a difficult to attain justice.
Why see it? Sam Peckinpah’s films weren’t always successful — commercially or critically — but they were never boring. This mid 60s western is revered by many these days, but for decades it was viewed as an epic misfire driving an irredeemable wedge between the filmmaker and the studio system. Charlton Heston stars in the title role as a Union Major who wrangles an eclectic crew to pursue an Apache chief into Mexico with dire results. It’s an Ahab-like quest, for both character and director alike, and (in the extended cut in particular) it’s a richly character driven tale traversing beautiful vistas soon to be filled with carnage and conflict. It’s rough around the edges at times, evidence of studio cutting after Peckinpah was canned, but it’s also never less than an engaging ride thanks in part to a stellar cast of newcomers and Peckinpah regulars. Richard Harris shines brightest, and they’re joined by Warren Oates, James Coburn, L.Q. Jones, Jim Hutton, Ben Johnson, and Slim Pickens.
[Extras: New 4K scan, both theatrical and extended cuts, booklet, commentaries, essay, documentary, interviews]
The Babadook [Second Sight – 4K UltraHD]
What is it? A grieving mother and son encounter a monster.
Why see it? Jennifer Kent’s feature debut is both critically acclaimed and divisive among audiences — the latter due almost entirely to the child. He’s annoying as hell, but it’s by design as the boy acts out after the loss of his father and it works to weigh down his mother. The film’s supernatural elements are fantastically presented, but it works as an affecting tale of grief, loss, and terror even without them. It’s legitimately frightening and tense at times, and it all builds to an ending that feels both right and honest. Second Sight’s new release offers up a sharp 4K transfer highlighting the film’s use of shadow and expression, and the extras both on the disc and physical make for a smart package. (The 4K disc is region free, but the Blu-ray is region B.)
[Extras: New 4K master, commentary, interviews, short film, featurettes, booklet, art cards]
Night Terror [Scorpion]
What is it? A woman is stalked by a killer on the highway.
Why see it? Television horror movies from the 70s are my jam, and it’s always great to see them given the Blu-ray treatment. This 1977 release sees Valerie Harper as a young woman who witnesses a murder on a desolate highway and then finds herself pursued by the killer. Part Duel, part Breakdown, the film delivers solid thrills and suspenseful sequences on its TV movie budget, and Harper is terrific as the protagonist. The disc also includes a new commentary track from Amanda Reyes whose love for 70s TV horror is unmatched.
Pariah [Criterion Collection]
What is it? A teen comes to understand her sexuality and the response it garners from others.
Why see it? Dee Rees’ feature debut, an adaptation of her own short film, is a powerful and warm tale of one young woman’s journey towards self-determination. As is the norm with the subgenre, the protagonist endures homophobic mistreatment, but unlike many it never feels exploitative or excessive. It’s a triumphant film, one about standing up for yourself and making choices about where to go next. It’s beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, and a brilliant debut. Criterion reportedly approached Rees to release Mudbound, but she convinced them to give this film a go instead, and thankfully they agree.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, interviews, featurette]
She Done Him Wrong [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A singer finds love in an unexpected place.
Why see it? Mae West was something of a unique talent in her day using sex appeal to sell her true talents which included an incredible wit, a remarkable sense of humor, and a love of writing. The film adapts her own play, and it’s a sharp romantic comedy with a female lead who’s never the victim or out of her depths. It’s a rarity to see Cary Grant play second fiddle in someone else’s shadow, but he does that here while bathed in West’s light. He’s still fantastic, of course, and showcases his light-footed, fast-minded talents that were evident from early in his career.
[Extras: Commentaries, introduction, cartoon]
Delirium [Code Red]
What is it? A model’s friends are being murdered.
Why see it? Lamberto Bava’s late 80s giallo delivers plenty of nudity and lots of kills, but it also brings a unique eye to the style. That’s meant quite literally, and not always as a compliment, as the killer’s POV turns potential victims into weirdly made-up characters — their bodies look the same, but their heads are in prosthetic masks. One’s just a big eyeball. It’s weird and memorable, but it’s also a bit nonsensical. Still, it delivers as an R-rated giallo mystery.
Donny’s Bar Mitzvah [Collective]
What is it? A teen’s bar mitzvah is captured on home video.
Why see it? The goal here is a raunchy comedy on a budget, and going with the found footage/faux doc format allows easy access to both, but it’s not all that funny? Comedy is subjective, obviously, but too many of the gags fall flat and even fans of sophomoric laughs will struggle to find enough to warrant the feature length. Also, and this is me being nitpicky, it’s filled with edits and cuts during conversations that could never have been captured on a single camera. It’s a curiosity.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
Madame Curie [Warner Archive]
What is it? A biopic of a great scientist.
Why see it? As early 40s biopics go, this one was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It’s easy to see why as the film tackles the real-life story of Marie Sklodowska with an eye for drama and challenges. Greer Garson brings the young woman to life as she maneuvers her way into school and fields previously foreign to females. It’s not a flashy or exciting film and is instead very straightforward, but there’s a sincerity in it.
[Extras: Short film]
What is it? A trio of interwoven tales.
Why see it? Todd Haynes’ feature is critically acclaimed and an important pitstop in the history of queer film, and fans will most definitely want to pick up this new Blu-ray. I’m not as big a fan as most, due equally to its at times rough filmmaking and the way it moves back and forth between the stories. Dramatic power is lost each time it jumps, and there’s not time to recapture it before it shifts again. I’m in the minority, so if you are a fan know that this is a solid Blu-ray release.
[Extras: Introduction, Q&A, commentary, booklet]
What is it? A reporter is abducted by a terrorist organization.
Why see it? This single location thriller didn’t make much of a splash on its release, and it’s understandable. Georgina Campbell is solid as the protagonist, always on screen, as we stay focused on her experience in the cell. She says she’s a reporter, they say she’s a CIA agent, and the cat and mouse game begins. The script isn’t sharp enough to make things suspenseful, and as there are no real action scenes it doesn’t leave viewers with much.
Also out this week:
Here Are the Young Men, I’m No Angel [KL Studio Classics], Just a Gigolo, Night After Night [KL Studio Classics], Percy vs Goliath, Pickup on South Street [Criterion Collection], Scare Us, WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory [4K UltraHD]