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 1st, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes an African adventure, old-school British comedies, a fun little heist flick, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
What is it? An engineer is recruited to help steal an ancient fortune.
Why see it? This is an unassuming little heist film, but a few details stand out starting with director Jaume Balaguero whose previous work includes the [Rec] films. It also stars Freddie Highmore who you know from numerous precocious child roles. And guess what? It’s pretty damn good! The heist takes on some fresh aspects and finds real suspense and ingenuity in its specifics making for an entertaining watch, and the target — an old vault beneath the Bank of Spain — offers ome unique visuals as well. It’s a fun little movie that you probably missed, but it’s not too late to amend that.
The Green Man [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A professional killer is foiled by a vacuum salesman.
Why see it? I doubt they’d touch it after the response their remake of The Ladykillers received, but this mid 50s gem feels ripe for a Coen Brothers redo. The great Alastair Sim stars as a man with a penchant for murder, usually of those who “deserve” it, but he finds his biggest challenge in life after he retires. Murders aside this is a terrifically dark little comedy with a killer lead performance, and the back half becomes a fun ride of missing bodies, misunderstandings, and gags. Sim is best known for some far gentler comedies, so it’s fun seeing him cut loose with a darker wit and malicious intents.
[Extras: 4K restoration, commentary]
Mommie Dearest [Paramount Presents]
What is it? The story of a woman, a girl, and a hanger.
Why see it? Christina Crawford’s searing memoir comes to outrageous life with Faye Dunaway playing Joan Crawford. It’s a serious film dealing with alcoholism, addiction, and abuse, but also it’s a campy blast that has entertained audiences for four decades. Paramount’s new Blu-ray, part of their excellent Paramount Presents line, gives the film a gorgeous new restoration that leaves its colors and details popping. The extras are informative, and while there’s a new commentary with drag queen Hedda Lettuce the inclusion of John Waters’ older track is still the highlight.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, featurettes, commentaries]
The Blue Lamp [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A London cop is killed.
Why see it? This 1950 effort out of the UK is more Hill Street Blues than Baretta as it’s an ensemble exploring the ups and downs of several officers’ lives. A new recruit is as close to a focus as the film finds, and he becomes central in the hunt for the killer. It’s a solid film, part procedural and part straight drama, and Dirk Bogarde gives a memorable turn as fugitive well out of his league. Kino’s new disc includes an informative commentary track worth a listen as well.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes]
What is it? A businessman agrees to carry secrets between Britain and the Soviet Union.
Why see it? Benedict Cumberbatch stars in this real-life tale as the man convinced to become a spy, and his journey is one fraught with danger. It’s history, and therefore not a spoiler, but he was eventually caught by the Russians and put through hell. Cumberbatch gives a solid turn that finds sympathy in his predicament, and while it leans more political intrigue than suspense/action there are a handful of tense moments.
What is it? An MMA champ is also a prick.
Why see it? Stephen Dorff is an odd choice for a cocky MMA fighter, but he convinces as an asshole. Unlike Warrior which balanced the two fighters to leave viewers rooting for both, here you’re far from Dorff’s corner as his character heads into the octagon against his own son. The fights themselves are a bit too tightly shot/edited to be thrilling, but the big brawl finds some suspense on its way to an unexpected ending.
What is it? A family on safari is under attack by nature and man.
Why see it? Animal attack movies are my jam, but their heyday has long passed. It’s mostly for good reason as new and necessary rules make it difficult or impossible to work with live animals, but talented filmmakers still find a way to make practical effects (Jaws, 1975) or even CG (Crawl, 2018) work just as well. Others? Not so much. This entry sees an argumentative family stuck off trail and surrounded by threats. The script is problem one as they spend so much time arguing that you’re hard-pressed to root for any of them to survive. Just as bad, though, is some rough CG that instantly kills any suspense or terror that might have otherwise existed.
The Love Butcher [Code Red]
What is it? A killer kills people.
Why see it? Sometimes a gritty and grimy aesthetic lends itself to making a movie about a sleazy killer feel more unnerving, but other times? It just feels cheap. This 1975 effort belongs in the latter camp, but it has some minor charms despite the lack of thrills or drama. Credit Erik Stern’s performance as the elderly gardener — among others — for bringing some real enthusiasm to the role. The rest is a mix of T&A and blood, but it’s at its best when Stern is hamming it up in conversation with future victims.
Primal – The Complete First Season
What is it? A caveman and a dinosaur become friends.
Why see it? Sure, humans never existed alongside dinosaurs, but what this cartoon presupposes is, what if they did? It’s an interesting spectacle as the two bond over the loss of their respective families and then go on to have dialogue-free adventures. The visuals are attractive, and it earns points for being unafraid to chomp down on kids and others with abandon. It’s not ideal for marathons, as again, the lack of dialogue means all interactions and character exchanges are done visually or through grunts — the growth comes slow.
Shoplifters of the World
What is it? An overnight adventure with a cool soundtrack.
Why see it? The disbanding of The Smiths is the trigger point for much of the drama here as a group of friends, out celebrating/memorializing one of their own heading off to war, also reels from the news of the band’s break-up. Think Hair (1979) without the actual musical numbers and you’ll be in the ballpark as friendship, love, and pop culture combine. Songs by The Smiths make up the bulk of the soundtrack, and that’s not a bad thing either.
What is it? Friends are mutilated and forced to fight for their lives.
Why see it? The premise here is pure grindhouse — a female rock band is abducted only to have their limbs amputated and replaced with weaponry — but the execution leaves a bit to be desired. The gore is on point, minus minor CG, and delivers some fun practical blood work, but the script and action can’t quite live up to the premise. Still, if the setup is even remotely intriguing to you there’s probably enough here to hold your attention through to the end.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
The Stylist [Arrow Video]
What is it? A hair stylist can’t resist scalping and killing people.
Why see it? The best comparison here is to William Lustig’s Maniac (1980) as we follow a disturbed individual, witness their vicious antics, and are offered no real outlet by the time the credits roll. It’s less raw than that film, but the result is the same in that we’re trapped with a cruel, unlikable, and deranged person for the entirety of the running time. It’s well-acted and directed, and the moments of violence/gore work well too, but it’s a rough pairing of content and tone. That said, I’m in the minority on this one, so give it a go!
[Extras: Soundtrack CD, commentary, introduction, featurettes, short films]
Trackdown [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A Midwestern man searches for his missing sister in LA.
Why see it? This late 70s slice of exploitation hits all the expected buttons with its salacious personalities, cruelty, nudity, violence, and more. There’s expected fun to be had with its genre elements, but some of it is undercut by an interesting — ie poor — choice in its rollout of vengeance. Namely, the dudes who actually assault the young woman never get their comeuppance, and instead the hero (Jim Mitchum) goes after the pimp who gives her a job. I’m simplifying things, but still, it’s a bit unsatisfying. The recent HD upgrade looks good, though.
[Extras: New HD master]
What is it? An ex-military man with amnesia makes new memories.
Why see it? Generic action film, thy name is Trigger Point. Everything about this action movie is overly familiar, from the plot to the characters to the action beats, but it’s still good to see Barry Pepper in a lead role. He plays a haunted soldier whose current mercenary-ish mission finds connection with his own past, and you will absolutely expect everything that happens, but sometimes you just want simplicity in your action thrills.
Who Done It? [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Benny Hill plays detective.
Why see it? Depending on your age you might only know Benny Hill from his ribald comedy show during the 70s and 80s (and that’s if you even know him at all), but he actually had a film career for decades prior to that variety show hit. His persona is pretty similar — ie he’s prone to looking up skirts and ogling the ladies — but it’s more focused on a narrative and character here. There are some laughs to be found and minor plot turns, but the big star here is Kino’s new Blu featuring a sharp restoration, a commentary track exploring the film’s release, and a Benny Hill short film from 1969.
[Extras: 4K restoration, commentary, short film]
Also out this week:
Boogie, But I’m a Cheerleader – Director’s Cut, Smokey and the Bandit [4K UltraHD], The World to Come