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 3rd, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes an unusual kaiju box set, westerns, horror films, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Daimajin Trilogy [Arrow Video]
What is it? A golem-like creature rises to defend the downtrodden.
Why see it? Japan’s cinema is filled with all manner of kaiju creatures, but the Daimajin has never really caught modern audiences until now. This trilogy from the 60s focuses on a slumbering god, one captured in a large stone being, who roars to life to avenge wrongs against hardworking villagers by governments and gangs alike. The stories may be a bit simplistic and follow similar beats, but the cinematography and visual effects impress with miniatures, practical effects, and a brilliant use of forced perspective. Arrow’s new box-set collects all three films and gives them a beautiful home filled with an abundance of informative and new extras. If you’ve never seen the movies, and odds are you might never have even heard of them, check one out and then seek out this set.
[Extras: HD presentations, 100-page book, postcards, commentaries, introduction, interviews]
Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker [Code Red]
What is it? Blood runs thick.
Why see it? Jimmy McNichol stars as a teen preparing to graduate and go to college, but his wacky aunt (an unhinged Susan Tyrrell) ain’t having it. Let the murders commence! Add one part Sweet Sixteen (1983) and two parts Blood Rage (1987), and you have this bonkers slasher that could have only come out of the early 80s. It’s somehow both homophobic and progressive? Its both poorly acted and filled with hypnotic performances? I’m not exactly sure it’s good necessarily, but it’s definitely unforgettable and a must-see for genre fans. Code Red’s new Blu-ray is sharp-looking and filled with goodies.
[Extras: 2K scan, commentaries, interviews]
The Brotherhood of Satan [Imprint Films]
What is it? A small town lives in fear of devil worshippers in their midst.
Why see it? This early 70s chiller never got as much press as some of the decade’s other satanic thrillers — and that in turn led to me missing it for far too long — but its arrival on Blu-ray hopefully means more people will give it a spin. A family passes through a small California town only to find themselves trapped in a nightmare. Kids are behaving weird, a cult operates in the shadows, and they might not survive to see the end of their road trip. It’s legitimately creepy at times with shades of Messiah of Evil, and it takes a fantastic and unexpected turn in its final minutes that I love. Imprint’s new Blu is struck from Sony’s 2K scan and looks quite good. The extras include a Troy Howarth commentary and some entertaining thoughts from Kim Newman.
[Extras: 2K scan, commentary, interviews]
What is it? An underwater boy travels to the dry land and finds friendship.
Why see it? Pixar’s latest was weirdly dismissed by many as “lesser,” but that’s hogwash. Not only is Luca gorgeously animated and wildly entertaining, but it’s also every bit as sweet and thematically relevant as you’d hope. Sure, it doesn’t ask you to contemplate mortality or our inner feelings, but it does deliver laughs, heart, and a strong inspiration for visiting Italy once travel is safe again. The inspiration from Peter Yates’ still brilliant Breaking Away (1979) doesn’t hurt either.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? A woman is targeted by a killer, again and again.
Why see it? This is just a smart, nifty, thrilling little genre mashup with a not-too subtle theme, and I wish more people would give it a shot. Brea Grant’s script and performance both hit beautifully on a depressing observation about life as a woman, and they do so in an entertaining way. It’s a tight 80 minutes that works even as the third act dips heavily into on-the-nose exposition, and while Sion Sono’s Tag tackles similar themes with even more creativity the message remains an important one.
The Sergio Martino Collection [Arrow Video]
What is it? Three giallos from an Italian master.
Why see it? Edwige Fenech and George Hilton are among the genre vets who appear, but the main through line through each film is Martino’s eye and style. The Case of the Scorpion’s Tale is a solid whodunnit involving an inheritance, and The Suspicious Death of a Minor foregoes the mystery for more straightforward criminal thrills as a cop faces off against a killer. Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key — one of the best titles ever — is the most well-known of the three films, and it once more delivers stylish set-pieces and a mysterious killer whose motives could run the gamut from greed to revenge to sadism. Arrow’s released all three films previously, separately, but this new box-set collects them in slimline cases, and it’s a trend I hope they continue.
[Extras: 2K restorations, commentaries, interviews, visual essays]
The Sniper [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? An incel begins targeting women.
Why see it? This early 50s feature was a bit ahead of its time in a few areas while also delivering a compelling thriller. Its killer is an early acknowledgment of the incel-type, a misogynist whose hatred of women overshadows other elements of his personality. A psychiatrist argues that people with violent tendencies are too often paroled out only to be arrested again and suggests new laws to have people tested for mental illness which can be addressed, and if nothing then they’re tossed in jail. The women targeted by the sniper are each introduced beforehand, no random, unnamed victims here, meaning we spend time with them beforehand. It’s effectively chilling at times.
[Extras: Introduction by Martin Scorsese, commentary]
Arise, My Love [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A female reporter finds herself entwined with her subject.
Why see it? There’s a nice spin on the expected here as Claudette Colbert takes the lead as professional woman who puts her career before her heart. Ray Milland is the man trying to worm his way in there, and the pair find some fun sparks along the way. The film’s tone wavers between comedy and drama, usually coherently but sometimes to its detriment, and it’s powered forward on the strength of its two leads.
[Extras: Commentary by Kat Ellinger]
The Awakening [Imprint Films]
What is it? Archeologists discover a mummy, and terror follows.
Why see it? Bram Stoker’s best known for vampiric horrors, but he also wrote other tales of terror including The Jewel of the Seven Stars. Mike Newell adapts the story with Charlton Heston in the lead role as the man who excavates the tomb and invites a curse into his life. Bodies start dropping immediately, but the real nightmare unfolds eighteen years later when his daughter — possessed by the long-dead queen — comes of age. It’s an attractive film that feels its international flavor with locales from the US to England to Egypt. Like The Omen, the deaths are the result of “accidents” and such, but there’s still some menace in the unfolding tale. It’s clear why it’s a lesser horror film, but a freshness remains as mummies and the such are far from common in the genre. Imprint’s new disc features some enlightening extras including a Kim Newman commentary track.
[Extras: 2K scan, commentary, interviews]
Coogan’s Bluff [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Midwestern cop comes to New York City looking for a con.
Why see it? Clint Eastwood and Don Siegel made several films together, and while this late 60s tale isn’t among their best it’s still an engaging enough watch. You can almost feel Eastwood workshopping his upcoming ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan character, and when the action/violence hits it does so with a well-crafted eye — the hero tossing a young woman across a room is a sight you won’t see in today’s movies. Lalo Schifrin’s score does a lot of the lifting for the drama and intensity, but it’s a solid watch for fans of the actor and director.
[Extras: Commentaries, interview]
Four Frightened People [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? White people go on vacation.
Why see it? Cecil B. DeMille’s cinema is known being big and being maybe a teensy bit racist, and this adventure film mostly fits the mold. A group of tourists escape a dangerous situation and land on a wild island complete with natural threats and natives prone to attack. It’s all fun enough, and the 78 minute running time is nice, but the performances keep it from ever feeling all that compelling.
What is it? An old white man and a young Black woman become friends.
Why see it? The story here goes pretty much where you expect with an unlikely friendship serving to inspire those around them, but the real power here is seeing Billy Crystal in a lead role again. He’s just an effortlessly entertaining performer, and he plays off Tiffany Haddish well. She does good work too and shows some improved acting chops powered by skill and comedic timing. It’s not necessarily laugh out loud funny, but there’s humor and warmth, and you can never really have enough of either.
Malcolm [Umbrella Entertainment]
What is it? A socially challenged young man falls happily into crime.
Why see it? Colin Friels plays the title character, a man most likely autistic but possibly just awkwardly shy, and after getting fired from his job he crosses paths with some low-level crooks. Malcolm’s passion for engineering and inventions leads to some fun beats including a getaway car that splits in two to become motorcycles, a robot bank robber, and more. There’s not quite enough of the heist element, though, leaving too much time for a “fun” supporting character to prove himself a real prick only for the film to forget about that. Anyway, it’s an entertaining watch.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, interviews, commentary, featurettes]
What is it? A girls school becomes a home to terror when a ghostly revenge comes calling.
Why see it? Writer Simon Barrett’s filmography features some solid bangers including You’re Next (2011) and The Guest (2014), but his feature debut as director is a big letdown. The story begins on familiar ground before falling apart, the production design feels like it’s one loose screw away from collapsing, and Barrett’s script is unable to justify anything. Lead Suki Waterhouse isn’t able to muster enough charisma to carry it forward, and we’re left with an unfortunate mess.
[Extras: Commentary, featurettes, outtakes, deleted scenes]
What is it? An incident of road rage takes a violent turn.
Why see it? Road rage is a very real concern that mostly ends in minor accidents or heated frustration, but sometimes it leads to murder. The recent Unhinged starring Russell Crowe is a wildly underappreciated thriller on the topic, and this ride from Belgium (which actually predates Unhinged) aims for similar thrills. It manages some solid beats, but the protagonist’s annoying stupidity constantly gets in the way of the thrills to the point that you just want the killer to win.
The Valdez Horses [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A horse breeder befriends a young teen.
Why see it? Charles Bronson is always a performer worth watching, and this early 70s western is no different. He plays a part Native American man who keeps to himself doing what he loves, but trouble arises when some bad men come calling. A very young Vincent Van Patten plays the orphan boy who winds up in his care, and their relationship brings heart to the otherwise tough drama. Director John Sturges pairs the tale with strong visuals, and together they deliver a minorly compelling tale.
[Extras: Interview, commentary]
Also out this week:
No Time for Love, The Phantom, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Union Pacific, The Unthinkable
Related Topics: Home Video