Plus 14 More New Releases to Watch This Week on Blu-ray/DVD!
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
Death Line [Blue Underground]
What is it? A cannibal living along London’s subway line eats well.
Why see it? Even if director Gary Sherman wasn’t already a keeper thanks to the genre gem that is Dead & Buried, this earlier effort would seal the deal. There’s horror here in the form of some frightening underground sequences and imagery, but it’s far from the blood feast the film’s alternate art promises under the title Raw Meat. That’s not a bad thing though as the horror is paired with black comedy and a sharp commentary on people’s indifference and lack of awareness for those around them. Donald Pleasence is terrifically droll, and Christopher Lee has a fun but brief appearance as well. Blue Underground’s new Blu-ray offers up a sharp picture and some enlightening new extras, and if you’re like me you will immediately flip around the reversible cover art.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, commentary, interviews]
The Autopsy of Jane Doe [Scream Factory]
What is it? A father/son mortician duo face off against the evil laying on their metal slab.
Why see it? One of last year’s best horror films comes home, and genre fans shouldn’t hesitate in picking it up for the first of many watches. Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch are terrific as the pair who see their family business take a hit when the corpse on their slab begins revealing a terrible litany of secrets. Director Andre Ovredal builds immense atmosphere with only a few characters and a single location, and the scares become merciless in their frequency and intensity. It’s a rare horror film where we care about the characters, and that attachment leads to increased tension and fear. Turn out the lights, turn up the volume, and settle in for a modern gem.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Lodger [Criterion Collection]
What is it? An odd young man takes up residence at a boarding house just as murders begin occurring around town.
Why see it? Alfred Hitchcock’s third feature film is a silent gem teasing elements of both Jack the Ripper and Hitchcock’s love of the “wrong man” theme. Hints of the filmmaker’s style are evident in the scenes and tone, and while its silent nature prevents it from reaching heights he’d later reach it remains an important link in his filmography. Criterion’s included a brand new score for the film along with some interview material, but the release becomes a must own title for Hitchcock fans thanks to the inclusion of a complete second feature, also restored in 2K.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, new 2K of Hitchcock’s Downhill, interviews, essay, radio
The Pink Panther Film Collection [Shout Select]
What is it? Inspector Jacques Clouseau works high-profile cases with painful results across six feature films from writer/director Blake Edwards.
Why see it? Peter Sellers shines across these films, and while they vary in quality he’s never less than a comic delight. It’s an odd franchise in that he’s barely even a part of the first film, The Pink Panther, and only becomes a lead character in the sequels. The comedy is as broad as you remember, but it’s funny more often than not as Sellers dons disguises and accents with equally fun ineptitude. I haven’t googled this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Edwards holds the record for writing/directing the most entries in a film series, especially one with such a steady degree of quality. All but the first film are fairly light on extras, but Shout presents each film in HD on its own Blu-ray.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurettes, interviews]
Running on Empty [Warner Archive]
What is it? A teenager on the run with his domestic terrorist parents decides to stop running.
Why see it? River Phoenix gives a strongly touching performance here as a young man forced to choose between family and a real life of his own. The supporting cast is equally affecting with turns from Judd Hirsch, Christine Lahti, and Martha Plimpton, and they all work to find real humanity amid the narrative. Director Sidney Lumet delivers another masterful look at crime and morality, this time with an innocent standing front and center, and it’s no less powerful for it.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
A Touch of Genie [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A nebbish shop owner raises a wish-granting genie after attempting to have sex with a vase.
Why see it? A large portion of Vinegar Syndrome’s releases fall under the “adult film” category, but while their DVD titles are fairly typical of the genre the XXX fare they put out on Blu-ray usually have something special about them. In this case that something extra is a terrific sense of humor and a vibe that would feel right at home in a Woody Allen film. The plot sees lanky, awkward Melvin “become” other men (including familiar, um, faces like Harry Reems) that serve to handle the film’s sex scenes while bolstering Melvin’s sexual confidence. It all moves smoothly back and forth between story and sex-filled set-pieces as something of a romance builds through both. It’s a sweet film, as sweet as a porno can be anyhow, and fans of fun and fornication should enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, interviews]
Trespass [Shout Select]
What is it? Two firemen head into an abandoned inner city building in search of a treasure, but trouble erupts when they cross paths with members of a local gang.
Why see it? Bill Paxton and William Sadler play the firemen while folks like Ice-T and Ice Cube portray the gangsters, and they all bring an abundance of charisma to their various sides of the conflict. The action is exciting and often suspenseful, and Ry Cooder’s score brings it further to life. Walter Hill appears to have left his glory days behind him, but happily he’s left a mountain of fantastic cinema for us to continue watching and celebrate on Blu-ray. Shout Select’s new Blu gathers some new interviews to accompany the film, and while it hasn’t been remastered it’s still a title worth owning.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Interviews, featurettes, music video, deleted scenes]
What is it? Two cops with opposing personalities have to work together to bring down some dirty killers in blue.
Why see it? Dax Shepard is an amiable guy, and the urge to enjoy this feature he wrote, directed, and stars in is strong, but it’s not enough to carry you through its too frequently unfunny and obvious gags. There are a small handful of laughs though, and combined with some solid action beats (and the presence of Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Adam Brody) the result is a mediocrity that fills time if nothing else.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes]
What is it? Thoughts of past lives and reincarnation enter the humdrum existence of a writer and his wife.
Why see it? This mid 80s thriller isn’t quite your typical Cannon Films release as it eschews gratuitous action exploits for a more lush and romantic atmosphere. It feels at times like a low-key Dead Again — or I guess the decade later release of Dead Again feels like an amped-up Déjà Vu — as the events of the past begin to play a role in the present for the dual characters. This is a perfectly serviceable film, and while the beats are familiar and often sedate there’s enough here for fans (particularly of Jaclyn Smith) to enjoy.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
Feed the Light [Intervision]
What is it? A woman’s effort to find her abducted daughter leads her to a strange corporation and an even stranger inter-dimensional rift.
Why see it? This Swedish genre effort is a low budget affair — ultra low budget at times — but there’s an energy and ingenuity to it that propels the film beyond the bottom line. Henrik Moller is the driving force behind most of it as director, cinematographer, co-writer, co-editor, and producer, and the atmosphere he crafts is one that blends science fiction, horror, and the dark fantasy of H.P. Lovecraft in equal measure. There are bursts of visual entertainment and a growing sense of dread, but the budget does peek its head in the form of some rough acting and limited production design. Genre fans, and Lovecraft fans in particular, will find enough to enjoy though.
[Blu-ray extras: Making of, interview]
Nurse Sherri [Vinegar Syndrome]
What is it? A nurse is is possessed by the spirit of a recently deceased cult leader who manipulates her into doing horrific things.
Why see it? There are beats throughout that play into the bloodletting and T&A of the genre, but there’s also a lot of downtime as the film moves slowly between set pieces and interactions. Better is the overall atmosphere as the opening with the cult shifts into the supernatural shenanigans at the hospital. There’s a low-rent uneasiness to it all — it never quite reaches sleaziness — that adds to the vibe. It’s ultimately not all that memorable, but Vinegar Syndrome does their usual stellar job in releasing it with love and affection. Fans who’ve only known the film from cheap DVD releases will marvel at the new image.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: 2K restoration, commentary, interviews, alternate version]
What is it? Five diverse teens are all that stands between their hometown and a repulsive female alien lady thing.
Why see it? If you love the series you’ll probably enjoy this, and if you aren’t a fan of the show then this won’t covert you. That’s the common wisdom anyway, but what surprises about this feature is that it’s actually more entertaining than you’d expect. It’s not good exactly, but there’s fun to be had as the characters come together and first start discovering their new abilities and purpose. It becomes a loud, messy stinker once they actually become Power Rangers though as the film essentially becomes a slightly higher-budgeted take on the show’s endless battle scenes.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, outtakes, featurettes, commentaries]
The Savage Innocents
What is it? An Eskimo finds adventure, a wife, and the status of “most wanted” in the frozen north.
Why see it? Nicholas Ray in the director’s chair is all the reason you need to check out this adventure film from 1960, and he delivers some terrific scenery along the way. The issues though, at least through the lens of hindsight, are numerous. Anthony Quinn made up like an Eskimo is strike number one, the literal treatment of women as objects is strike two, and the real killing of at least one polar bear is strike three. Even if you’re okay with all of that the appearance of a young Peter O’Toole — dubbed! — is sure to disappoint. The film’s ultimately less interested in grand adventure than in interpersonal relationships.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
The Unholy [Vestron Video]
What is it? A new priest arrives at a closed-down church and soon discovers why.
Why see it? This 80s horror thriller doesn’t waste any time before jumping right in with the sacrilege, T&A, and gooey gore, and similar beats appear sporadically throughout. The problem with the film is that the down time between those sequences are pretty dull. Between the endless exposition and the dimly-lit locales it’s slow-going between the money shots. Genre fans will want to want to give it a watch. It was touch and go for a while there, but happily Vestron Video has returned with another collector’s edition release of a past genre title, and they’ve once again loaded it with new extras.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview, featurettes, original ending]
What is it? Four women go into the desert. They don’t all return.
Why see it? This is a sleazy af little movie. The film opens with a handful of seemingly random assaults and murders before settling in for the plot proper involving two murderous robbers who cross paths with four friends in the desert. Rape, humiliation, and death follow before the movie twists the knife even further by subjecting the survivors to legal ramifications. It’s got a mean streak to it. Olive Films’ collaboration with Slasher//Video continues to find micro-budget genre efforts from the early 80s to bring back to life, but unlike most other boutique labels they add new extras without cleaning up the presentation. As such this is a pick-up for real fans only because most newcomers to the low budget genre fold won’t be all that forgiving towards the video/audio here.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Commentary, interview]
Also out this week:
The Angry Red Planet [Scream Factory], Berlin Syndrome, Dirty Dancing, The Evictors [Scream Factory], The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake [Scream Factory], Grey Lady, Heli, Life of Significant Soil, Money, Never Sleep Alone [Vinegar Syndrome], Straw Dogs [Criterion Collection], T2 Trainspotting