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 November 23rd, 2021!
This week’s home video selection includes Donnie Yen’s Raging Fire, an 80s slasher, a couple 4K UHD reissues, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
What is it? A cop fights to stop an ex-cop for committing more carnage.
Why see it? The great Benny Chan passed recently, and his final film succeeds at highlighting just what made him such a solid director. Donnie Yen stars in a tale of “heroic bloodshed,” an action film about honor, brotherhood, and kinetic violence, and it’s fantastic from start to end. Nicholas Tse plays the villain and gives the man rich character and pathos even as he’s unleashing impressive action beats alongside the legendary Yen. We get some melodrama and some cop-friendly banter, but we also get some blistering action sequences showcasing Chan’s creativity and vitality.
The Addams Family [4K UHD]
What is it? America’s favorite monster-loving family celebrates life and death.
Why see it? Barry Sonnenfeld’s big-screen adaptation of the television favorite delivers big laughs and pitch perfect performances by Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christina Ricci, and Christopher Lloyd. I’m of the opinion that the sequel, Addams Family Values, is superior, but this first outing remains a fun, creative, and highly entertaining treat for the whole family. The film reimagines numerous gags from the popular television show while creating plenty of new ones, and its blend of the warm and the macabre is just a joy.
[Extras: Theatrical and unrated versions, introduction, featurettes]
Night Gallery: Season One [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The first season of Rod Serling’s other anthology show.
Why see it? Rod Serling is most often associated with The Twilight Zone, and with good reason, but his other genre anthology series is every bit worth your time and attention. Season one kicks off with a pilot episode featuring three segments, and one of them is directed by Steven Spielberg. It’s a great one too starring Joan Crawford, and it’s joined by a stellar Roddy McDowall segment about a man’s guilty conscience haunting his every move. Later episodes star the likes of Burgess Meredith, Diane Keaton, John Astin, and more, and the tales deliver steady chills, thrills, and wit. Kino Lorber’s new release offers informative commentaries on each episode too adding to the bang for your buck.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurette]
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles [steelbook]
What is it? One man’s struggle to make it home for Thanksgiving.
Why see it? This remains one of the very best John Hughes films, and there isn’t a teenager in sight. Steve Martin and John Candy headline, and both are at their best as a pair of travelers returning home for the holiday. Everything goes wrong for Martin, including meeting Candy, but the latter is the former’s only ticket home. One mishap after the next comes their way along building to one of the most emotionally satisfying scenes in comedy history. I’m sorry, it’s true, and it you don’t tear up watching it then I don’t want to know you. Anyway, this should be a holiday staple at your house meaning this is a pickup — if you don’t already own a copy.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scene]
The Possession of Joel Delaney [Imprint]
What is it? A woman begins to suspect her brother may be possessed by a dead serial killer.
Why see it? This early 70s shocker doesn’t quite get the attention it deserves, and that’s for a few different reasons. For one, it’s not available on Blu-ray outside of this new Australian release. For another, its slow burn execution leaves some viewers cold. Oh, and there’s also a harrowing home invasion that ends the film featuring a scene that absolutely would not get filmed today. (For clarity, it’s a scene featuring brief glimpses of underage nudity, and Imprint’s new transfer digitally obscures it in an unobtrusive way.) The film offers a sharp critique of class and race, the fears that upper class white people have of others, and its horrifying third-act sequence drives home those points beautifully thanks in part to a wonderfully intense performance by Shirley MacLaine. It also feels like an obvious inspiration for later films like 1998’s Fallen. It’s a region-free release and highly recommended for fans of slow burn horror.
[Extras: Commentary, video essays, interview, documentary]
The Snake Girl and the Silver Haired Witch [Arrow Video]
What is it? A young girl’s family reunion is filled with terror.
Why see it? Ostensibly a children’s film, this black & white chiller pairs an engrossing mystery with some potentially supernatural shenanigans. A teenager’s surprised to discover family members, but her return to them comes paired with a mysterious death, odd behaviors, and some truly unsettling vibes. Never gory or graphic, the film delivers with atmosphere and energy as our young hero and her older brother attempt to figure out the truth before it’s too late. It’s Scooby Doo, Japanese style, and it’s a terrific find from the folks at Arrow.
[Extras: Commentary, interview]
Terminator 2: Judgment Day [4K UHD, steelbook]
What is it? The apocalypse can suck it.
Why see it? James Cameron’s epic sequel to his own genre classic turns the original’s small, slasher-like approach into a big action movie, and the results hold up as fairly spectacular today. (Well, Edward Furlong is still obnoxious.) Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton give it their all, the practical stunts and action beats thrill, and it remains a rousing ride from start to finish. This 4K steelbook is a slick release and looks fantastic — to me anyway. Your mileage may vary as it uses the same 4K transfer (supervised by Cameron himself) as the previous 4K release that some of you took issue with. If you don’t already own, it, this is a great pickup.
[Extras: Documentary, deleted scenes, commentaries, featurette, three cuts of the film]
The Thin Man Goes Home [Warner Archive]
What is it? The fifth in The Thin Man franchise!
Why see it? Common knowledge says The Thin Man films decline in quality as the series goes on, but this is the fifth entry and it still delivers big, big laughs. William Powell and Myrna Loy remain the best onscreen couple, and even as Nick goes cold turkey on the alcohol the laughs keep pouring all the same. The couple heads to his childhood home where Nora hopes Nick can prove himself to his unimpressed father, and luckily crime is afoot in this small town just waiting for him to solve. It’s another fast-talking, smartly written, and funny adventure, and Warner Archive once more does a great service bringing the movie to Blu-ray. Only one left… at which point I’ll be watching them all over again from the beginning.
[Extras: Comedy short, cartoon]
The Dogs of War [Scorpion Releasing]
What is it? A group of mercenaries is tasked with toppling a regime.
Why see it? Christopher Walken headlines this dramatic tale of mercenary action and gives the expectedly intense performance. The group is hired by a shady organization who intend on installing a “puppet” leader in order to profit off a small African country’s mineral resources, and everything goes according to plan… until it doesn’t. The third act unloads with explosive action, but getting there is more a story of relationships — casual, business, friends — and the detailed mechanics of organizing the coup. It’s an engaging watch co-starring Tom Berenger, JoBeth Williams, and Ed O’Neill.
[Extras: New 2K scan, interviews]
La Cage Aux Folles II [Code Red]
What is it? A sequel no one remembers!
Why see it? The stars of 1978’s successful film adaptation — of an even more successful stage musical — returned three years later for a follow-up adventure blending laughs, cross-dressing, and general silliness, and while far fewer people have seen it the movie is actually pretty okay. There’s still a goofy sweetness between the central couple, and while the cross-dressing is played far too long for laughs that don’t always land, it skirts offense with its sincerity. It’s not a movie you’ll remember for long and pales beside the original, but it’s no lost disaster either.
Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge [Arrow Video]
What is it? A teenager seeks revenge.
Why see it? This 80s slasher is an odd duck, and while it struggles to deliver a cohesive and memorable chiller it still finds some fun in its choices — both good and bad. The plot is meant, quite obviously, to be a riff on the Phantom of the Opera, but while the pieces are there the whole doesn’t quite come together, Still, our phantom is a kickboxer meaning he’s just as likely to down his victims with a spin kick as he is to stab or burn them. It’s silly. Setting the bulk of it in a mall makes for a terrific little time capsule, though, and the film takes full advantage of that access. It’s also home to some surprising action beats, almost enough to make this an entry in the action/horror sub-genre, as we get big stunts, falls, burns, and more. While the film is just okay, Arrow’s new release is absolutely stellar starting with its hardbox slipcase and copious extras. Fans will find hours of fun here.
[Extras: Three different cuts of the film, booklet, lobby cards, folded poster, new 2K restoration of the theatrical cut, commentaries, interviews, documentary, deleted scenes, new 2K restoration of the TV cut]
Also out this week:
All or Nothing [Severin Films], Deep Blues, Ma Belle My Beauty, The Village Detective: A Song Cycle