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 May 9th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes Tales of Adventure, John Woo’s Hand of Death, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
Tales of Adventure – Collection One [Imprint Films]
What is it? Five films delivering Arabian adventures from days gone by!
Why see it? Arabian Nights was Universal’s first film on three-strip Technicolor, and it is a beautiful spectacle bringing the adventure to life. The story follows two men on a quest for freedom that ultimately sees them wooing a beautiful dancer. Intrigue, romance, sword fights, magical acts, and epic production design make for an entertaining (albeit dated with brown-face) tale. The Desert Hawk can’t quite reach the same spectacle, but it’s hard to not have at least some fun with an Arabian-set adventure starring Yvonne De Carlo, Jackie Gleason, and Rock Hudson. For my money, A Thousand and One Nights is the standout feature in this set. Cornel Wilde plays Aladdin, a young man with a strong singing voice and love in his heart, whose newly found magic lamp and genie come in handy while dealing with baddies. The adventure is fun, but the comedy is even better thanks in part to Phil Silvers (!) playing a guy born centuries early as evidenced by his talking like a cool cat from the swinging 60s. It’s a silly time that brings the fun. Bond stalwart Terence Young directs Zarak, and while he manages the scope with some large-ish skirmishes, the characters and smaller beats typically fall flat. Performances are part of the issue, but the dull tale does it no favors. A legendary Persian man named Omar Khayyam, as known for his poems as he is for his adventures, woos a woman while working to prevent an assassination, but little catches the eye here beyond the colorful settings and soundstages. While the individual films vary in quality, Imprint’s new boxset as a whole is a good time for fans of the genre as it pairs the films with a smattering of extras digging even deeper into Hollywood’s Arabian adventure genre.
[Extras: Commentaries, featurettes, video essays, interviews]
Hand of Death
What is it? A Shaolin fighter stands up against oppressors.
Why see it? Divorce this film from the talent involved, and it’s a solid enough kung fu adventure. But when you factor in it being an early feature from John Woo and that it stars both Jackie Chan and Sammo Hung in supporting roles? Well, its importance grows a few sizes bigger. Tan Tao-liang takes on lead duties, and he pales somewhat even beside early career Chan and Hung. Woo fills the screen with action, drama, and some attractive widescreen vistas. The fights lack the spectacle that he would become synonymous with,
[Extras: Commentary, featurette, interviews]
Stone Cold [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A rowdy cop goes undercover with a badass biker gang.
Why see it? Director Craig R. Baxley is as reliable a 90s action director as you’re likely to find. From I Come in Peace to Stephen King’s Storm of the Century — still the best King mini-series — the dude had a pretty great run before shifting to an exclusive television run. Stone Cold is one of his gems, a meaty, sweaty good time about bad guys on wheels terrorizing innocents across the Gulf Coast until Brian Bosworth steps in to dismantle them from the inside. The Boz is no thespian, but he’s an entertaining slab of mulleted, muscle-bound ego. Baxley knows exactly what to do with him and sends the guy into battle alongside explosions, skin, and lots of B-movie shenanigans that embrace cruelty as much as they do big-screen action. New interview with Bosworth is well worth a watch as well.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary, interviews]
The Experts [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two dopey Americans are abducted for a secret Russian immersion project.
Why see it? John Travolta and Arye Gross (remember him?) headline this comedy from Dave Thomas that plays around with a fish out of water concept by making them think they’re still in the water. They’re goofballs, and they’re joined by Kelly Preston, Deborah Foreman, Rick Ducommun, and Charles Martin Smith for the fun. It’s a bit odd that the film doesn’t get us to Russia — a small “American” town has been built there to study the U.S. — and then reveal the truth later, but suspense and surprise aren’t the goal here. Instead, it’s a comedy that amuses, and sometimes that’s all you need.
[Extras: New 4K scan, making of]
Kamikaze [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A madman is shooting TV personalities *through* the television.
Why see it? The premise of this Luc Besson-penned thriller is pretty darn cool with its part procedural, part sci-fi angle, part social commentary blend making for an interesting ride. Its themes don’t quite mesh, though, leaving the film’s highs feeling better than the whole. Eric Serra’s score is a delight, though, and at under ninety minutes there’s more than enough here to hold the attention as small comic beats share the screen with some bloody stomach explosions. A bit too much time is spent with side characters who don’t play into the central tale, but the investigation offers an engaging ride.
[Extras: Commentary, interview, documentary]
Knock at the Cabin
What is it? A home invasion turns into something far stranger.
Why see it? M. Night Shyamalan is many things, but boring is never one of them. Even when a film of his doesn’t completely work, there’s typically still more than enough to engage with. His latest grabs hold right away with an irresistible premise — four strangers take a family hostage with a simple request that they must choose one of their own to be sacrificed in order to save the world. One life for billions. Add in a strong cast including Dave Bautista, Jonathan Groff, and others, and the damn thing just cooks for the first hour. As with Paul Tremblay’s source novel, though, the final third has nowhere satisfying to go.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
What is it? A couple is terrorized by threats both human and otherwise.
Why see it? Curiously, this little chiller has almost the reverse problem of Knock at the Cabin above. Its first hour is a bit muddled and uninteresting, but the third act kicks into gear with the arrival of violent acts and some very cool little monsters. It’s something of a slog getting there, but once everything goes to hell there’s good fun in both the carnage and the visual effects bringing the creatures to life. It reminds me of 1973’s Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark at times, in a good way, and I only wish the time spent on set up wasn’t so belabored.
Also out this week:
All Quiet on the Western Front, Branded to Kill [4K UHD, Criterion Collection], Children of the Corn, The Shiver of the Vampires [4K UHD], The Sorrow and the Pity, Superman I-IV: 5-Film Collection [4K UHD], There’s No Tomorrow, The Tiger Cage Collection, Two Orphan Vampires [4K UHD]
Related Topics: Home Video