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 July 18th, 2023! This week’s home video selection includes The Iron Prefect, The Ranown Westerns, and more. Check out our picks below.
Pick of the Week
The Iron Prefect [Radiance]
What is it? A hard-hitting prefect goes head to head with a small town’s mob presence.
Why see it? The folks at the still relatively new label Radiance have an eclectic taste to their releases so far, but the one constant is the quality of the presentation. From slick artwork to new extras, these are great releases. And with The Iron Prefect, it’s also a great film. Giuliano Gemma stars as the no-nonsense prefect — basically an elevated lawman for an area — who arrives in crime-ridden Sicily with a simple agenda. He’s a pure man, violent when necessary, but unbending to pressure, and it feels at times like a proto-Untouchables in his crusade for justice. That said, the differences are numerous up to an including a far more cynical ending. Here’s hoping Radiance keeps these lesser known gems coming.
[Extras: New 2K restoration, interviews, booklet]
Gloria [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A woman becomes one boy’s unlikeliest of protectors.
Why see it? John Cassavetes was a beloved filmmaker with numerous classics under his belt, but for my money his best remains this 1980 classic. The great Gena Rowlands plays a tough broad who knows how the world works, but when a young boy’s life is in danger she reluctantly steps up to protect him. The film is a gritty, suspenseful, and sneakily sweet tale rich in character that finds life and energy in the pursuit. Mobsters and gunmen are on their tail, and we watch the relationship grow as they dodge the baddies… until the can’t run away any more. It’s a fantastic movie, and while the disc is devoid of extras it’s still well worth a pick-up.
Hugo [4K UHD, Arrow Video]
What is it? A different kind of tale from Martin Scorsese.
Why see it? A young orphan finds adventure, truths, and a new home in Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of the beloved novel by Brian Selznick, and the end result is a fun, visually splendent love letter to cinema. I’m in the minority in not loving the script and lead kids — it’s a bit too trite and repetitive for the message — but the visuals and themes are undeniably appealing for anyone who appreciates beauty and film history. Arrow’s new release is pretty stellar and includes the film on UHD and Blu-ray, with the 3-D version included alongside the standard, and a second Blu-ray loaded with extra features.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews, featurettes]
Nevada Smith [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A young man seeks revenge for his parents’ murder.
Why see it? Real talk, Steve McQueen does not look like the twenty-year-old “kid” of half white, half Native American parents that this character supposedly is, but he’s McQueen in the 60s so we forgive it. Get past that and you have a terrific western that explores familiar themes in the framework of an atypical revenge story. This is no simple seek and destroy mission as his quest for vengeance takes time, training, and even an intentional visit to prison. Action beats are strong, the locales look good, and the supporting cast features Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Suzanne Pleshette, Pat Hingle, Martin Landau, and more.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary]
The Ranown Westerns [4K UHD, Criterion Collection]
What is it? Five westerns from director Budd Boetticher and star Randolph Scott.
Why see it? There’s something powerful in great westerns, from the rich character types to American vistas captured with an eye for the vastness of the landscape. Budd Boetticher’s westerns don’t often get spoken of in the same breath as John Ford, but his films are every bit as memorable. They often feature a simple setup infused with humanity and energy, paced beautifully and highly entertaining. Criterion restores and collects five of the filmmaker’s westerns starring Randolph Scott produced from 1957 to 1960 — The Tall T, Decision at Sundown, Buchanan Rides Alone, Ride Lonesome, and Comanche Station — and each offers up an engrossing slice of western thrills. The plots are straightforward in each, familiar perhaps to the point of cliche at times, but they’re presented with a fresh vitality and smart approach that leaves them feeling a step or two beyond the traditional westerns that preceded them.
[Extras: New 4K restorations, introductions, featurette, commentaries, interviews]
To Live and Die in LA [4K UHD, KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Treasury agents seek justice from a deadly counterfeiter.
Why see it? Willem Dafoe is the counterfeiter whose methods include murder, and William Petersen is the agent obsessed with bringing him down. William Friedkin is the director, and the film is arguably one of his best (top two?) thanks to an electric energy and style. There’s a rare, beautiful aggression to it all, and it’s a thriller unapologetically for adults as no one here is a true good guy. Add in a legendary car chase that includes a stretch going the wrong way on an LA freeway and some surprising beats in the third act, and it’s just an all-timer. Plus John Pankow, John Turturro, Dean Stockwell, Steve James, and a score by Wang Chung! Kino doesn’t add anything new on the extras front, but the new scan and presentation are worth the upgrade.
[Extras: New HDR 4K scan, commentary, interviews, featurette, deleted scene]
52 Pick-Up [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A philandering man is blackmailed.
Why see it? Elmore Leonard’s writing is nothing but good stuff, and while the movies are a bit more mixed they’re rarely less than good. This John Frankenheimer film is one of those good ones thanks in large part to the great Roy Scheider in the lead role. He’s a terrible husband given new reason to care when his life is threatened by three blackmailers, and the film follows his efforts to outwit and survive the baddies. It’s occasionally sleazy fun.
What is it? A small town deals with a big problem named Mike.
Why see it? This limited series from Denmark does a good job digging into the concept of a small town held hostage by fear, all caused by one man. Things take a turn when a handful of good citizens decide to end their problem in a very decisive way, but that act opens the door to bigger problems. It’s a grim and sometimes grueling tale, and it’s all well done, but it’s one that arguably could have fit into a two-hour plus film. There’s a bit of a stretched feeling to the proceedings, not enough to really hurt the experience, but it’s there. Still, if you have the time
End of the World
What is it? France’s first talkie feature!
Why see it? Film history is filled with interesting and engaging finds, and this French film certainly counts. It may not be some lost masterpiece, but Abel Gance’s apocalyptic tale is still fascinating in contect. The 1931 film is the first feature-length talkie from France, and it follows humanity after discovering a comet is heading towards Earth guaranteeing extinction. Panic, parties, religious extremism, and an attempt at bringing all the world’s countries together under one banner, it’s all intriguing enough despite knowing that this surviving version is roughly half the length of the cut that Gance turned in to the studio.
What is it? A quiet man is moved around by the whims of Hollywood.
Why see it? Charlie Day makes his feature directorial debut with this insider comedy about Hollywood, but while it wants to be Being There it’s unable to find the right tone. Broad comedy gives way to attempted emotion, biting commentary is swallowed whole by generic jokes, and it never really lands with the impact it’s clearly hoping for. The supporting cast and cameos are pretty fun, especially for fans of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but we’re ultimately left only with small smiles and minor laughs.
What is it? A CIA agent tries to escape enemy territory.
Why see it? Gerard Butler is as reliable a B-movie action star as anyone, and while some are better or bigger than others, they’re typically entertaining to some degree. This one feels like the less serious (but still serious) brother of Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant as our white American is tasked with helping a translator out of danger, but this one’s more focused on the action beats than the themes. And that’s not a bad thing seeing as Butler goes toe to toe with a helicopter at one point from the ground! It’s a perfectly good B-picture.
Number One With a Bullet [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A quickie riff on Lethal Weapon.
Why see it? When you think about the toughest member of the Carradine family, the answer is clearly Robert, star of Revenge of the Nerds. (Sorry David and Keith!) He plays one half of a buddy cop duo, alongside Billy Dee Williams, looking to take down an unlikely drug lord by any means necessary. It’s goofy, and while it’s clearly a lesser seen Cannon Films release there’s fun to be had in the relationship between Carradine and Williams as well as the minor action beats.
[Extras: New 2K scan, commentary]
Also out this week:
Amor Bandido, Are You Lonesome Tonight?, Blonde Ice, Breathless [4K UHD, Criterion Collection], Chop & Steele, The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future, Cracked, Deadstream, The Land of the Pharaohs [Warner Archive], Last of Us – Season One, Love Again, Michael
Related Topics: Home Video