Welcome to The Special Edition! I hope you’re sufficiently
prepared for the onslaught of titles that I am about to unleash.
The Eye In The Sky Is Watching!
When the baseball bat hits a major character for the first time, it’s a hard hit. When the head is put into a vice, it’s a tough grind to freedom, one that’s overlooked by the most sadistic asshole of all time. Joe Pesci has wonderfully stamped him into eternity. Squashing heads like a fuckin’ grapefruit ain’t what they used to be, but he’s dead serious. Now, 10 years later, we get Casino‘s rightful DVD Special Edition (although I am damned since I bought it back in 2000) complete with a myriad of extras and some grapefruit squashing the likes of which might make Michael Ironsides happy. Shaking violently is Sharon Stone, hopped up from all of those drugs stashed away in her insanely PETA-violating fur coat, skittering into any hotel room for any semblance of fun and games. Scorsese, who is again at the top of his game (this was never going to be anything more than the ‘fellas we met before, but it’s good – very good) just follows her, and slowly moves alongside the brick wall until it’s over. The fall of Las Vegas is covered in classic Scorsese depth (he gives you the information you need, not an ounce more), with those who control it before the corporations came in and tore it all down into tiny paper shreds. Fluttering downward is Ace Rothstein (DeNiro in one of my favorite roles of his, but it’s not nearly his best), Bach at his rear, and a gigantic fucking fireball towards his genitalia. Speaking of which, the word fuck plays quite the role in Casino (enter CHUD’s Amazing CONTEST here. Just make sure to enter correctly!) It almost becomes a character within itself, almost 03 times a minute. Fuck! Expletive deleted is the way in which this three-hour movie whirs on by, one of the fastest films in recent memory (check out the counting the money scene, it flies by) and well worth your valuable time in between the internets, porn, illegal music downloading, and writing haxors speak.
Always watch the money and then watch the money watch you with: a pseudo-audio commentary (meaning recollections/interviews/etc) by the man, the myth, and the legend Martin Scorsese, Moments with Martin Scorsese, Sharon Stone, Nicholas Pileggi, Vegas and the Mob Featurette, 04 documentaries (The Story, Cast & Characters, The Look, and After The Filming), History Alive: True Crime Authors: Casino with Nicholas Pileggi, and some deleted scenes. Carl Weathers sadly, doesn’t come as an extra. One day. One day.
Long considered one of the grooviest films of the mod-era, Danger: Diabolik finally manages to break out of the mothballs of the dreaded TBA box after several catch-and-release street dates. As an aside, if you live in Los Angeles, check out the Egyptian theater on 07.08.05, because a rare 35-mm print of this film will screen. If you’re not as fortunate (and that’d be millions of others, however, for purposes of this column and wishful thinking, the three people I know that read it) you can cry into your crushed beer and dribble all your cares away with the DVD. "Master criminal Diabolik’s got it all. He’s got a black leather suit and ski mask, a pair of Jaguar XKEs, gadgets galore, an underground headquarters, and of course the ravishing Eva (played by Sixties Euro-hottie Marisa Mell). Together, the two of them pull off daring capers, staying a step or two ahead of the police, the government and rival mobsters all the while." Based on the long running Italian comic strip from which it borrowed many items, the least of which would be smacking a confession out of your suspect while free-floating through midair at 30,000 MPH. Seriously. That right there should at least warrant a rental. Right? These crickets I hear are downing you out.
Fire up the old mod-score by Ennio Morricone with: an audio commentary by Actor John Phillip Law and Historian Tim Lucas, Danger: Diabolik: From Fumettito Film, the teaser and theatrical trailer, and of course, a music video – Body Movin’ – The Beastie Boys, with optional audio commentary by Adam "MCA" Yauch.
If you’re going to watch John Water’s latest romp into filmmaking, A Dirty Shame (CHUD’s DVD Review – Coming Soon), you might as well go all the way and see the NC-17 version. Unless you’re 15, and then, just poke your drunken parental units into an adequate stupor long enough for them to drive you to the store so they can rent it for you. Just mention that the film is about some sort of religious righteousness and is required in your class. Then, lock your bedroom door and watching the funny. Keep the volume down though. Revel in the filthiness of Water’s somewhat psychotic ragged mind, the one in which he introduced a cross-dressing flamingo lover named Devine onto the human consciousness, and destroyed all good will with some dog poo. That’s all that needs to be mentioned. Meanwhile, in A Dirty Shame (read Devin’s 4.0 review here), Waters confronts the epically challenged need for speed (of the sexual kind), "Sylvia Stickles (Ullman) suffers a concussion [and] the injury causes a drastic change in her sexual drive, turning her into a sex addict with crazy, wild and urgent desires and compulsions. [This is] much to the joy and then frustration of her husband (Chris Isaak) who has trouble keeping up with her, as her new personality threatens to tear apart the remnants of what wasn’t an entirely perfect family to begin with." You can count on Waters to bring his trademarked sexuality, wacky characters and paper-thinned moustache of delightfully perverted bizarreness all the way to some sort of bank, which probably deals with sperm.
Don’t get confused with the Damon Wayans film (that one’s low down and dirty) because "perverts are taking over the neighborhood!" The DVD comes with: an audio commentary by writer-director John Waters, the original theatrical version of the film (only with the NC-17 version), and a featurette: "All The Dirt On A Dirty Shame."
Unlike John Waters, Andy Tennant and Co. brings us Hitch, the sort of watered down version of sexual hijinx with hi-larious consequences and repercussions of adequate proportions, the most dangerous kind. A while back I read an article in which the writer of the blockbuster film, Kevin Bisch, wandered around the streets of Southern California (all billion miles or so) searching for a perfectly made tailored shirt. He finally finds it, and writes quite at length about his relationship with his tailor and how he gets the shirts he wants out of it. Now I realize this is a common problem which we all must share – I commonly wonder why I can find my own tailor to make my manly physique clothes – so, I suppose, in retrospect, it helps to humanize a man who most likely made a cool couple hundred thousand this year from the films’ monster success. My take was somewhere in the negative zone alongside Jurgen Prochnow and his novel creations. Nick rants about the film here, and like the bossman, I haven’t seen the film, but quietly judging from the trailers (it’s a fun game to prove if you have a good opinion, which like mine, is usually wrong) it looks like everything you believe could come true does… come true. There’s the funny, yet problematic love doctor Hitch (Sir William Smith) who coaches the sapless goof Kevin James (moving from the TV side of the Sony lot to the film side) in the matters of love. Except that love schools them both and rips out their spleens into a bloodied cacophony of doom, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Fulci oddly threw his strange direction into the ring. Hilariously enough, throughout Hitch a priest rappels downward from the skies and stares at the characters, and we zoom in, of course, while eyeballs and mouths drip with blood and guts. Your stomachs will laugh in eternity as Hitch gets caught up in his own game of love and somehow, someway must overcome the clichés of the narrative the film has already written itself into – all the way past someone’s tailored shirt sleeves. I think. At this point, I just give up on everything. See you never.
Croon "You can feel it all over" – with: 05 behind-the-scenes featurettes, the "I Thing" music video by Amerie, 04 deleted scenes, and a blooper reel, surely to make your whole week worth while.
I don’t know what to think, but somehow, I think I like it. Travel back in time to the good old days, the hours in which a Sly Stallone one-upped everyone and everything in his signature chiseled hairy chest and his red bandanna. As he killed everything in sight from Trautman to Vietnam to Afghanistan, from First Blood to Part III, this was a simpler time, an era in which you could shoot first and ask questions later. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before we took those values and made them easier for children to understand! How could they not identify with Rambo being the leader of the Force Freedom Team (I still feel that this is alive and kicking today some 19 years later) and understand his plight to take on seemingly impossible missions against the evil and dangerous S.A.V.A.G.E. organization, lead by General Warhawk? Warhawk, very obviously, is intent on overtaking a third world country and setting up a permanent base there. I mean, come on, children can easily and matter-of-factly understand the drive for power and the socio-political aspirations involved there. It happens everyday in Kindergarten and a little shoot’em up/fist punching action never hurt anybody, especially when you watch Predator when you’re 08. First up is Rambo Volume One: A World Of Trouble, which takes a smattering of the original 65 episodes (only that many were produced) and has Rambo go to El Dorado, The Bronx, The Suez Canal, Las Vegas (to help out the locals, most likely), Tibet, and the deep, dark heart of Texas.
Secondly, we’ve got Rambo Volume Two: Enter The Dragon, where Rambo and his rag-tag group of guerillas deliver a mighty punch to the Asian population (just check out the cover) and have no regards to their actions. Battling magic never felt so good, as Rambo eschews political correctness in light of just kicking some ass, 2-D style.
Hee-yah and some leftovers with: absolutely nothing other than the animation boner you’ll receive.
This is a tough one, because on the one hand, I want to continue my unfunny reign of commentary on this weeks DVD tiles unabated, and on the other hand I don’t want to sound like an asshole if I don’t tread these waters lightly. I think I’ll bypass all of that and talk about the girl in the film, a subject with none of us can relate to, having had no contact with the opposite sex for quite some time. My fists are shaking. Furiously. "Michael Connolly is a young man in his early twenties who suffers from cerebral palsy; confined to a wheelchair, Michael’s speech is unintelligible to all but a handful of people, and his situation has made him shy and withdrawn as he spends his days at a home for the disabled in Dublin. One day, a new arrival moves in at the home — Rory O’Shea, a lad about Michael’s age who suffers from muscular dystrophy and can only use two fingers on one hand. This, however, hasn’t stopped Rory from developing a sharp tongue, a quick wit, a taste for alcohol, and the courage to put the moves on any women who crosses his path. In time, Rory and Michael are able to convince Eileen, director of the home, that they should be allowed to get an apartment on their own, and the boys use their stipend to rent a flat and hire an assistant to help with the tasks they can’t manage. Rory chooses Siobhan for the job, mainly because she’s blonde and pretty, and she soon becomes attracted to him; unfortunately, Michael has fallen in love with her, and this leads to a major rift between him and Rory that drives them apart." Originally titled Inside I’m Dancing (for the UK contingent), Rory O’Shea Was Here leaves no stone unturned in its quest to bring you some sort of message. The message of freedom, independence, and young poonanny.
Pine for some awesome aviator shades with: some outtakes, and alternate ending, and the theatrical trailer.
When the DVD cover says From The Writers Of Rounders, and the DVD in question is about poker, you’d better take notice. See, I really enjoy Rounders, simply because it’s a damn fine film, one in which I was enthralled from start to finish, with or without luck. The boys behind that film crafted something worthwhile and when they segue that into television, you get Tilt – The Complete First Season (CHUD’s DVD Review – Coming Soon). I also cannot play poker. So if you ever meet me at a Hold ‘Em Table, bet high and bet often. Chances are you’ll win. I’m very gullible and my poker face consists of squints, facial ticks, and intense flatulence the likes of which have never been seen since the Old Man In The Mountain fell to his doom. "Michael Madsen [is] Don "The Matador" Everest, the champion poker-playing "king of the table." Facing off against the Matador is Eddie Towne, a hot-shot player driven by revenge, and Clark Marcellin a young player out to de-throne the champ. Chris Bauer plays Lee Nickel, a Midwestern sheriff looking for his brother’s killer. Michael Murphy appears as Molloy, head of a casino-owning family. Kristin Lehman plays Miami, who has her eyes on the Matador." ESPN finally gets their grubby little paws into this new arena for them as they sneak into backrooms of various gambling halls and make sure they’re nice and drunk.
Tilt comes with: audio commentary by creator/producers Brain Koppelman and David Levien on the first episode, all 08 episodes plus and alternate series finale, a behind-the-scenes featurette, some deleted scenes, outtakes, auditions (no pressure or awkwardness there), On the Set with ESPN’s Mike & Mike, The 1998 World Series of Poker Final Table, and a virtual tour of the Colorado Casino.
The first name that attracted me to Gun – The Complete Six Film Anthology wasn’t Robert Altman or any other of the stellar cast. Nope, it was Remo Williams‘ himself, Fred Ward. Ward transcends all of those other names because he’s some prominently featured on line 05 after the Special Appearance By section, which oddly enough, has the market cornered on Ed Begley, Jr. and his hybrid car. Gun started out as a series of 06 one-hour short films that premiered on ABC before the Housewives took over, "comical, tragic, tawdry, and sometimes compelling tales, most of them involving murder, adultery, betrayal, and other sins and all of them triggered, driven, and sometimes resolved by the same handgun." Altman, along with his showrunners, manages a stellar cast that includes Daniel Stern (when not being Bushwhacked), The OLMOS™, Rowdy Randy Quaid, Sally Kellerman, and the asshole that is Christopher McDonald (Happy Gilmore confirms this). Episodes include: "Columbus Day", with James Gandolfini and Rosanna Arquette, where "a housewife drifts into an affair with an author suffering from writer’s block. Complicating matters is her overprotective husband, who owns a gun that, unbeknownst to him, could be used as evidence against a terrorist." In "All The President’s Woman", Altman brings us the tale of "womanizer Bill Johnson [who] is elected the new leader [of a golf club]. But though he’s now in charge at the club, he’s losing his grip on the many women he’s seeing." That episode is notable for the way Daryl Hannah chains herself to the course with her own intuition. Finally Ward and The OLMOS™ team-up in "Father John", where "A priest’s cynical nephew returns home for his uncle’s funeral. But his hero worship turns to intense curiosity when he discovers a large sum of money and a gun among his uncle’s possessions." It seems like vigilante justice when the series ends with a bang with the two finest actors of some strange generation.
Guns don’t kill people, I kill people – with: some text and photo galleries and an 08 page booklet chronicling the show.
I have never read the comics on which Man-Thing is based, so count me out of that loopy loop. I do know, however, that this is a Marvel/Lions Gate co-production from the director of The Lawnmower Man (which is ridiculous) and Virtuosity (which is a guilty pleasure of mine even though it’s horrendous). Supposedly the film starts out with a boom, allowing large bloodied breasts to fill the screen, and permeate all known believability with its actions. Did Spider-Man ever do this? Well, Raimi is a much better filmmaker for starters. "The Man-Thing himself was once a scientist, but after injecting himself with an untested serum in hopes of preventing it from falling into the wrong hands, he was unfortunately transformed into a mindless swamp beast who fatally burns those within whom he senses fear. When one of real-estate tycoon F.A. Schist’s crewmen is killed while developing the swamp for commercial use, it’s the Seminoles who are blamed, though they know that the real culprit is the Man-Thing, who mirrors the emotion of any human that crosses his path and acts accordingly — unfortunately, most people subjected to the sight of him react in sheer terror and are unceremoniously set aflame." Man-Thing is a straight-to-DVD film that features some actors I have never heard of, so rest assured, you’re probably going to get cheesy acting, horrendous CGI effects (like tentacles and various other flailing appendages), and enough smiles to last a lifetime of hyphenated titles of impending doom.
Look out for those flailing pants! – with: Spanish subtitles and bonus trailers. What a wealth of extras for you!
It seems like nary a month goes by without a Sasquatch film, so for June, it’s the Sasquatch Horror Triple Feature. Nick implored you to Sasquatch a while back (months and months ago), so this time, I can implore you to do the same, because we’re all hairy beasts when it comes down to it. I believe this legend started circa 1970-something as my uncle came down stairs one morning and was covered in chesty hair from toes to nose. My aunt promptly threw him out in the Green Mountains where he roamed the earth, searching for coffee and donuts. This quest then lead him through Canada and into the Pacific Northwest, where he suddenly became a prisoner of the grunge revolution. The first series of terror is Sasquatch: The Legend Of Bigfoot, which is just that. Scream at your leisure. Next up is The Snow Creature, where Bigfoot, who just needs some extra love and care, gets angry and takes it out on a group of unsuspecting peoples up in the northern country. Finally, in the made-for-TV Snow Beast, Mr. Foot is out and about courtesy of Joseph Stefano (writer of Psycho) who tells the tale of the Foot’s tendencies to get a little pissed off when some winter weather people disturb his sleep in Colorado. Notable for the appearances of Bo Stevenson (the man who was Walking Tall), who "muses over the "Bigfoot controversy" while soaking in a steaming outdoor pool" and Yvette Mimieux (Black Hole) who makes up 1/3 of a love triangle that is shattered when the ‘quatch make his mission to destroy and conquer at all costs.
Roar your way into my uncle’s home with: Nothing! Mono audio!
Bette Davis and Joan Crawford (or the Craw, as she has been known) had a very interesting time in Hollywood during its golden age. This would be a time in which most of you could care less about. Sadly enough, you’ve got to understand where you’ve come from to know where you’re going in regards to filmmaking and the like, so it’s only natural for most of you who fall asleep during B&W films to skip ahead and be merry with Man-Thing. Both women were Queens of their respective lots, Davis over at Warner Brothers and Crawford over at MGM. Neither of their paths appeared to cross at first, as both were ambiguous towards one another. The only problem being that Crawford’s star status started to wane and she fled her home studio for WB, hoping to make it big again. There, she then proceeded to muscle her way into Davis’ roles, her leading male co-stars, and towards the ultimate goal: dethroning Davis’ Queen stature. There’s a great book called Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud (buy it from CHUD!) if you’re curious to know more. As time passed and it wore on the two global stars, the feud grew stronger and stronger, culminating towards the filming of What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? (buy it from CHUD!) which is epic Grand Guignol filmmaking all the way down to the freak show of horrors it produces. That film is seriously strange, thoroughly demented, but highly recommended. Scary.
Meanwhile, WB brings out their big guns and pits two gigantically awesome boxed sets against one another. Slyly, we’ve got the Bette Davis Signature Collection (check out Eileen’s DVD Review here) and the Joan Crawford Signature Collection (My DVD Review – Coming Soon! …hopefully).
The Bette Davis Signature Collection is packed with some of her finest roles in her finest moments. The Star is centered around Bette’s fall from the heights of fame and her desire to achieve it all again. Sterling Hayden takes his cues from her and throws in his signature style of speaking, baby, and allows Bette’s film to strangely mirror that of Ms. Crawford’s meteoric rise-and-fall that happened a few times in her career. The Star‘s DVD Comes with: a new featurette How Real is The Star?, and the original theatrical trailer. Next up is Mr. Skeffington, "the film begins in 1914, with Bette Davis cast as vain, flighty society woman Fanny Trellis. Informed by Jewish-American financier Job Skeffington (Claude Rains) that her brother Trippy has stolen money to pay his gambling debts, Fanny marries Job, securing his promise that he won’t prosecute her thieving sibling. Despite Job’s oft-repeated belief that "a woman is only beautiful when she is loved," Fanny uses her coquettish beauty to flit indiscriminately from man to man. While on a sailing trip with her latest beau, Fanny comes down with diphtheria. The disease destroys her facial beauty, and before long the shallow Fanny is left completely alone." A movie with Claude Rains can’t be all-that bad (don’t quote me on this), but Eileen mentions that this is what acting is all about, kiddies. Mr. Skeffington‘s DVD comes with some skeetin’ scatin’ features like: an audio commentary by the film’s 98-year old director Vincent Sherman (yo!), a new featurette Mr. Skeffington: A Picture of Strength and the theatrical trailer.
Newly restored in a definite edition, Davis’ Dark Victory had critic Pauline Kael calling "this [film] shamelessly enjoyable, vintage Bette Davis weepie a "kitsch classic," and time hasn’t diminished its ability to give the tear ducts a good flushing." Here, Ms. Davis "plays a swinging socialite, living the fast life of booze, smokes, and–with the help of Humphrey Bogart as her Irish stableman–raising thoroughbred horses. When a brain tumor starts giving her headaches and eroding her vision, she falls in love with her surgeon, who grows more determined than ever to cure her. Davis gives one of her most vibrant performances, and her costars also include Ronald Reagan and Geraldine Fitzgerald." Bogart? Reagan? Is there a monkey somewhere in there? Bogart playing Irish? Intriguing. Dark Victory‘s DVD comes with: an audio commentary from Film Historian James Ursini and CNN film critic Paul Clinton, a new featurette 1939: Tough Competition for Dark Victory, and the original theatrical trailer.
One of my professors couldn’t stop talking about Now, Voyager, probably because it’s such a great film filled with one of Davis’ most spectacular performances. I am enthralled because Claude Rains is back and in full-force. He’s quite the character. "Bette Davis stars as Charlotte Vale, a dowdy, repressed woman who, overwhelmed by her domineering mother, is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She finds help at a sanitarium from a kind psychiatrist (Claude Rains), who turns her into a beautiful, confident woman. As a new person, she takes a pleasure cruise, where she meets Jerry (Paul Henreid), an architect trapped in an unhappy marriage, saddled with a troubled daughter. The two fall in love, but, of course, the romance is doomed. Yet their paths cross on occasion, and, despite their feelings, Charlotte finds satisfaction in helping Jerry’s depressed child." Eileen and I both agree that Now, Voyager is a great love story, and something worthwhile. What that is, I don’t know. In all seriousness, I do, but I’m not telling. DVD features include: Max Steiner Scoring Session Music Cues, Cast Career Highlights, and the theatrical trailer.
Finally we come to The Letter (check out Jason’s DVD Review right here), which was previously released and now has been slapped into this package for purposes of ultimate cohesiveness (good job WB!). Davis’ big round orbs scared the crap out of Jason, so feel free to send him photos upon photos! Kidding! "In the opening sequence of The Letter, director William Wyler delivers a primer on film directing: at a rubber plantation, in the tropical funk of a Malaysian night, the heavy stillness is suddenly broken by shots… and a woman with a gun, descending a staircase. She is the wife of the plantation owner, and the dead man is, ahem, not her husband. Holding the gun so securely is Bette Davis, in one of her greatest performances." William Wyler always knew how to get great performances out of people, and this film is no exception. Wyler’s directorial stamp may be muted, but he’s a master craftsman who has always understood good filmmaking and what audiences wanted. The Letter‘s Special Features include: the recently discovered alternate ending sequence, some audio-only bonuses: 4/21/41 Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Davis, Marshall, and Stevenson and 3/6/44 Lux Radio Theater adaptation starring Davis and Marshall, and the original theatrical trailer.
Joan Crawford’s face has something so strange about it. It’s magnetic. Eclectic even. When watching her in B&W with the conjunction of her high-lighting styles and uber gobs of makeup, it’s interesting to see her facial features take on this ethereal quality. Time forgets her wrinkles, her lips, her cheekbones and her face looks whiter than white. Chaplin-esque. Close, but not quite. The Joan Crawford Signature Collection brings all of these instances into the fray, and allows the viewer to get an intensive cross-section of Crawford’s great performances and well-known hits. In Humoresque, John Garfield plays a virtuoso violinist who gets involved with Crawford’s man-eating ways. A wrench is thrown into the mix when Crawford accidentally falls in love with him and the roles are suddenly flopped. A student becomes a master. Humoresque has some great sweeping shots and a ton of excellent music, credited to many factors, the top being Franz Waxman and his aural genius. The DVD comes with: a new featurette The Music of Humoresque and the theatrical trailer.
Possessed is where "we first meet Joan Crawford, star of the moody flashbackfest Possessed, wandering aimlessly through the city streets, moaning "David….David." She goes to pieces in public and is rushed to the mental ward, where a team of psychiatrists try to find out who she is and where she’s been. Who she is is a practical nurse, hired by Raymond Massey to care for Massey’s invalid wife. While going about her duties, Crawford renews her acquaintance with an old flame, architect Van Heflin. Though Heflin is indifferent, Crawford is still crazy for the man." Van Heflin sounds like a name Stephen Sommers might not want to get near, although he would make a good Bond villain name. Maybe he’d even make a good middle name as well. Sounds very stout and authoritative. Possessed‘s DVD comes with: a packed-to-the-gills audio commentary by Film Historian Drew Casper, a new featurette: Possessed: The Quintessential Film Noir, and the theatrical trailer.
I love the cover art for The Damned Don’t Cry. Crawford, leaning forward, lips out, mouth extended appears as one of those fast talking dames that hams up the entire joint. I can see her yelling "call me cheap?" because her body language says it all, cocked slightly off-center, eyes engrossed in her stare. It’s such fun. "A woman’s desire to rise above her drab lower middle-class life take her down the road to destruction in this gripping crime melodrama. It all began when she became frustrated by her humble life in a squalid factory town. This distraught woman abandons her old life to take a job where she meets an exceptional, but dull as dishwater accountant. He is a bit spineless and so allows the woman to convince him to get involved with a powerful gangster. Though she had promised to marry the accountant, she reneges and becomes the illicit moll of the married gangster. Wanting her to be a bit more elegant so he can pass her off as a Texas heiress to his west-coast rival, the gangster hires an impoverished socialite to teach her social graces. Soon she appears as an elegant, cultured woman. Still, despite her sophisticated exterior, she is conniving and ruthless inside and tries to double-cross both her new lover and his rival." The DVD features include: an audio commentary by 98-year old director (driving this point home, as this guy has lead a seriously long life alongside Imhotep) Vincent Sherman (who -gasp!- directed Bette Davis!), a new featurette: The Crawford Formula: Real and Reel, and the original theatrical trailer.
The Women is going to be remade (I believe they have already shot the film, or are in the process), so while you’re at it, check out George Cukor’s original! "Cukor, Hollywood’s legendary "woman’s director," had his hands full with the all-female cast of this 1939 film adaptation of the Clare Boothe play. The story finds a group of catty, competitive friends destroying reputations at social gatherings. The dialogue sparkles, Joan Crawford’s performance as a husband stealer is still a classic, the film looks wonderful in Cukor’s hands, and the Technicolor fashion-show scene is a one-of-a-kind Hollywood experience." Cukor is well-known for being an actor’s director, so The Women makes the experience even more great and interesting for it’s over-the-top ending. I couldn’t believe it, consider the strong female characters Cukor and Co. produced throughout the film, but such as the social taboos of that time. The Women‘s DVD includes: Romance on Celluloid documentaries "From the Ends of the Earth" and "Hollywood: Style Center of the World", an alternate black-and-white fashion show sequence with different footage, some scoring session music cues, and theatrical trailers of The Women and the musical remake The Opposite Sex.
Finally we have Mildred Pierce, one of Crawford’s most well-known roles and Alexander Taylor’s pick for his recent UCLA screening of what inspired him. "For a full dose of pure, unfiltered Joan Crawford, look no further than this slab of scorching film noir. Crawford is in her element as the heroine of James M. Cain’s pulp-fiction classic, a ditched wife and mother who is forced to become a waitress. On the strength of Crawford’s steely willpower (and maybe those intimidating wide-wing shoulder pads), she constructs an empire of eateries, only to be disappointed by her rotten daughter (Ann Blyth) and a ferret-faced new husband (Zachary Scott). Director Michael Curtiz (Casablanca) whips up a storm of atmosphere, and the script is a series of tartly written exchanges." Mildred Pierce is one of those quintessential films, and the DVD comes repackaged for this set with: the acclaimed feature length documentary Joan Crawford: The Ultimate Movie Star, and a Crawford theatrical trailer gallery.
Robert Bresson’s style of filmmaking was to strip everything down and make it leaner-than-lean. His prime rib was cut from the finest meats available and his adept understanding of human emotions is unmatched among his peers. His harsh view of the world is notable because it rings truth, it never feels preached or thrown upon you. The situations he places you in are entirely uncomfortable and downright depressing. His film Mouchette is the most depressing film I have ever seen and almost made me want to just go to sleep for weeks and not do much else. It’s heartbreaking and tragic and a masterpiece. I am still sad when I think about it, much like Bring It On Again, but with an infinitely better film. Unfortunately, we have to wait for those, but in the meantime the wonderful folks at Criterion have me frothing at the mouth with Au Hasard Balthazar: Criterion Collection (Spine No. 297). Balthazar invokes many reactions. Several of you might be bored by it’s tedious plotting (like Pauline Kael) and be thrown off by its harsh look at life. If you’re like me, then you’ll be profoundly affected by the tale of the donkey Balthazar as he’s passed from owner-to-owner and finds himself in both loving and the cruelest situations imaginable. The film "follows a much-abused donkey, Balthazar, whose life strangely parallels that of his owner, Marie. A beast of burden suffering the sins of man, Balthazar nevertheless nobly accepts his fate. Through Bresson’s unconventional approach to composition, sound, and narrative, this seemingly simple story becomes a moving religious parable of purity and transcendence." Without causing most of us to start weeping uncontrollably, I’ll say that the film is worthwhile of anyone’s time and money. Consider it!
The Special Edition includes: a video interview with film scholar Donald Richie, "Un metteur en ordre: Robert Bresson," a 1966 French TV program about the film featuring Bresson, Jean-Luc Godard, Louis Malle, and members of Au Hasard Balthazar‘s cast and crew, a new essay by Bresson scholar James Quandt, and the original theatrical trailer.
You should care who Ernst Lubitsch is, partly because he’s one of the great comedic geniuses to ever work in films. His dialogue pricks, stings, and causes rights of passage so intense, no one is immune. Unless you’re a spineless wallopy cad. His film Heaven Can Wait (really only sharing the title with the lesser Warren Beatty film) was completed during his run of unparalleled success in the 1940’s (which includes the masterworks To Be Or Not To Be and Shop Around The Corner). Lubitsch would perish from this good Earth following a heart attack some 04 years later, so it’s almost safe to say this was one of his last great films. "Following his demise, the aristocratic Henry Van Cleve (Ameche), having no hope of Paradise, betakes himself "where all his life so many people had told him to go." Hell, or at least its antechamber, would appear to be a luxury hotel in neoclassical mode, and–this is a Lubitsch movie, after all–His Satanic Excellency (Laird Cregar) is a perfect gentleman and the most gracious of hosts. To establish his credentials for spending eternity there, Henry begins to narrate a life which, though lacking any notable crimes, "has been one continuous misdemeanor."" Lubitsch brings forth his great examples of wittiness, comedic timing, and ultimate grace that helps establish him as one of the greats. Make sure to check this one out.
Heaven Can Wait‘s DVD comes with: a new video conversation between film critics Molly Haskell and Andrew Sarris, Creativity with Bill Moyers: A Portrait of Samson Raphaelson (1982), a 30-minute program exploring the screenwriter’s life and career, Audio seminar with Raphaelson and film critic Richard Corliss recorded at the Museum of Modern Art in 1977, Lubitsch home piano recordings, a new essay by film scholar William Paul, and the original theatrical trailer.
To Buy, Or Not To Buy
Many studios are well-known for their double-dips (or multiple bites of the apple) of their various DVDs in their catalog, so it was only a matter of time for Universal (a repeat offender) to announce the Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition. Now if you’ve already purchased The Anniversary Collector’s Edition (which came out in 2000) you might feel a little ambivalent towards purchasing an edition for which not much has changed. Is it worth it to plunk down your hard earned cash for Jaws with the unedited two hour Laurent Bouzereau documentary, a never-before seen interview with maestro Steven Spielberg, and a commemorative booklet, all spread out over 02 bite-sized discs? Yes and no. The transfer is still the same, using the same anamorphic imagery and the same use of Dolby Digital/DTS/Stereo sound as the previous 200 edition. There’s still the same deleted scenes and outtakes, production photos and storyboards, as well as the same bonus footage you might have already originally purchased. If you’re feeling a bit courageous and stupid, you might want to rent the DVD to see if it’s worth upgrading. I hear that the unedited documentary is fascinating, although the newly never-before-seen Spielberg interview doesn’t reveal all-that much. Frankly, I don’t want it to, and I’m fine that it doesn’t. I enjoy attempting to figure out how they did the things they accomplished on their own, without their help. Jaws is a bona fide masterpiece, a terrific yarn of a killer shark and just a plain spectacular film that is way-too enjoyable for it’s own good. So, I suppose it all boils down to your love of Jaws. If you’re a fan the likes of which we’ve yet to see, then this edition will be worthwhile for the new documentary, as long as you can sell off your other copy. If you’re a causal fan, maybe it’s worth your time renting the film and then figuring it out on your own. Far be it from me to tell you what to do. I can’t influence friends, I just alienate them. The end result is that I just wish these announcements would be made beforehand, as most of us can’t afford to keep shelling out money time in and again for the same edition of the same film with one or two extra features. It’s an alarming trend we’re seeing more often, and I hope it gets reigned in.
Jaws‘ kids were on that beach, Marty, so check these out: The Making of Jaws – For the first time ever on DVD, viewers will get a complete glimpse into the making of Jaws with this 2-hour documentary, From The Set – An insider’s look at life on the set of Jaws, featuring a never-before-available interview with Steven Spielberg, and the Jaws Archives – Take a peek inside the Jaws archives including storyboards, production photos, and marketing materials, as well as a special segment on the Jaws phenomenon.
These! These also come out on Tuesday! Check out Nathan’s DVD Review of Carried Away (click here).