Widget Image
 

Blu-ray Reviews for March 27, 2018

Selections from this week’s Blu-ray releases can be found below in this ongoing weekly summary of reviews. Click on any of the following titles to navigate directly to that review. This week’s releases include: Shout! Factory’s deluxe reissue of the cult meta-slasher classic Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon; Shout! Factory’s other deluxe reissue, this time of the greatest movie of all time, The ‘Burbs; Twilight Time’s harrowing and excruciating The Incident; the Burt Reynolds tribute The Last Movie Star; Vinegar Syndrome’s utterly befuddling Liquid Sky; Twilight Time’s release of Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery; and Kino Lorber’s release of the ridiculous James Glickenhaus action flick The Soldier. A list of other titles also available this week, which include some additional releases from Twilight Time and Arrow Video, can be found at the end.


Distributor: Shout! Factory

You know legendary maniacs Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and Freddy Krueger. Now meet Leslie Vernon, the next great psycho-slasher. Nathan Baesel (Invasion) stars as Vernon, a good-natured killing machine who invites a documentary film crew to follow him as he reminisces with his murder mentor (Scott Wilson, The Walking Dead), evades his psychiatrist/nemesis (Robert Englund, A Nightmare On Elm Street), deconstructs Freudian symbolism, and meticulously plots his upcoming slaughter spree. But when the actual carnage begins, where do you draw the line between voyeuristic thrills, mythic evil, and good old-fashioned slasher movie mayhem?



Rightfully so, 1996’s Scream gets a lot of credit for being the first post-’80s slasher craze to acknowledge sub-genres tropes, stereotypes, and mythologies that had spent a decade + accumulating and solidifying. That it managed to do all this while also being a solid slasher that could stand on its own feet was a magical feat achieved by director Wes Craven and screenwriter Kevin Williamson. Ten years later would come the release of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, a film festival darling that took horror audiences by storm. Following in the same footsteps, Behind the Mask was another loving ode to the slasher films of yesteryear, but this time being more on the nose than its hip ‘90s predecessor. Where Scream would occasionally say the name “Freddy” or have Halloween playing on a television in the background during a party, Behind the Mask would actually join all of those film franchises together in one universe while also existing within it, and it does so by looping in another horror element that would postdate Scream by three years: the faux-documentary gimmick as reinvigorated by 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. Shot to look like a documentary, Behind the Mask examines its subject, Leslie Vernon, a serial killer in training who strives to be as well known and infamous as his inspirations Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, “Mike and Chucky.”

If Christopher Guest had applied his mockumentary forte to the slasher genre, it would look a lot like Behind the Mask. It’s a parody, a satire, an ode, a dark comedy, a light comedy (sort of), and an old school slasher flick all in one. Its from this nutso combination where it derives most of its strength, but which also leaves it feeling somewhat at odds with its nature during the final act.

Right off the bat, it’s obviously a slasher fan’s dream to see the different worlds of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Child’s Play (and more, I’m sure) existing in the same landscape. The very streets on which Nightmare and Halloween were shot appear in cameos (along with a very brief appearance from Kane Hodder, aka Jason in several Friday the 13th sequels, as the newest and creepiest resident of beleaguered Nancy Thompson’s former home). Robert Englund plays a small part very much in the Dr. Loomis mold of Halloween (whose character name, Doc Halloran, is a direct nod to The Shining) with Zelda Rubinstein also appearing in a pint-sized role as a pint-sized librarian. As you can see, writer David J. Stieve and co-writer/director Scott Glosserman are wearing their inspirations and it results in an often clever and often amusing horror/comedy that is proudly affiliating itself with an era and specific franchises birthed during that era that had previously been written off as silly and dismissible. Scream clearly adores Halloween but merely mentions other infamous titles matter-of-factly; Behind the Mask embraces every bloody installment of every bloody franchise with equal aplomb without passing judgment on those titles not as critically well regarded as others. (Of course, I would never take away Craven’s desire to include a line in Scream about the first Nightmare being good and scary “but the rest sucked.”)

Behind the Mask loses a little steam during the final act as it drops the documentary approach and switches to a straight narrative, losing much of the quirky humor that derived from said approach. Don’t get me wrong, the film remains smart, as the film’s remaining victims look to the rules established by the slasher genre to figure out how they can survive the night, but without the more amusing humor, it then feels like Behind the Mask is taking the events it had spent most of its time sending up just a little too seriously. It’s obvious this was by design, cemented by one scene in which one of our supporting characters meets his bloody end at Leslie’s hands, but who tries to reason with him by telling him over and over, “Come on man, it’s me,” as if suggesting their prior friendship should be enough to neutralize Leslie’s murderous wants and goals. Well, it’s not, and it’s actually a really conflicting scene, because up to this point, Leslie had been a fun, well-mannered, and even lovable character whose goals of which the audience was very much aware, but whom they all liked, anyway. With him now being a dedicated mass murder, the change in his character is as abrupt as the change in tone. Again, this was intended and not some kind of accident, but upon my first viewing of Behind the Mask ten years ago, I felt conflicted about it, and I still feel conflicted today. And if there’s one thing a slasher shouldn’t be, it’s conflicting.

Despite that, Behind the Mask is an easy recommendation, a solid addition to the slasher sub-genre, and a love letter to the genre as a whole. Fun cameos, respectable performances, and some decent (but restrained) gore gags only add to its enjoyment. Glosserman has been talking up a sequel for years, and like all of Leslie’s murderous and masked colleagues, hopefully he can transcend from one-hit wonder and cross over into successful franchise territory.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW HD Master From The 2K Intermediate
  • NEW Joys And Curses – Interviews With Actors Angela Goethals, Ben Pace, And Co-writer/Co-producer David Stieve
  • NEW Before The Mask: The Comic Book – An Interview With Comic Book Artist Nathan Thomas Milliner
  • Audio Commentary With Co-writer/Director Scott Glosserman, Moderated By Filmmakers Adam Green And Joe Lynch
  • Audio Commentary With Nathan Baesel, Angela Goethals, Britain Spelling, And Ben Pace
  • The Making Of Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon Featurette
  • The Casting Of Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon Featurette
  • Deleted And Extended Scenes
  • Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Shout! Factory

Tom Hanks stars in The ‘Burbs, a comedy about a suburbanite whose plans for a peaceful vacation at home are disturbed by a creepy new family on the block. Much to the disappointment of his wife (Carrie Fisher), Ray Peterson (Hanks) and his three neighbors set out to investigate the next-door residence after they begin to observe strange happenings. Set in an average neighborhood that is anything but ordinary, The ‘Burbs blends slapstick comedy and spine-thrilling mystery and is superbly directed by cult filmmaker Joe Dante (Piranha, Gremlins, Matinee, The Howling).

Next to The Blues Brothers and Ghostbusters, The Burbs is probably my favorite all-time comedy. It’s one that I’ve been watching and laughing at since I was a kid — right around the time when I was also developing my love for the horror genre, which made The Burbs feel like an ideal way to also get in my comedy kicks. The script, naturally, conveys that blending of genres (make no mistake, though — this is much more comedy than horror, with the slightest twang of a western), but it was also thanks to the sensibilities of director Joe Dante, who has worked in every genre there is, but who has also directed some bonafide horror classics (the Gremlins films, The Howling). Because of this, and aside from the obvious morbidness and murderousness of the plot, The Burbs is a Rear Window parody rife with nods and homages to horror titles from The Exorcist to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, The Sentinel, and the underrated Race with the Devil. (Tom Hanks’ character, Ray Peterson, even suffers a nightmare straight out of that latter satanic thriller.)

Hanks, Rick Ducommun (who didn’t quite get along during filming), and Bruce Dern make for an absolutely wonderful and hilarious trio — Hanks’ Ray is the dry and glib straight man slowly sucked into the mystery, Ducommun essays childlike immaturity with next-door neighbor Art, and Dern plays, basically, your wacky conservative uncle — a gun-loving military nutjob with an all-fatigue wardrobe — and he’s a fucking delight. Dern, especially, wraps his limber arms around his character of Mark Rumsfield, clearly having a great time playing such a broad archetype. (The actor has mellowed during his later years, keeping closer to dramatic roles, although he did appear in another Dante effort: 2009’s The Hole.) Corey Feldman also appears as a sleuthing neighbor, rejoining Dante after Gremlins, and basically playing the Greek chorus for the audience. Wendy Schaal as Bonnie Rumsfield plays the most undervalued member of the cast, often deserving big laughs that go unnoticed, especially during the neighbors’ intensely awkward first meeting with the mysterious Klopeks. Her alarmed or mystified reactions to Hans Klopek are some of my favorite scenes in The Burbs’ entirety.

The Burbs is one of those rare pre-90s comedies that never feels dated, and everything that was funny about it thirty years ago is still just as funny today. (The frantic zoom-in/zoom-out of Hanks and Ducommun screaming at a human leg bone, which purposely goes on for just a hair too long, is still one of the best gags any film has ever had — period.) And there’s every kind of comedy on display: slapstick, sight gags, and — my favorite — the surreal and the absurd. The Burbs is at its best when it’s almost self-aware, such as the aforementioned leg bone scene, or when our characters recognize the sheer madness of the conflict in which they are engaged. (“I’ve never seen that. I’ve never seen someone drive their garbage down to the street and beat the hell out of it with a stick. I…I’ve never seen that.) Dante, who has built a career on horror-comedies, uses perfect timing and dramatic camera angles to accentuate the more amusing aspects of the script’s concept. At one point, when Art and Mark appear on the driveway of Ray’s house to collect him so they can continue their spying on the creepy new neighbors, Ray’s wife, Carol (a wonderful Carrie Fisher), tells them from an upper balcony that Ray won’t be joining them. Dante shoots this scene from both perspectives — from Carol looking down on them, and Art and Mark having to look up. As intended, it presents Carol as the mother figure, telling two neighborhood “kids” that her son isnt allowed to come out and play. And for good measure, Art kicks the ground as the two walk off in disappointment. Meanwhile, Ray cowers in the background half obscured by a doorway. If The Burbs were to be directed by anyone else other than Dante (and okay, maybe John Landis), then it shouldn’t even bother existing. Its DNA is too intertwined with Dante’s ease at this kind of humor and his willingness to poke his audience in the ribs and say, “Isn’t this just a gas?”

Hanks had a tremendous run in the ‘80s with a string of successful comedies, including Bachelor Party, Big, and The Money Pit (I’ve still never seen Splash — sorry), but The Burbs remains the most underrated. A combination of its somewhat morbid content and its offbeat humor has prevented it from being as celebrated as Hanks’ more obvious titles, which is a damn shame, but new collector’s editions of films like these only prove their enduring legacy and offer the chance to become reacquainted with yet another lost classic.

This was one of my most anticipated Blu-ray releases of the year and I’m glad it’s finally here.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The main supplement on this release is the feature-length making-of doc “There Goes the Neighborhood,” which was ported over from Arrow Video’s 2014 Region B release. Even though it’s recycled material, it still obviously looks newly produced and it’s an exhaustive examination, which could doubtfully have been bested by a new retrospective. Not nearly enough of The Burbs’ cast appear (no Hanks, Ducommun [RIP], Dern, or even Fisher [sigh, RIP]), but enough participants appear for it to feel substantial, and everyone helps to fill in the gaps with their recollections of the production, including those missing from the doc. (Feldman comes off as quite the egotist, unless that’s just me.)

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • NEW 2017 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
  • NEW Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Editor Marshall Harvey, And Director Of Photography (Additional Scenes) John Hora
  • Audio Commentary With Writer Dana Olsen, Moderated By Author Calum Waddell
  • “There Goes The Neighborhood: The Making Of The ‘Burbs” – Includes Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gaines, And Wendy Schaal, Director Of Photography Robert M. Stevens, And Production Designer James H. Spencer
  • Alternate Ending
  • Original Workprint From Joe Dante’s Archive (Includes Deleted And Extended Scenes)
  • Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery
  • Stills And Posters Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Twilight Time (limited to 3,000 units)

The Incident (1967), directed by Larry Peerce and written by Nicholas E. Baehr, is an excoriating look at the average New Yorker’s failure to get involved even when confronted by the most egregious and unfair form of sudden violence. Shot in brilliant quasi-documentary style by Gerald Hirschfeld, it focuses on a nightmare subway trip and a group of passengers terrorized by a pair of punks (Tony Musante and Martin Sheen, giving stunning early performances); the victims include veterans (Thelma Ritter, Jack Gilford, Jan Sterling, Gary Merrill) and an array of newcomers (Beau Bridges, Ruby Dee, Brock Peters, Robert Fields, Donna Mills).

There is a very real psychological phenomenon known as the bystander effect, which deduces that the more people present during an event which would normally require intervention to diffuse a violent or traumatic conflict, the less likely that anyone will do so. Basically, if two people witness something where intervention would be necessary, those two are more likely to intervene than if ten or fifteen people were at the same scene. The idea is that the feeling of responsibility for coming to someone’s aid becomes dispersed amongst all those who are present, and with everyone waiting for another individual to make the attempt, no one ultimately will. (Yay mankind!)

The Incident, which plays out as a bleak and uncomfortable combination of 12 Angry Men and The Taking of Pelham 123, is a cinematic embodiment of this phenomenon and a fascinating character study about fear, anger, racism, and loneliness. Like a Frank Weegee photograph come to life, the black and white photography not only captures the seediness and despair of a late ‘60s-era New York, it also provides every single character with an implied backstory about his or her experiences. Before they end up on that fateful subway train for an excruciating real-time 45-minute ride, we meet every single character. None of them are at particular high points in their lives: many are angry; some are victimized by their husband or wife or lover; some are excruciatingly lonely and looking for intimacy; and some are in a bad way and need help from someone waiting for them on the other side of that subway train ride. These characters bring their backstories and personalities to that subway ride and colors how they will react to the conflict unfolding within. 

Director Larry Peerce and writer Nicholas Baehr made a very New York film that is not complimentary of New York. Every single character is in a bad way; no one is happy. People aren’t just being victimized by two hoods on a train (with two audacious and excruciating performances by Martin Sheen and Tony Musante); they’re being victimized within their relationships, or by society at large, or by their own lives or desires. And on that subway train, some riders speak out against their harassers, begging them or even ordering them to stop. But some don’t. Some ride in silence, shying away from their harassers or even falling for their mock empathy. How some of these riders react to their torturers mirror how they reacted to their own partners before stepping onto that train. Likewise, those riders who exerted dominance over their own partners were soon dominated by one of the two hoods. It’s bloodcurdling yet fascinating to watch unfold — like a car wreck on the side of the road, only the audience sees it unfold in real time.

As the tension on the train car increases, the audience wants it to stop — would, also, like some of its characters, beg for it to stop. And an idea begins to creep in that there are a handful of young and able-bodied men on that train who could easily, if working together, disarm the two punks. But no one ever has that idea. Sure, as one after another they are victimized and terrorized, they trade awkward glances to other riders with pleading eyes, hoping for someone to intervene. But no one does. Everyone cowers, even behind those making empty threats to call the police — somehow, on a subway train, traveling 60 miles an hour.

For those who have never before experienced The Incident, it sneaks up on you like a sucker punch to the gut, sending you to your knees. It’s ugly, and bleak, and very cynical, and when it’s over, you walk away feeling as if you, yourself, were on that same subway train. There is very little physical violence used, beyond the very opening and the very closing of the film; throughout, however, it’s very psychologically violent, and doesn’t make for an easy watch. Those with strong stomachs and an affinity for challenging cinema need to ride this train. Those who don’t need the reminder that in this world it’s every man for himself need to get off at the next stop.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Isolated Music & Effects Track
  • Audio Commentary with Director Larry Peerce and Film Historian Nick Redman
  • Original Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Lionsgate

Comedy legends Burt Reynolds and Chevy Chase star in a hilarious and heartwarming journey following one man’s achievement over a lifetime. An aging screen icon (Reynolds) gets lured into accepting an award at a rinky-dink film festival in Nashville, Tennessee, sending him on a hilarious fish-out-of-water adventure and an unexpectedly poignant journey into his past.

The release of The Last Movie Star, about a fictionalized version of legendary actor Burt Reynolds facing old age and irrelevancy, comes somewhat fresh on the heels of Hero, a film about a fictionalized version of legendary actor Sam Elliott facing old age and irrelevancy. But this idea of an older man (playing an actor or otherwise) facing mortality and the loss of youth has been ongoing for at least the last decade plus: Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt; Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler; Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. Hell, I’ll even throw in Jean-Claude Van Damme’s self-referential turn in JCVD, in which he played a fictionalized version of his actual self. When it comes to The Last Movie Star, comparisons to films like these and how they are handled are inevitable. Even in the aforementioned films where those older gentlemen aren’t playing actual actors, they are still playing versions of themselves in which they embody characters rapidly aging and looking back on their lives with regret and examining their legacy. Because of this, and especially because we can see how meta concepts like these can actually be played fairly straight without descending into parody, The Last Movie Star suffers.

Essentially, The Last Movie Star works much better as a warm tribute to Burt Reynolds’ career and legacy in Hollywood than it does as a film. That his character’s name is Vic Edwards is the most telling of this: The Last Movie Star was made more with heart and adoration than brains. And there are a handful of sequences that very cleverly and very poignantly use footage from some of Reynolds’ earlier and more well regarded films, which aid in making The Last Movie Star’s intent so powerful. That’s intent, mind you. And director Adam Rifkin (who has an oddly horror genre-friendly background, having directed Psycho Cop 2) is due an immense amount of credit and kudos for writing this film solely for Reynolds. As he explains in the featurette included on this disc, either Burt Reynolds would agree to appear in this film, or the script would end up in the bottom of a drawer, never to be produced. If you ever see The Last Movie Star for yourself (and honestly, you should), you’ll be able to see why this wasn’t just a film about an aging star, but an actual tribute specifically aimed at Reynolds himself.

Reynolds, to be expected, is excellent to watch, though it takes him a bit to settle into the surreal role of playing himself while also not playing himself. The script stumbles along the way, putting Reynolds’ Edwards in broad and somewhat cliche situations. You get a taste of the script’s bluntless in the opening scene, which has Edwards at the vet putting his dog to sleep due to his old age and a failing body; and later, he buys prune juice at a supermarket and leers over the body of a gorgeous woman three times his junior…as she totally ignores him. And then there’s the catalyst for Edwards’ emotional journey into his past, which comes thanks to a miscommunication of what kind of film festival (spearheaded by Clark Duke and Boyhood’s Ellar Coltrane) to which he thought he was being invited. This particular catalyst feels like it belongs in a screwball comedy, which The Last Movie Star certainly isn’t. Additionally, pitting him against a young, spunky teen girl (Ariel Winter) echoes actual films Reynolds did in his past that are arguably included in Edwards “regrets” he expresses in the film (cough cough, Cop and a Half). It again seems like another broad plot gimmick to find ways in having Reynolds/Edwards examine his mortality while engaging in occasional “ha ha, old people” humor, which can occasionally feel just as forced and unnatural as how Coltrane claps at the end (I’m laughing as I type this — seriously, see the film and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about).

I’ll be honest when I say that while I respect Burt Reynolds’ place in Hollywood history, he was never an actor I thought much about beyond his appearance in a handful of films I quite like (Boogie Nights, for one, which the actor despises, despite the Oscar nomination his performance derived). What really made me appreciate the actor a bit more was the featurette included on this release which has director Rifkin talking about the genesis of the project and how much of the physical portrayal of Edwards was actually Reynolds — right down to his hunched over a cane and his body ravaged with physical pain. I hadn’t seen Reynolds in anything in years, and at first I wrote off Edwards’ emaciated, slow moving form as Reynolds coming on a bit too strong to accentuate his old form. But no — that wasn’t an act, and it honestly made me a little sad upon hearing that. And when compared to the clips of him used from his earlier films, or yucking it up with Johnny Carson, and seeing him young and vibrant and happy (looking), it made me even sadder.

The Last Movie Star ultimately proves to be a conflicting film — enjoyable and emotional because it gives you the warm and fuzzies toward the legendary actor, his career, and his place in film history, but pedestrian and broad because the film can feel schmaltzy, occasionally manipulative, and lacking the kind of intellect as presented in similar films of the same introspective bent. Simply put, in Hollywood terms, Burt Reynolds is a hero, but in film terms, The Last Movie Star is no Hero.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • “The Best Is Yet to Come: Adam Rifkin of The Last Movie Star” Featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Director Adam Rifkin
  • Deleted Scenes


Distributor: Vinegar Syndrome (reissue of previously limited edition; street date is April 24)

Margaret (Anne Carlisle) is a fashion model with dreams of stardom, whose alter ego and rival, Jimmy (also Carlisle), abuses and takes advantage of her to satisfy his rampant drug addiction. Unknown to them, tiny, invisible aliens have landed on the roof above the squalor in which they live and begin killing anyone Margaret has sex with to feed on their pleasure giving neurotransmitters. All the while, a German scientist attempts to capture and study them. Hailed by Time Magazine as ‘a two hour act of imagination,’ Slava Tsukerman’s LIQUID SKY is an underground masterpiece of avant-garde science fiction filmmaking. Set against the visual majesty of New York’s early 80s New Wave scene, and filled with arresting cinematography by Yuri Neyman, along with an acclaimed original soundtrack, Vinegar Syndrome proudly brings this quintessential midnight movie to Blu-ray, newly restored in 4k from its original 35mm camera negative.

Before this reviewer’s copy ended up on my doorstep, I’d previously tried watching Liquid Sky as a mere civilian. I think I lasted fifteen minutes. Even knowing about its legendarily insane reputation, I was still utterly unprepared.  It was too out there for me, and this is coming from someone who enjoys “out there” more than the norm. But this isn’t the kind of out there as seen in the works of, say, David Lynch, where the first act plays out relatively sane before Lynch starts muddying the waters. Lost Highway, for instance, makes perfect sense until the second act where Bill Pullman falls asleep and wakes up as Balthazar Getty (or does he?). Liquid Sky doesn’t have that kind of time and gleefully embraces insanity from the very first frame. You might be able to take a step back and look at its overall plot and figure you pretty much know what happened, but for minutes at a time, the action unfolds in little Lynchian moments where you have no idea what’s going to happen from one moment to the next.

Having successfully made it all the way through this time around, I’m still as flabbergasted and entirely unsure of what to say as I was based on those sole fifteen minutes during my first aborted attempt. Liquid Sky is bizarre. Defiantly bizarre. Its synopsis suggests a Fred Olen Ray or Jim Wynorski softcore B-movie about alien babes fornicating with dudes wearing Billy Idol’s sunglasses, but nooooo. Liquid Sky is much more than that. It’s beyond that. And it’s way beyond typical genre cinema.

An easy explanation for all this would call it an allegory for sexual identity, sexual nature, and drug abuse. Fairly, those are all broad themes explored within. By film’s end, however, it’s mystifying how it all comes together to present an easily digestible “point.”

Liquid Sky screams the ‘80s, from its very Bowie-inspired character design to the pastels and neons to the electronically synthesized (and after a while, very repetitive and somewhat irritating) musical score. If you know your Australian cinema (and this ain’t), there’s an inherently Brian Trenchard-Smith directorial flair to the whole thing, an Australian filmmaker perhaps best known for Dead End Drive-In. Like that film, the characters of Liquid Sky are exaggerated to cartoon effect, and everything exists in such a fantastical environment (purposely lacking an adequate “why” of it all) that by the conclusion rolls around, it will have felt less like a film and more like an experience.

Liquid Sky is easily dismissable as ‘80s goofballism, but it’s also challenging and unique and fiercely independent. It’s not something to watch solely as some kind of silly sci-fi B-movie; as someone who often watches cinema ironically, I can’t quite put Liquid Sky into that mold. It is exactly as it intended to be; there’s not a patch of irony to be found. It’s not quite unclassifiable, but I’m not going to be the one who tries to catalog it. As usual, Vinegar Syndrome’s release of yet another obscure title is top notch; picture and sound are fantastic, and the supplements are immense. I’d be extremely reticent to recommend this as a blind-buy, although for those willing to take the plunge, I’d imagine those who were fascinated by what they saw would immediately want to dive into the supplements for the answer to that burning question: “what the hell were they thinking?”

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Newly scanned and restored in 4k from the 35mm original negative
  • Brand new commentary track with: Slava Tsukerman (director)
  • Video interview with Slava Tsukerman
  • Video interview with Anne Carlisle (actress)
  • Director’s introduction
  • “Liquid Sky Revisited” (2017) – 50 minute making-of documentary
  • Q&A from a 2017 Alamo Drafthouse Yonkers screening with: Slava Tsukerman, Anne Carlisle and Clive Smith (music)
  • Isolated soundtrack
  • Never before seen outtakes
  • Alternate opening sequence
  • Behind the scenes rehearsal footage
  • Multiple theatrical trailers
  • Still gallery
  • Booklet with essay by Samm Deighan
  • Artwork designed by Derek Gabryszak
  • Reversible cover artwork
  • English SDH subtitles


Distributor: Twilight Time (limited to 3,000 units)

Writer-actor-director Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) is a delightful comic whodunit, starring Allen and the superb Diane Keaton as a middle-aged married couple suddenly energized as she enthusiastically and he reluctantly find themselves involved in the titular killing. Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston are also drawn into the increasingly perilous proceedings, in which Manhattan – gorgeously captured by cinematographer Carlo Di Palma – is once again another of Allen’s most significant characters.

Twilight Time is nearly single-handedly the high-def distributor keeping the Woody Allen back catalog going. Following on January’s release of Husbands & Wives comes Manhattan Murder Mystery, the overall fifteenth Woody Allen release from the label (the eleventh that’s in print) and the director’s 24th film. (He’s recently hit 50 with the upcoming A Rainy Day in New York.) Known as a quirky director of different shades of comedy, Allen has  proven in the past that he’s been both willing and able to eschew more obvious comedic leanings and explore dark areas like infidelity and murder. You might think this is a segue into how Manhattan Murder Mystery is one of those dark ventures given its murder-emblazoning title, but no: it’s actually a fairly light-hearted and silly sorta-parody of Rear Window, this time pitting paranoid neighbors against each other up close in a Manhattan row home instead of across the courtyard.   

Of the several differently shaded comedies that Allen likes to write, it’s this kind of farce for which his eccentric and neurotic on-screen characters seem the most well suited — and one about murder, to boot.

However, as to be expected from a Woody Allen film, Manhattan Murder Mystery isn’t just about…well…a murder mystery. It’s the intrigue of a possible murder that provides the catalyst for bringing certain characters together and pitting them against each other, but it’s also about human relationships. Larry and Carol (Allen and Keaton) are at odds about the possible murder: she believes it, he doesn’t. Tom (Alda) does believe her, however, and the longer they begin pursuing their own investigation, the closer they become. Meanwhile, Larry seems oblivious to the advances of his client, Marcia (Huston), as he’s more concerned about the attention that mutual friend Tom is showing to his own wife. And further meanwhile, the possible murderous husband seems to have been entertaining an affair with a much younger woman, suggesting that his very recently ended marriage to his wife of many years — whether she’s dead or not — wasn’t rosy to begin with.

That a murder mystery provides the forward momentum seems like a silly idea, and it sort of is, but Allen persists with it in such sincere means that it can actually feel perilous at times, in spite of Allen’s typically dry and nervous one-liners. It’s one of Allen’s more broadly plotted films and therefore might be more appealing to audiences accustomed to his more intimate portraits of couples falling in and out of love.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Isolated Music & Effects Track
  • Original Theatrical Trailer


Distributor: Kino Lorber

From writer/producer/director James Glickenhaus (The Exterminator, McBain, Shakedown) comes The Soldier – a powerful action-packed thriller of global intrigue and espionage. KGB agents posing as terrorists steal enough plutonium to destroy half of the world’s oil supply and threaten to do so unless the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank of Jordan. With the world on the brink of nuclear holocaust, The Soldier (Ken Wahl, The Taking of Beverly Hills), who’s not part of the military, carries out his own unauthorized, illegal and highly dangerous plan to preserve the delicate balance of power. The Soldier is a relentless thrill ride loaded with some of cinema’s most unusual and dangerous stunts. Music composed and performed by Tangerine Dream (Miracle Mile). The top-notch cast includes Alberta Watson (TV’s La Femme Nikita), William Prince (The Gauntlet), Steve James (Avenging Force) and the great Klaus Kinski (Aguirre, the Wrath of God).

Wanna know how random life is? Actor Ken Wahl only made ten feature films during his career. Director James Glickenhaus only made eight. In January, across two consecutive weeks, a film starring Wahl (The Taking of Beverly Hills) and a film directed by Glickenhaus (Shakedown) ended up in my reviewer’s pile. And now, here I am, reviewing a film starring the former and directed by the latter. You can find that as uninteresting as you wish, but I find it to be almost surreal.

In my previous review for Shakedown, I applauded Glickenhaus’ abilities, at the very least, as an action director. No one presents action in the same manner as the retired director, and that’s not to say that he’s showing off Bay-sized spectacle or Woo-sized flamboyance. His set pieces are never that large or that balletic. His action presents as just a bit more hard-hitting, and dangerous, and noticeably unhinged. This is definitely on display in his previous films McBain and Shakedown. 1982’s The Soldier was one of his earliest efforts — specifically, his third overall film — and it offers a good indication of what’s to come from Glickenhaus’s career.

What’s admirable about Glickenhaus’ action presentation is that all of his films, regardless of how silly the come across (I’ll mention this again — there’s a scene in McBain where Christopher Walken shoots a jet plane airpilot with a handgun…as he sits in another jet plane), his scripts have some kind of subtext. Glickenhaus is addressing at least something of social context, like the police corruption in Shakedown or Colombian drug running and dictatorship in McBain. In The Soldier, given it was made in the early ‘80s, it’s the dangers of the Cold War and the fear of Russian interference in American culture (hey, isn’t that fucking relevant?), and which is made in Glickenhaus’ typically unsubtle manner.

What do I mean by unsubtle?

I mean this excerpt taken from the synopsis on the film’s Wikipedia page: “The Soldier and Susan break into East Berlin by launching their car over the Berlin Wall…”

As mentioned, Wahl appears as “The Soldier,” your typical bad-ass and one having less winking fun here than he did in The Taking of Beverly Hills. There’s not much to either his role or his performance, but for what’s required, he does an adequate job, and he kills a lot of bad guys, which is all I really want from my hero.

The Soldier offers enough carnage and violence to satisfy even the most ardent action fan. Glickenhaus, as usual, stages a series of stunts that look incredibly dangerous and very silly sequences that could only belong in an ‘80s action flick (high fives all around for machine gun fights on skis!). Kino’s new presentation on Blu looks excellent and gets an easy recommendation.

THE SUPPLEMENTS:

The complete list of special features is as follows:

  • Audio Commentary by Writer/Producer/Director James Glickenhaus
  • Audio Commentary by Film Historian Jim Hemphill
  • Trailers


Also Available This Week:

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

When scientists find a way to shrink humans to five inches tall, Paul Safranek (Academy Award winner Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to ditch their stressed out lives in order to get small and live large in a luxurious downsized community.  Filled with life-changing adventures and endless possibilities, Leisureland offers more than riches, as Paul discovers a whole new world and realizes that we are meant for something bigger.

Special Features:

  • Working with Alexander
  • The Cast
  • A Visual Journey
  • A Matter of Perspective
  • That Smile
  • A Global Concern

Distributor: Twilight Time (limited to 3,000 units)

Director Paul Newman and screenwriter Alvin Sargent bring Paul Zindel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds, to the screen in this 1972 adaptation starring Joanne Woodward as a struggling working-class widow, the disturbed mother of two girls. Oldest daughter Ruth (Roberta Wallach) is a rebellious adolescent, already in trouble; younger child Matilda (Nell Potts, daughter of Newman and Woodward) may still have a chance, like some of the flowers in her school science project, which lends the film its title.

Special Features:

  • Isolated Music & Effects Track
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Twilight Time (limited to 3,000 units)

Mark Rydell directs James Caan and Elliott Gould as the titular characters in Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976), a pair of small-time crooks longing to graduate to the big time, as exemplified by suave bank robber Adam Worth (Michael Caine). Along the way, they hook up with a crusading newspaperwoman (Diane Keaton); soon all are competing to see who gets to hit a big bank first.

Special Features:

  • Isolated Music Track
  • Audio Commentary with Film Historians Eddy Friedfeld, Lee Pfeiffer, and Paul Scrabo
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Distributor: Arrow Video

The early seventies were a period of remarkable activity for Robert Altman, producing masterpiece after masterpiece. At the time he came to make Images, MASH and McCabe & Mrs. Miller were behind him, with The Long Goodbye, California Split and Nashville still to come.

Originally conceived in the mid-sixties, Images concerns a pregnant children’s author (Susannah York, who won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival) whose husband (Rene Auberjonois) may or may not be having an affair. While holidaying in Ireland, her mental state becomes increasingly unstable resulting in paranoia, hallucinations and visions of a doppelgänger.

Scored by an Oscar-nominated John Williams, with “sounds” by Stomu Yamash’ta (The Man Who Fell to Earth), Images also boasts the remarkable cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond (Close Encounters of the Third Kind).

Special Features:

  • Brand new restoration from a 4K scan of the original camera negative, produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Original English mono audio (uncompressed LPCM) soundtracks
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • Audio commentary by Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
  • Scene-select commentary by writer/director Robert Altman
  • Imagining Images, an archive featurette with Altman and cinematographer Vilmos
  • Zsigmond
  • Brand new interview with actor Cathryn Harrison
  • An appreciation by musician and author Stephen Thrower
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by the Twins of Evil
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Carmen Gray and an extract from Altman on Altman

Distributor: Cartoon Network via Warner Bros.

The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking is an animated zombie apocalypse special from Robot Chicken’s Seth Green and Matthew Senreich and their Stoopid Buddy Stoodios partners, John Harvatine IV and Eric Towner, along with The Walking Dead (TWD) creator/executive producer Robert Kirkman and showrunner/executive producer Scott M. Gimple. The half-hour special will feature original talent from TWD lending voices to their characters including Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lauren Cohan, Steve Yeun, Sara Wayne Callies, and more. Chris Hardwick and Breckin Meyer will also be among the cast.

Special Features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes Making of The Robot Chicken Walking Dead Special: Look Who’s Walking
  • Commentary featuring Scott M. Gimple, Seth Green, Robert Kirkman, Matthew Senreich, and Tom Sheppard
  • Bawkward
  • Sketches to Die For
  • Behind the Screams

Distributor: Arrow Video

Four Films 1936-1938 brings together a quartet of 1930s features by Sacha Guitry, the celebrated French filmmaker, playwright and actor of the stage and screen, each based on his earlier works.

Indiscretions (Le Nouveau testament) follows a holier-than-thou physician who is scuppered by his own hypocrisy. My Father Was Right (Mon père avait raison) tells off a man who, after being left by his wife for another man, raises his son to be wary of women. Let’s Dream (Faisons un rêve…) is another story of mistrust, between husband, wife and lovers. And the history of one of France’s most famous streets is retold in Up the Champs-Élysées (Remontons les Champs-Élysées), featuring multiple performances from Guitry himself.

Available for the first time on Blu-ray this set presents some of Guitry’s earliest and most enjoyable works.

Special Features:

  • Limited Edition Dual Format Collection [2000 copies]
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
  • Original French mono audio (uncompressed LPCM on the Blu-ray)
  • Optional English subtitles
  • Two French television documentaries: Cinéastes de notre temps: Sacha Guitry (1965) and Thèmes et variations du cinéma: Guitry (1967)
  • An interview with Guitry from the 1959 television series Magazine du théâtre

60-page limited edition book featuring new writing on the films


NEW PODCAST LOOP

Share Post
Written by

J. Tonzelli is a writer, film critiquer, and avid Arnold/Van Damme/Bronson enthusiast who resides in rural South Jersey. He is the author of "The End of Summer: Thirteen Tales of Halloween" and the "Fright Friends Adventure" series, co-authored with Chris Evangelista. He loves abandoned buildings, the supernatural, and films by John Carpenter. You can read some of his short fiction at his website, JTonzelli.com, or objectify him by staring at his tweets: @jtonzelli. He apologizes for all the profanity.

No comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.