Another month, another slab of worthwhile home video titles gunning for your hard-earned American dollars. This month’s slate is an eclectic bunch, featuring cult classics, revenge thrillers, forgotten French films at one point lauded for their complexity and artistry, oh, and Michael Douglas. Read on for the best best in home video for the release of September! (And yes, we know we’re a bit late, but between TIFF, Telluride and Venice…you get the idea….)
“The Devil, Probably” (Robert Bresson, 1977)
Why You Should Care: One of the last movies from influential French filmmaker Robert Bresson (“Diary of a Country Priest,” “Pickpocket“), this story of four young adults growing up in modern day Paris, witnessing the destruction of the city both real and imagined (the movie is intercut with news footage of natural disasters and atomic bomb tests), is as influential as it is under-seen. It was well regarded in Europe and won the Silver Bear – Special Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a jury member that year, called the movie “the most shattering film I’ve seen this Berlin Festival. I think it’s a major film … in the future (and this world will probably last for another few thousand years) this film will be more important than all the rubbish which is now considered important but which never really goes deep enough.” You can still feel the film’s influence in French cinema today, particularly in “La Haine,” Matthew Kassovitz‘s breakthrough feature, and any French movie that tries to capture modern French living with any degree of earthy integrity (so, not “The Intouchables“). Still, despite Fassbinder’s assertions and the movie’s considerable legacy, the film has been largely unavailable in America, relegated largely to retrospectives of the filmmaker, and indeed this release marks its first time on domestic home video. So this is a big deal and every cineaste worth his or her salt should be celebrating wildly. Only Bresson could make apocalyptic gloom look so gorgeous.
What’s On It: Like the characters in the movie, this one is pretty empty.
Release Date: September 18th via Olive Films
“The Game” (David Fincher, 1997) and “Eating Raoul” (Paul Bartel, 1982)
Why You Should Care: Because when Criterion throws their hat into the unfairly marginalized realm of the cult movie, they certainly know what to pick. And David Fincher‘s twisty-turn don’t-give-a-fuck follow-up to “Seven,” “The Game,” and outré director Paul Bartel‘s quirky satire “Eating Raoul” are both more than deserving of the deluxe Criterion treatment. “The Game,” in 1997 largely seen as an underwhelming follow-up to his more influential “Seven” but now viewed as an essential building block in the Fincher oeuvre, follows a reptilian business magnate (Michael Douglas, with extra slime) as he’s put through the ringer by The Game, a kind of interactive, nefarious role-playing exercise. At the time, Fincher described the movie as outrageously impish (but perceptive). “Movies usually make a pact with the audience that says: we’re going to play it straight. What we show you is going to add up,” Fincher told U.K. paper The Independent at the time. “But we don’t do that. In that respect, it’s about movies and how movies dole out information.” Roger Corman protégé Paul Bartel’s “Eating Raoul” is part social satire, part horror-comedy, and all around weird. The story of a boring couple (played by Bartel and Mary Woronov) who dream of running a restaurant but are constantly put down by life and put out by the swingers that live in their apartment building. They eventually begin murdering the perverts and, with the help of a cat burglar named Raoul (Robert Beltran), sell their bodies to a dog food company. The movie is funny and a little bit scary and makes us miss Bartel’s singular genius even more.
What’s On It: For “The Game,” we have a new restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Harris Savides, with a 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray edition; a new alternate 5.1 surround mix optimized for home theater viewing, supervised by sound designer Ren Klyce and presented in DTS-HD Master Audio; left over from the original Criterion laserdisc (!) an audio commentary by director David Fincher, Savides, actor Michael Douglas, screenwriters John Brancato and Michael Ferris, digital animation supervisor Richard “Dr.” Baily, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, and visual effects supervisor Kevin Haug; an hour’s worth of exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and film-to-storyboard comparisons for four of the film’s major set pieces, with commentary; an alternate ending; the trailer and teaser, with optional commentary; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Sterritt.
On “Eating Raoul,” we get a new, restored digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Gary Thieltges, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition; audio commentary featuring screenwriter Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg, and editor Alan Toomayan; “The Secret Cinema” (1966) and “Naughty Nurse” (1969), two short films by director Paul Bartel; “Cooking Up Raoul,” a new documentary about the making of the film, featuring interviews with stars Mary Woronov, Robert Beltran, and Edie McClurg; gag reel of outtakes from the film; archival interview with Bartel and Woronov; a trailer; plus a booklet featuring an essay by film critic David Ehrenstein. Sadly there’s no supplemental material included on the “Eating Raoul” disc that pertains to “Bland Ambition,” the proposed sequel that was two weeks away from filming when the funding got yanked.
Release date: Both on September 25th via Criterion
“Sitting Target” (Douglas Hickox, 1972)
Why You Should Care: Kept alive by various retrospective screenings (including a series of grindhouse classics hosted by “Maniac” and “Vigilante” director Bill Lustig), “Sitting Target” is an explosively violent thriller that concerns a pair of convicts (Oliver Reed and Ian McShane) who break out of prison and are supposed to lay low, but instead Reed gets word that his wife has had an affair with another man and become pregnant with that man’s child. So instead of quietly escaping to another country, the two men plot to murder Reed’s wife and lover. If that doesn’t make you want to desperately see this movie, consider that the cop on their trail is no other than Edward Woodward, the inquisitive Sergeant Howie from “The Wicker Man.” Director Hickox would go on to helm genuine cult classic “Theatre of Blood” (with Vincent Price and Dianna Rigg) and, most famously, “Zulu Dawn,” a historical epic about the clash between British and Zulu forces in South Africa that starred Peter O’Toole, Burt Lancaster, John Mills, Bob Hoskins and Denholm Elliott. His son, Anthony Hickox, is something of a genre legend himself, having directed modern B-movie classics like “Waxwork” and Playlist favorite “Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat.”
What’s On It: Nothing. This is a Warner Archive burn-to-order disc
Release date: Out now via Warner Archive
“Black Sunday” (Mario Bava, 1960), “Hatchet for the Honeymoon” (Mario Bava, 1970) & “Lisa and the Devil” (Mario Bava, 1974)
Why You Should Care: If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the work of influential Italian horror maestro Mario Bava, now is a perfect time, because three of his most beloved, well-known works are getting re-upped for Blu-ray and DVD. Bava is known for his expressionistic use of color and suspense set pieces that were both brutally violent and also strangely glamorous (he was Italian, after all). The black-and-white “Black Sunday,” released in the United States by grindhouse gatekeepers American International Pictures (at the time it was considered shockingly violent) to respectable box office numbers and critical notices, is probably his most well-known and influential movie. It’s a tale of murder and witchy revenge and starred a beautiful and powerful Barbara Steele. (All the flashback stuff in Tim Burton‘s “Sleepy Hollow” is explicitly based on this movie.) “Hatchet for the Honeymoon,” filmed in color and therefore more leery and lurid, is a more straightforward murder mystery (what’s known in Italian as “giallo” – named after the pulpy yellow-paged paperbacks). More stylish than psychological, it starred Stephen Forsyth and concerned a murderer who owns a bridal shop. Released a decade after “Psycho,” it feels somewhat like the Italian answer to Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic. And “Lisa and the Devil” (released here as “The House of Exorcism“) is less coherent than the other two, with a plot and accompanying visuals that dangle near the precipice of psychedelia, but is still genuinely compelling, mostly due to Elke Sommer‘s spirited performance (this was her at her optimum cuteness, too) and an appearance by Telly Savalas, laying on the menace pretty thick. In the long lead-up to Halloween, these three would make an amazing triple-feature.
What’s On It: “Lisa and the Devil” features the “House of Exorcism” producer’s cut, while “Hatchet for the Honeymoon” features a commentary by Video Watchdog’s Tim Lucas (he also wrote a great Bava biography called “Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark“). “Black Sunday” features Lucas’ commentary, along with trailers for a number of Bava films (some of which inspired Edgar Wright‘s “Don’t!” trailer from “Grindhouse” – let’s see them try to make that into a standalone feature).
Release date: All three on September 18th via Redemption/Kino
“Going Home” (Herbert B. Leonard, 1971) & “The Wrath of God” (Ralph Nelson, 1972)
Why You Should Care: Because Robert Mitchum is a bad motherfucker and if you’ve exhausted your copies of “Cape Fear” and “Night of the Hunter” and want to dig a little deeper in the Mitchum catalog, then these two movies are a good (and really weird) place to indulge. “Going Home,” which Vincent Canby of the New York Times (we picture him writing the review while adjusting a bowtie) called “an exceedingly nasty movie,” concerns a man (Mitchum) who served time for murdering his wife. Once he’s released, his son (played by the once-awesome Jan-Michael Vincent) still wants payback. An odd combination of revenge thriller and maudlin family melodrama, it received little critical love although Jan-Michael Vincent did get nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Ben Johnson for his peerless performance in “The Last Picture Show.” Sorry, JML. Even stranger is “The Wrath of God,” an existential western directed by Ralph Nelson, a filmmaker known for more respectable work like Rod Serling‘s “Requiem for a Heavyweight” and Oscar-winning dramas “Charly” and “Lilies of the Field.” “The Wrath of God” is not very respectable. A delirious western filmed in Mexico, it was based on a novel by best-selling U.K. thriller writer Jack Higgins (writing as James Graham), and focused on a bank robber who dresses up like a Catholic priest and is spared from the firing squad and then sent to kill a local gangster. Uh what? Historically notable for being the last screen appearance by Rita Hayworth, whose Alzheimer’s made it impossible for her to work after that, and an early, memorable turn by Frank Langella. It also features a jazzy Lalo Schifrin score to go along with all the western wildness.
What’s On It: Neither disc have anything, as they are burn-to-order discs.
Release date: Out now from Warner Archive
Also released this month: Orson Welles‘ “Macbeth” on Blu-ray and DVD (September 18th); “The Dark Mirror,” an awesome Olivia de Havilland/Lew Ayres movie about twins – one good, one incredibly fucking evil (out now); “King of the Underworld,” which marked Humphrey Bogart‘s first starring role (out now); “Mad Monster Party,” a charmingly herky-jerky Halloween stop-motion animated feature by Rankin-Bass, the gentlemen behind the Christmas classics (out now); Stuart Gordon‘s gross-out horror-comedy “Re-Animator” – now with a brand-new HD transfer (out now); a new Criterion edition of Italian neorealist classic “Umberto D” (out now); Fritz Lang‘s atmospheric take on the legend of Bluebeard “Secret Beyond the Door” (out now); one of our favorites from last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, the surreal sci-fi thingmajig “Beyond the Black Rainbow” (out now); a velveteen new Blu-ray edition of Tim Burton‘s best movie, “Ed Wood” (September 18th); a two-disc Blu-ray edition of “The Great Mouse Detective,” the movie that unofficially kick-started Disney‘s Second Renaissance of Animation and features Vincent Price as a singing rat (September 18th); Shout Factory‘s new horror imprint Scream Factory begins its reign of terror with deluxe reissues of “Halloween II” and “Halloween III: Season of the Witch,” the former, sadly, without the “Terror in the Aisles” documentary that made last year’s Blu-ray release so indispensible (September 18th); new Criterion issues of Michael Carne‘s “Children of Paradise” and “Les Visiteurs Du Soir” (September 18th); the “Indiana Jones – Complete Adventures” Blu-ray set doesn’t offer the movies individually, so if you want to watch “Raiders of the Lost Ark” in Blu-ray you’re going to have to pay for “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” (and not just spiritually), a movie we often forget exists at all (September 18th); the “Alfred Hitchcock: Masterpiece Collection” from Universal means you’re probably going to have to buy them all over again, this time on Blu-ray (September 25th); and “This Is Cinerama” is a fascinating, handmade documentary about the large-screen format, more than apt given the discussion surrounding IMAX and 70 mm this year (September 25th).