By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire October 23, 2012 at 12:35PM
This week on DVD/Blu-ray: Stanley Kubrick's oft-ignored feature debut, Kirby Dick's shocking expose on rape in the U.S. military, the latest from Danish troublemaker Mads Brügger, John Schlesinger's acclaimed follow-up to "Midnight Cowboy" and Steven Soderbergh's summer sleeper hit.
#1. "Fear and Desire" (35MM Archival Restoration)
Chances are you've never laid eyes on Stanley Kubrick's feature debut "Fear and Desire," and we don't blame you. Since its original release in 1953, Kubrick's black-and-white war film has rarely screened in public, and it has never been given a proper video release in any format. That changes today with Kino Lorber Inc.'s Blu-ray release of the film -- brought back to glowing life via a stunning restoration by the Library of Congress.
An existential war film that recalls Kubrick's own "Paths of Glory" and "Full Metal Jacket," "Fear and Desire" centers on a squad of soldiers who have crash-landed behind enemy lines and must work their way down-river to rejoin their unit. Initially conceived by Kubrick as a Eurpean-style art film, "Fear and Desire" is not your typical Hollywood war picture, favoring a literate and cerebral dissection of young minds under stress over a patriotic, action-packed spectacle. Although not up to par with his better-received later efforts (it's been well reported that Kubrick himself was not a fan of his debut), "Fear and Desire" proves that the filmmaker was a natural-born image maker. Like all of Kubrick's work, this film will haunt you long after watching it.
Extras: "The Seafarers," a short-subject film, restored and remastered in HD (for the first time) by the Museum of Modern Art and The Film Foundation.
#2. "The Invisible War"
Oscar-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick's latest documentary doesn't make for easy viewing, but you'd be hard pressed to turn your eyes away from the disturbing facts he uncovers in "The Invisible War," his shocking expose on rape within the U.S. military. To indict the military's systemic cover-up (it's estimated that 80% of sexual assault cases go unreported), Dick interviews victims and their families that have struggled to rebuild their lives as well as high-ranking military officials and members of Congress, who reveal why so many rape cases remain hidden. Winner of the documentary audience award at this year's Sundance Film Festival.
Extras: Audio commentary by Dick and producer Amy Ziering; extended interviews with Regina and John Vasquez; Sundance Film Festival Post-Screening Speak-Out, which features clips from a meeting between the film's subjects and other survivors in Park City after viewing the film's premiere; a "Survivor Retreat" featurette, which looks at the work of Susan Avila-Smith, founder of the survivor outreach group VetWow; a "Cowboy Up" featurette, which focuses its attention on Moonfall Ranch in Colorado, where surviving veterans engage in equine therapy.
#3. "The Ambassador"
You can always count on Danish journalist/filmmaker Mads Brügger to stir the pot. In the award-winning documentary that put him on the map, "The Red Chapel," Brügger headed to North Korea with two Danish-Korean comedians under the guise of a cultural exchange to show what life is really like for the country's citizens. With his follow-up, "The Ambassador," which played at the Sundance Film Festival in January, he makes his way to the Central African Republic posing as a Liberian consul to show what happens when a very white European man buys his way into being a diplomat in one of Central Africa's most failed nations.
Extras: Audio commentary by Brügger and a 16-page booklet.