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.
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#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.
#4. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” (The Criterion Collection)
John Schlesinger followed his X-rated (at the time of its release) “Midnight Cowboy” with “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” a film no less ahead of its time. A deeply personal take on love and sex, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” centers on two Londoners — a middle-aged doctor (Peter Finch) and a divorcee (Glenda Jackson) — who are sleeping with the same man (Murray Head). The Criterion Collection debuts the film on Blu-ray in a new, restored, high-definition transfer, supervised by director of photography Billy Williams.
Extras: New video interviews with Head, Williams and production designer Luciana Arrighi; illustrated 1975 audio interview with Schlesinger; new interview with writer William J. Mann (“Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger”) about the making of “Sunday Bloody Sunday”; new interview with photographer Michael Childers, Schlesinger’s longtime partner; trailer; and a booklet featuring a new essay and screenwriter Penelope Gilliatt’s 1971 introduction to the film’s screenplay.
#5. “Magic Mike”
Steven Soderbergh has a reputation for being unpredictable when selecting his projects, but even his biggest fans were no doubt thrown for a loop when he announced that he was pairing up with Channing Tatum for a male stripper pic based loosely on Tatum’s past. With Soderbegh at the helm, the result is less “Showgirls” than “The Girlfriend Experience,” another film from the director that tackles the economy from a unique perspective. In “Magic Mike,” Tatum stars as the titular stripper, a fledgling entrepreneur just trying to get by. Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey and promising newcomer Cody Horn co-star. “The opposite of camp, ‘Magic Mike’ is conventionally jolly despite appearances to the contrary,” wrote Eric Kohn in his review. “Only Soderbergh could turn a movie about male strippers into a universal crowdpleaser.”
READ MORE: Steven Soderbergh on ‘Haywire,’ ‘Magic Mike’ and Why He’s Given Up on ‘Serious Movies’
Extras: Included on the DVD release is the “Backstage on Magic Mike” featurette. The Blu-ray/DVD Combo release also includes extended dance scenes and a Dance Play mode that allows you to play all the dance sequences back to back. Yeah, you heard that right.