Welcome to this week in home video!
Pick of the Week
Satanico Pandemonium [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A good nun makes some bad choices.
Why see it? The nunsploitation genre is filled with pious people engaged in naughty behavior, usually of the naked and violent variety, and this Spanish film from 1975 is no different. Except it is? We get the expected nudity, sexual antics, and blasphemous imagery, but there’s a heavy feeling of tragedy here too. Cecilia Pezet gives a strong performance as a woman of god tempted by the pleasures of the devil, and her clear struggle teases a Jacob’s Ladder-like sense of unease and uncertainty. It’s also a surprisingly beautiful film with some truly attractive shots of landscapes and the cast.
[Extras: New 4K transfer, interview, featurette, commentary]
The Invisible Man
What is it? A woman is tormented by her mad scientist ex.
Why see it? The Dark Universe lives! Leigh Whannell’s take on the classic Universal Monster creation finds terror while also delivering plenty of commentary and character. The effects are spectacular, the performances are spot on, and while the script is iffy at times the end result still manages plenty of thrills. Elisabeth Moss is especially effective as a woman finally standing up to her abuser, and Whannell manages wonders on a small budget.
[Extras: Featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary]
The Reluctant Debutante [Warner Archive]
What is it? A young woman’s entry into society is complicated.
Why see it? This is a fun romp exploring one teen’s stumbling moves into proper society, and Sandra Dee does strong work as a strong young woman who knows what she wants. Her parents aren’t quite on the same page, and as the story unfolds the entire ensemble — Rex Harrison, Kay Kendall (her body comedy is brilliant), Angela Lansbury, and a young John Saxon — have fun with sharp dialogue and expectations. It’s a good time.
Taza, Son of Cochise [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Native American chief faces moral dilemmas.
Why see it? This mid 50s effort is a hybrid of old Hollywood’s approach to Native Americans in that, while we’re stuck with white actors in red face (including Rock Hudson) the film’s story at least offers a sympathetic nod toward the people rather than paint them all as savages. Family division and strife leads to violence, and the film packs plenty of action in around the character moments. The film looks quite good, and while I didn’t check it out the disc also includes the 3-D version as well.
[Extras: New 2K master, 2-D and 3-D versions, commentary]
What is it? A ragtag squad must deliver a stolen submarine across the Atlantic Ocean.
Why see it? Movies set mostly (or at least substantially) on a submarine are few and far between, and the truly entertaining ones are even rarer. This Dutch effort is one of the good ones as it blends a charismatic ensemble, a suicide mission, and plenty of action into a movie that delivers from start to finish. Avoid the English dub and go for the native tongues of this cast, and then settle in for some old school wartime antics..
White Fire [Arrow Video]
What is it? A brother and sister have fun together.
Why see it? This is a bonkers movie in the best possible way. From a crazy opening that is never explained to some icky behavior between adult siblings to an abundance of over the top action, this is a film that entertains despite itself. It’s not well made, necessarily, but it’s sincere to the bone and great fun. Also, and this can’t be overstated, the theme song is played thirty times throughout and will never leave your memory.
[Extras: Commentary, interviews]
All Night Long [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A man’s life falls apart though his own choices.
Why see it? Gene Hackman hasn’t appeared in a feature film since 2004’s Welcome to Mooseport, but while we’re missing out on new movies his filmography is filled with titles most of us have never seen. This early 80s effort fits the bill as Hackman takes the lead role of a man going through some big changes alongside Barbra Streisand, Dianne Ladd, and Dennis Quaid. It’s a comedy, of sorts, and it manages some fun along the way thanks largely to Hackman’s casually focused performance.
Blood Tide [Arrow Video]
What is it? A Greek island is home to monsters.
Why see it? James Earl Jones, Martin Kove, and Deborah Shelton headline this creature feature, and while it’s no gem it still delivers some genre fun. Virgin sacrifice, underwater monsters, blonds in bikinis, oppressive locals, SCUBA diving, Jones punching open a watermelon, and more are all entertaining highlights.
[Extras: New 4K scan, commentary, interview]
The Chicken Chronicles [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A high-schooler heads towards graduation.
Why see it? This is Steve Guttenberg’s first feature and a lead role, and it shows why he became a fast-rising star into the early 80s. The film feels every bit like a traditional coming of age flick with horny teens and sex talk but squeezed into a PG rating. Ed Lauter co-stars in his usual authoritarian role while Phil Silvers has an extended cameo as a goofy, sex-starved restaurant owner. It’s casual fun and takes good advantage of its Beverly Hills locales, and while the hijinks are all kept moderately family family it still has its charms.
The Deuce – The Complete Third Season
What is it? A chronicle of NYC’s porn industry through the 70s and 80s.
Why see it? When David Simon and George Pelecanos create something it’s undeniably worth paying attention to, and this final season of their look at NYC’s grimy times fits the bill. James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal headline an ensemble cast to deliver an engaging tale of a lost time and place that we’ll never see again.
Escape from L.A. [Scream Factory]
What is it? Snake Plissken heads to the west coast.
Why see it? John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981) remains a classic action/sci-fi flick that delivers despite a modest budget, but this follow-up can’t manage the same feat. I disliked it as a lazy retread in 1996, and my first re-watch leaves me feeling the same way. Yes, the ending is fantastic, but like the bulk of the film it’s a very direct riff on beats and characters from the original. There’s nothing fresh here, and when combined with some abysmal effects work the result is a film woefully lacking in charisma. Carpenter was reportedly knee-capped by the studio during production, but whatever the reason this is a silly dud. Thankfully, the Blu-ray is great and includes a sharp picture and some fun interviews.
[Extras: New 4K scan, interviews]
Husbands [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Three middle-aged men deal with their friend’s death by temporarily abandoning their families and lives.
Why see it? John Cassavetes is a critically acclaimed filmmaker beloved by many, but his filmography is something of a mixed bag for me. Gloria (1980) is a true classic in my eyes thanks as much to its genre narrative as its stellar Gena Rowlands lead performance, and Husbands lacks both. It’s a drama, arguably comedic at times, about three unlikable friends who face grief with poor choices and the mistreatment of others. There’s a raw power to it all, but at over two hours the meandering and cruel nature of it all drains. Criterion’s given the film a beautiful home, though, complete with some insightful extras into its creation.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentary, interviews, featurettes, episode of The Dick Cavett Show]
An Ideal Place to Kill [Mondo Macabro]
What is it? A carefree young couple has fun in Europe.
Why see it? Umberto Lenzi’s filmography is filled with memorable genre entries including Nightmare Beach (1989), Eyeball (1975), and Seven Blood-Stained Orchids (1972), and while this is a lesser entry it still has its merits. The couple use their bodies to make cash and seduce an older woman with her own issues, and things grow more complicated from there. It’s not the Bonnie and Clyde (1967) riff it wants to be, but it’s fine.
[Extras: New 2K transfer, interview, commentary, deleted scenes]
In Search of Dracula [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The true story of Bram Stoker’s fictional creation.
Why see it? Christopher Lee became synonymous with Count Dracula back in the 60s and 70s, and this documentary capitalizes on that my having him narrate and “star” in small sequences. The doc charts the journey undertaken in Stoker’s classic novel and works as a travelogue of sorts punctuated with dramatic teases. It’s an interesting watch, particularly for big Dracula fans, but it’s not all that engaging beyond that.
[Extras: New 2K master, commentary]
A Man, a Woman and a Bank [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? Two men plan an elaborate robbery.
Why see it? Donald Sutherland and Paul Mazursky star as the friends turned criminals, and the pair offer up plenty of fun in their planning and execution of an epic heist. The former reunites with Brooke Adams (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978) for a romance that interferes with the plans and complicates things in entertaining ways. It’s a lightweight affair, but the cast and story details make for a fun time.
The Woman [Arrow Video]
What is it? A wild woman is captured by religious extremist.
Why see it? Lucky McKee’s adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s novel is a look at cruelty in the name of righteousness, and it’s a hard watch at times. There’s a payoff, of course, but ultimately it’s Pollyanna McIntosh as the woman who compels you to keep watching. It’s a step up from its predecessor (Offspring, 2009) but less entertaining than its comedic sequel (Darlin’, 2019), and the trio as a whole is an interesting collection.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries, documentary, interview, featurettes, short film, music video]
Also out this week:
Al Adamson: The Masterpiece Collection [Severin Films], Atlantic City, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead [Shout Select], The Deer Hunter [4K UaHD], Funeral in Berlin, Maniac [4K UaHD], A Midnight Clear [Shout Select], Scorsese Shorts [Criterion Collection], Silicon Valley – The Complete Sixth and Final Season, Wildlife [Criterion Collection], Zombie [4K UaHD]