MGM’s Limited Edition Collection features burn-on-demand DVD-Rs created using the best possible materials. March releases from the label include the following:
How I Won the War (1967) directed by Richard Lester
Existing somewhere on the scale between noble failure and mere curiosity, Richard Lester’s How I Won the War is a relentlessly absurdist attack on the institution of war. It’s most known for starring John Lennon in his first solo, non-Beatles film role, and for that reason alone, many unsuspecting viewers have likely been bewildered by what they’ve seen.
There’s no question that How I Won the War is a bit of a slog to get through. Lester’s earlier films, including A Hard Day’s Night and The Knack, have an irrepressible energy, but How I Won the War often seems too concentrated on being as surreal as possible.
Michael Crawford stars as Lt. Goodbody, a hopelessly incompetent WWII commander, recounting what he believes are his great exploits campaigning in North Africa and Europe. His enlisted men, including those played by Lennon and Roy Kinnear, are constantly considering ways to get rid of him.
The film plays out in a series of loosely connected vignettes that are occasionally withering in their satire, but the film itself is so nonsensically structured, it can be difficult to stay engaged. Lester has remarked that he wanted the film to be a commentary on the illogical nature of war, and the film resoundingly reflects that, but it’s the kind of thing that’s appreciated more in concept than in execution. A film like The Monkees’ Head is a much more successful example of the kind of surrealist non-narrative playfulness that How I Won the War strives for.
The MGM Limited Edition burn-on-demand disc replaces a long out-of-print pressed MGM DVD, and includes the theatrical trailer and optional English subtitles. The print used has a fair amount of speckles and light damage and colors look a little washed-out, but it’s a decent transfer. A commemorative photo album is also included with the release, but was not sent with the review copy I received.
Not as a Stranger (1955) directed by Stanley Kramer
Stanley Kramer would go on to make a number of films that managed to be both heavy-handed and oversimplified, but his debut feature, little-seen since its release, is quite the subtle character study.