Some movies are easy to miss; not because they’re forgettable or anything like that, but because some of the better releases out there become obscured — even when they’re in plain sight — by unsubstantial major studio titles pushed onto the masses en masse. This is particularly true with Blu-ray releases. A stroll though your average rental or retail boutique may reveal several thousand copies of the latest Transformers flick, displayed prominently for all to be hypnotized by, but will neglect to focus any attention on something worthwhile like Little Big Man (providing they even carry it to begin with).
Thus, the purpose of this “Catching Up at the Video Store” piece is to highlight some of those other High-Definition home video releases — ranging from truly excellent to decidedly so-so in nature.
· Point Blank (À Bout Portant) (2010) (Magnolia Home Entertainment)
Forget, for a moment that Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves ever made a movie together, thus ruining the opportunity for us to take a title like Point Blank seriously ever again. Instead, let’s refer to this tantalizing French thriller by its real name, À Bout Portant, instead. This spellbinding feature from Fred Cavayé brings us the tale of Samuel Pierret (Gilles Lellouche), a male nurse in training who, by saving the life of a patient — his everyday job — opens the portal to peril as the man he rescues from the clutches of Death happens to be wanted by the police and gangsters alike. When his very pregnant wife (Elena Anaya) is kidnapped the following day by persons unknown, Pierret is given the unenviable task of smuggling his patient out of the hospital — which opens another portal to peril altogether. Roschdy Zem, Gérard Lanvin, and Mireille Perrier are just some of the great performers in this superb suspense masterpiece. Magnolia Home Entertainment brings us a fine Blu-ray; but, whatever you do, don’t watch it with the English dub!
· My Fair Lady (1964) (CBS/Paramount)
She’s back, more beautiful than before, and even fairer than ever. CBS/Paramount have really outdone themselves here with a magnificent Blu-ray release that outshines all previous home video versions of the film. For those of you who have somehow managed to be completely oblivious to the existence of this one all your life, the story here revolves around a snooty, chauvinistic professor of phonetics (Rex Harrison) who makes a wager with a fellow sound scientist (Wilfred Hyde-White) that he can take a lowly flower girl (Audrey Hepburn) off the London streets and “turn” her into a member of high society. The marvelous new HD release includes an incredible 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio lossless soundtrack as well as a vast array of special features that range from featurettes to interviews to unused vocal cues by Ms. Hepburn herself. A highly recommended venture into that world of classic, epic Hollywood musicals.
· RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 from Outer Space – In Color! (2009) (Legend Films)
Edward D. Wood, Jr.’s magnum opus (cough), Plan 9 from Outer Space, is certainly no stranger to my eyes and ears. In fact, I’ve seen the movie so many times, it has almost gone from being “so bad, it’s good” to actually good itself (though those are words best meant to be heard by my therapist)! For the uninitiated, however, Plan 9 from Outer Space is best viewed with the expertly delivered comical commentary of Mystery Science Theater 3000 alumni Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, who return with another Blu-ray release of RiffTrax Live. Ripe with puns and musical interludes too (as well as non-musical interludes, thank God), RiffTrax Live: Plan 9 from Outer Space – In Color! was beamed to theaters nationwide in 2009 from Nashville, complete with the short subject Flying Stewardesses. The whole shebang is included here, including a bonus behind-the-scenes slideshow. The title is available exclusively from RiffTrax.com.
· In a Glass Cage (1987) (Cult Epics)
Straight from the laughs of the previous title, I take you to the most disturbing flick of the lot: a disturbing 1987 horror/drama writen and directed by Spanish filmmaker Agustí Villaronga. Tras el Cristal (In a Glass Cage) brings us the shocking tale of a former Nazi doctor, Klaus (Günter Meisner, who is, weirdly enough, best known for playing Mr. Slugworth in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory as well as Adolf Hitler in several other films!), who continues to abuse and kill barely-adolescent boys in Spain well after the war is over until one of his victims threatens to expose him, causing him to attempt suicide; an act which fails, sadly. Years later, a young man comes to act as the caretaker of Klaus — who is now confined within an iron lung — but who is actually a former victim determined to supersede his tormentor. Cult Epics live up to their name with this extreme journey into depravity that is best recommended for those of you with strong stomachs.
· Pound of Flesh (2010) (Odyssey Moving Images)
Remember how I said “decidedly so-so in nature” at the beginning of this article? Well, here it is. Actually, to call Pound of Flesh “so-so” would be to give the flick an awful lot of leeway. The once respectable Malcolm McDowell pilfers his way through a mass of putrid performers and performances all-around as a college professor who runs a secret prostitution ring on the side; loaning out his eager-to-pay-off-their-debt-and-make-the-grade students to the local community’s most upscale — and above all, wealthiest — of patrons. Once one of the young ladies winds up dead, however, it prompts a nosy detective (Angus Macfadyen) to pry into everybody’s business — thus endangering the sacred, underground alliance of rich guys who like to shag bubbly coeds. It sounds far more interesting than it really is, sadly, and co-stars Timothy Bottoms, Dee Wallace, and Elizabeth Rodriguez add nothing to this appallingly-boring and dire feature.
· Intruder: Director’s Cut (1989) (Synapse Films)
Lastly, we find ourselves at the doorstep of a good ol’ fashioned slasher flick (you can’t say I’m not eclectic with my selection process!) from the co-writer of Evil Dead 2. Scott Spiegel writes and directs this fun tale of an unknown assailant making his way through the aisles of a soon-to-be-closed-for-good supermarket, stalking the stockers (ha-ha) and giving them more slashes than the prices (OK, no more puns, I promise). Synapse Films bring us a Blu-ray/DVD Combo of Intruder in an Unrated Director’s Cut. The low-budget cult classic features Renée Estevez, Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi (yes, Ted Raimi pops up too — you can’t have one Raimi without the other), and former Three Stooges co-star Emil Sitka (in one of his last roles). Synapse also gives us a slew (OK, just one more pun) of special features, including behind-the-scenes goodies as well as several never-before-seen footage from the film’s original workprint — which was itself available for a limited time as a bonus, and have already become eBay fodder.
Happy viewing, kids.