Dinoshark, the next released from the Roger Corman Presents label, will come for us on DVD and Blu-ray April 26. I can only hope that Corman’s little half-hearted self-parody will spur interest in his older, better films. As far as I’m concerned, the man’s yet to top It Conquered the World. It certainly made for a wonderful episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Maybe if enough people pay $20 for a chance to examine Sharktopus someone will finally be able to tell me why it’s so darn popular.
Channel: Releases19 Feb 11 DVD/Blu-ray Fishing, February
On Feb. 22, the critically lauded Last Train Home finally finds a home on DVD thanks to distributor Zeitgeist Films; a Blu-ray date is still unclear. Even more exciting is the dual DVD/Blu-ray release of the first of the pair of Vincent Cassel crime thrillers based on the turbulent life of Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine: Killer Instinct. The date of release coincides with Netflix’s free streaming of the film.
And then we have the usual crop of Criterion releases, all with dual availability. Fish Tank is the most interesting among them, winning both the Jury Prize at Cannes in 2009 and the 2010 BAFTA for Best British Film. Also we have Senso, an early Visconti film, best known as the first major Italian film to be shot in Technicolor. Then Sweet Smell of Success, a 1957 film noir co-starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis with a small appearance by West Coast jazzer Chico Hamilton, well known for its sharp dialogue. DVD and Blu-ray have been kind to film noir in recent months, and not just Criterion. Even the mediocre Orson Welles-directed noir The Stranger received a dual release this past week. Click on the images to follow Amazon links for every film.
Channel: Releases05 Feb 11 Antonioni and Ozu: The Blu Years
2011 is already shaping up to be a good year for fans of cinema’s old masters. Particularly, it has to be said, those living in Europe. Eureka’s ‘Masters of Cinema’ series recently let it be known that they’ll be providing the first English-friendly releases of Antonioni’s early films, La signora senza camelie (1953, The Lady Without Camelias) and Le amiche (1955, The Girlfriends) for home viewing. If that weren’t enough to whet the appetite of film fans both will be in full high-definition to boot. In fact the titles, due for release March 22nd, will be the first in a new release strategy for the label. Having previously dabbled in HD-only releases it now seems the British Film Institute’s (BFI’s) strategy of packaging Blu-Ray and DVD releases of the same film together in a single case is the way to go. So for those of you who aren’t yet HD-ready, have no fear, there’ll be a regular DVD edition in the package to tide you over too. Add to that some on-disc interviews and promised ‘lengthy’ booklets for each release and they’ve already got my money.
Speaking of the BFI, and I suppose this isn’t really news to a lot of people since the process began in late 2009/early 2010, their wonderful Ozu releases continue. Following a full cinematic retrospective of all of Ozu’s available films in London back in early 2010 they announced they would be releasing them all on DVD and, where the masters made it feasible, on Blu-Ray too. The idea was to twin a major work with an earlier “minor” one with each release. Keeping to their word we’ve so far been treated to Late Spring, Early Summer, and Tokyo Story on Blu-Ray with DVD editions of, respectively, The Only Son, What Did The Lady Forget?, and Brothers and Sisters of the Toda Family accompanying them. For good measure the major features also appear on the DVD. Just this month the collection grew with HD releases for Equinox Flower and Good Morning coupled with There Was a Father and I Was Born, But…. In the case of There Was a Father the film gains a full HD release alongside its partner and looks quite wonderful given its age and condition. Next up, perhaps a little early given their Autumnal titles, we’ll have Late Autumn and An Autumn Afternoon accompanied by DVD editions of A Mother Should Be Loved and A Hen in the Wind. Those are set for a May release.
Ozu’s cinema hasn’t had the best of time on DVD. A lot of that has to do with the notoriously poor preservation habits Japanese film studios followed for many years. The best existing masters, even for some of his most major work, aren’t in the greatest of shape which has lead to DVD labels, most surprisingly the usually solid Criterion, messing with picture quality to try and hide flaws. The result of this has been a lot of egregious contrast boosting for some of his black-and-white masterpieces and, honestly, the less said about their release of Good Morning the better. Ozu’s colour films have survived more easily; an obvious advantage of being newer. Still there’s debate about whether or not the greenish tinge the films now have is an accurate representation of how they first looked. Either way, it’s all we’ve got for now and the film’s look absolutely magnificent in HD. What BFI’s roster also means is that those of us who have been depending on Panorama’s discs from Hong Kong for access to Ozu’s early films can finally upgrade. Which is not to denigrate those discs which, while rough around the edges, particularly in the subtitle department, certainly served us well. After all, who couldn’t warm to a silent film that opens with a Dolby Digital trailer?
The downside, and alas there always must be one, is that all of these releases will likely be locked to Region B for only European viewers. The BFI releases certainly are which is unsurprising as Japanese studios are sticklers for the process. This is probably a result of Japan’s own, very expensive, domestic viewing market which could easily be impacted by ‘reverse importing’ of their own product back into the country. Masters of Cinema haven’t yet announced, and indeed likely don’t know, whether the Antonioni titles will be region-locked. They try and avoid the process wherever possible but there’s little they can do when studios insist upon it for most everything. Still, multi-region capable Blu-Ray players have become very affordable of recent and are a smart investment for any film fan.
Channel: Releases01 Feb 11 DVD Prowling, February
While there are some notable films getting a DVD release today, Feb. 1, such as Zhang Yimou’s period remake of Blood Simple., A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, as well as Gareth Edward’s debut guerrilla sci-fi thriller Monsters, one you probably haven’t heard of is finally getting a proper home-release.
Joseph Losey’s The Prowler, a 1951 film-noir starring Van Heflin and scripted by Dalton Trumbo, long neglected, has been restored by the Film Noir Foundation and the UCLA Film & Television Archive and is being distributed by VCI Entertainment with some nifty DVD extras. I don’t know quite how to urge people to check this out, but I’ll say you don’t have to be a fan of noir or classic Hollywood to enjoy this. The Prowler might be the weirdest film to ever garner tags like those; this is anything but straight melodrama. Van Heflin is at his creepy best, and Losey’s direction is unconventional and sublime.
Channel: Releases24 Nov 10 Long Live the Blu Flesh
Our ancestors celebrated winter by huddling around fires. We huddle around televisions, so we might as well watch David Cronenberg’s films. His 1983 classic Videodrome is coming out on Blu-Ray December 7.
Max Ren is the sleazy program director for a low-rent, Canadian satellite TV channel. One day, he stumbles across a transmission called Videodrome, which propels him into a surrealist nightmare where fantasy, reality, technology and flesh merge in monstrous ways that should shock and delight fans of Cronenberg’s work… and just plain shock everyone else.
Channel: Releases22 Nov 10 Cronos and Geometria
The Criterion Collection is celebrating Pearl Harbor Day by releasing Guillermo del Toro’s classic masterpiece Cronos on December 7. Aside from showcasing del Toro’s storytelling chops, Cronos also represents del Toro’s first collaboration with Ron Perlman, and his first foray into feature-length magical-realist horror dramadies.
For those who just can’t wait (and don’t mind inferior video quality), del Toro’s early foray into short magical-realist horror dramady, Geometria, is available on YouTube as of this writing. It’s the heartwarming nine minute story of a boy, his mom and the demon he summons to help him pass geometry (finally). Because such things always work out so well. In this post card from 1987, we see all of del Toro’s later obsessions: the love of mood lighting; the fetish for contrasting textures in loving close-ups of a pentagram drawn in smooth, shiny blood on a dull, rough floor; and the sense of humor, which is del Toro’s real draw. Too often horror writer/directors go for the easy joke, the low-hanging, mundanely gruesome fruit. Guillermo shoots for the moon, like God and Rod Serling intended. In Geometria, he lets us know he knows this. After all, his protagonist’s demon-summoning shenanigans interrupt mom’s viewing of (what else?) The Exorcist.
Now that’s comedy.
Channel: Releases18 Oct 10 Seven Samurai Blu-Ray Release!!
Due to the immense popularity of Seven Samurai (apparently the top seller for Criterion among Kurosawa’s work) the Criterion Collection has decided to release the epic, period drama masterpiece by Akira Kurosawa on Blu-ray. You might be wondering if such an old film is worth the trouble of a Blu-ray release. Well, take a look at the screenshots from the link below and decide for yourself, or take DVDBeaver’s word for it:
“This is, BY FAR, the best digital presentation going way back to LaserDisc and through many incarnations including Criterions initial foray on SD-DVD way back in 1998 (even before spine #1!), and the last pictureboxed DVD in 2006. Scratches below the surface still exist but in-motion this is a wonderful treat in 1080P. There are even instances of depth. It needs to be seen – but this is, at times, mesmerizing what Criterion have done in terms of restoration and transfer competency.”
To these tired eyes the transfer looks stunning, far and away better than the recent Toho Blu-ray release of the film (which lacks English subtitles by the way). Leave it to Criterion to get things right. The film is officially available tomorrow, but you can click the link below now to order it directly from the source.
Get it here: