Here’s what’s new to DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD this week.
Top pick: Classic
Phantom Of The Paradise (Shout! Factory)
The song stylings of Paul Williams and the camera theatrics of Brian De Palma collide in this catchy cult classic, which combines The Phantom Of The Opera and Faust with some Frankenstein and Dorian Gray imagery to make one hell of a rock-musical collage. Shout! Factory’s new dual-format set is packed with enough features to exhaust even the diehards, with two commentaries (including a solo track with production designer Jack Fisk, who went on to Days Of Heaven, There Will Be Blood, and The Master), over three hours of interviews (including one moderated by Guillermo Del Toro), a making-of documentary, and the requisite outtakes, alternate performances, TV spots, and trailers.
Other classic releases
Out of the fizzy champagne ether of the early ’80s comes Green Ice (Scorpion Releasing), a forgotten high-tech heist flick with a surprising pedigree. Director Ernie Day, cinematographer Gilbert Taylor, and star Ryan O’Neal had all worked with Stanley Kubrick, which probably made for some great mealtime war stories, but doesn’t seem to have had much effect on the movie, which is about as airy as these things get. Still, it’s got more than its fair share of surface pleasures, including a score by the Rolling Stones’ Bill Wyman, a well-staged break-in set-piece, some color-coded production design (this is the kind of movie where a character wearing a green shirt answers a green phone while holding an emerald), and a magic-hour hot-air balloon sequence set to the Wyman-penned Maria Muldaur tune “Floating.”
The poster for Grizzly (Kino Lorber)—a thing of true schlock beauty, adorned with a giant, lunging bear drawn by DC Comics legend Neal Adams—has fooled generations of moviegoers and video renters into watching what is, for the most part, a pokey, TV-movie-cheap Jaws knock-off. The new Blu-ray release has unwisely swapped out that image for the less dramatic alternate poster, meaning that viewers no longer have something cool to glance down at while they’re waiting for that one scene with the bazooka.
Speaking of monster cheapies set in national parks: Without Warning (Shout! Factory), a 1980 effort from B-movie mainstay Greydon Clark (The Bad Bunch, Joysticks), will be getting its first-ever home-video release this week. Though more than half of the movie’s tiny budget went toward paying top-billed slummers Jack Palance and Martin Landau, the real stars here are the lighting and camerawork of Dean Cundey, who was John Carpenter’s go-to cinematographer at the time. A blue edge light and a little fog can go a long way in a low-budget horror movie.
The Man Who Knew Too Little (Warner Bros) was Bill Murray’s last straight-up studio comedy vehicle. (His next major role was in Rushmore, the movie that started his re-invention as a tragicomic character actor.) Though it would be a stretch to call it an overlooked gem, it is pretty funny in spots, thanks in no small part to Murray’s droll performance; the set-up—Murray gets involved in some Cold War-type spy business, which he mistakenly believes is part of an extended improv theater performance—plays like a comic variation on David Fincher’s The Game, which was released the same year.
The Sony Pictures Choice Collection—a Warner Archives imprint that specializes in putting out old Columbia titles—has a slew of obscure oldies out this week: Cafe Hostess, a significantly toned-down post-Code remake of Tay Garnett’s feisty, flavorful Pre-Code near-masterpiece Her Man; the genuinely Pre-Code East Of Fifth Avenue (condemned by the Catholic Legion Of Decency, no less), directed by studio journeyman Albert S. Rogell; Arthur Hiller’s The Tiger Makes Out, which features Dustin Hoffman’s first film role; and 1941’s The Big Boss, directed by Charles Barton, who would go on to helm many Abbott And Costello movies. Not to be outdone, Fox’s similarly targeted Cinema Archives label is putting out Alfred L. Werker’s forgotten and forgettable 1938 immigrant romance Gateway, as well as Champagne Charlie, which New York Times critic Frank S. Nugent—the guy who wrote The Searchers, Fort Apache, and The Quiet Man, among others—called “a magniloquent epitaph for a gay dog.”
Also out this week are Giuseppe Ferrara’s Banco Ambrosia drama Bankers Of God: The Calvi Affair (Raro) and the 1992 PBS documentary Dream Deceivers (First Run Features), about Vance Vs. Judas Priest, a bizarre lawsuit in which the British metal pioneers were sued by a family who claimed that their music contained subliminal messages that drove listeners to suicide.
Top pick: Catch-Up
Oculus (20th Century Fox)
Viewers who like their horror movies loopy and packed with subtext should get a kick out of Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, in which an auctioneer (Doctor Who’s Karen Gillan, doing a decent American accent) sets out to destroy the antique mirror that she believes drove her father to murder her mother. (Yes, this is working off the same cultural fear as the above-mentioned Dream Deceivers.) The film fits snugly into the genre tradition of treating horror as a form of exaggerated psychodrama; our man A.A. Dowd gave it a B-, though in this writer’s opinion, it’s a solid B. The Blu-ray includes Flanagan’s 2006 short Oculus: Chapter 3—The Man With The Plan, which served as the basis for this feature.
Other catch-up releases
Stuntman-turned-director Scott Waugh’s game adaptation Need For Speed (Buena Vista) may be corny and overlong, but it features a great, extended nighttime street-racing sequence and quite a few breathtaking practical stunts, including one in which star Aaron Paul springs out of a drifting car as it stops within inches of the camera. The plot—which involves a parolee driving cross-country to join an illegal high-stakes race and clear his name—is nonsensical and mostly intrusive, though it does occasion a handful of fine actorly moments from Paul, who gives a performance that’s frankly better shaded and more naturalistic than the material deserves.
A couple of built-in-audience high-grossers—the YA adaptation Divergent (Lionsgate) and the chain-email adaptation God’s Not Dead (Pure Flix)—also hit home video this week. More intriguing are two subculture-focused barely-seens: Ping Pong Summer (Millenium), a table-tennis-themed period piece directed by Michael Tully (Septien), and the Baltimore-set dirt-bike-street-racing doc 12 O’Clock Boys (Oscilloscope).
All in all, it’s a slim week for newer titles, with the only other notable release being the war correspondent documentary The War Around Us (MPI).