And then he thought of his father ... Beacon Hill at the beginning of autumn ... Beacon Hill ...The landscape of his childhood.  - Jonathan Coe

10.2019

1 boxset from Eureka! Masters of Cinema

Fuller at Fox: Five Films, 1951-57

American director Samuel Fuller made "B"movies that have stood the test of time – and then some. In his heyday, the 1950s, the cigar-chomping filmmaker covered a range of genres, from war movies to Westerns to crime thrillers and noirs, and now, restored in 4K and 2K, five of them he made for Twentieth Century Fox have been collected into a brick of a boxset by British distributor Eureka!, the latest in its Masters of Cinema series. The five films are the Korean-War drama Fixed Bayonets! (1951); the spy thriller Pickup on South Street (1953), starring Richard Widmark; the Cold War submarine action movie Hell and High Water (1954); the Japan-set noir House of Bamboo (1955); and a feminist Western, Forty Guns (1957), starring Barbara Stanwyck. The boxset is limited-edition (2,000 units), its six discs are locked to Region B (U.K. and Europe), and as a bonus there's a 100-page hardbound book. The Brits hold Fuller in high regard: this edition follows a Blu-ray box set of seven other Fuller films that was released in mid-2018 by upstart label Powerhouse: It Happened in Hollywood (1937), Adventure in Sahara (1938), Power of the Press (1943), Shockproof (1949), Scandal Sheet (1952), The Crimson Kimono (1959, also released on BD in the U.S. by Twilight Time) and Underworld U.S.A. (1961). Four of the films in Eureka's set already have separate U.S. editions on Blu-ray: Criterion released Forty Guns last December, with the same major extra as the new boxset, A Fuller Life (2013), an 80-minute documentary by Fuller's daughter, Samantha, based on the director's 2002 autobiography, A Third Face (see the trailer above); Twilight Time released Hell and High Water in mid-2015 and House of Bamboo in mid-2015; and Kino had its own edition of Fixed Bayonets! in the fall of 2016. Extras in Eureka's boxset go above and beyond previous editions, with audio commentaries, interviews with experts (and, from French TV archives, with Fuller himself), a TV biography of Widmark, and a video essay.

4 from Powerhouse

Birdy (U.S., 1984)

In Alan Parker's acclaimed drama, Matthew Modine stars as a traumatized Vietnam vet who thinks he's a bird and Nicolas Cage is the childhood friend enlisted to bring him back to reality. New to Blu-ray in the U.K on Powerhouse's indicator label, the film comes with an audio commentary by Parker and the British Film Institute's Justin Johnson; interviews with Modine (24 mins.), screenwriters Jack Behr and Sandy Kroopf (14 mins.) and, from 2000, the score's composer, Peter Gabriel of Genesis fame (7 mins.). There's also an appreciation of the novel's author William Wharton by filmmaker Keith Gordon (17 mins.); a trailer and image galleries. The major bonus is No Hard Feelings, a short that Parker made in 1976 (55 mins.). The booklet runs 48 pages.

Young Winston (U.K., 1972)

In Richard Attenborough's widescreen epic, Winston Churchill (Simon Ward) graduates from Harrow and then Sandhurst and joins the British Army, where he fights in India and Sudan and does a heroic stint as a war correspondent South Africa, finally returning to England and into Parliament as a 26-year-old MP. For its first time on Blu-ray, Young Winston comes fully loaded with extras: 78 minutes of Attenborough in conversation with film critic Dilys Powell at London’s National Film Theatre in 1971; a 13-minute interview with the director from 2006; an interview with Ward from 2006, 16 mins.); new interviews with the film's assistant director (29 mins.); second assistant director  (9 mins.), stuntman and horse wrangler (10 mins.), special effects artist (5 mins.) and make-up artist (4 mins.); five deleted scenes, including an alternate ending (7 mins.); footage from the U.S. premiere in 1972 (16 mins., mute): a trailer and image galleries; and a 36-page booklet, including an extract from Churchill's autobiography, My Early Life: A Roving Commission.

Badge 373 (U.S., 1973)

Robert Duvall, plays Eddie Ryan, an Irish cop in New York Ciity who's suspended after a suspect he 's trying to nail falls to his death from a tall building. Verna Bloom (High Plains Drifter) is his love interest, Henry Darrow (The Hitcher) is the Puerto Rican druglord he takes down, and real-life cop Eddie Egan is his boss, Lieutenant Scanlon. Hardnosed New York journalist Pete Hamill wrote the script; bigshot Hollywood producer Howard W. Koch directs. In its U.K. premiere on Blu-ray, the movie has two new half-hour extras: an appreciation of Egan by actor and former NYPD detective Randy Jurgensen, and a look at the styles and trends of '70s cop movies by critic Glenn Kenny. There's also a trailer, TV and radio spots, an image gallery and a 36-page booklet.

Time Without Pity (U.K., 1957)

Time Without Pity was Joseph Losey's U.K. debut (under his own name, at least) after the McCarthy hearings got him blacklisted in the U.S. in the mid-1950s for being a Communist.  Appropriately, it's about a young man dealing with injustice: wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit (the murder of his girlfriend) Alec Graham (played by Alec McCowen) is on Death Row when he gets a surprise visit from his long-absent father (Michael Redgrave), an alcoholic who has been away in Canada undergoing rehabilitation. Soon, with the help of a family lawyer, he's fighting for his son's life. Leo McKern plays a wealthy automobile executive whose home was the scene of the crime, and Ann Todd (about to be divorced from director David Lean) is his wife. Extras on the Blu-ray, a world first, include: Losey in conversation with Dilys Powell at London’s National Film Theatre in 1973 (89 mins.); a new commentary by critic Neil Sinyard; a new interview with Losey's son, Gavrik (16 mins.); a 1960 TV commercial directed by Losey for Horlicks malted milk; and a 40-page booklet.

1 from the British Film Institute

Hair (U.S. / W. Germany, 1979)

Directed by the Czech-American filmmaker Miloš Forman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Next, Amadeus), Hair was a re-write of Ragni & Rado's one-off Broadway musical from the late '60s about American hippies and their opposition to the Vietnam War. The central character is a young draftee from Oklahoma named Claude Hooper Bukowski (played in the movie by John Savage, who'd made it big the previous year in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter). After getting his call-up papers, Bukowski comes to New York and falls in with a free-spirited bunch of hippies whose "leader" is the charismatic rebel George Berger (Treat Williams, in his star debut); Beverly d'Angelo plays Sheila Franklin, a blonde from the right side of the tracks who sends Bukowski's head spinning with thoughts of love. Eventually, however, the young recruit enlists and goes off to boot camp in Nevada, where he's only spared from being shipped overseas when he's paid an unexpected call by none other than Berger and his gang of merry pranksters. The film ends in tragedy, nonetheless. Forman's handling of this story, with a script by Michael Weller, mixes humour with moral outrage; the choreography by Twyla Tharp is dynamic and beautiful; the original music by Galt MacDermot ("Aquarius," "Easy to Be Hard," "Somebody to Love," "Good Morning, Starshine") is by turns tender and glorious; and the cinematography by Forman's compatriot and longtime collaborator Miroslav Ondříček is both fluid and beautifully framed. And the film's politics? They're not as radical as the stage musical's, but for that reason they've aged well. The new Blu-ray from the BFI (which also includes a DVD copy, similarly code-locked for British and European players) easily bests the barebones Blu-ray released in 2011 in the U.S. by Fox. For starters, there are subtitles for all the songs, which now soar in lossless audio (a choice of DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound or PCM 2.0 stereo). Extras include an hour of audio of an onstage 1969 conversation with director Nicolas Ray (who appeared in the movie as 'The General'), a 15-minute  image gallery and a three-minute trailer. There are also four vintage shorts: an animation called "Aquarius," 1966, 8 mins.; the documentary "San Francisco," 1968, 16 mins., with a Pink Floyd soundtrack; and the music films "Indian Pop Instrumental," 1970, 3 mins., and "Discomania," 1979, 25 mins. An illustrated colour booklet rounds out the package.

1 from Second Run

Journey to the Beginning of Time (Czechoslovakia, 1955)

The feature debut of Czech stop-motion animation/live action/visual effects genius Karel Zeman, Journey to the Beginning of Time follows four young lads in their fantastical search for prehistoric life on this planet. Adventuring into a cave, the boys miraculously emerge into a time millions of years ago when mammoths and dinosaurs roamed the earth. Will they survive to tell the tale? The new all-region Blu-ray by U.K. distributor Second Run has two versions of the 84-minute film: the original in Czech with optional English subtitles, and, reconstructed from a 4K Czech master with inserts of standard definition video, the slightly shorter American version partially reshot for U.S. theatres and TV in1966 with nearly nine minutes of credits, an extended prologue and a three minute epilogue. Extras on the disc include an appreciation by Kung Fu Panda director John Stevenson (23 mins.), a 9-minute making-of; a two-minute restoration featurette, an image gallery, two trailers (of the new restoration and of the U.S. theatrical release), and an ad for the Karel Zeman Museum, in Prague. The accompanying booklet runs 20 pages and features new writing by film historian Michael Brooke.

09.2019

1 from Criterion

Local Hero (U.K., 1983)

Scottish director Bill Forsyth struck black gold with this wildly popular indie comedy about a Texas oil baron (Burt Lancaster) who dispatches a young emissary (Peter Riegert) to rural Scotland to buy a small fishing village as the site of a future refinery for North Sea crude. The locals jump at the chance to strike it rich, but one lone hold-out says no deal, forcing both baron and emissary to examine their consciences and take the pro-environmental road to redemption. Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler did the soundtrack; David Puttnam (Chariots of Fire) produced. On Blu-ray, the new edition from Criterion features a 2K restoration and comes with a number of extras, old and new. There's an audio commentary recorded last year by Forsyth with film critic Mark Kermode; a trailer; a new video conversation between the director and film critic David Cairns (16 mins.); an hour-long documentary from 1985 called "Shooting from the Heart" about cinematographer Chris Menges (52 mins.); and three items from 1983 relating to Forsyth and his film: an hour-long episode of Scottish TV's "The South Bank Show," an hour-long making-of that also aired on Scottish TV, and a half-hour interview with the director. The illustrated booklet has an essay by film scholar Jonathan Murray.

2 from Eureka!

We the Animals (U.S., 2018)

Youth, poverty, sexual awakening, filial loyalty and paternal violence are the powerful themes of Jeremiah Zager's low-budget ($400K) feature debut, set in upstate New York and shot in 16mm with some added animation sequences. The child actors are remarkable, too. The Blu-ray from Eureka!'s Montage label is locked to Region B, as is the accompanying DVD. Extras are plentiful: a three-minute short by Jason Banville that stars Mark Samsonovich, who did the animation for We the Animals; one-minute introductions of the movie's three young stars; a three-minute making-of; three minutes of author Justin Torres on the process of story to screen; another quickie called "How To Make We The Animals in 60 Seconds"; about four minutes each of Joel improvising and how the film's visual effects were made; and a trailer. The illustrated booklet has an essay by The Guardian critic Wendy Ide.

High Noon (U.S., 1952)

Gary Cooper plays a marshal on the verge of retirement who saves a small town from a gang of murderers in Fred Zinnemann's classic western. Grace Kelly co-stars as his pacifist bride. Locked to Region B, the new Blu-ray on Eureka's Masters of Cinema imprint is a beauty, restored in 4K and with a wealth of extras, including two new audio commentaries by experts Glenn Frankel and Stephen Prince and a long 1969 interview with writer Carl Foreman from the National Film Theatre in London (77 mins.). Also up: a new half-hour video interview with film historian Neil Sinyard; and three making-ofs: with critic Leonard Maltin in 1992 (22 mins.), actor Frank Langella in 2008 (50 mins.) and Cooper's daughter Maria Cooper-Janis in 2007 (10 mins.). The accompanying 100-page book includes "The Tin Star," the 1947 short story by John W. Cunningham on which High Noon is based.

1 from Twilight Time

Whirlpool (U.S., 1949)

Directed once again by Otto Preminger, Gene Tierney (Laura) gives her noirish best as a kleptomaniac housewife who falls under the spell of a shady hypnotist (José Ferrer), a man with a phony promise of a cure and a secret plan to frame her for the murder of his ex (Barbara O'Neil). Richard Conte co-stars.  On the new Blu-ray from Twilight Time, the movie comes with a previously available audio commentary by the late film critic and historian Richard Schickel, the option of listening to David Raksin's score as an isolated track (in DTS-HD stereo), a trailer, and an 8-page leaflet in which Twilight Time's in-house critic Julie Kirgo expands on the picture. Available to order direct from the distributor here.

4 from Powerhouse

Hussy (U.K., 1980)

Helen Mirren (The Queen, Gosford Park) stars as a London nightclub hostess who turns tricks to make ends meet, John Shea (Missing) plays the sound-and-lights technician who falls for her, and together they get mixed up with a nasty pimp (Paul Angelis) and some murderous drug dealers. Sounds like a good way to spend the next hour and a half, right? Loads of extras, old and new, on the all-region Blu-ray, part of Powerhouse's Indicator line: there's an audio commentary of selected scenes by writer-director Matthew Chapman (36 mins.), four new featurettes (with actor Shea, actress Jenny Runacre, executive producer Don Boyd and composer George Fenton; an 2012 audio interview with poster artist Sam Peffer, two trailers (rated 'U' and 'X'), an image gallery and a 32-page booklet.

The System (U.K., 1964)

A gang of cads set out to seduce (and then dump) the posh girls who descend every summer for a seaside holiday in the south of Devon. Re-named The Girl-Getters in the U.S., the movie stars Oliver Reed, Jane Merrow and Barbara Ferris, and was shot on location by Nicholas Roeg (Walkabout). Besides an audio commentary (with film historians Thirza Wakefield and Melanie Williams), extras on the all-region disc include new interviews with Merrow and fellow cast members  John Porter-Davison and Jeremy Burnham, an image gallery and a 1961 documentary short called "Haunted England" (24 mins.). The 32-page booklet has excerpts from director Michael Winner’s memoir.

90˚ in the Shade (Czechoslovakia / U.K., 1965)

 Jiří Weiss (Romeo, Juliet and Darkness) directs Rudolf Hrusínský (The Cremator) in this Cinemascope drama about a state inspector who has to decide whether to allow a young shop assistant (Anne Heywood) and her pilfering boyfriend (James Booth) escape punishment. The all-region Blu-ray has both versions of the film, in Czech and in English, Extras include an audio commentary by film historian Michael Brooke, a featurette with Brooke (22 mins.) and four vintage shorts by Weiss: "The Rape of Czechoslovakia" (1939, (18 mins.), "The Other RAF" (1942, 8 mins.), "100,000,000 Women" (1942, 8 mins.) and "Before the Raid" (1943, 35 mins. The latter has an alternate audio track: a 1990 interview with Weiss by the Imperial War Museum (25 mins.). There's also a 36-page illustrated booklet.

They Made Me a Fugitive (U.K., 1947)

Trevor Howard (The Third Man) plays a demobbed RAF pilot who gets into some postwar black marketeering, with violent results. Alberto Cavalcanti (Went the Day Well?) directs. The all-region Blu-ray is rich in extras: an hour-long talk that Cavalcanti gave at London's National Film Theatre in 1970 that can be played as an alternate audio track; interview with critic Neil Sinyard (28 mins.) and film restoration expert Kieron Webb (13 mins.), an image galley of vintage promo material, and two vintage shorts featuring Howard: "Squaring the Circle" (1941, 33 mins., the first third without sound)and "The Aircraft Rocket" (1944, 9 mins.). The illustrated black-and-white booklet runs 18 pages.

1 from the British Film Institute

Comes a Horseman (U.S., 1978)

Suspend your disbelief and watch James Caan and Jane Fonda play a couple of small-time cattle ranchers scraping a living out West in the early 1940s. More credible is Jason Robards as a rapacious land baron and Richard Farnsworth (The Grey Fox) as a loyal farmhand. Alan Pakula (All the President's Men) directs. Besides an audio commentary by novelist and scriptwriter Scott Harrison and optional isolated score by Michael Small (in stereo), the region-B code-locked BFI Blu-ray rounds up a passel of extras: a long Q&A that Pakula gave at London's National Film Theatre in 1986 (95 mins.), a long Q&A that Fonda gave last year at BFI Southbank (71 mins.), an image gallery (10 mins.) and two quirky (and rather tangential) vintage British documentary shorts on ranching and farming: "Hereford Pedigree Cattle" (1937, 10 mins.) and "The Grassy Shires" (1944, 16 mins.). There's also a trailer and a 28-page illustrated booklet.

1 from Paramount

Holocaust (U.S., 1978)

Credit this overwrought yet pioneering NBC miniseries with one important thing: it brought the Shoah into tens of millions of otherwise ignorant (or disinterested) homes across North America and, soon after, Germany and the rest of Europe. Shot in Austria and West Berlin, it interweaves two storylines — of a family of professional Jews and a family of Christian Nazis — over nine-and-a-half hours, recounting the rise and fall of the Third Reich from 1935 to 1945, from the Nuremberg laws to the Nuremberg trials via the death camps of Theresienstadt, Buchenwald and Auschwitz. On the side of good: a Jewish-Christian couple played by James Woods and Meryl Streep. On the side of evil: Michael Moriarty, as an underling of the dreaded (and doomed) Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich. Uncut, the four episodes are spread across two region-free discs in the new Paramount Blu-ray, lasting 143 mins., 99 mins., 94 mins. and 116 mins. There are English subtitles for the hard-of-hearing and the soundtrack is in the original mono, remastered in DTS-HD.