"... The tangled moods that, autumn-wise, I fling you ..." - Madeleva Wolff

10.2021

1 from Criterion

High Sierra (U.S., 1941)

 Humphrey Bogart stars in this classic western noir directed by Raoul Walsh (They Drive by Night, White Heat) and co-written by John Huston (The Maltese Falcon, Prizzi's Honor) and W.R. Burnett (Scarface, The Badlanders), adapting Burnett's novel of the same name. Bogart plays Roy Earle, an ex-con hired to lead a heist at a mountain spa resort in California's Sierra Nevada; Ida Lupino (The Sea Wolf, Moontide) plays his love interest, the dance-hall girl Marie. High Sierra was shot on location, which lends the film a you-are-there quality that critics and audiences loved; it has aged very well. For the new Blu-ray edition, Criterion has put the film on one disc with substantial extras, then upped the ante with a second disc of extras, including another Walsh western. The first disc includes a new video essay featuring excerpts from a 1976 American Film Institute interview with Burnett (14 mins.); a new interview with film and media historian Miriam J. Petty about African-American actor Willie Best (14 mins.); "Bogart: Here’s Looking at You, Kid," a 1997 documentary (51 mins.); "Curtains for Roy Earle: The Story of High Sierra," a 2003 featurette (15 mins.); a half-hour radio adaptation from 1944; and a trailer. Disc two has Colorado Territory, Walsh’s 1949 western remake of High Sierra; a 2019 feature-length documentary called "The True Adventures of Raoul Walsh" (95 mins.); and a new conversation on Walsh between film programmer Dave Kehr and critic Farran Smith Nehme (20 mins.). The accompanying booklet includes an essay by Imogen Sara Smith.

1 from Paramount

Mommie Dearest (U.S., 1981)

"No ... wire ... hangers ... EVER!" An unintentional camp classic, Mommie Dearest stars Faye Dunaway as real-life actress Joan Crawford (Grand Hotel, Mildred Pierce, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?), based on the 1978 memoir of Crawford's long-suffering adopted daughter, Christina. Alcoholic, neat-freak, child abuser, the mother here is portrayed with surreal intensity by Dunaway, who later disowned the film, just as 'Mommie" Crawford disowned Christina. It's all so sad, very sad – but also, in a weird way, absolutely hilarious. Paramount's all-region Blu-ray comes with two commentary tracks – one new (by drag queen Hedda Lettuce), one old (by filmmaker John Waters, from the 2006 DVD) – and several extras: a new appreciation of director Frank Perry by biographer Justin Bozung (7 mins.) and three quarter-hour featurettes off the old DVD that look at the genesis, making-of and legacy of the film through the eyes of cast and crew. (Not Dunaway's, however; until 2016 in an interview with People magazine, she refused to discuss the film, which she lamented had given people "the wrong impression of me – and that's an awful hard thing to beat."). Rounding out the disc are a three-minute slideshow of photos and a trailer. Besides the original mono audio (in English or in French and German dubs), Paramount also offer a boosted DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track; subtitles can be had in the three languages too.

09.2021

1 from Criterion

The Damned (Götterdämmerung) (Italy / West Germany, 1969)

Luchino Visconti's two-and-a-half-hour condemnation of the early days of Nazism is a sordid affair focused on the corruption of a leading family of munitions-and-steel magnates torn apart by greed, incest, drug addiction and ultimately murder, all against the backdrop of the struggle for dominance between Hitler's SA and SS rivals. Dirk Bogarde, Charlotte Rampling, Swedish actress Ingrid Thulin and Visconti's flamboyantly gay protegé Helmut Berger star.There's only one new extra on Criterion's Blu-ray: a quarter-hour interview with Italian film scholar Stefano Albertini. The rest are archival: a 40-minute interview with Visconti on Italian TV in 1970; short interviews from 1969 with Berger and Thulin, and another from 1990 with Rampling; a 1960 featurette showing Visconti working and being interviewed (in English) on set; and a trailer. The film has two soundtracks: the original English and German one (with optional subtitles for the German), and an Italian dub (unfortunately inactive on the retail copy I was sent).  A foldout pamphlet has an essay by scholar D. A. Miller.

1 from Network

Defence of the Realm (U.K., 1985)

In an early role, Gabriel Byrne plays Nick Mullen, a hardnosed London newspaper reporter who investigates a cover-up by the British government of an accident on an American airbase that almost resulted in a nuclear disaster. Briskly paced, well-acted (Greta Scacchi, Denholm Elliott and Ian Bannen co-star) and with a solid script by Martin Stellman (Quadrophenia, For Queen and Country, The Interpreter), the movie also marked an early effort by cinematagrapher Roger Deakins (Fargo, Skyfall). U.K. distributor Network's Blu-ray sports a new transfer of Defence of the Realm and interviews with producer Lynda Myles, production designer Roger Murray-Leach, composer Richard Harvey (responsible for the film's now-excruciatingly dated synthesizer score) and even the film's boom operator, Clive Copland. There's also a 13-minute episode from 2000 of Carleton Cinema's documentary series "On Location," in which actor Robert Powell (Jesus of Nazareth) interviews Myles and location manager Laurie Borg and revisits some of the places Realm was shot. Completing the package are a trailer and an 18-page booklet featuring a new essay by scholar Neil Sinyard and the movie's original pressbook. 

1 from Eureka! Montage

I Never Cry (Poland/Ireland, 2020)

After a Polish construction worker dies in Ireland, his headstrong teenage daughter, Olka (Zofia Stafiej), arrives to collect his body and the savings he'd promised for her first car and hightail it back home. But in her first exposure to the West, the 17-year-old finds that Dublin is a force to be reckoned with, her mixed feelings over her estranged dad are ever-present, and her grief surprisingly inextinguishable. Following up on his debut film, Silent Night (2017), writer-director Piotr Domalewski once again explores the psychology of foreign workers in the European Union and charts the impact of economic and geographical disparity on their friends and family. There are no extras on the new region-B Blu-ray from Montage Pictures, an imprint of U.K. distributor Eureka!, but the booklet features an essay by critic Anna Smith.