Posted in: DVD

Ten DVD Releases That Made 2009 Great

I’ve done my “Best of 2009 on DVD and Blu-ray” list for MSN, which features the usual mix of films old and new and packages creative, lavish and otherwise really, really cool. Here I’d like to do something a little different. This isn’t about the greatest transfers, the most splendiferous supplements, the coolest commentaries, the biggest box sets or the latest, most lavish edition of some perennial collectible (be it The Wizard of Oz or Gone With the Wind or The Seventh Seal, all of which were rereleased on DVD in impressive new editions in conjunction with their stunning Blu-ray debuts). This is all about the movies themselves, those long awaited releases of classics, landmarks, auteur oddities and cult favorites. And yes, quality is an issue, but not the issue.

I’ll be tackling box sets, cult oddities and silent releases in separate features but I begin with ten films that made their DVD debut this year. Not necessarily the most important or the greatest, but those unheralded releases that make my job such a joy. In no particular order, I count them down starting with my own modest contribution to the year in DVD…

The Exiles

10. The Exiles (Milestone/Oscilloscope) – In the interests of full disclosure, I was involved in the DVD release of this amazing American indie, almost forgotten until Thom Anderson featured it in his documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself. I play moderator on the commentary track with author/filmmaker Sherman Alexie and I interview Alexie for a separate audio-only interview on the second disc of the collection. That said, this is arguably the great archival release of the year. Kent Mackenzie’s independently produced 1961 drama (when independent cinema was the realm of mavericks and dreamers working in the margins, rather than studio subsidiaries and major actors looking for a challenge) chronicled the lives of urban American Indians (all of them non-actors drawing from their own lives) on the Bunker Hill area of Los Angeles over one long, alcohol-lubricated night.

There’s no uplifting message here and the internal monologues that accompany their wanderings speak of desires and anxieties and disappointments that appear doomed to repeat themselves. But there is also something singular and specific about these people and the culture they have created within the city: Mackenzie’s portrait may be fiction but this world is very real. Mackenzie developed the story and wrote the dialogue with his cast and they communicate an honesty and pain and devastating disconnection even while putting on a happy-go-lucky face. The two-disc set also features four short films by Mackenzie, clips from Thom Andersen’s documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself (which brought new attention to the forgotten film), documentary shorts about the Bunker Hill neighborhood and a radio interview with Sherman and Charles Burnett among the supplements. (I write a little about the experience of preparing and recording the commentary here.)

9. Gabriel Over the White House (Warner Archive) – I wrote about the launch of Warner’s DVD-on-Demand service for Parallax earlier this year (read the feature here) and have been sampling my way through the hundreds of releases since it began in March 2009. In a nutshell, Warner Home Video is offering no-frills versions of pre-1986 films in the Warner library (including MGM and RKO films) from the same video masters made for broadcast on TCM and other channels. They are preserved, not restored, and they look just fine, less stellar than, say, the restored films on the William Wellman at Warner Bros. box set but better looking than cable reception and superior to many labels that specialize in vintage films. There is some grumbling from film fans on many of the home video forums but simply put, Warner has made more classic films available from this service alone in 2009 than every other company put together.

That’s just prelude to the first of the Warner Archive titles that I celebrate on this list. Gregory La Cava’s 1933 New Deal fantasy is one of the strangest political films to escape the studios. Corrupt President-Elect Walter Huston survives a near death experience through the intervention of an angel and comes out a changed man, a sort of philosopher king whose methods border on dictatorial militarism. I suppose this is the kind of leader Hitler assumed himself to be, but to Depression-era audiences this benevolent dictatorship must have seemed like an answer to their prayers. Looking back today it’s a fascinating little film, almost perverse in its vigilante justice, yet oddly engaging with its unusual romantic triangle (Huston, his aide Franchot Tone, and his mistress Karen Morley) and surprise ending. There was nothing else like this coming out of Hollywood in the thirties.

8. Death In The Garden (La Mort En Ce Jardin) (Microcinema) – The “garden” of Death In The Garden (1956) is the South American jungle, but there’s death everywhere in this rarely seen Luis Bunuel thriller. Chark, a hard-bitten prospector (Georges Marchal) wanders into a rural mining village and the middle of an uprising against the corrupt military rule. He’s hardly an innocent, but in this mercenary world he’s as close to hero as we’ll find even as he uses the uprising for his own revenge and escape from a criminal frame-up. Some escape; the second half of the film follows Chark and a rag-tag group of mercenaries (including Simone Signoret as an opportunistic hooker and innocents (Michel Piccoli as a naïve but sincere priest and Michèle Girardon as the deaf-mute daughter of a local miner) fleeing the violence of the uprising into the jungle, where they become lost in the “garden” which, true to Bunuel and his cheeky Biblical reference, is both beautiful and deadly.

Death in the Garden
Georges Marchal and Simone Signoret: "Death in the Garden"

This 1956 Franco-Mexican co-production was one of Bunuel’s “commercial” films and he delivers a wonderfully cynical thriller filled with brilliant Bunuelian flourishes (Chark is arrested but dragged to a church on his way to the station, where the cop kicks him in the leg to make him kneel in prayer) and a grim sense of futility. But Bunuel is also a solid commercial filmmaker and he delivers a tight thriller filled with cynicism right out of American film noir and an atmosphere unique to this film. The jungle scenes may be studio-bound, but the thick, smothering foliage creates a hothouse claustrophobia and the soundtrack is dense with the alien world of nature, whether it’s the oppressive white noise of the rain or the constant bird chirps and insect buzzing of day time scenes. The disc is nicely mastered from a restored print with vivid color and includes both French and Spanish soundtracks with English subtitles. There’s a generous new 35-minute career retrospective interview with Michel Piccoli conducted by Juan-Luis Bunuel, as well as an interview with Bunuel scholar Victor Fuentes, commentary by film scholar Ernesto R. Acevedo-Munoz and an accompanying booklet with essays.

7. Gumshoe (Sony) – Stephen Frears’ directorial debut is a cockeyed detective film starring Albert Finney as a small-time bingo caller and wannabe stand-up comic who plays at being a private detective for fun and ends up in the middle of a real mystery. Gumshoe (1971) is at once a loving tribute to old Hollywood detective movies, a playful tale of one man’s attempt to live out a movie fantasy and a grounded drama of a man who understands the difference between reality and make-believe but doesn’t let that change the way he lives. Eddie Ginley (Finney) is the kind of guy who can’t help but slip into hard-boiled patter (delivered with a touch of Bogie) when the opportunity arises, even if he’s clad in BVDs and a ratty bathrobe and devouring a bowl of cold cereal between his tough-guy cracks. It’s the kind of touch that makes Eddie so genuine and Finney plays him as a regular bloke with a non-stop sense of whimsy, a smart retort for occasion and a penchant for narrating his story in the vernacular of an American wise guy.

Frears roots the film in the dreary atmosphere of working-class Liverpool, where the folks escape the industrial grime in “The Broadway Club,” a cheap music hall where the locals gather to eat, drink and enjoy the entertainment between rounds of bingo. It may be a shabby place, but Frears never stoops to ridicule the audience or the entertainers. The club boss, a semi-connected guy whose affection for Eddie emerges from the banter, is a real character cut from the same cloth: the photos of show-biz royalty posing with him are all lovingly-produced fakes. No wonder he has such a soft-spot for Eddie. They both play out their dreams in harmless games. When the case turns downright dangerous, there’s a bit of shamus chivalry in Eddie’s act, as if the trenchcoat and hard-boiled affectation gives him the courage and the determination to play the hero for once. He knows the score, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have a little fun while he plays out his hand. The DVD debut is letterboxed at 1.66:1 (you can just see the slivers of black on each side of the screen) and looks fine, if not exactly stellar. Then again, that’s how the film was shot, in the dull, desaturated colors befitting the working-class environment of Eddie’s industrial hometown of Liverpool. (For more on the film, see my review on Parallax View and my feature for Turner Classic Movies.)

Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino

6. The Man I Love (Warner Archive) – Ida Lupino was one of Hollywood’s real tough cookies, a romantic heroine who could hold her own against the brawny heroes and rough villains of Warner Bros. crime movies. The Man I Love (1947) isn’t a crime film per se, but it’s far more than a typical melodrama, thanks in large part to the strong, tough direction of Raoul Walsh. Set in the post-war era of swank nightclubs and the seedy types they attract, it’s a refreshingly mature film rich with stories of frustrated lives, unrequited loves and tough times just getting by in the world without selling your soul. Lupino is the calloused heroine, a New York chanteuse who goes home to Los Angeles to see her family – a married sister with a child and a soldier husband in the hospital for shellshock, a sweet younger sister infatuated with the married man next door and a cocky brother who sees his future as a hired thug for sleazy nightclub lothario Robert Alda. Lupino knows her way around the octopus hands of night club operators and puts herself between Alda and her family to save their innocence from the urban corruption that threatens to seep into their lives.

Lupino may have a weak singing voice but her smoky delivery is filled with understanding and regret, as if she’s lived the lyrics of her songs of lost loves and bruised romanticism, and her tossed-off delivery of smartly scripted lines gives her an American urban worldliness. The film is best known today for Scorsese’s claims that it was his inspiration for New York, New York, but it’s not the plot that found its way into his film. It’s the shadowy culture of working class folks tangled in the post-war culture of seductive night life, of dive bars and the itinerate musicians and singers and underworld types who frequent them, and in the tough attitude that Walsh and Lupino bring to the film. They made a great pair and she is the perfect Walsh heroine: tough, smart, experienced, and still something of a romantic at heart. This is one of the great “women’s pictures” of the era, never showy but always simmering with complicated relationships, frustrated desires and unfulfilled affections that are more authentic and conflicted than most Hollywood pictures.

5. The Tall Target / Film Noir on the Warner Archive Collection (Warner Archive) – Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target (1951) is a rare period piece noir: it’s set in 1860 and the tall target of the title is President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Dick Powell plays the lone police detective who believes in the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln on his journey to be sworn in as President and, in a fit of pique, slams his badge on the desk and storms out of the station to board the midnight train to the capitol. That his gesture cripples his effectiveness—without his badge, few believe that he is a cop, let alone on a mission to stop a murder—is just one of the nice touches in a film full of dynamic images and marvelous grace notes. It’s a low budget production by MGM standards but no B-movie; there is great production value here, but with so much of the action on the train, it’s saved for city scenes, the train rolling through a period-perfect town bustling with life. Shots of the train, backlit and charging through the night, are magnificent, and unexpected period details—the train is pulled into the Baltimore station by horses because of an ordinance to keep it from blowing smoke through the middle of town—keeps enlivening the action with stranger-than-fiction flourishes. But it’s Mann’s control and confidence as a director that makes it so irresistible: a fight under the wheels of a train about to leave the station, the camera peering through the spokes and pistons and blasts of steam; a measured walk down the aisle of a train looking for suspicious characters transformed into a hijacking with a simple camera move; a mysterious passenger dropped off in the inky shadow of night while the train is delayed for an important parcel; verbal games between Powell (whose character is named, I kid you not, John Kennedy) and various suspects, blowhards and bystanders, especially with Adolph Menjou as a hospitable officer traveling with his men to Baltimore. Powell lacks the grit and hard drive of a true a Mann hero and Marshall Thompson hasn’t the presence to give his cultured southern plantation son a sense of command, let alone make him threatening, but Will Geer (soon to be blacklisted for his political activism) is note-perfect the ubiquitous train conductor whose entire being is focused on getting the train to run smoothly and on time. It was Mann’s last noir; he had essentially made the leap from urban crime director to western director with Winchester ’73 and for the rest of the decade, he helped transform Jimmy Stewart from lovable leading man to ruthless man of the west. It’s also one of my favorite oddities of the genre. Other Warner Archive noir releases in 2009 include Jacques Tourneur’s Berlin Express (1948) (a more romantic noir on a train), John Farrow’s The Fallen Sparrow (1943), The Bribe (1949) with Ava Gardner and Robert Taylor, The Unfaithful (1947) and Andrew Stone’s Highway 301 (1950).

Wise Blood
Wise Blood

4. Wise Blood (Criterion) – “Nobody with a good car needs to be justified.” There’s a marvelous out-of-time quality to John Huston’s dryly funny and engagingly eccentric 1979 film of Flannery O’Connor’s novel. Brad Dourif stars as Hazel Motes, a young man who returns from the war (it’s not clear whether it’s World War II, Korea or Vietnam) and lands in the city preaching the “Church of Truth Without Jesus Christ Crucified.” No sin, no salvation, no hypocrisy. Dourif is mesmerizing as the man wrestling with God as he preaches atheism, a man driven to preach not out of conviction but out of out anger at those street corner hucksters who preach things that they don’t believe. Huston doesn’t try to hide the contemporary backdrop of the 1979 production, but Hazel (and many others in the film) could have escaped from the 1940s or even earlier, while Hazel’s oddball apostle Enoch (Dan Shor) is like a rural hick in the big city of the seventies. Harry Dean Stanton and Ned Beatty headline the cast of eccentrics. Criterion’s disc features new interviews with Dourif and screenwriters Michael Fitzgerald and Benedict Fitzgerald. What’s most interesting about the interviews is how Huston thought he was making a comedy, a satire of religious hysteria in the south, and the producers/writers (and the star) believed it was a story about a man coming to God. They didn’t argue about it, just let him make the film and come to the story himself. Which he did. Also features a Huston interview by Bill Moyers from 1982 (while he was shooting Annie) and an audio-only clip of O’Connor reading her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”

3. Husbands (Sony) – John Cassavetes has been called the godfather of American independent cinema, and for good reason: he made highly personal, aggressively discomforting, astonishingly intimate films about troubled relationships in the modern world. Husbands (1970), subtitled “A comedy about life death and freedom,” follows three middle-aged men (Ben Gazzara, Peter Falk and Cassavetes), long time friends and family men, as they run from their despair after the death of the man who completed their fun-loving group. This is a Cassavetes kind of mid-life crisis: they indulge their worst, most selfish instincts as they attempt to outrun their fears of mortality and frustrations of compromised lives. They carouse in all-night drinking binges, rush off for a weekend of gambling and cheating in London and slip into boyish giggling and sniggering whenever the situation gets too personal. Only while safely hidden in a bar room toilet do they let their fears pour out. It’s also interesting to note that this film was produced in 1969 and released in 1970, looking forward in style and subject matter to the films that would define seventies filmmaking.

As with most of Cassavete’s personal projects, his script was reworked through rehearsals and improvisations with actors investing themselves deeply in their characters and dramatic crises. The result is a mix of idiosyncratic insights and raw emotion pouring out in startling moments between long, rambling, often uncomfortable conversations which are as much about what is not said as what is, and sold by raw, intense performances and volatile ensemble chemistry. Cassavete’s original version was cut by the studio for wide release. This DVD is restored to its 142 minute running time. Cassavetes biographer Marshall Fine offers a well-organized commentary that is both a Cassavetes primer and a comprehensive study of the development of the film. The excellent 30-minute documentary The Story of Husbands: A Tribute to John Cassavetes features new interviews with Gazzara, producer Al Ruban and director of photography Victor Kemper, whose insights and remembrances fill out Fine’s portrait of Cassavetes even more. “John used rehearsals mainly for himself, to rewrite, to listen,” explains an aged but still very articulate Gazarra. “He had an idea of where this material was going, what played, what didn’t play. So we rehearsed for three weeks before we started shooting.” Adds producer Ruban: “His style, if you can call it such, is coming to the set, everyone, being prepared to do the day’s work and then discovering something that was totally unexpected from the actors…. And that’s why he is really an actor’s director.” The most unexpected revelation: Cassavetes didn’t know Gazarra or Falk before he cast them. He merely knew of their work and thought they would be good collaborators. His instincts were right: they became regular collaborators and lifelong friends. For more on the film, see my essay on Turner Classic Movies here.

2. The Films of Michael Powell (Sony) – Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (originally released in the U.S. as Stairway to Heaven) is as gorgeous and romantic as films come. The film opens with a celestial prologue and narration providing a sense of cosmic comfort of someone watching over it all, of some divine authority in charge. It plays like the British answer to the opening of Its a Wonderful Life, which came out the same year (is it coincidence that the post-war era inspired such a need for heavenly affirmation?), but immediately swoops down from the majestic calm of the stars into the terror of World War II and a bomber pilot giving his farewell to life over the wireless as his plane burns furiously around him and he prepares to make a blind leap without a parachute. Powell gives the scene terrible beauty – the wind whips the cabin, the fire flickers around his face, the clouds have a texture so palpable they look like you could step out into the sky and walk to heaven on them – and an emotional power to match. Peter Carter (David Niven) is resigned to his fate but his heart beats with the desperate passion of a man determined to embrace every last sensation in the final seconds of his life. That combination of adrenaline-powered strength and mortal vulnerability gives him the permission and the need to embrace, if only through voice, the American girl (Kim Hunter) at the other end of the wireless. And she falls just as surely in love with him.

Kim Hunter and Dvid Niven: A Matter of Life and Death
Kim Hunter and Dvid Niven: "A Matter of Life and Death"

It would be a beginning that few directors could match with the drama that followed. Powell does. That emotional burst, that passion for life and love, is followed through with a struggle to hang on to life once Peter survives an impossible blind jump and meets the voice at the other end, falling impossibly in love while the clerks up above note that one soul is missing from the balance sheets. An aristocratic emissary (Marius Goring) in 18th Century French finery (asked how he ended up in heaven, he references the French Revolution and explains the scarf around his neck when he remarks, “I lost my head”) is sent to retrieve the missing soul, leaving the cool monochrome sheen of heavenly majesty for the bloom of color on Earth. The line “Ah! We are so starved for Technicolor up there” could as easily be applied today. This color has a surreal magic missing in modern films. Powell and Pressberger are as passionate about filmmaking as young poet Peter is about life. Their creativity is both fantastic and organic, their imagery spellbinding and gorgeous, and their scripting clever and witty. They never betray whether this heavenly world is real or all in Peter’s mind (the result of his blistering headaches) but neither are they coy in the play between the worlds. As Doctor Reeves observes, these visions are real to Peter, and so they are to him too. And to us. It’s a perfect romantic fantasy, a stunning creative achievement and one of my favorite films, and at long last on DVD in a gorgeous transfer that glows on the screen. We’re so starved from Technicolor here too.

It’s part of the second “The Collector’s Choice” release, a collaboration between Sony and The Film Foundation, a two-disc/two film set entitled The Films of Michael Powell. The second feature is Age of Consent, his 1969 drama about a British painter (James Mason) who flees England for Australia to go Gauguin on a tropical island and a local girl (Helen Mirren) who becomes his muse. Martin Scorsese provides video introductions for each film and Helen Mirren shares her memories of the film in a short interview. Michael Powell historian Ian Christie provides commentary on A Matter of Life and Death and Kent Jones does the honors for Age of Consent.

1. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Criterion) – “A singular work in film history,” begins the description on the case of Criterion’s long-awaited DVD release of Chantal Akerman’s astounding film. That is no hyperbole. Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975) is a painstaking, excruciatingly exacting portrait of the life of a perfectly organized homemaker, an epic portrait of a quotidian life where every gesture through the 200-minute study becomes important and the slips in routine reverberate like aftershocks of an earthquake. The film has been almost impossible to see for decades (it wasn’t even released in the U.S. until 1983 and was rarely revived in the years since) but this singular work is now available to anyone with a will and a DVD player.

Jeanne Dielman
Jeanne Dielman

Middle-aged widow and single mother Jeanne Dielman (Delphine Seyrig) lives a carefully structured life with a clockwork routine. She wakes up before dawn, sees her son Sylvain (Jan Decorte) off to school, cleans every last dish in her tiny and spotless kitchen, then continues on with the errands and duties of her day. One of those duties just happens to be servicing an afternoon client as a part-time prostitute. Jeanne is all business when the bell rings and she puts the pot on low simmer to welcome her client for the day. It’s creepily expressive the way Akerman frames her head out of the shot when she answers the door, matching Seyrig’s inexpressive formality with each man. Ackerman observes her life over a couple of days in exacting detail, in long takes and full frame compositions from an unmoving and unblinking camera. Cinematographer Babette Mangolte, who worked with the young director on numerous films, brings Akerman’s vision to the screen with crisp, precise images that are at once mundanely simple and bristling with tension. Against the Spartan backdrop of her cramped apartment – small, clean, austere, a living space stripped of clutter or personal touches – her every gesture becomes a part of the film’s drama and tension.

It’s unaccountably entrancing, compelling, almost thrilling. The stillness, the silence, the spareness of the space all focuses the viewer on the smallest details of the activities and the exactness of the routine. It’s all so seemingly simple and direct, yet there is a beautiful play of rhythms in the editing and the performance that gives the routine the movements of a visual symphony. As we become attuned to that routine, Akerman jars us with the first skipped note. Criterion’s two-disc edition features a wealth of supplements, notably an illuminating 69-minute documentary shot on the set of the film by actor Sami Frey and a new 20-minute interview with Akerman shot for the DVD in April 2009, which makes a reflective companion piece. Also features archival interviews with Akerman and others, a new interview with cinematographer Babette Mangolte and the 1968 short Saute me ville, the first film by Akerman, among the supplements. For more on the film, see my feature review on Parallax View and my essay on Turner Classic Movies.

Special Mention: Reign of Terror / The Amazing Mr. X (VCI) – Anthony Mann’s Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book, 1949) has my vote for the most unique film noir ever made. It’s also been one of the hardest cult noirs to see. I managed to hit a couple of screenings in various films series over the past 25 years but otherwise made do with a poor quality videotape from a late-night cable showing I made a couple of decades ago. More recently, I picked up a wretched DVD from PD outfit Alpha Video, which was hardly better video quality than my VHS copy and managed to misframe the film so badly that a significant portion of the image was offscreen. Now VCI has come to the rescue with Classic Film Noir Vol. 3, a disc that, while hardly stellar, is a vast improvement over the Alpha Video edition. There is some minor damage to the print and the image is soft even compared to the Warner Archive’s release of Mann’s other period noir The Tall Target (see above), but it is perfectly watchable with good contrasts and clean soundtrack.

As for the film itself, it has all the hallmarks of great film noir—scheming and backstabbing characters, hard-boiled dialogue, narrow urban streets and dark alleys wet with rain and crowded with disreputable figures, and of course the shadowy visuals and extreme camera angles of an unpredictable world—are dropped into the chaos and cruelty of the French Revolution, here run by the most ruthless gang of criminals ever seen. Richard Basehart’s Maximilian Robespierre (“Don’t call me Max!”) is the icy criminal mastermind and Robert Cummings puts on his best sneering tough-guy act as an undercover agent who is sent by Marat to infiltrate the Committee of Public Safety and break Robespierre’s death grip on the revolution. Wouldn’t you know that Cummings’ Paris contact is former lover Arlene Dahl? Their reunion is a shock of recognition quickly turned into jaded indifference, wounded hearts playing at calloused detachment while trading hard-boiled expressions of lingering betrayal. Of course, passion still simmers under those cool poses of apathy. Arnold Moss is Robespierre’s mercenary henchman Fouché, an oily, enterprising operative whose allegiance is only to himself, and Charles McGraw has a small role as one of Robespierre’s more vicious thugs. The plot turns on the scramble for Robespierre’s “black book,” where he’s listed the names of enemies and victims soon to be condemned and sent to the guillotine, and the subsequent gang war free-for-all as everyone looks to grab power by grabbing this tome is a perfectly appropriate metaphor for the chaos and cutthroat power struggle of the real life reign of terror.

Produced by Eagle-Lion Films, it’s the strangest of genre mixes, a costume crime thriller with a continental setting and an American pulp sensibility. The hard-bitten dialogue is all urban street patter and gangster speak and the tough love romantic banter borders on camp (I like to see it as genre conventions pushed to florid extremes). The exteriors may be cobblestone streets filled with racing carriages and 18th century Parisian peasants, but John Alton’s stark, shadowy lighting streaks across the wets stones like a New York City street at night and casts hard, inky shadows for the characters to duck into like thugs running from the cops. The extreme angles and looming foreground objects do a great job of hiding the limitations of the décor while creating an unstable world and suggesting the horrors and the crowds just outside the frame. Director Anthony Mann, always one to punctuate his volatile dramas with grotesque blasts of sadistic violence, caps this with one of his most memorable parting shots. That it is historically accurate only makes it more delicious.

And it’s a double feature with another poverty  row noir shot by the great John Alton: The Amazing Mr. X (1948), directed by Bernard Vorhaus and starring Turhan Bey, Cathy O’Donnell and Richard Carlson. This minor cult item is more curiosity than classic but features marvelously moody photography. This print is a bit softer than Reign of Terror but still perfectly acceptable.

More DVD debuts worth celebrating:

Repulsion (Criterion)
2 Or 3 Things I Know About Her / Made In U.S.A. (Criterion)
The Hit (Criterion)
Our Man in Havana (Sony)
Five (Sony)
Rancho Notorious (Warner Archive)
Three Comrades (Warner Archive)
Party Girl (Warner Archive)
Summer Storm (VCI)

(includes material previously published on