CHOICE OF THE WEEK
THE GREAT ESCAPE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Producer / director John Sturges was a hit with this 1963 adaptation of Paul Brickhill’s factual bestseller in 1950 detailing the carefully planned Allied escape from Stalag Luft III POW camp during World War II.
The stellar cast is unforgettable: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasence, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Gordon Jackson, David McCallum, James Donald, Nigel Stock and Hannes Messemer, the latter doing a great job of humanizing the camp. commander – and who can forget McQueen’s motorcycle chase through the German countryside, which cemented his star status?
The film takes considerable dramatic license – there were no American prisoners in the camp, let alone a motorcycle chase – but nonetheless remains a fitting tribute to the heroes of the suspenseful and suspenseful Stalag Luft III. dynamism. It’s a long movie but never boring, and once the real escape begins, Sturges keeps the momentum going until the end.
The film’s only Oscar nomination was for Ferris Webster’s cut, but Elmer Bernstein’s iconic score has been inexplicably overlooked. Nevertheless, The great Escape became the biggest box office hit of its year, boosted the careers of several of its actors, and is widely regarded as the model by which other POW films are compared.
The Special Edition Dual-Disc 4K Ultra HD Combo ($ 39.95 retail) features audio commentary, retrospective documentary, features and interviews, trailer, and more. ****
THE ACCUSED (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): William Dieterle directed this 1949 adaptation of June Truesdale’s novel Keep still, my love / strange deception starring Loretta Young as a guilt-ridden psychology professor after killing an assailant (Douglas Dick) in self-defense and attempting to make him look like suicide. Robert Cummings, Wendell Corey, Sara Allgood, Mickey Knox, Ann Doran and Sam Jaffe round out the cast, available on Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail), filled with audio commentary and theatrical trailer.
ALL MY SONS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray arc ($ 24.95 retail) of the 1948 adaptation of Tony’s winning Arthur Miller play, starring Edward G. Robinson as a guilty industrialist whose war transgressions return to haunt him when his son (Burt Lancaster) unexpectedly discovers them. Stagey but heartfelt, though Russell Metty’s main performances and cinematography hold up. Bonuses include audio commentary and trailers. ***
AMONG THE LIVING (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Albert Dekker dominates this fast-paced yet predictable melodrama in a dual role, as a rampaging murderous maniac and his twin brother, who is suspected of crimes. Susan Hayward, Harry Carey and Frances Farmer also appear, but the highlight is Theodor Sparkuhl noir-ish cinematography. The Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail) includes audio commentary and trailers. ** ½
BEYOND THE SHADOW (Severin Films / MVD Entertainment Group): Claudio Fragasso (under the pseudonym “Clyde Anderson”) directed and co-wrote this 1990 R-rated Supernatural Shock (originally titled La casa 5) starring Gene Le Brock as a young pastor who moves in with his family to the house where a series of deadly Satanic rites previously took place. Guess what happens next? The two-disc Blu-ray Special Edition ($ 34.95 retail) includes the CD soundtrack, retrospective interviews and more.
“CORINTH FILMS HISTORICAL DRAMA COLLECTION” (Corinth Films): The title tells it all in this selection of five award-winning, fact-based drama films on DVD ($ 44.95 retail): Emily Watson stars in 2009 In the whirlwind, directed by Marlene Gorris; the 2010s Habermann (in German with English subtitles); the 2010s Memory (in English, German and Polish with English subtitles); 2011 Calm at sea (in French and German with English subtitles), directed by Volker Schlondorff; and 2016 The Chronicles of Mélanie (in German, Latvian and Russian with English subtitles).
THE DEVIL AND THE DEPTHS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray Arc ($ 24.95 retail) of this 1932 pre-Code adaptation of Maurice Laurroy’s novel Mermaids and Newts melodrama detailing the tensions between young sailor Cary Grant and Commander Charles Laughton, who suspects the young man of seducing his wife (Tallulah Bankhead) – without knowing that another officer (Gary Cooper) is to blame. Bonuses include audio commentary and trailers.
DOUBLE STEP (Cranked Up Films / Kino Lorber): Writer and first producer Sylvie Mix stars in writer / director / cinematographer Colin West’s supernatural thriller as the ghost of a murdered woman who takes revenge on those she responsible judge, available on Blu-ray ($ 29.95 retail).
GOLDEN NEEDLES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): After scoring a direct hit with the classic Enter the Dragon (1973), director Robert Clouse’s sequel in 1974 is one of the strangest martial arts melodramas of all time, starring Joe Don Baker as a makeshift American soldier on the trail of ‘a priceless statue containing the title needles in Hong Kong. Any resemblance to The Maltese Falcon (1941) is probably intentional, and an eclectic cast includes Elizabeth Ashley, Jim Kelly, Roy Chiao, Ann Sothern, and a jolly hammy Burgess Meredith. Lalo Schfrin’s typical 70s score is a highlight. The Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail) includes audio commentary, a theatrical trailer, and more. Classified PG. **
HOT SATURDAY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray arc ($ 24.95 retail) of the 1932 pre-Code adaptation of Harvey Fergusson’s novel, starring Nancy Carroll as a bank employee from a small town outraged when rumors spread that she spent the evening with wealthy neighbor Cary Grant. Randolph Scott, Jane Darwell, Edward Woods, Lillian Bond, and Grady Sutton also appear. Bonuses include audio commentary and trailers.
THE MAFU CAGE (Scorpion Releasing / Kino Lorber): Lee Grant and Carol Kane offer full turns in director Karen Arthur’s 1978 adaptation of Eric Wesphal’s play You and the clouds) as unbalanced brothers and sisters whose isolation and interdependent relationship sinks into madness. Also published as My sister, my love and Do not ring the doorbell (!), it’s certainly more ambitious than the usual exploitation schlock, but never finds its rhythm, despite the John Bailey cinematography and a tight ensemble cast that also includes James Olson and Will Geer (in his latest feature film). Still worth a look. The Blu-ray Special Edition ($ 29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, an image gallery, and more. To classify. **
THE MAN WITH ANSWERS (Artsploitation Films / Kino Lorber): Stelios Kammitsis wrote, co-produced and directed this award-winning drama focusing on the unexpected relationship that develops between retired Greek diving champion Vasilis Magouliotis and hitchhiker Anton Weil during a trip through Europe. In English, German, Greek, and Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($ 19.95 retail), packed with bonus features.
THE MANY SAINTS OF NEWARK (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This R-rated prequel to the popular HBO series The Sopranos, produced and co-written by series creator David Chase, features the early years of future crime boss Tony Soprano, played by Michael Gandolfini (son of the late James, who played the role with great success), with Alessandro Nivola, Leslie Odom Jr., Jon Bernthal, Corey Stoll, Billy Magnsson, John Magaro, Ray Liotta and Vera Farmiga in support, available on DVD ($ 29.98 retail), Blu-ray ($ 34.98 retail) and 4K Ultra HD Combo ($ 44.98 retail), each packed with bonus features.
“PARAMOUNT 4K ULTRA HDS” (Paramount Home Entertainment): Paramount Pictures’ latest 4K Ultra HD selection, each with bonus features: Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1991. First feature film rated PG-13 The Addams Family ($ 25.99 retail), which won an Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design; the 30e– anniversary edition of Ernest Dickerson’s first R-rated feature film Juice ($ 25.99 retail); the 25the– anniversary edition of Wes Craven’s award-winning shocker, rated R in 1996 Scream ($ 29.99 retail), the fifth installment of which is slated for release this year; and Martin Scorsese’s 2013 fact-based, R-rated drama the wolf of Wall Street ($ 25.99 retail), which won five Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Leonardo DiCaprio), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill), and Best Adapted Screenplay.
THE PINK JUNGLE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Delbert Mann directed this 1968 adaptation of Alan Williams’ novel Snake water, with James Garner, George Kennedy and Eva Renzi navigating the jungles of South America in search of a secret diamond mine. The solid cast, which also includes Nigel Green, Michael Ansara, George Rose, and Val Avery, are wasted in this quaint yet goofy action game. Both DVD ($ 14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail) include a cinematic trailer. * ½
PUNISHMENT (Severin Films / MVD Entertainment Group): A special three-disc Blu-ray edition ($ 44.95 retail) of writer / director Guy Magar’s feature debut in 1987, a low-budget shock starring Dennis Lipscomb ( in a rare advance) as a disillusioned artist who survives a suicide attempt but is possessed by the malevolent spirit of a sadistic criminal. Uneven but watchable, with good use of seedy Los Angeles locations and a loyal cast including Leslie Wing, Suzanne Snyder, George Murdock, Harry Caesar, and Hoyt Axton (as the relentless sleuth), and quickly seek out Magar as the driver of Taxi. Bonuses include a theatrical and extended Dutch version, audio commentary, CD soundtrack, retrospective interviews, and more. To classify. **
THE SECRET OF THE BLUE ROOM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray arc ($ 24.99 retail) of director Kurt Neumann’s 1933 thriller, a quintessential ‘dark old house’ mystery starring Gloria Stuart as ‘a woman whose three suitors vie for the opportunity to prove their courage by spending the night in the titular Blue Room of Hellsdorf Castle where three unsolved murders took place 20 years ago. Supposedly shot in six days, it’s creaky yet fast-paced and backed by a solid cast including Lionel Atwill, Paul Lukas, Edward Arnold, Onslow Stevens, Russell Hopton, and William Janney. Bonuses include audio commentary and trailers. ** ½
“AWAKENED”: SEASON 3 (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer / director Sullivan Le Postec created this award-winning drama series (originally titled The commits) details the personal and professional lives of passionate activists who work at an LBGTQ center, in all three episodes of the 2021 season, featuring a cast including Mehdi Meskar, Eric Pucheu, Adrian De La Vega, Denis D’Arcangelo and Nandu Harry . In French with English subtitles, available on DVD (retail $ 24.99).
(Copyright 2022, Mark Burger)