One of John Hughes’ best movies – PRETTY IN PINK – makes its long-overdue debut on Blu-Ray this month from Paramount, along with another title long coveted by movie buffs: John Travolta and Debra Winger’s 1980 teaming in James Bridges’ URBAN COWBOY.
Hughes wrote and produced the 1986 Molly Ringwald hit PRETTY IN PINK (96 mins., PG-13; Paramount), which remains a bona-fide teen classic of its kind. Ringwald is at her finest as an artsy “poor” girl caught in a triangle between her friend (Jon Cryer) and a good, rich kid from another social universe (Andrew McCarthy). James Spader, meanwhile, memorably essays McCarthy’s would-be best friend, with “adult” support from Harry Dean Stanton as Ringwald’s father and a rockin’ soundtrack sprinkled with original score by Michael Gore.
“Pretty In Pink”’s highly-anticipated Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA) comes via the new “Paramount Presents” line of 4K catalog remasters. An isolated score track of Michael Gore’s contributions (which director Howard Deutsch wanted more of; Hughes preferred more songs) debuts here along with a short interview with Deutsch. The trailer is also included, though only a fraction of the 2006 Making Of documentary is included, related to the movie’s original ending. Note that this infamous, original ending isn’t screened intact, but rather discussed at length and backed with videotaped set footage of its filming — something that may disappoint “Pretty in Pink” fans hoping to finally see Cryer get the girl (he gets Kristy Swanson instead, which as it turns out wasn’t a bad consolation prize!).
Also New From Paramount: Though not one of the “Paramount Presents” titles, URBAN COWBOY (134 mins., 1980, PG) also makes it debut from the studio on Blu-Ray this month. This is an attractively lensed, star-powered profile of a young Texas man (John Travolta) who moves in with his uncle’s family and takes a job alongside him at a Houston oil refinery, all while romancing a gal (Debra Winger) at a local nightclub that quickly leads to marriage. The songs are terrific, Travolta and Winger build up some decent chemistry, and director James Bridges captures it all in elegant widescreen proportions – “Urban Cowboy” is still overlong and doesn’t offer a ton of surprises, but it’s entertaining, especially if you’re a fan of either star. Paramount’s Blu-Ray (1080p 2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a featurette looking back on the Gilley’s location shoot, deleted scenes, outtakes and rehearsal footage…FRIDAY THE 13TH (95 mins., 1980, R) returns to Blu-Ray this month in a snazzy new Steelbook edition. The Sean S. Cunningham slasher classic has been released in a myriad of BD configurations before, with the main draw here being the original artwork-adorned Steelbook packaging, a 40th Anniversary run that also includes a Digital Copy plus the same transfer (1.85, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) and extras from previous format releases (interviews, featurettes).
Also debuting in a glossy Steelbook is Paramount’s 4K UHD presentation of Ridley Scott’s GLADIATOR (155/170 mins., 2001, R), a picture that won numerous Oscars, made a ton of money, and was heavily hyped in the media. However, I always felt that those seeking an action-filled romp or a historical epic along the lines of “Fall of the Roman Empire” (which uses similar characters and dramatic entanglements as this film) may have been let down by the picture…turns out I was wrong, yet even now, I don’t feel that this is a “great” film on balance. Nevertheless, the 2001 Oscar winner “Gladiator” is certainly entertaining and worth a look on the big screen — or even better, Paramount’s 4K UHD, which once again offers a dynamic upgrade on previous home video releases. This is especially true because the studio’s initial Sapphire Series BD was hampered by excessive DNR, forcing a repressing that was much improved – yet still nowhere near the better-balanced, satisfying 4K UHD presentation afforded the film here. Backed by HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, this is a clear and substantial improvement on even that repressed Blu-Ray edition, with appreciable gains in color and clarity. Both the 155-minute theatrical cut and the 170-minute extended version are present and accounted for in 4K, with the included Blu-Ray double-disc edition housing all the extras from prior releases plus Digital HD copies...Finally, Season 23 of SOUTH PARK (220 mins., 2019) is one of Parker and Stone’s livelier efforts of late — mostly centering around Stan’s efforts to run “Tegridy Farms” while the group tackles Chinese censorship amongst other current “hot button” issues. This 2019 season of the series comes to Blu-Ray featuring 1080p transfers, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD audio, #socialcommentary on all episodes and concept art. While still a bit uneven, this is still often funny and recommended to even casual “South park” viewers.
New From Criterion: Jill Clayburgh gives a superb performance in Paul Mazursky’s AN UNMARRIED WOMAN (124 mins., 1978, R; Criterion), a tale of a woman, abandoned by her husband (Michael Murphy), who subsequently tries to find personal and sexual liberation in the ‘70s singles scene. One of Mazursky’s best films, “An Unmarried Woman” gets most of its mileage out of Clayburgh’s lead performance; she’s sensitive, funny, and sympathetic in the picture, which avoids feeling like an R-rated TV movie of its era thanks to the performances of its lead and Alan Bates as the man she eventually falls for. There’s certainly a “dated” component to the drama (and Clayburgh’s therapy sessions go on forever), but there are also enough interesting, personal Mazursky touches to make it relevant and worthwhile.
Criterion’s Blu-Ray offers a 4K restored new transfer (1.85) alongside an uncompressed PCM soundtrack nicely conveying Bill Conti’s wonderful score, which gives a more muscular support – especially in the film’s second hour – than the film would’ve received had it been released just a few years later. The original trailer and an enjoyable commentary with Clayburgh and Mazursky have been carried over from Fox’s 2006 DVD, while new interviews with Michael Murphy and co-star Lisa Lucas (who plays Clayburgh and Murphy’s teen daughter) are included alongside a conversation with author Sam Wasson about Mazursky’s filmography and a 1980 recording of the director speaking at the AFI.
Blue Underground 4K UHD Releases
Blue Underground has climbed aboard the 4K UHD train with a pair of cult-horror favorites making their debut in the format.
I can’t say I’m a fan of MANIAC (88 mins., 1980), William Lustig’s controversial serial killer tale of a nutjob (Joe Spinell) who preys on young women, murdering them and then scalping them for a place in his collection of mannequins. Tom Savini’s make-up effects are grizzly and effective, yet the story is sleazy, the violence disturbing and the performances off the wall, with Spinell being alternately unsettling and just plain nutty in the lead; Caroline Munro (Spinell’s “Starcrash” co-star) gets a thankless role playing opposite him in a movie that’s been alternately beloved by exploitation fans and chastised for its raw violence and repellent story line.
If you’re an admirer, Blue Underground did a superb job with their double-disc Blu-Ray edition of “Maniac” several years back and now brings to UHD a fresh 4K 16-bit transfer from the original camera negative that trumps even that version. HDR and Dolby Vision capability adds to the overall image, while a wealth of audio options include Dolby Atmos and 5.1 DTS MA remixes along with the original 2.0 sound.
Extras have been carried over from the previous Blu-Ray (mostly onto a separate BD Special Features disc), from two different commentaries offering Lustig, Savini and others, to an interview with Lustig, a chat with Munro, talk with Savini, interview with Jay Chattaway (who wrote an effective score for the picture), conversation with songwriters Michael Sembello and Dennis Matkovsky, outtakes, trailers, TV and radio spots, a “Maniac 2″ promo reel, a look at the film’s controversy, “The Joe Spinell Story” and other goodies, with most of the segments presented in high-def.
ZOMBIE 4K UHD (92 mins., 1979; Blue Underground): Lucio Fulci’s 1979 gore hit also nets a 4K UHD package from Blue Underground. Last seen in a 2018 limited edition BD/CD set from the label, ”Zombie” – which tells the story of a reporter (Tisa Farrow) who joins with another journalist (Ian McCulloch) in traveling to the Caribbean in order to find her missing father and runs into voodoo and zombies once there – has long been a favorite of Italian horror fans. Shot as a sequel to “Zombi,” a re-edited version of “Dawn of the Dead,” Fulci brings the gore and his expected shenanigans to “Zombie,” though its weak plot and accent on splatter restrict its appeal mostly to spaghetti-slaughter devotees.
This new Blue Underground release is derived from a 16-bit, 4K restoration of the original 35mm 2-perf camera negative (2.40) and offers abundant clarity via HDR and Dolby Vision. Meanwhile there are ample extras along with audio options (Dolby Atmos, 5.1 and mono English; 7.1 and mono DTS MA Italian) to satisfy every fan. Supplements from the 2018 Blue Underground BD – again mostly included in a Special Features Blu-Ray – include an interview with horror critic Stephen Thrower and a commentary with Fulci author Troy Howarth. Carried over from the 2011 Blue Underground edition are a commentary with star Ian McCulloch and Jason J. Slater; trailers in HD; still galleries; an intro from Guillermo Del Toro; “Zombie Wasteland” and “Deadtime Stories” interviews with writers, actors and other crew members; an interview with co-producer Fabio DeAngelis; a full look at the make-up and special effects; composer Fabio Frizzi discussing his score; and a conversation with Guillermo Del Toro who considers the film to be one of his favorites.
Mill Creek New Releases
Finishing off the contents of the Toho “Icons of Sci-Fi” DVD set that Sony released over a decade ago (“Mothra” was released last summer), Mill Creek’s latest round of Blu-Ray releases is highlighted by the Double Feature pairing of THE H-MAN (78/87 mins., 1958) and BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (91 mins., 1960).
This two-disc set packages a pair of color-coated early Toho sci-fi efforts from director Ishiro Honda, both minus Godzilla and Kaiju trappings: the “Blob”-like thriller “The H-Man” has long been a fan favorite, while “Battle In Outer Space” is a playful variation on ’50s extraterrestrial invasion/outer-space fantasies. Each offer plenty of Tohoscope thrills and look terrific in this satisfying Mill Creek package: both Sony-licensed properties contain their original Japanese language versions as well as Columbia’s dubbed U.S. theatrical release edits. In the case of “The H-Man,” this meant the American release was shorn of some 10 minutes of footage, while “Battle in Outer Space” was mostly left intact, save for some portions of Akira Ifukube’s score, which were switched out with library music.
Mill Creek’s set also retains the “Battle in Outer Space” commentary with Japanese genre experts Steve Ryfle and Ed Godziszewski, making for a must-have release for vintage sci-fi and Toho fans.
Two more entries in Mill Creek’s line of Andy Sidaris titles are also on-tap from the label this month. This time the roster – long-time members of Cinemax’s old ’90s “After Dark” broadcasts on Friday nights – is comprised of ENEMY GOLD (92 mins., 1993, R) and THE DALLAS CONNECTION (94 mins., 1994, R), each boasting the usual Sidaris mix of gun-toting action, good-looking girls, and R-rated T&A. Mill Creek’s Blu-Rays are again sourced from 4K restorations (1.78) with DTS MA 2.0 audio, commentaries, featurettes, and the director’s introductions.
An agreeable pair of ’50s westerns have been coupled in Mill Creek’s premiere Blu-Ray release of Universal’s THE MAN FROM THE ALAMO (80 mins., 1953) starring Glenn Ford and Julia Adams, and the superior Columbia Cinemascope western THEY CAME TO CORDURA (124 mins., 1959) starring Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Van Heflin and Tab Hunter. Mill Creek’s package includes 1080p color transfers (1.33 on “Man From The Alamo,” 2.35 on “Cordura”) licensed from their two respective studios.
Finally, Mill Creek’s ULTRAMAN ACE (21 hours, 1972-73) was the 5th series from the Japanese giant-robot franchise. This time around, villainous Yapool has brought his “Terrible-Monsters” to Earth, where the Ultraman Ace stands as Earth’s last defense – with the Ultraman being paired with not one but two human hosts here. Colorful small-screen action from the early ’70s, “Ultraman Ace” has been brought to Blu-Ray with the same care as Mill Creek’s previous series releases, meaning good looking 1080p (1.33) transfers and 2.0 DTS MA Japanese soundtracks are included alongside a digital copy, redeemable on Mill Creek’s Moviespree app.
Film Movement New Releases: A trio of films starring Romy Schneider receive the Blu-Ray treatment this month from Film Movement.
Schneider’s 1975 performance in Andrzej Zulawski’s L’IMPORTANT C’EST D’AIMER (113 mins.) is ranked with her best, and earned her a Cesar win as an actress whose career has become reliant on roles provided to her by her husband. A tabloid photographer (Fabio Testi) manages to secure shady funds to support a production of “Richard III” just for her in this acclaimed French drama, scored by Georges Delerue, debuting on BD from Film Movement featuring a 1.66 AVC encoded transfer with French audio, English subtitles, an interview with Zulawski, the trailer, a 16-page booklet, and an alternate English language version.
In the Blu-Ray double-disc anthology 2 FILMS BY CLAUDE SAUTET, Schneider appears in two earlier films for the French director: “Cesar Et Rosalie” (R) with Yves Montand and Sami Frey co-starring in an unusual romantic triangle Sautet cooked up in 1972; and “Les Choses De La Vie” (GP) with Michel Piccoli appearing opposite Schneider in another Sautet film scored, like “Cesar,” by Philippe Sarde. Film Movement’s Blu-Ray includes new digital restorations (1.66) in French with English subtitles, plus documentaries on each film and a booklet with notes by author David N. Meyer…The Oscar-nominated Best Foreign Film candidate CORPUS CHRISTI (116 mins., 2019, Not Rated) also bows on Blu-Ray this week from Film Movement. This is an interesting, provocative drama with a quasi-familiar theme: in Poland, a 20-year-old convict is released to a small town, wherein the local patrons believe he’s the new priest — a con that he finds himself quickly, and unexpectedly, adjusting to, despite his “unconventional” sermons and demeanor. This unusual Polish import was well-reviewed and comes to BD from Film Movement with a behind the scenes featurette, 1080p transfer, DTS MA Polish audio, and Jan Komasa’s short film “Nice To See You” as a bonus.
New on DVD this month from Film Movement is ADVOCATE (114 mins., 2020, Not Rated), a documentary feature from Rachel Lea Jones and Philippe Bellaiche about Israeli attorney Lea Tsemel, who has spent her career defending Palestinians in Israeli courts. Film Movement’s DVD is now available featuring a 16:9 transfer and 5.1/2.0 Dolby Digital sound…Finally, Sarah Bolger stars in A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND (97 mins., 2020, Not Rated), Abner Pastoll’s independent thriller about a single mother — trying to investigate her husband’s murder — who gets wrapped up with a low-level drug dealer and a crime boss. Film Movement’s DVD includes a 16:9 (2.35) transfer, 5.1 sound, commentary from Pastoll, deleted scenes, an alternate opening, outtakes, a Making Of featurette and behind-the-scenes footage.
Also New & Noteworthy
Warner Archive New Releases: At some point, nearly every character in the Batman universe is going to have their own show – case in point being PENNYWORTH (564 mins., 2019), a new series focused on the Dark Knight’s loyal butler. This one is a period prequel set in the 1960s, where the former SAS soldier (Jack Bannon) goes to work with Thomas Wayne (Ben Aldridge), years before he fathers the young Bruce. This Epix-broadcast Warner production offers enough reasonable intrigue – well performed by the cast – to satisfy hardcore “Bat” devotees, with a second season on its way for later this year. Warner Archive’s Season 1 (1.78) Blu-Ray includes 5.1 DTS MA sound and no extras.
Also new from Warner Archive is the Complete First Season of HEAD OF THE CLASS (517 mins., 1986-87), the long-running ABC sitcom starring Howard Hesseman as Charlie Moore, the offbeat substitute teacher who inspires his gifted students in an NYC honors program to do more than just earn “A’s” on their papers. This ensemble comedy became a staple of ABC’s primetime lineup for many years, even after Hesseman left the series (and was replaced by Billy Connolly). This Season 1 DVD includes the complete ’86-’87 first season of the show with 1.33 transfers and mono sound.
LEGO DC: SHAZAM! MAGIC AND MONSTERS Blu-Ray Combo Pack (81 mins., 2020; Warner): Fun hyjinks for kids as the Lego DC Universe welcomes in 10-year-old Billy Batson — aka Shazam! — as the unlikely super-hero joins up with Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and the rest of the Justice League. This feature-length animated Lego offering is a lot of fun and comes with a Limited Edition Shazam! figure plus three bonus Lego cartoons for children and Lego buffs alike. Warner’s 1080p transfer and 5.1 DTS MA sound are both flawless, with a DVD and Digital HD copy also included in Warner’s gift set.
PBS New Releases: Tcheky Karyo, Tom Hollander and Jessica Raine star in BAPTISTE (359 mins., 2020), the BBC series that features Karyo in the title role: a stubborn investigator now living in Amsterdam. There, he and his wife get wrapped up with Baptiste’s ex, the local Police Chief, who needs help finding a missing sex worker. Location lensing and taut performances inform this Season 1 series of “Baptiste,” on DVD from PBS sporting a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 stereo sound along with cast/crew interviews…the Nova documentary POLAR EXTREMES (120 mins., 2020) follows paleontologist Kirk Johnson as he charts the differences between the poles and the often bizarre fossils that have been found around in the world in “wrong places” (i.e. beech trees in Antarctica). A fascinating scientific study now on DVD from PBS sporting a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 stereo sound…Ken Burns’ THE GENE: AN INTIMATE HISTORY (4 hours, 2020) is a new doc adapted from Dr. Siddharta Mukherjee’s book. This limited series charts the evolution of genetic science starting from Gregor Mandel’s 19th century experiments to the present. PBS’ two-disc DVD set (16:9, 2.0) is now available.
Brand new releases this month from PBS include THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN (145 mins., 2020), a fine look at child survivors of the Holocaust who, over the course of one summer in 1945, are habilitated by a German-born child psychologist (Thomas Kretschmann). Fine performances make for a superb dramatic telling from writer Simon Block and director Michael Samuels, and PBS’ DVD includes both this new production as well as the separate companion doc “The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words,” narrated by Iain Glen…”Bend It Like Beckham” director Gurinder Chadha created and directed BEECHAM HOUSE (310 mins., 2019), a dramatic series set in Delhi circa 1795. Tom Bateman stars as a former East India Company soldier who takes control of a grand house with his son — an infant of mixed racial background. Colorful trappings and solid ensemble performances comprise this Masterpiece offering, on DVD from PBS with over 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes also included…EXPEDITION WITH STEVE BACKSHALL (8 hours, 2020) features the noted wildlife expert and adventurer as he takes on extreme physical challenges (free diving, spelunking caves, kayaking in the Himalayas) in a series of rugged environments. PBS’ DVD includes all 10 Season 1 episodes in 16:9 transfers and stereo soundtracks.
SNIPER: ASSASSIN’S END Blu-Ray (95 mins., 2020, R; Sony): The long-running series comes to an apparent end with this entry. Here, Brandon Beckett (Chad Michael Collins) is framed and pursued as the chief suspect for the murder of a foreign dignitary; Beckett is able to break out and teams up with his father, the legendary ex-sniper Thomas Beckett (Tom Berenger, reprising his original role), in a film obviously influenced by the recent “Angel Has Fallen.” Sayaka Akimoto co-stars in this action entry, now on Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) from Sony also sporting a Digital HD copy.
AND THEN WE DANCED Blu-Ray (113 mins., 2019; Music Box): A sensitive import set inside the Republic of Georgia’s ultra-conservative society, Levan Akin’s “And Then We Danced” follows a male dancer whose life is turned upside down when he meets a rebellious competitor (of the same sex) who raises all kinds of feelings inside him. A commentary, interview with Akin, Filmmaker Q&A and other extras are included in Music Box’s Blu-Ray along with a fine 1080p transfer and DTS MA audio (in Georgian with English subtitles).
TRADITIONAL WILD AMERICA: DUCK HUNTING ON THE SANTEE DELTA DVD (48 mins., 2020; MVD Visual): Popular podcasters make their leap to a feature-length presentation with this educational/entertaining look at hunting on South Carolina’s Santee Delta. MVD brings the 2020 production to DVD on June 30th featuring a 16:9 transfer and stereo sound.
Documentary Corner: The acclaimed ONCE WERE BROTHERS Blu-Ray (101 mins., 2020, R; Magnolia) is now on Blu-Ray. This is a documentary on Robbie Robertson and the formation of his group The Band, with a focus on Robertson’s work with Martin Scorsese, Bruce Springsteen and others in a Ron Howard co-production, on Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA) this month from Magnolia…Rotimi Tainwater’s documentary LOST IN AMERICA (94 mins., 2020, Not Rated; Indican) examines the plight of over 4 million homeless teens in the U.S., with celebrities like Jewel, Rosario Dawson, Halle Berry and Jon Bon Jovi all interviewed. The DVD (1.85, 5.1) is now available from Indican Pictures.
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