TWO EVIL EYES: 4K UHD (120 mins., 1990; Blue Underground): Horror-meisters George Romero and Dario Argento teamed up — to disappointing results — for this 1990 Poe anthology. Romero’s “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valedemar” is a typical “just desserts” tale of a cheating wife (Adrienne Barbeau) who tries to embezzle funds from her dying husband, while Argento’s “The Black Cat” follows a crime scene photographer (Harvey Keitel) who uncovers all kinds of trouble being caused by his girlfriend’s feline companion. A terrific, eclectic supporting cast includes Sally Kirkland, Martin Balsam, E.G. Marshall, John Amos and Kim Hunter, and the production boasts both a bombastic Pino Donaggio score and make-up work from the great Tom Savini, but the storylines (penned by Romero and Argento and Franco Ferrini, respectively) are both frustratingly pedestrian, failing to take good advantage of their directors’ talents.
Blue Underground brought “Two Evil Eyes” to Blu-Ray a couple of years ago and has fast-tracked a new 4K UHD package that offers a 16-bit scan from the original camera negative (1.85), Dolby Vision HDR grading and Dolby Atmos audio. As with all of the label’s UHD releases, the high quality of the transfer and Dolby Vision is striking in relation to other labels’ catalog releases — hence, if you’re a fan, this is well worth the upgrade. Note this release does not have the Blu-Ray of the film itself but reprises the special features disc from that release while incorporating all the extras. These include a 2019 commentary with Troy Howarth and interviews featuring stars Ramy Zada and Madeleine Potter, Pino Donaggio, Franco Ferrini, Luigi Cozzi, Everett Burrell and Barbara Anderson. Carried over from older format releases are archival supplements featuring Tom Savini, Dario Argento and George Romero, Claudio Argento and Asia Argento. (Available August 24th)
Coming From Severin Films: A movie you wouldn’t think would be in the wheelhouse of cult-movie friendly Severin, OVERBOARD (112 mins., 1987, PG) is nevertheless the sort of popular catalog title that should generate robust sales. Gary Marshall’s mildly diverting Christmas ’87 family comedy with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell made moderate dollars at the time of its original release, though not enough to make you think it would become an enduring favorite on TV and home video over the years since. What separates Severin’s Blu-Ray from other format releases is a newly remastered 2K scan (1.85) provided here along with DTS MA stereo sound, the trailer, and an interview with screenwriter Leslie Dixon. The movie’s never been one of my favorites, but for those who count themselves as fans, Severin’s disc is a strongly recommended upgrade…More in line — much more so — with Severin’s typical fare (and as far removed from “Overboard” as you can get!) is the label’s August 24th Blu-Ray release of THE CANNIBAL MAN (98/107 mins., 1972). This is a grizzly, infamous Spanish shocker about a slaughterhouse worker who descends into depravity after accidentally killing a man; newly remastered, Severin presents the film here in two versions (both 1.85): the extended “Week of the Killer” version (107 minutes) as well as its international cut variant (98 minutes). Extras include deleted scenes, an interview with Carlos Aguilar, the trailer, and critics Stephen Thrower and Dr. Shelagh Rowan-Legg discussing director Eloy de la Iglesia. The mono sound is mostly in English on the Extended cut, mostly in Spanish over the International Cut, with forced subtitles as appropriate for sequences not in English.
Well Go USA New Releases
A pair of contemporary dramas from China highlight Well Go’s latest releases.
The charming Chinese import LITTLE Q (107 mins., 2019) profiles the relationship between a recently blinded celebrity chef and his yellow lab guide dog of the title – a little charmer who grows up to become a steadfast companion. Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) is available August 17th featuring Cantonese audio with English subtitles…Meanwhile, MIDNIGHT DINER (103 mins., 2019) is a more episodic piece about customers who flock to a small, menu-free, counter-only restaurant, open daily from Midnight-7am, where its mysterious chef/owner has an uncanny knack of knowing what dish to cook up for his patrons. Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) offers Mandarin dialogue with English subtitles, and also streets on August 17th.
Coming August 24th from Well Go is THE FATAL RAID (92 mins., 2019), with Patrick Tam and veteran HK action star Jade Leung in the story of an elite police squad that runs afoul of a gang they engaged in a deadly confrontation with, along the Macau border, decades before. Crisp action permeates this martial arts affair with Well Go USA’s Blu-Ray boasting 1080p video and 5.1 DTS MA audio in Cantonese (subtitled) or with an English language dub.
PBS New Releases: It’s obviously been a rough time for a lot of things over the last 18 months or so, most particularly the arts, which remains shuttered (or severely limited in scope) in so many cities and towns across the country. Two new DVDs from PBS are sure to give viewers a behind-the-scenes taste of the Broadway stage and The Met, respectively, while also whetting their appetites to get back to pre-pandemic times.
BROADWAY MUSICALS: A JEWISH LEGACY (85 mins., 2012) is a terrific documentary from producer Albert M. Tapper, examining the role of Jewish composers and lyricists in forming the American musical. Joel Grey narrates with a bevy of archival performances and interviews, and PBS’ DVD including 2.0 stereo sound and a 16:9 transfer…INSIDE THE MET (180 mins., 2021), meanwhile, is a compelling look behind-the-scenes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as it prepared to celebrate its 150th birthday — shortly before COVID-19 strikes and the city falls into chaos upon protests and looting in the Summer of ’20. This Oxford Films production contains its entire three-hour broadcast with a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 stereo sound.
From American Experience comes the feature-length profile of BILLY GRAHAM (110 mins., 2021), from his upbringing on a North Carolina farm to his rise to fame as one of the foremost worldwide religious leaders of the 20th century. Sarah Colt’s production includes a 16:9 transfer and 2.0 stereo sound…PROFESSOR T (275 mins., 2021) stars Ben Miller (“Bridgerton”) as a Cambridge Institute of Criminology lecturer with OCD and germophobic tendencies whose highly structured world is challenged after he agrees to assist in an investigation surrounding a criminal rapist. This Belgian-produced effort comes to DVD in a two-disc set from PBS featuring over 30 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes, 16:9 widescreen transfers and stereo soundtracks.
A GATHERING OF WITCHES – Season 2 Blu-Ray (444 mins., 2020; RLJE): Season two for the Sundance Now/Shudder original production finds Diana (Teresa Palmer) and Matthew (Matthew Goode) having escaped the Congregation and navigating Elizabehan London in an attempt to help Diana control her powers, find the Book of Life, and return to the present day. This colorful series has been brought back to Blu-Ray in a two-disc, 10-episode Blu-Ray from RLJE sporting three feaurettes, 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks.
RLJE has a number of other new releases from the Acorn label available this month.
New Blu-Ray releases from Acorn include Season 14 of the fan-favorite, long-running hit Canadian series MURDOCH MYSTERIES (484 mins., 2021) with William Murdoch and wife Dr. Julia Ogden teaming up to tackle more cases in turn of the century Toronto. Acorn’s three-disc Blu-Ray, available August 31st, includes 1080p transfers and 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks…Series 7 of THE BROKENWOOD MYSTERIES (576 mins., 2020) has arrived fresh from its native New Zealand to enchant mystery lovers everywhere. A brief behind-the-scenes featurette is included in Acorn’s three-disc Blu-Ray (1080p, 2.0 DTS MA), which is now available…Eve Myles returns in Series 3 of KEEPING FAITH (365 mins., 2020), which is also the final installment of this popular Welsh produced series. An hour-long behind-the-scenes documentary and 1080p transfers/5.1 DTS MA soundtracks comprise Acorn’s two-disc Blu-Ray release.
On DVD, Acorn has lined up Series 3 of BALTHAZAR (433 mins., 2020), the French series about an eccentric pathologist (Tomer Sisley), with eight new episodes preserved on two discs (16:9, 2/0 French audio, English subtitles); James Nesbitt stars in BLOODLANDS (230 mins., 2020), a thriller from northern Ireland and executive producer Jed Mercurio. Acorn’s DVD includes four episodes on two discs with 16:9 (2:1) transfers and 5.1 Dolby Digital sound; Series 1 of TOTAL CONTROL (303 mins., 2019) offers Deborah Mailman and Rachel Griffiths (who also co-created the series) in an Australian series about a domestic violence survivor tapped to become a Senator by the country’s troubled Prime Minister. Acorn’s DVD offers all six episodes in 16:9 (2:1) transfers and 5.1 audio…BACKSTROM: Series 1 (275 mins., 2020) hails from Sweden and stars Kjell Berggvist as a charismatic detective in an adaptation of criminologist Leif G.W. Persson’s novels. Acorn’s DVD includes six episodes, 16:9 (2:1 transfers), and 5.1 Swedish audio with English subtitles.
The “Sundance Now” exclusive series THE MURDERS (353 mins., 2019) stars Jessica Lucas in a new thriller presented here in an eight-episode, two-disc set (16:9, 5.1) with a pair of very brief featurettes also on-hand…Season 2 of PLAYING FOR KEEPS (368 mins., 2019) again follows the lives and loves of the women behind the Southern Jets Football Club, in a polished soaper from Australia. This Sundance Now series includes its second season in a two-disc DVD package (16:9, 2.0 stereo).
Film Movement New Releases: Koji Fukada’s THE REAL THING (237 mins., 2021) debuts this week on DVD from Film Movement. This is a limited Japanese TV series following a man (Win Morisaki) who rescues a woman after her car stalls on train tracks, and subsequently follows her around on a wild series of adventures and assorted crimes. Film Movement’s DVD (1.78, 2.0) includes Japanese audio with English subtitles…Amjad Abu Alala’s YOU WILL DIE AT TWENTY (102 mins., 2021) is a “coming of death” fable that marked Sudan’s first-ever Oscar submission for Foreign Language Film. Alala’s short “Studio” and Ahmed Abelnaser’s “More than Two Days” are included in Film Movement’s DVD, in 2.35 widescreen with 2.0/5.1 Arabic audio and English subtitles.
SCENES FROM AN EMPTY CHURCH DVD (98 mins., 2021, Not Rated; MPI): One of our first films set during the COVID era, Onur Tukel’s independent drama finds two priests dealing with assorted wild, weird and poignant encounters as we navigate through the pandemic. Kevin Corrigan, Max Csaella, Thomas Jay Ryan, Craig Bierko and Paul Reiser star with MPI’s DVD (16:9, 5.1/2.0) including commentary from Tukel, deleted scenes, a featurette, “Empty City” short film and trailer.
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