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One of the most eagerly awaited 4K UHD releases of the last few years – Paramount’s fully remastered, 50th Anniversary presentation of Francis Ford Coppola’s THE GODFATHER TRILOGY – debuts this week. Is it the “offer you can’t refuse” for 4K owners? Absolutely, as the five-disc package contains all three “Godfather” films plus a bonus disc of supplements, along with no less than three – count ’em, three – cuts of Coppola’s much maligned, though sometimes unfairly scrutinized, “The Godfather Part III.”

The main draw here are easily the UHD’s new Dolby Vision/HDR10 graded 4K transfers, which trump the previous restorations by Robert A. Harris and Coppola’s team that Paramount brought to Blu-Ray some 14 years ago. The big and welcome change comes in the colors – a pallet which seemed a little too red/orange and “burnt” for lack of a better term in the previous trilogy HD restoration is more refined, more precise here. It’s not a radical “rethink” but rather a transfer that appears more natural in its look and less saturated, in a good way. Meanwhile, three-dimensional detail is heightened, while Coppola and DP Gordon Willis’ use of light and shadow in so many scenes are enhanced – though not overwhelmed – by the use of HDR. On the audio side, the release reprises the fine Dolby TrueHD 5.1 stereo remixes and original mono soundtracks from the previous Blu-Ray, with little for anyone to quibble with in that regard.

The films themselves require little introduction for buffs, most particularly THE GODFATHER (175 mins., 1972, R) and THE GODFATHER PART II (200 mins., 1974, R), a pair of cinematic masterworks which offer an embarrassment of riches from their casting, scoring, and storytelling down to the physical environments which brought Mario Puzo’s original story to life. After turning down countless offers for a third movie, Coppola reluctantly returned to make THE GODFATHER PART III (162 mins., 1990, R). While not nearly as effective, this third part – with a central performance from Coppola’s daughter, Sofia, that was at times harshly condemned from critics – remains an intriguing epilogue to its predecessors, though the director has tinkered with it a number of times over the years.

After retooling the movie’s theatrical edit for home video – adding a couple of minutes of footage – Coppola made a host of alterations – notably reconfiguring the picture’s beginning and end — of this final “Godfather” entry in an attempt to tighten it up and narratively provide the picture with more of a thematic connection with its predecessors. The result was THE GODFATHER CODA: THE DEATH OF MICHAEL CORLEONE (157 mins., 1990, R), which debuted on Blu-Ray just over a year ago to mostly mixed notices from fans who generally approved of efforts to move the film’s pacing along while disliking some of the editorial changes Coppola brought to other scenes.

Like George Lucas, there are times Francis can’t seem to leave even his classics alone, but to give Coppola credit, all three cuts of “Part III” are present here. The “Coda” cut is given the “central” presentation, packaged here in its own slipcase alongside Parts I and II, but there’s an additional UHD “bonus disc” present that offers not just the home video edit of Part III but the movie’s scarcely-shown original theatrical version – available for the first time since its initial 1990 release.

Packaging otherwise in this set is relatively spartan for the price – there’s no booklet, just a digital copy code – with the more upscale Limited Edition set offering a number of physical extras. The disc content, however, is identical between the two: 4 UHD’s plus a Blu-Ray supplemental disc that reprises the 2008 BD’s cornucopia of extras, many of which were themselves carried over from the 2002 DVD (that was 20 years ago? Man, how time flies!).

Included in this “archive” are approximately 40 minutes of deleted scenes from the trilogy, to trailers, TV spots, a seven-minute featurette on location filming with production designer Dean Tavoularis, and various novelty clips of Coppola’s Oscar acceptance speeches among other tidbits (even the introduction to the first film’s network TV premiere is thrown in). Also included is the original 1972 featurette, as well as the superb, hour-plus documentary, “The Godfather: A Look Inside,” shot during the production of Part III, which offers a nice retrospective on the series.

Other supplements focus on Coppola’s meticulous planning from script to screen: “Coppola’s Notebook” is comprised of a ten-minute interview with the director, who shows us his storyboards and screenplay, and talks about the creative process. There are also a pair of featurettes on the soundtracks, and film music fans will particularly want to hear the audio of Coppola’s first visit with Nino Rota in 1972, taken from the director’s personal cassette recording. Rota plays demos of his now-classic themes on piano for the director, tossing out ideas about orchestration and arrangements along the way.

It’s interesting to note that, in his audio commentary for the first film, Coppola also claims that Paramount and executive Robert Evans hated Rota’s music, wanting it replaced from the film altogether. Coppola clashed with Evans and the movie retained Rota’s score – with only a pair of sequences tracked with source music. Rota’s original music for one of the scenes, showing an airplane flight to Los Angeles, is played during the music featurette on the composer. There’s likewise a piece on Carmine Coppola’s involvement in the three films, showing the elder Coppola at the recording sessions for III, and sporting an interview with the late composer culled from the same period.

The 2002 material is rounded out with complete chronologies of the Godfather timeline and a family tree, written by Peter Cowie; featurettes with Mario Puzo on the script (eight minutes); Gordon Willis talking about his cinematography (three minutes); storyboards from I and II; and photo galleries. The deleted scenes, presented in chronological order, include the sequences previously restored for the “Godfather Epic” TV airings, as well as deleted footage from III (including a fascinating alternate opening).

There are also several featurettes produced for the 2008 Blu-Ray that further profile the creation of the film with new interviews from Steven Spielberg to George Lucas, mostly reflecting on the picture’s legacy and impact; four shorts inspired by the series; a family tree, crime organization list and an additional “wedding” gallery. We also get trailers, James Caan’s screen test, a “Sopranos” reel, and more – literally everything from the encyclopedic 2002 and 2008 releases, presented in a single disc.

In terms of all-new extras, the 16-minute “Full Circle: Preserving The Godfather’” examines Zoetrope and Paramount’s new 4K Trilogy restoration; “Capturing the Corleones” is a 13-minute interview with photographer Steve Schapiro; “Home Movies” includes roughly 10 minutes of previously-private 8mm footage shot at the Norton family Staten Island estate during the original “Godfather”; and a “Restoration Comparison” includes A/B comparison reels between the previous restoration and the new 4K transfers.

In all this is an all-encompassing and spectacular home video package for 4K UHD owners, presenting Coppola’s classics in marvelous new 4K HDR images that bring the Corleone family saga to life in a new form. Hugely recommended as one of the format’s most essential releases to date.

“The Godfather” isn’t the only major restoration premiering this month. The long-awaited joint efforts of Warner Bros. and Cinerama’s David Strohmaier have given us a spectacular THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM (140 mins., 1962) Blu-Ray that restores the clarity and color of George Pal’s 1962 widescreen fantasy.

Strohmaier was responsible for producing wonderful Blu-Ray restorations of Cinerama’s 1950s travelogues (check the Aisle Seat Archives for individual reviews of these Flicker Alley-released titles) as well as the spectacular 2008 Warner release of the MGM/Cinerama western “How the West Was Won.” However, unlike its MGM counterpart, “Brothers Grimm”’s elements were badly damaged, which led to years of speculation that the film could not be restored.

Utilizing the same restorative techniques as Cinerama’s other Blu-Ray releases, Strohmaier and Tom H. March, along with the team at Warner Bros., have poured over a negative damaged by water and mold, utilizing cutting-edge technology to give us a 4K restored transfer of “The Brothers Grimm” that positively sings with its color and brightness. The grandeur of the Cinerama frame was dulled in the comparatively dimmer Metrocolor-ed hues of previous home video releases, but here, the movie’s regal appearance – derived from the original Cinerama negative with its enhanced clarity and warmer color – can be appreciated fully for the first time since its original theatrical run. Outdoor sequences possess a new vitality and give the home viewer, at last, a sense of the unique cinematic event a viewer was attending here, back in the early ’60s.

Warner’s Blu-Ray also includes a pleasingly stereophonic 5.1 DTS MA track utilizing (and tweaking) Chace Audio’s restored multi-channel soundtrack that dates from the late ’90s. Meanwhile, the two-disc set houses the Cinerama recreation “Smilebox” stretched aspect ratio on one disc, with a properly letterboxed (2.39) transfer from the same restoration on another. The set sports archival trailers and interviews, plus a full 50-minute documentary on the restoration and a few additional featurettes.

The movie itself is now much more entertaining on balance, though the vignettes of the various Grimm fairy tales are more engaging than the dramatic story of the Brothers (Lawrence Harvey, Karl Boehm) themselves – as it was with many Pal productions, the fantastic is much more “alive” than reality.


Kino Lorber March Releases

Roger Corman produced the Universal motorcycle drama FAST CHARLIE…THE MOONBEAM RIDER (98 mins., 1978, PG), an easy-going, post WWI-era set story starring David Carradine in the title role: a vet hoping to race and win an international motorcycle competition. Jesse Vint, L.Q. Jones and Terry Kiser are among those supporting Carradine in his efforts, but it’s Brenda Vaccaro as the waitress who works her way into his heart in a screenplay that was intended for Steve McQueen but ended up in the hands of Corman and director Steve Carver. For motorcycle buffs this minor effort is reasonably engaging and appealing enough, with Stu Phillips scoring. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.85, DTS MA mono) includes a 2K remaster for a film that’s had scant home video releases over the years, a commentary from Eddy von Mueller and the trailer.

Edward James Olmos burst onto the scene with his Tony-nominated stage performance in Luis Valdez’s ZOOT SUIT (103 mins., 1981, R), which the playwright brought to the screen in a potent albeit unusual and not altogether successful film version. Valdez’s movie uses real history and some creative license to tell retell the “Sleepy Lagoon” murder trial of Daniel Valdez (Henry Reyna), a Chicano zoot-suiter and his friends for the murder of a young Los Angeles man during WWII era Los Angeles. After being convicted, a pair of lawyers (Charles Aidman, Tyne Daly) work to free them while Olmos essays an allegorical character named “El Pachuco” who comments on the action. A groundbreaking play for its Mexican-American story hitting Broadway, “Zoot Suit” received mixed reviews and didn’t last long in NYC, reportedly closing after 41 performances, but Universal still tabbed Valdez to make a film of his play, which he captured almost in a “filmed stage performance” manner that at times places you in the audience itself. As a result, “Zoot Suit” feels less like a movie than a filmed document of its source, though it’s still worthwhile for its source material. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray looks fine, working off a Universal catalog master (1.85, DTS MA mono) with an interview with Valdez, the trailer, and a commentary from historian Daniel Kremer on the supplemental end.

Plenty of great Irving Berlin songs and the teaming of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire make BLUE SKIES (104 mins., 1946) a breezy if not classic mid ’40s Paramount screen musical. The duo play squabbling rivals both vying for the same woman (Joan Caulfield) in a Stuart Heisler-directed effort that’s pretty much routine – until you get to the song and dance numbers. The good news is there are plenty of them with Astaire dancing to “Putting on the Ritz” in the movie’s highlight; Kino Lorber’s disc (1.37) hails from a new Universal 2K master with “remastered” audio, trailers, and a new commentary from critic Simon Abrams.

A tragedy adapted from Fannie Hurst’s famous romance novel, BACK STREET (89 mins., 1941) is a finely-performed effort from the prolific Hollywood director Robert Stevenson. Margaret Sullavan plays the woman who gives up on her own dreams in order to love a successful banker (Charles Boyer) who, after meeting and falling for Sullavan, has since been married and started a family. Restrained in terms of its overall storytelling approach, this “Back Street” – which was already produced on-screen in 1932 with Irene Dunne and John Bolles – is more successful than a later Susan Hayward version and debuts here on Blu-Ray in a 1080p (1.37) B&W transfer – via a new 2K master – with a commentary from Lee Gambin and costume historian Elissa Rose.

An early box-office hit that teamed Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard with the bonus appeal of a very young Shirley Temple, NOW AND FOREVER (82 mins., 1934) finds Cooper as a jewel thief and con artist trying to go straight after he claims his daughter (Temple) from his late wife’s family. Lombard is his new spouse in a mix of comedy and melodrama that some find dated; the mix of stars, at least, is interesting, with Henry Hathaway helming this Paramount release. Presented in a new 2K master (1.37 B&W), Kino Lorber brings “Now and Forever” to Blu-Ray with another commentary from Lee Gambin and Elissa Rose plus trailers.

A punchy 1950 crime thriller, SHAKEDOWN (80 mins.) stars Howard Duff as a small-time press photographer who gets in too deep once he blackmails a criminal (Brian Donlevy) trying to help him, pitting Donlevy against another local mob boss (Lawrence Tierney). If that’s not enough Duff gets involved with both a newspaper writer (Peggy Dow) and Donlevy’s girl (Anne Vernon), leading to an ending when Duff at last gets his comeuppance. There’s an awful lot of story packed in this fast-moving Joseph Pevney-helmed Universal-International production, debuting on Blu-Ray this month from Kino Lorber (1.37 B&W) sporting a new 2K master, trailers, and commentary from historian Jason A. Ney.

New from Kino Classics this month is one of the later German efforts from native son Robert Siodmak, THE DEVIL STRIKES AT NIGHT (104 mins., 1957), one of several movies the filmmaker produced after returning to the country to complete his career. This potboiler about an ex-German soldier who begins to suspect a Hamburg-area serial killer is an Aryan is both suspenseful as well as an interesting survey of Siodmak’s feelings towards Germans who didn’t or couldn’t flee the Nazi regime during WWII. Imogen Sara Smith provides a commentary in the newly available Kino Lorber Blu-Ray (1.33 B&W, German with Englush subtitles).

Debuting from Cohen Film Collection is a wonderful 4K restoration of Joan Micklin Silver’s HESTER STREET (90 mins., 1975, PG), a flavorful, black-and-white depiction of a Jewish immigrant (Steven Keats) who’s assimilated to American culture, and the difficulties he and his family face when his wife (Carol Kane) and young son arrive in Ellis Island in the 1890s. Subtly directed and marvelously acted by Kane especially, “Hester Street” was one of the most acclaimed independent productions of the mid ’70s, utilizing well-drawn characters and relatable situations to offset a modest budget. Silver, adapting Abraham Cahan’s novel “Yekl,” produced a number of fine films but none more satisfying than this one, which has been enhanced here by a beautifully restored transfer (1.85, DTS MA mono) enhanced by a number of supplements: new interviews between Silver and Shonni Enelow; an archival DVD commentary with Silver; vintage cast/crew interviews; and a revealing, discarded 10-minute alternate opening with Daniel Kremer’s commentary, which arguably may have provided a more accessible audience introduction to the film’s time and place…Also new from Cohen on DVD is Beth Elise Hawk’s BREAKING BREAD (89 mins., 2020), a documentary featuring Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Arab to win Israel’s TV competition “MasterChef,” and her efforts in cultivating the A-sham Arabic Food Festival, where Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate on exotic dishes (1.78, 2.0).

Also New on DVD: From Greenwich Films, new releases this month include MAU (78 mins., 2021), a documentary by Benji and Jong Bergmann about the designer Bruce Mau, who has created works from Coke to Disney and even Mecca, where he’s drawn up a 1000-year architectural plan for the holy site. Greenwich’s DVD (1.78, 5.1) is out this month…LET ME BE ME (75 mins., 2021) profiles the life of Kyle Westphal who was afflicted with autism but still able to thrive as a fashion designer with help from his family and friends. Dan Crane and Katie Taber’s feature (1.78, 5.1/2.0) is now available on DVD…A “mockumentary” about the fictional Leila Salama, who may (or may not) have helped capture notorious Nazi Adolf Eichmann in 1960 Buenos Aires, is the subject matter of THE RED STAR (72 mins., 2020), Gabriel Matias Lichtmann’s work which is now available on DVD (1.85, 2.0 Spanish with English subtitles).


Also New From Warner Archive

In addition to “The Brothers Grimm,” also debuting from Warner Archive this month is A STAR IS BORN (111 mins., 1937), the original David O. Selznick production that matches Janet Gaynor’s hopeful starlet whose career and image are about to ascend at the same time the life of her love Fredric March – already an established star – heads in the other direction. The first of four versions, Warner Bros. has fully restored this William Wellman-directed ’37 drama from the original Technicolor negative and the result is a lovely, detailed, saturated archival image (1.37) with mono sound and several extras. These include a pair of radio dramas, one featuring Gaynor and Robert Montgomery from 1937, and another from 1942 pairing Judy Garland and Walter Pidegon. Several classic WB shorts and cartoons plus the trailer make for a superb restoration on all fronts.

Finally, shortly after the U.S. entered WWII, movie-going audiences on the home front were met with the popular wartime Jimmy Cagney vehicle CAPTAINS OF THE CLOUDS (113 mins.). This Warner Bros. production finds bush pilot Cagney suiting up for the Royal Canadian Air Force and flying unarmed bombers across the Atlantic to England. Plenty of character-driven shenanigans ensue with a trademark Cagney performance, saturated Technicolor hues captured by director Michael Curtiz, and lots of flying sequences, all capped by a Max Steiner score. Another superlative Archive restoration awaits Golden Age viewers here with the Blu-Ray’s 1080p (1.37) AVC encoded transfer, mono sound, and extras including a 1942 newsreel, the trailer, and bonus WB shorts and cartoons.


Also New & Noteworthy

DREAM A LITTLE DREAM Blu-Ray (115 mins., 1989, PG-13; Lionsgate): Dopey and rather odd entry in the late ’80s “body swap” genre (“Big,” “Vice Versa,” “18 Again,” etc.) finds Jason Robards and Piper Laurie as an older couple who improbably mind-meld and switch consciousness with teen neighbor Corey Feldman and his high school classmate (and would-be girlfriend) Meredith Salenger. Corey Haim is also on-hand in Marc Rocco’s spring ’89 Vestron Pictures production, which offers a cast also including the likes of Susan Blakely, SNL’s Victoria Jackson and Alex Rocco, but suffers from a pokey pace and obtuse direction. For the most part “Dream a Little Dream” feels like an indie movie trying to break out of a formulaic, conventional teen picture, but ends up being successful at neither.

This latest “Vestron Collector’s Series” Blu-Ray includes a rather tepid looking 1080p (1.78) transfer with an inherent blockiness and obvious filtering that are the hallmarks of an older master. The 2.0 DTS MA stereo audio is fine, with an eclectic soundtrack featuring Mel Torme performances of the title song over the opening credits (unfortunately with a cheap synthesizer backing) and, later, in a contemporary pop duet with Jefferson Starship frontman Mickey Thomas. Extras include a new interview with Corey Feldman and another talk with producer Lawrence Kasanoff, plus a commentary with historian Jarret Gahan, the trailer, TV spots, still gallery, and Digital HD code.

SHOOTER 4K UHD Steelbook (125 mins., 2007, R; Paramount): Mark Wahlberg essays a former Marine sniper thrust back into action after colonel Danny Glover explains that there’s a plot afoot to assassinate the President. Things, however, aren’t what they seem once Wahlberg is double-crossed and set up for the event. Director Antoine Fuqua’s decidedly “old school” action romp is overlong but highly watchable, fueled by effective action sequences and good work from the cast. Debuting in 4K UHD for the first time – and in a Steelbook package as well – “Shooter” gets a major and much-needed enhancement (Dolby Vision HDR, 5.1 DTS MA) over Paramount’s previous, early-format Blu-Ray which was mastered in the ancient MPEG-2 codec. Extras, in addition to a Digital HD code, have been carried over including seven deleted scenes and a pair of featurettes though, curiously, Fuqua’s commentary from the previous release has been excised.

REDEEMING LOVE Blu-Ray (95 mins., 2021, PG-13; Universal): Formulaic but still agreeable romantic drama set against the backdrop of the 1850 Gold Rush stars Abigail Cowen as a young woman, sold into prostitution from an early age, who finds God amongst her relationship with a honest farmer (Tom Lewis). Nina Dobrev and Famke Janssen co-star in this South African-shot adaptation of Francine Rivers’ book, shot by director D.J. Caruso, who has now made a movie in nearly every genre imaginable. Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) of this 2021 theatrical release includes deleted scenes, a featurette, Francine Rivers interview, and a Digital HD copy.

SING 2 Blu-Ray/DVD (110 mins., 2021, PG; Universal): Quite agreeable sequel to Illumination’s “Sing” finds the same cast of crooning, wannabe-superstar animals out to stage their own musical show – and needing Redshore City’s resident, reclusive rock star Clay Calloway to come out of exile and join them. A solid mix of laughs and tunes populate this warm follow-up to Garth Jennings’ original 2016 “Sing,” which the writer-director here returned to repeat his duties on. It’s a perfect film for kids that adults shouldn’t find overly taxing to sit through. Universal’s Blu-Ray (1.85, Dolby Atmos) is out March 29th from Universal and includes a pair of new mini-movies (For Gunter’s Eyes Only; Animal Attraction) along with outtakes, featurettes, a DVD and Digital HD code.


TV on Disc

THE VIKINGS – The Complete Series Blu-Ray (2013-20; MGM/Warner): The History Channel’s first dramatic weekly series just concluded after six seasons and some 89 episodes – quite a run for a show that was unfairly compared to the likes of “Game of Thrones” at its outset, but possessing its own, more grounded dramatic structure.

Through its run “The Vikings” chronicled the lives, loves and (bloody) battles of the tough Norse warriors, filmed in Ireland with the show following Ragnar along with his tough, sword-wielding wife and sons. Despite a few mixed reviews at the start, “Vikings” became a bona-fide hit that endured over seven years, ending most recently on History though a Netflix-produced spinoff, “Vikings: Valhalla,” has just debuted and is currently keeping the franchise alive.

For fans and casual viewers – especially those who may not want to figure out which streaming service has control of an individual season (right now it seems to be NBC’s Peacock) – Warner’s terrific Blu-Ray box-set comes highly recommended. All 89 episodes of the series have been compiled on 27 discs via a pair of oversized plastic cases housing the complete run of the show. All the extra features from the series – deleted scenes, featurettes, occasional commentaries – have been carried over while the 5.1 DTS MA soundtracks and 1080p (1.78) transfers are uniformly superb across the board.

HEAD OF THE CLASS – Season 4 DVD (566 mins., 1989-90; Warner): A staple on ABC’s TGIF Friday night family sitcom block, “Head of the Class” ran for five seasons but, for many fans, the series came to an unofficial end after the conclusion of its fourth season. This 1989-90 campaign for the show was the last for original classroom instructor Mr. Moore, played by ex-WKRP star Howard Hesseman, who departed when the season ended – his replacement, played by Scottish comic Billy Connolly, could only carry the show’s sinking ratings for one last hurrah. Warner’s release of “Head of the Class”’ fourth season, then, represents the finish of the series in its prime, with Warner’s DVD featuring 4:3 formatted transfers, mono soundtracks, and all 24 episodes in uncut form.

DEXTER: NEW BLOOD Blu-Ray (9 hours, 2021; CBS): Michael C. Hall reprises his role of Dexter Morgan, here having relocated to Iron Lake, NY after setting aside his “Dark Passenger” for nearly a decade — but, as always, trying to go straight yields a return to the darkness after his estranged son shows up. Jennifer Carpenter and John Lithgow also reprise their roles from the long-running Showtime series for this mini-series farewell which most fans felt seemed to embrace as a satisfying send-off for the offbeat crime series. CBS’ Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) is out this week sporting a number of featurettes and interviews.

 

Quick Takes

THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE Blu-Ray (107 mins., 1974, Not Rated; Synapse): Quentin Tarantino is one of the fans of this shocking Swedish ’70s import. Christina Lindberg plays a farm girl who’s sold into prostitution, beaten up, mutilated, and also sickened by the news of her parents’ death. Undaunted, she becomes an eyepatch-adorned killing machine who goes off to exact revenge in a gory picture presented on Blu-Ray by Synapse both in its full unrated version as well as a cleaned-up “Vengeance Edition” version (here offered on DVD) that takes out the full eye gouging scene and other sexual content. Not for the squeamish or anyone not into “revenge movies” in general, Synapse’s disc (1.66) also includes newly translated English subtitles, multiple still galleries, trailers, rare photos from an unused fight scene, outtakes and additional extras spread across the two-disc set.

88 Films New Releases: Late ’70s martial arts zaniness is on tap in Mar Lo’s MONKEY FUNG FU (93 mins., 1979, Not Rated). Siu-Tung Ching from “The Shaolin Boxer” stars in this Shaw Brothers effort as a prisoner who goes searching for the other half of a wooden keepsake he was given by a fellow, older inmate. He’s soon pursued by a gang looking to figure out the keepsake’s purpose in an entertaining genre exercise new on Blu-Ray March 22nd from 88 Films. The HD remaster in 2.35 (from the original 35mm negative) looks great and either Cantonese or English mono sound are provided on the audio side; extras include a commentary from podcasters Kenneth Brorsson and Phil Gillon; interview with choreographer Tony Leung Siu-Hung; the trailer and both all-new artwork and a slipcover featuring its original HK theatrical poster…An even superior genre exercise, SHAOLIN MANTIS (100 mins., 1978, Not Rated), likewise debuts on Blu-Ray March 22nd from 88 Films. David Chiang plays the “bad guy” here – hired by the Emperor to go after Ming loyalists, Chiang’s fighter ends up falling for the clean leader’s granddaughter and his cover is promptly blown. Another Shaw Brothers martial arts extravaganza, “Shaolin Mantis” starts slow but ends in a flurry of solid fight sequences as fans will expect. 88 Films’ Blu (OCN mastered 2.35, 2.0 English dub or Mandarin subtitled) includes a commentary from Mike Leeder and Arne Venema, plus an additional commentary with Frank Djeng; a featurette on the movie with David West; an interview with John Cheung; trailers; and a collectible slipcover with original poster art.

Also new on Blu-Ray this month from MVD is BRYAN LOVES YOU (92 mins., 2008), the very strange Seth Landau-directed film about a 30-year-old (Landau himself) who finds out his quaint Arizona town is being overrun by a homicidal religious cult. Landa’s independent film offers change of pace roles for the likes of George Wendt and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman, and was shot in standard-def but is here upscaled to HD by the director (1.78, 2.0 stereo). MVD’s Blu-Ray is filled with extras, including both a 2022 new director commentary and archival 2008 discussion; a 45-minute new interview with George Wendt, and similarly lengthy talks with co-stars Daniel Roebuck, Brinke Stevens and Triffany Shepis.

Well Go USA New Releases: “Groundhog Day”’s formula gets a horror makeover with 6:45 (96 mins., 2021, R), director Craig Singer’s film wherein a couple (Michael Reed, Augie Duke) heading to a quaint, sleepy New England town end up dead there after 24 hours – only to awake where they, of course, relive the same day and attempt to figure things out. Robert Dean Klein’s script mostly hangs together until the last act falls apart – completely. Well Go’s Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA) is out March 22nd.

ON THE 3RD DAY Blu-Ray (85 mins., 2021, Not Rated; Shout! Factory): Daniel De La Vega directed this Spanish horror film about a young mother who wakes up from a car accident wandering a lonely road and her child missing. Could a religious fanatic and supernatural shenanigans be responsible? But of course, and the answers in this import – presented here only in a dubbed English soundtrack – probably won’t surprise any seasoned genre fan. Shout’s Blu-

Ray (1080p, 5.1/2.0 DTS MA) of “On the 3rd Day” is available March 29th.

STOKER HILLS Blu-Ray (91 mins., 2020; Screen Media): A trio of college students set out to produce a horror movie, only to have them kidnapped by a real serial killer in Benjamin Louis’ indie horror outing, where a pair of detectives attempt to find them from the camera they left behind. Danny Nucci and Tony Todd chip in small appearances in “Stoker Hills,” now on Blu-Ray from Screen Media (1.78, 5.1/2.0).

Lionsgate Quick Takes: Action vets Emile Hirsch and John Cusack tag team in PURSUIT (97 mins., 2022, R), an effort from prolific actor-turned-producer Andrew Stevens, with Hirsch trying to track down his missing wife and Cusack his the crime boss father, with whom he ends up having to reluctantly work with in order to bring her back. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) includes a featurette, the trailer, and a Digital HD copy, and is out March 29th…Johnny Strong and Marko Zaror are paired up in INVINCIBLE (92 mins., 2022, R), a sci-fi action affair wherein a soldier is turned into a maniacal, invincible killing machine after being treated with nanotechnology — tech also implanted into the agent pursuing him. Michael Pare and Sally Kirkland pop up in supporting roles in “Invincible,” with Lionsgate’s DVD (16:9, 5.1) of the Grindstone release now available.

PINOCCHIO: A TRUE STORY (94 mins., 2022, PG; Lionsgate): Russian-produced animated film tries to do something different with the oft-told fairy tale, reconfiguring the lead character as an acrobat who joins a circus filled with thieves — his attempts to save his horse and steer clear of the bad guys leads to him becoming human in Vasily Rovensky’s CG-animated effort, domestically voiced here by the likes of Pauly Shore and Jon Heder (2.39, 5.1 Dolby Digital English).

NEXT TIME: Criterion’s 4K UHD of Melville’s LE CERCLE ROUGE! Until then, don’t forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone! 

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Today in Film Score History:
May 24
Bob Dylan born (1941)
David Ferguson born (1953)
Duke Ellington died (1974)
Franz Waxman begins recording his score for Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Jay Chattaway records his score for the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “In Theory” (1991)
Leith Stevens records his score for the Land of the Giants episode “Underground” (1968)
Pierre van Dormael born (1952)
Recording sessions begin for Graeme Revell’s score to Child’s Play 2 (1990)
Sadao Bekku born (1922)
Waddy Wachtel born (1947)
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