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Two Paramount catalog titles highlight Imprint’s latest limited-edition Blu-Ray premieres, each sporting solid transfers and exclusive special features. As for the two films, there’s a little bit of irony in that SAVE THE TIGER (100 mins., 1973, R), the picture heralded by more critics of the day – albeit mostly for its Oscar-winning lead performance – comes off poorly in relation to its predecessor, THE MOLLY MAGUIRES (126 mins., 1970, PG-13), which was a box-office bomb that’s held up much better in comparison.
Martin Ritt’s richly produced period piece was shot on-location in Pennsylvania and stars Sean Connery as a hard-working coal miner, circa 1876, who’s also the leader of the Molly Maguires, a coalition of workers who band together to combat injustice by their employers through any means necessary. Richard Harris is the Pinkerton detective who, along with romancing a local woman (Samantha Eggar), infiltrates the group in order to expose them, though comes to sympathize, to a degree, with their plight in the process.
Reportedly costing upwards of $11 million at the time, “The Molly Maguires” returned only a fraction of its budget as it became one of the big Hollywood failures from an era in which exploitation and counter-culture flicks like “Easy Rider” were becoming fast money behemoths for studios. An elaborate historical piece like this cost a pretty penny and despite the star power of Connery and Harris, audiences weren’t interested as the movie joined the ranks of other Paramount disappointments of the era like “Darling Lili” in generating the wrong kind of industry headlines.
It’s certainly a picture worthy of discovery – opening with no dialogue and nothing but Henry Mancini’s beautiful score for its first 15 minutes, “The Molly Maguires” offers an impressive replication of time and place. In fact, the atmosphere does overwhelm the dramatics at times, especially where Connery’s part is concerned – despite his considerable star power at the time, it’s Harris and his point of view that drives much of writer Walter Bernstein’s narrative. That also leads to a plodding pace here and there, yet the finished product is so vividly photographed (by James Wong Howe) and scored (it’s not hyperbole to call this one of Mancini’s greatest soundtracks) that it keeps you watching through the slow spots. And certainly as a historical piece – documenting (however Hollywoodized some of it is) the exploitation of Irish immigrants who worked in brutal conditions – the movie is more than worthwhile in terms of its subject matter.
I reviewed “The Molly Maguires” when it appeared on DVD back in 2004. This HD master may have well been minted at that time, yet it holds up in 1080p (2.35) regardless with strong detail and appealing color. The original mono sound was remixed back then for 5.1 (here in lossless DTS MA) and it’s an excellent track, providing a broader sound stage to both Mancini’s outstanding score and plenty of boisterous sound effects, with directional separation, than the old mono track.
The movie spent what seemed like an extended time in post-production throughout 1969, with Broadway composer Charles Strouse’s (“Annie,” “Bye Bye Birdy”) original score being excised after poor test screenings (if you have the chance, it’s quite something to hear Strouse’s comparatively “mod” approach compared to Mancini’s, which Kritzerland’s marvelous, out-of-print CD release afforded to listeners).
A little of that behind-the-scenes talk is divulged in two different commentaries debuting here in Imprint’s Blu-Ray: one with Howard S. Berger, another featuring Daniel Kremer, who’s becoming downright prolific recording these tracks for different labels. Both talks are heavy on analysis and not so strong on production detail, which is disappointing yet understandable given the movie’s age and dearth of original participants around to discuss it. A new phone interview with co-star Anthony Zerbe is also on-hand with the trailer rounding out the release.
Though not a box-office smash either, SAVE THE TIGER (100 mins., 1973, R) earned far more kudos a few years later for Paramount. Nearly all of the attention, though, went to star Jack Lemmon, who deservedly copped an Oscar for his performance as a beleaguered businessman watching the American Dream fade away in writer Steve Shagan’s sometimes pretentious diatribe against “The System.”
Directed by John G. “Rocky” Avildsen, “Save The Tiger” is a film that hasn’t aged well: the movie’s then-liberal use of profanity (hear Jack Gilford drop an f-bomb!) and adult themes were undoubtedly shocking to audiences used to seeing Lemmon play light comedy roles, but these days, the movie comes across as little more than a watered-down “Death of a Salesman.” Still, the picture remains worthwhile because of Lemmon’s superb, layered performance, which remains one of his finest.
Imprint’s Blu-Ray (1.85, mono) is derived from a fine older Paramount master with the DVD commentary between Shagan and Avildsen included – one that’s in many ways more interesting than watching the film itself. New supplements include another commentary from (who else) Daniel Kremer; a video essay by Kremer on Avildsen’s pre-Stallone works; “remotely conducted” interviews with star Laurie Heineman and director/Avildsen friend Lloyd Kaufman; an archival Lemmon interview; and the trailer.
Warner Archive New Releases
One of the most memorable of all ’50s sci-fi B movies is the infamous ATTACK OF THE 50-FOOT WOMAN (66 mins., 1958), an independent production that sees Allison Hayes being shot up to giant size by aliens – just in time to exact revenge on her philandering husband (William Hudson). Low grade thrills and campy humor abound in this zippy exercise which looks dynamite with its crisp B&W hues in Warner Archive’s Blu-Ray (1.85, mono). Extras include the trailer and a commentary with co-star Yvette Vickers (as “the other woman”) and genre authority Tom Weaver.
Tennessee Williams’ hit Broadway play THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (118 mins., 1964) became a searing dramatic outing for star Richard Burton, playing the fallen priest whose relationships with a trio of disparate women (Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr, “Lolita”’s Sue Lyon) is captured in a strong adaptation by Anthony Veller and co-writer/director John Huston. Debuting on Blu-Ray (1.85, mono) for the first time, Warner Archive’s transfer is stellar and backed by a high bit-rate transfer capturing all of the picture’s stark B&W cinematography with two archival featurettes and the trailer offered on the supplemental side.
New on 4K UHD
Weird, offbeat, creepy, lyrical and even downright disturbing, Henry Selick’s gorgeous stop-motion adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s CORALINE (101 mins., 2009, PG; Shout! Factory) has been remastered for Dolby Vision HDR and debuts on 4K UHD this month from Shout! Just as it was upon its initial 2009 release, the movie is the ideal tonic for viewers beaten down by a dearth of imagination found in most children’s fare.
“Coraline” is essentially a modern Grimm’s Fairy Tale, focusing on a young girl who moves into a new apartment along with her parents. While her folks are forever typing on their keyboards, and saying “no” to some of the young lady’s demands (such as buying a pair of gloves), Coraline explores her newfound surroundings, and finds a parallel universe through a small door that’s been sealed off in one of the rooms. It’s a bizarre dimension where their house and the land outside have been reproduced faithfully in some regards but strangely in others, including being populated by a pair of friendlier parents with sewn-in buttons for eyes! “Other Mom” and “Other Dad” beckon Coraline to come and stay, and at first you can’t blame her: fresh food cooks in the kitchen, toys and clothes which Coraline doesn’t have in the “real world” adorn her room, and even the neighbors in this dimension are more engaging, from the elderly former actresses who live downstairs, to the eccentric former circus performer who lives above Coraline. Unfortunately, what starts off as a dream turns into a nightmare after Coraline spends more time in the parallel world, and is asked by her “other” parents to sew buttons on her eyes, thereby “joining” them permanently.
With its spectacularly imaginative collection of characters, supernatural flights of fancy and a beautifully eclectic score by Bruno Coulais, “Coraline” is certainly a unique and compelling work — not to mention unsettling, even for adults. Anyone expecting a benign, slightly eccentric fantasy like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (which Selick directed for producer Tim Burton) may be shocked once the parallel world Coraline encounters turns into a freakish display of surreal images, from dogs that become vampire bats to ghostly children whose lives were claimed by our heroine’s “other” Mom. It’s certainly not suitable for younger children (and inexplicable to think this got away with the same rating “Nightmare” and “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” received), and may even freak out some adults as well.
That said, for older kids and viewers willing to take the ride, “Coraline” is filled with cinematic magic, from the vivid imagery and marvelous stop-motion animation through the articulation of the characters and corresponding vocal work provided by Dakota Fanning (as Coraline), Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman as both sets of parents, and especially Keith David as a wise feline who helps our young heroine through her nightmarish adventure. Selick has paced the movie perfectly, and not enough can be said about the strange and evocative score by Coulais, which incorporates children’s choir, full symphonic backing, female vocals, a bit of jazz and a lot of fresh musical ideas into what could’ve been just another run-of-the-mill, Elfman-esque fantasy score.
Shout! Factory has brought “Coraline” to 4K UHD this month with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos mix – both adding further luster to Selick’s visual realm. Extras include supplements from Shout’s previous Blu-Ray (also included) with a featurette, Inside Laika, sporting never-before-seen test footage; segments on the animated puppets and artwork; and ample legacy supplements, from commentary to deleted scenes and other goodies, also present.
Joining “Coraline” on 4K UHD this month is PARANORMAN (93 mins., 2012, PG; Shout! Factory), which isn’t quite as inspired as “Coraline” but nevertheless manages to be entertaining, fun fright fare for kids and horror buffs. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell’s animated effort is chock full of genre references and great looking stop-motion animation, and Shout’s 4K UHD again sweetens the pot (1.85) with Dolby Vision HDR and a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack. The enclosed Blu-Ray reprises extras from Shout’s earlier Blu, including storyboards, interviews and, again, never-before-seen test footage, plus supplements (commentary, featurettes) from Universal’s original release.
DON’T WORRY DARLING 4K UHD/Blu-Ray (123 mins., 2022, R; Warner): Lots of pre-release publicity surrounding on-set feuds between director Olivia Wilde and star Florence Pugh – to say nothing of departed original star Shia LaBeouf – marred Wilde’s second directorial foray “Don’t Worry Darling.” This “puzzle box” of a movie offers Pugh as a repressed housewife in a seemingly ’50s suburban community which, naturally, isn’t entirely what it’s cracked to be; meanwhile, Harry Styles plays Pugh’s husband (not well, either) with Chris Pine an enigmatic figure (possibly) behind it all.
Wilde has good directorial sense visually but Katie Silberman’s languid script is a flat line that never comes alive, managing to be predictable in terms of tone and emotion, biding the time before it eventually throws the twist we’ve all been waiting for back at the viewer. Needless to say that “revelation” isn’t nearly enough to save the picture, while pop star Styles coughs up several unintentionally funny scenes in a performance that shows he should stick to his day job.
Warner’s attractive 4K UHD (2.39) is nicely graded with HDR10 and boasts Dolby Atmos sound, the Blu-Ray and a Digital HD copy. A featurette and deleted scene are all the extras you get, but you can easily read all about the movie’s problematic shoot elsewhere.
Also new from Warner is Season 4 of WESTWORLD (438 mins., 2022), the expensive HBO spinoff of what was once a riff on Michael Crichton’s early ’70s sci-fi hit. The show here picks up from the end of Season 3 with Maeve and Caleb suspecting that Hale and – yes – another Man in Black incarnation are out to enslave humanity again. Evan Rachel Wood, Thandiwe Newton, Tessa Thompson, Ed Harris, Aaron Paul and James Marsden all return for a convoluted follow-up to a show whose creative flame burned out some time ago, though the series is sleekly produced and still looks good – it’s just too difficult at this point to penetrate unless you’re a hardcore fan of the material. Warner’s 4K UHD offers HDR10 transfers (1.789) and Dolby Atmos soundtracks for what appears to be the final season of the series with featurettes, a Blu-Ray and Digital HD copy also on-hand.
SMILE 4K UHD (115 mins., 2022, R; Paramount): Most post-pandemic box-office hits thus far can be grouped in two categories: expensive tentpoles and cheap horror fare like Parker Finn’s “Smile,” which performed well at the box-office this autumn for Paramount. Truthfully, though, the scares end up being minimal in Finn’s original script involving a doctor (Sosie Bacon) whose own trauma clashes with a horrific phenomena in which a demon walks around, inhabiting its victims with a blank, creepy smile as evidence of possession. Finn had originally developed “Smile” as a short before expanding it into this feature-length treatment which seems awfully extended at its two-hour running time and is further burdened with a leaden, predictable ending. Paramount’s attractive 4K UHD includes Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos sound, deleted scenes, Finn’s commentary, a featurette, digital HD copy, and the original short itself, “Laura Hasn’t Slept,” which is more effective than the final feature.
Finally, the top 4K UHD catalog release of the week for many needs little introduction for fans: PULP FICTION (154 mins., 1994, R; Paramount), Quentin Tarantino’s celebrated box-office smash that represents his peak behind the camera. Paramount’s 4K UHD (2.35) is one of their best format forays in some time, offering Dolby Vision HDR that does justice to Tarantino and DP Andrzej Sekula’s lensing, bringing out highlights in contrast while remaining faithful to its visual scheme; in short, there’s no reason to worry here that the transfer isn’t a worthy upgrade for fans, while ample extras (on Blu-Ray) offer cast interviews, Cannes Film Festival footage, deleted scenes, even the original Siskel & Ebert review. A Digital HD copy is included in the two-disc set, housed in a collectible Steelbook package now available from Paramount.
Also New & Noteworthy
SOUTH PARK POST-COVID Blu-Ray (121 mins., 2021; Paramount): Trey Parker and Matt Stone have eschewed new “seasons” of their long-running Comedy Central series in lieu of pandemic-era, longer form episodes that skewer COVID policy along with the usual raunchiness from Cartman and crew. There are definitely a few laughs on-hand in their two “Post-COVID” specials, but both shows tend to peter out in terms of laughs as they hit their respective halfway marks. Paramount’s Blu-Ray (1080p, 5.1 TrueHD) is now available.
STAR TREK DISCOVERY Season Four Blu-Ray (664 mins., 2021-22; CBS): It’s full speed ahead for Captain Burnham and the Discovery in another season of “post-modern” Trek with a lot of social preachifying going on. The worst part – solid production values aside – is that someone forgot the entertainment in the equation as the producers address a dizzying array of “representation” amongst its diverse (TM) cast but leave well-crafted and memorable storytelling behind. If you’re a fan of this “Trek” by all means sign up for CBS’ Season 4 package (1080p, 5.1 DTS MA) which is out this week along with commentary, a gag reel, deleted scenes, and nearly two hours of special features.
CLERKS III Blu-Ray (115 mins., 2022, R; Lionsgate): Kevin Smith returns to familiar territory, revisiting the Quick Stop convenience where long-term workers Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson still manage the counter with pals Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith) hanging out. Smith’s shtick hasn’t weathered the years all that well but devoted fans of the original may well appreciate this belated follow through, seasoned with a few star cameos but an uneven range of emotion swinging from depressing to slapstick and back again. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (1.85, Atmos) includes commentary, two documentaries, deleted scenes, the trailer and a Digital HD copy.
THE MINUTE YOU WAKE UP DEAD Blu-Ray (90 mins., 2022, R; Lionsgate): Cole Hauser probably had a wealth of options available to him during his hiatus from the smash hit series “Yellowstone” – so why he chose this mundane thriller involving a stockbroker, a waitress, and a murder – oh and Morgan Freeman too – is a mystery onto itself. Hauser’s not the only talented one biding his time here: Jaimie Alexander and Freeman, now looking to supplant Bruce Willis as the old reliable for check-cashing direct-to-demand B-grade fare, also can do little to raise Michael Mailer’s movie outside the box. Lionsgate’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA) is out December 13th with a Digital HD copy included.
CHRISTMAS IN PARADISE Blu-Ray (89 mins., 2022, PG; Lionsgate): Disappointing yuletide comedy sends Elizabeth Hurley and her sisters out to the Caribbean in order to find dear old Dad (Kelsey Grammer), who’s been dumped by his fiancee. Instead of finding him drowning in his sorrows, he’s hanging out with pal Billy Ray Cyrus and enjoying the beach in a pedestrian outing by director Philippe Martinez not that much different than the usual Hallmark/Lifetime product plastered all over the broadcast spectrum at the current moment. Lionsgate’s no-frills Blu-Ray (2.35, 5.1 DTS MA) is out this week with a Digital HD copy included…Also new from Lionsgate, SUMMERTIME DROPOUTS (93 mins., 2022, PG) is a family-oriented comedy about dueling bands and one particular high schooler who meets up with an ex-crush and her band in Jhenbe Chase’s indie comedy – sporting music from, and a “special appearance” by, group Simple Plan. Lionsgate’s DVD (1.89, 5.1) is now available.
CREATURE FROM BLACK LAKE (95 mins., 1976, PG; Synapse Films): In the wake of the “Boggy Creek” drive-in phenomena of B-grade, independently made ’70s Bigfoot flicks came this similarly “down home,” rural thriller. Set in the Louisiana swamp, producer/writer Jim McCullough, Jr.’s monster outing finds trapper Jack Elam saddling up with fellow character actor Dub Taylor, Bill Thurman and John David Carson as the latter heads out – along with pal Dennis Fimple – to prove the existence of the legendary Black Lake monster. Most of the appeal in this easy-going, PG-rated affair is due to Dean Cundey’s solid scope lensing – a precursor to his classic work with John Carpenter among others. Synapse’s Blu-Ray hails from a scope 4K restoration (2.35) of the OCN with commentary by Michael Gingold and Chris Poggiali, an interview with Cundey, and trailers/radio spots rounding out the package.
CREEPSHOW Season 3 Blu-Ray (5 hours, 2021-22; RLJE Films): Ethan Embry, James Remar, Michael Rooker, Mark Hamill, fan favorite Danielle Harris, and Ron Livingston are among the Guest Stars who pop up in Season 3 of the “Creepshow” anthology series, itself inspired by the 1982 King/Romero theatrical hit. This time out, the usual assortment of ghouls, ghosts, monsters and murders – supernatural and otherwise – season 12 tales comprising Shudder’s third season, all of which are collected in this RLJE Blu-Ray (1.78, 5.1 DTS MA). Extras include a Comic Con “home panel,” raw behind-the-scenes footage, photo gallery, comic art booklet and more.
TICKET TO PARADISE Blu-Ray (104 mins., 2022, PG-13; Universal): George Clooney and Julia Roberts’ pairing in a romantic comedy might’ve generated a few hundred million 20 years ago, but these days, the best one can hope for is a moderate box-office showing followed by a healthy run on home video. Maybe the latter is in the cards for this standard issue but inoffensive genre affair where ex-spouses Clooney and Roberts head to Bali where their daughter (Kaitlyn Dever) has decided to forgo her future in law for a quick marriage to a local fisherman. Ol Parker directed and co-wrote with nice locations that come off well in Universal’s Blu-Ray (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA), the disc including a number of featurettes, the DVD and a Digital HD copy.
New From Film Movement: The Stefan Ruzowitzky drama HINTERLAND (99 mins., 2002) is a visually impressive thriller about a Great War survivor who heads home to Vienna where a serial killer is on the loose. Heavy atmosphere dominates this Austrian import, new on DVD from Film Movement (2.39, 5.1/2.0) sporting a German soundtrack with English subtitles; commentary and VFX featurettes plus Merryl Roche’s French short “Haute Cuisine.”
Well Go New Releases: “Taken” director Pierre Morel helmed THE AMBUSH (112 mins., 2021, R), an Arabic story of three soldiers who are attacked by militants that leave them basically left for dead – -until their commanding officer stages a daring rescue to free them. Robust action scored by Harry Gregson-Williams dominates this impressively mounted Saban Films/Image Nation Abu Dhabi production, with Well Go’s Blu-Ray including the original Arabic audio or an English dub (1080p, DTS MA)…Coming December 20th is THE LONELIEST BOY IN THE WORLD (90 mins., 2021), Martin Owen’s independent comedy about an awkward young man (Max Harwood) who reanimates the dead in order to gain some friends after his mother’s death. Morbid laughs abound in the picture, on Blu-Ray later this month with a 1080p transfer and DTS MA sound, plus a behind-the-scenes featurette.
Music Box New Releases: Are things as bad as at the movies as they might seem? Maybe in 2022, but collectively over the past decade, there have still been some impressive cinematic endeavors being undertaken, some 97 of which have been profiled in Mark Cousins’ documentary THE STORY OF FILM: A NEW GENERATION (167 mins.). This survey follow-up to his epic “The Story of Film: An Odyssey” focuses on the years 2010-21, from hits like “Frozen” and “Black Panther” to foreign breakthroughs “Parasite” and “The Babadook.” Insightful and compelling even at its near three-hour run time, “A New Generation” is new to DVD from Music Box this month (16:9, 5.1).
Also new from Music Box on Blu-Ray is Anita Rocha Da Silveira’s MEDUSA (129 mins., 2021), a powerful thriller about a young woman whose righteous path of performing religious pop tunes and night time raids on sinning women takes a turn after she’s attacked and scarred. She ends up succumbing to even darker desires in a stylishly shot film (2.39, 5.1 DTS MA Portuguese with English subs) from Portugal, with Music Box’s Blu-Ray boasting deleted scenes, a video essay, Director Q&A from the NY premiere, and an interview featurette.
NEXT TIME: Kino Lorber’s pre-Christmas stash! 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!