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It’s been over a quarter-century since the sci-fi tinged ‘90s thriller FACE/OFF (140 mins., 1997, R; Kino Lorber) was released, and over that time, action movies have been reduced to cinematic rubble for the most part. This slick box-office hit, then, resembles something of a swan song for the 80s/90s era genre exercise, one which progressed (more like regressed) from Arnie and Sly to the hyper-stylized works of Michael Bay. “Face/Off,” to its credit, remains a superior picture of its vintage, offering a number of delicious ingredients: take an intriguing premise, two big stars in Nicolas Cage and John Travolta giving go-for-broke performances and director John Woo at the peak of his American period – then combine them with a fairly ingenious screenplay that’s as clever with its character-interplay as it is with well-staged set-pieces.

Cage proves the better of his counterpart as both the film’s villain and – after exchanging identities – its hero, outdueling Travolta’s solid but not as demanding work as the bad guy in the good guy’s body – the duo improbably exchanging faces after hard-nosed FBI agent Travolta decides to undergo an identity transplant in order to uncover terrorist Cage’s bomb plot. (In contrast, Cage has the harder scenes, illustrating the hero’s dilemma in living with the villain’s identity, and carrying the middle of the picture). Joan Allen is superb as the hero’s wife, with terrific supporting performances including Gina Gershon, Alessandro Nivola, and Dominique Swain. This is one of those “old” movies where even the small and seemingly insignificant supporting roles are filled with soon-to-be stars like Thomas Jane and James Denton (billed here as “Jamie”), not to mention even Margaret Cho as an FBI agent!

“Face/Off” is wild stuff – the kind that seems like it comes from another planet compared to what we see today from major studios – with Cage’s alternately flamboyant/restrained performance perfectly inhabiting psycho “Castor Troy” as well as “Sean Archer,” the tightly-wound protagonist who eventually inhabits his identity, but the other reason the film works is because the script is solid. Kudos are extended to writers Mike Werb and Michael Collorary, plus John Woo (of course) for making his best American film, and an excellent score by John Powell (replacing Mark Isham) which represents some of his most satisfying output as well. It’s an operatic film that still manages to end on a satisfying emotional beat.

A box-office hit that hasn’t always resulted in steady home video transfers, Kino Lorber’s new 4K UHD (2.35) of “Face/Off” offers a fresh 4K scan of the OCN that yields excellent detail and color over its previous Blu-Ray. Both 5.1 and 2.0 audio soundtracks are included, with the clear advantage in the multi-channel mix, while extras are carryovers from past Paramount releases: commentaries from Woo and the writers; seven deleted scenes with optional commentary, including a wisely excised end coda; the trailer; and both a 2011 Making Of with interviews with most of the principals (sans Travolta and Cage) plus a featurette on Woo’s career. Kino has also added a new commentary from action film experts Mike Leeder and Arne Venema on the included Blu-Ray (also remastered from the 4K OCN).

When Richard Levinson and William Link created the irascible detective COLUMBO, the duo carved out a classic TV protagonist who solved, to a certain extent, an issue surrounding so many murder-mysteries: what if the suspense involved in its stories wasn’t surrounding who did the crime, but rather how Columbo solved it. With stories that were better able to dive into the reasoning for a killer’s motives and backstory – instead of formulaic mysteries that were entirely reliant on the viewer guessing who the killer might be – “Columbo” set a new standard for the genre on television. Smart writing and the brilliant, idiosyncratic performance of Peter Falk as Columbo created an instant classic, with the first few seasons of the series – its finest – now collected in COLUMBO: THE 1970s, a spectacular Kino Lorber Blu-Ray box sporting 4K remastered transfers and hours of the best television the major networks had to offer.

Columbo first debuted on television in PRESCRIPTION: MURDER, a 1968 Movie of the Week on NBC where Levinsion and Link adapted their earlier stage play, introducing Falk as Columbo opposite a psychiatrist (Gene Barry) who murdered his wife. The success of the film lead to another TV-movie, RANSOM FOR A DEAD MAN, in 1971, wherein Columbo was tasked with solving the murder of an attorney’s (Lee Grant) husband.

The series kicked off proper in 1971 as part of the “NBC Mystery Movie,” running in a monthly rotation, as Falk’s desire to make movies and other projects prevented the series from becoming a weekly endeavor as NBC desired. Yet that very fact is also why “Columbo” worked so well – the added time between shows meant more development was afforded on each script and each production. Episodes also ran longer than a one-hour slot as well, with most of the episodes functioning nearly like their own TV-movie.

For viewers who watched the series before, or newcomers coming in fresh, Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray gives all a spectacular image (1.33) that was 4K remastered for this release. The result is a quantum leap over the comparable, older high-definition source used for a Japanese format box over a decade ago, displaying a far wider color pallet and richer detail. The high bit-rate transfers and superb image lend a new perspective to the series, enabling it to have (its square TV ratio notwithstanding) an almost cinematic appearance.

And the shows themselves remain so entertaining – as I sampled this release I found it difficult to turn off episodes I had previously watched years back. These include the two TV-movies, which were followed by Season 1 episodes that kicked off with the Steven Bocho-written, Steven Spielberg-directed MURDER BY THE BOOK (guest stars Jack Cassidy and Rosemary Forsyth) in September of 1971. Subsequent Season 1 episodes included DEATH LENDS A HAND (Robert Culp), DEAD WEIGHT (Eddie Albert, Suzanne Pleshette, Kate Reid), SUITABLE FOR FRAMING (Kim Hunter, Don Amcehe, Ross Martin), LADY IN WAITING (Leslie Nielsen, Susan Clark), SHORT FUSE (Roddy McDowall, Anne Francis, Ida Lupino), and BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (Forrest Tucker, Patrick O’Neal, Janis Paige).

Big ratings and widespread critical acclaim carried Columbo through seven series throughout the decade, even if the amount of episodes produced per-year decreased over time. Included here are the remaining 1970s “Columbo” episodes, including the Season 2 (1972-73) shows ETUDE IN BLACK (John Cassavetes, Myrna Loy, Blythe Danner), THE GREENHOUSE JUNGLE (Ray Milland, Bradford Dillman), THE MOST CRUCIAL GAME (Robert Culp, Dean Stockwell, Valerie Harper), DAGGER OF THE MIND (Honor Blackman, Richard Basehart), REQUIEM FOR A FALLING STAR (Anne Baxter, Mel Ferrer), A STITCH IN CRIME (Leonard Nimoy, Anne Francis, Will Geer), THE MOST DANGEROUS MATCH (Laurence Harvey), and DOUBLE SHOCK (Martin Landau, Julie Newmar, Jeanette Nolan).

Season 3 (1973-74) episodes count LOVELY BUT LETHAL (Vincent Price, Vera Miles, Martin Sheen), ANY OLD PORT IN A STORM (Julie Harris, Donald Pleasence), CANDIDATE FOR CRIME (Jackie Cooper), DOUBLE EXPOSURE (Robert Culp, Louise Latham), PUBLISH OR PERISH (Jack Cassidy, Mariette Hartley, Mickey Spillane), MIND OVER MAYHEM (Jose Ferrer, Jessica Walter), SWAN SONG (Johnny Cash!), and A FRIEND IN DEED (Richard Kiley, Rosemary Murphy).

From Season 4 (1974-75) come a half-dozen episodes: AN EXERCISE IN FATALITY (Robert Conrad), NEGATIVE REACTION (Dick Van Dyke), BY DAWN’S EARLY LIGHT (Patrick McGoohan), TROUBLED WATERS (Robert Vaughn, Patrick MacNee), PLAYBACK (Oskar Werner, Gena Rowlands, Martha Scott) and A DEADLY STATE OF MIND (George Hamilton, Lesley Ann Warren).

Falk would produce another six shows in Season 5 (1975-76): FORGOTTEN LADY (Janet Leigh, Maurice Evans, Sam Jaffe), A CASE OF IMMUNITY (Hector Elizondo, Sal Mineo), IDENTITY CRISIS (Leslie Nielsen, Patrick McGoohan), A MATTER OF HONOR (Ricardo Montalban), NOW YOU SEE HIM (Jack Cassidy, Robert Loggia), and LAST SALUTE TO THE COMMODORE (Robert Vaughn, Diane Baker).

The final two “seasons” of “Columbo” were comprised of just a handful of episodes: the Season 6 (1976-77) episodes A FADE IN TO MURDER (William Shatner), OLD FASHIONED MURDER (Joyce Van Patten, Jeannie Berlin, Celeste Holm), and THE BYE-BYE SKY HIGH I.Q. MURDER CASE (Theodore Bikel, Samantha Eggar), and the Season 7 (1977-78) shows TRY AND CATCH ME (Ruth Gordon, Mariette Hartley), MURDER UNDER GLASS (Louis Jourdan), MAKE ME A PERFECT MURDER (Trish Van Devere, Patrick O’Neal), HOW TO DIAL A MURDER (Nicol Williamson, Kim Cattrall), and THE CONSPIRATORS (Clive Revill).

With that, Columbo hung up his trademark trenchcoat for nearly a decade until ABC revived the character for its own Mystery Movie cycle. Those later (and much more uneven) episodes will have to wait until Kino Lorber’s next box-set, but in the meantime, fans have a treasure trove of episodes here to revisit and newcomers to discover, all in superior transfers. Extras (which at one point were to include commentaries on every episode before they were yanked late in the game) include a shorter cut of the episode “Etude in Black” plus isolated music/effects tracks and an episode guide booklet. Newly commissioned slipcover art by Tony Stella puts the finishing touches on one of the year’s top Blu-Ray releases.

“Columbo” isn’t the only series netting a Blu-Ray release from Kino Lorber in time for Christmas. MONK (435 mins., 2002) was a fan-favorite cable series that aired on USA during the ‘00s, offering a prime, career-defining role for multiple award-winner Tony Shalhoub. Here essaying the OCD-plagued but brilliant police “consultant” who tackles a group of cases in and around the Bay Area, this season (at least) pairing Monk with Bitty Schram’s assistant (she would eventually be replaced by Traylor Howard).

“Monk” was a runaway hit for USA, in its later seasons ranking as the highest rated scripted cable series with millions of viewers tuning into Monk’s familiar goofy antics, mixed with a formulaic but sturdy assortment of crime procedural plots. Yet it’s Shalhoub’s performance that made “Monk” the success that it became, his performance anchoring a show that managed to mix comedy and crime with equal aplomb.

Kino Lorber’s Season 1 and Season 2 Blu-Ray releases are now available with 1080p (1.78) transfers and DTS MA sound. Extras on the Season 1 set include a number of featurettes culled from Universal’s DVD releases, touching upon the show’s origins, Shalhoub, and the many guest stars who popped up during its duration – Season 1 appearances counting Brooke Adams, Garry Marshall, Kevin Nealon, Willie Nelson and Amy Sedaris among them.


Sci-Fi, Action & Adventure

THE EMERALD FOREST Blu-Ray (114 mins., 1985, R): Rugged outdoor adventure from director John Boorman plunges viewers into an arresting world where an American engineer (Powers Boothe), who lost his son at the edge of the Brazilian rainforest years prior, eventually finds him – now a member of an Amazon tribe threatened by encroaching civilization. Boorman and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot’s widescreen visuals are beautifully framed and the premise is fascinating though I found the dramatic component to be a mixed bag and generally less compelling than the director’s finest work, especially in the movie’s more action-oriented second half. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray hails from the same MGM master (2.35, stereo) as a previous release but has been upped in terms of bit-rate, plus adds a new commentary by Nathaniel Thompson and filmmaker Edgar Pablos.

Two more Kino re-issues are on-hand this month, one bringing back into print RUNNING SCARED (107 mins., 1986, R), the moderately successful Summer ’86 cop-buddy teaming of Gregory Hines and second-billed Billy Crystal, just on the cusp of major movie stardom. Peter Hyams’ film has flavorful Chicago location work and a couple of solid set-pieces, but the routine nature of the Gary DeVore-Jimmy Huston script dulls the fun, especially in its second half. Kino’s Blu-Ray features a similar package as their earlier disc, with a 1080p (2.35, DTS MA) MGM master, Hyams’ commentary, outtakes, a featurette and EPK material…New extras, meanwhile, grace HOUSE OF THE LONG SHADOWS (100 mins., 1983, PG), one of many adaptations of “Seven Keys to Baldpate” noteworthy here for the teaming of horror greats Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. This lightly amusing Cannon production has become something of a cult favorite, and is preserved here in a Kino disc featuring a fine MGM master (1.85, 2.0) with extras including commentaries by David Del Valle, plus Derek Pykett and director Pete Walker; an interview with the director; and a retrospective documentary.

THE QUATERMASS XPERIMENT aka THE CREEPING UNKNOWN Blu-Ray (82 mins., 1955): The first of numerous “Quatermass” movies (raise your hand if you always referred to this as “Quartermass” at some point!) from writer Nigel Kneale features Brian Donlevy as the scientist who works with Scotland Yard detective Jack Warner in pinning down an astronaut – the only survivor of a doomed spacecraft venture – who’s transformed into a slimy fungus since returning to Earth. Richard Landau and director Val Guest adapted Kneale’s original BBC television play for this economically-shot mid ‘50s British sci-fi thriller, the first of several films to come featuring the intrepid Quatermass. Kino Lorber’s terrific Blu-Ray features an interview with John Carpenter on the series; commentaries from Gary Gerani and Val Guest; an interview with Guest by Marcus Hearn; two featurettes; an alternative main credits (the film was retitled “The Creeping Unknown” for the U.S.) and trailer. The MGM licensed 1080p (1.66 B&W) transfer is nicely encoded.

THE QUESTOR TAPES Blu-Ray (100 mins., 1974): Gene Roddenberry failed at several attempts to launch a post-”Star Trek” series in the early ‘70s, with this engaging if talky affair coming the closest to capturing the essence of Roddenberry’s “humanistic sci-fi” as seen in Trek itself. Certainly watching Robert Foxworth here play an android, searching for his creator (Lew Ayres) with the help of an understanding scientist (Mike Farrell), might offer a ring of familiarity for Next Generation fans as much of “Data,” as well as Brent Spiner’s performance, seem to have originated from seeds planted in this busted pilot. The ‘70s aesthetic is nicely rendered here in Kino Lorber’s new 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive (1.33), with Gary Gerani providing an insightful commentary.

THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE 3-D Blu-Ray (111 mins., 1983, R): One of numerous 3-D releases from the summer of 1983, Paramount’s “Man Who Wasn’t There” tried something a little different — a spy comedy featuring a pre-“Police Academy” Steve Guttenberg as a low-level State Department employee improbably handed a top-secret invisibility formula from a dying government agent. Guttenberg and Jeffrey Tambor generate a few laughs but actor/director Bruce Malmuth’s film stays far too long at the party, stretching out its thin premise — and just okay 3-D effects — to an unmanageable 111 minutes. Still worth a look for 3-D enthusiasts — especially considering how rarely the film was ever shown outside its initial theatrical run — with the 3-D Film Archive’s preservation sporting both 3-D polarized and anaglyphic transfers, a 2-D transfer (2.35, all from a 4K scan of the 35mm OCN) with extras including a commentary by Jason Pichonsky. On the musical side, Miles Goodman’s breezy score recalls the work of composer John Morris on Mel Brooks’ films — if only the comedy was on the same level!


Also New on 4K UHD From Kino Lorber

SUSPECT ZERO 4K UHD (99 mins., 2004, R): Zak Penn’s much-lauded script for “Suspect Zero” was originally intended to be filmed with Tom Cruise in the late ‘90s. Alas, the serial killer thriller was put on the shelf for several years before Cruise co-produced the movie with Paula Wagner in 2003, albeit with Penn’s script having been re-written and a less-than A-list cast attached. The result is a better-than-average thriller with some unique elements that mostly go unrealized under the direction of E. Elias Merhige.

Aaron Eckhart plays an FBI agent on the trail of a deadly serial killer. Carrie-Ann Moss (in a thankless role) plays his partner and former lover while, in a scenery-chewing performance, Kingsley essays a mysterious man who claims to be an ex-FBI agent tracking down the elusive killer. While Kingsley seems to have more nefarious motives behind his actions than he’s letting on, both Kingsley and Eckhart possess abilities that ultimately bring them closer together than Eckhart ever imagined.

“Suspect Zero” is mostly a routine serial killer/police procedural suspense effort — with under-developed characterizations — but its big “twist” does throw a few curveballs into the mix. The connection between Kingsley and Eckhart offers something different than the norm, yet the movie never follows through on its premise as much as it should. Director Merhige dwells on the typical conventions of the genre (the mutilation of the victims, flashy camera work, etc.) and never fully realizes the unique qualities of the story, suppressing them and thereby diminishing the film’s overall dramatic impact.

Not a bad film by any means, “Suspect Zero” ultimately goes down as a missed opportunity, yet die-hard fans of this sort of thing, however, may still want to check it out. Kino Lorber’s 4K UHD (1.85, 5.1, with a Blu-Ray also on-hand) includes a Dolby Vision HDR presentation that enhances Michael Chapman’s sturdy lensing while extras include commentary by Merhige, who spends most of his talk explaining the movie to the viewer (a sign that perhaps the film doesn’t work quite as well as even he would like). A four-part featurette on the phenomena of “Remote Viewing” is included, and it’s fairly interesting as well, though it’s a good thing Merhige put the kibosh on the regulation alternate ending, which was rightly tossed in favor of the picture’s more ambiguous final note.

UNDERWORLD 4K UHD (92 mins., 1985, R): Also known as “Transmutations,” hardcore Clive Barker devotees will be the most receptive audience for this low-budget project which Barker wrote the story and co-scripted. Under the direction of George Pavlou, who also helmed the infamous movie version of Barker’s “Rawhead Rex,” “Underworld” is a mix of odd characters, creatures, film noir and other elements which the movie’s high aspirations but meager budget can’t fully support. Nevertheless, the cast is strong (Denholm Elliott, Steven Berkoff, Mirandra Richardson, Art Malik and ex-Hammer femme fatale Ingrid Pitt among them) and Barker buffs might enjoy it — especially in Kino’s 4K UHD (1.85) with Dolby Vision HDR. This 4K scan of the 35mm OCN results in the best looking “Underworld” anyone has ever seen, with extras including a commentary from Pavlou and genre expert Stephen Thrower, the alternate 103-minue “Transmutations” cut, plus artwork, makeup tests and other goodies.


Drama, Cult & Special Interest

THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO Blu-Ray (121 mins., 1993, R): I remember reading quite a bit about this indie western from writer-director Maggie Greenwald, which stars Suzy Amis as a “society girl” who, after bearing a child, flees to the Old West and disguises herself as a man in order to avoid being attacked. Greenwald’s film has a “feminist” point of view – as well as documents the racism endured by a Chinese immigrant (Davis Chung) – yet “Little Jo” is much more than that, an absorbing character study in a neutral, unromantic Old West that’s only let down by some slack pacing. Restored here in a 4K scan (1.85) of the original 35mm camera negative, supervised by the director and DP Declan Quinn, “The Ballad of Little Jo” is well worth a look, especially now in a quality home video presentation that also includes a commentary with Greenwald and Quinn plus an interview with Amis.

THE CONFORMIST Blu-Ray (113 mins., 1970): Bernardo Bertolucci’s famed film, regarded as one of his best, receives a gorgeous 4K restoration from the original camera negative by Cineteca di Bologna, augmenting the brilliance of the director as well as cinematographer Vittorio Storaro. Bertolucci’s period piece with Jean-Louis Trintignant offers gorgeously layered cinematography and a Georges Delerue score to match, and not only do viewers here get to appreciate the new restoration but, on a second disc, its 2011 restoration as well, which Storaro and Bertolucci also participated in. The double-disc set (1.66, Italian with English subtitles) is now available from Raro Video.

SINNER: THE SECRET DIARY OF A NYMPHOMANIAC Blu-Ray (86 mins., 1973, Unrated): Fourth release in Kino’s “Kino Cult” imprint hails from prolific cult director Jess Franco, who here charts the rise and fall of a woman (Montserrat Prous) whose lover (Manuel Pereiro) has a wife (Jacqueline Laurent), and who goes about searching into her past after she dies. Blaring rock, ‘70s settings, and plenty of sex make for an interesting, non-horror character study from Franco, which looks good here in a 1080p (1.66) transfer and offers extras including both French and English audio, Tim Lucas’ commentary, interviews with stars Laurent, Anne Libert, filmmaker Gerard Kikone and critic Stephen Thrower.

THE EXILES Blu-Ray (75 mins., 1961): Milestone Film & Video restored this memorable slice of life picture about a group of Native Americans who left their various reservations in the Southwest to take up residence in Los Angeles’ Bunker Hill district. Kent Mackenzie’s film captures their struggles and relationships in a single night-set story that also vividly captures time and place, from its evocation of Los Angeles in 1961 to its rock score by Norman Knowles and the Revels. This Blu-Ray restoration also includes a commentary and short films about Bunker Hill with Mackenzie’s own “Bunker Hill 1956” among them.

MADE IN HONG KONG Blu-Ray (109 mins., 1997): Filmmaker Fruit Chan’s 1997 film “Made in Hong Kong” made a splash as being the first independent picture released in “post-Handover” Hong Kong, portraying disaffected characters struggling in a shifting city. Filmed on leftover 35mm film stock, Chan’s picture earned worldwide acclaim and is restored here by Metrograph Pictures and Kino in a 1080p (1.85) transfer with special features including interviews with the producers and Chan, plus a commentary from critics Sean Gilman and Ryan Swen…Also new from Metrograph is Tsai Ming-Liang’s GOODBYE, DRAGON INN (82 mins., 2003), a terrific film about the final days of a Hong Kong movie house playing a 1967 wuxia epic for the last time. Particularly resonant given how communal movie-going is on the decline today, this spellbinding picture is new on Blu-Ray also featuring a commentary by writer Phoebe Chen, intro from critic Nick Pinkerton, and Ming-Liang’s 2019 short “Light.”

TOKYO POP Blu-Ray (99 mins., 1988): Carol Burnett’s late daughter, Carrie Hamilton, starred in this winning “culture clash” picture about a struggling young singer/songwriter who heads to Japan where she meets a similarly aspiring musician (Diamond Yukai), trying to find a singer for his band. “Tokyo Pop” is one of those movies that’s long been forgotten but makes a welcome appearance on Blu-Ray, with this new restoration – spearheaded by Burnett herself and Dolly Parton for Jane Fonda’s Fund For Women Directors – supporting a delightful movie that serves as a travelogue as well as an appealing romance as well. Director Fran Rubel Kuzui was able to parlay off the reviews of this picture to helm the 1993 “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” but never made another film as good as this one. The Kino Lorber/Indiecollect release is now available (1.85, 2.0)…STORY AVE (106 mins., 2022) is an indie from director Aristotle Torres, charting the downward spiral of a talented South Bronx teen after the death of his younger brother. Asante Blackk’s lead performance netted wide acclaim for “Story Ave,” which is now on Blu-Ray from Kino (1080p, 1.44, 5.1/2.0).

Two Parisian imports from director Henri Verneuil premiere on Blu-Ray this month from Kino Lorber. MILLE MILLIARDS DE DOLLARS (131 mins., 1982) finds Patrick Dewaere as a journalist who uncovers an assassination plot concocted by a nefarious American corporation taking over French companies (1.66), while the earlier I…FOR ICARUS (128 mins., 1979) stars the great Yves Montand in another political-conspiracy thriller from Verneuil. Both movies feature solid scores — by Philippe Sarde on “Mille” and Ennio Morricone on “Icarus” — and include 1080p (1.66) transfers on Kino’s Blu-Rays with French audio, English subtitles and commentaries by historian Samm Deighan.


On DVD

New on DVD, RADICAL WOLFE (76 mins.) finds director Richard Dewey looking at evolution of author Tom Wolfe from a Washington Post reporter to the award-winning author of bestsellers “The Right Stuff” and “Bonfire of the Vanities.” Jon Hamm here reads some of Wolfe’s words while interviewees provide a full look at Wolfe’s life (16:9, 5.1/2.0)…First Run Features’ release of A TOWERING TASK (113 mins., 2023) is a terrific look at the Peace Corps, from its genesis under President Kennedy in 1961 through to its service and continued work in the 21st century. A solid and engrossing work from director Alana DeJoseph, with First Run’s DVD (16:9) out this week.

MHz Networks has released the Complete Series of Laurent Mondy’s MAGELLAN (3488 mins., 2016-18), a crime series similar to other mysteries set in a quaint small town where divorced single father Simon Magellan (Jacques Spiesser) works as an Inspector, investigating a series of puzzling cases across two full series. Mhz’s DVD offers 16:9 transfers, and French audio with English subtitles…Also out from MHz is a Complete Series DVD of MONGEVILLE, Jacques Santamaria’s series starring Francis Perrin as a former judge who teams up with a Criminal Police inspector (Gaelle Bona) to solve cases during his retirement. Crossover episodes with Magellan — which aired around the same time and serves as a companion series to “Mongeville” — are included in this 14-disc set (French with English subtitles, 16:9).

A documentary about documentaries (!), SUBJECT (97 mins.) looks at the intended and unintended consequences of having your life portrayed on-screen. Jennifer Textiera and Camilla Hall’s film includes interviews with participants in “Hoop Dreams” and “The Staircase” among other docs, plus a 16:9 transfer and 5.1/2.0 sound…Redemption’s new DVD, FAR FROM THE APPLE TREE (85 mins., 2019) is a bizarre picture about an art student who looks like the dead daughter of the strange visual artist she just started working for. Weird, fragmented stuff with ample extras on-hand in Redemption’s DVD (16:9).


Music Box New Releases

Babak Jalali’s FREMONT (92 mins., 2023) is an effective character study about a former Afghan translator working for the U.S. government (Anaita Wali Zada) who finds herself struggling to connect with the new country she lives in; eventually, she finds herself working in a Bay Area fortune cookie company and bonding with an auto mechanic. Shot in B&W (1.33), “Fremont” debuts on Blu-Ray from Music Box in a good looking HD transfer with 5.1 DTS MA sound.

Also new from Music Box, THE ROAD DANCE (117 mins., 2022) is an adaptation of John MacKay’s novel about life in the Outer Scottish Hebrides pre-WWI, where a young girl falls for a poet, just as the war is about to begin. Well filmed and atmospheric drama from Richie Adams, who adapted MacKay’s novel and directed, with several extras, a 16:9 (2.39) transfer and 5.1 sound contained in Music Box’s now-available DVD.

Finally, Jean Dujardin’s sunny performance as France’s (bumbling) answer to James BondOSS 117, sells these two colorful spy comedies, parodying the Bond films as well as the earlier OSS film series that originated in its native land. Included on Blu-Ray are both OSS 117: CAIRO, NEST OF SPIES (2008) as well as its follow up OSS 117: LOST IN RIO (2009), each with French 5.1 DTS MA sound and English subtitles. Director Michel Hazanavicius’ films are engaging and fun, especially for French viewers, with extras including commentaries, Making Of featurettes, bloopers, deleted scenes and other goodies in Music Box’s two-disc set.


Warner Archive New Releases

A festive array of Golden Age titles – with some modern fare mixed in – comprises this month’s Warner Archive offerings, available at Moviezyng.

There’s little introduction Tarzan fans need to TARZAN, THE APE MAN (100 mins., 1932), the original classic from MGM that launched the legendary series starring Johnny Weissmuller with Maureen O’Sullivan as Jane. Their pairing opposite terrific action set-pieces in a pre-Code environment (the immediate sequel, “Tarzan and His Mate,” is even better) resulted in one of Hollywood’s top adventure films of the ‘30s, and is suitably restored here in a crisply detailed 1080p (1.37, mono) AVC encode from Warner. Extras include the documentary “Tarzan: Silver Screen King of the Jungle,” the trailer and a pair of classic cartoons.

A multi Oscar-winner including Best Picture, THE GREAT ZIEGFELD (183 mins., 1936) was one of the certified epic hits of the ‘30s. A biopic about theatrical producer Florence Ziegfeld, Jr. (William Powell) with singing, dancing and ample emotion to spare, this is MGM gloss at its finest, with superb turns from Powell, Myrna Loy (Powell’s “Thin Man” co-star) and Luise Rainer as Anna Held, a performance that netted Rainer the first of two consecutive Oscars. Another superlative Warner Archive Blu-Ray restoration (1.37 B&W, mono) awaits viewers here with extras including the featurette “Ziegfeld on Film,” a newsreel, vintage cartoon, archival radio promo program and the trailer.

Another biopic from Hollywood’s Golden Age, GENTLEMAN JIM (104 mins., 1942) profiles the rise of James J. “Gentleman Jim” Corbett, an Irishman who helped elevate bare-knuckled brawling into the sport of boxing in 1880s San Francisco. Ward Bond’s performance as champ John L. Sullivan earned nearly as many kudos as Errol Flynn’s lead turn as Jim himself – a role Flynn cited as one of his favorites. This slick Warner Bros. release receives another sterling B&W transfer here (1.37, mono) with extras including three cartoons, a Lady Esther Screen Guild Playhouse radio drama with Flynn and co-star Alexis Smith, and the trailer.

The direction of Vincente Minnelli and the scoring of Miklos Rozsa elevate the 1949 MGM adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic tragedy MADAME BOVARY (114 mins). I recall reading the book in college but never watched this star-studded film version featuring Jennifer Jones as the doomed Bovary with Van Heflin, Louis Jourdan, and James Mason (in bookending scenes as Flaubert) leading the cast through a finely directed picture that – those scenes with Flaubert aside – turns out to be a pretty sturdy adaptation, especially for its time. Minnelli’s highly regarded ballroom scene is also spectacularly handled for its era as well. A vintage MGM short and cartoon are bonuses in Warner Archive’s now-available Blu-Ray (1.37, mono).

The movie forever known as the film where “Garbo Talks!”, ANNA CHRISTIE (85/89 mins., 1930) was an adaptation of Eugene O’Neill’s play about a former prostitute who falls in love with a sailor (Charles Bickford). A sensation that immediately certified Garbo as a player in talking film, “Anna Christie” was a hit for MGM even though Garbo herself preferred the German version she also starred in; shot on the same sets with the same cinematographer (William Daniels), this more polished and frank picture is available here in Warner’s Blu-Ray (1.37 B&W), offering both versions for viewers to compare and contrast. There’s also an early career appreciation of Garbo from the “MGM Parade” TV series plus a 1938 Lux Radio Theater broadcast with Joan Crawford in the title role and a 1930 Looney Tunes short for good measure.

Finally, two contemporary films finish out Warner Archive’s releases for 2023. Brenda Blethyn starred as a widow who teams up with her gardener (Craig Ferguson) to turn her greenhouse into a pot farm in SAVING GRACE (93 mins., 2000, R), a British comedy that Ferguson also scripted. The Archive Blu-Ray offers a 1080p AVC encoded transfer (2.39) with DTS MA 5.1 sound, a pair of commentaries and the trailer…Kenneth Branagh’s little-seen A MIDWINTER’S TALE (99 mins., 1995, R) was a change of pace project for the director: a B&W look at a struggling actor’s “homegrown” attempt to stage “Hamlet”…on a budget. Branagh’s little comic drama ironically presaged his sprawling take on “Hamlet” itself, utilizing an ensemble cast including Michael Maloney, Richard Briers, Nicholas Farrell, Jennifer Saunders and even Joan Collins. The trailer is the sole extra in Warner’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0 DTS MA).

THE GHOST STATION Blu-Ray (81 mins., 2023; Well Go USA): Korean thriller about a reporter who, while covering a reported accident, conducts an interview with a subject who was apparently already dead! An intriguing premise that sadly doesn’t develop in “The Ghost Station,” which favors formulaic scares and ends well before the 90 minute mark. Well Go’s Blu-Ray is now available sporting a 1080p transfer and DTS MA Korean audio with English subtitles.

NEXT TIME: Kicking off 2024 with THE WARRIORS on 4K UHD! 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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