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Filmmaker Nancy Savoca’s works received widespread critical acclaim in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Bursting onto the scene with her Cannes Grand Jury winner TRUE LOVE (89 mins., 1989, R; Kino Lorber), Savoca followed her feature debut triumph with the Warner Bros. funded DOGFIGHT (93 mins., 1991, R; Criterion), which never made it outside a limited theatrical run. Heading back to her independent roots, Savoca turned out the generally well-received HOUSEHOLD SAINTS (126 mins., 1993, R; Kino Lorber), yet the film’s rep has long been hampered by a lack of visibility. Fearing the latter may be a “lost” movie, Savoca was able to at last obtain original elements and restore the movie in 4K, leading to this month’s trilogy of restorations: all three of her features are at last back in circulation, all on Blu-Ray, for audiences to revisit or, in many cases, discover for the first time.

TRUE LOVE (100 mins., 1989, R; Kino Lorber), which MGM/UA picked up for distribution, is the strongest of the trio: a look at an Italian-American couple (Annabella Sciorra, Ron Eldard) who’s about to be married in the Bronx, their relationship before their union, the issues that arise from the wedding itself, and the reality of what marriage actually means.

Though seemingly viewed by most critics as a harsh look at the reality of marriage, “True Love” comes across as a realistic picture depicting the difficulty our two young protagonists – one of whom (Eldard) is decidedly immature – have as they engage in a commitment they’re quite possibly unprepared for…or are they? That’s the beauty of Nancy Savoca and (her husband) Richard Guay’s screenplay, which tackles the reactions from the couple, their friends and extended family, utilizing different perspectives as they’re essentially thrown onto the tracks of an incoming train – yet occasional glimpses of the actual affection they have for one another still slip through the cracks. Maybe it’s not going to work out for the couple in the end – but perhaps it will, and that door being left open makes for a satisfying picture that leaves the viewer understanding that marriage requires a give or take every couple has to adjust to.

Though a festival favorite that received a great deal of publicity after its Cannes performance, “True Love” has been out of circulation for some time, with Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 2.0) marking the first HD presentation of the film on home video.

This is a sturdy if seemingly older MGM master marked by acceptable detail, and Kino has thrown on a number of extras. These include Savoca and Guay’s commentary, the trailer, and numerous interviews including music supervisor Jeffrey Kimball, production designer Lester Cohen, sound editor Tim Squyres, editor John Tintori and script supervisor Mary Cybulski.

Due to the success of “True Love,” Warner Bros. took an interest in Savoca and bankrolled their her next film: DOGFIGHT (93 mins., 1991, R; Criterion), a straightforward character study involving a brash young man (River Phoenix) about to head to Vietnam, and the waitress/aspiring Bay Area folk singer (Lili Taylor) he meets under the pretense of winning a “dogfight” (i.e. unattractive female) competition with his marine buddies.

The duo face their differences, embrace their commonalities, and represent divergent ends of the ‘60s in Savoca and Guay’s script (credited under the pseudonym “Bob Comfort”) which is at its best when the focus is on the leads, who are each terrific here. “Dogfight” is less successful when it wants to say “something meaningful” about the era in which it’s set, since the film’s ambitions are severely curtailed by the limited prism of a 90-minute movie and a tendency to fall back on cliches instead of developing its overall point of view. Supporting characters are overly broad in their depiction and, as a result, the movie often feels contrived despite the convincing portrayals of both leads and a lovely concluding scene.

Nevertheless worth seeing due to Phoenix and Taylor’s performances, “Dogfight” isn’t a heartwarming love story per se but more a “time capsule” type of picture. Here restored in a 2K restoration (1.85, 2.0 stereo), Criterion’s Blu-Ray offers commentary with Savoca and Guay; a new interview with Savoca and Lili Taylor; additional interviews with cinematographer Bobby Bukowski, production designer Lester Cohen, script supervisor Jeffrey Kimball, editor John Tintori and the trailer.

HOUSEHOLD SAINTS (120 mins., 1993, R; Kino Lorber) followed, a Jonathan Demme-produced adaptation of Francine Prose’s novel, again scripted by Savoca and Guay, about several generations in an Italian-American family – beginning with couple Vincent D’Onofrio and Tracey Ullman’s unlikely courtship in the 1940s (as the story goes, he wins her in a pinochle game) through her interaction with his domineering, devout mother (Judith Malina) and, eventually, their daughter. The latter turns out to be an equally devout young woman named Catherine (Lili Taylor) who wants to serve God but has difficulty balancing that with her feelings towards a young man (Michael Imperiloi) who she meets in college.

Longer and a lot more uneven than either of Savoca’s prior films, “Household Saints” garnered a 4-star Roger Ebert review but, truthfully, I didn’t enjoy the film as much as Savoca’s other two pictures, or nearly as much as some critics did at the time. The pacing and overall flow of the film is uncertain, with overly broad performances making for a picture that skirts around stereotypes with some odd and not always convincing performances (Ullman, though a name at the time, seems very miscast here). It’s also bizarre to see Taylor as D’Onofrio’s daughter, a few years removed from their romantic pairing in the 1987 rom-com “Mystic Pizza.” There are effective and marvelous moments here and there, but it’s not nearly the discovery that “True Love” is viewed today.

“Household Saints” was thought to be possibly a “lost movie” as Sovoca could only find damaged elements in the UCLA Film & TV Archive. Fortunately a lengthy search through the picture’s list of deceased distributors yielded pristine elements and this 4K restoration from Kino Lorber and Milestone Film & Video. The 1.85 Blu-Ray transfer is superb, as is newly remixed 5.1 audio (the original 2.0 track is also included), with extras including two of Savoca’s student films, archival interviews, a 2023 Making Of produced by Savoca’s daughter, and an interview with Savoca and Taylor, conducted by Guay from the same session as their “Dogfight” Criterion interview.

Also New From Kino Lorber

Kino Lorber’s new Blu-Ray roster also spotlights a fresh edition of FLETCH (98 mins., 1985, PG), one of comedian Chevy Chase’s biggest successes. This Summer of ‘85 hit found the former Saturday Night Live star playing author Gregory McDonald’s investigative journalist Irwin Fletcher in the first of two comic mysteries presided over by director Michael Ritchie.

Though fans of McDonald and his books might’ve hoped for a more serious rendition of Fletch’s exploits (which the author chronicled in a long-running series), “Fletch” is an entertaining mix of who-dune-it and laid-back star vehicle for Chase, who dons a variety of disguises as he investigates smarmy Tim Matheson and villainous Joe Don Baker, while wooing Dana Wheeler-Nicholson and dreaming of shooting hoops with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Lakers.

“Fletch” is very much an ‘80s movie, right down to one of Harold Faltermeyer’s better scores including a great title song (Stephanie Mills’ “Bit by Bit”), but taken on its own terms it’s still an enjoyable time-killer, enough so that one can understand how the film was a big success even in a crowded field of summer movies so varied it looks like an embarrassment of riches compared to what studios turn out today.

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray (1.85, 5.1/2.0) includes what’s labeled as a new 2K scan of “Fletch.” It’s perfectly acceptable albeit not, perhaps, a massive upgrade over the previous Universal HD master, in that the image, while more detailed than its predecessor, still seems hampered by source elements that are not fully pristine, while the color is just kind of drab. The 5.1 audio is fine and offers more bass than the default 2.0 track which has some occasionally odd shifts in volume and seems a little “distant.” Regardless this is a decent a/v package, especially considering the mushy transfers the film has received in HD previously.

Extra features include the memorably lame “Making and Remembering Fletch” (2007) featurette starring a DVD producer who thinks he’s much funnier than he is, along with an interview with make-up artist Ken Chase and a new commentary with Bryan Reesman and Max Evry. The trailer is particularly interesting as it’s framed in scope and credits Tom Scott with the score – note Scott discussed his score with some tracks from his rejected effort (discarded because Universal wanted Faltermeyer’s then popular “Beverly Hills Cop” sound on the movie instead) unveiled in a January podcast heard here.

A sequel appeared to be a preordained conclusion, but it took four years for Chase and Ritchie to reunite for FLETCH LIVES (95 mins., 1989, PG), a passable follow-up that did okay business when it opened in March 1989.

Here, Chevy’s Fletch finds to Louisiana where he inherits a family plantation, is quickly pegged for the murder of his late aunt’s executor (Patricia Kalember), runs afoul of local lawyer Hal Holbrook and televangelist R. Lee Ermey, and romances a local real estate agent (Julianne Philips). A few laughs do materialize in Leon Capetanos’ script – and it’s also nice to see Chase working opposite “Blazing Saddles”’ Cleavon Little – but the film employs a much broader, hit-or-miss comedic pallet that lacks the edge of the original film. As a result, “Fletch Lives” feels less like its predecessor and more like the kind of typical comedy Chase was producing by the late ‘80s (and not one of the better ones either).

Kino’s 2K scan (1.85, 5.1/2.0) of the 35mm interpositive again yields a respectable, if occasionally less than pinpoint detailed, image. Although Harold Faltermeyer returned to score “Fletch Lives” there’s more a bayou component to the soundtrack with a few zydeco tracks effectively thrown in, and the mix comes off fine in either 5.1 or (less bass-intensive) 2.0 tracks. Extras include a few archival EPK featurettes, trailers, TV spots, and another commentary with Bryan Reesman and Max Evry.

New on 4K UHD from Kino Lorber, NOSTALGHIA (126 mins., 1983) is one of Andrei Tarkovsky’s moody, leisurely-paced cinematic excursions – one which hasn’t received nearly the continued distribution as the Russian filmmaker’s better known works. This gorgeous restoration of the Italian-funded 1983 film follows a Russian writer (Oleg Yankovsky) whose trip to rural Italy finds him falling for his translator (Domiziana Giordano) as well as encountering a seemingly insane man (Erland Josephenson) while lapsing back into a dream-like state and wanting to return to his native land.

Plot is minimal but the visuals are predictably striking in this Tarkovsky effort, shot by Tonino Guerra and restored here in a 2022 presentation by Cineteca from the original negatives, enhanced with Dolby Vision HDR. The image is crisp, clear, and finely encoded (1.66) with Russian/Italian audio, English subtitles, a new commentary by historian Daniel Bird, a recent interview with DP Giuseppe Lanci, and a 1983 documentary on the pre-production of the film.

Also debuting on 4K UHD this month is a western that needs little introduction for genre fans: HIGH NOON (85 mins., 1952, PG), the taut Carl Foreman story of a town besieged by both a villainous gunslinger (Ian McDonald) and cowardice that’s defended only by an aging sheriff (Gary Cooper) who’s been recently married to a Quaker wife (Grace Kelly) and ready to settle down.

Controversial in its day due to its McCarthy-era metaphors (Foreman, in fact, would be infamously blacklisted following the film’s release), “High Noon”’s suspenseful pacing, memorable performances (from a cast also including Lloyd Bridges, Katy Jurado, Lon Chaney Jr., Harry Morgan, Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam), Dimitri Tiomkin’s score and Fred Zinnemann’s direction all came together to form an oft-imitated movie classic.

A new 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, here enhanced with Dolby Vision HDR, make this 4K UHD (1.37 B&W) a superior presentation to past, Republic-licensed transfers including an Olive Blu-Ray release from a few years back, marked by more vivid contrasts and finer detail. Kino Lorber’s UHD and Blu-Ray also include commentaries by Julie Kirgo and Alan K. Rode and archival featurettes, the trailer, and a retrospective Making Of.

New on Blu-Ray From Kino Lorber

THE MINUS MAN Blu-Ray (111 mins., 1999, R): “Blade Runner” screenwriter Hampton Fancher tried his hand at a serial killer thriller during the height of the genre’s ‘90s run. After the likes of “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven,” however, it turned out there wasn’t much of an audience for Fancher’s comparatively low-key character study of one such killer – played by no less than Owen Wilson, looking to shake up his usual good-guy persona – who sees imagined detectives and thinks about the day he’s going to get caught.

Fancher’s adaptation of Lew McCreary’s book is well-acted and never uninteresting, but Wilson’s typical on-screen persona was so entrenched even at the time of the movie’s release that it’s difficult to ever take him fully seriously in this role. It’s an issue that the film never overcomes, even with a supporting cast eclectically running from Janeane Garofalo and Brian Cox to Mercedes Ruehl and singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow.

A movie that bounced around the 1999 release schedule in an apparent attempt to find some kind of commercial footing, “The Minus Man” barely made a blip in theaters and was quickly sent to home video. Lionsgate’s HD master, a new 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive (1.85, 5.1 DTS MA), looks excellent here and boasts a new commentary with Fancher and producer Fida Attieh, moderated by Max Evry.

Dick Powell is hilarious in the Universal comic fantasy YOU NEVER CAN TELL (78 mins., 1951) as the human (re)incarnation of a German Shepherd murdered after its eccentric tycoon leaves his fortune to his beloved canine. Powell, fortunately, is able to return from the grave to help clear the estate trustee (Peggy Dow) who’s accused of having murdered his canine form – which he does in the guise of Private Eye “Rex Shepard.”

Joyce Holden is also highly amusing as a reincarnated racehorse in this lighthearted farce written by “Bedtime for Bonzo” scribe Lou Breslow (with David Chandler), which Breslow also directed in his one and only directorial credit. Kino Lorber’s 2K scan of the 35mm fine grain (1.37 B&W, mono) is superb in Kino’s new Blu-Ray and there’s a new historian commentary on tap with Michael Schlesinger and Darlene Ramirez.

Debuting on Blu-Ray for what looks like the first time ever on home video is THE LOOTERS (87 mins., 1955), a Universal International B-drama that’s effectively performed and probably could have slid into one of Kino Lorber’s Film Noir box sets.

Rory Calhoun and Ray Denton play mountain climbing bounty hunters who head into the Rocky Mountains in order to find, and rescue, survivors from a plane crash. Once they get there, Denton’s mercenary is motivated instead by the prospects of a quarter-million dollars lying amongst the wreckage, and plans a robbery – and more – in an effective enough picture co-starring Julie Adams, Thomas Gomez and Frank Faylen. The Universal-licensed HD master is a 2K scan of 35mm fine grain (1.85 B&W) and offers a new commentary from Toby Roan.

MONK Season 5 Blu-Ray (640 mins., 2006-07): Tony Shalhoub returns as the OCD-plagued but brilliant police “consultant” who tackles a group of cases in and around the Bay Area in the 5th season of the hit USA cable series co-starring 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 5 Blu-Ray includes all 16 episodes with guest stars Brooke Adams, Sean Astin, Alice Cooper, Staney Tucci, Steven Weber and Peter Weller among others, plus commentary on “Mr. Monk and the Leper” (along with the original B&W and syndicated color versions of that episode), intros to that episode, and all-around solid 1080p (1.78) transfers with 2.0 DTS MA sound.

Kino Classics & Specialty Fare

Kino Classics, in association with Something Weird Video, brings exploitation fans a UCLA Film & Television Archive restoration of THE ROAD TO RUIN (55 mins., 1928). This color-tinted melodrama follows several high schoolers whose deviant behavior results in devastating consequences – a cautionary tale from producer Willis Kent that was remade as a 1934 talkie (74 mins.), which is also included in this Kino Classics presentation. Extras on the Blu-Ray include a commentary from Eric Schaefer (1934 version) and a commentary from Anthony Slide on the superior 1928 original. There’s also a new score for the latter composed and performed by Andrew Earle Simpson.

New on Blu-Ray from Virgil FilmsMAD PROPS (90 mins., 2023) is Juan Pablo Reinoso’s documentary about movie prop collector Tom Biolchini, who here travels around the world, seeking out fellow collectors of movie memorabilia (1.78, 2.0)…Also new from Virgil, this time on DVD, is WHAT RHYMES WITH REASON (102 mins., 2023, PG-13), an indie feature from Kyle William Roberts about a group of teens who unite after tragedy to find a landmark hidden in the forest. Virgil’s DVD includes a number of featurettes (16:9, 5.1).

THE INVISIBLE FIGHT Blu-Ray (114 mins., 2023): Wacky Estonian hyjinks as a Russian soldier is attacked by Chinese kung-fu warriors whom he then attempts to become a part of in a wild and woolly, early ‘70s set-throwback from director Rainer Sarnet. Pleasing scope compositions and an appealing comedic tone make this an attractive proposition for genre fans, though the running time feels a bit much at nearly two hours. Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray features a solid 1080p (2.39) transfer with 5.1/2.0 sound in Estonian with English subtitles.

New on DVD

New from Kino Lorber and Greenwich Films, LOST ANGEL: THE GENIUS OF JUDEE SILL (91 mins., 2023) finds directors Andy Brown and Brian Lindstrom unearthing the rapid rise to fame of folk singer Judee Sill, who went from obscurity to the cover of Rolling Stone in a matter of months – all before her tragic young death. Linda Rondstadt, Jackson Browne, David Crosby and David Geffen are among the interviewees in this compelling music doc, new on DVD from Greenwich (5.1/2.0, 1.78)…Also from Greenwich is the Israeli comedy KARAOKE (103 mins., 2024), the story of a married Tel Aviv couple who become infatuated with the karaoke parties of their new neighbor. Greenwich’s DVD includes a 2.39 transfer and Hebrew 5.1/2.0 soundtrack with English subtitles.

Redemption’s latest horror release is the 2017 Euro offering PHANTASMAGORIA (71 mins.), the story of an American reporter who heads to a barren European town in order to investigate oddball visions and happenings. Things don’t go well, needless to say, in this Cosmotropia de Xam film now on DVD. Ample extras include Q&A with the cast, a music video, and more (16:9).

NEXT TIME: HARDWARE WARS, Imprint, Arrow & more new releases! 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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