DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: CONVOY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
When good directors go bad … C.W. McCall’s 1975 song inexplicably became a smash hit, leading inexplicably to this 1978 feature film, which was inexplicably directed by no less than Sam Peckinpah. The end result is, simply, a mess … but a fascinating mess, with moments of unexpected, even misplaced, fascination.
Leading the convoy are Kris Kristofferson as legendary trucker “Rubber Duck” and Ali MacGraw as glamorous photojournalist Melissa, both affable and charismatic despite playing vapid characters. Burt Young, Madge Sinclair and Franklyn Ajaye are along for the ride, and in hot pursuit is reliable Ernest Borgnine, as nasty lawman “Dirty Lyle” Wallace.
The action scenes are good (per Peckinpah’s expertise), but the story’s awfully thin (a protest against the 55 mph speed limit?), with some random potshots at media satire and political corruption. Despite a critical drubbing – hardly undeserved – Convoy was Peckinpah’s biggest hit, but his well-publicized misbehavior left him to languish five years in the Hollywood wilderness before his next, and last, film, the spotty Robert Ludlum adaptation The Osterman Weekend (1983).
The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98 – both loaded with first-rate special features including audio commentary, retrospective documentary, and more. Rated PG.
ANTARCTICA: A YEAR ON ICE (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): The title tells all in Anthony Powell’s stunningly tographed, award-winning documentary pho- feature, which spends a year at the coldest place on Earth, exploring the landscape and introducing the inhabitants, both human and indigenous. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95. Rated PG.
“BLACK SAILS”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Adventure on the high seas in all eight episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the STARZ Original series set in the early-18 th century Caribbean, fashioned as a “prequel” to Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, with Michael Bay an executive producer and a cast including Tony Stephens, Hannah New, Jessica Parker Kennedy, Luke Arnold and Tom Hopper. Four Emmy nominations and two wins: Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series and Outstanding Special and Visual Effects in a Supporting Role (!). The DVD collection retails for $49.98, the Blu-ray collection for $59.98.
THE BRIDGE (Alive Mind Cinema/Kino Lorber): Producer Eric Steel makes his directorial debut with this haunting, gravely beautiful 2006 documentary in which he filmed San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge every day in 2004, capturing images of some of the 24 people who jumped to their deaths, then reactions and observations of friends, family, witnesses and survivors. Rated R.
CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Bruno Dumont’s award-winning biographical drama stars Juliette Binoche as the famed sculptor and former mistress of painter Auguste Rodin, now incarcerated in an asylum. The film is based on medical records and the letters of both Camille and her brother, poet Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent). In French with English subtitles. The music is by Bach and the DVD retails for $29.95.
DAUGHTERS OF DOLMA (Alive Mind Cinema/Kino Lorber): Director/editor Adam Miklos’ award-winning documentary profiles the lives of Tibetan Buddhist nuns in Nepal and how they maintain tradition in the modern world. In English and Tibetan with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.
DORMANT BEAUTY (Kino Lorber): The topic of assisted suicide is examined in Marco Bellocchio’s award-winning drama (originally titled Bella addormentata) starring Isabelle Huppert, Toni Servillo and Michele Riondino. In Italian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.
DUANE MICHALS: THE MAN WHO INVENTED HIMSELF (Alive Mind Cinema/ Kino Lorber): Camille Guichard’s enjoyable documentary about photographer Duane Michals is less a biography than a portrait of the artist in his own words and work.
GRACE (Entertainment One): Annika Marks gives an award-winning performance as a woman struggling with alcoholism in the Florida town where she’s been arrested. The DVD retails for $19.99.
HOME BEFORE MIDNIGHT (Redemption/Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of producer/director Pete Walker’s 1979 morality melodrama starring James Aubrey as a successful songwriter whose romance with comely hitchhiker Alison Elliott is compromised by the fact that she’s under-aged and her parents (Mark Burns and Juliet Harmer) want him charged with statutory rape. Mick’s younger brother Chris Jagger plays a rock star.
JONAH LIVES (Wild Eye Releasing): Dumb teens with a Ouija board summon the title character, a vengeful zombie whose tombstone bears only his first name, in writer/producer/director Luis Carvalho’s jokey, uninteresting feature debut.
LA APOCALYPSE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The City of Angels is laid waste when Earth’s core destabilizes in this standard-issue, CGI-stuffed disaster opus (originally titled Doomed Planet) with David Cade, Eric Allen Kramer, co-producer Gina Holden and Raymond J. Barry, adding a little heft in military mode.
LIFE OF RILEY (Kino Lorber): Three couples react differently to the news that a mutual friend is terminally ill in the awardwinning final film of Alain Resnais, originally titled Aimer, boire et chanter and based on Alan Ayckbourn’s play. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
“LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”: SEASON 5 (LionsGate): Life in Walnut Grove continues in all 24 digitally-remastered episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the long-running, award-winning NBC family drama series based on the bestselling books by Laura Ingalls Wilder (played by Melissa Gilbert). Winner of two Emmy Awards: Outstanding Cinematography for a Series and Outstanding Music Composition for a Series. The DVDs retail for $21.98, the Blu-rays for $24.99.
THE MASTER (LionsGate): Director/coscreenwriter Ke Zhou’s PG-13-rated debut feature is set in 19th-century China, as students of a martial-arts school strike back against their corrupt government oppressors. In Mandarin with English subtitles (or you can watch it dubbed). The DVD retails for $26.98.
MORTDECAI (LionsGate): Producer Johnny Depp’s salute to Peter Sellers and Terry-Thomas falls flat in this adaptation of Kyril Bonfiglioli’s best-selling novel, the first – and likely last – in a proposed bigscreen comedy franchise. The talents of Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor, Paul Bettany, Olivia Munn and Jeff Goldblum are as squandered as Depp’s. Rated PG- 13.
LE PONT DU NORD (Kino Lorber): Jacques Rivette’s 1981 fantasy/mystery romp stars Bulle Ogier and real-life daughter Pascale (who collaborated on the screenplay) as women in pursuit of a mysterious package and various characters all named “Max.” In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
VIKTOR (Inception Media Group): One-time indie studio head Philippe Martinez wrote and directed this thriller with Gerard Depardieu as a vengeful ex-con investigating his son’s murder in Moscow. The DVD retails for $26.98.
“VINTAGE WESTERN DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A B-Western DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) showcasing longtime favorite Bob Steele in Headin’ North (1930) and Pinto Canyon (1940).
THE VIOLATORS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Hang-wringing 1957 melodrama with Arthur O’Connell as a probation officer specializing in juvenile delinquents. An early feature for prolific TV director John Newland, this plays like a bad livetelevision drama, with O’Connell prone to histrionic outbursts. Look for Norman Fell (billed under his real name “Norman Feld”) in his screen debut.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.