DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MYSTERY OF LORD LUCAN (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn)
One of England’s most notorious crimes is dramatized in engrossing fashion in this two-part 2013 ITV mini-series Lucan, exploring not only the circumstances leading up to the crime – and the disappearance of the prime suspect, Lord Lucan – but also provides convincing conjecture and possible closure to the 40-year mystery.
Rory Kinnear (first-rate) plays John Bingham, the 7 th Earl of Lucan, a compulsive gambler who believes – as do his upper-crust cronies – that his station entitles him to such behavior. But when wife Veronica (Catherine McCormick, also first-rate) demands a divorce, the infuriated Lucan considers murder – only it’s the family nanny (Leanne Best) who is bludgeoned to death (by mistake?). While awaiting trial, Lucan vanishes … Based on John Pearson’s true-crime best seller The Gamblers, a polished cast includes Christopher Eccleston, Paul Freeman, Jane Lapotaire, Gemma Jones and Michael Gambon. The two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail) also includes the speculative 1994 TV movie The Trial of Lord Lucan.
ALL AMERICAN HIGH REVISITED (Virgil Films): In 1984, filmmaker Keva Rosenfeld documented a year in the life at Torrance High School in California, then rejoins the students 30 years later for a big-screen reunion in this fast-moving, funny documentary. Those ‘80s fashions, hairstyles, music and attitudes bring back memories.
AMERICAN DREAMER (Etiquette Pictures): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($32.98 retail) of Lawrence Schiller and L.M. Kit Carson’s little-seen 1970 pseudodocumentary following quintessential Hollywood rebel Dennis Hopper as he expounds upon his personal and filmmaking philosophies while completing his (equally little-seen) 1970 feature The Last Movie, which all but derailed his directorial career for almost 20 years. If you’re a Hopper aficionado, you’ll find him at his hazy, crazy, lusty, loony best (and worst).
“THE BENOIT JACQUOT COLLEC- TION” (Cohen Media Group): A triplefeature of acclaimed French-language dramas by the award-winning filmmaker, available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.98 retail): Judith Godreche in 1990’s The Disenchanted (La desenchantee), Virginie Leyoden in 1995’s A Single Girl (La fille seule), and 1999’s Keep It Quiet (Pas de scandale) starring Isabelle Huppert and Fabrice Luchini.
“CAMILLA LACKBERG FJALL- BACKA MURDERS” (MHz Networks): Claudia Galli Concha portrays mystery writer Erica Falk in this Swedish-language mystery series based on the Camilla Lackberg’s best-selling Fjallbackamorden novels: “Set 1” ($39.95 retail) includes the feature-length episodes The Hidden Child, The Eye of the Beholder and Friends for Life; “Set 2” ($39.95 retail) includes The Sea Gives, The Sea Takes, The Coast Rider and The Queen of Light.
“CHASING SHADOWS” (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Psychologist Alex Kingston and troubled detective Reece Shearsmith pair up to pursue serial killers in contemporary England, in this four-part 2014 ITV mystery series, now available on DVD ($34.99 retail).
“THE CODE”: SEASON 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A tragic car accident in the Australian Outback has unforeseen repercussions on the government, in all six episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the award-winning ABC (as in, Australian Broadcasting Network) mystery series, aired by Audience Network in the US, starring Dan Spielman, Lucy Lawless, Ashley Zukerman, David Wenham and Adam Garcia. The two-DVD collection retails for $39.99.
“THE FILM DETECTIVE BLU-RAYS” (The Film Detective/Allied Vaughn): A selection of vintage films — some in the public domain – digitally restored and released for the first time on Blu-ray (each retailing for $14.99): Paul Henreid and Joan Bennett star in Hollow Triumph (1948); Salt of the Earth (1954), which was made by blacklisted filmmakers and banned in the US (!); John Huston’s Beat the Devil (1953) with Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre and Robert Morley, adapted from the novel by James Helvick (Claud Cockburn) by Huston and Truman Capote; Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead in the 1959 old-dark-house whodunit The Bat; and Roger Corman’s memorable 1959 black comedy A Bucket of Blood, in which Dick Miller introduced his trademark character “Walter Paisley.”
MANGLEHORN (IFC Films): Awardwinning UNCSA School of Filmmaking graduate David Gordon Green scores with this bittersweet character study of a lonely Texas locksmith (a first-rate Al Pacino) coming to terms with his past. Holly Hunter (also excellent), Chris Messina and filmmaker Harmony Korine shine in support. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG-13.
“MIDSOMER MURDERS”: SERIES 17 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Neil Dudgeon and Gwilym Lee are on the case in four feature-length mysteries from the 2015 season of the long-running, awardwinning British crime series (aired by A&E in the US), set in (seemingly) bucolic Midsomer County, available on DVD ($49.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($59.99 retail).
“RESTLESS” (RLJ Entertainment/ Acorn): Hayley Atwell headlines this two-part 2012 BBC One mini-series, based on William Boyd’s best-seller and broadcast by Sundance Channel in the US, as a woman in the 1970s who learns that mother Charlotte Rampling was a spy for the British Secret Service during World War II – and that someone is stalking her. Nominated for two Emmy Awards including one for Rampling as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Mini-series or Movie. Rufus Sewell, Michelle Dockery and Michael Gambon also appear. The DVD retails for $34.99.
SEEK (TLA Releasing): Boy meets boy in writer/director Eric Henry’s gay romance with Adrian Shepherd-Gawinski as a writer drawn to Ryan Fisher’s club owner, now available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
THE SEVEN FIVE (IFC Films): Tiller Russell’s knockout documentary explores the circumstances that led to the downfall of New York cop Michael Dowd and fellow officers at the 75 th Precinct in Brooklyn after the lid was blown off the largest police corruption scandal in the city’s history in the early 1990s. Not just one of the best documentaries, but one of the best films of the year – period. Rated R.
“THE SLAP” (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): An award-winning, eight-episode 2011 mini-series based on Christos Tsiolkas’ best-selling novel examines the repercussions of a simple slap during a family barbecue in suburban Melbourne, with an ensemble cast headed by Melissa George, Essie Davis), Sophie Okonedo, Sophie Lowe, Alex Dimitriades and Jonathan LaPaglia. This was adapted into an acclaimed 2015 American miniseries (with George reprising her role). The three-DVD collection retails for $39.99.
SOLDATE JEANNETTE (IndiePix Films): Writer/director Daniel Hoesl’s award-winning, modern-day parable (also known as Soldier Jane) starring Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg in the title role, as a wealthy woman who forsakes affluence and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. In German and French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
STRAIGHT OUTTA TOMPKINS (Indican Pictures): Writer/producer/director Zephyr Benson’s noteworthy feature debut is a stylish, occasionally self-indulgent parable in which he plays an astute but aimless teenager who drifts into drug dealing on the streets of New York. Benson’s father Robby was also a producer, and mother Karla DeVoto an associate producer. Sometimes formulaic, but keep an eye on young Benson. **½
“VERA”: SET 5 (RLJ Entertainment/ Acorn): Brenda Blethyn returns in the title role of brash, brilliance detective Vera Stanhope, joined by new partner Kenny Doughty, in four feature-length episodes from the 2015 season of the ITV Studios mystery series based on the best-selling, award-winning novels by Ann Cleeves. The four-DVD collection retails for $59.99. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.