DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: IN COLD BLOOD (The Criterion Collection)
Richard Brooks’ brilliant 1967 screen version Truman Capote’s best-selling “non-fiction novel” gave rise to the term “docu-drama,” and remains remarkably potent and powerful nearly 50 years later.
Following the novel very closely, the film introduces Dick Hickok (Scott Wilson) and Perry Smith (Robert Blake) as they partner up, commit a few petty crimes, then slaughter the entire Clutter family on their farm. They are summarily captured, tried, convicted and executed – all of it conveyed in stark, unblinking, ultimately shattering terms.
Wilson and Blake are both superb (the studio wanted Paul Newman and Steve McQueen!), and Brooks’ insistence on authenticity included filming on many actual locations, including the house where the murders took place. Conrad Hall’s (black and white) cinematography and Quincy Jones’ score – both Oscar-nominated – augment the proceedings greatly, as does a sturdy supporting cast including John Forsythe (as chief investigator Alvin Dewey), Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Jeff Corey, Paul Stewart and Will Geer. Brooks himself earned Oscar nominations for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.95, both with bonus features including retrospective and vintage interviews. Rated R.
THE BADGER GAME (InterVision/Severin Films): Writer/co-producer/directors Joshua Wagner and Thomas Zambeck’s award-winning black comedy stars Sam Boxleitner (son of Bruce) as a serial adulterer who pays for his transgressions when he’s abducted and ransomed by those he’s wronged. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
BEST OF ENEMIES (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Morgan Nevilleand Robert Gordon’s award-winning documentary examines the televised ABC debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during the 1968 Presidential campaign. A must for political junkies and among the year’s best documentaries. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.
BLACK COAL, THIN ICE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Yi’nan Diao’s award-winning thriller (originally titled Bai ri yan huo) stars Fan Liao as a hard-drinking ex-cop investigating a series of murders much like those he investigated years before. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
BREAKING THROUGH (XLRator Media): Writer/producer John Swetnam makes his directorial debut with this ragsto-riches fable of dancer Sophia Aguiar (in her starring debut) and her rise to fame. The DVD retails for $14.99.
A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (RLJ Entertainment): Grant Harvey, producer Steven Hoban and editor Brett Sullivan join forces to direct this gruesome and lively yuletide anthology of terror-filled tales, with the inimitable William Shatner in fine fettle as radio dee-jay “Dangerous Dan,” who pops up periodically to offer commentary. Cult status is assured … but the squeamish are forewarned.
DON’T LOOK BACK (The Criterion Collection): DA Pennebaker’s groundbreaking, award-winning, landmark 1967 documentary covering Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour in England, available as a specialedition DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boasting audio commentary, short films, interviews, outtakes and more. A must for music mavens.
FATHER FORGIVE HIM (Moguldom Studios/Cinedigm): The hot-button topic of sexual abuse within religious sects – and the resulting cover-ups – are explored in this timely documentary, available on DVD ($19.97 retail).
FULBOY (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Martin Farina’s feature documentary offers an intimate glimpse into the professional Argentinian football (soccer) team, for which his younger brother Tomas plays. In Spanish with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.99.
GET MEAN (Blue Underground): This belated 1975 entry in the spaghetti-Western sweepstakes is undoubtedly one of the wackiest, with producer Tony Anthony as a gunslinger whisked through time to Spain, where he’s caught up in a power struggle between Barbarians and Moors … leading one to believe there were leftover props and costumes from some period epic handy. Screenwriter Lloyd Battista plays a hunchbacked heavy who fancies himself Richard III. Hard to describe but a lot of laughs. The limited-edition DVD/ Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) includes interviews, deleted scenes and more. Rated PG.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.