Video Vault – July 5, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
“BLAKE EDWARDS’ PINK PANTHER FILM COLLECTION STARRING PETER SELLERS” (Shout! Factory): For all his many gifts and great performances, Peter Sellers (1927-’80) will forever be best known as Jacques Clouseau, the perennially bumbling but self-assured French inspector immortalized in Blake Edwards’ 1963 box-office smash The Pink Panther.
So popular was the character that the 1964 screen version of A Shot in the Dark immediately became a Clouseau film – and introduced the characters of Inspector Dreyfus (Herbert Lom) and Clouseau’s manservant Cato (Burt Kwouk). Some consider this the series highlight.
After 10 years, during which Edwards’ and Sellers’ respective careers faltered, they reunited for the G-rated 1975 box-office smash The Return of the Pink Panther, followed the next year by The Pink Panther Strikes Again (rated PG), which this critic considers the best of all. In 1978 came Revenge of the Pink Panther (rated PG), another box-office hit.
Following Sellers’ death, Edwards tried – perhaps unwisely — to continue the franchise, initially with 1982’s Trail of the Pink Panther (rated PG), which was built around outtakes and deleted scenes from earlier Panther films. Nevertheless, it was the chance to see Sellers’ Clouseau on the big screen one last time.
The six-disc “Shout! Select” Blu-ray collection ($99.99 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective featurettes, trailers, photo galleries and more.
AGATHA CHRISTIE’S THE WITNESS FOR THE PROSECTION (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Toby Jones delivers yet another first-rate performance as a disillusioned barrister determined to prove the innocence of Billy Howie, accused of murdering his wealthy older lover (Kim Cattrall) in this moody, award-winning, mini-series adaptation of the Christie classic. The sexual undercurrents are more pronounced here, and strict purists may object to certain plot twists, but a class act nonetheless, with a nice sting in the tail and a sturdy cast including Andrea Riseborough, Monica Dolan, David Haig and Dorian Lough. ***
THE APPLE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): At long last, a special edition of Menahem Golan’s mind-boggling, “futuristic” 1980 sci-fi musical, with Catherine Mary Stewart (in her screen debut) and Allan Love as guileless songbirds tempted by fame, fortune, and the vaguely Satanic music promoter “Mr. Boogalow” (scene-stealer Vladek Sheybal). Described by film historian David del Valle as “the Mount Everest of bad musicals,” this is essentially the Biblical tale of creation re-told as only Golan could tell it. One thing’s for sure: You’ve never seen anything like it. Needless to say, a cause celebre among bad-movie mavens and a true guilty pleasure, and remember: “Hey, hey, hey – BIM’s on the way!” Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, original trailer and more. Rated PG. **
ART AND HEART: THE WORLD OF ISAIAH SHEFFER (First Run Features): Producer/director Catherine Tambini’s affectionate and appopriately warm-hearted documentary examines the life, career and legacy of Isaiah Sheffer (1935-2012), founder of New York City’s Symphony Space, creator of Bloomsday on Broadway, host of WYNC Radio’s Selected Shorts, and even an egg-cream expert (!), featuring interviews with such luminaries and collaborators Leonard Nimoy, Stephen Colbert, Morgan Freeman, Stephen Lang, Jane Curtin, Fritz Weaver, Fionnula Flanagan, James Naughton and others. ***
AS GOOD AS YOU (First Run Features): Director Heather de Michele’s award-winning feature debut stars Laura Heisler as a grief-stricken lesbian who tries to compensate for her wife’s loss by having a baby. This nicely acted, bittersweet comedy/drama loses some momentum in the second half but is worth a look. A sincere cast includes Annie Potts, Raoul Bhaneja, Anna Fitzwater, Bryan Dechart and Peter Maloney. **½
THE ASSIGNMENT (LionsGate): Walter Hill brings his action expertise to this dubious thriller (originally titled Tomboy) starring Michelle Rodriguez as a (male) assassin who undergoes trans-gender surgery at the hands of icy, Shakespeare-quoting scientist Sigourney Weaver – and then goes on a rampage. Tony Shalhoub, Anthony LaPaglia and Caitlin Gerard are also on hand. If you can buy Rodriguez (replete with beard) as a man … available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail). Rated R. *½
CHIPS (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Writer/executive producer/director Dax Shepard is joined by Michael Pena (also an executive producer) for this R-rated big-screen riff on the NBC police series (which ran 1977-’83), about the misadventures of two California highway patrolman, with Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Scott, Maya Rudolph and Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell in support – and look for original series star Erik Estrada, available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail).
GREY LADY (LionsGate): Eric Dane (in William Petersen mode) plays an obsessed Boston detective trailing a serial killer tied to his family’s past in writer/producer/director/co-star John Shea’s brooding but convoluted and heavy-handed thriller in the Dennis Lehane vein. Andrzej Bartkowiak’s cinematography captures well the Nantucket atmosphere, and the cast includes Natalie Zea, Adrian Lester, Chris Meyer, Laila Robins, Rebecca Gayheart (Dane’s real-life wife) and Amy Madigan. Rated R. **
“INCORPORATED”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): Set in 2074, Sean Teale plays an executive bent on toppling a multi-national corporation with unlimited political power in all 10 episodes from the inaugural (and final) 2016-’17 season of the Syfy series created by David and Alex Pastor, available on DVD ($39.98 retail), replete with bonus features.
“INSPECTOR MONTALBANO”: EPISODES 29 & 30 (MHz Networks): A two-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of two feature-length episodes from the 2017 season of the long-running, award-winning, Italian-language crime series (originally titled “Il commissario Montalbano”), based on Andrea Camilleri’s best-selling novels, set in modern-day Sicily and starring Luca Zingaretti as the title character.
“THE JACQUES RIVETTE COLLECTION” (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($99.95 retail) of three French-language features helmed by the award-winning director Jacques Rivette (1928-2016): 1976’s fantasy saga Duelle (originally titled Duelle – une quarantaine) starring Juliet Berto and Bulle Ogier; the 1976 Noroit, starring Geraldine Chaplin, Bernadette Lafont and Kika Markham; and 1981’s Merry-Go-Round starring Joe Dallesandro, Marie Schneider and Francoise Prevost.
LIFE OF SIGNIFICANT SOIL (Candy Factory Films): Writer/producer/director Michael Irish’s award-winning debut feature stars newcomers Charlotte Bydwell and Alexia Mouyiari as a couple who keep reliving the last day of their relationship over an over. Intriguing but self-indulgent, and populated by unlikable characters – but worth a look. **
MONEY FROM HOME (Olive Films): Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis’ first color film, released in 1953 (and originally in 3-D!) sees the duo trying to fix a horse-race in this award-winning Damon Runyon adaptation, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.99 retail).
SHAG: THE MOVIE (Olive Films): In this PG-rated 1989 comedy, Bridget Fonda and Phoebe Cates embark on a free-wheeling romp to Myrtle Beach in 1963 accompanied by Annabeth Gish and Page Hannah, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
TABLE 19 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Writer/director Jeffrey Blitz’s lightweight comedy about wedding guests relegated to the furthest table is aided immeasurably by a likable ensemble cast including Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow, Craig Robinson, June Squibb, Stephen Merchant, Tony Revolori, Margo Martindale, Thomas Cocquerel and Wyatt Russell, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail). Rated PG-13. **
TOMCAT (First Run Features): Writer/director Handl Klaus’ award-winning, German-language drama (originally titled Kater) stars Philipp Hochmaier and Lukas Turtur as a gay couple whose seemingly idyllic relationship is upended by a sudden, unexpected act of violence. The DVD retails for $24.95.
“THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON: JOHNNY AND FRIENDS FEATURING STEVE MARTIN, ROBIN WILLIAMS & EDDIE MURPHY” (Time Life): A self-explanatory, three-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of full episodes from “The Tonight Show” featuring the titular trio of comedians.
THE WEDDING PARTY (Candy Factory Films): Writer/director Thane Economu’s award-winning debut feature showcases a wedding and reception in a single, continuous take – for two hours (!). This goes beyond the gimmick to offer an observant, perceptive, sometimes outrageous comedy/drama, put across by a winning ensemble cast including Blake Lee, Brian Thomas Smith, Moses Storm, Joel Johnstone, Debia Adkeniz, Michael Adler, James Lentzsch, Molly Burnett, Allison Paige, Meg Cionni, and especially newcomer Kat Palardy as the lonely, pill-popping maid of honor. Great cinematography by co-producer William Kamp III, also making a noteworthy feature debut. A quintessential example of an indie winner. ***
(Copyright 2017, Mark Burger; email@example.com)