Video Vault – Jan 16, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BLACK WINDMILL (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): In his autobiography, Michael Caine lamented that working with some of his favorite directors didn’t quite measure up: Robert Aldrich (Too Late the Hero), John Sturges (The Eagle Has Landed), John Frankenheimer (The Holcroft Covenant), and Don Siegel, who helmed this 1974 thriller based on Clive Egleton’s novel Seven Days to a Killing.
With all due respect, and despite an overly convoluted plot, The Black Windmill is a crackling yarn, full of twists and turns, with a knockout shoot-out climax – and Caine effortlessly holding everything together with a tough, tenacious turn that occasionally recalls his role as British agent Harry Palmer.
This time, he’s Maj. John Tarrant, and when his young son (Paul Moss, in his first and only screen role) is kidnapped and held for ransom, he embarks on a relentless campaign to rescue him – and to ferret out the high-ranking mole in his department.
A classy cast includes John Vernon (fresh from Siegel’s Charley Varrick), Delphine Seyrig, Joss Ackland, Joseph O’Conor, Catherine Schell, Clive Revill, Denis Quilley and Edward Hardwicke, but in addition to Caine two other performances stand out: Donald Pleasence, stealing many a scene as Tarrant’s fussy, fastidious superior Cedric Harper (the perfect red herring); and Janet Suzman, who brings considerable emotional heft to the seemingly thankless role of Tarrant’s estranged wife Alex. Whatever their marital difficulties, she knows full well that he’s the only one she can trust. Roy Budd’s nerve-jangling score adds to the tension.
Incidentally, although two windmills figure in the film’s wrap-up, neither one is black!
Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interview, theatrical trailer, TV spots and more. Rated PG. ***
THE BOUNTY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Mel Gibson plays a conflicted Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins a memorable Captain Bligh in this big-budget, revisionist 1984 Dino De Laurentiis production dramatizing the 1787 mutiny which occurred on Pitcairn Island, adapted by Robert Bolt from Richard Hough’s best-seller Captain Bligh and Mr. Christian, with all-star support from Laurence Olivier, Edward Fox, Daniel Day-Lewis, Liam Neeson, John Sessions, Dexter Fletcher and Bernard Hill, an effective score by Vangelis, and Arthur Ibbetson’s glorious cinematography. David Lean was originally set to direct but left over budget disputes, but Roger Donaldson does a workmanlike job. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentaries, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated PG. ***
THE CHAMBER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of director James Foley’s engrossing, if formulaic, 1996 adaptation of the John Grisham best-seller, with Gene Hackman in top form as a long-time Death Row inmate defended by estranged grandson Chris O’Donnell, a young lawyer unprepared for the repercussions of the racially charged case. A star-studded cast includes Faye Dunaway (miscast as Hackman’s daughter), Lela Rochon, Raymond J. Barry, Robert Prosky, Millie Perkins, Richard Bradford, David Marshall Grant, Nicholas Pryor, Harve Presnell, Josef Sommer, Jane Kaczmarek and former pro athlete Bo Jackson (in his screen debut), but Hackman towers over all. Rated R. **½
“CMA AWARDS LIVE: GREATEST MOMENTS 1968-2015” (Time Life): The title tells all in this three-DVD collection ($29.99 retail) featuring highlights from the annual Country Music Association awards ceremony as provided by a star-studded line-up of performers including Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, Tanya Tucker, Randy Travis and many others. Time Life is also releasing a single-DVD “CMA Awards Live” ($12.99 retail) featuring more contemporary artists as Blake Shelton, Darius Rucker, Little Big Town, Eric Church and others.
COBY (Film Movement): For his debut as director and associate producer, filmmaker Christian Sonderegger turns his cameras on his half-brother Jacob, who was born Suzanna and is making the gender transition to a male (nicknamed “Coby”) in the small Ohio town of Chagrin Falls, exploring a timely topic in a sympathetic, down-to-earth approach. **½
THE COMEBACK KID (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): John Ritter stars in this well-remembered 1980 ABC-TV comedy/tearjerker as a fast-talking minor-league pitcher who develops a knack for coaching rambunctious neighborhood kids (Doug McKeon and Kim Fields among them). Ritter and Susan Dey (as his boss/love interest) bring likable conviction to the corniness. **½
THE HOUSE THAT WOULD NOT DIE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Barbara Stanwyck adds a touch of class to this 1970 ABC-TV “Movie of the Week” produced by Aaron Spelling and adapted by Henry Farrell from the Barbara Michaels novel Ammie, Come Home, in which Stanwyck and her niece (Kitty Winn, in her film debut) inherit a Pennsylvania house haunted by two Revolutionary War-era ghosts. Richard Egan and Michael Anderson Jr. provide convenient romantic interests for the leading ladies, and John Llewellyn Moxey directs with his usual efficiency. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and a retrospective interview with Moxey. **½
KUSAMA: INFINITY (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Heather Lenz wrote, produced, edited and directed this self-explanatory documentary feature tracing the life and career of the world-renowned, Japanese-born artist Yayoi Kusama, famed for the unique use of polka dots in her work, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
LOVE, GILDA (CNN Films/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Producer/director Lisa D’Apolito’s affectionate, award-winning documentary offers a compassionate portrait of the much-beloved and much-beloved Emmy-winning comedienne Gilda Radner (1946-1989) and her all-too-brief life, as remembered by friends, colleagues and admirers, interspersed with recently discovered audio and video recordings of Radner, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).***
MIDAQ ALLEY (Film Movement Classics): Jorge Fons directed this sprawling, award-winning 1995 Spanish-language adaptation (originally titled El Callejon de los Milagros) of Naguib Mahfouz’s 1947 novel The Alley of the Miracles, which transposes the action from Cairo to Mexico City and follows a group of disparate characters whose paths cross in unexpected ways, boasting an ensemble cast including Salma Hayek, Maria Rojo, Juan Manuel Bernal, Margarita Sanz, Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Bruno Bichir, and Delia Casanova. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) include behind-the-scenes featurette and essay.
MONSTER PARTY (RLJE Films): Writer/director Chris von Hoffmann’s ripe, grand-guignol black comedy stars Virginia Gardner and newcomers Sam Strike and Brandon Micheal Hall as a trio of thieves who pass themselves off as caterers for a ritzy Malibu party, only to see their scheme go gorily awry when some of the guests embark on a murderous rampage. Robin Tunney and a ripe Julian McMahon play the married hosts, Lance Reddick steals many a scene as the most manipulative of the guests, and the cast also includes Erin Moriarty, Diego Boneta, Kian Lawley, and Bill Engvall. This goes so far over the top by midpoint that there’s nowhere to go but down, but cult status is likely. The DVD retails for $27.97, the Blu-ray for $28.97. **
A PARIS EDUCATION (Kino Lorber): Writer/director Jean-Paul Civeyrac’s French-language drama (originally titled Mes provinciales) follows the adventures of an obsessive film student (Andranic Manet) as he immerses himself into the bohemian milieu of Paris, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), each replete with special features.
PRAY TV (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Idealistic minister John Ritter’s faith is shaken when exposed to the inner workings of the media empire fronted by charismatic televangelist Ned Beatty in this potentially explosive, still-relevant 1982 ABC-TV drama (originally titled Mixed Blessings) that collapses under the weight of its good intentions and was reportedly tempered – and tampered with – by ABC before it aired. Beatty is first-rate, but Ritter’s tentative naivete is unconvincing. Richard Kiley plays Ritter’s mentor, dispensing wise platitudes but barely establishing a character, and a romantic subplot between Ritter and an embittered Madolyn Smith is strangely played, especially by her. A missed opportunity. **
“RED VS. BLUE: THE SHISNO PARADOX” (Rooster Teeth/Cinedigm): The long-running, animated award-winning, light-hearted sci-fi franchise, created by Burnie Burns and based on the Xbox video game Halo, continues as soldiers from the titular warring factions continue their conflict over the most worthless property in the universe, this time made even more complicated when they find themselves at the mercy of Gods and Titans, whose own conflict has raged since time began, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.95 retail), replete with bonus features.
THE SCARLET LETTER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The illicit romance between Hester Prynne (Demi Moore) and the Rev. Dimmesdale (Gary Oldman) forms the centerpiece of Roland Joffe’s utterly ridiculous 1995 version of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, which surely ranks as one of the worst literary adaptations ever filmed, with Moore and Oldman completely lost and Robert Duvall (as Moore’s cuckolded husband) giving what may be his worst screen performance, with sheepish support provided by such pros as Joan Plowright, Robert Prosky, Edward Hardwicke, Dana Ivey, and Roy Dotrice. Significant departures from the novel are not for the better, but unintentional laughs abound. A critical and financial disaster. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and trailer. Rated R. *
SHARP OBJECTS (HBO): Executive producer Amy Adams stars in this award-winning eight-part HBO mini-series based on executive producer Gillian Flynn’s best-seller and directed by executive producer Jean-Marc Vallee, in which she portrays a disillusioned, hard-drinking reporter who confronts her own demons when investigating a murder in the southern Missouri town she grew up in, with star-studded support from Patricia Clarkson, Chris Messina, Elizabeth Perkins, Miguel Sandoval, Matt Craven, Henry Czerny and newcomer Eliza Scanlen, available on DVD ($27.29 retail) and Blu-ray ($37.99 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)