Weekly Release Roundup
Lots and lots of great stuff this week. It's a veritable DVD
overload actually. Be sure to have your credit cards ready, 'cause
your weekly paycheck won't handle the volume.
Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Special Edition
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
is one of my all-time favorite films and a must buy DVD as far
as I'm concerned. See
review for details.
If you love hockey or America, then you'll probably want this
film on DVD. Check out
Testament of Dr. Mabuse
A man with a dark past phones upstanding cop Inspector Lohmann,
to let him know of a criminal mastermind who is taking over the
city of Berlin. But before he can get the name out, he is
mysteriously driven insane, leaving just one word behind, etched
in glass: "Mabuse." Who or what is "Mabuse?"
To find out, is to take a cinematic journey well worth your
time. Dr. Mabuse is a criminal mastermind on par with Keyser
Soze and the literary creation of Norbert Jacques, but wholly
owned on film by director Fritz Lang. Lang made three films
centering on Mabuse: 1922's two-part Dr.
Mabuse: The Gambler (available on DVD from Image),
this one in 1933 and 1960's The 1,000
Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (on DVD from All Day
Entertainment). Testament of Dr.
Mabuse is creepy, fun and an all-around incredible
piece of filmmaking. Film noir, heist and caper film fans will
love it. If you love The Usual
Suspects, then be sure to add this disc to your
pulls out all the stops with Testament.
The video transfer is superb, presented in pillar-boxed 1.19:1,
which will seem slightly off, but it's due to Lang's soundtrack
being on the left hand side of the strip. Audio is German mono with
optional English subs. The two-disc special edition contains a very
informative commentary by historian and All Day Entertainment head
David Kalat. He's a great listen - just one of us who knows a whole
hell of a lot about Lang and Mabuse. There's also the complete
French version of Testament
(often foreign language versions of films were shot back to back a
la the Spanish version of Dracula),
excerpts from a German TV documentary about Fritz Lang, an interview
with actor Rudolf Schündler, a historical overview of writer
Norbert Jacques, Kalat breaking down all the versions of this film
including the American dubbed version entitled The
Crimes of Dr. Mabuse, production design galleries, stills
and ephemera. It's a nice chunk of material dedicated to a film
crime films fans will love.
Director Volker Schlöndorff's The
Tin Drum was always a tough nut to crack as a film.
On the one hand, it's this surreal allegory about a freakishly
aware young boy who refuses to grow up past the age of three.
The hows and whys of the story are what make the film so
interesting. On the other side, you have the fact that most
people take things out of context and refuse to see the film as
a surreal allegory, and when you have a "three-year old"
(here played by eleven-year old David Bennent who would go on
and play the Pan-like Honeythorn Gump in Ridley Scott's Legend)
engaged in very adult behavior, you have a situation like the
one that happened in 1999 in Oklahoma. It's the world we live
in, and somehow ends up being appropriate in the history of this
The Tin Drum gets grand
treatment from Criterion. From the beautiful anamorphic transfer and
remastered Dolby Digital 5.1 sound (the original mono and an
isolated soundtrack of Maurice Jarre's music are included), to the
extras. Those extras include a very listenable commentary by
director Schlöndorff explaining the making of the film and
discussing the controversies since it's release, a selection of
deleted scenes with commentary by Schlöndorff, another
discussion with Schlöndorff on the making of the film
illustrated by clips, stills and storyboards, a collection of French
TV broadcasts about the film and its success at Cannes, a scene from
the film with optional narration from The
Tin Drum author Günter Grass, and the script for the
unfilmed ending with introduction from the director. There's also a
documentary about the pornographic criminal case involving the film
in Oklahoma mentioned above, trailers and a stills gallery. The
Tin Drum won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1980 and
it deserved the honor. It's also been attacked and misunderstood
since then. This disc set truly puts this film in context and shines
it up nice for us. It's a great DVD set, and deserving of the
inclusion in The Criterion Collection.
So... Torque. Uhm...
yeah. It's about a guy and... uh... Screw this. It's The
Warriors on motorcycles. Shot by Joseph Kahn, the
director who makes all those glowing Janet Jackson videos, it's
gorgeous eye-candy, and that's the best that can be said about
it. So there. The DVD looks wonderful, and sounds damn good too.
Extras include two commentary tracks: one with the technical
team gushing about the film and the other with all the members
of SAG (past, present and future). You'll also find storyboards,
a music video and trailers. It's not a whole lot, but it's a
whole lot more than we need for Torque
on DVD. I mean, I'm not a snob, but seriously. And if you're a
fan, save your flames; I won't respond.
once again makes us love them for their treatment of library product
with the wave release three (four exciting new volumes) of Walt
Disney Treasures. First up is...
Chronological Donald, Volume 1
Collecting the animated shorts starring Donald Duck released
between 1934 and 1941, this volume is pretty important
considering it gives insight into the birth and shaping of a
beloved animated character. Each one of the shorts looks and
sounds great. Select commentaries by Leonard Maltin, art
galleries, storyboards with Maltin commentary, a featurette on
the voice of Donald: Clarence "Ducky" Nash and
introductions by Maltin on select shorts comprise the extras for
this set, and it's all very fine. We'll work on Adam Jahnke
doing a complete overview of these volumes to give you a better
idea of what these are about, but for now, know that they're
worth picking up.
Mouse in Living Color, Volume 2
Following the great work done for Volume
1, Disney gives us another set of Mickey cartoons (in
color of course) spanning the years 1939 to 1995. All are
present in gorgeous transfers with good sound. Extras include a
gaggle of featurettes, introductions from Leonard Maltin,
deleted animation from the Fantasia
section starring Mickey Mouse: The
Sorcerer's Apprentice, galleries of art and publicity
material and the titles to Mickey
Mouse Club that were done in color (most saw the show
in black and white). All in all, this is a neat set and a worthy
addition to Volume 1.
Disney in Space and Beyond
It's not odd to learn that a visionary like Walt Disney was
immensely interested in space travel. This DVD shows that
passion in full. Collecting the various TV shows and film shorts
that explored the idea of men in space, this volume is the one
our very own Bill Hunt will be standing in line for today.
Although dated in many approaches, these films still pack a
punch, with fun and insightful animation and views from a time
that didn't yet see a real man on the moon. These two discs hold
six films, complete with disc introductions by Leonard Maltin,
and they look great on DVD. Culled from the best possible
elements in color and black and white, you have to give a hand
to the folks at Disney for putting this set together. Extras
include an interview with Ray Bradbury, an interview with Marty
Sklar (head of Disney's Imagineering/EPCOT), galleries of
publicity material and comprehensive art from the animation
segments with commentary by Maltin. This is another great Walt
Disney Treasure volume.
Disney: On the Front Lines
This is the big one. The one you never imagined would be
released by Disney. I mean, a disc set - from Disney - that
contains all of their wartime (read: very un-P.C.) shorts. Wow.
If there was a must-buy disc this week, this is it. First, you
get all of the animated shorts with WWII themes (the propaganda,
or as Leonard Maltin calls them: Morale Boosters). Private
Pluto, Donald Gets Drafted
and Commando Duck are
included to name a few. Next, we get the educational shorts.
These are the theatricals that were meant for the folks at home,
so they could know better what we can do to support the troops.
Then we move into the glorious "never thought we'd see
these" films. Der Feuhrer's Face
anyone? How about Education for Death?
Never did I expect to see these released by Disney. I'm ecstatic
and overjoyed that we have them, but I'm shocked as well.
There's also the little seen, but dear to Walt's heart, Victory
Through Air Power, as well as a handful of GI
training shorts produced by the Disney Studio. As an animation
historian and collector, this wows me. This is a wonderful set.
All these shorts are presented in pristine quality with nice
sound. Of course, you also get some wonderful extras, like
commentary from Maltin putting the sensitive material in the
proper perspective, interviews, art galleries, rare
illustrations and art from an unproduced short entitled Gremlins,
which was created by Roald Dahl. I'll say it again, you NEED
and the Chess Expert
On a boat bound for the island of Enoshima, Ichi befriends a
chess-playing samurai named Tadasu Jumon. Impressing him with
his blind playing, Jumon joins Ichi in his travels. While on the
boat, Ichi takes in a friendly game of dice, pulling his
trademark slight of hand dice trick ("Why would you bet on
the dice outside the cup? Where's the game in that?") on a
group of thugs. When they get pissed off, they look for revenge
and, considering they work for the influential Banyu crime
family, there's trouble to be had once they get to Enoshima.
During a scuffle, Ichi sends a bad guy out a window to land on a
young girl named Miki and her guardian Tane, hurting Miki.
Needing medicine, Ichi raises the necessary funds and goes about
saving the girl's life. But who is Tane and why are a group of
men hunting for her? Is Jumon a friend or an enemy waiting to
pounce on Ichi? And how do the mysterious Sagawa, Roppei and
Kume fit into the story? Find out in Zatoichi
and the Chess Expert.
Chess Expert is pure Zatoichi
fun - a great film to spin if you haven't joined the Ichi
party yet. It's got everything that makes the series great,
including some really cool fights. This Home Vision release is
superb. The anamorphic transfer is incredibly clean and
colorful. Blacks are hard and the print is flawless. Audio is in
the original mono and sounds fine. Extras include trailers for
this film as well as Zatoichi's
Vengeance and Zatoichi and
the Doomed Man, a promo trailer for the series, liner
notes by Michael Jeck and a reproduction of the theatrical
Ichi stumbles upon a dying man, who was attacked because he was
caught cheating at dice. He is asked to give the money he stole
to someone named Taichi. Not knowing where to find this person,
Ichi continues on his journey and bumps into a blind priest, who
sends him to the sleepy haven of Ichinomiya. But Ichi finds that
Ichinomiya is no sleepy town. It's being taken over by a gang of
ruthless yakuza who are demanding all the business owners pay
them to continue operating. He also finds the Taichi he was
asked to find, who turns out to be the dying man's son. Oh...
and Ichi also bumps into a disgraced samurai who is looking to
buy back his wife's retainer from the local whorehouse using the
money he will earn for Ichi's head. But Ichi isn't going to hand
it over. Will Ichi's sword corrupt the malleable mind of young
Taichi into a world he shouldn't enter?
Zatoichi's Vengeance is
another good entry in the series. It's sort of understated, but
still a rip-roaring fun way to spend 80 or so minutes. This disc
is beautiful, with a great transfer from Home Vision - just
flawless. Sound is Dolby Digital mono and serves the film
nicely. Extras include trailers for Zatoichi
and the Chess Expert, Zatoichi's
Vengeance and Zatoichi and
the Doomed Man, a promo trailer for this series,
liner notes by Michael Jeck and a reproduction of the theatrical
This is the seminal Zatoichi film. Ichi hitches a ride with a
traveling theatrical troupe on their way to Tonda, where he
enters into a dice game and cleans house. As you might guess,
the losers are all yakuza and they want their money back. Not
taking any guff from these sore losers, Ichi makes mincemeat out
of them. But when a retired sword maker examines Ichi's sword,
he discovers it was made by his old sensei and will break in two
during his next battle. Swearing off sword fighting from here on
in, Ichi spends the rest of the film avoiding confrontation,
making for some funny and equally tense moments. Of course, we
all know he'll have to pull out the sword. But how will he
manage, knowing full well that after one slash, he'll be
This is a great, great Ichi
film - probably my favorite in the series. Cane
Sword sums up everything I like about these films. It
has some of the best characters in the series, some of the best
acting and some really scary moments. This Home Vision release
has a wonderful anamorphic widescreen transfer, clean Dolby
Digital mono sound and a select group of extras including
trailers for Zatoichi's Vengeance,
Zatoichi and the Doomed Man
and Zatoichi Challenged, a
promo trailer for this series, liner notes by Michael Jeck and a
reproduction of the theatrical poster.
some new TV on DVD this week too:
It's part one of the end of the show about foul-talking women on
and the City: Season 6, Part 1. Forget the back and forth
on the film version of Superman,
The Complete Second Season for all of your Man of Steel
Racer, Volume 2 go! Also boldly going to DVD this week:
Trek: Voyager - Season Two. And it's the other show about
West Wing: The Complete Second Season.
Also available this week:
A new release of
Heart with a bunch of special edition material. In time
for the new film with Jackie Chan,
the World in 80 Days gets a huge special edition. Nuclear
paranoia, got you down? It's
Day After (timed with The Day
After Tomorrow perhaps?). Godzilla and friends are back
in a DVD re-release of
All Monsters. Another DVD re-release - Bruce Lee is all
buff and shit in this buff special edition
the Dragon. Can you say special edition and re-release one
more time? Sure you can:
Great Escape. Alain Delon and Jeanne Moreau star in Joseph
Losey's Nazi-era mistaken identity suspenser
Klein. Ben Affleck tries to become a viable action star
once again - and fails. Look for
on DVD. All three films in
Samurai Trilogy get a box. No new features though.
Earp premiers on DVD as a special edition. And, you know
it's on! At least that's what the kids are saying. Find out what all
that means with the new DVD
Enjoy that block of DVD goodness. There was so much that even I,
with so much frickin' spare time (yeah, right) couldn't get to it
all. That's why there were so many two-disc special editions in the
"Also Availables". Well, that and the studios don't love
me as much as they used to. But that's a horse of a different color.
While I write love letters to the studio heads, you go and watch
all that good stuff and be back here next week. Until then, I remain
your heart and soul of DVD.