Despite all the range and popularity of streaming and VOD services, for some of us here at 4:3 there’s still no substitute for physical media, even as it becomes increasingly niche or mainly a collector’s market. For the adventurous or discerning home viewer there’s no greater pass to the wealth of world cinema than a region-free Blu-ray or DVD player. With a large number of boutique studios and labels putting out tremendous films in incredible packages on the regular, Brad Mariano has the monthly round-up for the best of the best
Our featured picks this week follow a strong theme, by actor – my picks for essential Blu-rays of September are Arrow Video’s edition of Brute Force and Kino Lorber’s Elmer Gantry, two of the best Burt Lancaster films from the classic era, an actor who I maintain has a stronger body of work that anyone else. The first is a hard-hitting prison drama from Jules Dassin, with Lancaster leading a charge against a corrupt, sociopathic warden (a frightening Hume Cronyn) – one of the best prison films ever made, it’s a brutal, fatalistic work with many fascinating subplots aside from the main conflict. Already out on Criterion DVD, the Arrow HD treatment should do wonders for its harsh black-and-white cinematography. The second one is Burt Lancaster Oscar-winning performance as a corrupt preacher in Elmer Gantry, based off the scandalous Sinclair Lewis novel. Completely unhinged and charismatic, Lancaster blows everyone off screen in this fascinating epic about religious evangelists from underrated helmer Richard Brooks (In Cold Blood), one of my favourite American films from the 60s. In a coincidental theme, Lancaster films Run Silent, Run Deep, The Young Savages and The Island of Doctor Moreau are also released this month, capping off a great year for the iconic star (great editions of The Train and especially The Swimmer came earlier in the year).
Arrow has positioned itself as perhaps the best label currently in business, and this month sees a lot of their most awaited projects come to fruition. Aside from the above, their Kickstarter backed Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection has now been dispatched, and while the full box set sold out its limited run months ago, all the films are available separately and look to be worth grabbing. In addition, Arrow’s releases of Francesco Rosi’s Salvatore Giuliano and Stray Cat Rock collection we will likely have a look at more in depth. True to their core, their cult offerings are not slack either – this month has David Cronenberg’s early horror Shivers along side Killer Klowns from Outer Space.
Criterion is finally releasing one of its most awaited releases in its history, David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Stacked with supplements, and the screenshots available already suggest this exactly the audio-visual treatment we hoped the film would receive. This one is a no-brainer, only question you need ask yourself is whether to get now or wait for the next Barnes and Noble sale in November, which is suddenly feeling a long way away. Criterion is also upgrading their edition of Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, a natural progression from their gorgeous edition of All That Heaven Allows earlier in the year. Jack Clayton’s timeless horror The Innocents also looks to be stunning.
Masters of Cinemahave an interesting slate – we’ll be looking at their new edition of The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari later in the month, but also be on the look out for their inspired choices in Ernst Lubitsch’s Madame Dubarry and Busby Berkeley’s musical, The Gang’s All Here. Tangentially, we featured the release of FW Murnau’s Faust last month, and this month the contemporary adaptation, by Russian auteur Aleksandr Sokurov, is getting a Blu release stateside, again from Kino Lorber. I caught it in its Festival run a few years ago, and it’s a very special film indeed, a very gorgeously shot adaptation of the legend, difficult but rewarding viewing.
Locally, Madman’s most notable releases include Jim Jarmusch’s latest, Only Lovers Left Alive, a film that has grown on me considerably since I saw it in its theatrical, it will likely make my Top 10 at the end of the year (our review is here). We’ll also be reviewing their DVD release of David Gordon Green’s Joe shortly. Umbrella are also releasing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – celebrating its 40th anniversary with a Blu-ray from a 4K restoration, as well as a trove of extras.
And I almost, almost forgot to mention – Jerry Lewis’ The Nutty Professor, after its huge special edition earlier in the year, comes in a standalone Blu-ray edition this month from Paramount. The first of his directed films in HD, let’s hope it isn’t the last!