this is an upgraded issue of the Criterion Charade, with the original extras intact and a beautiful wide-screen anamorphic transfer replacing the old flat one. If all you want is the film, stick with the other anamorphic transfer that came as an extra in Jonathan Demme's The Truth About Charlie. The new transfer has slightly richer colours, and the Criterion commentary track with Stanley Donen and screenwriter Peter Stone is remarkably informative and charmingly funny. Oddly, the film itself has become a classic; back in the 60s, it was the first and best of an assortment of Hitchcock-inflected thrillers (Mirage, Arabesque). But Hepburn is an intriguing heroine for a thriller, Grant an ideal foil, and there's a menacing array of villains in James Coburn (who's in everything this week!), George Kennedy and Ned Glass. And they'll always have Paris, where most of the picture was shot.
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer, filmmakers' commentary, booklet essay.
Kill Bill, Vol. 1
(Miramax/Alliance Atlantis, 2003) D: Quentin Tarantino, w/ Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu. Rating: kill bill, vol. 1 is a masterpiece of nihilist formalism, the onscreen equivalent of being trapped in Quentin Tarantino's brain during a week-long binge of old-school kung fu/martial arts movies. It's surprising that he didn't include some ragged edits and end-of-reel scratches to really reproduce the late-70s grindhouse experience. It's easy to denounce Tarantino as the "wrong kind" of film buff - the complaint of people (David Denby) who think he should have spent his youth studying Bergman and Fellini rather than Sonny Chiba. Love him or hate him, he's our film-geek genius.
This first DVD issue has a stunning transfer. Short of going to SuperBit, it's hard to imagine one better until we all go high-def. It's also very light on extras, which suggests that there will be another edition with commentaries, extended making-ofs, multi-angle versions of the fight scenes - all those things that aren't on this DVD.
EXTRAS A short, good making-of; two performance numbers by The 5, 6, 7, 8s, the band at the House of Blue Leaves; and a Tarantino trailer gallery that includes the "bootleg" trailer for Kill Bill. (They've got the original single-film version in the vault at Miramax, no doubt.) English, French and Japanese versions; English and French subtitles. DTS soundtrack.
(Columbia/TriStar, 2003) D: Satoshi Kon, w/ Toru Emori, Yoshiaki Umegaki (voices). Rating: satoshi kon, director of the staggeringly perverse Perfect Blue and last year's time-travelling Millennium Actress, turns sentimental in this update of John Ford's Three Godfathers. A trio of homeless Tokyo-ites find an abandoned baby girl on Christmas Eve and try to reunite her with her family. The film starts slow, with a lot of dead-frame animation - nothing moving but the characters' mouths - but picks up steam as the adventures snowball through the night and the characters' pasts catch up with them.
This is a very good transfer, with great colours, but the DVD is a little light. The making-of is really a documentary about the film's premiere, and a good English dub might have made it more marketable to the North American kids market.
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer and trailer gallery, short documentary. English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
Booty Call: The Bootiest Edition
(Columbia/TriStar, 1997) D: Jeff Pollack w/ Tommy Davidson, Jamie Foxx, Vivica A. Fox. Rating: strangely, booty call is not about a booty call. It's actually the double date from hell, with Tommy Davidson and Jamie Foxx trying to get with Tamala Jones and Vivica A. Fox. It's very funny for the first hour or so but goes off the rails once the overlong hospital scenes begin. Davidson and Foxx, improv veterans of In Living Color, play off each other brilliantly, and this is the film that establishes Fox as the queen of the buppie romantic comedy. Indeed, this may be the first BRC, with its class-based humour and extended riffs on safe sex, plus great one-off scenes with Gedde Watanabe as a waiter and Bernie Mac questioning the heroes' moral choices.
Unfortunately, this special edition ain't all that: a very good transfer, a filmmakers' commentary and the trailer. The little documentary is about the concept of the booty call, which again, has nothing to do with the story.
High Wind In Jamaica
(20th Century Fox, 1965) D: Alexander Mackendrick, w/ Anthony Quinn, James Coburn. Rating: alexander mackendrick remains one of the great unclassifiable directors. His work ranges from the dark Ealing comedy of the original Ladykillers and The Man In The White Suit to the corrosive cynicism of Sweet Smell Of Success and a pair of remarkable children's films, Sammy Going South and High Wind In Jamaica, a fantasy about being kidnapped by pirates, only it's no fun. Set in the early 19th century, with Quinn as the captain and Coburn as first mate, High Wind has an elegant sweep, and so much of it is filmed for night that it never suffers from the often garish quality of early 60s children's films. Credit cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, whose credits include The L-Shaped Room, The Lion In Winter and Raiders Of The Last Ark.
The print's well restored for colour, but a bit rough, and comes in a couple of minutes shy of the usually listed 106 minutes. Even in this bare-bones package, which I suspect Fox threw into release as a result of asking, "What can we send out with Master And Commander?," it's good to have. Now maybe Paramount will spring Sammy Going South
EXTRAS Theatrical trailer.
The Last Of Sheila
(Warner, 1972) D: Herbert Ross, w/ Richard Benjamin, James Mason, Dyan Cannon. Rating: the last of sheila is a puzzle mys tery. Producer James Coburn invites an array of Hollywood types to his yacht for a game, but there's more afoot than he suspects. Unusually for this type of film (Sleuth and Deathtrap come to mind), The Last Of Sheila is an original screenplay by a unique writing team: Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins collaborated on the only screenplay either would write. Pay attention to this one. It's very wittily constructed, because everything is a clue, including the title. The outstanding cast includes Joan Hackett, Raquel Welch and Ian MacShane, and it may have the best performance Dyan Cannon ever gave, a canny impression of 70s super-agent Sue Mengers. (Cannon acknowledges this in the commentary.)
For a bonus, there's a rather casual commentary by Richard Benjamin, who plays a rapidly failing screenwriter, and Cannon. Welch's comments were recorded separately.
EXTRAS Cast commentary, theatrical trailer.
Coming Tuesday, April 20
The Ingmar Bergman Collection
(MGM) Prime 60s Bergman, including Shame, Persona, The Passion Of Anna and Hour Of The Wolf, this time with the proper aspect ratios.
(Criterion/Morningstar) Speaking of Bergman, here's Robert Altman's very Bergmanesque film starring Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek.
Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World
(20th Century Fox) Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany as Patrick O'Brian's Napoleonic-era British sailors. Avast the foreyard!
King Of New York: Special Edition
(Lions Gate) An overdue issue of Abel Ferrara's modern gangster classic. Christopher Walken is the drug lord trying to reclaim his turf, but the real news is Laurence Fishburne's career-making turn as Jimmy Jump, the first hiphop gangster.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb