New releasesNew releases
mash (1969, Fox Home Entertainment Five Star Collection), dir. Robert Altman w/ Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould. Released to coincide with Fox's DVD issue of the MASH television series, Altman's film has been treated to a deluxe two-disc restoration and transfer under the director's supervision. (I doubt MASH looked this good 30 years ago.) The film plays oddly: it's not terribly funny for a comedy, and there's a level of frat-boy smugness -- the heroes are defined less by their political stance than by the fact that they're the cool kids. It's an astonishing piece of filmmaking, though, with Altman's signature use of the zoom lens, overlapping hum of dialogue and multi-layered mise en scène that have often been imitated but never equalled. I hadn't realized until now that the TV series didn't copy the movie's helicopter opening but used Altman's actual footage.
Extremely perfunctory commentary by Altman. Includes theatrical trailer, American Movie Classics documentary, a new "making-of" feature and a History Channel documentary called MASH: Comedy Under Fire. French-dubbed version, English and Spanish subtitles. NNNN
seconds (1966, Paramount DVD), dir. John Frankenheimer w/ Rock Hudson, John Randolph. A cautionary thriller that went, as Frankenheimer notes, from failure to classic without ever being a success. Randolph plays a middle-aged banker who's drafted by a shadowy organization for rejuvenation and wakes up as Rock Hudson. He acquires a hedonistic California lifestyle he doesn't really want -- and then the bill comes due. It's a strange-looking film for its era, one of the first Hollywood studio releases shot largely with hand-held cameras, and James Wong Howe got an Oscar nomination for the film's outré black-and-white cinematography. Saul Bass did the title sequence, and this print restores the wine festival sequence that was shredded for the film's original domestic release.
The excellent commentary track by Frankenheimer is mostly about the film's technique but also drops little tidbits like how he got Rock Hudson drunk to play the drunk scene. French-dubbed version, theatrical trailer, English subtitles. NNN
the adventures of buckaroo banzai across the eighth dimension (1984, Special Edition, MGM/UA) dir. W.D. Richter w/ Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Ellen Barkin, Jeff Goldblum. Buckaroo Banzai tells a story so twisted, so pulp/sci-fi/action-serial, so barely coherent that it's attracted legions of devoted fans. Weller is a neurosurgeon/rock star/dashing adventurer battling evil out of the eighth dimension. The plot is part Buck Rogers, part Thomas Pynchon. If any film cried out for DVD exegesis, this is it. 102 minutes.
MGM's disc includes the original theatrical cut of the film, plus an extended version that restores a Jamie Lee Curtis flashback. Other extras include an audio commentary by Richter, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes documentary, trailer, jet car FX trailer, subtitle track featuring Pinky Carruthers' Unknown Facts, archives from the Banzai Institute, Banzai Radio segment and stills gallery. NNN