Blue Velvet: special edition (1986, MGM/UA) dir. David Lynch w/ Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini. Rating: NNNNN
David Lynch's 1986 masterpiece, the most eccentric erotic thriller ever, gets a new transfer and some extras in this special edition. The transfer, supervised by Lynch, is the selling point.
It's a marked improvement over the original, bare-bones DVD issue. The reds and blues really sizzle, and the 5.1 Dolby remix of the soundtrack has much greater clarity and detail. What's missing, of course, is a commentary track. Lynch doesn't do them, and given his dislike of resolution and closure, they're antithetical to his artistic intent. There is, however, an excellent making-of documentary, with all the cast members, and it's very interesting to hear Isabella Rossellini's insights into the character of Dorothy.
EXTRAS: Mysteries Of Love documentary, deleted scenes, photo gallery, theatrical trailer, English, French and Spanish versions, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.
the hustler (1961, Fox) dir. Robert Rosson w/ Paul Newman, George C. Scott. Rating: NNNNN
This is the classic movie about pool, winning, losing and character. It's shot in glorious black-and-white by Eugene Shuftan in New York City, much of it in an actual pool hall, where the lights are low over the tables and the image drips with greed and cigarette smoke. Classic performances, of course -- Newman as Fast Eddie Felson, Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, and George C. Scott carrying with him a whiff of sulphur as Mephistophelean meta-hustler Bert Gordon
The print is superb, doing full justice to Shuftan's black-and-white Cinemascope compositions. Some good extras, though the commentary track is less commentary than interview with various contributors, including Newman, editor Dede Allen, the director's daughter, Carol Rosso, and critic Richard Schickel.
EXTRAS: Commentary track, making-of documentary, pool shot demonstration with trick shot expert Mike Massey, English and French dubbed versions, English and Spanish subtitles.
bad company (1972, Paramount) dir. Robert Benton w/ Jeff Bridges, Barry Brown. Rating: NNNN
will penny (1968, Paramount) dir. Tom Gries w/ Charlton Heston, Joan Hackett. Rating: NNNN
This pair of directorial debuts is part of a set of 60s and early 70s western issues from Paramount. Bad Company was Benton's first film; he was the writer of Bonnie And Clyde and a future Oscar-winner for Kramer Vs. Kramer and Places In The Heart. It's a "realistic" western about a couple of young men on the loose in the Civil War west, one dodging the draft, neither of whom is suited to the life of the outlaw. There's a great performance by a very young Bridges. Benton's idea of realism gives us a West where the sun never shines and no one can shoot worth a damn, which is a fair approach, but it's also fair to call it an anti-western.
For his debut Tom Gries got the benefit of the most painterly of western cinematographers, Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch), and Heston at his best, playing an aging saddle tramp who hooks up with a young mother (Hackett) against a gang of particularly vicious outlaws led by Donald Pleasance and Bruce Dern. Will Penny is strong on behavioural detail and period recreation, with great mood and support. It may also be Heston's finest hour as an actor, gritty and far removed from the statuesque posing of his better-known films. Paramount has added a couple of short making-of documentaries with Heston and the director's son, Jonathan, who plays the kid in the movie.
EXTRAS: Bad Company -- English subtitles. Will Penny -- making-of documentaries, English and French versions, English subtitles. Paramount has been kind enough to leave the sound alone; both films are still in mono.
rare birds (2001, Lions Gate) dir. Sturla Gunnarsson w/ William Hurt, Andy Jones. Rating: NNNN
A superb low-key Newfoundland comedy with William Hurt as a depressive restaurant owner, Codco's Andy Jones as his best friend and Molly Parker as the love interest.
Hurt keeps threatening to turn the picture into an exquisite study of his inner pain, while Jones conducts a seminar in how a supporting actor can prod a film into life. Highly recommended. The DVD's a little light on extras, but there's a good commentary track with director Gunnarsson, cinematographer Jan Kiesser and producer Janet York, with York essentially serving as an interviewer to keep Gunnarsson on track, a concept more commentaries should consider.
EXTRAS: Director commentary, production design artwork, theatrical trailer, English and Spanish subtitles.
Also this week
Monster's Ball Halle Berry's Oscar-winning performance in a racially charged drama. With a Berry-Billy Bob Thornton commentary track.
Black Hawk Down Ridley Scott's epic about American soldiers battling the city of Mogadishu.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Complete season two box set.
= Critics' Pick
NNNNN = excellent, maintains big screen impact
NNNN = very good
NNN = worth a peek
NN = Mediocre
N = Bomb
No rating indicates no screening copy