The train [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A Nazi-led train full of stolen art becomes the target of the resistance.
Why see it John Frankenheimer’s tense thriller is a beautiful story set towards the end of World War II. The Nazis are trying to steal centuries’ worth of art, but they make the mistake of choosing a meek civil servant (Burt Lancaster) so as not to know he is part of the resistance. What follows is an exciting ride, an elaborate trick and an epic train action that would be performed with CG today. Kino’s new Blu looks fantastic and the extras include a comment from Frankenheimer.
[Extras: Commentaries, booklet]
The black Gestapo [Code Red]
What is it? A black neighborhood guard takes on the mob.
Why see it Look, I have a wide variety of films, and while I love and celebrate critically acclaimed cinema, I get dizzy for genre dishes too. This piece of over-the-top blaxploitation has a lot going for it, including lots of action sequences, free T&A, and some solid social commentary done with a ’70s flair. The clock splintered to accommodate a meaner, tougher faction (the title’s Gestapo), and soon the three groups were fighting for lawn, protection, and vengeance. It’s bloody and exhilarating fun with an evil side, and while the blood is overly bright, the fights are well-crafted.
[Extras: 2K master, interviews, commentary]
Love and monsters
What is it? A young man risks the death of a monster in search of love.
Why see it 2020 was the year of Brian Duffield – he wrote Underwater, he directed Spontaneous and he also wrote this fun, exciting feature for creatures. Dylan O’Brien plays a young man who survived the apocalypse to lead a lonely underground life until he goes in search of his girlfriend. The monsters are big and colorful, and come to life with sharp CG (which looks especially good in 4K UltraHD). With Jessica Henwick and Michael Rooker, the result is an incredibly fun adventure. Think of it as a coming-of-age story set during the apocalypse and you will have a great time.
[Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes]
Three films by Luis Buñuel [Criterion Collection]
What is it? Three jewels of the surrealist filmmaker’s late career.
Why see it Luis Buñuel’s filmography is a mix of the absurd and the sour, often within the same film, and while they don’t necessarily have mass appeal, there is a real uniqueness that requires attention. Criterion collects three of his films – each previously released by the label – in a box set and shows as a late career title an artist who stuck to his devastating comment until the end. The discreet charm of the bourgeoisie and The Phantom Liberty are both inescapably Buñuel, but it’s the obscure object of desire that captures both its interests and convincing presentation with a film that is as impressive as it is entertaining. This is an easy pickup for fans.
[Extras: Documentaries, interviews, featurettes, booklet]
Tintorera [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A killer shark does what it wants.
Why see it Two quick caveats about this recommendation: first, this is the R-rated cut of the film rather than the longer unrated cut, but since it’s first time on Blu-ray and in HD, it’s still a winner. And second, it’s an exploitation film from the 1970s in which the underwater carnage shows many real marine animals to varying degrees. Animal welfare wasn’t an issue here. Even so, the film is still a terribly grubby drive full of sex, violence, blood and one wonderful game, Susan George. It’s also not exactly a predictable ride that says anything for genre fare, either.
Beach red [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? War takes its toll on both sides.
Why see it Cornel Wilde was an interesting and accomplished actor who became a director and delivered genre gems like The Naked Prey (1965) and No Blade of Grass (1970). This war film fits their thematic form. It’s a humane story with an anti-war stance, but while these other films succeed as great entertainment, this one feels a little too incoherent in its style. Voice-over – almost never a good idea – is used to reveal inner thoughts, but it’s messy alongside similarly harrowing editing and camera work. Fans should check it out, but it’s far from its greatest work.
Captain Newman, MD [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? The ups and downs of a military hospital during World War II.
Why see it Gregory Peck hits the headlines for this dramatic comedy as the senior doctor looks for the soldiers’ broken minds. The brass gives him flack for grounding men without physical harm, but he fights the good fight in their defense. Tony Curtis and Eddie Albert star, and it’s a solid feature that gives the time of day for mental health problems like PTSD long before it became more traditional topics for war films.
What is it? A crafty young woman seeks revenge only to find trouble instead.
Why see it Bella Thorne has never looked for really challenging roles, but this main character sees that she is changing that with somewhat successful results. She works well enough as the determined daughter of an evil man who finds that even worse ones – including Mickey Rourke – are waiting in the wings. There’s some doubt here in scripture, but the action works well enough to entertain fans of the One Woman vs. Bad Boys cinema.
What is it? A thief tries to get clean with deadly consequences.
Why see it The annual tradition of a new Liam Neeson thriller is no longer quite what it used to be, but it still manages to have fun on its smaller diet. His latest one has its problems, from questionable scripting options to lousy CG fire, but it’s entertaining. The good-hearted thief is double-crossed by the government and forced into more crimes to prove his innocence. Just ignore the rather terrible shooting in the living room and enjoy the rest, including Kate Walsh, Jai Courtney, Jeffrey Donovan, and Robert Patrick.
What is it? A crazy racist film from 1930.
Why see it Kino and Something Weird Video continue to work bringing Forbidden Fruit to home video in restored splendor, and their newest entry is a sucker. Presented as a real documentary as early as 1930, our ancestors made them look damn gullible. It’s a mix of existing footage and sequences shot just for the movie, and it’s clear that it’s meant to be entertaining and disturbing. It’s probably unsuccessful on both counts, but out of curiosity it’s worth a watch.
[Extras: New 4K restoration, commentaries]
Rough night in Jericho [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A lawyer competes against an ex-lawyer.
Why see it George Peppard and Dean Martin play the two main roles, and while you might think they’re going to play the villain and the hero, respectively, that’s actually not the case. Martin plays the bad guy here, and when you get used to it, you realize he’s a pretty mean straight man. The film provides a solid setup-building for a final showdown between the two and is a worthwhile watch for Western fans.
Wild streets [Code Red]
What is it? A “teenager” takes revenge for attacking her sister.
Why see it This bit of ’80s exploitation has escaped me over the years as I don’t normally seek out rape / revenge movies, but I finally got around to it with this new re-release of Code Red. It’s a mean and ugly movie of assault, murder, abuse, and cruelty – but it’s also wicked fun, especially when it goes into revenge mode, as none of these high schoolers look like teenagers from a distance and the dialogue is ridiculous. It’s a woman who ends up kicking the ass, which is ideal, and that woman is mad at Linda Blair, who chews up the landscape after cutting it into ribbons. The new Blu looks great and there are lots of extras here too.
[Extras: Commentaries, interviews]
Harry Frigg’s Secret War [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A US soldier who tends to escape from prisons has the task of escaping another.
Why see it Paul Newman makes headlines for this late 1960s comedy, and he does so with a slightly different accent choice. It takes getting used to, but once you get past it the movie becomes a fun Hogan’s hero-like film about a soldier on a prisoner of war rescue mission. His first destination is a lush Italian villa, but he soon tries to rescue captured generals from a real camp. Everything is played silly, meaning the stakes don’t exist, but it’s a fun change.
Texas across the river [KL Studio Classics]
What is it? A western comedy.
Why see it A year before the western, where Dean Martin appears as the villain, he made this western comedy. He’s closer to playing his more traditional character type here, but while that works elsewhere, it’s a lost cause here. The comedy doesn’t really work – and Joey Bishop as an Indian is only part of the reason – but fans of Martin and Alain Delon will want to try it anyway. Samm Deighan’s comment is a more interesting highlight.
Also out this week:
12 hour shift, the man who would be king [Warner Archive], Yellow rose