Kino Lorber’s January Home Release Slate Includes Spaghetti Westerns, British Noir and Vintage Sci-Fi

Kino Lorber has set home release dates for its January 2020 slate of classic movies. The 19-movie slate begins rolling out Jan. 7 with the following eight releases:

  • The Hellbenders (Special Edition) – Released in a new 4K restoration, this 1967 “spaghetti” Western from famed Italian director Sergio Corbucci follows the patriarch of a family of ex-Confederate killers who, in order to finance an invasion of the North, massacre a Union Army convoy carrying a large shipment of money. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox and the theatrical trailer. The film will be available at a suggested retail price of $19.95 on DVD and $29.95 on Blu-ray Disc.
  • Kill Them All and Come Back Alone – Another new 4K restoration, this 1968 spaghetti Western from director Enzo G. Castellari revolves around a mercenary who leads a squad of cutthroats on a mission for the Confederate high command to infiltrate an enemy fortress and steal millions in gold from the Union Army. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox, both the English and Italian cuts, and the theatrical trailer. The film will be available at a suggested retail price of $19.95 on DVD and $29.95 on Blu-ray Disc.
  • The Specialists – Another spaghetti Western from Corbucci, this 1969 classic is centered around a notorious gunfighter who is looking for revenge after traveling to a town called Blackstone, where his brother was wrongfully accused of robbing a bank and lynched for it. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by filmmaker Alex Cox, both French and Italian audio with optional English subtitles, and the theatrical trailer. It will be available on DVD for $19.95 and Blu-ray Disc for $29.95.
  • Brick (Special Edition) – A 2005 thriller from director Rian Johnson, this film follows the story of a high school loner. The girl he loves turns up dead, and when he tries to find out why he gets plunged into the girl’s dark and dangerous social strata. Bonus features will include the brand-new 4K restoration, eight deleted and extended scenes, the short documentary “The Inside Track: Casting the Roles of Laura and Dode,” the theatrical trailer, and audio commentary by writer-director Rian Johnson, actors Nora Zehetner and Noah Segan, producer Ram Bergman, production designer Jodie Tillen, and costume designer Michele Posch. The film is being released on Blu-ray Disc only at a suggested retail price of $29.95.
  • Dr. Cyclops (Special Edition) – This 1940 science-fiction classic, directed by Ernest Schoedsack and Merian Cooper (King Kong), follows the story of a brilliant but deranged physicist who learns how to shrink his enemies to one-fifth their normal size. When four explorers discover that his mind has been warped by radiation and decide to send him to civilization for help, Dr. Cyclops makes use of his experimental body-shrinking device. This brand-new 4K master edition also comes with audio commentary by film historian Richard Harland Smith, “Trailers From Hell” with Jesús Treviño, and the theatrical trailer. Released on a dual-layer BD50 Blu-ray Disc, the film carries a suggested retail price of $29.95.
  • Cobra Woman (Special Edition) – Robert Siodmak, director of Phantom Lady, The Spiral Staircase, The Killers, and the Crimson Pirate, directed this 1944 adventure film that follows a man who discovers his fiancée has been kidnapped by a lost tribe. He and his friend set out across the seas to find her, and soon after discover that the island paradise where she is being held captive is ruled by the Cobra Woman, who commands newcomers be killed on arrival. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by film historian Philipa Berry, optional English subtitles, and the theatrical trailer. The film also is being released on a dual-layer BD50 disc priced at $19.95.
  • The Slasher –  Directed by Lewis Gilbert, this 1953 noir follows the story of a gang of teenage delinquents who make money by mugging women on the streets of London. It proves to be quite lucrative until the police catch up with them, and they are offered lenient sentences on the condition that they join a youth club and reform their ways. The film will be available on Blu-ray Disc only at $19.95.
  • British Noir: Five Film Collection II – This five-film collection assembles some of the lesser-known Brit Noir titles from various British studios, featuring such major talents as actors John Mills, Joan Collins, Valerie Hobson, Dennis Price and Sean Connery; and directors Lewis Gilbert, Gerald Thomas and Don Chaffey. The set includes The Interrupted Journey (1949), Cosh Boy (1953), Time is My Enemy (1954), Time Lock (1957) and The Vicious Circle (1957). The DVD-only set lists for $49.95.

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Coming Jan. 14 are House by the River (Special Edition), a 1950 feature directed by Fritz Lang about a Victorian ne’er-do-well who accidentally murders his wife’s housekeeper; Room at the Top (Special Edition), a 1959 British drama that won two Academy Awards for Best Actress and Adapted Screenplay; The Whisperers, a 1967 thriller from Bryan Forbes, the writer-director of The Stepford Wives, about an elderly woman who becomes increasingly ensnared by her own world of delusion and exploited by the world of morally corrupt people; The Great McGinty (Special Edition) and The Good Fairy (Special Edition), a pair of comedies from Preston Sturges, the legendary writer-director of Christmas in July, The Lady Eve, The Palm Beach Story and Unfaithfully Yours; and Just Visiting (Special Edition), a 2001 French-American remake of the 1993 French comedy Les Visiteurs that stars Jean Reno, Christina Applegate, Christian Clavier, Malcolm McDowell, Tara Reid, and Bridgette Wilson in a fantasy about a medieval knight and his serf who travel to 21st-century Chicago, meeting the knight’s descendant.

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Rounding out Kino’s January 2020 slate are five more releases arriving in stores on Jan. 21: Semi-Tough, a 1977 romantic sports comedy, from Michael Ritchie, about a three-way friendship between two free-spirited professional football players and the team owner’s daughter; High-Ballin’, a 1978 highway adventure with Peter Fonda, Jerry Reed and Helen Shaver as three angry independents who are set to take on a vicious gang of hijackers; Tobruk (Special Edition), a 1967 World War II blockbuster from Arthur Hiller, the director of Love Story, that stars Rock Hudson and George Peppard as the leaders of a commando group on a desperate mission to raid the enemy’s fuel bunkers; Ulzana’s Raid, a 1972 Western from Robert Aldrich, the director of The Dirty Dozen, The Grissom Gang, The Killing of Sister George and The Longest Yard; and The War Lord (Special Edition), a 1965 adventure film, set in the 11th century, from Franklin J. Schaffner, the acclaimed director of Planet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon and The Boys from Brazil.

 

 

The Woman in the Window

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street 6/19/18;
Kino Lorber;
Mystery;
$19.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated
.
Stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, Raymond Massey.

As with a lot of fellow nitpickers whose starting position should be that we’re still talking about a very good movie, Fritz Lang’s The Woman in the Window from 1944 has always been problematic because it has one of the shakier wrap-ups of the big-screen ’40s — though hardly the shake-i-est because there’s always Robert Siodmak’s The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry from the following year. Let’s continue hoping that all the yahoos who instigated creaky censorship boards of the day have been moaning in pain half-a-century or more Waaaaaay Down South where the fires burn, watching the hundred most impoverished PRC releases on a loop.

Fritz Lang directed Window from a Nunnally Johnson script to launch that period in the mid-’40s when the former briefly enjoyed commercial success after immediate follow-ups Ministry of Fear and Scarlet Street also proved popular. (And before The Secret Beyond the Door — also with Window/Street’s Joan Bennett — materialized in 1947 to turn any money-related magic touch back into a pumpkin. In one of his greatest career years (1944), Window also gave the now freelancing Edward G. Robinson (post-Warner) a role worthy of capping his memorably dynamic insurance sleuth in Double Indemnity from a few months earlier. In contrast, the married assistant professor Robinson plays here isn’t dynamic at all but notably meek — albeit one who turns uncharacteristically daring once his life turns messy after meeting the title subject on the street (she’s been the model in a conspicuous storefront painting that has captured his imagination).

Though what really makes Bennett tick is one of the movie’s more intriguing questions, she definitely isn’t a dangerous femme fatale in the usual noir sense (that would be Scarlet Street). And as for what she and Robinson are doing before an out-of-the-blue violent act that substantially alters the film’s direction … well, it’s kind of foolhardy for a man in Robinson’s situation to be on the scene at all but necessarily over the line.

This “situation” includes a wife and two children who are away on a trip, an absence that brings to mind a more serious take on this hook, courtesy of The 7-Year Itch. Before you go “uh, huh,” one should note that this family unit is reasonably harmonious in an un-stimulating way — and that the wife is by no means the disagreeable sort who’d automatically destroy anyone’s quality of life by walking into the room. For one of those, see the crone Charles Laughton is married to in Siodmak’s splendid The Suspect from the same year.

Window is full of potential spoiler minefields, though I gotta say that it was a movie that had been substantially written about even when I was a kid. So let’s merely set the table by noting that Bennett turns out to be a lonely and insecure kept woman with fleeting flashes of confidence; that Robinson gets in deep; and that one of Robinson’s men’s club cronies is a well-cast Raymond Massey as a snooping D.A. who, for fun, is taking Robinson on his investigations to help solve a crime the former knows all too well about.

There’s also Dan Duryea’s terrific show-up late in the picture to make such a strong impression that I (all well as bonus-commentary contributor Imogen Sara Smith) am always surprised to be reminded that his part isn’t bigger. Though Duryea had been quite memorable recreating his stage role three years earlier in the Goldwyn-Wyler film version of Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes, this in reality was his breakthrough screen role, paving the way for the Lang-Robinson-Bennett-Duryea reunion in Scarlet Street, a movie I like even more.

Historian Smith’s voiceover is tight and well thought-out, offering the expected bios of the key actors and personnel but also giving weight to alternative interpretations of key events in ways that soften the negative impact of the weak wrap-up. Among other things, they make us wonder if the movie can’t be just as easily seen as an exploration of what makes men’s roving minds tick when they’re jawboning at a men’s club (who the hell would want to go to a men’s club, anyway?) — though, OK, tons-o-fun relationships between senior marrieds likely didn’t offer that many socially normalized alternatives at the time this movie was set. Robison wasn’t likely to be asking the Mrs. to go running with him.

Whatever the interpretation, events are all photographed and constricted in superb Lang style, though aside from some newsreel satire and one bullseye replication in one scene of what old radio commercials sounded like, Lang was never going to be mistaken for Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield. I remember Jonathan Demme once telling me in an interview that it was actually Brian De Palma who came up with the idea to open Married to the Mob with Rosemary Clooney’s recording of Mambo Italiano — quickly noting that one didn’t usually go to De Palma for comical music advice. Not dissimilarly, you don’t watch Lang movies for knee-slapping fun (though the last particular bonus always gave Hitchcock an extra boost), but he could really immerse you in a sinister world.

In keeping with this, Smith offers up some of the stories about Lang’s tyrannical moods and mistreatment of actors (especially minor ones); though Bennett and others would continue working with him, these were not “loose” sets. Maybe this explains how it came to be that Sylvia Sidney wrapped her long career by working with Tim Burton, the second time against a Slim Whitman soundtrack.

Kino’s Blu-ray isn’t up to the impossibly high standards of the French release of Siodmak’s Criss Cross, but neither does it suggest the difference between Grace Kelly and Maria Ouspenskaya in terms of cosmetics and, in this case, delineation of shadow and light. It’s certainly the best presentation of this independent production (originally distributed by RKO) that I’ve ever seen and another example of Blu-ray turning me into a Milton Krasner fan when I didn’t know I was. With me, he’s almost getting to be another Joe MacDonald when it comes to consolidating credits that I didn’t realize were all his — as in, he “shot that, and that … and THAT?!!!”

Mike’s Picks: ‘Up in Smoke’ and ‘The Woman in the Window’

While the City Sleeps

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Available via Warner Archive;
Warner;
Drama;
$21.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Dana Andrews, Rhonda Fleming, Ida Lupino, George Sanders, Vincent Price, John Barrymore Jr.

Fritz Lang’s While the City Sleeps was the first movie I ever saw by a director in Andrew Sarris’ Pantheon who wasn’t named John Ford or Alfred Hitchcock, though Lang was getting along by 1956, and in fact made only one subsequent American movie. That would be the same year’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, which Warner Archive is concurrently releasing on Blu-ray as well — though I’ve never liked it as much as Sleeps by a long shot, even if it’s much preferable to the somewhat refashioned Michael Douglas-Amber Tamblyn remake that deservedly went direct to video. Out of a cannon.

I first caught the Sleeps trailer right after I’d turned 9 and knew that this was a movie for me: A greasy serial killer (John Barrymore Jr.) strangles women in their New York apartments and leaves taunting clues after his crime, the most revealing of which is his writing of “Ask Mother” on the wall of the first victim we see. Because I was visiting my grandparents at the time, it was easier to feign it 400 Blows or Day for Night flashback style that I was running off to catch a kiddie matinee — when, in fact, the bill was Sleeps and a British RKO ‘B’ (The Brain Machine), which also looked and sounded essential formative years material.

Sleep was a new kind of movie for me, and after this, Disney kids’ stuff like, say, The Littlest Outlaw just wasn’t going to cut it. Lang’s wall-to-wall tawdriness also served as my first newspaper movie, pretty sure — and even more of one than it was a serial killer melodrama because there’s still 15 or so minutes of narrative to go after the killer is caught. As my first look at big-city journalism (aside from watching Walter Winchell bark on TV), I was impressed by how much everyone in the picture drank. There’s even a drunk scene here by real-life alcoholic lead Dana Andrews to compound the 80-proof ambience, though this is subtext I wouldn’t have appreciated at the time.

Even at a reasonable 99 minutes, Sleeps gets ground down by a clunky boilerplate romance between Pulitzer-winning print newshound/TV commentator Andrews and co-worker Sally Forrest — though it isn’t exactly without interest that he basically would end up using his pert girlfriend as bait for the killer. But at its best, this is a fitfully entertaining portrayal of corporate backstabbing in the kind of burgeoning media complex that gets bonus points for anticipating today’s conglomerates — one of multiple components that made Lang’s cheapie with name (sometimes fading-name) cast a little ahead of it time.

Another of these is the narrative’s prevailing luridness despite a screenplay by the normally tasteful Casey Robinson (here adapting a Charles Einstein novel) — with blatant adultery, imbibings and mildly graphic killings that would be far more common just a couple years later on screen yet here results in a surprisingly randy movie for 1956. Another is its grabber of an extended pre-credits sequence, which was something still fairly rare in the days when Robert Aldrich (whose early films almost always had them) had only a handful of big-screen credits to his name. There’s also a mild hint that broadcast news might be the division that inherited the Earth when it came to journalistic corporate bucks. And though it opened in May 1956 — in the same five-day period that also saw the launches of The Searchers and The Man Who Knew Too Much; you think movies are better today? — someone here was topically savvy enough to make Barrymore’s hood-ish killer resemble Elvis (though Gene Vincent would be an even closer comparison).

So here’s the deal. When the conglomerate’s aged founder dies — his makeshift hospital bed is actually in the office just yards from reporters’ typewriters and Andrews’ broadcast studio — his useless son (Vincent Price, perfect casting) has to take a few hours away from his polo ponies and actually try to run the joint. His solution is to create a new top-dog position and set up a cutthroat competition to get it; the candidates are an old-school print type played by Thomas Mitchell with more ink in his veins than even the internal booze that flowed through his tributaries in Stagecoach); wire service chief George Sanders; and photographer James Craig, who gets kind of sweaty every time he sees Rhonda Fleming (so did my dad). She plays Price’s wife, and it turns out the two are having an affair, even though Craig and Price are nominal buddies. It doesn’t on the face of it sound like a durable long-term strategy with which to land the gig.

Less of a factor here in these machinations is Andrews, who’s more preoccupied with catching the killer with the aid of an old cop buddy (Howard Duff) and also getting Forrest into the sack — the latter a tough order in ’50s Hollywood (the movie wasn’t that advanced). This situation is a point of consternation with Ida Lupino (she plays what newspaper pics used to call a “sob sister’), who comes off as not just enamored with Andrews but so man-hungry that you can almost imagine her taking up with Barrymore were he something more than a drugstore delivery boy who lives at home with … well, mother.

Too many of the scenes are flat, and the office settings are closer to Ed Wood than Trump Enterprises in their drabness, but every once in a while Lang comes up with a shot or full scene that crackles. The opening set-up is very punchy, and there’s a visual that I never forgot from my childhood: Fleming doing stretching exercises behind an opaque portable barrier that suggests a nude state — and then continuing the process while standing in a circle of sand that’s a) either supposed to give her bare feet the feel of the beach; or b) serve as a practice sand trap for Price’s indoor golf putting (you sense that out on the links, most of his Titleists likely end up in one).

The printing source here seems uneven, which means that Sleeps in high-def isn’t as snappy-looking as other Warner Archive Blu-rays, though it’s at minimum a cut above the old Image laserdisc, Warner DVD and even (if memory serves) a 35mm print I ran at the AFI Theater. To compound the casting amusements here, Barrymore’s not quite doddering mother (who dressed him as a girl during childhood) is played by D.W. Griffith star Mae Marsh, who had a long post-silent career in small roles for John Ford (a lot) and others. The segue from The Birth of a Nation to being cast as the mother of a psychopathic Elvis knockoff in the ’50s isn’t one I’d have predicted — but then, who would have anticipated Sylvia Sidney ending up with Tim Burton for Beetlejuice and Mars Attacks!, ack! ack!?

Mike’s Picks: ‘While the City Sleeps’ and ‘Don’t Bother to Knock’