Kino Lorber Merging Its Two Acquired Streaming Services

Kino Lorber’s MHz Choice and Topic streaming services are merging into a single international series SVOD service for the United States and Canada.

The combined service will operate under the MHz Choice brand and feature European dramas and mysteries as well as Nordic noir crime and thrillers.

Kino Lorber also announced that MHz Choice has acquired the German series “Babylon Berlin” and will bring its first season to subscribers beginning in April. The fourth season, never before seen in North America, will premiere June 25. Kino Lorber already distributes “Babylon Berlin” in the transactional home entertainment market.

“Babylon Berlin” joins a catalog of classic and exclusive international series including “The Killing,” “The Bridge,” “Detective Montalbano,” “The Sea Beyond,” “Pagan Peak,” “A French Village,” “Spiral,” “Beck,” “Murder In …” and many others.

“Babylon Berlin” is co-created, written and directed by Tom Twyker, Achim von Borries, and Hendrik Handloegten and based on the novels by Volker Kutscher. Set in Berlin during the latter years of the Weimar Republic, beginning in 1929, the seriesfollows Gereon Rath (Volker Bruch), a police inspector on assignment from Cologne, who is on a clandestine mission to break up an extortion ring, and Charlotte Ritter (Liv Lisa Fries), a police clerk by day and prostitute by night, who aspires to become a police inspector.

Existing MHz Choice and Topic subscribers will transition to the new service over the next several months, with the combined libraries available to them at the current MHz Choice price of $7.99/month. The combined service, now featuring hundreds more series, will be overseen by Kino Lorber chief operating officer Martha Benyam. Lisa Schwartz, Kino Lorber’s chief revenue officer, oversees distribution and partnerships, with EVP, content strategy Lance Schwulst continuing to oversee programming and Monica Bloom, who joined Kino Lorber from Topic, continuing to serve as chief marketing officer.

Biopic on Famed Anti-Nazi Heroine Hits Blu-ray Disc, Digital Retailers Feb. 27

Kino Lorber on Feb. 27 is out with Sophie Scholl: The Final Days, about the most famous anti-Nazi heroine.

The 2005 film, which is being released on Blu-ray Disc as well as for digital rental or purchase on all major platforms, was nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Language Film.

Director Marc Rothemund used long-buried historical records of her incarceration to recreate the last six days of Sophie Scholl’s life, from arrest to interrogation, trial and sentence. The film, which stars Julia Jentsch (The Edukators) as the young coed-turned-fearless activist, has been newly remastered in 4K by X-Verleih in Berlin.

Bonus features include a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and historical interviews with Scholl’s relatives and associates.

‘Fear and Desire,’ Stanley Kubrick’s First Feature Film, Due on Blu-ray Disc Feb. 27

Kino Lorber on Feb. 27 will release on disc the 1953 existential drama Fear and Desire, the first feature film by legendary director Stanley Kubrick.

The film, directed by Kubrick when he was just 23 years old, will be available in its original 70-minute form, as well as a 62-minute theatrical edit, on both 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc and on regular Blu-ray Disc.

Fear and Desire follows four soldiers as they return to their senses after crash-landing in a forest behind enemy lines. Blindly navigating their way back to their unit, they attack an isolated cabin occupied by enemy soldiers, then apprehend a peasant woman who is tormented by the deranged young soldier assigned to guard her. On the verge of freedom, they discover an outpost of enemy officers, and must decide whether to slip silently past or stage a violent confrontation with their doppelgängers.

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Upon the film’s initial release, Kubrick was stung by negative audience reactions and immediately decided to tone down the philosophical aspects of the film. These edits made the film less of a metaphysical experience and more of a conventional war film. For decades, this 62-minute version was all that existed of Fear and Desire, until the Library of Congress discovered a 35mm element of the original 70-minute cut, which has not been seen since its interrupted theatrical run in 1953. 

Both versions of the film are included on the triple-layered UHD100 disc, with transfers from new HDR/Dolby Vision masters from 4K restorations of the 35 mm original camera negatives.

The standard Blu-ray Disc also includes both cuts of Fear and Desire from 4K restorations of the 35mm camera negatives on a dual-layered BD50 disc.

Bonus features include new audio commentaries from film historians Eddy Von Mueller (on the 70-minute cut) and Gary Gerani (on the 62-minute cut), along with three Kubrick shorts, Flying Padre, Day of the Fight and The Seafarers.

Kino Lorber Preps 4K UHD Blu-ray Edition of ‘The Last Castle,’ with Robert Redford

The action-thriller The Last Castle is the next major studio theatrical feature film to be released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

The 2001 Paramount Pictures film, a theatrical disappointment ($27 million box office) despite the star power of Robert Redford, James Gandolfini, Mark Ruffalo, and Robin Wright, will be released Feb. 20 in a combo pack as part of Kino Lorber’s Studio Classics line.

The film, directed by Rod Lurie, has Redford portraying Gen. Eugene Irwin, whose service to his country made him a hero — and one mistake, a prisoner.  He’s serving a 10-year sentence in a maximum security military prison for sending his troops on a mission in Burundi against a presidential order, leading to eight soldiers’ deaths. While serving out his sentence, Irwin makes the shocking discovery that his fellow inmates are being murdered. He unites the inmates in a desperate battle to overcome a brutally corrupt system and show the world the truth.

The film comes to 4K Ultra HD from a new HDR/Dolby Vision master from a 4K scan of the 35 mm original camera negative. It is being released on a triple-layered UHD100 disc with 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 audio.

The release includes a Blu-ray Disc that also was made from a new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative. The disc, on a dual-layered BD50 disc with 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 audio.

Both discs include a new audio commentary from director Lurie. The Blu-ray Disc edition also includes various previously released extras, including nine deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer, a discussion of the alternate ending, an HBO First Look featurette titled “Inside the Walls of The Last Castle,” and a second featurette with Lurie on the making of the film.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days

BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:

Street Date 2/27/24;
Kino Lorber/Zeitgeist;
Drama;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
In German with English subtitles.
Stars Julia Jentsch, Alexander Held, Fabian Hinrichs.

During a six-day period in February 1943, Sophie Scholl, her brother Hans, and a friend named Christoph Probst were arrested, tried, convicted and executed for their role in distributing a series of six leaflets criticizing Adolf Hitler’s ability to win World War II.

Nazi Germany had just suffered a bitter defeat in its invasion of Russia, and a student movement calling itself The White Rose formed in Munich to advocate peace and resistance, ideals the Nazis would not tolerate.

The centerpiece of Sophie Scholl, an Oscar nominee for best foreign language film of 2005, consists of the riveting interrogation of Sophie by Inspector Mohr, who encourages her to claim a lesser role in the sedition so as to avoid the harshest of penalties. But Sophie is adamant she be treated the same as her brother.

Sophie takes Mohr to task for rumors of Nazi exterminations. Mohr seems surprised by these accusations, and he seems to sympathize with Sophie, but remains committed to the letter of the law.

The subsequent trial of Sophie, Hans and Probst is a farce, presided over by Judge Freisler, who acts more like an interrogator, spouting propaganda in open court as a means of presenting evidence.

The film is filled with moments of great sadness, knowing the Allied advances will be too late to help these people. Seeing the methodical terror displayed by the Nazis in adhering to their justice code, even against their own citizenry, is chilling.

Julia Jentsch is terrific as Sophie, displaying fear while maintaining a brave front. Her devotion to God and loyalty to her ideals are presented as her biggest strengths, in sharp contrast to her Nazi captors. Sophie and Hans exhibit great courage for sticking to their beliefs. Men like Mohr and Freisler are presented as the real cowards, unwilling to stand up against Nazi atrocities or tolerate those who might disagree with them.

In the most powerful scene of the film, Sophie boldly predicts the Nazis soon will find themselves on trial. It’s a strong indictment — a regime that cannot stand against contrary opinion does not deserve to remain in power in the first place.

Sophie Scholl: The Final Days arrives on Blu-ray Disc sporting a solid new 4K restoration, and comes with legacy extras such as the featurette “The Making of Sophie Scholl,” deleted scenes, and historical interviews about the real-life subjects of the film.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Documentary Coming to Blu-ray Disc on Feb. 20

Kino Lorber on Feb. 20 will release on Blu-ray Disc King: A Filmed Record …Montgomery to Memphis, a 1970 documentary on the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The film, directed by Sidney Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz, was constructed from a wealth of archival footage that follows King from 1955 to 1968 in his rise from regional activist to world-renowned leader of the Civil Rights movement. Rare footage of King’s speeches, protests, and arrests are interspersed with scenes of other high-profile supporters and opponents of the cause, punctuated by testimonials by some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

King: A Filmed Record … Montgomery to Memphis was selected to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1999.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray Disc release including two trailers featuing Harry Belafonte. 

The film also is available digitally for rent or purchase at KinoNow and Vudu.

The Hell With Heroes

BLU-RAY DISC REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Drama;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Rod Taylor, Claudia Cardinale, Harry Guardino, Kevin McCarthy, Pete Duel, William Marshall, Don Knight, Wilhelm von Homburg, Tanya Lemani, Sid Haig.

The mid-’60s saw the last gasp of top-flight Hollywood aviation pictures. Released in a one-year period, Fate is the Hunter (1964), The Carpetbaggers (1964) and Flight of the Phoenix (1965) mounted dynamic, diversely voiced lessons in aerodynamic storytelling. Universal Studios, always a firm believer in the power of the small screen, was the first major studio to produce a movie made entirely for television (See How They Run aired in 1964). It was Universal that unleashed Airport, the grandpappy of modern-day disaster films. Short of boasting a “Special Guest Star” title card, the “shoot now, figure it out later” opening credits of 1968’s The Hell With Heroes suggest network drama. Orange Jell-O tinged flashbacks that appear throughout the picture are intercut with random shots plucked from the finished feature, not designed with a title sequence in mind.

Set in production designer Alexander Golitzen’s sumptuously imagined backlot Africa — the closest the cast and crew got to Oran was Ventura County — our story takes place not long after the armistice and a few short years before decolonization. While not whiling away their days drinking beer and listening to the Mediterranean lap up against a shore peppered with Czech hedgehogs, a pair of WWII combat survivors, Brynie MacKay (Rod Taylor) and Mike Brewer (Peter Duel), turn their skills acquired while in the service of the Army Air Forces to work as president (MacKay) and vice president (Brewer) of North African Air Freight. A single-plane business, the flyboys land just enough work to stay in good with the local barkeep, played with velvet-voiced savoir faire by William Marshall. When in Casablanca, everybody came to Rick’s. When these Heroes assembled, it was in the name of “courage, sex, and corruption!” 

With a decade of television work to his credit, director Joseph Sargent earned his big-screen nod. (Two episodes of “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” strung together for theatrical exhibition do not a feature debut make.) Though his television output far outweighed the theatrical offerings, Sergeant earned an honored spot in my Blu-ray vault with the most under-valued action-thriller the ’70s had to offer, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1973). Sargent approaches his unveiling as though he has something to prove. Jump cuts usher in new scenes, while Bud Thackery’s restless camera seldom lites — one can count on two hands the number of static shots.

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Rod Taylor owed the studio a picture and he was forced to work cheap. Hitchcock, Tashlin, Antonioni, Ford and Disney all thought highly enough of his charm and polish to offer choice roles in their pictures. He’s allowed a range of emotion that Hitchcock or Antonioni might otherwise have discouraged. His big breakdown is so touching and intimate you’ll want to give the man his privacy. As internationally reviled black marketeer Lee Harris, Harry Guardino appears to be channeling Telly Savalas at his most piggish, baby. Visit the Rod Taylor website to learn more about Guardino’s shameless on-set behavior. Maybe he wasn’t acting. Rounding out the cast, and essential to the period, was the addition of an internationally renowned sex symbol to make the box office sizzle. As Guardino’s moll-for-hire, Claudia Cardinale gave her fans the Bond girl pf their dreams.

Taylor and the vulnerable, exceedingly likable Duel were a perfectly mismatched pair. After a string of memorable bit roles and the success of ABC’s “Alias Smith and Jones,” Duel’s star was at last on the rise. Within three years of the film’s release, the 31-year-old actor died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Not to end on a bringdown, but unless I’m mistaken, this marks The Hell With Heroes’ introduction to home video. (Pan-and-scan bootlegs by eBay sharks don’t count!) Special features include a spruced up 2K trailer and new audio commentary by filmmaker/historian Steve Mitchell and author Steven Jay Rubin.

 

The Road to Hong Kong

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Comedy;
$24.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Joan Collins, Dorothy Lamour, Robbery Morley, Walter Gotell, Felix Aylmer, David Niven, Peter Sellers, Jerry Colonna, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra.

By now, the formula behind Bob Hope and Bing Crosby “Road To” pictures called for the action to kick off on a vaudeville stage with the boys singing and hoofing their way through a contemptuously choreographed introductory tune — “Goodtime Charlie” opened Road to Utopia, “We’re on Our Way” intro’d Road to Rio, “Chicago Style” began Road to Bali. The Road to Hong Kong in 1962 was paved with Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn’s toe-tapping “Team Work.” It wouldn’t hurt to point out some of the similarities between this and the 007 series that would reach American screens the following spring. Designed as a revival for the overripe comedy team, the story of a madman plotting to gain world dominance shared uncanny overtones with Dr. No and many secret agent films to follow. In this instance, the fate of the world dangled by a screenplay so thin only Hope and Crosby could support it.

Credit visual designer Maurice Binder with the opening credit array of chopsticks, Chinese dragons, and fortune cookie fonts. The last of Hope and Crosby’s 7 “Road To” vehicles, and the only one to begin with “The,” the United Artists release, produced at London’s Shepperton’s Studio, was the sole installment not to come out of Paramount’s Bronson Gate. The studio was magnanimous enough to allow Binder use of the six previous titles for his intro. His subsequent contributions to the Bond pictures are legendary. Binder’s sophisticated title sequences began with Dr. No and continued to the time of his death in 1989 with Licence to Kill. Hope would follow this up two pictures later with Call Me Bwana. Produced by Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, it was the only non-Bond Eon Production of its period. And years before the world was introduced to Pussy Galore, Bob was being wooed by Poon Soon.

Were it up to Bing, “Road” staple Dorothy Lamour wouldn’t have made the trip. Crosby was pushing 60 at the time and wanted a young chippie to help make it feel realistic for his character. Joan Collins was half his age, but Bing and Bob were guaranteed plenty of exercise between takes by playing catch with the two footballs hidden in the actresses’ spacious bouffant wigging. It was Hope who remained loyal to their old co-star by insisting they include a lengthy bit and musical number for her. The picture takes a turn for the surreal the moment Lamour (as “Herself”) appears onscreen draped in a trademark sarong. It’s Lamour who gets the biggest laugh when a weasley Hope pleads for her help with, “You can’t forget all those pictures we made together.” “Neither can anyone else,” she fires back. “That’s why I’m working over here.” The dozens of live fish Bing previously dumped down Bob’s back reappear to delight during Lamour’s showstopper.

Written by Melvin Frank and directed by his frequent collaborator Norman Panama, it’s safe to say that as filmmakers, the duo were great gag writers endowed with a license to steal. The fast-motion gag with Bob and Bing being fed by a machine gone amuck was a direct lift from Chaplin’s Modern Times. And Bob’s sudden ability to memorize the formula for top secret rocket fuel at a rate that would make Evelyn Wood dizzy is a direct descendant of Malcolm Smith, Jerry Lewis’ character in Frank Tashlin’s Hollywood or Bust who inexplicably, and with no provocation, spouts military secrets in his sleep.

So why the need for a new Kino Lorber Studio Classics pressing when there’s already an Olive Blu-ray edition of similar quality and equally priced? Why else than the hilarious commentary track by historian Stan Taffel and the Dean of Film Distribution, Michael Schlesinger.

1981 Horror Classic ‘The Boogens’ Gets 4K Treatment Jan. 30 From Kino Lorber

The 1981 horror classic The Boogens is next up for a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber.

The film, about otherworldly creatures that inhabit the bootleg tunnels underneath a small mining town and threaten to kill any of the townsfolk who invade their turf, will be issued in a combo pack with a regular Blu-ray Disc on Jan. 30.

The film is set in a small town near Denver, where two young men begin to explore a long-abandoned old mine recently reopened by a group of miners. When one of the men is discovered missing, his friends begin a search that leads them to horrifying consequences. They are all unaware of the evil that has been unleashed and soon, one by one, the townspeople are snatched up by a monster that no one has yet to see. Suddenly, the grisly truth is revealed, and a young couple is forced to confront the unknown in order to save their lives — and the entire town.

The Boogens was directed by James L. Conway (The Lincoln Conspiracy, Hangar 18) and stars Rebecca Balding, Fred McCarren, Anne-Marie Martin, Jeff Harlan, John Crawford, Med Flory, Jon Lormer and Scott Wilkinson.

The 4K edition is made from a new HDR/Dolby Vision master from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, and is being released on a triple-layered UHD100 disc with 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 audio. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by actor Jeff Harlan and film historian Howard S. Berger as well as a previously issued (in 2012) audio commentary with director Conway, writer David O’Malley, and actress Balding.

The Blu-ray Disc also comes from a new HD master from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, and is being released on a dual-layered BD50 disc with 5.1 Surround and Lossless 2.0 audio. The disc has the same bonus features as the 4K version, as well as a featurette on The Boogens creature designer William Munns, the original theatrical trailer, and two TV spots.

Hal Ashby-Helmed Vietnam War Drama ‘Coming Home’ Heads to Blu-ray Disc Jan. 16

Kino Lorber on Jan. 16 will release on Blu-ray Disc Coming Home, the Hal Ashby-directed drama about the shattering aftermath of the Vietnam War.

The 1978 film stars Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern, Penelope Milford, Robert Carradine, Robert Ginty, Mary Gregory, and Kathleen Miller.

Coming Home earned eight Academy Award nominations and won three for Best Actress (Fonda), Actor (Voight) and Original Screenplay. When Marine Capt. Bob Hyde (Dern) leaves for Vietnam, his wife Sally (Fonda) volunteers at a local hospital. There, she meets Luke Martin (Voight), a former sergeant whose war injury has left him a paraplegic. Embittered with rage and filled with frustration, Luke finds new hope and confidence through his growing intimacy with Sally. The relationship transforms Sally’s feeling about life, love and the horrors of war. And when, wounded and disillusioned, Sally’s husband returns home, all three must grapple with the full impact of a brutal distant war that has changed their lives forever.

Bonus features include audio commentaries by actors Voight and Dern with cinematographer Haskel Wexler; the featurettes “Coming Back Home” and “Hal Ashby – A Man Out of Time”; and the original theatrical trailer.