OSS 117 2-Film Set

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Music Box;
Comedy;
$49.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.

OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (2006)
Stars Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, Aure Atika, Rchard Sammel, Philippe Lefebvre, Claude Brosset, Laurent Bateau.

OSS 117: Lost in Rio (2009)
Stars Jean Dujardin, Louise Monot, Rüdiger Vogler, Reem Kherici.

French novelist Jean Bruce earned the bragging rights to setting in motion the avalanche of Cold War espionage thrillers, based on the exploits of a suave and worldly secret agent, that dominated ’60s cinema. Office of Strategic Services agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath (OSS 117 for short) anticipated Ian Fleming’s suave OHMSS operative 007 by four years. Starting in 1953 with Casino Royale, Ian Fleming would eventually sign his name to 14 James Bond novels. At the time of his unfortunate death in a car accident, the prolific 42-year-old Bruce had published eighty-eight “OSS 117” novels. His wife Josette Bruce continued the legacy by contributing an additional 143 novels before retiring and passing the torch on to her daughter and son-in-law who cranked out an additional 23 installments. From these 251 novels a film franchise was born in 1956 that gave rise to seven features before going dormant in 1970 with the aptly titled OSS 117 Takes a Vacation. Flash forward 36 years to find producer siblings Éric and Nicolas Altmayer reenvisioning de La Bath as the dumbest brilliant secret agent ever put on film.

The duo struck parody paydirt and the first two of their reimaginings (OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies and OSS 117: Lost in Rio) have been brought to Blu-ray by Music Box films in a sparkling combo set replete with oodles of extras.

When it came time for screenwriter Jean-François Halin and director Michel Hazanavicius to give the series a satiric facelift in 2006, La Bath’s nationality stayed the same while his home base shifted to France. Clearly patterned after the Bond of Dr. No, Jean Dujardin could easily pass for Sean Connery’s kid brother, with a touch of razor-grinned, light-on-his-feet Gene Kelly thrown in for good measure. He’s Bond alright, but with a Closeau streak, bumbling without malice and in a manner destined to call attention to its own hipness. Where Eon Productions spent decades trying to soft-pedal 007’s inherent sexism, 117’s filmmakers played it for laughs, twisting problematic character traits to the point where our hero embraces misogyny as a lifestyle. A staunch colonialist, much of the humor in Lost in Rio stems from 117’s blithe refusal to acknowledge, let alone deal with his own inherent racism.

It’s a rare instance of a sequel (remake?) surpassing the original. Hazanavicius is nothing if not a master in the art of tracing. (The Artist took home an undeserved Best Picture trophy.) Nest of Spies excelled at constructing a clothesline on which to dangle every conceivable espionage stereotype. A dashingly macho secret agent, dispatched on a mission in an exotic land, behaves in a caricaturistic manner in accordance with a script that calls for the continuous shuffling and reshuffling of narrative tropes and genre conventions. Unwilling to stop until no cliché is left unturned, 117 goes head to head with turncoats, moles, bad guys, worse guys, commies, Nazis, and a cliche that hadn’t dawned on me until Dujardin mentioned it in one of the featurettes: fist fights staged in hotel rooms. Lost in Rio matches the genre recycling with a foot chase across the outstretched arms of Rio’s towering statue of Christ the Redeemer that would have made Hitchcock proud.

The star refers to his character as “a cliché but not a parody.” It’s a more polished variation on “Austin Powers” (with more credible production design). The filmmakers took a basic melodramatic scenario and played it for laughs. (I’m not so certain that there weren’t times during the making of the originals when the filmmakers tongues weren’t firmly planted in cheek.) The uncomfortable aftertaste left in one’s mouth by razor-focused satire (Real Life, CSA: Confederate States of America, Borat) is light years ahead of this affectionate brand of genteel satire that rarely scratched the surface deep enough to draw blood.

Both discs come equipped with hilarious, at times insightful audio commentary courtesy of Hazanavicius and Dujardin, featurettes, bloopers, trailers, and more.

Music Box Releasing Two ‘OSS 117’ Spy Spoofs on Blu-ray Dec. 12

Music Box Films Dec. 12 will release a Blu-ray collection of two spy-movie parodies from the “OSS 117” franchise — 2006’s Cairo, Nest of Spies and 2009’s Lost in Rio.

Both films are French productions that star Jean Dujardin and were directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Both would go on to win Oscars for 2011 Best Picture winner The Artist.

The films are based on the “OSS 117” series of novels created by author Jean Bruce in 1949, that follow the exploits of French secret agent Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath. The books were turned into a series of spy movies in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hazanavicius revived the franchise in 2006 as a spoof of the original films, with Dujardin as Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, now presented as self-important, dimwitted and politically incorrect.

In Cairo, Nest of Spies, set in 1955, de La Bath is sent to Cairo to investigate the disappearance of his best friend and fellow spy Jack Jefferson, only to stumble into a web of international intrigue. Lost in Rio, set in 1967,sees de La Bath in Brazil to retrieve a microfilm list of French Nazi sympathizers, only to once again unknowingly find himself immersed in an international plot.

The films use retro techniques and music to emulate the filmmaking style of the periods in which they are set.

The Blu-ray will include commentary on both films by Dujardin and Hazanavicius. Cairo, Nest of Spies will include a making-of featurette, deleted and alternate scenes, a blooper reel, a photo gallery and theatrical trailers. Lost in Rio includes a “Cavalcade in Rio” making-of documentary, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, the featurettes “The Jean Show: Jean Dujardin on Set” and “France Never Responds: Cast Appearances in Cinemas,” a photo gallery, and teasers and theatrical trailers.

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From Africa With Love, a third “OSS 117” film with Dujardin but not helmed by Hazanavicius, was released in 2021 but is not included in the set.

Oscar-Nominated Documentary ‘Writing With Fire’ Due on DVD April 26

The Indian feature Writing With Fire, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary, will be available on DVD April 26 from Music Box Films.

In the film, reporting from a social environment built to divide based on caste and gender, a fearless group of journalists maintain India’s only women-led news outlet. The women of Khabar Lahariya (“Waves of News”), all from the Dalit (“untouchables”) caste, prepare to transition the newspaper from print to digital even though many of their reporters don’t have access to electricity at home. Armed with smartphones, chief reporter Meera and her team of investigative journalists confront some of India’s biggest issues — exposing the relentless discrimination against women and amplifying the voices of those who suffer from the oppressive caste system.

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The film chronicles the astonishing determination of these local reporters as they empower each other and hold those responsible for injustice to account.

Bonus features include “Firemaking: The Story of Writing With Fire,” a filmmaker Q&A from the DOCNYC premiere, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

Saudi Arabia Drama ‘The Perfect Candidate’ Makes Way to DVD and VOD June 29

Saudi Arabian filmmaker Haifaa Al Mansour explores the changing roles of women in Saudi Arabia in The Perfect Candidate, which arrives on DVD and VOD June 29 from Music Box Films.

The film follows a young female doctor (Mila Alzahraniwho) who runs as her town’s first female candidate for city council after she is denied from flying to Dubai for a conference without a male guardian’s approval. She seeks help from a politically connected cousin but inadvertently registers as a candidate for the municipal election, then takes on the challenge hoping fix the muddy road in front of her clinic. However, her creative and ambitious campaign soon garners broader appeal, becoming a symbol for a larger movement.

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The Perfect Candidate is presented in Arabic with English subtitles. DVD extras include a director’s commentary, a making-of featurette, and a Cinema Cafe discussion from Sundance with Haifaa Al Mansour and Egyptian humorist Bassem Youssef.

Blu-ray Collection Focused on Making of Creature Features Due July 13

Music Box Films specialty label Doppelganger Releasing July 13 presents The Monster Collection, a three-disc Blu-ray set containing the feature-length documentaries Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters and The Frankenstein Complex.

Both films are directed by Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso.

Released in 2019, Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters examines the life and career of Phil Tippett, the Oscar and Emmy Award-winning visual effects genius whose work in creature design, stop-motion and computerized character animation has been seen in such classics as the original “Star Wars” trilogy, the “Jurassic Park” and “Twilight” franchises, and the effects powerhouses RoboCop, Dragonheart and Starship Troopers.

The Frankenstein Complex, from 2015, offers an appreciation of the greatest movie monsters in film history and the talented effects artists who have been bringing them to life for the past century. The film goes behind the scenes of such classics as King Kong, Avatar, The Lord of the Rings, An American Werewolf in London, Alien and more to talk to the filmmakers responsible, including Rick Baker, Greg Nicotero, Chris Wallas, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Verhoeven, Joe Dante, John Landis, Kevin Smith and others.

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The Blu-ray set also includes 12 hours of bonus materials, including:

  • Feature Commentary with Phil Tippett and directors Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso;
  • “Meeting the Monsters” making-of documentary;
  • Prehistoric Beast (1985), a short film by Phil Tippett with audio commentary;
  • Mutant Land (2010), a short film by Phil Tippett with audio commentary;
  • Phil Tippett Museum: A Virtual Gallery of Tippett Creations;
  • “Joy of Working With Phil,” an interview with Paul Verhoeven;
  • “Phil Will Fix This!,” an interview with Joe Johnston;
  • “Animating With Phil,” an interview with Tom St. Amand;
  • “Phil’s Vision,” an interview with Chris Walas;
  • “Friendship, Robots, and Dinosaurs,” an interview with Dennis Muren;
  • “From Stop-Motion to Computer,” an interview with Craig Hayes;
  • Memories and Archives with Phil Tippett;
  • Dinosaur Supervisor (Jurassic Park) with Phil Tippett;
  • Starship Troopers 2 with Phil Tippet and Jon Davison;
  • “Dinosaur!” with Paul Verhoeven and Jon Davison;
  • Mutant Fish (Piranha) with Joe Dante (1978);
  • “Modern Craftsmanship” with Alec Gillis-Robot Design with Craig Hayes;
  • “The Birth of a Poster” with Paul Wee;
  • “Musical Storytelling” with Alexandre Poncet;
  • Mad Dreams and Monsters Isolated Musical Score;
  • “The Frankenstein Odyssey” making-of documentary;
  • “Digital Craftmanship” post-production featurette;
  • The Frankenstein Complex Musical Score;
  • Master Class with Guillermo Del Toro;
  • An Extended Conversation with John Landis and Joe Dante;
  • An Extended Conversation with Mick Garris;
  • An Extended Conversation with Steve Johnson and John Vulich;
  • Q&A with Joe Dante, Alexandre Poncet and Gilles Penso;
  • Inside the Lair of Rick Baker;
  • Inside the Lair of Tom Woodruff and Alec Gillis;
  • “Paper Monsters: The Art of Charles Chiodo”;
  • “Living With Monsters: The Art of Kevin Yagh”;
  • “Sympathy for the Devil,” an interview with Bernard Rose;
  • “The Gremlins Pool,” an interview with Sacha Feiner;
  • “From Latex to Pixels: The Art of Gino Acevedo”;
  • “The Beauty and the Beasts: The Art of Ve Neill”;
  • Deleted and alternate scenes;
  • Photo galleries;
  • Theatrical trailers;

 

In addition, Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams and Monsters and The Frankenstein Complex will be released individually on VOD starting July 13.

‘Edie’ Due on DVD and VOD Dec. 3

Music Box Films will release the inspirational film Edie on DVD and VOD Dec. 3.

Directed by Simon Hunter, the drama earned $55,202 in limited theatrical release.

Following the death of her husband, Edie (Sheila Hancock) breaks free from years of his control and rebels against her daughter’s wish for her to move into assisted living by embarking on an adventure she and her father had always longed for: a trip to the Scottish Highlands to climb the world famous Mt. Suilven. Along the way, she hires young camping shop owner Jonny to be her guide. Despite the generational differences, Jonny (Kevin Guthrie) encourages Edie to fulfill her dream.

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The film is being supported and promoted nationally by AARP and The Red Hat Society