‘The House by the Cemetery’ Due on Blu-ray Jan. 21 From MVD

The horror film The House by the Cemetery is coming to Blu-ray Jan. 21 from MVD Entertainment Group and Blue Underground.

In the 1981 Italian shocker from “The Godfather of Gore” Lucio Fulci (Zombie), a young family moves from their cramped New York City apartment to a spacious new home in New England. But this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. Now, someone — or something — is alive in the basement, and home sweet home is about to become a horrific hell on earth.

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The film stars Catriona MacColl (The Beyond), Paolo Malco (The New York Ripper), Ania Pieroni (Tenebre), Carlo De Mejo (City of the Living Dead) and Dagmar Lassander (Hatchet for the Honeymoon).

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The 4K restoration from the original uncut and uncensored camera negative includes such special features as:

  • audio commentary with Troy Howarth, author of Splintered Visions: Lucio Fulci and His Films;
  • a deleted scene;
  • theatrical trailers;
  • a TV spot;
  • poster and still galleries;
  • “Meet the Boyles,” interviews with stars Catriona MacColl and Paolo Malco;
  • “Children of the Night,” interviews with Stars Giovanni Frezza and Silvia Collatina;
  • “Tales of Laura Gittleson, an interview with star Dagmar Lassander;
  • “My Time With Terror,” an interview with star Carlo De Mejo;
  • “A Haunted House Story,” interviews with co-writers Dardano Sacchetti and Elisa Briganti;
  • “To Build a Better Death Trap,” interviews with cinematographer Sergio Salvati, special make-up effects artist Maurizio Trani, special effects artist Gino De Rossi, and actor Giovanni De Nava;
  • “House Quake,” a new interview with co-writer Giorgio Mariuzzo;
  • a new Catriona MacColl Q&A;
  • “Calling Dr. Freudstein,” a new interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror: The Films of Lucio Fulci;
  • the soundtrack CD by Walter Rizzati;
  • and a collectable booklet with a new essay by Michael Gingold.

Slasher Film ‘Edge of the Axe,’ 1940s Noir ‘Black Angel’ Due on Blu-ray From Arrow and MVD Jan. 28

The Spanish-American slasher film Edge of the Axe and the 1940s film noir Black Angel are being released on Blu-ray from Arrow and MVD Entertainment Group Jan. 28.

From Arrow Video comes Edge of the Axe, which follows a masked killer picking off people in a small California village with — that’s right — an axe. The new 2K restoration of the cult classic (from the original camera negative) includes English and Spanish versions of the film; two new audio commentaries; a newly-filmed interview with actor Barton Faulks; “The Pain in Spain,” a newly-filmed interview with special effects and make-up artist Colin Arthur; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly-commissioned artwork by Justin Osbourn; and for the first pressing only, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Amanda Reyes.

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Due from Arrow Academy is the 1946 film noir Black Angel, which marked the final time behind the camera for prolific director Roy William Neill. In the film, after a man is convicted of murder, his wife and the victim’s ex-husband fight to prove his innocence. Hated by author Cornell Woolrich whose novel served as the source material, Black Angel nevertheless is a sleek and stylish film for genre fans. It stars Dan Duryea, June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Special features on the new restoration of the film include a video appreciation by film historian Neil Sinyard; new audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode; the original trailer; a photo gallery of original stills and promotional materials; a reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp.

German Horror Film ‘Ever After’ Available on Blu-ray From MVD

The gothic German zombie film Ever After (in German, Endzeit) is now available on Blu-ray Disc from MVD Entertainment Group.

The film, based on a Webcomic, is set in post apocalypse Europe, two years after zombies have overrun Earth, and only two citadels of civilization remain in the East German towns of Weimar and Jena. In Weimar, newly infected zombies are shot on site without mercy. The Jena authorities take a more humane approach by trying to find a cure for plague victims. Vivi and Eva, in search of a more humane world are stranded in the no-man’s land of the Black Forest where they have to rely on each other and nature in order to survive. But their survival has also unleashed demons from their past that they must confront.

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The film stars Maja Lehrer, Swantje Kohlhof, Marco Albrecht (Pandorum, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2), Trine Dyrholm (Love Is All You Need), Barbara Philipp (The Reader) and Yûho Yamashita (The Forest).

Ever After was a 2018 Official Selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, a 2019 nominee for Best Feature Film at Achtung Berlin, a 2019 Jury Prize nominee for best film at the Galacticat Fantastic & Terror Film Festival.

Bonus features include two theatrical trailers.

Historic David Susskind Martin Luther King Jr. Interview Available on DVD From MVD

The historic David Susskind Archive: Interview With Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is available on DVD from MVD Entertainment Group.

Susskind’s long and intimate interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. originally aired on June 9, 1963. Restored by the Paley Center, this broadcast has not been seen in full since its original airing. Among the subjects discussed were the current state of the American Civil Rights Movement and the then recent events in Birmingham, Ala.

On that Sunday night in June, WPIX-TV (NY) cleared this extraordinary interview between Susskind (host of “Open End”) and King. “Open End” had recently been removed from the schedule of WNEW-TV because of the station’s management reluctance to air discussions regarding race relations in America. WPIX picked up the ball, and the rest, as they say, became history.

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Susskind and King discussed the gamut of racial issues of the day, particularly King’s disappointment at the speed at which the Kennedy Administration was moving regarding Civil Rights legislation. The interview so rattled the White House that President Kennedy responded by going on national television to defend his Administration’s positions and to outline his push for what would later be the Civil and Voter’s rights Acts.

The interview was recorded two months before the civil rights leader delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

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Horror Film ‘Famine’ Served Up This Month on Blu-ray From MVD

The comic splatterfest Famine is available now on Blu-ray from MVD Entertainment Group and Unearthed Films.

The film occurs two years after a high-school prank that nearly killed popular teacher Mr. Balszack during the school’s annual famine. The graduating class of Sloppy Secondary is trying to forget the incident and decides to hold a 24-hour famine in hopes of making it an annual event again. Soon, students and staff start turning up dead at the hands of a killer masquerading as the school’s mascot.

Special features include a commentary with director Ryan Nicholson, a still gallery and trailers.

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‘A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,’ Stallone Films Due on Disc Dec. 17 From MVD Marquee Collection

The MVD Marquee Collection will get several new entries Dec. 17.

Due on Blu-ray for the first time is A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, a 2006 coming-of-age drama about writer/director Dito Montiel’s (Fighting) youth that captures the mid-1980s in the toughest neighborhood of Astoria, Queens. Dito (Robert Downey Jr.) — called home after 15 years because his father (Chazz Palminteri) is ill — encounters old friends, the ones he lost, the ones he left behind and the ones he can’t help but remember. In his bittersweet return to a neighborhood where relationships can never be what they once were, Dito must come to terms with a father’s rage and a father’s love. Also starring Dianne Wiest, Shia LaBeouf, Channing Tatum, Rosario Dawson, Melonie Diaz and Eric Roberts, the film won Best Director and Best Ensemble at the Sundance Film Festival. Special features include audio commentary by Montiel and editor Jake Pushinsky, a making-of featurette, 11 deleted scenes with option commentary by Montiel, one alternate opening and four alternate endings with optional commentary by Montiel, “Sundance Labs: Rooftop Scene” with optional commentary by Montiel, young Laurie audition played by Diane Carcando, the “Full Monty” (Montiel’s father) interview, and the original theatrical trailer.

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Due on DVD are two Sylvester Stallone double features: Eye See You/Reach Me and Avenging Angelo/Shade. In Eye See You, lead detective Jake Malloy (Stallone), being stalked by a serial killer, is asked to check into a clinic treating law enforcement officials who can’t face their jobs. The thriller from director Jim Gillespie features a supporting cast that includes Tom Berenger, Charles Dutton, Sean Patrick Flanery, Robert Patrick, Courtney B. Vance, Jeffrey Wright, Dina Meyer, Stephen Lang and Kris Kristofferson. In Reach Me, a mysterious author’s (Tom Berenger) self-help book inspires a journalist (Kevin Connolly), his editor (Stallone), a former convict (Kyra Sedgwick), a mobster (Kelsey Grammer) and others to re-evaluate their choices and work toward creating better lives. The drama from writer-director John Herzfeld features a supporting cast that includes Danny Aiello, Terry Crews, Thomas Jane, Tom Sizemore and Danny Trejo. Avenging Angelo features Stallone as Frankie Delano, a tough as nails bodyguard, protecting a mafia kingpin’s (Anthony Quinn) daughter (Madeleine Stowe) from being the next hit. In Shade, three small-time grifters devise a plan to beat the ultimate card mechanic — The Dean (Stallone) — in L.A.’s underground gambling scene.

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Shade will also be released separately on Blu-ray Dec. 17.

‘Lifeform,’ ‘Virus of the Dead’ Coming to DVD Dec. 17 From MVD

Two titles from Wild Eye Releasing, Lifeform and Virus of the Dead, are coming to DVD Dec. 17 from MVD Entertainment Group.

In Lifeform, after his wife suffers a brain trauma, a man uses experimental stem cells to bring her back to life — with deadly results as she is transformed into a shape-shifting creature. From cult movie director Max Dementor (Demon Nun, The Shriven), the film stars Chad Ackerman (Daredevil, The Sinner), Joe Amato (“30 Rock”, “Ugly Betty”) and Tatyana Kot.

In Virus of the Dead, a global viral outbreak threatens the human race, turning many into walking dead maniacs. All is all caught on camera in this multi-tale experiment featuring more than 15 segments directed by both rising stars and veterans of the horror community. The series features a segment directed by Return of the Living Dead 3 scripter John Penney, as well as horror favorites James Cullen Bressack (Bethany, If Looks Could Kill), Shane Ryan (Samurai Cop 2, Jurassic City), Timo Rose (Game Over, Barricade) and Jarrett Furst (Verotika, The Last Sharknado). The series is created by producer Tony Newton (VHS Lives, Grindsploitation, 60 Seconds to Die, Halloween Hell Night).

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Mike’s Picks: ‘The Far Country’ and ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’

The Far Country

MVD/Arrow, Western, $39.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan.
1954.
Though his infectious smile directed mostly at Walter Brennan goes a long way to defuse this perception, The Far Country surprises a little by casting James Stewart as a real hard-ass with some unattractive traits, given that his character hasn’t been personally wronged the way he is in some of the other Stewart-Anthony Mann Westerns.
Extras: Includes a substantive Philip Kemp essay (nice still photos, too); a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin; the always amusing Kim Newman on both the film and other Mann Westerns; and another documentary on Mann and Universal.
Read the Full Review

The Bells of St. Mary’s

Olive, Drama, $27.99 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers.
1945.
Olive Films’ much appreciated “Signature” upgrade of director Leo McCarey’s The Bells of St. Mary’s offers a lovely visual rendering.
Extras: Features a voiceover commentary by Bing Crosby biographer Gary Giddins, a featurette about the film at hand in relation to McCarey; an on-screen essay by Abbey Bender, and a discussion of Bells’ prequel/sequel status from effervescent Prof. Emily Carman.
Read the Full Review

 

The Far Country

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

MVD/Arrow;
Western;
$39.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars James Stewart, Ruth Roman, Corinne Calvet, Walter Brennan.

Though his infectious smile directed mostly at Walter Brennan goes a long way to defuse this perception, 1954’s The Far Country surprises a little by casting James Stewart as a real hard-ass with some unattractive traits, given that his character hasn’t been personally wronged the way he is in some of the other Stewart-Anthony Mann Westerns. To be sure, he has his cattle taken away from him by an unusually colorful John McIntire in what is more precisely a “Northern” as genres go; the setting here is Seattle-to-Alaska. But this fourth of five collaborations that co-starred horses isn’t exactly akin to, say, the team’s concluder The Man From Laramie, in which the heavies do something dreadful to Stewart’s hand that the camera flinches from showing in full (and I thank you).

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Decked out in a distinctive stovepipe hat but no Abe Lincoln, McIntire channels his inner Judge Roy Bean to riff on that real life judge, ironically played for real and to a supporting Oscar by Brennan himself 14 years earlier in William Wyler’s The Westerner. McIntire, finessing a fictional version, is also jury and even hangman of Alaskan stop-off Skagway — to say nothing of taking a hefty cut from the general store (no Costco bargains at this place) and the local saloon where owner Ruth Roman is around to provide some glamour as well. For reasons at least partly physical, Roman becomes a surprise protector of Stewart after authorities try arresting him in Seattle on someone else’s past charge — offering him concealment in her room on the boat journey up to Skagway (a scene, as one of the Blu-ray’s bonus-section commentators notes, echoes Eva Marie Saint’s future help-out to Cary Grant in North by Northwest).

She ends up on the trail with Stewart as they trek supplies to Dawson City, though he’s really interested in sneaking back to Skagway to take back his seized (by McIntire) cattle. As suggested earlier, Stewart focuses on whatever goal he has at the time to the exclusion of everything else. Breaking with parties also making the journey, he elects to take one path through snowy mountains while rejecting an alternative, not bothering to tell these settlers that taking other route is tantamount to courting an avalanche. When the others elect to follow their preferred destiny, the result is a wipe-out by boulders of snow while Stewart basically shrugs it off with a “life’s tough” attitude because it’s no icicle off his nose hairs. This is basically his approach to life on all matters.

And yet. There’s a subplot here about plans for Stewart and Brennan to have their own spread together someday, complete with a bell on a door to announce visitors who’ve wandered in 20 miles off the trail. Of the two, Brennan seems to be more of the instigator for this, though Stewart seems to go along with the scenario. But any event, this all seems in keeping with the premise of Mark Rappaport’s cheeky The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender (1997), which found coded gay subtext in everyday genre situations (think of all the Westerns where the grizzled sidekick brews coffee for the hero when they awaken in the morning down by the river). Of course, Brennan was such a notorious real-life reactionary that anyone broaching this subject really would have been asking for it. There’s nothing like having your an eye put out by a heavy flying projectile that turns out to be dentures.

For whatever reason, though, Stewart can’t seem to get all that worked up even by Roman’s smoldering availability — and especially not by a smitten tomboy played by onetime starlet Corinne Calvet, a most atypical role for the underachieving onetime Hal Wallis glamour-puss whose autobiography (Has Corinne Been a Good Girl?) is said to be one of the most salacious howlers of its genre. Actually, Calvet is not inadequate here and lot more animated than Roman — an actress who engendered the most drama during her heyday by surviving the sinking of the Andrea Doria. (I’ll reserve the right to change my mind after I see her in Warner Archive’s new Blu-ray of Jacques Tourneur’s Great Day in the Morning, a Civil War Western for which I harbor a minor sweet spot from many years back.)

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Mann peppers Country with what looks like a high school reunion of instantly identifiable Western character actors who specialized in playing affable drunks, not so affable heavies and others who also could use fresh longjohns. These would include McIntire, Jay C. Flippen, Harry Morgan, Robert Wilke, Royal Dano, Jack Elam, Chubby Johnson, Chuck Roberson, Kathleen Freeman, Connie Gilchrist and probably a few more males I’ve missed that Judy Garland wouldn’t have wanted to be on her dance card in Meet Me in St. Louis. A few of these find themselves here on the high side of their careers, and I definitely don’t think I’ve ever seen McIntire this memorable before, even if his small role as the sheriff in Psycho certainly resonates.

Country got its U.S. release in early ’55 when Hollywood was still tinkering with trying to turn non-anamorphic films into something like widescreen releases by cropping the image. Universal-International sometimes liked going with a 2.00:1 aspect ratio in those days, and Arrow’s two-disc release offers both the film as it was shot and as it played many theaters, one version on each disc. I chose to view the 2.00:1 rendering in full but thought the image somewhat “in my face” and much preferred the 1.85:1 when I re-looked at several scenes in that format. This is good (for convenience’s sake) because the 1.85:1 presentation is on the same disc as the bonus extras, which include a substantive Philip Kemp essay (nice still photos, too); a commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin; the always amusing Kim Newman on both the film and other Mann Westerns (he’s hip to the unconventionality of the Stewart-Brennan relationship); and another documentary on Mann and Universal with an A-team of Alan K. Rode, C. Courtney Joyner, Michael Preece, Rob Word and my fellow Buckeye Michael Schlesinger. Putting all these altogether, we get a pretty good explanation of the fissure over 1957’s Night Passage that destroyed the collaborative relationship forever (Stewart and Mann also did three other non-Westerns together).

Arrow seems to have gone all out here by showcasing a 4K makeover as well. The long shots look fuzzy, but the medium shots and close-ups are often striking, and fortunately, there are a lot of those. So with this release, MGM’s The Naked Spur is the only Stewart-Mann Western not yet released on Blu-ray, and I’m surprised Warner Archive hasn’t given it a go. Stewart is so good here in a role where he’s more disagreeable than he might have been that I realized that I had somewhat underrated Country, which a lot of people do. Blasphemous as its sounds, given its fan base, I’m rather amazed that I’d personally rate Bend of the River the least of the five, even though many good movie minds rate it as best of the bunch.

Mike’s Picks: ‘The Far Country’ and ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’

Rock Doc ‘Lynyrd Skynyrd — I’ll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours of Lynyrd Skynyrd’ Due on DVD Dec. 13 From MVD

The rock documentary Lynyrd Skynyrd — I’ll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours of Lynyrd Skynyrd will come out on DVD Dec. 13 from MVD Entertainment Group.

At the height of its fame in 1977, the popular southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd was struck with tragedy — a plane crash that killed the band’s founder and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant along with Steve Gaines, backup singer Cassie Gaines, assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray. I’ll Never Forget You: The Last 72 Hours of Lynyrd Skynyrd chronicles the story of three survivors: security guard Gene Odom, lead backup singer Leslie Hawkins and guitar tech Craig Reed. The survivors give their firsthand accounts of the wild times of the band, the 72 hours leading to the crash, the harrowing crash itself and its aftermath.

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The documentary features behind-the-scenes film footage of life with the band before the crash, dramatic reenactments illustrating key dramatic scenes, and CG animations — including a simulation of the plane crash that matches the NTSB report. It also includes interviews with four first responders, filmed on location at the crash site in Gillsburg, Miss.

Based on Odom’s book I’ll Never Forget You, the documentary offers the fond remembrance of one man’s journey with this legendary band, but more importantly, the loss of his dearest friend. The film weaves the three survivors’ stories together to paint a picture of what might have been and the web of tragic decisions leading to the plane crash that forever altered their lives — and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s place in history.

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Special features include the 40th Anniversary Event in Jacksonville, Fla.; the “Tennessee Iron Cold: Dark Mississippi Night” music video; and “Gene’s Fishing Advice.”