Paramount Home Entertainment will release 1980’s Popeye for the first time on Blu-ray Disc Dec. 1.
The live-action musical version of the famed comic strip sailor was directed by Robert Altman and stars Robin Williams as Popeye and Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl.
The Blu-ray includes access to a digital copy of the film along with nearly 30 minutes of new bonus material, including excerpts from one of Williams’ final interviews, an interview with director Altman, as well as a newly conducted interview with his son, Stephen Altman.
“Return to Sweethaven: A Look Back with Robin and the Altmans”
Two dramas, The Passion of Darkly Noon and Kansas City, are arriving on Blu-ray in March from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.
Kansas City (1996), directed by Robert Altman and streeting March 3 from Arrow Academy, is a star-studded gangster flick set in 1930s Kansas City. Blondie O’Hara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) resorts to desperate measures when her low-level hood husband Johnny (Dermot Mulroney) gets caught trying to steal from Seldom Seen (Harry Belafonte), a local crime boss operating out of jazz haunt The Hey-Hey Club. Out on a limb, Blondie kidnaps laudanum-addled socialite Carolyn (Miranda Richardson), hoping her influential politician husband can pull the right strings and get Johnny out of Seldom Seen’s clutches. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, and featuring a soundtrack performed live by some of the best players in contemporary jazz, this Altman classic is making its Blu-ray debut. Special features include audio commentary by Altman; a newly filmed appreciation by critic Geoff Andrew; a 2007 visual essay by French critic Luc Lagier, plus a short introduction to the film narrated by Lagier; two 1996 promotional featurettes including interviews with cast and crew; electronic press kit interviews with Altman, Leigh, Richardson, Belafonte and musician Joshua Redman, plus behind-the-scenes footage; four theatrical trailers; TV spots; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Jennifer Dionisio; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collectors’ booklet featuring new writing by Dr Nicolas Pillai, original press kit notes and an excerpt from Altman on Altman.
The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995), due March 24, is a drama set in America from British director Philip Ridley. Darkly Noon (Brendan Fraser) is the sole survivor of a military-style attack on an isolated religious community. Stumbling through a forest, he is rescued by Callie (Ashley Judd). Darkly finds himself feeling strange new desires for Callie as she nurses him back to health only to watch her jump into the arms of her returning mute lover Clay (Viggo Mortensen). Lost in the woods with only his fundamentalist upbringing to make sense of his unrequited passions, Darkly soon descends into an explosive and lethal rage. Special features include new audio commentary by writer/director Ridley; an isolated score track in lossless stereo, including never-before-heard extended and unused cues, and the two songs from the film; “Sharp Cuts,” a newly filmed interview with editor Leslie Healey; “Forest Songs,” a newly filmed interview with composer Nick Bicat; “Dreaming Darkly,” an archive featurette from 2015 featuring interviews with Ridley, Bicat and Mortensen; previously unreleased demos of the music score, written and performed by Bicat before filming started; the theatrical trailer; an image gallery; a reversible sleeve featuring new and original artwork; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring a new Ridley career retrospective written by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas.
Director Robert Altman’s oddball Brewster McCloud has attained something of a cult status for its darkly comic tale of a boy living in the Astrodome who plans to escape with a birdlike contraption as Houston is besieged by a series of weird murders.
Available via Warner Archive; Warner;
$21.99 Blu-ray; Rated ‘R.’ Stars Bud Cort, Sally Kellerman, Shelley Duvall, Michael Murphy, William Windom.
Sandwiched between two of its era’s landmark screen achievements — MASH and McCabe and Mrs. Miller — Robert Altman’s Astrodome fantasy Brewster McCloud is an oddball even by his standards, which indeed could get mighty eccentric on occasion, though this was more of a factor from the late 1970s until 1992’s comeback with The Player.
One has to wonder what then MGM chief James “The Smiling Cobra” Aubrey — with his background in the enormously popular but predominantly mega-crappy hayseed programming from his eventually stormy CBS tenure — really thought when he was plunking counter-culture-ish Brewster into 1970’s year-end holiday season (I saw it opening night in New York City, just before Christmas). Not that signs were all bleak: At year’s beginning, in what I’m sure was anything but an isolated incident, I had seen MASH get perhaps the deepest belly-laughs from a Saturday-night packed house that I have ever seen in my life (seeing the climactic football scene in a raucous football town was an off-the-charts experience). And now here was either the critic for Time or Newsweek (I forget which) stoking hopes by proclaiming that with his first follow-up, Altman had just become the first person ever to hit one out of the Astrodome.
Well, hardly. But in its defense, the movie, whose remastered Panavision visuals are easily up to Warner Archive standards, has mellowed, probably forever, into a solid double until it more or less gets picked off in late innings. And even then, it’s partially saved by a delightful end credits extravaganza, capped by one of the most uproariously twisted final shots in screen history (assuming you’re twisted as well). For a while, few qualifications are needed because the first half or more is real-deal Altman despite his having to work a script by Doran William Cannon, who not long before had penned Otto Preminger’s … Skidoo. (I can just hear someone saying to Aubrey: “Jim Baby, we know you spent all those years pandering to the Cotton Mather demographic with ‘Petticoat Junction’ and all that, but we’re hitting in the Bigs now, and we’ve got the same screenwriter who set the table for your old network colleague Jackie Gleason to drop acid on screen.”)
Skidoo also serves up Carol Channing in her underwear — easily as mind-bending as watching Ralph Kramden see electric pictures — but let’s not go there. So getting back to Brewster, the premise is this: Bud Cort’s Brewster lives in the Astrodome as he prepares to fly out of it via a constructed contraption, all under the influence of Sally Kellerman’s borderline incestuous mother figure (who once may have been a bird herself) adamantly urging the lad not to compromise his goals by indulging in sex with willing young women. So let’s see: Did I leave anything out? Oh, yeah: Houston has just called in ace San Francisco detective Frank Shaft (Michael Murphy) to crack a series of local murders whose corpses are all splattered with bird doody. What I wouldn’t give to see Jack Webb handling the interrogations.
Given all this, most people will have an idea from the description if Brewster is a movie for them, but thanks to a cast of familiar Altman casting collaborators — and this was Shelley Duvall’s screen debut — there are many chuckles along the way, most of them aimed at the idiots who populate its large cast of characters. One performer who was decidedly not an Altman stock company regular was Margaret Hamilton herself, cast as a wicked witch (in spirit, anyway) who shrieks the national anthem at Astros games while badgering the band whose uniforms she’s bankrolled. One can only imagine what she thought of her surrounding sound anarchy after having worked with Ray Bolger, but her Daphne Heap character is the first casualty here and thus isn’t around long, though the capper gag to her demise is one of the movie’s best and a must for Wizard of Oz completists.
An added high point is Murphy (another Altman regular) finessing a first-rate parody of Steve McQueen in Bullitt, down to the bluest eyes that Metrocolor can covey and a drawerful of high-end turtleneck sweaters in a wide array of pigments to make him look cool while burning rubber on the road. Another is MASH’s G. Wood (why didn’t he have a better career, and why didn’t Altman use him more?) as a cantankerous Houston police captain who resents Murphy and is generally as dyspeptic as Wood’s general in Altman’s greatest of all service comedies — a role he later repeated in the hit watered-down TV version, for which Altman had no use. Plus Bert Remsen as a cruelly loathsome wife-beating narc (even Wood hates him) whose young son’s skin problems appear to clear up overnight once dad joins the ca-ca’ed-corpse club. And Rene Auberjonois as a bird lecturer to whom the movie keeps returning, only to find him incrementally taking on the appearance of his subjects. Also Stacy Keach in a ton of latex makeup as a miser right out of Dickens; he gets his, too.
Altman fares less well with the women, aside from Kellerman’s casting perfection as the best-endowed ex-avian imaginable. Poor Jennifer Salt, in an impossible role, is a complete bust as a hot-for-Brewster apparent nympho who orgasms just by thinking of him, while the director hasn’t yet figured how to get the best out of Shelley Duvall (an actress I never “got,” though she has too many impressive credits for me not to give her her due). And, yeah — a big car chase in a Bullitt parody would have been de rigueur in 1970, but Altman can’t really figure out a way to do a novel one, and slow-motion to mickey-mousing music isn’t the answer). And yet: It has to be said that its capper gag is another one that arguably attains classic status, and that’s the thing: Just when you’re about to bail on the movie, something happens that is beyond the creative capability of normal, mundane minds.
Taking this further, I think a few minds might have gotten expanded during the filming of what ultimately had to settle for becoming a cult movie. Or to put it another way, per his well-known reputation, I don’t think it was oregano that Uncle Bob was smoking on the set when he shot this. Well, kids, it was a heady time. The same half-week, MGM also released Paul Mazursky’s hippy-dippy Alex in Wonderland, which was so “Fellini-esque” that Federico Fellini was actually in it. On balance, I think Alex comes closer to being a success (however qualified), due to Ellen Burstyn and its spot-on satire of Hollywood in the Vietnam era when no one had even a clue of what might cut it at the box office. Either way, Aubrey had to be thinking that there wasn’t as much to wrap his mind around when he was pushing The Lucy Show and Mayberry spin-offs. And though it’s just a guess, it’s unlikely Aunt Bea ever badgered some stagehand to score her a lid.
Gosford Park and Gas Food Lodging are among four Blu-ray releases coming in November from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.
From Arrow Academy Nov. 13 comes Gas Food Lodging. Based on a novel by Richard Peck and directed by Allison Anders, this story of a young single mother desperately trying to find love was a hit at the 1992 Berlin International Film Festival. This newly restored release comes director approved and contains a number of special features, including “The Road to Laramie: A Look Back at Gas Food Lodging,” a new interview with Allison Anders and Josh Olson; Cinefile: Reel Women, a 1995 documentary by Chris Rodley looking at the challenges women face in the film industry and featuring interviews with Anders, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion and Penny Marshall; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film.
Due Nov. 27 from Arrow Academy is director Robert Altman’s Gosford Park, starring Alan Bates, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Balaban, Michael Gambon, Helen Mirren and Clive Owen. The murder-mystery features a new 2K restoration from a 4K scan approved by director of photography Andrew Dunn. Special features include audio commentary by Altman, production designer Stephen Altman and producer David Levy; audio commentary by writer-producer Julian Fellowes; new audio commentary by critics Geoff Andrew and David Thompson (author of Altman on Altman); an Introduction by Andrew; new cast and crew interviews recorded exclusively for this release; the “The Making of Gosford Park” archive featurette; the “Keeping Gosford Park Authentic” archive featurette; a Q&A Session with Altman and the cast; 15 deleted scenes with optional Altman commentary; a trailer; reversible sleeves featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by critic Sheila O’Malley and an archive interview with Altman.
Nov. 13 comes The Wizard of Gore from Herschell Gordon Lewis. In the film, Montag the Magnificent wows audiences with his macabre magic act, but before long his volunteers start to wind up dead. Is Montag a modern day wizard or just your everyday serial killer? Special features include the 1968 bonus feature How to Make a Doll; feature-length audio commentary with Lewis and Mike Vraney; “Montag Speaks,” an interview with Wizard of Gore actor Ray Sager; Stephen Thrower on The Wizard of Gore; “The Gore the Merrier,” an interview with Jeremy Kasten, director of the 2007 Wizard of Gore remake; “The Incredibly Strange Film Show,” an episode of the cult documentary series focusing on the films of Lewis; the original theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Twins of Evil.
Due Nov. 20 is Teruo Ishii’s anthology Orgies of Edo, featuring three stories with a corrupt moral center. Politically incorrect, each tale is that of tragic heroines caught up in unspeakable violence. Special features include “The Orgies of Ishii,” an exclusive, newly filmed interview with author Patrick Maccias; the theatrical trailer; a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Tom Mes.