Cimarron (1960)

 BLU-RAY REVIEW:

 Available via Warner Archive;

Warner;
Western;
$21.99 Blu-ray; Not rated.
Stars Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Anne Baxter, Arthur O’Connell, Russ Tamblyn.

MGM’s large-scale remake of screen history’s deadliest Best Picture Oscar winner looks so impressive on a big screen TV that I pleasurably breezed through its 2 hour, 38 minutes in one interrupted sitting, though without being truly stimulated. This basically replicates my original theatrical-run reaction to this Oklahoma-set soaper/epic, whose old-school cinematography by the perpetual class-act Robert Surtees washed over me at my favorite local downtown movie palace as the studio’s more-or-less pre-Christmas attraction (the national opening date was Dec. 5, 1960). But capital city didn’t get it — in a situation I’ll bet was replicated in many other markets — until mid-March of 1961 when The Absent-Minded Professor was just opening one block over (my 12-year-old self did a double-header that day).

So to some extent, MGM dumped what was obviously an expensive undertaking — and this was when no one knew or could have dreamed that the two “little” movies the studio served up was well that previous December  (Village of the Damned and Where the Boys Are) would end up seeing their stock rise so substantially with the passing years. Yet at the same time, remaking Cimarron may have seemed like a good bet, at least to the front-office hard arteries who didn’t realize that audience taste changed a lot in the later 1950s. Edna Ferber adaptions had enjoyed a remarkably successful run dating back to the Richard Dix-Irene Dunne original’s 1931 Oscar win. And just four years before the remake, Giant had become the most financially successful picture Warner Bros. had ever had up to that time. In fact, 1960 had begun with the release of the Ferber-originated Ice Palace, which my faint memories tell me isn’t even as good as Cimarron despite Richard Burton and Robert Ryan headlining its cast and the underrated Vincent Sherman directing.

This is the context. The story, or at least its basic structure, will be familiar to most or all Ferber followers: a decades-spanning chronicle involving young principals who wed, and not always happily, in an out-of-the-way but economically developing geographical setting — eventually living to see their children grow up and occasionally rebel as the family fortunes (and those of paupers mom and dad knew in their youth) improve. Other instant identifiers sometimes include unrequited love on someone’s part; a tendency on the part of at least one decent guy from the early part of the movie turning pompously ostentatious when he starts to smell the green; and fun times for the studio make-up artists who finally get to “age” principals who’ve remained youthful-looking on screen over the previous three or four decades.

My generalization here is an over-simplification — I don’t recall any of the above happening the last time I saw Ferber-stable standouts Dinner at Eight or Stage Door — but it’s true enough. What we have here is a young wife from a pampered upbringing (Maria Schell, whose high-profile Hollywood tenure was brief) wedding a well-traveled lawyer (Glenn Ford) — a “dreamer” as well who wants to take part in the 1889 Oklahoma Land Rush and, though it’s against his character, allegedly settle down. Instead, and despite his near-overnight transformation into the ensuing local newspaper’s editor/publisher, Ford spends the entire picture running off for five years or more at a time on one or another of his witness-to-history sprees. This means, of course, that the long-suffering Mrs. is left holding some bags, namely the newspaper’s daily production grind and motherhood (the latter just once, possibly because Ford is rarely home). She suffers, but because bubbly Schell is playing her, she smiles a lot through it all until finally getting fed up. Schell even laughs in the scene where she’s delivering their son, but this is possibly because the neighbor acting as mid-wife gives her several snorts (one woman’s medically questionable approach to natural childbirth).

There are two ways to interpret Ford’s character, who is named, in colorful Ferber fashion, “Yancy Cravat.” One is that Yance is a bigger-than-life visionary of uncommon gravitas, kind of like what Rock Hudson’s towering version of Bick Benedict in Giant might have been had he had incurable wanderlust and not preferred to do what most guys would: stay home on that isolated Reata spread and make it with Liz Taylor. The other way to go look at Yancy is as an irresponsible flake — and though Ford’s performance got some critical drubs at the time, I think you can at least make the argument that the actor’s familiar fidgets and tics in his dialogue deliveries make him a credible choice for that take on the character. The picture definitely loses something when he’s not on screen.

In any event, Ford/Yancy is a crusader always on the side of right, especially when it comes to racist treatment of Native Americans (Charles McGraw plays the key heavy here, and who better?). This fairly extensive side issue conjures up more narrative interest than some of the other subplots, but truth to tell, the movie peaks early with a re-creation of the Land Rush that’s really something to see, as it must have been in real life. Wagons topple, axels break, a senior citizen gets trampled, and I especially liked the shot of one lone guy on a big-wheeled unicycle, trying to compete with galloping horses in the race to lay claim to the most choice land because the losers have to make do with barren dirt where crops won’t grow.

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As noted, the film was shot by the great senior Surtees (fellow cinematographer Bruce was his son), who was the go-to guy for a full Leo the Lion share of MGM biggies from a spectacle-heavy extended era: King Solomon’s Mines, Quo Vadis, Mogambo, Ben-Hur, Brando’s Mutiny on the Bounty and (on loan-out, wouldn’t you know) Oklahoma! Later, as proof he couldn’t be typed, he then tried around and photographed The Graduate, The Last Picture Show and the studio-shot scenes (Britain’s Robert Krasker did the rest) for William Wyler’s The Collector. And do you want even more class when it comes to Cimarron? Franz Waxman did the score.

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This is a movie where the techno credits are more exciting than the casting, and I could never figure out, even when I was a kid, why an actress with almost no sex appeal (Anne Baxter) ended up playing the town’s most glamorous prostitute — though, of course, her place of work is presented as some kind of social club for local males to purge their urges as the biddie demographic walks by the building and goes, “Tsk, tsk.” Still, and as noted, it’s all pretty watchable if you have a big screen, and certainly preferable to the ’31 Oscar version (a year when City Lights wasn’t even nominated), which is basically Richard Dix sporting 10 pounds of pancake makeup on a dusty street.

On paper, Cimarron-’60’s large budget would seem to make it a transitional film for director Anthony Mann. It was situated between the director’s series of five celebrated James Stewart Westerns plus Man of the West with Gary Cooper — and his very pricey entry into the Charlton Heston loincloth arena (though if you press me, I’ll concede doubts that anyone ever even claimed that Chuck wore one in Mann’s El Cid. We’re speaking symbolically here, folks.) Instead, I recently learned that despite receiving solo screen credit for Cimarron, Mann left the project early, leaving MGM mainstay and former outstanding dance director Charles Walters to complete a huge chunk of the film’s second half. Walters’ top directorial achievements included Good News, Lili, The Tender Trap, High Society and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which also came out in 1960. All are crowd pleasers, but Walters was never much of a stylist, which suggests to me that producer Edmund Grainger kind of bailed on the project even during production. Mann, interestingly enough, then went into Spartacus before taking on El Cid, but left that project even more quickly. No wonder the guy ended up dying on the set of a heart attack mid-picture in 1967.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Cimarron’ and ‘Jungle Fever’

‘Hell on the Border’ Arriving on Home Video Feb. 11 From Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the Western Hell on the Border on Blu-ray Disc, DVD and through digital retailers Feb. 11. It is currently available on demand.

Based on a true story, the film follows Bass Reeves (David Gyasi), aided by his trusted journeyman (Ron Perlman), on his quest to bring a deadly outlaw (Frank Grillo) to justice and become the first black U.S. Marshal in the Wild West.

Reeves is often cited as one of the real-life inspirations for the Lone Ranger. The legend of Reeves also plays a role in HBO’s recent “Watchmen” TV series.

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The Hell on the Border cast also includes Chris Mullinax, Jacqueline Fleming, Gianni Capaldi and Zach McClarnon.

The disc includes a commentary with writer-director Wes Miller and camera operator Ronald Bourdeau.

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‘RoboCop,’ ‘Flowers in the Attic’ on November 2019 Disc Slate From Arrow and MVD

The 1980s sci-fi actioner RoboCop, Flowers in the Attic and a 1950s James Stewart classic western are among the five titles on the November Blu-ray slate from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Due Nov. 5 is the horror flick Apprentice to Murder. Chad Lowe, younger brother to Rob, stars as Billy, a young man who falls under the spell of folk magic healer Dr. Reese (Donald Sutherland). As the two begin to investigate a strange sickness infesting their community, the lines between good and evil start to blur. Bonus features include a video interview on religious horror with Kat Ellinger, author and editor-in-chief of Diabolique Magazine; new audio commentary by author and critic Bryan Reesman; a new video interview with cinematographer Kelvin Pike; a new video interview with makeup supervisor Robin Grantham; the theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Haunt Love.

Nov. 12 comes Flowers in the Attic, based on VC Andrews’ novel, a Gothic tale about four siblings locked away in the attic by their evil grandmother (Louise Fletcher). Originally panned by critics, director Jeffrey Bloom’s adaptation has developed a cult following over the years. The new Arrow release comes loaded with special features including new interviews and the original, studio-vetoed ending.

Also due Nov. 12 is Anthony Mann’s Technicolor western The Far Country, in which James Stewart stars as an adventurer that bumps heads with a corrupt judge (John McIntire). Despite being filmed in Canada, The Far Country is one of the rare westerns to be set in Alaska. The two-disc limited edition release features the film in two aspect ratios with a new 4K restoration.

Irvin Berwick’s Hitchhike to Hell hits Blu-ray for the first time on Nov. 19. Inspired by the brutal crimes of the “Co-ed Killer” Edmund Kemper, Hitchhike to Hell is a classic slice of American exploitation. Extras include a newly filmed appreciation by Nightmare USA author Stephen Thrower; “Road to Nowhere: Hitchhiking Culture Goes to Hell,” a new video essay by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas exploring the dark side of hitchhiking in the real world and on the screen; a reversable sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by The Twins of Evil; and for the first pressing only, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Heather Drain.

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Finally, Nov. 26 comes Paul Verhoeven’s action classic RoboCop. Set in the not-too-distant future, RoboCop is the story of officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) who is gunned down in the line of duty before being brought back to life as a half-man/half-machine crime-fighter. This new limited-edition release features the director’s cut and the original theatrical release, both presented with a 4K restoration approved by Verhoeven himself. Among the numerous extras are a limited edition collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Omar Ahmed, Christopher Griffiths and Henry Blyth, as well as a 1987 Fangoria interview with Rob Bottin and archive publicity materials (some contents exclusive to the limited edition); archive commentary by Verhoeven, executive producer Jon Davison and co-writer Ed Neumeier (originally recorded for the theatrical cut and re-edited in 2014 for the director’s cut); and new commentary by film historian Paul M. Sammon. RoboCop will be available in standard and steelbook editions.

Bend of the River

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Kino Lorber;
Western;
$29.95 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Stars James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julia Adams, Rock Hudson.

This second of the five revered James Stewart-Anthony Mann Westerns consistently gets high marks on rank-them-in-order lists, but leaving aside 1955’s perfectly respectable but unexceptional The Far Country (a ’54 release in England), you can shuffle your specific preferences in just about any order without anyone calling you crazy. I myself prefer Winchester ’73, The Naked Spur and The Man From Laramie — but on the other hand, ranking 1952’s Bend of the River fourth just doesn’t quite send the right signal. (For that matter, I could use an update viewing on Country if long-promised Blu-rays ever materialize.)

Certainly, River has the “elements”: two great lead actors playing characters who are alternately friendly and adversarial with each other; a supporting cast of young screen players who were getting early career breaks on the way to expanding their fan bases; older character actors (sub-category: Western) who are not anyone’s pretty faces; and excellent Technicolor locales once we get by a shoddy-looking set-bound exterior during some an early nocturnal combat between white settlers and Shoshones. The picture was largely filmed way, way up in the Mt. Hood area of Oregon, and it’s been said that Stewart regarded it as the most physically demanding role of his career.

For a star-director quintet that proved quite popular with the public yet was relegated to functional bread-and-butter status by critics, a lot of screen ink has been expended in subsequent years on the ways in which these movies toughened up Stewart’s screen image and played a little to that persona’s occasional neurotic dimension — as in what for me are the actor’s two greatest performances (earlier on in It’s a Wonderful Life and a bit later in Vertigo). In River, Stewart keeps his emotions remarkably in check amid all sorts of narrative mayhem but finally lets it out all out late in the game when co-star Arthur Kennedy (as Stewart’s erratic sidekick) reveals his true character, which we’ve seen hinted at from the beginning.

Which is to say that the two meet when Kennedy has a rope around his neck as one about to be lynched for horse thievery — a vigilante group-vs.-individual act to which Stewart responds negatively on general principles, resulting in the former’s unambiguous rescue. Subsequently riding together, the two soon become aware that they know each other by reputation — though this mutual rep is as former “raiders” from the Civil War era, which doesn’t go down too well in postwar society. As a result, the screenplay — by Red River’s Borden Chase from a Bill Gulick novel — somewhat enters future Budd Boetticher territory in that the good guy and the bad guy have more in common than they do with, in this case, wagon train settlers. Though Stewart is trying.

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As my favorite character actor ever, Kennedy predictably delivers the standout supporting performance, but the movie also gives pretty good indication of the young contract players Universal-International was “pushing” in those days. Julie Adams (here still billed as Juli-a) is the young settler who takes an arrow in her shoulder, a la Joanne Dru in Red River, and seems as confused in her choice of men as Hope Hicks. There’s also Adams’ fellow “Creature” lust object Lori Nelson, in her screen debut as the closest thing to a bobbysoxer that the wagon train has to offer — plus Rock Hudson is a gambler named “Trey Wilson.” This said, and by virtue of being played by Rock, the guy looks nothing like the prematurely deceased comic actor from Raising Arizona and Bull Durham — though it was an appealing early role for the actor in terms of his seemingly effortless (which it wasn’t) screen magnetism. Hudson is mostly on hand to show off his professional gambler’s garb and to lend a hand during fatal shoot-outs — some of which take place in the formerly civilized Portland, which goes all crazy when someone discovers gold.

Also around — and Blu-ray commentator Toby Roan bios them all practically down to the number of times they hit the men’s room each day — are familiar Western types like Chubby Johnson, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Jack Lambert and Howard Petrie. Not so familiar by 1952, due to the already wincingly retro nature of his act, was Stepin Fetchit, who was making his first appearance in a Hollywood film (as opposed to a so-called “race picture” of the era) in about 20 years; he plays the 40-year companion here to boat captain Johnson, which means, I guess, that the two have managed to work out their relationship. Also among the settlers eventually faced with potential starvation (and with winter approaching) is Frances Bavier. As Bing didn’t sing on his Decca recording, other than in my imagination, it’s looking like “Twilight on the Trail” for Aunt Bea. If that is, Stewart and Kennedy (who’s beginning to make it clear that he may be in it for just himself), can’t get their bought-and-paid-for supplies back from money-hungry Petrie.

Ultimately, River lacks that final “oomph” that pushes it out of the high side of decent into something more, an assessment that applies to the print here as well. The movie was shot in three-strip Technicolor, so its genes are obviously tops, but it looks as if an older master was used here, which is a crucial decision when it comes to this kind of outing. Predictably, it’s stronger in the closeups, though if you went on location in the mountains, you would instead be indulging in long shots, right? Fortunately, the inherent visual material gives River certain advantages, something that’s doubly or even triply so in its choice of protagonists. Kennedy’s character is posted as one who’s smiley, easygoing and wry most of the time (as well as generally dependable in the clutch), and no one was ever better at putting this conflicted demeanor over than the actor U-I chose for the role. Kennedy came through in a similar kind of role in The Man From Laramie, too, which (from Twilight Time and in contrast) is one of the best Blu-ray presentations of a movie from this era that I’ve ever seen.

Mike’s Picks: ‘Bend of the River’ and ‘Melvin and Howard’

Paramount Has Western, War, Classic and Action Titles for Father’s Day

Paramount Home Entertainment has announced gift ideas for Father’s Day, June 16.

For the Western fan, the studio has True Grit, starring John Wayne in his only Oscar-winning performance. The film, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, is available on digital. Also for the Western fan is the Ultimate Classic Western Collection, with nine classics, True Grit (1969), The Shootist, Shane, Hud, Chuka, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Will Penny, Johnny Reno and Posse, available on DVD.

For war buffs is Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, available on 4K Ultra HD, as well as 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, available on 4K Ultra HD June 11.

For the classic film lover is Best Picture Academy Award winner Forrest Gump, celebrating its 25 anniversary this year, available in a newly remastered two-disc Blu-ray and on 4K Ultra HD. Also, due on Blu-ray June 11 is The Godfather Trilogy: Corleone Legacy, a collection of director Francis Ford Coppola’s epic masterpieces packaged with new collectibles, including a Corleone family tree. Another classic collection available now on DVD is the Paul Newman 6-Movie Collection, with Road to Perdition, Fat Man and Little Boy, Nobody’s Fool, A New Kind of Love and Twilight.

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Available now on 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray for action fans is the Mission: Impossible 6-Movie Collection. Also available now on Blu-ray in the action genre is the Bumblebee & Transformers Collection, a six-movie collection that includes all five “Transformers” films plus the latest entry in the franchise, Bumblebee. Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Season One, the first season in the new series that is a contemporary take on Clancy’s character, will be available on Blu-ray and DVD June 4.

TV Miniseries ‘Lonesome Dove’ Riding to Blu-ray Steelbook July 9 From Mill Creek

The TV miniseries Lonesome Dove is coming in a special edition steelbook Blu-ray July 9 from Mill Creek Entertainment for its 30th anniversary.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Larry McMurtry and set in the late nineteenth century, the sprawling epic of the Old West is the story of the last defiant frontier, a daring cattle drive and an undying love. Augustus McCrea (Robert Duvall) and Woodrow F. Call (Tommy Lee Jones), former Texas Rangers, are partners and friends who have shared hardship and danger. Gus is the romantic, a reluctant rancher who has a way with women and the sense to leave well enough alone. Call is a driven, demanding man, a natural authority figure with no patience for weakness. He is obsessed with the dream of creating a new homestead. The two men could hardly be more different, but both are tough fighters who have learned to count on each other, if nothing else. Call’s dream not only drags Gus along in its wake, but also draws in a group of fearless wranglers, trackers and scouts. Through sandstorms, stampedes, bandits, floods and snow, these characters live on to become legends of the great American West.

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Winner of seven Emmy Awards, and one of the highest rated miniseries in television history, Lonesome Dove also stars Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Angelica Huston, Robert Urich, Steve Buscemi, D.B. Sweeney, Ricky Schroder and Chris Cooper.

Special features include a making-of featurette; cast interviews; on location with director Simon Wincer; original sketches and concept drawings; and an interview with McMurtry.

Roy Rogers Westerns, Faith-Based Documentaries and Dramas Among Titles on the March Disc Slate From Mill Creek

There’s something for every taste — Westerns, documentaries, and drama, family and action films — on the March disc release slate from Mill Creek Entertainment.

Coming on DVD March 5 is the drama If You’re Gone. When high school senior Brad Lee disappears the night of his graduation ceremony, his girlfriend is forced to question everything she thought she knew about him and their relationship, as well as her own faith, in hopes of finding him. The film stars Brittany Goodwin, Masey McLain, Desiree Ross and Ben Davies.

The Last Appeal, due on DVD March 5, is a faith-based drama set in the world of death row, where prisoners face legal battles, family struggles and mortality. Titus Freeman enters this daunting world determined to work the legal system to escape his sentence but discovers a new life beyond the grave. Meanwhile, his victim’s wife Trisha works the legal system to enforce his execution.

In the action film To Be a Soldier, also on DVD March 5, the sister of a mild-mannered British salesman goes missing in the Middle East, and he recruits an ex-Army ranger to help him rescue her. As they trek through the war-torn wilderness, they battle terrorists, the elements and their own dark human natures.

For the family audience March 5 is the DVD Guard Dog. Chance Watson is a lying, cheating, stealing 9-year-old who is flunking out of school. Then, one night, a magical sheepdog appears and promises to make his dreams come true, if he can follow “The Rules.” Soon, with the help of his talking, sometimes invisible dog, Chance has changed his life and the lives of many of the students at his school.

On tap March 12 are three Western collections on disc and digital.

Roy Rogers — The Happy Trails Collection, on DVD and digital, features 20 movies and is authorized by the Roy Rogers Estate. Each movie is introduced by Roy and Dale Evans in a special feature, “Happy Trails Theater.” They are joined by a host Western stars, including Gene Autry, Iron Eyes Cody, Pat Brady, Ruth Terry, Roy “Dusty” Rogers Jr. and Pat Butram.

The four-film Outlaws and Con Men collection, in DVD and digital, features Django Shoots First, starring Glenn Saxson, Fernando Sancho and Evelyn Stewart; Django’s Cut Price Corpses, with Jeff Cameron, John Desmont and Esmeralda Barros; Bad Man’s River, starring Lee Van Cleef, James Mason and Gina Lollobrigidal; and Sting of the West, with Jack Palance and Giancarlo Prete

On Blu-ray and digital March 12 is the Westerm double feature Fort Yuma Gold/Damned Hot Day of Fire. In Fort Yuma Gold, after the end of the Civil War, the fanatic Southern Major Sanders continues to fight and plans to attack Fort Yuma, home to a gold reserve. A captured Confederate soldier agrees to lead Union solders to stop Sanders, but their real mission and the charms of the beautiful Connie Breastfull complicate the situation. In Damned Hot Day of Fire, the creator of the Gatling gun, which his famous invention, has been kidnapped and is being held from the Union for a million dollar ransom. Captain Chris Tanner must find and stop the villainous Tarpas before he falls into the hands of the Confederates.

Also due March 12 is the drama Unbridled on DVD and digital. Sarah thinks she is beyond redemption and unworthy of love and is sent away from the house that defined her horrors to a place where she is not the only victim, or the only one fighting to get her life back, a ranch called Unbridled. At Unbridled, Sarah meets Dreamer, a horse who has also suffered abuse, a horse who no longer trusts humans — until he meets Sarah.

The drama double feature Footprints/Friends for Live is coming March 12 on Blu-ray, DVD and digital (combo). Footprints is based on the true story of a man who finds the healing power of love only after he loses everything, a dog who learns to trust and serve after being abused and discarded, and a journey the two of them take. In Friends for Life, big city attorney Jim Crawford had won most of the battles in his life, but he couldn’t win the battle against his wife’s illness. An unexpected twist of fate leads Jim to discover four orphaned wolf pups who face certain death unless he takes them in.

Finally, March 12 come two faith documentaries.

Ancient Secrets of the Bible — The Complete Series is coming on DVD and digital. The 39-episode series, shot on location in five countries and in more than 80 U.S. cities, features re-creations, expert testimony, biblical evidence and scientific experiments to explore biblical questions such as, “Did Adam and Eve really exist and where was the Garden of Eden?”.

Also coming on DVD and digital March 12 is Miracles — The Power of Faith, a four-part documentary series that explores and investigates miracles through interviews with theologians, historians, experts, witnesses, and visits to the locations where it is believed some of the most beautiful and profound miracles occurred.

‘Sisters Brothers’ Coming to Digital Jan. 22, Disc Feb. 5

The Western comedy-drama The Sisters Brothers will be released through digital retailers Jan. 22, and on Blu-ray and DVD Feb. 5 by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Based on the novel by Patrick deWitt and directed by Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers is set during an 1850s gold rush and follows two brothers (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) earning a living as hired guns as they hunt down a chemist (Riz Ahmed) and his unlikely companion (Jake Gyllenhaal) who have stolen a valuable formula.

The Sisters Brothers premiered at the Venice Film Festival and earned  Audiard the Silver Lion Award given to the best director of the festival.

The film carries an 85% Fresh score on RottenTomatoes.com and earned $3.1 million at the domestic box office.

Bonus materials include the featurettes “Striking Gold: Making a ‘Modern Day’ Western,” “Brothers Forever” and “Wanted Dead or Alive”; a Q&A panel; a gallery; and the theatrical trailer.

Billy Wilder’s ‘The Apartment,’ Ingmar Bergman’s ‘The Serpent’s Egg,’ De Niro-De Palma Teamings Highlight December Disc Releases from Arrow and MVD

Films from Billy Wilder, Ingmar Bergman, Robert De Niro and Brian De Palma are among the December Blu-ray releases coming from Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group.

Up first on Dec. 4 is The Serpent’s Egg from director Ingmar Bergman, who teamed with Italian director Dino De Laurentiis. In this mystery, David Carradine stars as an out-of-work circus performer that gets caught up in a tangled web when he begins to ask questions about his brother’s bizarre death. Special features include audio commentary with Carradine; “Bergman’s Egg,” a newly filmed appreciation by critic and author Barry Forshaw; “Away From Home,” an archival featurette including interviews with Carradine and Liv Ullman; “German Expressionism,” an archival interview with author Marc Gervais; a stills gallery; a theatrical trailer; a reversible sleeve featuring two artwork choices; and for the first pressing only, an illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Geoffrey Macnab.

Due Dec. 11 is the boxed set “De Palma & De Niro: The Early Films,” showcasing Robert De Niro on the big screen for the first time and highlighting the beginnings of his relationship with director Brian De Palma. The set includes three films from the duo — The Wedding PartyGreetings and Hi, Mom! — all of which have been newly restored. Special features include new commentary on Greetings by Glenn Kenny, author of Robert De Niro: Anatomy of an Actor; a new appreciation of Brian De Palma and Robert De Niro’s collaborations by critic and filmmaker Howard S. Berger; a new interview with Charles Hirsch, writer-producer of Greetings and Hi, Mom!; a new interview with actor Gerrit Graham on Greetings, Hi, Mom! and his other collaborations with Brian De Palma; a new interview with actor Peter Maloney on Hi, Mom!; the Hi, Mom! theatrical trailer; newly commissioned artwork by Matthew Griffin; a limited collector’s edition booklet featuring new writing on the films by Brad Stevens, Chris Dumas and Christina Newland; and an archive interview with De Palma and Hirsch.

The ‘80s slasher film Bloody Birthday is due Dec. 18 with a new 2K restoration. In the Ed Hunt-directed film, a trio born on the same solar eclipse develop a habit for murdering adults. Special features include a new audio commentary with Hunt; a new interview with actress Lori Lethin; “Bad Seeds and Body Counts,” a new video appreciation of Bloody Birthday and the killer kid sub-genre by film journalist Chris Alexander; a archival interview with producer Max Rosenberg; the original theatrical trailer; a reversible sleeve featuring newly commissioned artwork by Timothy Pittides; and for the first pressing only, a collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Lee Gambin.

Coming from Arrow Academy Dec. 11 is the classic comedy The Apartment, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Jack Lemmon. The film, which took home five Academy Awards including Best Picture, features a new 4K restoration from the original camera negative produced exclusively for this release. Special features include audio commentary with film producer and historian Bruce Block; “The Key to the Apartment,” a new appreciation of the film by film historian Philip Kemp; select scene commentary by Philip Kemp; “The Flawed Couple,” a new video essay by filmmaker David Cairns on the collaborations between Wilder and Lemmon; “A Letter to Castro,” a new interview with actress Hope Holiday; “The Writer Speaks: Billy Wilder,” an archival interview from the Writers Guild of America’s Oral Histories series; “Inside the Apartment,” a half-hour making-of featurette from 2007 including interviews with Shirley MacLaine, executive producer Walter Mirisch and others; “Magic Time: The Art of Jack Lemmon,” an archive profile of the actor from 2007; a theatrical trailer; and a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Ignatius Fitzpatrick.

Western ‘Deadman Standing’ Coming on DVD and Digital Dec. 11 From Lionsgate

The Western Deadman Standing comes out on DVD, digital, and on demand Dec. 11 from Lionsgate.

Based on the true story of how a dying man lived to make history – and, as a result, made his mark on the Old West – the film follows a sheriff, a madam and a dying boy who risk their lives to save a troubled town.

It stars Luke Arnold (TV’s “Black Sails,” Broken Hill, Half Magic), C. Thomas Howell (The Outsiders, The Hitcher, The Amazing Spider-Man), Richard Riehle (The Man from Earth, Office Space, Casino) and M.C. Gainey (Breakdown, Con Air, Stolen).

The disc retails at $19.98.