CHOICE OF THE WEEK
PATHS OF GLORY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): This superb 1957 anti-war drama firmly established Stanley Kubrick in the forefront of filmmaking – a position he essentially held for the rest of his life – and remains one of the best (and of the shortest!) Movies he’s ever made.
Adapted from the factual novel by Humphrey Cobb by no less of a triumvirate than Kubrick, Calder Willingham and Jim Thompson, the setting is France during World War I, the film stars Kirk Douglas as Colonel Dax, the commander of a platoon tasked with undertaking a suicide mission against the Germans. The result is a massacre, and Dax’s men refuse to continue. Colonel Mireau (George Macready), who ordered the mission, is determined to court-martial 100 soldiers, but only three – Cpl. Paris (Ralph Meeker), Pvt. Ferol (Timothy Carey) and Pvt. Arnaud (Joe Turkel, died in June) – are judged.
The trial, unsurprisingly, is a sham, designed to deflect blame away from Mireau, and Dax – who represents the defendants – is outraged. Not that it matters. It was always fun to watch Kirk Douglas in hair-trigger mode, and he had plenty of opportunities to do so here, as he castigates his superiors for their corruption and cowardice allowing three innocent men to be executed.
The parallels to Hollywood’s blacklisting (at the time) and corruption (in general) remain timely and all too believable, and Kubrick’s decidedly unsentimental approach to the story gives it a cold but compelling impact. The cast, which also includes Adolphe Menjou (himself a strong supporter of the Blacklist), Richard Anderson, Wayne Morris, Emile Meyer and Bert Freed, could hardly be better. paths of glory is essentially a perfect movie and hasn’t lost any of its power over the years.
The 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary and a theatrical trailer. ****
ALI & AVA (Greenwich Entertainment/Kino Lorber): Writer/director Clio Barnard’s award-winning drama focuses on the unlikely relationship that develops between its titular characters, an ill-married Pakistani immigrant (Adeel Akhtar) and a recently widowed guardian (Claire Rushbook ), which is complicated by the prejudices of those around them. Simple but heartfelt, with both tracks in terrific form, and a beautiful depiction of working-class life in contemporary England, available on DVD ($19.95 retail). ***
BABY ASSASSINS (Well Go USA Entertainment): Yugo Sakamoto wrote, directed and edited this outlandish, award-winning action film (originally titled Beibi warukyure) stars Akari Takaishi and Saori Izawa as the main characters, a pair of highly skilled teenage assassins and housemates whose skills are put to the test as they face off against the Japanese Yakuza and ignite an all-out gang war. In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
CANDYMAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): award-winning 1992 adaptation by director Bernard Rose of executive producer Clive Barker’s short story The forbidden stars Virginia Madsen as a graduate student investigating urban legends who unwittingly brings up the title character (an iconic Tony Todd twist), a murdered 19-year-oldeslave of the century who demands a bloody punishment. The urban setting, exemplified by Chicago’s Cabrini Green apartments, dovetails nicely with the darker historical aspects of the story, but despite a superb score by Philip Glass and some terrific jolts, it continually falls into the territory of the operation. Nonetheless, it’s become a cult classic, spawned a franchise, and boasts a solid cast including Xander Berkeley (as Madsen’s unfaithful and disbelieving husband), Vanessa A. Williams, Ted Raimi, Rose himself, and Kasi Lemmons (a a true scene-stealer as Madsen’s Unfortunate Best Friend), available in a 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.98 retail) offering bonus features like the original unrated director’s cut and the R-rated theatrical version , multiple audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, a theatrical trailer, and more. **½
“WILD HARRY”: SERIES 1 (Acorn/RLJ Entertainment): Jane Seymour (also co-executive producer) tries out the title role of retired literature professor Harriet “Harry” Wild, whose restlessness kicks in when she begins helping her police officer son Charlie (Kevin Ryan) with his investigations – whether he likes it or not – in the eight episodes of the 2022 inaugural season of the light mystery series created by executive producer David Logan, with Rohan Nedd, Amy Huberman, Stuart Graham and Paul Rounding out the regular cast is Tylak, available in a three-DVD collection ($49.99 retail), filled with bonus features.
KILL A DRAGON (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Drawing its “inspiration” from Kurosawa Seven Samurai (1954), that slick but predictable 1967 action opus (originally titled nitro) stars Jack Palance as a mercenary hired by Chinese villagers to rid them of sadistic smuggler Fernando Lamas and his henchmen, starring Aldo Ray, Alizia Gur, Don Knight (in his feature debut) and Kam Tong (in his Last Feature) Caught in the Crossfire, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail). *½
LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray Bow ($24.95 retail) of director Frank Borzage’s 1934 adaptation of Hans Fallada’s novel Kleiner Mann – was a nun? starring Margaret Sullavan and Douglass Montgomery as a poor couple who move to Berlin to seek their fortunes, only to encounter the Third Reich in its inexorable rise to power. Lots of familiar people at hand: Alan Hale, Mae Marsh, George Meeker, Fred Kohler, Paul Fix, Alan Mowbray, Frank Reicher and Hedda Hopper. Bonus features include audio commentary and trailers.
MURDER IN YELLOWSTONE CITY (RLJE Films): Producer/director Robert Gray’s well-made but heavy western thriller details the murder of prospector Zach McGowan in the titular town and how it affects the local population. Too much talk, not enough action. Gabriel Byrne plays the local lawman, executive producer Thomas Jane the local minister and Isaiah Mustafa (very good) as the main suspect, with Richard Dreyfuss (also executive producer), Anna Camp, Aimee Garcia, Nat Wolff, Lew Temple, John Ales and Isabella Ruby (in her feature debut) available on DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($27.97 retail), each packed with bonus features including audio commentary, deleted scenes , etc. **
SNIPER: ROGUE MISSION (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Oliver Thompson, who wrote and co-produced 2020s Sniper: Assassin’s Endwrote and directed the latest R-rated episode of the long-running action franchise, starring Chad Michael Collins as a highly trained CIA sniper who goes rogue to take down a sex trafficking ring aided by Ryan Robbins and Sayaka Akimoto (also back from The Killer’s Endstarring Josh Brener, Brendan Sexton III and Dennis Haysbert caught in the crossfire, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($25.99 retail).
TERROR OUT OF THE SKY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): With Irwin Allen’s Big Budget the swarm about to hit theaters (where it quickly bombed), Lee H. Katzin directed this watchable but predictable 1978 CBS-TV sequel to the 1976 NBC-TV movie wild bees (one of the best killer bee films), starring Tovah Feldshuh (replacing Gretchen Corbett from the previous film) as a heroic scientist determined to defeat a swarm of killer bees, backed by a star-studded cast including Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Dan Haggerty, Richard Herd, Lonny Chapman, Steve Franken, Philip Baker Hall and Charles Hallahan (in his first TV movie), available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail), packed with audio commentary and trailers. **
TEY (Kino Lorber): Alain Gomis wrote and directed this award-winning 2012 drama (originally titled Today and also published as Today) is a stunning showcase for leading man Saul Williams, in a moving twist as a modern-day Dakar resident who wakes up one day knowing it will be his last day alive, then embarks on a journey of discovery of self as he is celebrated by the community and tries to atone for his past misdeeds. A colorful, sometimes satirical examination of Senegalese customs and culture, as well as a successful character study. In French and Wolof with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail). ***
THEY WENT THIS WAY AND THIS WAY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Tim Conway scripted and starred in this flimsy 1978 farce in which he and former children’s entertainer Chuck McCann play bumbling cops working undercover in a maximum-security prison — with expected slapstick results . Familiar people like Dub Taylor, Richard Kiel, Reni Santoni, Grace Zabriskie, Joe Dorsey, Hank Worden, Lenny Montana and Dukes of Hazzard veterans Sonny Shroyer and Ben Jones join in the silly shenanigans, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail). Rated PG. *½
WHEN TOMORROW COMES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): All Hot love affair (1939), Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer were immediately re-teamed in director John M. Stahl’s 1939 adaptation of James M. Cain A Modern Cinderella, detailing the tentative relationship between concert pianist Boyer and middle-class waitress Dunne, who is unaware that he is already married (to Barbara O’Neil). Cain was so incensed by the film that he sued Universal Pictures for copyright infringement, but it won the Academy Award for Best Sound Recording. The Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes audio commentary and trailers.
WHITE ELEPHANT (RLJE Films): Writer/director Jesse V. Johnson’s competent but routine shoot-’em-up offers Michael Rooker a rare big-screen role as a disillusioned mob enforcer who turns on his boss (Bruce Willis) when he decides to help endangered detective Olga Kurylenko. John Malkovich lands an easy check as a corrupt lawyer, Kurylenko manages to overcome the limitations of his core role, Willis (in one of his last films before his voluntary retirement) is more committed than he was been in other recent B-movies, and of course the film doesn’t skimp on the violence, available on DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail). **
(Copyright 2022, Mark Burger)