This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Sorcerer, Big Bad Wolves, Bettie Page
This week: A weird week with no major new releases offers a chance to discover some lost gems - William Freidkin's maligned '70s flop, Tarantino's fave flick of 2013, and an '80s slasher nugget.
► William Freidkin’s SORCERER was a nightmare to make, a massive flop upon release, and…well, had nothing to do with sorcerers. Opening around the same time as ‘Star Wars’ didn’t help either. But this tense thriller about truck drivers delivering nitroglycerin to a South American town in order to gain citizenship has become Friedkin’s lost ‘70s classic. Blu-ray is newly remastered, with a 40-page booklet on the film and a new forward by Friedkin.
► As the box cover says, Quentin Tarantino thought the Israeli thriller BIG BAD WOLVES was the best movie of 2013. Extremely dark with a touch of bizarre humor, it ponders Arab-Israeli relations via the tale of three men about to clash after a series of murders – a vigilante detective, the father of one of the victims, and the main suspect.
► Sidney Lumet's THE PAWNBROKER was a movie of firsts: First American movie to deal with the holocaust from a Jewish perspective, first American movie to feature bare breasts during the Production Code era, and first movie to feature some guy named Morgan Freeman. Rod Steiger got an Oscar nomination in this 1964 flick about a concentration camp survivor operating a pawnshop in the slums of East Harlem frequented by thieves and prostitutes. An unflinching movie for its time and played a crucial role in opening the door for nudity in American cinema.
► Mark Mori's 2012 documentary BETTIE PAGE REVEALS ALL lets the pin-up icon tell her own story via snippets of interviews before her death in 2008. It's plenty fascinating, especially her re-emergence in the early '90s when she was oblivious to the cult figure she had become. She was like the naughty flipside to Marilyn Monroe, influencing everything from porn to fashion to singers like Katy Perry. Interviews include Hugh Hefner, Dita Von Teese and Bunny Yeager.
► Both versions of the crime thriller GET CARTER hit blu-ray this week. The 1971 British original has Michael Caine as a London gangster who goes back to his hometown to investigate his brother’s death, and doesn’t like what he finds. Grim and no-nonsense flick with one of Caine’s more iconic performances. The far inferior 2000 remake has Sylvester Stallone, more action and a somewhat lighter touch, but never approaches the nasty grit of the original. It was a contender at the Golden Raspberries that year.
► One of the crown jewels of the slasher era, 1983’s THE HOUSE ON SORORITY ROW gathers all the usual clichés but pulls them off in more style than usual. A group of college grads play a prank which inadvertently kills their strict house mother. Not wanting to miss their graduation party, they dump the body into a filthy pool. It’s not long before party-goers are being killed by someone using the deceased old lady’s cane. Contains all the specs from Scorpion’s two-disc DVD set in 2012.
► Bill Siegel’s documentary THE TRIALS OF MUHAMMAD ALI looks at one of the great tragedies in sport – the three years of Ali’s prime lost when he was suspended for refusing to serve in the Vietnam War. We’ll never know what classic fights we missed, but Ali’s stance was for the greater good of the U.S. You know an athlete’s an icon when they make movies about when they didn’t compete.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!