DVD Obscura: 'The Death of Stalin,' 'Double Lover,' Jerry Lewis and 'Doctor Who'

DVD Obscura: 'The Death of Stalin,' 'Double Lover,' Jerry Lewis and 'Doctor Who'

Jul 27, 2018

What's new in the world of home video? We've gathered recent indie, foreign, documentary, grindhouse, classic and TV releases for your consideration. 

New Indie

The Death of Stalin (Paramount Home Media) asks, what could be funnier than monstrous politicians, bureaucrats, military leaders, and all of their lackeys grasping desperately for power by any means necessary, and then failing miserably? Don’t answer that question if the publication of this column coincides with the disintegration of our own government, but in film form, it’s hilarious. The latest blisteringly bleak and black comedy from Armando Iannucci (Veep, In The Loop) finds the jokes that were always a part of vintage Russian tyranny and makes them seem oh-so-frighteningly relevant for 2018. And yes, all the actors here, both British and American – Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough, Jason Isaacs, and Steve Buscemi – kept their own accents. You’ll figure out why quickly enough.

Also available: Supercon (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) wonders: should washed up former child stars go on a crime spree? The answer is a resounding yes, obviously; did you hear the one about the assassins, the teacher, the janitor and the waitress, and the dark ways their paths cross? Well, it’s called Terminal (RLJE Films), and it stars Margot Robbie and Simon Pegg; you might think Hamlet (Omnibus Entertainment) should be in the "Classic" section here, and normally you’d be right, but this one is a stylish new staged event from Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre featuring the non-trad casting of The Theory of Everything’s Maxine Peake as the Danish prince.


New Foreign 

Prolific French filmmaker François Ozon is no stranger to the dark and diabolical side of human experience and desire, and Double Lover (Cohen Media Group) is a stylistic return to his early, sexually transgressive cinema. Without spoiling anything in this cool, confident, puzzle box of a mystery, Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth star as a psychoanalyst and the patient who falls in love with him, a situation that quickly turns twisted. Identities are revealed and concealed, psychosexual games are won and lost, and by the time it’s over you’ll wonder just who got played. Think Hitchcock and De Palma plus nudity and violence.

Also available: The warm French drama Back to Burgundy (Music Box Films) follows adult siblings returning to the family vineyard; The Workshop (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), from acclaimed director Laurent Cantet (The Class, Human Resources), is about trouble at a summer writing workshop for young people, which – no pun intended – only sounds boring on paper; civilian terror during wartime is made very real in Philippe Van Leeuw’s In Syria (Film Movement).

What happens when a satellite turns into a girl and a boy turns into a cow? Can their romance last? Find out in Satellite Girl and Milk Cow (Shout Factory/GKIDS); in Furious (Well Go USA Entertainment), 13th century Mongol warriors control the world and nobody is happy about it. Fighting ensues. Tormentero (FilmRise) explores what happens when a small Spanish village learns they have an oil field. You can probably guess from the title that it involves more money and more problems.


New Documentary 

One of world cinema’s most respected, and simultaneously least known, documentary filmmakers gets an overdue spotlight with Six Films by Nikolaus Geyrhalter (KimStim/Icarus). Often working without any dialogue whatsoever, the Austrian director explores facets of human (and animal) existence usually left out of the mainstream dialogue, and he does so quietly and calmly, framing mundane activities as though they were artistic compositions. This seven-disc set encompasses his most important output of the past two decades (Elsewhere, Homo Sapiens, Our Daily Bread, and others) and is a perfect way to introduce yourself to one of the one of the most vital, visionary documentarians working today.

Also available: My Letter to the World (Music Box Films) is the documentary companion to last year’s Emily Dickinson biopic, A Quiet Passion, and it’s narrated by Passion-star-turned-political candidate Cynthia Nixon; need more penguins? Here’s more penguins! Antarctica: In the Footsteps of an Emperor (MHz Choice) has plenty of penguins; it’s history lesson time with American Socialist: The Life & Times of Eugene Victor Debs (First Run Features), which traces the life of the man whose ideas inspired both the New Deal and Bernie Sanders.

Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four (FilmRise) tells the harrowing story of four lesbian Latinas in Texas convicted of a gang rape they didn’t commit; Dogs of Democracy (EPF Media) explores Greece’s anti-austerity movement through the lens of stray dogs and the people who take care of them; I Called Him Morgan (FilmRise) details an infamous murder in New York’s jazz world; Motherland (FilmRise) drops you into an extremely busy maternity hospital in the Philippines for a look at how poverty affects the lives of newborns.


New Grindhouse 

There’s no cult 80s aerobics-meets-ninjas movie quite like Ninja III: The Domination (Scream Factory). Breakin' star Lucinda Dickey plays an aerobics instructor who becomes possessed by the spirit of an evil ninja in this Cannon Films epic. In the grip of the dead killer’s rage, she brutalizes his enemies left and right. Then they bring in an exorcist. If your everyday speech doesn’t usually include "whut" as an affirmation of a particular strain of bonkers excellence, then prepare to add it to your vocabulary.

Also available: China Salesman (Cleopatra Entertainment) sees Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal resort to violence over a telecom deal in Africa and the "Can You Hear Me Now?" guy, the only hope of global peace, is nowhere to be found; Devil’s Gate (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) answers the question: "Where is the Devil?" Answer: living in a basement in North Dakota; meanwhile, The Midnight Man (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory) lives in an attic in another state but he is just as terrifying. 

The Rake (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) involves adult siblings coming to terms with the idea that a fake urban legend actually killed their parents; Altered Perception (SKD) stars Jon Huertas (This Is Us) in a thriller about a special drug that makes you lose your sanity; Night of the Lepus (Scream Factory) is a horror movie from the 70s about giant bunnies that kill you, and it’s amazing; the critically acclaimed thriller The Endless (Well Go USA Entertainment) explores the mind-scrambling terror of growing up in a UFO death cult that might have been right all along.

Stallone and Schwarzenegger break out of a supermax in Escape Plan (Summit Entertainment), now available in 4K; there’s no ghostbuster around to fight a spirit that takes on human form in the frightening Korean horror film The Mimic (Well Go USA Entertainment); The Late Great Planet Earth (Scorpion Releasing) is a case of hilarious 1970s religious wackiness in which Orson Welles delivers End Times prophecy with a straight face. 


New Classic 

The late, great Jerry Lewis was a complicated cultural figure: a comedy superstar who couldn’t seem to get the respect his work deserved. Validated by other film cultures, and eventually critically reconsidered in his own country, he was a man whose comic genius cred finally came full circle. Now you can see why with Jerry Lewis 10 Film Collection (Paramount), featuring many of the films (The Stooge, The Delicate Delinquent, The Bellboy, Cinderfella, The Errand Boy, The Ladies Man, The Nutty Professor, The Disorderly Orderly, The Patsy, The Family Jewels) that made him a household name, both here and abroad. His gifts for composition and silent comedy are on full display here, making it understandable why his champions rate him alongside Chaplin and Tati. Don’t be disappointed that The Day The Clown Cried isn’t here, though: You know some mysteries are better left unseen.

Also available: The original Superfly (Warner Archive Collection) glides onto Blu-ray and delivers all the thrilling vintage wocka-chicka guitar sounds you’ve come to expect and need; Vincente Minnelli’s 2 Weeks in Another Town (Warner Archive Collection) stars Kirk Douglas and Cyd Charisse devouring the scenery in a kinda-sorta sequel to Minnelli and Douglas’ The Bad and the Beautiful; savor Glenda Jackson and Susannah York in the film version of Jean Genet’s story of sadomasochistic domestic help, The Maids (Kino Classics); Janet Leigh and Betty Garrett are two small town girls trying to make it in New York – and wondering why-o they ever left Ohio – in My Sister Eileen (Twilight Time). 

Female Trouble (The Criterion Collection) is among John Waters’ greatest films and argues convincingly that crime makes a person more beautiful; Marilyn Monroe sings "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" in Let's Make Love (Twilight Time), which should be selling point enough; you can fly, you can fly, you can fly, because Peter Pan (Disney) is back in a deluxe new Blu-ray edition.

Jacques Brel stars as Jacques Brel in the legendary musical stage review Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris (Kino Classics); see one of Robocop director Paul Verhoeven’s more shocking pre-Hollywood efforts, the Dutch sensation Spetters (Kino Lorber). The classic Stanley Donen musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Warner Archive Collection) is literally about kidnapping women and forced marriage, but it’s the 19th century, so everyone’s very happy about it, and they can’t stop singing and dancing exuberantly, even while raising barns.

A man in a Zoot suit arrives from Heaven. Is he a Christ figure? Only the early 70s oddity Greaser’s Palace (Scorpion/Shout Factory) knows for sure; Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck look amazing together as young New York professionals in Vincente Minnelli’s Designing Woman (Warner Archive Collection); Filipino auteur Lino Brocka put himself on the arthouse map with Manila in the Claws of Light (The Criterion Collection), a harrowing portrait of early 70s life in that city.

All the missions were impossible, and yet Tom Cruise chose to accept them in Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible 2, Mission: Impossible 3, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, and Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation (Paramount Home Media). And then Tom Cruise decided to do another action movie -- a much, much weirder one -- and it was called Jack Reacher (Paramount Home Media), and we all thanked him for it. And now you can watch them all in glorious 4K in your home theater.

Despite the title, The Curse of the Cat People (Scream Factory) is a haunting and subtle tale of a lonely girl seeking escape through her imagination, although it’s certainly as moody and atmospheric as its legendary predecessor; Forrest Gump (Paramount Home Media), now available in 4K, made Watergate and the Vietnam War adorable again; in the 1990s, Abel Ferrara made a vampire movie with Lili Taylor called The Addiction (Arrow Video) and it will make you forget about those other vamps that sparkle and play baseball.

What if Kramer vs. Kramer took place in a New Zealand junkyard? It would be Smash Palace (Arrow Video), an unsettling 1981 offering from New Zealand New Wave filmmaker Roger Donaldson; meanwhile, in the U.S., 1980s, Eddie Murphy was running all the tables in comedy hits Trading Places and Coming to America (Paramount Home Media); Philippe de Broca’s 1966 war satire King of Hearts (Cohen Film Collection), starring Alan Bates and Geneviève Bujold, laid the groundwork for M*A*S*H and was a repertory-house staple (kids, there used to be this thing called repertory houses) throughout the 1970s.


New TV 

The Fourth Doctor gets the Blu-ray treatment in Doctor Who: Tom Baker Complete Season One (BBC Studios). Tom Baker was a much-loved classic-era Doctor, and this six-disc set has 480+ minutes of remastered episodes and over 17 hours of bonus material, including Genesis of the Daleks, which has gone unseen since its original 1975 broadcast. There’s also brand-new bonus material, exclusive to this set, like making-of documentaries for The Sontaran Experiment and Revenge of The Cybermen. As box sets go, this one’s bigger on the inside.

Also available: The Martian Chronicles (Kino Lorber) involves Rock Hudson having to deal with a bunch of aliens in the early 1980s, when aliens were not as special-effect-y as they are today, making his job a lot more difficult to believe; Jericho: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount) allows you the comfortable TV version of dystopian hellscape when a nuclear blast throws Kansas into chaos and sensible people become paranoid, gun-toting survivalists; The 10th Kingdom (Mill Creek Entertainment) brings the classic, Emmy-winning, family-oriented fairytale fantasy miniseries to Blu-ray.

The Awesomes: The Complete Series (Mill Creek Entertainment) is that animated superhero series about replacement superheroes, the underdogs of superheroing; DuckTales – Destination: Adventure! (Disney) is for you if, and only if, you can sing the theme song; Man in an Orange Shirt (PBS) is the moving Brit drama series about LGBT lives past and present, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael. 

Big Hero 6: The Series – Back in Action! (Disney) takes the beloved animated feature and turns it into a beloved TV series that you probably only know exists if you have small children in your home; Detective Montalbano (MHz Choice) is an Italian series about a detective who is very good at detecting, otherwise he would probably be fired; in case you were unaware, Orange Is the New Black, Season Five (Lionsgate), is not yet up for parole; South Park: The Complete Twenty-First Season (Comedy Central Home Entertainment) is literally for completists, but you can’t say your commitment hasn’t been rewarded.

50 Cent got rich, didn’t die tryin’, but he’s still complaining about it on Power: The Complete Fourth Season (Lionsgate); The Invaders: The Complete Series (CBS/Paramount) is about a man trying to convince Earth’s people that aliens have already arrived, but nobody will listen because it’s 1966 and they’re all busy watching I Dream of Jeannie; he thought he was through being a superhero who controlled electricity, but now he’s back on the job in Black Lightning: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment). 

Girlfriends (Acorn TV) follows three older British women (Miranda Richardson, Phyllis Logan, Zoe Wanamaker) navigating life, relationships, and friendship; The Heart Guy, Series 2 (Acorn TV) is about an Australian doctor who returns to practice in his hometown populated by lovable eccentrics, so it’s basically if Lorelei Gilmore was a cardiologist; the mysteries have never been cozier than in The Best of Agatha Christie, Volume 3 and The Best of Agatha Christie, Volume 4 (Acorn); Menace & Murder: A Lynda La Plante Collection (Acorn TV) collects three BAFTA Award-winning La Plante thrillers (Supply & Demand, Killer Net, Mind Games) for all your ongoing British murder needs.

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