Le Doulos - Jean-Paul Belmondo

Blu-ray Highlights: Week of June 30th, 2019 – Joyeux Jour de l’Indépendance, Amérique

Are you a fan of classic French cinema? I hope so, because if not, this July 4th holiday week is decidedly lacking in fireworks as far as new Blu-ray releases go.

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New Releases

Escape Plan: The Extractors – It says a lot that the highest profile title of the week is the second direct-to-video sequel to a middling Sylvester Stallone flick that nobody really cared much about in the first place. Once again, Dave Bautista subs in for the original film’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, who couldn’t be bothered with any more of this nonsense. 50 Cent supposedly also pops in for a brief cameo, if that helps at all.

The Best of Enemies – Sam Rockwell won an Oscar for playing a racist in Three Billboards, so here he is starring in the true story of a Ku Klux Klan leader who forms an unlikely friendship with a civil rights activist (Taraji P. Henson) in early 1970s North Carolina. Important lessons about tolerance and forgiveness are learned by all, I’m sure. I don’t recall this playing in theaters, but apparently it somehow grossed $10 million, which sounds pretty good for a movie with zero advertising, but actually isn’t so hot considering that it cost about the same amount to make. Reviews were also unimpressive.

Not a single movie makes its way to 4k Ultra HD this week.

Catalog Titles

Kino pays tribute to legendary French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Melville with three of his important works. New to Blu-ray are the crime thrillers Bob le Flambeur (1956) and Le Doulos (1963). The religious drama Léon Morin, Priest (1961) was previously released by Criterion, but the Kino copy promises a 4k restoration and some new bonus features.

The latter two of those pictures starred screen icon Jean-Paul Belmondo, who also headlines Kino’s releases of the (respectively) spy and cop thrillers Le Professionnel (1981) and The Outsider (1983).

In 1969, Robert Downey, Sr. (yes, Iron Man’s father) confounded the world with Putney Swope, a raucously surreal counterculture satire of the advertising industry, race relations, national politics, and just about anything else you can think of. This movie is almost indescribably crazy. Although last year’s Sorry to Bother You owes it a clear debt, even that barely approaches its wild insanity. Vinegar Syndrome brings a recent restoration of the film to Blu-ray.

In what sounds like an appropriate pairing, Vinegar Syndrome also provides the home video debut of another surreal and experimental satire, Taking Tiger Mountain (begun in 1974 with one director, completed in 1983 by another). Based on a short story by William S. Burroughs and set in a dystopian future, Bill Paxton made his acting debut as a World War III draft dodger brainwashed to assassinate a Welsh politician. The Blu-ray contains both the 1983 cut as well as a new re-edit from one of the directors.

Finally, Arrow Video tunes into FM, the 1978 disc jockey comedy with Cleavon Little, Martin Mull, and Eileen Brennan, among others.

My $.02

Putney Swope is a movie I’m very excited to revisit. All three of the Jean-Pierre Melville pictures also have my attention, especially Bob le Flambeur, but I’ll probably wait for a Kino sale for those.

I expect that “Nothing this week” will probably lead our poll, but I’d love to be surprised.

14 comments

  1. I’m not buying anything new this week, but between what I’ve picked up over the last couple days and what’s in the mail, I have:

    Barnes and Noble’s Criterion sale – Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Valley of the Dolls, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, My Dinner with Andre, Night on Earth, Il Sorpasso

    Arrow B1G1F sale – The Forbidden Photos of a Lady Above Suspicion, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, The Fifth Cord, The Grand Duel

    Amazon – Detour, Robowar

    Reviews – Winter Passing, The Tough Ones

    So I guess I could use a little bit of a breather. :p

      • Thankfully, Twilight Time made that easier by not having compelling prices!

        Kino Lorber’s sale later this month could be painful, though, along with whatever Prime Day / retailer-specific knockoffs are hitting mid-month. And if Warner Archive jumps into the fray…!

        I exhibited a rare self-control for so many sales earlier this year, but I guess I’m making up for lost time.

  2. Chris B

    I love Melville! If anyone reading this has yet to see his film “Army of Shadows”, it’s worth seeking out immediately, it’s a genuine masterpiece. I’ll have to pick up all those Kinos in the near future.

  3. EM

    Et joyeuse fête du Canada, ô Canada ! (♬ Ô Canada…♬)

    The only nouveautés that interest me this week are FM, Putney Swope, and Taking Tiger Mountain. Iʼve never seen them (indeed, the latter two were off my radar until this blog post) and would like to give them a shot.

  4. Julian

    ‘Escape Plan: The Extractors’. You’d think, between ‘Creed’, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’, ‘Creed II’ and ‘Rambo: Last Blood’, Stallone is hot enough (again) to NOT show up in DTV fare. His career is a lot hotter compared to the start of the century. Why does he do it? Bruce Willis syndrome? (even though, unlike Willis, Stallone rarely phones it in).

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      I think the intent was to make Escape Plan into a theatrical trilogy. After the original movie underperformed, the sequels got scaled down and eventually wound up going DTV, but Stallone stayed attached.

        • Josh Zyber
          Author

          I don’t believe Stallone has ever had a movie get franchised or sequelized without his involvement. He’s been front-and-center in all the Rockys, Rambos, and Expendableses. He even made sure he got a prominent role in the Creed movies. There was never a Cliffhanger 2 or Demolition Man 2 without him. It might be an ego thing for him to stick with this franchise even as it goes DTV.

          • njscorpio

            Well, I would still expect him to be front a center, just a scaled down film akin to Buried.

            I feel like he tried to transition to a “new generation” with Expendables 3, but even if that worked, I imagine he’d still be the lead of that younger team in a 4th film.

          • Bolo

            I never saw ‘Escape Plan 2’, but there was a lot of griping about how Stallone’s screentime amounted to little more than a cameo. So his appearance in the sequels might be a contractual obligation thing.

            He is still a draw in his signature roles, but I don’t know how fussy he can be about what work he accepts, especially if he wants to be the lead. An actor at his stage is mostly limited to reprising their signature characters or doing supporting roles.

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