View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.
Christopher Plummer in The Silent Partner (Photo: Kino & StudioCanal)
(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)
THE BRINK’S JOB (1978). A largely forgotten picture from the director of The Exorcist and The French Connection, The Brink’s Job finds William Friedkin teaming up with The Wild Bunch scripter Walon Green for a seriocomedy based on the real-life Brink’s robbery of 1950. A note-perfect cast has been assembled for the production, with Peter Falk portraying amiable gang leader Tony Pino, Gena Rowlands (Falk’s co-star in John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence) appearing as his wife, and Peter Boyle, Paul Sorvino and Warren Oates among those playing Pino’s accomplices in the Boston heist. Despite fine performances as well as convincing period detail that earned the movie an Academy Award nomination for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, The Brink’s Job never really catches fire, with both the humor and the suspense simmering on low for too much of the time.
Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson, and the theatrical trailer.
FATSO (1980). Perhaps it was appropriate that the first film to be financed and released by Mel Brooks’ production company, Brooksfilms, was written and directed by his beloved wife. Unfortunately, Fatso, which marked Anne Bancroft’s only stint as both helmer and scripter, is a crushing disappointment, buoyed only by a sympathetic performance by Brooks regular Dom DeLuise in a rare leading role. DeLuise stars as Dominick DiNapoli, whose sister Antoinette (Bancroft) starts berating him to lose weight after their youthful — and grossly obese — cousin drops dead of a heart attack. Dominick tries dieting and even joins a weight-loss group called Chubby Checkers, but the only thing that manages to distract him from food is the store owner (Candice Azzara) down the street. An indisputably great actress, Bancroft tragically goes 0-for-3 with this film: Her direction lacks flair, her script is woefully unfunny, and her shrill performance is embarrassing. Only DeLuise’s sincere emoting prevents this from sinking any further.
Blu-ray extras include a retrospective piece featuring Brooks and producer Stuart Cornfeld; an interview with film historian Montanez Smukler; and a photo gallery.
THE GREEN INFERNO (2013). Inspired by the glut of cannibal flicks that made the rounds during the 1970s and early ‘80s, writer-director Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno similarly finds a group of people from the “civilized” world venturing deep into the Amazon rainforest, whereupon they find themselves serving as tasty snacks for cannibalistic natives. It isn’t the gore that makes The Green Inferno offensive — those of us who caught 1980’s Cannibal Holocaust and 1981’s Cannibal Ferox at midnight showings back in the day can only guffaw at Roth’s relative timidity — it’s its maker’s contemptuous and condescending attitude toward his protagonists. In Roth’s worldview, all activists are either hypocritical opportunists or ineffectual wimps, and it’s furthermore a waste of time for anyone to actually become involved in humanitarian efforts. Ridiculous.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Roth, producer Nicolas Lopez, and co-stars Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Daryl Sabara; a making-of featurette; new interviews with Roth, Izzo, Blanton, and Sabara; behind-the-scenes footage; the theatrical trailer; and photo galleries galore. The set also include the CD soundtrack by Manuel Riveiro.
L’HUMANITÉ (2000). Overlong at 148 minutes, this sporadically involving drama centers on a sensitive and largely incompetent detective (Emmanuel Schotté) who’s assigned to investigate the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl in his blue-collar hometown. The sophomore effort from writer-director Bruno Dumont, this French import is the sort of movie in which characters stand around staring off into space for minutes on end. In many films, this technique can add great import and depth to the situation at hand; here, despite the grand issues being addressed, it merely feels like a local camera shop was having a fire sale on film and Dumont couldn’t resist the savings. A controversial winner at Cannes (it snagged three awards, including Best Actor for nonprofessional Schotté), it does close with one of those elliptical endings certain to lead to plenty of post-viewing discussions.
Extras on Criterion’s new Blu-ray edition include a new interview with Dumont; a 2014 conversation between Dumont and film critic Philippe Rouyer; and the theatrical trailer. In related news, Criterion has also just released Dumont’s debut feature, 1997’s La Vie de Jésus.
MIDNIGHT LACE (1960). The spirit of Alfred Hitchcock looms large over this intriguing thriller that bears comparison to The Master’s 1954 gem Dial M for Murder, not only due to its London setting and its co-opting of Dial M actors John Williams and Anthony Dawson but also for its plot-heavy use of telephones. Doris Day delivers a fine dramatic performance as a woman whose life is repeatedly threatened by the voice on the other end of the line; her husband (Rex Harrison) and her aunt (Myrna Loy) eventually question her sanity, while an assortment of suspects — from her hubby’s business colleague (Herbert Marshall) to her maid’s lay-about son (Roddy McDowall) to an attentive contractor (John Gavin) — soon blot the landscape. Williams, the detective in Dial M, again plays a Scotland Yard sleuth, while Dawson, Dial M’s would-be killer, appears as a shadowy figure lurking on the premises. This nabbed an Oscar nomination for Best Color Costume Design.
Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger and the theatrical trailer.
NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986). Never allowed an opportunity to make its mark in theaters (TriStar only bothered to release it in a few dozen venues), writer-director Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps instead had to forge its own path as a cult favorite via VHS and DVD. It’s easy to understand its rise in stature, as it’s a vastly entertaining effort that manages to simultaneously riff on alien-invasion flicks, zombie flicks, and slasher flicks. In 1959, an axe-swinging lunatic is on the prowl just as a college kid is being possessed by an icky blob from outer space. Cut to 1986, and Detective Ray Cameron (a career role for horror vet Tom Atkins), who was on the scene back in ’59, learns that both the college kid and the maniac have been revived, albeit in vastly different ways. A fast pace, appealing characters, and amusing effects all work in the film’s favor; also adding to the merriment is the fact that many characters and institutions are named after genre directors (Raimi, Romero, Corman et al).
Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray edition contains both the 88-minute theatrical version as well as a 90-minute director’s cut. Extras include audio commentary by Dekker; a five-part making-of documentary; an interview with Atkins; and deleted scenes.
THE SILENT PARTNER (1978). Those of us who first caught The Silent Partner in our youth (in my case, on HBO) have never forgotten the gory “death by fish tank” scene, but this Canadian feature has more going for it than just one disturbing sequence. Written by future Oscar winner Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential) and set around Christmas, it’s a twisty thriller in which a mild-mannered bank teller (Elliott Gould) ascertains that the mall Santa (Christopher Plummer) is planning to rob his institution and figures out a way to also profit from the heist. But once the crook learns he’s been cheated, he resorts to violent means to get his revenge. Gould’s blasé demeanor is perfect for his role as a meek man who’s constantly underestimated by everyone around him (including a fellow employee nicely played by Susannah York), while Plummer is absolutely chilling as the psychotic thief. Look for John Candy in one of his earliest roles as a bank teller. Incidentally, jazz great Oscar Peterson composed the score — it was his only feature film credit.
Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by film historians Howard S. Berger, Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson; an interview with Gould; the theatrical trailer; and a radio spot.