View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, DVD and Streaming. Ratings are on a four-star scale.
Selena Gomez and Timothée Chalamet in A Rainy Day in New York (Photo: MPI)
(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.)
AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON (1987). John Landis may have directed 1977’s uproarious The Kentucky Fried Movie, but the true stars were writers David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker, who would go on to create 1980’s Airplane! (reviewed here). Landis returned to the sketch comedy format with Amazon Women on the Moon, but without ZAZ on board (the scripters were Michael Barrie and Jim Mulholland, regular writers for Johnny Carson and David Letterman), the results were far more hit-and-miss. With Landis joined by four other directors (including Joe Dante), the film offers a spoof of a 50s-styled sci-fi yarn interspersed with over a dozen shorter skits. The best one features Ed Begley Jr. as the son of the Invisible Man; other successful entries include a brutal review of a man’s life by two film critics and a trip through various types of movies by a couch potato (Lou Jacobi) after he’s sucked into his TV set. Among the weaker entries are a terrible hospital-set sketch starring Michelle Pfeiffer and then-husband Peter Horton and a ho-hum number about video pirates.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film historians Kat Ellinger and Mike McPadden; a retrospective piece featuring Landis, Dante, and others; and deleted skits.
THE BEGUILED (1971). Based on Thomas Cullinan’s novel, director Don Siegel’s excellent and unusual drama casts Clint Eastwood as John McBurney, a wounded Union soldier who gets nursed back to health at a remote all-girls school in the Civil War South. Nearly all of the females, from the middle-aged headmistress (Geraldine Page) to the precocious preteen (Pamelyn Ferdin), are drawn to the male in their midst, leading to jealousy, mistrust and violence. Between the poor marketing and an atypical role for Eastwood, The Beguiled was a box office flop, yet its status as one of its star’s most intriguing works remains undisturbed. Eastwood shines in a rare non-heroic role — his character is blessed with the ability to compliment, cajole and con at will, but he’s fundamentally rotten underneath — while Page and Elizabeth Hartman (as a teacher who falls hard for McBurney) are similarly superb. Sofia Coppola offered her own interpretation of the material in 2017, but her whitewashed version curiously stripped the story of all nuance and all complexity.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film historian Kat Ellinger; a featurette on the collaborative nature between Siegel and Eastwood; and the theatrical trailer.
BILL & TED FACE THE MUSIC (2020). In theory, it’s nice to imagine that those amiable airheads Bill and Ted would be the ones to save 2020 from being a complete downer — after all, a film celebrating friendship and solidarity would be most excellent in the Time of Trump. But this belated sequel to 1989’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey feels more wheezy than anything, rehashing old routines in a half-hearted manner. Now middle-aged, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) must come up with the song that will save our world as it faces imminent destruction. While the pair journey forward in time to force their older selves to fork over the tune, their daughters (Samara Weaving and Brigette Lundy-Paine) travel to the past to ask Mozart, Jimi Hendrix and others to join their dads’ band. As the title twits, Reeves and Winter haven’t lost a step, and it’s especially amusing to watch them play different versions of their characters (particularly those muscle-bound prison thugs). But all the hyperactivity proves to be more tiresome than tantalizing, a plot twist involving the daughters heads toward an obvious conclusion, and the climactic set-piece falls flat in spite of its mirthful message.
Blu-ray extras include a virtual panel discussion with cast and crew; a behind-the-scenes featurette; and a piece on the titular duo.
THE BRIDES OF DRACULA (1960). Hammer’s second Dracula flick, following the success of 1958’s Horror of Dracula (reviewed here), doesn’t even contain Dracula. The bloodsucker is instead Baron Meinster (David Peel), who’s kept chained in his bedroom by a mother (Martita Hunt) who prefers to bring his meals — i.e. comely wenches — to him rather than allow him to roam the Transylvanian wilds. But after clueless schoolteacher Marianne Danielle (Yvonne Monlaur), a visitor to the castle, sets him free, all hell breaks loose, with only Dr. Van Helsing (returning Peter Cushing) standing a chance of bringing him down. Horror of Dracula director Terence Fisher again takes charge, and his staging results in some rousing confrontations (particularly when Van Helsing himself gets bitten by the Baron). But even by the standards of horror heroines of the period, Marianne is particularly irksome and irresponsible, and several instances of lazy scripting further prevent this from attaining total success.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film historians Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr; a making-of featurette; and an interesting piece on Oakley Court, the shooting location for tons of movies (including Vampyres and The Rocky Horror Picture Show).
THE EIGER SANCTION (1975). When covering the previous trio of Clint Eastwood films offered by Kino Lorber a couple of weeks ago, I opined that 1972’s Joe Kidd (reviewed here) and The Eiger Sanction were the most underrated of the actor’s ‘70s output. In this espionage flick, Eastwood stars as Jonathan Hemlock, an art professor who once worked as an assassin for a shady organization. He returns to the fold to discover the identity of the man who helped murder a former colleague; all intel suggests that said character will be taking part in a treacherous climb in the Swiss Alps, a development that will require Hemlock to revive his own skills as a mountain climber. Even the naysayers have praised the formidable mountain-climbing sequences that take up the bulk of the final act (Eastwood impressively did most of his own stunts), but the first two thirds are just as entertaining in their own right. George Kennedy adds some appreciated warmth as Hemlock’s garrulous friend from his climbing days.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film critic Nick Pinkerton; an interview with co-star Reiner Schöne (who plays the cocky climber Freytag); and a vintage promotional piece.
PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971). This psycho-thriller was notable as the first film directed by Clint Eastwood, made after he felt he had learned enough from his mentors Don Siegel and Sergio Leone. Employing the same basic plot that would later become even more popular in 1987’s Fatal Attraction, this critical and commercial hit stars Eastwood as Dave Garner, a late-night radio disc jockey who, before getting back together with his girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills), has a fling with an overenthusiastic fan named Evelyn Draper (Jessica Walter). It soon becomes clear that Evelyn has an unhealthy attraction to Dave, with her obsession eventually leading to violence. A crisp and economical picture, this finds Walter delivering a truly unsettling performance and also features ace supporting turns from John Larch as a testy detective, Clarice Taylor as Dave’s wise-cracking housekeeper, and Siegel himself as Dave’s bartender buddy.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by film historian Tim Lucas; a retrospective behind-the-scenes piece; and a look at the movie’s various poster designs (including ones that reveal the movie was originally titled The Slasher).
A RAINY DAY IN NEW YORK (2019). As reliably as Christmas and Halloween, it was a tradition for a Woody Allen movie to hit U.S. theaters on an annual basis. But because of Me Too backlash aimed at the filmmaker, Amazon Studios elected not to release this picture stateside, although it subsequently had a healthy run in Europe. The movie now arrives via Blu-ray, and the sad truth is that it’s another bummer from a man whose best days are far behind him. The leads skew younger than in any Allen effort to date, and the result is so bogus that the 84-year-old auteur might just as well have tried his hand at a Porky’s reboot. Timothée Chalamet and Elle Fanning are both overbearingly arch as Gatsby and Ashleigh, college sweethearts whose journey into the Big Apple results in a series of comic misadventures. Ashleigh gets to hang out with a self-absorbed director (Liev Schreiber), a fretful screenwriter (Jude Law) and a suave actor (Diego Luna) while Gatsby trades barbs with a former schoolmate (Selena Gomez). As expected, Chalamet’s Gatsby stutters like a patented Allen surrogate while Fanning’s Ashleigh finds herself the object of lust by various older men. The lines are nonsensical and the laughs nonexistent.
There are no extras on the Blu-ray.