Thursday, October 28, 2010

October '10 Classics on Disc


The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov (Kino) boxes together a quintet of features by the talented if erratic Russian director, including his masterly Oscar-winning Best Foreign Film, Burnt by the Sun (1994) and his other classic, 1980’s Oblomov. If the other features included—1976’s tragicomic study of on-set dalliances during filmmaking, A Slave of Love; the Khrushchev-era setting of Five Evenings (1979); and the chamber drama Without Witness (1983)—aren’t up to the level of his two best films, the box set still presents a director unafraid to tackle controversial subjects, and one who is also a compelling actor, as his superb lead performance in Burnt by the Sun shows. Extras include interviews with Mikhalkov and members of his crew; the most obvious problem is that the transfers aren’t near top-notch; but at least these films are finally available, giving a good introduction to one of the most interesting directors to emerge from the former Soviet Union.

The new DVD sets of Ally McBeal—The Complete 3rd, 4th and 5th Seasons (Fox) include the final three seasons (1999-2002) of the popular comedy-drama starring Calista Flockhart and Jane Krakowski, and—for real fans of the show—the first to include all of the original music; Tilda Swinton’s unique look is the main reason to watch Conceiving Ada (Microcinema), Lynn Hershman Leeson’s intriguing 1997 fantasy about Lord Byron’s daughter, the first “computer” genius; the Great Detectives Anthology (A&E) comprises several vastly entertaining programs that follow three of our best fictional sleuths: Sherlock Holmes (Peter Cushing), Miss Marple (Joan Hickson) and Hercule Poirot (David Suchet) (best extra: Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective documentary); winner of the 1988 Best Documentary Oscar, Marcel Ophuls’ Hotel Terminus The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie (Icarus Films) is a brilliant, uncompromisingly thorough (4-1/2 hours) exploration of the trial of one of the most notoriously unrepentant Nazis, the repellent “Butcher of Lyon”; Mad About You—The Complete 5th Season (Shout Factory) rounds up the episodes that make up the entire 1996-7 season, with the hilarious Helen Hunt and annoying Paul Reiser as a Manhattan married couple; Mary Tyler Moore—The Complete 7th Season (Fox) comprises 24 episodes in what was the final season for the beloved TV actress and her equally legendary cohorts (Ted Knight, Ed Asner, Betty White) (lone extra: “Final Curtain Call,” which has never been seen since the series ended); 1965’s Monster a Go-Go (Cultra) can be called a disaster movie, if by disaster you mean one of the most woefully inept productions ever to be shot on film: its cult status has long been assured (best extra: two shorts as good/bad as the feature); On the Road with Charles Kuralt, Set 3 (Acorn Media) brings together more of the indelible newsman’s terrific TV news segments in which he went “on the road” to bring us stories of Americana from his unique perspective (lone extra: 55-minute interview with Kuralt’s cameraman); Poldark, Series 2 (Acorn Media) is the highly engrossing mini-series sequel to the historical epic about a British officer’s life during and after the American Revolution, all based on several novels by author Winston Graham; Pretty Maids All in a Row (Warner Archive), an entertainingly trashy sex comedy-murder mystery directed by Roger Vadim, has a terrific B-movie cast: Rock Hudson, Angie Dickinson, Telly Savalas and Keenan Wynn.

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