This week's list of new DVDs kicks off with the Weinstein Company's 40th Anniversary tribute release of a film that (mostly accidentally) became one of the most influential -- i.e., copied, stolen from, lauded, and parodied -- horror movies ever made. Back in 1968 it invented the Flesh-Eating Zombies genre with all of its tropes and terrors and analytically symbolic subversiveness. Today it remains high on any list of genuine horror-movie classics. It's none other than George Romero's revolutionary 1968 low-budget shocker, Night of the Living Dead.
Yes, Night of the Living Dead is still in the public domain. But even if you have other previous DVD editions, dump 'em -- especially that ill-conceived 1986 colorized green-zombie version -- and grab this one that's fully restored and newly remastered in an extras-packed two-disc edition that comes with Romero's blessing, input, and hands-on involvement. That scene where the zombies are disemboweling and then eating the poor unfortunates in the car, or the scene in the basement where the living-dead little girl kills her own mother with a trowel, or the chillingly nihilistic ending.... it all looks better than it ever has before. DVD extras include two audio commentaries (Romero included), an all-new full-length retrospective piece, new cast and crew interviews, galleries, and trailers. Film.com's Glenn Erickson gives us a full review this week.
And accompanying Night of the Living Dead on our shelves is the fifth film in Romero's Living Dead franchise. Released theatrically just this past February, it's Dimension Films' George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead. (Thus avoiding confusion with Jane Austen's Dowry of the Dead or the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's regrettable Dairy of the Dead.) Independently produced by Romero and his producer friend Peter Grunwald (with Artfire Films), Diary is more of a reboot than a sequel. Film.com's in-house horror-movie freak, C. Robert Cargill, gives this disc -- which comes with an audio commentary with Romero, his DP, and his editor, plus a feature-length "making of" piece and other featurettes along with deleted scenes -- a spin for us this week.
Other titles out this week are:
Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets in several editions -- a standard DVD with just the film, a Two-Disc Collector's Edition, and a Blu-ray double-feature with the first film in the cartoony but fun history-bending maybe-franchise.
Criterion's Eclipse Series 9: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein (Criterion's page). William Klein's explosive New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the sixties. An American expatriate in Paris, Klein has also been making challenging cinema for more than forty years, yet with the exception of his acclaimed documentary Muhammad Ali, the Greatest, his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features -- Who Are You, Polly Maggoo?, Mr. Freedom, and The Model Couple -- he skewers the fashion industry, American imperialism, and governmental mind control with hilarious, cutting aplomb. Today Klein's politically galvanizing social critiques seem even more acute than the works of the more famous New Wavers. These are colorful, surreal antidotes to all forms of social oppression.
Universal's James Stewart Western Collection, a six-disc set with Destry Rides Again (if you want to know where Mel Brooks got the inspiration for Blazing Saddles, look no further), Winchester 73, Bend of the River, The Far Country, The Night Passage, and The Rare Breed.
Genius Products' Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee
MGM's The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968) -- Jason Robards, Britt Ekland, Forrest Tucker, Joseph Wiseman, Denholm Elliott, Elliott Gould. Comedy about burlesque directed by William Friedkin.
United Artists' What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? (1966) -- Blake Edwards's comedy about an Italian village's takeover during World War II, with James Coburn, Dick Shawn, Sergio Fantoni, Giovanna Ralli, Aldo Ray, Harry Morgan, and Carroll O'Connor.
Weinstein Co.'s The Flock
Indie-Pictures' Forgiving the Franklins
Paramount's Strange Wilderness
Shock-O-Rama's Women's Prison Massacre. "Uncut!" it says right there on the label. For the art-house fans in our audience, the bonus disc adds director Bruno Mattei's Caged Women.
TV on DVD:
Image Entertainment's Company. The Tony Awards are just a few weeks away, and here -- on DVD and (yowza!) Blu-ray -- is 2007's Tony-winner for Best Revival of a Musical. It's Stephen Sondheim's beloved, era-defining classic stunningly reinvented in this powerful Broadway production, featuring a star-making performance by Raul Esparza. Set in modern upper-crust Manhattan, Company is a funny, sophisticated exploration of love and commitment as seen through the eyes of a charming perpetual bachelor questioning his single state and his enthusiastically married, slightly envious friends. With a wise and witty Sondheim score -- including "Another Hundred People," "Side by Side by Side," "The Ladies Who Lunch," and "Being Alive" -- Company offers musical comedy at its finest. This production was broadcast on PBS a couple of months ago, and this disc comes with that broadcast's after-show extra, An Audience with Stephen Sondheim, along with video interviews with director John Doyle and actor Raul Esparza. Check back here at Film.com for a full review this week.
BBC Video's two-disc Cranford. MaryAnn Johanson reviews this five-part miniseries from 2007 for us this week.
Also from BBC Video are the three-disc set Maggie Smith at the BBC, the five-disc set Helen Mirren at the BBC, and -- tipping the scale at eight discs -- The Judi Dench Collection. Look for reviews of the Mirren and Dench sets here this week.