Barry Forshaw’s DVD Choice

Barry Forshaw’s pick of the latest DVDs on release

SHOGUN ASSASSIN BLU-RAY

Now available fully uncut, and looking better than ever on Blu-Ray, this striking high-definition special edition is the definitive release of Shogun Assassin – the one time (the only one?) in which the dubbed version of a film actually improves on the original. After being set up for disloyalty to his clan lord, disgraced ronin Itto Ogami (with three-year-old son Daigoro in tow) travels medieval Japan as the most skilled samurai-for-hire bar none. Operatically violent, hilarious and stylish in equal measure, it is the ultimate cult martial arts movie.

SINBAD THE SAILOR

Richard Wallace, director/Odeon Entertainment


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Another long hard-to-see film is resurrected by the enterprising team at Odeon. Here, Douglas Fairbanks Jr steps into his father’s swashbuckling shoes in a Technicolor Arabian nights romp that may be stronger on characterisation and double-cross than supernatural action (those expecting Ray Harryhausen-style animated monsters should look to Ray Harryhausen), but the casting is top notch: Maureen O’Hara, Anthony Quinn (villainous as he always was at this early stage of his career) and Walter Slezak. The print used here is splendid, with colour values rich and full.

PEEPING TOM BLU-RAY

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Michael Powell, director/Optimum

For many years, it was received wisdom that Peeping Tom was the film that brought a halt to the career of one of Britain’s greatest directors, Michael Powell. Certainly the high-minded disgust which greeted the film is truly hard to comprehend these days when looking at this immensely fascinating, rich and multifaceted work -- but there is an argument that the director’s subsequent film, The Queen’s Guard, a massive flop, had a signal effect on his career. This stunning Blu-ray edition from Optimum makes Powell’s masterpiece look more impressive than it ever has before. Even if you have an earlier version, you owe it to yourself to investigate this key piece of British cinema.

RAWHIDE – THE COMPLETE SERIES ONE

Various Directors/ Revelation

Clint Eastwood is the selling point in this welcome reissue of the massively popular TV western series that kick-started his durable movie career, and led directly to the Sergio Leone Man with No Name trilogy. This is (surprisingly) the series’ first appearance on DVD, 51 years after its original broadcast. This 6-disc set contains all 22 episodes from Series One, plus a bonus episode from Series Two. Rawhide also boasts a slew of notable guest stars.

SON OF KONG

Ernst B Schoedsak, director/Odeon Entertainment

Audiences of the day were taken aback by the lighter, more playful tone of this sequel to the immortal King Kong, but history has allowed its abundant charm to shine through, and it makes a truly beguiling viewing in the 20th century. Some of the animation set pieces, while not in the class of the original film still have great panache.

LA SIGNORA DI TUTTI

Max Ophuls, director/Eureka

The celebrated director Max Ophuls moved to Italy in 1934 and made La signora di tutti/Everybody’s Lady -- an inventive melodrama that although more expressionist in tone, ranks alongside such Ophuls classics as Letter from an Unknown Woman, Madame de... or Lola Mont�s. Isa Miranda is affecting in the role of a star forced – after a suicide attempt -- to revisit the entire history of her lovers to the present moment through a dizzying procession of flashbacks. Ophuls’ masterly (if melodramatic) La signora di tutti looks impeccable in this print.

SPARE THE ROD

Leslie Norman, director/Odeon Entertainment

Again, the DVD medium brushes off and spruces up a once famous British film that has long languished in obscurity. Interestingly enough, this drama about the struggles of a young teacher with a tough and uncooperative class had experienced censorship battles in its day, even before it was made into a film. Such conflicts will seem quaint today, but this British take on Richard Brooks’ Blackboard Jungle has interest for a contemporary audience, not least as a time capsule. The singer Max Bygraves gets by (just) in the Glenn Ford role as a humane teacher trying to reach his violent and bolshie pupils, but the best performance probably comes from Donald Pleasance as the conflicted headmaster; initially presented unsympathetically, but shown to have more nuance as the film progresses.

METROPOLIS: BLU-RAY

Fritz Lang, director/Eureka

With its astonishing vision of a futuristic cityscape and the most memorable female robot in cinema history, Metropolis is among the most celebrated of all German films and the progenitor of all SF cinema (influencing Star Wars, among many other films). Directed by the brilliant Fritz Lang (this restoration – in the Blu-Ray format) allows the film to be seen – for the first time in 83 years – as the director originally intended.

DEADLY OUTLAW: REKKA

Takashi Miike, director/Arrow

A kinetic whirl of psychotic Yakuza hitmen, dark humour and a proto-metal soundtrack make this film from Japan’s most outrageous cult filmmaker and maestro of Asian extreme cinema, Takashi Miike, a striking essay set in Japan’s vicious criminal underworld. Not vintage Miike, but fun.

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