BARRY FORSHAW'S DVD CHOICE
Barry Forshaw's pick of the latest DVDs
THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE
Tom Six, director/Eureka Blu-ray
It's the film that some people will simply never watch - but which fans of quirky horror films are relishing. Two attractive American girls taking a road trip across Europe find themselves alone in the woods at night when their car breaks down in rural Germany. Searching for help they discover an isolated house. The house's owner, the grotesque Dr. Heiter, a retired surgeon, invites the girls inside. A nightmare of horror is in store. The truly horrendous premise here is such that the squeamish should (and will) steer well clear; aficionados of unsparing black comedies will be transfixed - though the mayhem ends in a howl of despair.
A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME
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Alvin Rakoff, Director/Acorn Media
This stunning four-part drama (adapted by Hugh Whitemore from the much-acclaimed novels by Anthony Powell) showcases a career-defining and extraordinary central performance by Simon Russell Beale as the unsympathetic Widmerpool. A truly stellar cast gathers together Alan Bennett, John Gielgud and James Purefoy (wonderfully understated as the low-key central character Nick Jenkins - through whose eyes the whole semi-comic drama is seen). Acorn Media have another complete set in a very different vein: the complete run of The Good Life, one of the few British sitcoms that combined expert comic playing with scripts that didn't insult the intelligence of its audience. It looks ever more like something from a golden age.
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THE INNOCENTS/THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
Jack Clayton, Michael Powell, directors/BFI Blu-ray
One of the most celebrated films of the supernatural ever made in Britain receives a welcome release in high definition: The Innocents (Jack Clayton, 1961), along with a remarkable film by the director who (along with Alfred Hitchcock) is generally considered to be the finest this country has produced, Michael Powell. The Edge of the World, which was the legendary British director's first independent production. Neither film has ever looked as splendid as they do in these spruce Blu-ray issues. (BFI have other unusual titles in their current list: sporting new high quality Dual Format Editions are Clive Donner's lively Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (1967) and, having enjoyed a recent theatrical run and re-appraisal, Bronco Bullfrog (1969) directed by Barney Platts-Mills.
Dario Argento, director/Arrow Blu-ray
What a revelation on Blu-ray Argento's Inferno is! The film had a limited release in 1980 (essentially discarded by the distributor, despite the success of its predecessor, Suspiria) but is now very highly regarded. The paper-thin plot involves Irene Miracle as a young woman who discovers, through the medium of an occult book, that the New York apartment house into which she has moved is one of three designed by an architect named Varelli for the sinister 'Three Mothers' of Whispers, Tears and Darkness. The astonishing sequence in a water-submerged room near the beginning still takes the breath away, and the film has never looked better. More Blu-ray Argento, please, Arrow people.
THE FOUR JUST MEN - THE COMPLETE SERIES
A web exclusive, this collectable set assembles the economically made but highly efficient ITC crime drama series, loosely based on Edgar Wallace's novel of 1905. The cast is copper-bottomed: Jack Hawkins (The Cruel Sea), Richard Conte (The Godfather) and Oscar nominees Vittorio de Sica and Dan Dailey are the four individuals who elect to bring about justice on a worldwide basis for brisk half-hour episodes; the backup cast includes Honor Blackman, pre-The Avengers and Goldfinger.
Jacques Demy, director/Mr Bongo Films
A famous flower of the French New Wave, Jacques Demy's 'musical without music' (apart from Michel Legrand's score), Lola, was the director's debut feature and a loving tribute to Max Oph�ls. The incandescent Anouk Aim�e shines in the title role.
THE LEGEND OF FONG SAI-YUK
Corey Yuen, director/Cine-Asia
Directed by Corey Yuen, the helmer of The Transporter and DOA: Dead Or Alive, in tandem with the action director of numerous hit Hollywood action movies such as X-Men, this is a kinetic piece set in China's Ching Dynasty telling the story of a cruel emperor who tyrannises his people, and persecutes a courageous revolutionary group that is mobilizing to destroy his powerful regime. Young folk hero Fong Sai-yuk (Jet Li) leads the fightback, with customary limber expertise.
Richard Fleischer, director/Second Sight
A scene-stealing turn by Orson Welles is the highlight of Richard Fleischer's acclaimed version of the Leopold and Loeb murder case; this DVD sports a truly handsome widescreen print.
ZOMBIES OF MASS DESTRUCTION
Kevin Hamedani, director/Optimum
A small island town is under siege from zombies; Port Gamble is at the mercy of lumbering undead brain eaters, and the inhabitants are helpless. Familiar stuff? Not quite - there are real characters and characterisations here (a rarity in the genre); it's that rather then gruesome action that marks this one out.
WILL SUCCESS SPOIL ROCK HUNTER?
Frank Tashlin, director/Eureka Blu-ray
A splendid Blu-ray issue for one of Tashlin best-loved comedies, a lively satire on the excesses of TV and advertising - now looking prescient in light of such shows as Mad Men.
Mario Monicelli, director/Mr Bongo Films
Mr. Bongo Films continues their excavation of intriguing (and largely unseeable) Italian movies with the sex comedy Casanova '70 from the director Mario Monicelli - not a top rank name, but always reliable. It stars the legendary Marcello Mastroianni as the compromised ladies' man, Major Andrea Rossi-Colombotti, sexually inactive except in circumstances of risk. The enchanting Virna Lisi is one of several striking (and sexually frustrated) leading ladies.
Robert Lieberman, director/EI Entertainment
A gruelling vigilante horror movie from Oren Koules and Mark Burg, producers of the money-making Saw series of films, dealing with questions of moral responsibility and the dangers of taking the law into one's own hands.
MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW
Leo McCarey, director/Eureka
Long unseen, legendary director Leo McCarey's personal favourite among all his films (which included The Awful Truth and An Affair to Remember) is a poignant and subtle piece, beautifully acted.
THE PRISONER - THE ULTIMATE SET
The cult series - with a reputation that couldn't be higher -- looks as radical as when it first appeared in 1967. This 'Ultimate Collection' contains all seventeen episodes (restored from the original film elements), along with the new version of The Prisoner starring Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen. There is also a handsome selection of special features.
Bong Joon-ho, director/Optimum
Hye-ja is the obsessively devoted mother of a low-achieving, vaguely criminal son. Do-joon is 27 but simple-minded, and completely dependent on his mother. A young girl is found dead on the roof of a rundown building; is Do-joon the killer? His mother's bizarrely over-developed maternal instincts kick in and she sets out to find the killer and prove her son's innocence. After three remarkable feature films, Barking Dogs Never Bite, Memories of Murder & The Host, writer and director Bong Joon-ho's film is quite unlike anything you may have seen - a rich and strange experience.