Criterion’s two-disk Blu-ray release of Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace showcases a restoration of what may well be the most expensive film ever made. Truly epic in scale, this adaptation of Tolstoy’s revered novel balances awe-inspiring spectacle with emotionally charged character drama. The 7+ hour feature is supplemented with three hours of informative new and archival extras.
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Recent viewing includes a stark western (compared to the work of Dreyer by Bertrand Tavernier), an entertaining adventure souffle from frequent collaborators John Huston and Humphrey Bogart, and a ground-breaking satirical drama from Robert Aldrich which dealt sympathetically with lesbianism in the late 1960s.
A decidedly mixed bag of recent viewing; a pair of young adult zombie stories — the Maze Runner Trilogy (2014-18) and the small-scale The Girl with All the Gifts (2016); a taut ’50s prison escape noir (Crashout, 1955) and a polished new crime noir (Dragged Across Concrete, 2018); a minor, dull thriller (All the Devil’s Men, 2018); and a bloated, enervatingly pretentious remake of a genre classic (Suspiria, 2018).
A pair of recent Blu-rays from Shout! Factory bookend ’70s horror with John Hayes’ Grave of the Vampire (1972), a too-little-known cheap exploitation feature which revitalizes vampire mythology and William Girdler’s The Manitou (1978), a low-budget studio movie with a better-than-average cast which plays a variation on demonic possession but fails to find an effective tone.
The Criterion Collection presents a new 4K restoration of Elia Kazan’s best film, A Face in the Crowd (1957). The excellent image showcases two of the finest performances of the 1950s: Andy Griffith in his screen debut as the countryboy-turned-demagogue Lonesome Rhodes and Patricia Neal as the smalltown radio reporter who discovers him and facilitates his rise to national stardom.