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.
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).
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.
Blu-ray technology is lavished on a pair of cheap 1950s sci-fi/horror movies with Shout! Factory’s The Deadly Mantis (1957) and Kino Lorber’s The Maze (1953), the latter is superbly restored 3D. Both movies get informative commentaries and other extras – and both probably never looked this good even in their original theatrical releases.
Severin’s box set of Sergio Martino’s All the Colors of the Dark (1972) and Federico Caddeo’s documentary All the Colors of Giallo (2019) provides a masterclass in the poetically sordid Italian genre which flourished so briefly from the late 1960s to early 1980s. The collection of eighty-two giallo trailers with a four-hour commentary by Kat Ellinger are alone worth the price, but there’s a lot more – including two CDs of giallo scores and several informative interviews, as well as a supplementary disk which surveys the German krimi genre.
Indicator’s first box set of Hammer films on Blu-ray is an uneven selection of the studio’s mid-’60s output, including two of their best along with two of their weakest releases. Alongside Michael Carreras’ mediocre Maniac (1963) and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964), we get The Gorgon (1964), on of Terence Fisher’s finest Gothic horrors along with Silvio Narizzano’s debut feature, Fanatic (1965, aka Die! Die! My Darling!), the best of Hammer’s psychological horrors, all sporting excellent transfers and informative special features.