Sergei Bondarchuk’s War and Peace (1966-67):
Criterion Blu-ray review

Napoleon surveys the field of battle in Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace (1966-67)

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.

More late winter viewing, part one

Be scared or laugh? Walking alien slime mold in Kinji Fukasaku's The Green Slime (1968)

Entertainment knows no bounds in terms of style or quality: recent viewing ranges from Walter Hill’s gripping Vietnam allegory Southern Comfort (1981) to Kinji Fukusaku’s pulp sci-fi The Green Slime (1968), from Richard Franklin’s Ozploitation horror Patrick (1978) to Robert Amram’s perplexing End Times “documentary” The Late Great Planet Earth (1979).

Nuclear war and the movies

Survivors of nuclear attack in Mick Jackson's Threads (1984) face nuclear winter and the end of modern society

20 years after the BBC commissioned and then suppressed The War Game, Peter Watkins’ devastating depiction of a nuclear attack on England, the Corporation produced Mick Jackson’s Threads, an even more powerful film on the theme. Synapse has released Threads on an impressive new Blu-ray.

Sinatra x 2

Angela Lansbury as the quintessential controlling mother in John Frankenheimer's The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Frank Sinatra, a star and celebrity, could also be an impressive actor when he cared to make the effort: two of his best performances from the 1960s, in John Frankenheimer’s The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Mark Robson’s Von Ryan’s Express (1965), reveal a willingness to play flawed characters and expose their weaknesses.

The early films of Sydney Pollack

Major Falconer (Burt Lancaster) and his men arrive at the Medieval castle in Sydney Pollack's Castle Keep (1969)

In his early work, Sydney Pollack explored various genres from a distinctly literary perspective before becoming a maker of prestige, middlebrow Hollywood entertainments; excellent Blu-ray presentations of his best features – Castle Keep (1969), They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969) and Jeremiah Johnson – reveal a promise not entirely fulfilled in a long career.