July 28, 2010

Presenting Sacha Guitry

Highlight of the Week
Presenting Sacha Guitry (Eclipse) Chances are you’ve never heard of French actor, writer, director and playwright Sacha Guitry. What’s important is that others have. From French New Wave to mid-century Brit-coms, Guitry’s inventive sense of humour and stylish send-ups of the medium are a major part of film history, despite his virtual anonymity. Lucky for us, Eclipse is putting out four of the man’s wittiest and most impressive comedies from the late 1930s: Le roman d’un tricheurLes perles de la couronneDésiré and Quadrille. All are surefire winners, but the shockingly self-reflexive Le roman d’un tricheur is an out-and-out stunner, and an obvious inspiration for legendary characters Charles Foster Kane and Antoine Doinel. In an age where most any would-be classic has already seen numerous re-releases on home video, the first-ever North American DVD release of Sacha Guitry’s films is a remarkable find. In typical Eclipse fashion, extras are restricted to useful liner notes for each title. 
Also Available
Batman: Under the Red Hood (Warner) Among all the direct-to-video animated features, Batman has always been in a class of his own. (Mask of the Phantasm is as good as any live-action translation — so sayeth Ebert.) Unlike other incarnations, this PG-13er (to use US-rating parlance) is fairly risqué, contains a first-rate voice cast (Neil Patrick Harris = YES) and features villains like the Joker and Ra’s al Ghul. You don’t have to be bat-shit for Batman to dig this mostly excellent ride. Blu-ray extras are where it’s at: we get a stack of nerd-friendly featurettes, four episodes from the superbly noir-ish ’90s cartoon and a Jonah Hex animated short that I’m guessing is substantially better than the recent Jonah Hex movie.  
The Prowler (Blue Underground, eOne) Never dump your soldier boyfriend while he’s off at war, unless you want to be dispatched by a large shish kabob skewer. This is the set-up for The Prowler, which plays like a grislier mash-up of My Bloody Valentine and Friday the 13th (the three were made months apart). The film is infamous thanks to a gory body count crafted by make-up maestro Tom Savini. A bit of a routine item from the heyday of slasher cinema, this high-def reissue nevertheless comes recommended by veteran horror dudes. Extras: amusing commentary with director Joseph Zito and Savini, 10-minute behind-the-scenes look at Savini doing his thing. 
RoboCop: The Beginning (Alliance) “Part man. Part machine. All cop.” So reads one of the all-time best-worst movie taglines. The RoboCoptrilogy started strong, yet by the third instalment was nothing more than a hollow steel shell of its former badass self. Still, one year after the last and shittiest sequel, in 1994, TV’s Robocop: The Beginningemerged. A Canadian-made live-action series that swapped subversive gore for tasteful crime-fighting against such inspired villains as Boppo the Clown and Dr. Cray Z, a second season, sadly, did not come to pass. Extras: does not compute. 
Dr. Giggles/Otis (Warner) Part Halloween, part Nightmare on Elm Street, all kinds of ridiculous, Dr. Giggles is an unsung classic from the ’90s slasher cycle. As a child, I was all over this awkward creep show about an escaped mental patient who stabs, scalpels and stomach-pumps his victims while delivering choice one-liners like “If you think that’s bad, wait until you get my bill.” As if having this on Blu-ray isn’t preposterous enough, Dr. Giggles comes paired with the considerably less endearing 2008 horror-comedy, Otis. Extras: don’t make me laugh.