October 6, 2010


Grindhouse (Alliance) Three and a half years later, here it is: Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse as it should be, complete with fake trailers and grainy, vintage ads for snacks. The movie’s glaring flaws aside, it was a treat to catch it all on the big screen when it came out — so much so that when the DVDs arrived in inferior extended versions but without the trailers, I tried downloading the trailers to recreate the experience. It didn’t work. Now, out of the blue, comes this ├╝ber-faithful special edition, made even more authentic in high-def, which better demonstrates those artfully rendered transfer hiccups. The sum of Grindhouse is undeniably superior to its parts, and surrendering to the total experience is key. Extras include everything we got before, plus extended trailers with commentaries and making-ofs, not to mention a handful of new and nifty featurettes. 

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The Thin Red Line (Criterion) One of the most bittersweet moments in cinema came in late 1998, when Terrence Malick emerged after a 20-year absence with this lyrical movie adaptation of James Jones’ novel about the battle for Guadalcanal during World War II. Released six months after Steven Spielberg’s more conservative (realistic opening sequence or not) Saving Private Ryan, Malick’s return to filmmaking was largely ignored by the masses. The Thin Red Line’s subsequent DVD reproduction was a far cry from the sheer magnificence displayed on celluloid. Criterion has once more rectified matters: both standard and high-def versions retain the film’s original visual excellence thanks to a breathtaking restoration. Extras are equally brilliant: we get commentary with cinematographer John Toll, interviews galore, deleted scenes, vintage newsreels, outtakes and more.

The Slumber Party Massacre Collection (Shout! Factory) The Slumber Party Massacre films are a wild bunch even by Roger Corman standards. Unique for slasher films in that they were written, directed and produced by women, they nonetheless feature a similar trajectory where girls get drunk, stoned and topless at their friend’s parentless house, only to be dispatched by a man and his phallic power drill. (Or, in the case of the astonishingly incoherent second entry, an electric guitar with a drill for a neck and wielded by a dancing rockabilly guy.) Extras: all three Massacres come with commentary and pretty amazing trailers, plus we get interviews and a swell doc on the franchise.  

The Evil + Twice Dead (Shout! Factory) More Corman: the B-movie legend has riffed everything from Jaws to Alien to Star Wars. This week’s release takes on the haunted-house sub-genre. Although 1978’s The Evil debuted a half-year before The Amityville Horror did, occult scares were already all the rage. The Evil is a rather classy chiller — a psychologist and his pals attempt to restore a decrepit mansion, but inadvertently open a door releasing an ethereal force that possesses a dog and sets a lot of people on fire. A by-product of its own time, 1988’s Twice Dead is decidedly sillier: a family moves into a decrepit mansion only to be terrorized by a gang of punks and haunted by the ghost of an actor. This DVD lovingly recreates the double-bill experience by letting us watch both titles back-to-back, with cheesy trailers preceding each film and a concession-stand ad during intermission. How Grindhouse of them. Extras include commentary for both flicks and an interview.