The DVD Report #648

Cold War was nominated for three 2018 Oscars, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Directing, and Best Cinematography, all of which it lost to Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma, the first time two foreign language films had vied for these awards in the same year.

Newly released on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion, Cold War had previously been available on those formats outside the U.S. but the film, which was released theatrically by Amazon, was only available from in the U.S. via their streaming service. 2018’s Beautiful Boy suffered the same fate but the Canadian Blu-ray and DVD releases of that film are sold through in the U.S. so presumably there is no deal in the offing for a U.S. release.

Pawel Pawlikowski, whose 2014 film Ida won that year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, wrote and directed Cold War based on the lives of his parents whose life story followed a similar trajectory, meeting several years after World War II, separating, coming back together, separating again and getting back together again several more times until they eventually reunited for the last time, dying together, their lives paralleling the cold war between the Soviets and the Western World.

Lukasz Zal’s sublime black-and-white cinematography is the real star of the film, but the performances of both Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot as the volatile lovers are also commendable.

Extras include a new on-screen interview of Pawlikowski by fellow director Alejandro G. Inarritu.

Also newly released on Blu-ray and DVD by Criterion, 1996’s The Daytrippers heralded what was perceived at the time to be the feature film debut from an exciting new talent, writer-director Greg Mottola. Although Mottola’s subsequent career has been mostly on TV, he did have further big screen success with 2007’s Superbad and its 2009 sequel Adventureland, but that was about it.

The wry family comedy is best remembered for its ensemble of fine character actors, some of them in their first substantial screen role. Among them were Hope Davis, Parker Posey, Liev Schreiber, and Campbell Scott who provide new on-screen interviews along with Mottola. Not interviewed are Stanley Tucci and the late Anne Meara whose performances were also highly acclaimed.

Mottola, editor Anne McCabe, and producer Steven Soderbergh provide the commentary. Extras also include Mottola’s 1985 short The Hatbox for which Mottola also provides commentary.

A box office flop but a cult favorite nonetheless, Ed Bianchi’s 1981 film The Fan has been given a spiffed-up Blu-ray release by the Scream Factory division of Shout Factory. A word of warning though, if you’ve never seen the film be sure to watch it without the mocking commentary by cult film director David DeCoteau and film historian David Del Valle which makes it seem a lot worse than it is.

The film was marred by studio interference. Stars Lauren Bacall, Michael Biehn, Maureen Stapleton, and James Garner signed up for the film, and indeed filmed a number of scenes before Paramount decided that it wanted to turn the psychological thriller into a slasher film after the success of Brian DePalma’s 1980 film Dressed to Kill released the month before The Fan went into production.

Bacall plays an entitled Broadway star in rehearsals for her first Broadway musical after a career in straight drama. Biehn plays an obsessed fan turned stalker. Stapleton plays Bacall’s perhaps too faithful secretary while Garner plays Bacall’s estranged husband. Bacall, Stapleton, and Garner are more or less playing Bette Davis, Thelma Ritter, and Gary Merrill’s characters from All About Eve, the musical version of which was called Applause for which Bacall herself won a Tony in what was her first musical. By the time The Fan was released in May 1981, Bacall was giving what would become her second Tony-winning performance in Katharine Hepburn’s role in the musical version of Woman of the Year.

The score of the fictional musical that Bacall and company are rehearsing is cringe-worthy despite the pedigree provided by composer Marvin Hamlisch (The Sting) and lyricist Tim Rice (The Lion King). Bacall’s song, “Hearts, Not Diamonds” received a Razzie nomination for Worst Song of the Year, the film’s only recognition from any awards group.

In addition to the commentary, extras include new on-screen interviews with Biehn as well as director Bianchi and editor Alan Heim. Biehn’s description of the elevator ride with the petrified Stapleton is not to be missed.

Warner Archive has released four more classics on Blu-ray from its extensive library. They are 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful, 1959’s The World, the Flesh and the Devil, 1962’s Days of Wine and Roses, and 1965’s Operation Crossbow. All four look fantastic on Blu-ray, the first three in black-and-white and the fourth in color.

Vincente Minnelli’s The Bad and the Beautiful was nominated for six Oscars and won five, the most of any film without a Best Picture nomination, a record that still stands. Kirk Douglas played a character based on Hollywood producer David O. Selznick (Gone with the Wind) with shades of Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) and Val Lewton (Cat People) thrown in for good measure. Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, Dick Powell and Gloria Grahame in her Oscar-winning role, all based on real-life Hollywood celebrities, are among those Douglas messes with in one of the most popular Hollywood exposes ever captured on film.

Ranald MacDougall, best remembered for his Oscar-nominated screenplay for Mildred Pierce, both wrote and directed the thought-provoking The World, the Flesh and the Devil in which Harry Belafonte, Inger Stevens, and Mel Ferrer play the last three people on Earth. The film is interesting but pales in comparison to Stanley Kramer’s blockbuster end-of-the-world classic On the Beach released the same year with Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins heading the cast.

Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses features Oscar-nominated performances by Jack Lemmon as a nasty drunk and Lee Remick as his sweet wife who turns out to be the bigger lush in the long run. It’s hard-hitting but not nearly as shocking now as it was to audiences then.

Michael Anderson’s Operation Crossbow is what was referred to at the time of its release as a high adventure reminiscent of 1961’s Oscar-nominated The Guns of Navarone and similarly themed films in which an all-star cast fights heroically to save the world from potential Nazi domination. Sophia Loren gets top billing thanks to her husband Carlo Ponti being the film’s producer, but second-billed George Peppard carries the brunt of the plot with Tom Courtenay giving the film’s most memorable performance in the same year as his Oscar-nominated performance in Doctor Zhivago. Trevor Howard, John Mills, Richard Johnson, Jeremy Kemp, Anthony Quayle, Lilli Palmer, and Richard Todd figure into the plot as well.

This week’s new releases include the Criterion Blu-ray releases of All About Eve and Now, Voyager.

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