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Thanksgiving Edition
Criterion’s THREE COLORS Casts Its Spell on Blu-Ray
Plus: Twilight Time’s MYSTERIOUS ISLAND and More!
Krzysztof Kieslowski’s THREE COLORS Trilogy (***½) became an international phenomenon in the early ‘90s, and now, nearly 20 years after its production, has arrived on Blu-Ray in a three-disc Criterion Collection box-set boasting beautiful transfers and Criterion’s customary, marvelous array of extras.

Kieslowski’s three films – “Blue,” “White” and “Red” – are a trio of connected tales that, in concept, represent the colors of the French flag and its associated French Revolution motifs (Liberty, Equality and Fraternity), though the stories themselves are variations on those ideals.

“Blue” (98 mins., 1993), arguably the most emotionally devastating of the trio and certainly the most hauntingly shot, profiles the not-necessarily-wanted liberation of a musician played brilliantly by Juliette Binoche. In the film’s opening scene, Binoche’s husband and young daughter both perish in a car accident, leaving her emotionally wrecked and wanting to entirely divorce herself of her past – a liberation that proves to have unusual emotional consequences in the first part of the trilogy, written by the director with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, superbly lensed by Slawomir Idziak and scored by Zbigniew Preisner, whose operatic compositions play a pivotal role in the story.

Kieslowski’s “White” (91 mins., 1993) is something quite different: a sly, comic tale of a Polish immigrant hairdresser whose wife (Julie Delpy) frames him for burning down her own Parisian salon after he decides to leave Paris for his Warsaw home. “White” is a much-needed change of pace from the emotionally pungent “Blue” but likewise probes the human condition in a natural, though decidedly more eclectic, manner than its predecessor.

The director saved the best for last with the marvelous “Red” (99 mins., 1994), a film that strikes a balance between the tonal differences of “Blue” and “White” and splendidly completes the trilogy. Irene Jacob stars as a Geneva model who strikes up an unlikely relationship with a retired judge (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who eaves-drops on his neighbors – a rather straightforward premise enables Kieslowski to open up and expand upon the narratives of the prior “Three Colors” films. It culminates in a redemptive and life-affirming conclusion about the different avenues life can take and how we’re bound together, even if most of us never realize it.

A remarkable trio of films, Criterion’s box-set includes all three pictures in AVC encoded 1080p transfers that offer fine grain and surprisingly robust 2.0 French soundtracks that are best appreciated when matrixed into their intended surround channels.

Special features are in abundance. “Blue” includes a new 20-minute interview with Preisner discussing his scores for the trilogy; a new video essay with frequent Criterion commentator Annette Insdorf; a lengthy 2001 audio interview with Binoche; previously-released interviews reflecting on “Blue”; two of Kieslowski’s short films; the trailer; and a “Cinema Lesson” with the late director. “White” includes a new video essay from critic Tony Rayns; two new interviews with Piesiewicz and another with Julie Delpy and her “White” costar Zbigniew Zamachowski; a short doc on the making of the film; two of Kieslowski’s ‘70s short documentaries; and the original trailer. “Red”’s extras include Dennis Lim’s video essay; a new interview with Irene Jacob; conversations with producer Marin Karmitz and editor Jacques Witta; behind-the-scenes footage; a short documentary on the film’s Cannes premiere; the trailer; and “I’m So-So,” a feature-length 1995 documentary on Kieslowski.

All of it is housed in a cardboard slip case with a booklet offering ample essays that detail one of the highlights of ‘90s cinema. Highly recommended!

Also new this month from Criterion:

12 ANGRY MEN (***½, 96 mins., 1957): Criterion package of the classic 1957 Sidney Lumet courtroom drama is backed by a marvelous cast and a great script by Reginald Rose, which Rose and star Henry Fonda produced so memorably for the screen. Fonda gives one of his best performances as the one dissenting juror trying to convince his peers (Lee J. Cobb, Ed Begley, E.G. Marshall, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, John Fiedler, Jack Klugman, Edward Binns, Joseph Sweeney, George Voskovec and Robert Webber) that a Puerto Rican teen charged with murdering his father may not be as guilty as he appears. Lumet’s taut direction and the uniformly strong performances make for a great film that’s been celebrated in a Criterion Blu-Ray offering a number of insightful extras. In addition to a crisp AVC encoded 1080p transfer with mono sound, the BD also includes Franklin Schaffner’s 1955 TV version; a full production history of the film; archival interviews with the late Lumet; new interviews with Walter Bernstein about Lumet, and with Paley Center for Media curator Ron Simon; a 1956 Lumet-Rose teleplay “Tragedy in a Temporary Town”; and a conversation with cinematographer John Bailey about Boris Kaufman’s work in “12 Angry Men.” Great stuff.

THE RULES OF THE GAME (***½, 106 mins., 1939): Jean Renoir’s 1939 classic comes packaged on Blu-Ray in a superb Criterion release offering its full 1959 reconstructed edition in a fine AVC encoded 1.33 transfer with mono French audio. Supplements include an introduction to the film by Renoir; a commentary written by scholar Alexander Sesonske that’s read by Peter Bogdanovich; a comparison of the picture’s two endings; a selected-scene analysis by Renoir historian Chris Faulkner; excerpts from a 1966 French TV program on Renoir; part one of a 1993 BBC documentary on Renoir from critic David Thompson; a video essay about the film’s production, release and reconstruction; an interview with critic Olivier Curchod; an interview from a 1965 French TV program about the picture’s legacy; interviews and extensive booklet notes. A must for French film enthusiasts!

New From Twilight Time

MYSTERIOUS ISLAND Blu-Ray (***, 1961, 101 mins.): Twilight Time’s second Blu-Ray release, limited to 3000 copies and sold exclusively at Screen Archives, is “Mysterious Island,” the entertaining, colorful 1961 fantasy adaptation of Jules Verne's novel from the creative team of producer Charles H. Schneer and visual effects master Ray Harryhausen.

In this fanciful Saturday matinee fantasy, Michael Craig leads a group of Union soldiers in a break from a Confederate prison during the Civil War. The men escape in a hot air balloon, only to crash on a strange island filled with some classic Harryhausen creations, including giant insects, a huge crab, and an overgrown chicken! Things really get cooking once Herbert Lom shows up as Captain Nemo and attempts to explain the insanity.

“Mysterious Island” sports a fine AVC encoded 1080p transfer from the Sony vaults that’s more or less in line with past Harryhausen efforts of that era in high-def – given all the optical effects, there are occasional stretches where the image is understandably less pristine than others, yet overall it looks great for its age. The DTS MA 5.1 soundtrack is alright (purists might want to stick to the original mono mix which is also on-hand here) and, either way, features an atmospheric, rousing score by Bernard Herrmann that -- along with Harryhausen's effects -- go a long way to compensate for the tedious, formulaic script penned by John Pebble, Daniel Ullman, and Wilbur Crane. Like a lot of Harryhausen films, the story -- with its bland characterizations and flat dialogue -- is the weakest element of the package, and there are times when the action really starts to drag in "Mysterious Island." Fortunately, the film's strong cinematography (by Wilkie Cooper) and the fact that Twilight Time’s superb Blu-Ray looks so good makes watching director Cy Endfield’s film much less of a chore than older versions we were saddled with on VHS and DVD.

In addition to the solid transfer, Twilight Time has also included an isolated score track of Herrmann’s work (either in stereo or mono-with-effects), the trailer and a TV spot. An easy recommend for genre fans and Harryhausen buffs, with “Fright Night” and “Rapture” coming up in December – get your orders in now!

Westerns on Blu-Ray

A box-office disappointment that wasn’t particularly well-received by critics either at the time of its original Christmas 1986 release, John Landis’ THREE AMIGOS! (**½, 102 mins., PG) has become something of a cult favorite over the years. Undoubtedly it’s due to the casting of Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and Martin Short as unemployed silent movie cowboys who find themselves trying to help a Mexican village besieged by real bandits (lead by actor-director Alfonso Arau as “El Gaupo”) in this good-natured, though not always consistently funny, comedy variant on “The Magnificent Seven.”

Landis’ love for the era is evident throughout “Three Amigos!,” which boasts a few funny gags and some pleasant Randy Newman songs. Elmer Bernstein’s traditional western score – one of the last he would compose for a genre he so memorably contributed to for decades – is another plus. Alas, despite my admiration for Landis’ work during that time period (he was coming off the superior, and much funnier, Chevy-Dan Aykroyd comedy “Spies Like Us”), “Three Amigos” doesn’t produce as many laughs as the premise and the stars should have – that, plus a running time that feels over-extended by a good 10 or 15 minutes, has always made me feel that the picture was a missed opportunity.

Nevertheless, there are those who feel that “Three Amigos!” is something of a classic, and HBO’s Blu-Ray offers a long-overdue remastered transfer of the film. The 1080p AVC encoded presentation isn’t spectacular but does offer an obvious upgrade on the older (and quite awful) DVD release with DTS MA audio. Extras are regrettably lightweight – no commentary or retrospective documentary, though Landis did manage to find nearly 20 minutes of deleted scenes from an exhibitors’ print. These deleted bits include an alternate opening sequence to the film with more material for then SNL stars Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman, though excised roles for Sam Kinison (as a cannibalistic cave dweller!) and Fran Drescher (whose name appears in the deleted opening credit roll seen here) were regrettably lost forever in the late ‘80s. These sequences are presented with Landis’ title-card introductions, while the disc is rounded out with a booklet reprint of Empire Magazine’s retrospective piece on the film from earlier this year.

While “Three Amigos” gained an audience over time, it’s hard to envision the same happening for COWBOYS AND ALIENS (**, 119/135 mins., 2011, PG-13; Universal), an overblown hodgepodge of sci-fi and western that became one of the year’s largest box-office letdowns, earning $175 million total worldwide on a budget that may have been even been higher than that amount (depending on where you look).

One of those “high concept” ideas that probably sounded more fun in the planning stages, “Cowboys and Aliens” at one point boasted the involvement of everyone from Steven Spielberg to Ron Howard (names still attached in a producing capacity along with, it seems, half of Hollywood itself). Ultimately the film fell into the hands of “Iron Man”’s Jon Favreau and scribes Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtman (J.J. Abrams’ associates who also worked on the “Transformers” films), who somehow managed to water down the potential of old cowpokes taking on extraterrestrials and turn it into a completely mediocre film.

One of the film’s many issues is the total lack of chemistry between stars Daniel Craig (a fill-in for Robert Downey, Jr., who wisely dropped out in pre-production) and Harrison Ford. Craig is the cold, steely-eyed outlaw who can’t remember his name but ends up assisting a dusty desert town from an outbreak of alien menace; Ford is the cold, grumpy cattleman who reluctantly joins forces with Craig and a mysterious beauty played by Olivia Wilde who may know more about the appearance of the visitors from another planet than she’s letting on.

“Cowboys and Aliens” doesn’t have much of a sense of humor and plays like a group of cliched elements from two different genres fused together. Why the filmmakers thought this would make the material fresh or appealing to audiences is anyone’s guess, but since we never become engaged with the characters (Craig gives a particularly gruff  performance), the movie comes off as bland and dull, meandering on for nearly two hours and without a single surprise in its narrative.

The picture at least looks good, with Matthew Libatique’s cinematography proving to be the best element of Universal’s 1080p AVC encoded transfer (this despite an over-reliance on orange for its visual scheme). The DTS MA soundtrack is as active as you’d imagine, though Harry Gregson-Williams’ score proves to be as forgettable as the film itself. For extras, Universal’s BD includes an interview with Favreau, an extended version of the film (running 16 minutes longer), a commentary track, a group of featurettes, a DVD, digital copy, and “Second Screen” interactive segments that are accessible with the Pocket Blu app downloaded to your phone or computer.

Superior western fare, thankfully, has been released on Blu-Ray by MGM and Fox.

THE BIG COUNTRY (***½, 165 mins., 1958) needs little introduction for Golden Age fans. From Jerome Moross’ classic score to William Wyler’s strong direction, this old-west soaper with Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker and Charlton Heston looks brilliant and MGM has done a smashing job transferring the film to Blu-Ray. The 1080p AVC encoded transfer is remarkably clear and free of DNR, with the trailer, a TV spot and “Fun in the Country” featurette comprising the extras.

Writer John Hill penned QUIGLEY DOWN UNDER (***, 120 mins., 1990, PG-13) as a vehicle for Steve McQueen in the ‘70s. After the star’s passing, the movie would ultimately be produced as a project for Tom Selleck in what would be, despite its underwhelming box-office, the best of his leading-man feature forays. Director Simon Wincer, coming off his triumphant TV mini-series adaptation of “Lonesome Dove,” reunited with many of that project’s crew members including composer Basil Poledouris, whose charming music is one of the film’s chief assets. Once again MGM has done a fine job with their Blu-Ray edition of “Quigley,” boasting an untouched 1080p transfer with 2.0 DTS MA surround, one featurette, the trailer and a TV spot all on-hand.

Finally, MGM has also released a dynamic Blu-Ray edition of the original (and, in my mind at least, only) THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3 (****, 104 mins., 1974, R). Joseph Sargent’s crackerjack adaptation of the John Godey bestseller, scripted by Peter Stone (“1776"), boasts great performances from Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam and Hector Elizondo, a flavorful portrayal of NYC during its “urban decay” era of the ‘70s, and a marvelous David Shire score. After being available only in a weak, non-anamorphic DVD for many years, MGM’s Blu-Ray boasts a finely detailed 1080p AVC encoded transfer that at last does the original “Pelham” justice with DTS MA mono sound and the original trailer as the disc’s sole extra. Highly recommended!

Also New on Blu-Ray

LITTLE BIG MAN Blu-Ray (***, 139 mins., 1970, PG-13; CBS) is a cult favorite that fans had clamored to find on DVD for years. Once available as a so-so looking CBS/Fox widescreen laserdisc, the title was tough to find until Paramount/CBS’ 2003 DVD, and now CBS has brought that same master to Blu-Ray in a strong 1080p encode.

The BD’s AVC encoded presentation is often breathtaking. Harry Stradling, Jr.'s cinematography is one of the movie's big plusses, and the source material is in excellent condition given its age. The early stereo soundtrack has also been recorded in 5.1 DTS MA and is more than adequate for the material.

The movie itself is a fascinating mix of satire and comic adventure, building up stereotypes and then ripping them down. As scripted by Calder Willingham from Thomas Berger's novel, “Little Big Man” stars Dustin Hoffman as the only living survivor of Custer's Last Stand, who -- at 121 years old -- narrates his living history to a scholar (William Hickey) anticipating everything to be in black-and-white. What follows thereafter is an often ribald and scathing examination of Hoffman's life, one that's lived between white settlers and Cheyenne Indians, who adopt him as a child and have an agenda of their own.

Directed by Arthur Penn, “Little Big Man” is particularly interesting since it not only paints the whites in an often negative fashion (particularly Richard Mulligan's deranged Custer), but also the Indians as well. This is somewhat surprising, since one might have anticipated the movie to be filled with politically correct sensibilities -- an aspect the material would undoubtedly have had to adhere to today.

Hoffman is excellent, while Faye Dunaway appears as a fervent Christian early on (and later in a far more revealing guise), with Martin Balsam, Jeff Corey, and Chief Dan George lending able support. The movie has an extremely sparse soundtrack by John Hammond that rarely works in the film from a dramatic angle -- it's more like atmospheric source music than a traditional movie score.

After sitting through “Little Big Man” again in CBS’ Blu-Ray (which includes no extras outside of the trailer), the movie felt more like a curiosity to me than a classic film, with radical shifts in tone and an episodic structure that makes for somewhat of a detached viewing experience. On the other hand, those elements are what its fans love about it, so interested viewers are urged to check out the Blu-Ray.

Also New On Blu-Ray

MY FAIR LADY Blu-Ray (***½, 172 mins., G, 1964; CBS): Satisfying, though not spectacular, high-def edition from CBS of the Lerner-Loewe musical classic, timelessly brought to the screen in 1964 by producer Jack L. Warner under the direction of George Cukor, offers an AVC encoded presentation of the same master that’s been released multiple times on DVD. The BD has been reportedly sourced from the same 1997 restoration that Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz performed on the picture, and also offers most of the same special features from its prior DVD release. The 1080p AVC encode is good, though the source material shows its age at times and some type of DNR seems to have been utilized; the DTS MA sound fares better, making this one of those “better than DVD” releases that’s not as ideal as it might have been. The commentary is a holdover from the prior DVD, as are the alternate Audrey Hepburn vocal tracks, vintage featurettes, posters, lobby cards, and trailers.

SARAH’S KEY Blu-Ray (**½, 111 mins., 2011, PG-13; Anchor Bay): Well-acted albeit melodramatic adaptation of Tatiana de Rosnay’s international bestseller – a Holocaust drama about a young girl named Sarah, separated from her parents during the Vel d’Hiv Roundup of Jews in Paris, and her fight for survival, plus a contemporary-set, parallel story involving American journalist Kristin Scott Thomas’ pursuit of Sarah’s fate and a tragic mystery involving her younger brother. This French-made film, directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner, is well-performed across the board but can’t overcome the soap-opera like aspects of its modern-day story, which fails to generate the same emotional response as its flashback sequences. Anchor Bay’s Blu-Ray includes a superb 1080p transfer, DTS MA 5.1 soundtrack and one behind-the-scenes featurette.

30 MINUTES OR LESS Blu-Ray (**½, 83 mins., 2011, R; Sony): Extremely slight (under 80 minutes sans credits) but watchable action-comedy with a few laughs offers Jesse Eisenberg as a small-town pizza guy who finds himself wrapped up with a couple of hapless criminals played by Danny McBride – reeling from the “Your Highness” disaster – and Nick Swardson, he of the “Bucky Larson” debacle (two films likely to end up on multiple Worst of 2011 lists). The duo want to knock over a local bank and bring Eisenberg and pal Aziz Ansari along for the ride in this fast-paced comedy from writer Michael Dilberti and director Ruben Fleischer, who previously collaborated with Eisenberg on the more successful “Zombieland.” “30 Minutes or Less” is moderately fun while it lasts but is likely to be quickly forgotten thereafter.    

Sony brings this late-summer comedy to BD next week in a 1080p transfer with DTS MA audio and numerous extras including deleted scenes, outtakes, a Making Of featurette, and BD-exclusive goodies including a video commentary and featurette.

ONE DAY Blu-Ray (**½, 108 mins., 2011, PG-13; Universal): Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) meet and hook up on their university graduation night in 1988, starting a friendship that spans decades in this watchable, if unsurprising, adaptation of David Nicholls’ bestselling book. This Lone Scherfig-directed film, co-produced by Random House, feels like a Hallmark/Lifetime type of romantic drama with the two leads squabbling, loving, growing apart and then back together again as the film drops in on the duo every July 15th for two decades. Sturgess is fine in the film, Hathaway also game though her accent is all over the place – their chemistry, though, keeps the picture watchable in spite of its familiarity. Universal’s Blu-Ray includes a fine 1080p transfer, DTS MA soundtrack (sporting a nice Rachel Portman score), deleted scenes, commentary and featurettes.

THE DEVIL’S DOUBLE Blu-Ray and DVD (108 mins., 2010, R; Lionsgate): Dominic Cooper delivers an excellent performance as a man forced to become the body double of Saddam Heussein’s son, Uday, in Lee Tamahori’s compelling though somewhat uneven film “The Devil’s Double.” Lionsgate brings the picture to both Blu-Ray and DVD this month – the BD including a 1080p transfer with 7.1 DTS MA audio while the DVD sports a 16:9 (2.35) presentation with 5.1 audio. Extras include a commentary from the director and three featurettes.

THE LIFE & TIMES OF TIM: Season 2 DVD (300 mins., 2011; HBO): Steve Dildarian created, wrote, directed and voiced this ribald HBO animated series. With Season 3 of “The Life & Times of Tim” set to air next month, HBO ought to appeal to both series fans and casual viewers who might’ve missed its second season with its two-disc DVD edition, offering 300-minutes of crudely animated, sometimes vulgar comedy with 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks. Extras include a behind-the-scenes examination of the casting and animated process involved in bringing Dildarian’s vision to life.

BIG LOVE: Season 5 DVD (600 mins., 2011; HBO): Fifth and final season of the controversial HBO series about polygamist Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton) and his wives (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloe Sevigny, Ginnifer Goodwin) wraps up most of its storylines as Henrickson tries to reconcile his new position as a Utah senator with hostility from those who can’t accept his lifestyle. A featurette looks at the conclusion to the series while “Inside the Episode” extras are on-hand for each episode. The 16:9 transfers and 5.1 soundtracks are all just fine.

DOCTOR WHO - SERIES 6 Blu-Ray (310 mins., 2011; BBC/Warner): Sixth (“contemporary”) season of the BBC’s time-and-space-bending hero introduces Matt Smith as the latest incarnation of the good doctor.

Smith has been generally greeted with enthusiasm by Dr. Who fans, though there’s a bit of unevenness to his inaugural episodes on-hand here -- “The Impossible Astronaut,” “Day to the Moon,” “The Curse of the Black Spot,” “The Doctor’s Wife,” “The Rebel Flesh,” “The Almost People,” and “A Good Man Goes to War.” That feeling is rectified somewhat by newer episodes which recently aired on BBC America (“Let’s Kill Hitler,” “Night Terrors,” “The Girl Who Waited,” “The God Complex,” “Closing Time,” and “The Wedding of River Song”).

All episodes are included in BBC’s six-disc Blu-Ray box-set, which comes on the heels of a Season 6, Part 1 set just a couple of months ago. The 1080i transfers look quite good and the DTS HD soundtracks are also satisfying. Copious extras include commentaries, additional scenes, trailers and other behind-the-scenes content.

New From E One

IT TAKES A THIEF: Complete Series DVD (Over 50 hours, E One): Robert Wagner’s portrayal of the world’s greatest cat burglar, Alexander Mundy, made for one of several ‘60s TV forays into the world of James Bond-like espionage and intrigue. Unlike “The Man From UNCLE,” “It Takes a Thief” didn’t last long on the air – just a couple of seasons – yet for fans the series is fondly remembered, and E One’s retrospective box-set is packed with extras.

The 18-disc Collector’s Set DVD includes all 66 episodes of the series, fully remastered plus a feature-length version of the pilot; an interview with Wagner; an interview with TV guru Glen A. Larson, who found one of his earliest successes with the series; an exclusive four-piece coaster set; a limited edition senitype (reproduced 35mm film frame); and a collectible booklet with a retrospective look back at the series.    

BEING HUMAN: Season 1 Blu-Ray (572 mins., 2011; E One): American remake of the popular British TV series – following the adventures of a supernatural trio of roommates played by Sam Witwer (the vampire), Sam Hungtinton (the werewolf) and Meaghan Rath (the ghost) –  currently airs on Syfy Channel and hits Blu-Ray this month from E One. The four-disc set includes “Being Human” USA’s complete first season in 1080p transfers with DTS MA soundtracks and a number of extras including two featurettes, interviews and a Comic Con segment.

Also New From E One: Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd star in Rob Minkoff’s indie comedy FLYPAPER (87 mins., Not Rated, 2011), which hits Blu-Ray in a 1080p transfer with 5.1 audio, interviews and the trailer...Werner Herzog leads a trip into the CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (90 mins.), an expedition into the Chauvet Cave in France shot in 3-D and presented on Blu-Ray in a superb 1080p BD transfer in both 3-D and 2-D. Extras include Herzog’s short film “Ode to the Dawn of Man’ and the trailer...Miguel Angel Vivas’ KIDNAPPED (85 mins., 2010) offers an interesting, visceral twist on a well-worn premise (family terrorized by thugs), with IFC’s DVD including a Making Of with trailers...Vincent Lannoo’s VAMPIRES (92 mins., 2010) is a wacky French ersatz doc, sort of a “Spinal Tap” for the undead. IFC’s DVD includes a French 5.1 track with English subs, deleted scenes and trailers...and finally, Dennis Gansel’s THE WAVE (107 mins., 2008) is a chilling political allegory that IFC brings to DVD this month with bonus interviews, a featurette and the trailer.

New From Shout

THE NICKEL RIDE/99 and 44/100% DEAD (Shout!): A pair of mid ‘70s Fox action programmers make their way into a Shout double-feature DVD. “The Nickel Ride” is a rarely-screened Robert Mulligan film offering a lead role for “Exorcist” star Jason Miller as a man managing a group of mob warehouses in a taut drama written by Eric Roth, scored by Dave (“David”) Grusin and with Linda Haynes, Victor French, John Hillerman and Bo Hopkins in the supporting cast. “99 and 44/100% Dead” is the more interesting of the duo: a John Frankenheimer action piece with Richard Harris as a mafia hitman hired by Edmond O’Brien to take down Bradford Dillman. With a fine Henry Mancini score and an interesting Robert Dillon script “99 and 44/100% Dead” is a quite entertaining, if minor, Frankenheimer outing. Both movies are on-hand in fine 16:9 (1.78) transfers with trailers.

MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: VOLUME XXII (Shout!): Shout!’s latest anthology of classic Mystery Science Theater episodes includes one of the all-time classics from the series: the Japanese TV import “Time of the Apes,” which is included at last alongside “Mighty Jack,” “The Violent Years” and “The Brute Man.” The latter two aren’t as consistently funny as the others, but MST3K buffs ought to be sufficiently pleased with the presentation afforded these four episodes, which are on-tap here along with extensive extras, including a new intro from co-star Mary Jo Pehl, introductions from August Ragone, a 1997 Making Of, hour wraps, archival interviews and a segment on the making of “The Brute Man.”

THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: Season 1 DVD (5 hours, 1991; Shout!): With Steven Spielberg’s CGI animated adaptation of the Herge comic strip due out here in the U.S. next month, Shout! has wisely decided that it’s a good time to release Season 1 of the 1991-93 series “The Adventures of Tintin.” This double-disc set includes 13 episodes from the Nelvana-animated, Canadian/French series’ inaugural season (“The Crab with the Golden Claws,” “The Secret of the Unicorn,” “Red Rackham’s Treasure,” “Cigars of the Pharaoh,” “The Blue Lotus,” “The Black Island” and “The Calculus Affair”) in good-looking full-screen transfers.

TRANSFORMERS PRIME: DARKNESS RISING DVD (106 mins., 2011; Shout!): Screenwriters Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci helped develop this animated TV mini-series, rendered with CGI, which originally aired earlier this year on the Hub channel. Shout’s DVD includes a 16:9 transfer.

New MGM Manufactured-On-Demand DVD Titles

DETECTIVE SCHOOL DROPOUTS (90 mins., 1986, PG) was an unfunny Cannon Group comedy with David Lansberg and Lorin Dreyfuss as inept detectives in a desperate attempt at cashing in on the success of the “Police Academy” series. MGM’s full-screen transfer of this ‘80s relic isn’t any great shakes here.

“Enter the Dragon”’s Robert Clouse helmed the forgettable 1974 action vehicle GOLDEN NEEDLES (92 mins., PG), with Joe Don Baker leading the charge to find a golden statue that enables its owner to get a big-time jump on Viagra. Elizabeth Ashley, Burgess Meredith and kung-fu master Jim Kelly co-star in a Paul Heller production scored by Lalo Schifrin. The widescreen transfer is just fine.

The casting of Patrick Swayze is one of the chief reasons to check out RETURN OF THE REBELS (95 mins., 1981), an entertaining enough early ‘80s TV movie that stars Swayze as a teen giving Barbara Eden’s campground a bad name. Eden calls upon Don Murray and his aging motorcycle gang to help her out in a film where all you need to know is that Robert Mandan chips in a “special appearance” while “Special Guest Star” Jamie Farr turns in a cameo. Fun for ‘70s/’80s TV nostalgia buffs, with MGM’s disc including a properly-framed 1.33 transfer.

Last but not least is DEADLY INTENT (86 mins., 1985), a direct-to-video title you’d have seen on the shelves at your local video shop circa 1985. The throw-it-at-the-wall-and-hope-it-sticks cast includes the lovely Lisa Eilbacher (perennially underrated in my book) as an archeologist’s widow who has to fend off a group of thieves searching for a priceless gem. Steve Railsback, Maud Adams, Fred Williamson, Lance Henriksen and Persis Khambatta give this routine thriller some juice, though MGM’s DVD includes just a weak, full-screen transfer.

NEXT TIME: Our first seasonal round-up of holiday titles! Until then, don't forget to drop in on the official Aisle Seat Message Boards and direct any emails to our email address. Cheers everyone!

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