The Inglorious Bastards

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Director

Enzo G. Castellari’s 1978 World War II adventure is probably most notable for

inspiring a new Quentin Tarantino screenplay. Its three-disc DVD release, from Severin Cinema, is a

surprisingly deluxe affair tied to the Tarantino remake, with Q.T.

himself showing up to interview Castellari and put the

film in some perspective (it was never released theatrically in the

U.S., so Tarantino discovered it on a TV screening). Some

extensive making-of features and a CD of soundtrack music (the third disc) round

out the package.

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Nimrod Nation [TV] (2007)

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When I settled in to take a look at Nimrod Nation, an eight-part documentary series that aired beginning in 2007 on the Sundance Channel, I expected to sit still for an episode or two before deciding when and whether to continue. To my not-inconsiderable surprise, I devoured the first four episodes in a single afternoon, took down two more in the evening, and finished out the package the following morning. Taken as a whole, Nimrod Nation is not a great documentary, but it’s a friendly and unassuming collection of days in the life that gets big points for compulsive watchability.

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Saawariya

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I haven’t seen many Bollywood movies. It’s quite possible that, were I more familiar with their form and conventions — if the exotic-to-western-eyes spell they can cast were less of a novelty — I’d have a lot less patience with Saawariya and the endless tiny complications that sustain its otherwise threadbare boy-chases-girl storyline over more than two hours of screen time. Then again, were I a Bollywood fanboy, I might be even more enchanted by everything that Saawariya gets right — enough that I’d be less cognizant of what misses.

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Teeth

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Dawn (Jess Weixler), the protagonist of writer/director

Mitchell Lichtenstein’s playfully gynephobic black comedy Teeth, is a

high-school abstinence advocate whose no-sex-before-marriage stance masks her

deep discomfort with her own body. Because Teeth is also a horror movie, the

root of her fear is physical, not psychological — as Anne Carlisle put it in

the druggy downtown classic Liquid Sky, “this pussy has teeth.”

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The Cottage

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The gimmick of this energetic Brit-com is that the action

switches, approximately halfway through, from comic crime drama to comic

splatter movie. The main problem, then, is that The Cottage, against the odds, makes a better caper movie than gore flick. The first half-hour or so is an

engaging and amusing farce about kidnappers David (Andy Serkis) and Peter

(Reece Shearsmith), who drive to a secluded house with their hostage, Tracey

(Jennifer Ellison) bound and gagged in the trunk. It’s not the best plan — the outrageously busty Tracey may be the daughter of a gangster, but she’s a terrible hostage, strong-willed and foul-mouthed. She knows David on sight. And their inside man, Tracey’s brother Andrew, is a dimwit who brings the whole scheme tumbling down on top of them. About the time the car pulls up outside with a couple of Chinese hit men out for blood, The Cottage has established itself as a credibly tense comedy.

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Vengeance of the Zombies (1972)/Night of the Werewolf (1980) [Blu-ray]

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Image nicked from Tim Lucas’s excellent Video Watchblog entry on Night of the Werewolf.

It’s surely convenience, or just

coincidence–rather than any nods to quality or pent-up demand–that these are the first two Euro-horror titles to arrive in high definition on

Blu-ray Disc. This double-feature package from BCI and Deimos

entertainment pairs two films starring the well-loved (and prolific)

Spanish horror actor Paul Naschy. Vengeance of the Zombies (La

Rebelion de las Muertas, 1972) is a potboiler from cult director Leon

Klimovsky involving a charismatic Indian cult leader (Naschy), his

less-attractive brother (also Naschy), and a beautiful redhead (Romy)

from a cursed English family. And Night of the Werewolf (La Retorno

del Hombre Lobo, 1980) is a genre mash-up directed by Naschy

in which he stars as the wolfman Waldemar Daninsky and faces off against a

bevy of vampire women led by Elizabeth Bathory herself. (Scroll way down to read about some problems with these discs.)

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The Lost

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Whatever happened to the red-meat, teens-in-trouble, blood-and-breasts American horror film? On the

evidence here, it’s been driven nearly underground. To be clear, The Lost,

which played the festival circuit and got a handful of theatrical showings in New York and Los

Angeles, isn’t a great film. It’s limited by its

budget, a general flabbiness around the midsection, and genre conventions that

serve as reminders of the film’s status as horror product. But, compared to the

cynical teen-scare flicks and semi-competent J-horror knock-offs clogging multiplex

screens, The Lost feels unhinged and even a little dangerous. Its climax has a

ferocity and evokes a sense of helplessness that’s hard to shake. If the ability to

genuinely disturb is any measure of a horror film’s quality, then The Lost is a

pretty good one.

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DVD Traffic Report: January 22, 2008 – January 29, 2008

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4 by Agnes Varda (Criterion)

Among the most important female directors* in film history, Agnes Varda may best be remembered for crashing the boys’ club that was the Nouvelle Vague with Cleo from 5 to 7, her 1962 study in real-time anxiousness — the title character hangs around in Paris, awaiting the results of a cancer biopsy. But she was already on the scene in 1956, when she made La Pointe Courte, a film-school standby and an important precursor to the French New Wave. This boxed set collects both of those high-water marks along with Le Bonheur (1965), the well-regarded Vagabond (1985) and a full load of extras. I haven’t seen it myself, but it’s on my list.

* No, there aren’t many of them. Another good reason to investigate the great ones.

Buy it from Amazon.com: 4 by Agnès Varda (La Pointe Courte, Cléo from 5 to 7, Le bonheur, Vagabond) – Criterion Collection

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Sony)

How many times do you have to buy Life of Brian, anyway? If you already own a DVD version, this latest iteration — the “Immaculate Edition” — may be missable. But if you’re like me, you haven’t watched this since the Criterion laserdisc came out and need an upgrade. (You could also ask why you spent big money on a Criterion laserdisc that you would only play once, and why you would compound that fiscal error by sinking even more money into a DVD that you’re likely to only play once — but then you wouldn’t be like me.) My copy (Blu-ray) hasn’t arrived from Amazon.com yet, but it looks like this one contains the same five deleted scenes and the same twin commentary tracks as the Criterion version, which means I can thrill again to the sound of distinguished Python Terry Gilliam griping about how much better this film would have been if the group had let him direct. (He’s probably right, of course.) As Python goes, I honestly prefer the more madcap Holy Grail — but this one has the distinction of being perhaps the least offensive film ever to get a worldwide reputation for blasphemy. Here’s a recent interview with John Cleese on the subject.

Buy it from Amazon.com: Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – The Immaculate Edition or Monty Python’s Life Of Brian – Collector’s Edition [Blu-ray] (Note: Amazon.com says the Blu-ray version is two discs, but apparently it’s just one.)

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