DVDBeaver Newsletter - May 19th, 2008

Yiem longx! - an exhausting 22 new reviews this week - interspersed between more westerns (Anthony Mann!) we have a Japanese samurai/love story, Iranian, Turkish-German, Italian and Romanian offerings, plus Bergman, Sam Fuller, Godard, Criterion... and a glance at a rarely seen Japanese master. Updated listings, a, very difficult, contest and a new Beaver page. These could very well be our salad days!... Enjoy!


Check out Beaver's NEW: Masters of Cinema page HERE - to help keep track of current sale pricing, new listing, reviews and more... (MANY titles 40-50% OFF!)


AUGUST CRITERIONS ANNOUNCED: Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin, 2006), Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975), The Small Back Room (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1949), Twenty-four Eyes (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1954) and Eclipse Series 11: Larisa Shepitko Box Set Includes: The Ascent (Larisa Shepitko, 1976), Wings (Larisa Shepitko, 1966)


WEEK OF MAY 19th CONTEST -  See our Contest page HERE to win a previously unviewed DVD of Masters of Cinema - Spine #1 - Sunrise - A Song of Two Humans .- Best of luck all!


Amazon.co.uk May clearance sale is on until the 8th June, with 1000's of products reduced HERE


LATEST Additions to the Release Calendar (PRE-ORDER!):

The Life Before Her Eyes (Vadim Perelman, 2007) Magnolia

The Life Before Her Eyes [Blu-ray] (Vadim Perelman, 2007) Magnolia

The Bank Job (Single-Disc Edition) (Roger Donaldson, 2008) Lionsgate

The Bank Job (2-disc) (Roger Donaldson, 2008) Lionsgate

The Exorcism of Emily Rose [Blu-ray] (Scott Derrickson, 2005) Sony

Doomsday [Blu-ray] (Neil Marshall, 2008) Universal Studios

John Mills Centenary Collection V2 (8-disc - Car Of Dreams, Forever England, The Way To The Stars, The Long Memory, Above Us The Waves, The Vicious Circle and Tiger Bay) R2 UK ITV DVD

Jean-Luc Godard - Histoire(s) du Cinema - R2 UK Artificial Eye

Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer , 1932) R2 UK Masters of Cinema

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Easiest way to catch up is simply read the new Newsletter Archive HERE.



ONE VOICE (not Ellsworth Monkton Toohey): What a week! - Following procedure from last newsletter - let's tackle the westerns first. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection is easily a very highly recommended package - classic Mann/Stewart films - some digital updates - a move to widescreen and all for about $5/film. We've covered all 6 entries in the boxset so see for yourself. I was also quite partial to Man With the Gun with Robert Mitchum. The Gunfight at Dodge City might be worth a spin too - depending on your enjoyment of the genre.

Onto the BIG stuff - again, depending on cinephilia leanings - Shimizu Hiroshi Collection - Part 1 Yamaai No Fukei is certainly a unique offering - outside a rare festival retrospective - this package is 'it'. We were deluged with emails about the appearance of Criterion's The Thief of Bagdad - thumbs up and down all over the place - take a 'boo' and judge for yourself. Cannes winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days deserves its blossoming global audience and AE have done it up right. Yet another great film from 2007 is Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven - our lives really are fragile. Per-Olaf has clearly identified passing on the PAL MGM Hour of the Wolf in favor of the NTSC. Koch/Lorber entice with a few supplement crumbs in their Godard's La Chinoise, but whether that's enough is totally your decision. Leonard has a strong endorsement point about the $10 BRD - Shinobi - Heart Under Blade BR. Eric exposes us to another Italian horror - Zeder.

In our 'It's-Not-All-Good' section - we're suggesting passing on - The Way West although it has some positives - basically they are not enough. Gregory shows the way with Fuller's The Naked Kiss - and that's means passing on the anamorphic VCI edition. Twister BR (new caps!) is a cheesy movie - don't waste your time. The Willow Tree is a decent film from the master Majidi but Ny'er haven't done us any favors with their transfer - wow it's weak. Further Blu-ray disappointments - Shall We Dance BR and Leonard suggests that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid BR is not up to snuff - at least not improved enough. 


New Reviews:

Shinobi - Heart Under Blade BR - You might think of Shinobi as Romeo and Juliet set in medieval Japan. Two ninja families, long at each others' throats, live in hidden villages. One, the Iga, live in a relatively wooded area alongside a lovely stream; the Koga are mountain people, living in cliffs, not unlike the Pueblo Indians of North America. One day, by chance, Gennosuke (Jo Odagiri), the favorite son of the Koga comes across the favorite daughter, Oboro (Yuki Nakama) of the Iga. They declare their love for each other, fully aware that their destiny lies elsewhere. This turns out to be an understatement. Blu-ray DVD Release date: May 13th, 2008

The Naked Kiss - The setup is pure pulp: A former prostitute relocates to a buttoned-down suburb, determined to fit into mainstream society. But in the strange, hallucinatory territory of writer/director/producer Sam Fuller, perverse secrets simmer beneath a seemingly wholesome facade. The anamorphic VCI release came out August 28, 2007

Zeder - Riz Ortolani's orchestral/electronic score is bombastic but the creepiest scenes are either subtly scored or unfold without music. Released in the US as Revenge of the Dead with a grossly misleading poster of a flesh-eating zombie, Avati's zombies require no prosthetic make-up; just a disconcerting stare and a creepy laugh.

Twister BR (new caps added!) - Effects apart, this is dire: predictable, clichéd, sloppily written, pitifully performed and surprisingly short of real shocks and suspense. The story can be described in two ways: as a rip-off of Only Angels Have Wings, in which Paxton's implausibly intuitive tornado expert is torn between two women, his ex (Hunt) and his fiancée (Gertz), and two lives, a safe weatherman job, or a risky return to the group of crazily devoted storm-chasers trying to get a gizmo up inside a twister's 'suck-zone'; or as a repetitive spectacle where all that happens is that the objects hurled around in the air simply get bigger. Forget the many redundant references to The Wizard of Oz, this hasn't a fraction of that movie's logic, imagination or ambitions. Seriously depressing.
Blu-ray DVD Release date: May 6th, 2008

The Way West - In his heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, director Andrew V. McLaglen had a consistently good eye for locations and a fine knack for attracting powerhouse casts. More often than not, these were the best things about his otherwise banal movies, and The Way West (1967) is no exception. Expertly photographed by William Clothier, who worked with McLaglen eleven times, the locations are indeed magnificent - Oregon has probably never looked better. And topping the cast are Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Richard Widmark. DVD Release Date: May 13th, 2008

The Gunfight at Dodge City - A lean, fast-paced account of a key period in the life of frontier legend Bat Masterson, The Gunfight at Dodge City (1957) was supposed to be the final film for Joel McCrea who wanted to retire after its completion. It was filmed the same year as Comanche Station which starred Randolph Scott, another Western veteran, who wanted the Budd Boetticher helmed oater to be his farewell movie. Ironically, both McCrea and Scott would be lured back to the screen a few years later to co-star in Sam Peckinpah's ode to the vanishing West - Ride the High Country (1962) - but in the case of McCrea, The Gunfight at Dodge City was a more typical example of the actor's work in this genre. DVD Release Date: May 13th, 2008

Man With the Gun - A striking, compact first feature from esteemed screenwriter Wilson. Mitchum is the taciturn 'town-tamer', whose extreme methods of law enforcement are available for hire when local marshals have run out of options. Arriving in a frontier community to look up old-flame Sterling, he finds himself engaged in lethally dismantling the influence of the area's Mr Big. His ruthless efficiency has the townsfolk appalled, but Mitchum, scarred by childhood memories which saw his unarmed father gunned down, channels his inner demons into the task at hand. It's among his finest performances, but by no means a one-man show, given Wilson's deft placement of wry humour amid the carnage, and North's fine score expressing the sense of an open-air America ill at ease with itself. Forget the unofficial Michael Winner remake Lawman. DVD Release Date: May 13th, 2008

The Willow Tree - The Iranian director Majid Majidi’s sad, soulful film “The Willow Tree” is his second movie to explore blindness and sight on multiple levels. Its heartbreaking 1999 forerunner, “The Color of Paradise,” focused on the desperately lonely but strangely happy existence of Mohammad, a blind 8-year-old whose widowed father reluctantly abandons him to the care of a rural carpenter, then vanishes. “The Willow Tree” examines the traumatic shocks experienced by a blind professor of literature whose eyesight is miraculously restored. DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

Shall We Dance BR - It wasn't only the need for subtitles or the relatively subtle dynamics of Masayuki Suo's original 1996 movie, set in modern day Japan, but Hollywood's relentless appetite for any idea that it believes it can turn a profit with. Instead of leaving well enough alone, the story is transplanted to Chicago and everything about the original is suddenly drenched in methamphetamines: the comedy, the romance, the relationships. As it happens, with no surprise, the new movie rarely achieves compelling comedy or romance or relationship stuff, though it has its moments. In any case, it isn't either Gere or Lopez who brings off most of what is enjoyable or meaningful here. It's the supporting cast.
Blu-ray DVD Release date: May 6th, 2008

The Edge of Heaven - Turkish-German director Fatih Akin broadens his canvas and quietens his tone for his follow-up to the fiery and intimate ‘Head-On’ (2004). His concern is again with movement between Turkey and Germany – and its consequences for the individual – although this time his enquiry takes on a cross-generational edge, as well as a more thoughtful and maudlin one: we’re never very far from death. DVD Release Date: June 9th, 2008

Hour of the Wolf - Twenty-two years ago (Crisis) Bergman was telling the story of a man torn between two women; ten years ago (The Face) he was showing a performer being stripped of his mask, and five years ago (The Silence) he was revealing a single human coin by the examination of both its sides. All these were present in Persona, and they recur again in Hour of the Wolf, augmented on the immediate visual level by such familiar Bergman phrases as the bleached flashback (Sawdust and Tinsel), the errant eyeball (The Face), and the corpse that rises laughing from its slab (Wild Strawberries).

Shimizu Hiroshi Collection - Part 1 Yamaai No Fukei - One of the undisputed masters of Japan cinema, Shimizu Hiroshi (1903-1966) made well over 100 films in his career, ranging from children's films to lighthearted comedies to stories from the fringe. His outstanding cinematic achievements match that of contemporary great and lifelong friend Ozu Yasujiro, though the latter has eclipsed him in recognition. Shimizu Hiroshi is particularly well known for his children's films, such as Children in the Wind (1937), but his steady stream of output for Shochiku from the 1920s to 1950s yielded a far wider selection of films, many of which have been sadly lost to time. In comparison to Ozu's films which are readily available, Shimizu's works have been near impossible to find outside of the festival circuit, but Shochiku is now finally releasing Shimizu's films on DVD with English subtitles. Entitled Yamaii no Fukei ("Mountain Scenery"), the first four-disc boxset in the Shimizu Hiroshi Collection comes with four films: Arigato-san (1936); Anma to Onna (1938); Kanzashi (1941); and Minato no Nihon Musume (1933), a silent film that is only being released as a bonus feature with this boxset. DVD Release Date: April 25th, 2008

Night Passage - This minor (and obscurely titled) Stewart Western was to have been directed by Anthony Mann, who pulled out at the last minute because he felt Borden (Winchester '73) Chase's script wasn't up to scratch. Stewart plays a railroad worker who discovers that the robbers bent on stealing the payroll with which he has been entrusted are being led by his brother (Murphy). Neilson wades through the good brother/bad brother plot like an ox through mud, Stewart whiling away the time by playing accordion. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

La Chinoise - Perhaps Godard's most political film, "La Chinoise" is also Godard at his most primitive in terms of filmmaking and his most extreme in terms of mise-en-scene. On one side Godard openly displays his views on America and their imperialism by a very aggressive and beautiful mise-en-scene, but on the other side his approach towards Maoism and Communism borders the naïve, here voiced thru the students and their discussions, as it portraits a group of young students of Sorbonne, who spend their summer vacation discussing ideology and end it all with assassinating a Russian cultural attaché, before returning to school. The Koch/Lorber DVD Release Date: May 13th, 2008

Destry Rides Again - Marvellous comedy Western, with Stewart's pacifist, reputedly wimpy marshal taming the lawless town of Bottleneck by means of words and jokes rather than the gun Donlevy's villain repeatedly provokes him to use. What is remarkable about the film is the way it combines humour, romance, suspense and action so seamlessly (with individual scenes - Dietrich singing 'See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have', Stewart's delicious parable about a homicidal orphan, Mischa Auer losing his pants - indelibly printed in the memory). Flawless performances, pacy direction and a snappy script place it head and shoulders above virtually any other spoof oater. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

Rare Breed - Born into the Ford/Wayne axis as the son of Victor, McLaglen was steeped in Western lore from an early age, and graduated through teleseries like Gunsmoke and Have Gun - Will Travel to a string of features hymning the old generic simplicities in their twilight. His features with Wayne tended to be as reactionary as the Duke himself (a predilection subsequently confirmed in work like The Wild Geese), but this effort about O'Hara's attempts to cross a Hereford bull with Texas longhorn stock is innocuously banal. And the human supporting cast just about make it worthwhile. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid BR - What can I add to the legend that hasn't been said and said again? I am, of course, referring to the film, not the real-life characters who inspired it. Perhaps only a personal note of dumbstruck awe that a western that blends romance, comedy – high and low – modern language (written by the man who would go on to write The Stepford Wives, All the President's Men and The Princess Bride) and a song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David had a hope or a prayer in hell of making it out of the editing console! But Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid isn't really a typical western, where people meet the challenge of transition with courage in the face of greed and power, so much as it is a comment about the unwillingness of people to change with the times, especially if you were good at your work and folks admired you for it.
Blu-ray DVD Release date: May 13th, 2008

The Thief of Bagdad - Legendary producer Alexander Korda's marvel The Thief of Bagdad, inspired by The Arabian Nights, is one of the most spectacular fantasy films ever made, an eye-popping effects pioneer brimming with imagination and technical wizardry. When Prince Ahmad (John Justin) is blinded and cast out of Bagdad by the nefarious Jaffar (Conrad Veidt), he joins forces with the scrappy thief Abu (the incomparable Sabu, in his definitive role) to win back his royal place, as well as the heart of a beautiful princess (June Duprez). With its luscious Technicolor, vivid sets, and unprecedented visual wonders, The Thief of Bagdad has charmed viewers of all ages for decades. DVD Release Date: May 27th, 2008

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days - Mungiu’s film is set over one afternoon and evening in the late 1980s (although we have to guess the exact date). There’s no nostalgia on offer here – no wistful look over the shoulder at Romania’s past: this is a dark place – literally, when we hit the night-time streets – where ordinary people are forced to act and suffer as savages under the perverting influence of the law. Mungiu’s point is crystal clear: the past is best left behind but never forgotten. His story is intimate but everywhere in his film there are hints of a wider malaise, whether it’s the bread queue at the edge of his widescreen frame, the officious-verging-on-dictatorial attitude of a hotel receptionist or just the angry bark of a dog at night. DVD Release Date: May 26th, 2008

Winchester 73 - A 187, 44-40 caliber Winchester rifle is the star of the this motion picture. Every so often a rifle comes along that is just perfect - "1 in 1000" they call it. 'Winchester 73' was a revolutionary film in the development of Hollywood westerns. It almost single-handedly rescued the western genre and its box-office success acknowledged Anthony Mann for his key role in attaining its allure and stature. This was one of many westerns collaborating with Jimmy Stewart, helping to revive his post war acting image. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

Bend of the River - One of the best of the Anthony Mann / James Stewart team-ups - and many of these are in a very esteemed class of the western genre. After the quintessential Winchester '73 - the studio used the same producer and writer in hopes of further success. Add Technicolor into the mix and the inherent problems that Gold-fever and tempted pioneers were facing and we have another simple narrative classic of the genre with defining heroes and those twisted by desire for money. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

The Far Country - Another Jimmy Stewart and Anthony Mann gem. They teamed to do some of the best westerns ever made and these classics always seem to be forgotten. Probably close to my favorite - Winchester '73. The cinematography of the majestic Canadian Rockies serves as a monumental backdrop as again Stewart plays a jaded loner, this time named Jeff Webster. His only real companion is his sidekick Ben Tatum (Walter Brennan). Gold again is the elusive target and the honor code and male-to-male nobility make for a space but ripe narrative. Another classic western. They do not make films like this anymore. The Jimmy Stewart Western Collection DVD Release Date: May 20th, 2008

Next 2 weeks on the Calendar:

Week of May 19th, 2008

Eclipse Series 9: The Delirious Fictions of William Klein - Criterion

Dirty Carnival (Ha Yu, 2006) Genius Products

Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee (Justin Lin, 2007) Genius Products

The Fire Within (Louis Malle, 1963) Criterion

Inglorious Bastards (Enzo G. Castellari,1978)
Inglorious Bastards Special Edition (Enzo G. Castellari,1978)

James Stewart Western Collection (6-disc Destry Rides Again, Winchester 73', Bend Of The River, The Far Country, The Night Passage and The Rare Breed) Universal

James Stewart: Columbia Screen Legends Collection (The Man From Laramie, Bell, Book and Candle, Anatomy of a Murder ) - Sony

The Lovers (Louis Malle, 1958) Criterion

National Treasure [Blu-ray] (Jon Turteltaub, 2004) Walt Disney Video

National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets (Two-Disc Collector's Edition) (Jon Turteltaub, 2007) Walt Disney Video
National Treasure 2 - Book of Secrets [
Blu-ray] (Jon Turteltaub, 2007) Walt Disney Video

There Will Be Blood [Blu-ray] (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007) - Paramount

V for Vendetta [Blu-ray] (James McTeigue, 2006) Warner

The Willow Tree (Majid Majidi, 2005) New Yorker


Week of May 26th, 2008

The Air I Breathe (Jieho Lee, 2007) Velocity / Thinkfilm

The Air I Breathe [Blu-ray] (Jieho Lee, 2007) Velocity / Thinkfilm

Akasen Chitai/Yokihi (2 films by Keni Mizoguchi) - R2 UK - Eureka Masters of Cinema

Cassandra's Dream (Woody Allen, 2007) Weinstein Company

Cluny Brown (Ernst Lubitsch, 1946) R2 UK - BFI

Come Drink with Me (King Hu, 1966) Weinstein

A Cottage on Dartmoor (Anthony Asquith, 1929) - R2 UK - BFI

The Dario Argento Box Set (Tenebre: Special Edition, Phenomena: Special Edition, Trauma, The Card Player, Do You Like Hitchcock?) - Starz / Anchor Bay

Four Months, Three Weeks And Two Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007) R2 UK Artificial Eye

Grace Is Gone (James C. Strouse, 2007) Weinstein

Heroes of the East (Chia-Liang Liu, 1979) Weinstein

"Holocaust" (Marvin J. Chomsky, 1978) (3-disc mini-series) Paramount

"The Invaders" Season One (1967) Paramount

The Lather Effect (Sarah Kelly, 2006) Anchor Bay

Nathalie Granger (Marguerite Duras, 1972) Blaq Out

Nathalie Granger 2-disc (Marguerite Duras, 1972) Blaq Out

Noriko's Dinner Table (Sion Sono, 2005) Facets

The Three Stooges Collection, Vol. 2: 1937-1939 - Sony

The Thief of Bagdad (Michael Powell, 1940) Criterion

Twister [HD DVD] (Jan de Bont, 1996) Warner

The World War Collection (Angels One Five/The Captive Heart/King and Country/The Sound Barrier) - LionsGate


"Any new idea is asked two questions... When you are weak, will you compromise, ...and how do you behave when you win, when your enemies are at your mercy, and your power is absolute, what then?" -  Baal (of Jahalia), Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses'.

Enjoy the Spring!