Summer is heating up, so thank god there are a bunch of totally cool new DVDs and Blu-rays to chill out with. This month we get Blu-ray editions of classics from Roger Vadim, Ken Russell, and Stanley Donen, some weird-ass obscurities that finally get a home video release, plus a whole lot more.
"Barbarella" (Roger Vadim, 1968)
Why You Should Care: Based on a '60s French science fiction comic book of the same name, “Barbarella” is a hallucinogenic, highly sexualized Italian/French co-production responsible for giving pop behemoths Duran Duran their name, largely inspiring the underrated Roman Coppola movie “CQ” and confirming our suspicions (at the tender age of ten) that we were, in fact, heterosexual (thank you, Jane Fonda and your va-va-voominess). Fonda plays the title role, a go-go-booted space spy who… Well, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Both because the movie creates its own dreamily psychedelic universe where narrative conventions are largely thrown out the window in favor of glittery visuals and WTF-worthy plot developments (this is a movie where John Philip Law plays an angel for some reason) and because the only thing that really, truly matters is watching Fonda scamper around some excessively outsized sets while in varying states of undress. (For a movie that’s still rated PG it’s outrageously sexy.) The script was co-written by noted satirist Terry Southern and Vadim (director of “And God Created Women”), who was married to Fonda at the time, and the two seem to know what a deliciously campy smorgasbord they’ve cooked up. The movie’s tawdry datedness (it’s like if someone decided to shoot a soft-core porn in a blown-out version of Tomorrowland) is now one of its primary charms and it stands as a testament to the awe-inspiring power of physical sets, which, besides Fonda’s cheeky-sexy performance, is reason enough to watch (or re-watch) the movie. We just can’t believe anyone thought that shag carpeting would survive the '60s, much less exist in the far off future.
What’s On It: Even though Paramount is making a fairly big deal about the film's high-definintion debut, there’s nothing on the Blu-ray besides the theatrical trailer. That said, the new transfer gives the movie a heretofore-unseen level of dimensionality and makes the whole groovy experiment even groovier.
Release date: Now via Paramount
"Escape in the Fog" (Budd Boetticher, 1945)
Why You Should Care: Helmed by existential western auteur Budd Boetticher (who directed “Seven Men From Now,” “The Tall T,” "Buchanana Rides Alone,” and “The Cimarron Kid” before going nuts and spending the next decade in Mexico, ostensibly trying to mount a documentary of bullfighter Carlos Arruza), “Escape in the Fog” is a marginal B-movie (its original poster exclaims: “Slipping silently out of the fog… Came murder!”) gifted with a truly intriguing premise. Plucky nurse Eilene Carr (Nina Foch) has a vivid, film noir-y dream (complete with clumps of matted fog) about three men murdering another on the Golden Gate Bridge… and then meets the potential murder victim in real life. Can you imagine? Well, you probably can. From there things become more grandiose, involving an international conspiracy and climaxing in a gunfight that showcases Boetticher’s experience in the western genre. The movie isn’t known for being much of a classic, but it does feature a pair of reliably gripping performances by Foch and noted character actor Otto Kruger. Up until now the movie has existed in the purgatorial in-between land of occasional TCM showings, but the movie is finally being made available for purchase through Sony’s burn-on-demand Sony Choice Collection. Now fans of atmospheric, overlooked film noirs will no longer be slaves to their DVRs!
What’s On It: Well, it being a burn-to-order baby, there’s absolutely nothing on it.
Release date: Out now via Sony Choice Collection