By Drew Taylor | The Playlist May 3, 2012 at 12:03PM
"The Big Heat" (1953) Blu-ray
Why You Should Care: Because film noirs don't get much better than Fritz Lang's 1953 pulp classic (Roger Ebert called it "Lang's greatest masterpiece of film noir"). "The Big Heat" was based on a work of serialized fiction by William P. McGivern, originally appearing in the Saturday Evening Post and then collected a year before the film's release in novel form, and stars Glenn Ford as Detective Bannion, who gets a tip to investigate a fellow officer's death that was initially ruled a suicide. From there he gets caught up in his small town's seedy underbelly, running afoul of a mob boss (Alexander Scourby) and a moll with seemingly virtuous intentions (Gloria Grahame). Lee Marvin also shows up as a zoot-suited enforcer. What's amazing is how much punch the movie still carries, particularly in a still-shocking sequence when Bannion's wife is murdered in an explosion (that's when the once above-board cop starts to slip into the dark side). Like all Lang films, it seems effortlessly stylish (we can't wait to see Lang's black-and-white photography in HD), his expressionistic flourishes still very much evident, but also incredibly tense, with an offhanded realism. A few months ago the film was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, with the selection committing noting that it is "one of the great post-war film noirs." We couldn't agree more.
What's On It: An isolated music track featuring the film's moody score (courtesy of composers Arthur Morton and Henry Vars), the film's original theatrical trailer, and essays/linear notes by Julie Kirgo. Oh, and it's a limited edition – 3,000 and they're gone so get on it.
Release date: May 8th via Twilight Time
"Flareup" (1969) DVD
Why You Should Care: Because, even though we've never seen it (and probably can't pinpoint a dozen people who have), it sounds like one of the most incredible movies ever made. The plot concerns a madman (Luke Askew) who murders his estranged wife and then turns on the Vegas showgirl (played, naturally, by Raquel Welch) who Askew blames for turning his wife against him. If you're not sold already, we're not sure what's wrong with you. Eventually Welch flees to Los Angeles, in what feels like a mash-up of "Showgirls" and early-nineties Stephen King (when he was going through that weird feminist phase, "Rose Madder," "Gerald's Game," etc). The official description of the movie promises that it will "keep you gasping" although everything about the movie screams late-'60s camp – the poster, which features a sultry Raquel Welch, a vaguely art deco design, and one of the best taglines ever – "Most Men Want to Love Her… One Man Wants to Kill Her!" Yes, because nothing screams "legitimate thriller" like an exclamation point in your tagline. This surely has to be at least late night movie watching fun (probably even more so if you're drunk or stoned or really tired).
What's On It: Nothing. This one comes from the made-to-order folks at Warner Archive.
Release date: Out now via Warner Archive
Also out this month (and worth checking out): the David O. Selznick Polynesian-set melodrama “Bird of Paradise,” rescued from public domain obscurity and given a new scrub by Kino (out now); Rock Hudson and Doris Day get the deluxe treatment on a new Blu-ray of “Pillow Talk” timed to Universal’s 100th anniversary celebration (out now); the 1959 Pat Boone/James Mason “Journey to the Center of the Earth” gets dusted off with a Blu-ray release that gives a dedicated audio track solely to Bernard Hermann’s atmospheric score (May 8th); Joe Dante’s off-the-wall sequel “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (bafflingly) gets a Blu-ray upgrade (May 8th); lurid (but stylish and structurally ambitious – almost the whole thing is told through a series of interlocking flashbacks) 1974 Italian thriller “Plot of Fear” (May 22nd); Michael Caine stars as Harry Anders, a riff on Ted Allbeury character Ted Anders (commonly referred to as the “anti-Bond”), in the made-for-HBO movie “Blue Ice,” directed by the perennially underrated Russell Mulcahy (May 15th); Criterion gives us a tricked-out Blu-ray edition of Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman’s weirdo “Being John Malkovich” (May 15th); under-the-radar 1983 slasher “Mortuary” (starring a young Bill Paxton) finally gets exhumed (May 15th); early Mike Newell feature “The Awakening,” based on Bram Stoker’s 1903 novel “Jewel of Seven Stars,” starring Charlton Heston, Susannah York, Stephanie Zimbalist, and a mummy (May 15th); Shout Factory is releasing a new deluxe box set of the “Walking Tall” trilogy (the first one starred Joe Don Baker, the subsequent two Quentin Tarantino favorite Bo Svenson), the somewhat biographical tale of bad-ass law man Sheriff Buford Pusser; the BBC’s immaculate “Sherlock: Season 2” (the first episode of which is flawless) will wash the bad taste of “Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows” out of your mouth (May 22nd); and a frame-by-frame restoration has given way to a deluxe reissue of animated Beatles oddity “Yellow Submarine” (May 29th).