DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: SUNDAY BLOODY SUNDAY (The Criterion Collection)
An unusual love triangle lies at the heart of director John Schlesinger’s 1971 drama, now given the special-edition treatment by Criterion.
Alex Greville (Glenda Jackson) is a working woman and single mother; Daniel Hirsch (Peter Finch) is a compassionate, middleaged Jewish doctor. What they have in common is Bob Elkin (Murray Head), a young artist who is the lover of both. How they deal with the situation and their emotions results in an adult drama of uncommon sensitivity.
In its day, the film was considered a watershed in the portrayal of homosexuality, but what’s truly groundbreaking is that Schlesinger (who was gay) and screenwriter Penelope Gilliat don’t sensationalize or over-emphasize that aspect. This is a film about people who need companionship and love, and are forced to make concessions to hold onto it.
Although Head’s performance was criticized in some quarters as being callow, that too is the nature of the character. Then again, he’s also paired with Jackson and Finch, two actors at the peak of their powers. A sterling supporting cast includes Peggy Ashcroft, Tony Britton, Maurice Denham, Vivian Pickles and silent-screen siren Bessie Love. Look for young Daniel Day-Lewis (in his screen debut) as a teen hooligan who keys a car.
The film earned four Academy Award nominations: Best Director, Best Actor (Finch), Best Actress (Jackson) and Best Original Screenplay. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $39.95. Rated R.
AMERICANO (MPI Home Video): Mathieu Demy (son of Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda) makes his feature writing/ directing debut and stars in this drama as a man trying to come to terms with the recent death of his mother. Salma Hayek, Chiara Mastroianni, Geraldine Chaplin and Carlos Bardem round out a star-studded cast. In French and Spanish with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
ARBITRAGE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Richard Gere gives one of his best performances in writer/director Nicholas Jarecki’s tension-filled morality play, as a tycoon whose world threatens to come undone when he accidentally kills his mistress (Laetitia Casta) on the eve of a major business deal. A fine supporting cast includes Tim Roth, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Brit Marling, Stuart Margolin and real-life Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Rated R.
“BONANZA”: THE OFFICIAL FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Life continues at the Ponderosa Ranch for Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) and his sons (Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker and Michael Landon) in all 34 episodes from the 1962-’63 season of the long-running, award-winning NBC Western series. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction and Scenic Design. “Volume One” includes the first 18 episodes, “Volume Two” the remaining 16. Each volume retails for $42.99.
THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS (VCI Entertainment): A DVD reissue ($14.99 retail) of director Lloyd Bacon’s fact-based 1944 World War II drama, about five brothers killed in action during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Anne Baxter and Thomas Mitchell head the cast. Oscar nomination for Best Original Story.
GENERAL EDUCATION (Well Go USA Entertainment): Award-winning (!) but below-average teen comedy with Chris Sheffield as a high-school student who finds romance (with Maiara Walsh) while attending summer school — which he neglected to tell his demanding parents (Janeane Garofalo and Larry Miller). Rated PG-13.
MAGIC MIKE (Warner Home Video): Steven Soderbergh’s surprise box-office hit stars producer Channing Tatum in the title role, a male stripper in Florida who teaches the tricks of the trade to newcomer Alex Pettyfer. Soderbergh brings snap and sizzle to the proceedings, balancing the dramatic and comedic aspects of the story, but hamstrung by poorly realized female characters. Matthew McConaughey steals the show as a slick club owner who knows — and plays — all the angles. Soderbergh was also the cinematographer and editor under the pseudonyms Peter Andrews and Mary Ann Bernard. Rated R.
“NCIS”: THE NINTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Mark Harmon and his team of Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agents are back in action in all 24 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the long-running, award-winning CBS mystery series. Also on hand: Michael Weatherly, Pauley Perrette, Sean Murray, Rocky Carroll, one-time “Man from UNCLE” David McCallum and recurring guest stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Lauren Holly and Michael Nouri. The DVD boxed set, replete with special features, retails for $64.99.
ONE FOR THE MONEY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Soft-boiled adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s best-selling series of mystery novels was clearly designed as a big-screen franchise for hyper-perky Katherine Heigl (also an executive producer), playing amateur bounty hunter Stephanie Plum — but box-office indifference deemed otherwise. This highconcept combination of comedy, action and whodunit (replete with Heigl’s broad narration) slumps badly in the latter stages, wasting a talent cast: Jason O’Mara, John Leguizamo, Daniel Sunjata, Sherri Shepherd, Debra Monk, Fisher Stevens and Debbie Reynolds (as Heigl’s grandmother). Rated PG-13.
ROME EXPRESS (VCI Entertainment): A fast-moving 1933 whodunit set aboard the title train bound for Paris, with a stolen painting up for grabs and a slew of suspects and red herrings on board, including Conrad Veidt (smoothly nasty), Cedric Hardwicke, Muriel Aked, Joan Barry, Donald Calthrop and Finlay Currie.
“SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS 2012 WORLD SERIES COL- LECTOR’S EDITION” (MLB Productions/A&E Networks Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this collection commemorating the Giants’ World Series triumph over the Detroit Tigers. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $99.95.
SCHOOL GIRL REPORT #9: MATURE BEFORE GRADU- ATION … (Impulse Pictures): Nubile nymphets are up to their usual soft-core shenanigans in this 1975 installment of producer Wolf Hartwig’s long-running film series based on Gunther Hunold’s best-seller. Actually better than most, with the highlight being the parents of young Katja, desperately trying to be “with-it.” Besides, how many soft-core movies open with a near-fatal car crash? In German with English subtitles.
SLEEPWALK WITH ME (IFC Films): Comedian Mike Birbiglia adapts his one-man show and makes his feature directorial debut (co-directing with Ira Glass) for this enjoyably quirky, autobiographical comedy about a stand-up comedian (guess who?) trying to juggle a career, a long-time girlfriend (the winning Lauren Ambrose) and a bizarre sleep disorder all at once.
UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS (VCI Entertainment): Michael Craig and Anne Heywood play newlyweds and gorgeous Mylene Demongeot is their live-in domestic in this fluffy, slight 1959 comedy clearly in the vein of the Rock Hudson/ Doris Day comedies of the era. Lots of familiar faces on hand: James Robertson Justice, Joan Sims, Sid James, Joan Hickson, Daniel Massey, Burt Kwouk and a young Claudia Cardinale.
X-GAME (Danger After Dark): Yohei Fukuda’s adaptation of Yusuke Yamada’s novel X gemu (also known as Death Tube) places a group of former schoolmates in a re-creation of their old classroom, where they are forced to participate in a deadly punishment game. In Japanese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $17.99.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.