Blu-rays of the Week
Acts of Violence (Lionsgate)
This viciously nasty drama pits human traffickers who kidnap young women against a trio of brothers tracking one’s missing fiancée, alongside a couple of decent cops who butt heads with their own superiors’ corruption. Often risibly violent and incoherent, this also features another sleepwalking Bruce Willis performance, which ends up making the other one-note performances look better in comparison. The hi-def transfer is excellent; extras comprise interviews, a making-of featurette and director Brett Donowho’s commentary.
The Black Scorpion (Warner Archive)
Primitive special effects have their charms, but one would have to look awfully hard to find positive things to say about this hackneyed 1957 sci-fi thriller in which giant-sized scorpions are awakened from their underground lairs to wreak merciless havoc. The cheesy B&W images notwithstanding, there’s a lot of blame to go around among the bad writing, inept directing and wooden acting. Although this is for B-movie completists only, the film looks quite good on Blu-ray; extras include a couple of featurettes on effects master Ray Harryhausen.
Werther (Accentus Music)
Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Florez acquits himself admirably in the title role of Jules Massenet’s lyrical opera based on the classic Goethe novel about a young, tragic hero and his fatal flaw: his beloved Charlotte is married to another man. Tatjana Gurbaca’s well-paced 2017 Zurich, Switzerland staging features sensitive orchestral playing under Cornelius Meister and, in addition to Florez’s supple singing, a glorious Charlotte in the form of English mezzo Anna Stephany. Both hi-def video and audio are peerless.
Women in Love (Criterion)
This 1969 adaptation of E.M. Forster’s controversial novel is actually one of Ken Russell’s milder efforts; unlike his later dramas like The Devils, The Music Lovers, Mahler, Tommy and Lisztomania, Women in Love benefits from Russell’s relative restraint, along with powerhouse acting from Glenda Jackson (who won a Best Actress Oscar), Oliver Reed and Alan Bates. Criterion’s usual thorough release includes a top-notch hi-def transfer; commentaries by Russell and screenwriter Larry Kramer; on-set interviews with Kramer, Bates and actress Jennie Linden; 1976 Jackson interview; 2007 Russell interview; Bates’ 1972 short Second Best, based on a Lawrence story; and Russell’s own tongue-in-cheek autobiographical 1989 doc, A British Picture: Portrait of an Enfant Terrible.
DVD of the Week
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood—It’s a Beautiful Day Collection (PBS)
Fred Rogers may have been the most beloved person to ever appear on television—although one might think his squeaky-clean image was cloying, it was never manufactured—and his PBS series (which debuted in 1968 and ran until August 2001) made kids of all ages feel safe and wanted for more than three decades. This 4-DVD set, which compiles 30 episodes from the years 1979-2001, include a visit to the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and chats with Broadway showman Tommy Tune and children’s author Eric Carle. The set’s lone extra is the series’ very first episode in black and white.