Digital Week – October 10th

Blu-rays of the Week

Othello (Criterion)

Orson Welles’ deliriously cinematic adaptation of Shakespeare’s great tragedy was made intermittently over several years, and wasn’t finished until 1952—even then, it has (like several Welles’s films) been shown in varied edits; the new Criterion set includes two—the second from 1955—which have differences but are cinematically and historically worthy. Both versions look sublime on Blu-ray; extras include Welles’s final finished film, 1979’s Making Othello; 1995’s Souvenirs d’Othello, about Suzanne Cloutier (who plays Desdemona); 1953 short Return to Glennascaul; and interviews with Welles biographer Simon Callow and scholars.

Children of the Corn (Arrow)

Stephen King’s already forgettable short story was stretched to a dullish 85 minutes by director Fritz Kiersch for his woebegone 1984 adaptation, which stars Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton as a couple of benighted travelers stuck in a tiny village overrun by murderous children under a spell of sorts by “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.” At least the film has a superior hi-def transfer, and the extras include interviews (including a new one with Hamilton), commentaries, and Disciples of the Crow, a 1983 short also based on King’s original tale.

The Farthest—Voyager in Space (PBS)

The amazing journeys of the Voyager spacecraft—which together gave NASA its first fly-bys of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune—is recounted in intelligent and informative fashion in writer-director Emer Reynolds’ documentary, which comprises the still spectacular images both craft provided along with the often emotional reminiscences of those who were involved with the launches and flights through our solar system and beyond. Needless to say, it all looks gorgeous on Blu-ray; lone extra is an 18-minute short, Second Genesis.

A Fish Called Wanda (Arrow)

This nasty, only fitfully funny 1988 black comedy—written by John Cleese and directed by Ealing Studios veteran Charles Crichton—has not aged well: Kevin Kline’s Oscar-winning performance as a dim-witted American seems excessively shrill and the sight gags and comic situations are strained and obvious. Still, with Cleese and Michael Palin on board, there are some golden comic moments, albeit few and far between. Happily, there’s a nice amount of grain on the new hi-def transfer; extras comprise Cleese’s commentary; 1988 behind-the-scenes documentary John Cleese’s First Farewell Performance; 15th anniversary retrospective featurette Something Fishy; film locations featurette; Cleese’s introduction; and 26 deleted scenes with Cleese commentary.

The House (Warner Bros)

Will Farrell and Amy Poehler coast on whatever’s left of their SNL legacy in this shrill, abrasive, and mostly unfunny comedy about parents who turn their home into a casino to raise money for their beloved daughter’s college tuition. Even at 88 minutes, The House feels impossibly stretched out, especially when Jeremy Renner shows up as a tough-guy Mafioso who meets his match in our two stars. The hi-def transfer is fine; extras include two featurettes, deleted and extended scenes, and a gag reel, which shows that at least they had fun making the movie.

Pilgrimage (RLJ Entertainment)

Director Brendan Muldowney’s historical drama about a dangerous journey from an Irish monastery to Rome to deliver an important religious relic has a formidable visual pedigree (costumes, sets, vistas are all astonishing) but is a bumpy ride nevertheless. There’s enough visceral action to keep it watchable, but it could have been something more. The film does look splendid on Blu, and the extras are behind-the-scenes featurettes and interviews.

Superman: The Movie—Extended Cut & Special Edition (Warner Bros)

Richard Donner’s original 1978 Superman movie—a flawed but hugely entertaining superhero movie that’s much more palatable (and memorable) than the more recent Marvel flicks—was originally shown on network TV with an extra 40 minutes of unseen footage, and that 188-minute epic makes its Blu-ray debut in this release, along with Donner’s own 2-1/2 hour “special edition.” Both versions have excellent hi-def transfers; extras include a Donner commentary, featurettes, restored and additional scenes, and screen tests—the best of which are alternate Lois Lanes: Stockard Channing, Debra Raffin, Susan Blakely and (my favorite) Anne Archer.