Digital Week – April 13

This week’s roundup features a mixture of Blu-rays old and new.

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This week’s roundup features a mixture of Blu-rays old (Warner Archive’s “Green Dolphin Street” and “Doctor X”) and two ‘70s films from Dutch director Nouchka van Brakel (“A Woman Like Eve” and “The Debut”), new (the Japanese nuclear disaster drama, “Fukushima 50”) and operatic (including Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro”).

Blu-ray Releases of the Week

Green Dolphin Street (Warner Archive)

Based on a novel by Elizabeth Goudge, Victor Saville’s 1947 melodrama ranges far and wide, from the Channel Islands to New Zealand, to tell an epic tale of two sisters in love with the same man and the myriad tragedies—an earthquake and a tsunami as well as the deaths of loved ones—that befall them over decades. A top cast led by Lana Turner and Donna Reed as the sisters, Richard Hart as their mutual love interest, and Van Heflin as the man secretly in love with the married sister make this 140-minute soap opera compelling, and even the primitive special effects—which won an Oscar—are impressive enough for the era. There’s a splendid hi-def transfer of this ravishing-looking B&W film; lone extra is a radio adaptation with some of the film’s cast.

Doctor X (Warner Archive)

The “mad scientist” of the title, Dr. Xavier, carries out bizarre experiments, reenacting assorted crimes in his basement laboratory, in Michael Curtiz’s tidy 1932 horror flick that includes murders and cannibalism. Starring a pre-King Kong Fay Wray, whose screams will sound familiar, as the doctor’s daughter and Lionel Atwill as Xavier, the goofy but creepy “Doctor X” looks marvelous on Blu after being restored in all its two-strip technicolor glory; extras are a restored B&W version, a featurette about Curtiz’s horror-film career, two commentaries and a restoration demonstration.

Faust (Opus Arte)

French composer Charles Gounod’s operatic masterpiece was his adaptation of the Faust legend, and David McVicar’s vivid 2019 staging for the Royal Opera House in London is thrilling in its immediacy. American tenor Michael Fabbiano is a grandly tragic Faust, Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott is a marvelously mischievous Mephistopheles and Russian soprano Irina Lungu is a truly heartbreaking Marguerite; conductor Dan Ettinger ably leads the Royal Opera orchestra and chorus. Both hi-def audio and video are first-rate; extras are short backstage interviews.

Fukushima 50 (Capelight)

The devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Japanese coast in 2011 also caused the Fukushima nuclear power plant to disastrously malfunction and release radiation into the atmosphere, and this finely detailed docudrama reenacts what the plant’s workers and management did in an almost impossible situation, threatening hundreds of thousands of lives. Director Setsurō Wakamatsu simply but effectively recreates the often heroic work of the “Fukushima 50” (so-called afterward by international media), stumbling only near the end, as things get slightly mawkish. The hi-def image looks luminous.

Le nozze di Figaro/The Marriage of Figaro
Alceste (Unitel)

Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro,” one of a very few perfect operas, blends music, drama, comedy and psychological study into a delightful and illuminating three-hour whole; the great Austrian conductor Nicolas Harnoncourt, after a lifetime performing Mozart, brought his considerable musical gifts to bear for this barebones 2014 Vienna performance, with several superb Mozartean singers—such as Mari Eriksmoen’s Susanna and Christine Schafer’s Countess—and Concentus Musicus Wien ensemble providing stellar support. Baroque era master Christoph Willibald Gluck composed operas adroitly combining dance and drama, and Belgian choreographer/director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui accentuates both in his visually stunning 2019 Munich staging of “Alceste”; soprano Dorothea Roschmann is a vocal powerhouse in the title role. Both operas look and sound spectacular in hi-def; lone “Figaro” extra is a 50-minute documentary about Harnoncourt’s approach to Mozart.

A Woman Like Eve
The Debut (Cult Epics)

Dutch filmmaker Nouchka van Brakel’s groundbreaking dramas from the female perspective have been pretty inaccessible for decades—until now. Her 1977 seriocomic study, “The Debut,” follows a 14-year-old who has a brief but intense affair with a 40ish married man, while her 1979 feature “A Woman Like Eve” explores why a happily married wife and mother falls in love with another woman. What might seem shocking is rendered so realistically that van Brakel makes the viewer take these characters and their actions seriously. There are excellent, affecting performances by Marina de Graaf (“Debut”) and Monique van de Ven and Maria Schneider (“Eve”). Both films look their age but have otherwise decent hi-def transfers; lone “Eve” extra is a new 40-minute Brakel interview and lone “Debut” extra is a vintage newsreel.