Movies Till Dawn: What You Could Be Watching This Week (Wolf Boy Mohawk Wallah Edition)

Mohawk” (2017, Dark Sky Films) As her elders debate whether to join the Americans or the British during the War of 1812, a young Native American woman (Kaniehtiio Horn) finds that her mind has been made up for her when an American patrol, led by a sadistic colonel (Ezra Buzzington), pursues her and her two polyamorous paramours – one Mohawk (Justin Rain), the other British (Eamon Farren) – through a dense forest. There are threads of historic context woven through this low-budget period film by Ted Geoghegan, whose previous directorial effort was “We Are Still Here,” one of the better independent horror films in recent years, and his script with novelist Grady Hendrix does its best to grant pursuer and pursued some moral complexity. But “Mohawk” works best when it focuses its energies on the chase, which draws parallels with Cornel Wilde’s “The Naked Prey” as both sides parry each other with increasingly bloody results. The cast is hit-and-miss, but Canadian actress Horn – who cuts a formidable figure with her DIY Mohawk, husky growl and black face paint – and indie staple Buzzington are memorable opponents, and Geoghegan pulls out all the gory stops for their third-act face-off.

Shakespeare Wallah” (1965, Cohen Media Group) The romance between teenaged Felicity Kendal and Shashi Kapoor‘s roguish playboy threatens to place further strain on her family, a troupe of British actors whose performances of Shakespeare’s plays are losing Indian audiences to the new Bollywood film industry. This second collaborative effort between director James Ivory, producer Ismail Merchant and writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala – described by Ivory in the disc’s liner notes as “their best friend,” because its success helped to launch their film careers in earnest – is a variation on the backstage disaster comedy, and draws considerable laughs when spoofing the surreal excesses of Indian musicals or whenever Madhur Jaffrey, as a tyrannical and jealous film star, appears on screen; the team ultimately extends the metaphor of changing times and tastes to also address the rapid modernization of India after its independence from the fading British Empire in 1947. Though Madhur won the lion’s share of the laurels for her turn, Kendal and her parents, Geoffrey Kendal and Laura Liddell, who essentially play themselves (Jhabvala drew on diary entries about their own theatrical tour through India for the script) and lend bittersweet elegance to the brassier, satiric elements. The Cohen Media Blu-ray presents this essential component of the Merchant-Ivory-Jhabvala film catalog in a new 2K restoration that includes commentary by Ivory, Merchant, Kapoor and Felicity Kendal.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story” (2017, Kino Lorber) Engrossing documentary about the Austrian actress, whose icy beauty provided her with a career in Hollywood, but undermined what might have been her true calling as an inventor. Typecast as exotic sirens in romances like “Algiers” (1938), Lamarr found solace in electronics, and with composer George Antheil and support from Howard Hughes, developed a system of remote control for the military during World War II that would presage Bluetooth and GPS technology. The government’s rejection of her work was just one of many personal and professional dismissals endured by Lamarr, but Alexandra Dean, who directed and co-produced the film (with Susan Sarandon, among others), employs a wealth of material, most notably a 1990 audio interview with Lamarr (who died in 2000) to reframe the actress’s life as a story of confidence, self-acceptance and unbridled ambition – a message for aspirants, both male and female, that couldn’t be timelier. Kino’s Blu-ray includes outtakes from interviews with Gillian Jacobs, Mel Brooks (who was sued by Lamarr after naming his “Blazing Saddles” villain after her) and the late TCM host Robert Osborne, who talks warmly about his friendship with Lamarr.

Lucan: The Complete Series” (1977-78, Warner Archive Collection) Short-lived ABC series about a 10-year-old boy found living with wolves in the Minnesota woods; college professor John Randolph civilizes the boy, who grows into Kevin Brophy, a guileless young man who retains his animal abilities. The pilot, directed by David Greene (“Roots”), puts more emphasis on Lucan adapting to the modern world than his “wolfen” gifts – superhuman speed and agility, glowing red eyes – but the series itself would follow a path similar to “The Fugitive” or “The Incredible Hulk” (which debuted on CBS two months after “Lucan”), with Don Gordon as the bounty hunter on Lucan’s trail. Their cat-and-mouse proves mostly satisfying, but it couldn’t save the show, which was canceled after just 11 episodes; its small but still devoted fanbase will be pleased to find the entire series in their original broadcast length on Warner’s three-disc set. Directors include Curtis Harrington (“Night Tide”) and actor Vic Morrow, while Stockard Channing, Ned Beatty, Regis Philbin, and reunited Bradys Robert Reed and Robbie Rist lesh out the eclectic guest cast.

And: Arrow Video has two rarely seen titles by Federico Fellini that, while not quite on par with the hypnagogic heights of his ’60s output (“8 ½”), still offer flashes of his puckish humor and visual extravagance. The made-for-television production “Orchestra Rehearsal” (1979) is a faux documentary (with Fellini as an off-screen interviewer) that uses a rapidly escalating squabble between a group of musicians to poke fun at Italian politics of the period, while “The Voice of the Moon” (1990), which capped Fellini’s extraordinary career, skewers some of his favorite subjects (religion, commercialism) by following a delusional trio of brothers (which include Roberto Benigni) who investigate alleged conspiracy theories.

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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