“The Great Silence” (1968, Film Movement Classics) Trapped by a blizzard and preyed upon by bounty killers led by the malevolent Tigrero (Klaus Kinski), the residents of a small Utah town find an unlikely defender in Silence (Jean-Louis Trintignant), a mute gunman who only shoots in self-defense. Italian-French Western from Sergio Corbucci (“Django”) is the bleakest of his violent political allegories in cowboy clothes – there’s little difference between the “good” and the “bad,” and all are under the thumb of merciless authoritarianism, represented here by a craven judge (Luigi Pistilli) who sees dollar signs in the slaughter of the townspeople. For such a grim effort, “Silence” is also one of his most aesthetically beautiful films, boasting gorgeous photography of the snow-swept locations (Italy’s Dolomites) by Silvano Ippolti and one of Ennio Morricone’s most haunting scores. That mix of social polemics, striking image and grim story has helped to mint “Silence” as a favorite among Eurowestern fans (like Quentin Tarantino, who drew on the film for “The Hateful Eight“) and non-devotees alike; Film Movement’s Blu-ray features a new 4K restoration of the film with both English and Italian (with subtitles) language tracks, two alternate (and more upbeat) endings and the original trailer, as well as a well-informed video essay about Corbucci by Alex Cox (“Repo Man”) and “Westerns, Italian Style,” a 1968 short that features behind-the-scenes footage from “Great Silence,” among other films.
“Satellite Girl and Milk Cow” (2014, Shout! Factory/GKIDS) An orbiting satellite hears a mournful love song transmitted from Earth and transforms into a teenaged girl to find its composer. She discovers that the heartbreak that fueled the song has also turned its hapless writer into a cow, which in turn has put him in the crosshairs of a gangster who collects livestock livers with a plunger and an ambulatory furnace with its own animal issues. Thankfully, the pair has the assistance of Merlin, a wizard that has taken the form of a roll of toilet paper. Deeply eccentric (to say the least) South Korean animated feature takes its visual cues from the Studio Ghibli palette, but it’s set apart by its eclectic sense of humor (when asked how he turned into toilet paper, Merlin answers dryly, “That was pretty much on me”) that may pass over younger viewers’ heads, but should prove amusing to older, anime-friendly audiences. The Shout/GKIDS DVD/Blu-ray includes “Milk Cow” director Chang Hyung-yun’s equally offbeat short, “A Coffee Vending Machine and Its Sword.”
“Deep Red” (1975, Arrow Video) A series of small details – a missing picture, a snippet of a song, and a childish drawing of a little boy holding a bloody knife – place British jazz musician David Hemmings and Italian journalist Daria Nicolodi on the trail of a psychopath who is determined to erase all the links to a long-hidden murder. Seeing and believing – and the difference between the two – are at the heart of this thriller from Dario Argento, returning to the artful aggression and Hitchcockian trompe l’oeil of “Bird with the Crystal Plumage“; his penchant for viciously violent set pieces approaches its zenith here (he would hit the full mark with “Suspiria”), and while they remain the film’s most blatant calling card (along with Giorgio Gaslini and Goblin’s churning score), his anarchic script (with frequent Fellini writer Bernardino Zapponi), which eschews logic for an obsession with mirrored images and events, blind coincidence and inescapable fates that would earmark (for better or worse) his subsequent career. Arrow’s Limited Edition Blu-ray includes both the English-language and Italian cuts of the film (one gorier and more detailed than the other), and includes interviews with Argento, ex-wife/collaborator Nicolodi, and Italian and American trailers.
“The Drowning Pool” (1975, Warner Archives) A decade after “Harper” (1966), Paul Newman returns as LA private eye Lew Harper, transplanted here to New Orleans and assisting an old flame (Newman’s wife, Oscar nominee Joanne Woodward) with a blackmail case and an associated crew of florid red herrings. As directed by Stuart Rosenberg (“Cool Hand Luke,”) “Drowning Pool” plays, like its predecessor, like a pricier version of a TV detective series, which leaves much of its appeal to Newman (no slouch in that department), veteran scene stealers Melanie Griffith, Coral Browne, Murray Hamilton and Andrew Robinson in the supporting cast, and Gordon Willis‘ shadow-steeped cinematography, as well as one show-stopping setpiece with Newman and Woodward attempting to escape the titular location. WAC’s Blu-ray is widescreen and includes a vintage making-of-featurette with Harper’s creator, Ross Macdonald, among the interviewees.
“The Executioner’s Song” (1982, Kino Lorber) Norman Mailer earned an Emmy nomination for adapting his “true life novel” about the accused killer Gary Gilmore, who earned notoriety for requesting the death penalty as atonement for two murders. Tommy Lee Jones won an Emmy for his frightening turn as the deeply damaged Gilmore, a human wrecking ball to everyone in his path, including his sad, teenaged girlfriend (Rosanna Arquette) and relatives (Christine Lahti and Eli Wallach); whether Mailer and photojournalist turned director Lawrence Schiller make a convincing case against capital punishment is your call, but you get two chances to consider it with Kino’s Special Edition two-disc disc, which presents the two-part broadcast version of the film as well as a shorter, slightly more graphic director’s cut made for European theatrical screenings and a brief interview with Arquette.