Movies Till Dawn: Men and Their Decisions

The Green Knight” (2021, Lionsgate Home Entertainment/A24) Retelling of the 14th century Arthurian poen with Dev Patel as a decidedly un-heroic (at first) Sir Gawain, who is reluctantly thrust into action by the supernatural Green Knight’s plan to claim his head at the end of a year. As written and directed by David Lowery (“A Ghost Story”), “Green Knight” takes its time to unfold, but the pace is an asset. The story, structured in literary fashion as a series of tests to Gawain’s strengths and weaknesses, blooms into an allegory for transitions: between myth and legend, between immaturity and responsibility, between the past and present. Ambitious, to be sure, and Lowery favors ambiguity over direct explanation, but appointed with enough laurels (Patel as the lead, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton as mysterious royals, gorgeous photography and striking images) to hold the viewer as Gawain progresses towards his fate. The Lionsgate/A24 Blu-ray includes multiple making-of featurettes, including coverage of the exceptional visual effects and title design.

Major Dundee” (1965, Arrow Video). Union officer Charlton Heston attempts to right his flamed-out career by leading former friend and Confederate officer Richard Harris and a crew of soldiers and criminals into Mexico to stop Native American chief Michael Pate. Famously problematic Western epic/revisionist American mythology was taken away from director Sam Peckinpah and edited into incoherence by Columbia Pictures; a 2005 reissue confirmed that the bones of a much more powerful movie existed, but also clarified that both versions suffered from lack of focus and production conflicts. “Dundee” has epic sweep and complicated morals, like Peckinpah’s “Wild Bunch,” but putters out by its violent finale; Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray bundles the extended and theatrical releases with multiple commentaries, deleted scenes, visual essays, and interviews with actors like Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn, who testify about their experiences with Peckinpah’s brilliant and difficult sides.

Beach Red” (1967, Kino Lorber) Brutal and unsentimental World War II from actor-turned-producer/director Cornel Wilde about a Marine operation on a island in the Philippines held by the Japanese. Wilde pares the action down to two tracks – the horrible present, composed of mind-numbing marches and savage fighting (and thuggish commanders like bloodthirsty Rip Torn), and the Marines’ past, detailed in stream-of-consciousness flashbacks (which helped earn the film an Oscar nod for Best Editing). As with Wilde’s other directorial efforts, like the equally vicious and lyrical “Naked Prey,” “Beach Red” offers no easy answers or release valve for the viewer; war is a living nightmare for both sides that has no room for normal human behavior. Kino’s Blu-ray includes the theatrical trailer.

Doc” (1971, Kino Lorber) Part of the ’70s revisionist Western pack, with Stacy Keach as a crestfallen Doc Holliday who chooses to flame out the OK Corral with Harris Yulin’s craven Wyatt Earp over drink, dentistry, and hard-bitten Kate Elder (Faye Dunaway). Director Frank Perry and screenwriter Pete Hamill frontload “Doc” with brutal, pointless fights and gallons of mud (their Tombstone was built in Spain on sets used in “For a Few Dollars More”) to pour over the Hollywood/American myth of the Old West; the end result is a downer, though not as much as “Little Big Man” or “Soldier Blue,” made palatable by the three leads and an eclectic cast that includes, among others, writer Dan Greenburg, social humorist Marshall Efron, and Judy Collins’s brother, director/actor Denver John Collins, as a squirt crafted into a killer by Doc. Kino’s Blu-ray includes commentary by director Alex Cox (“Repo Man”), who delves deeply into the production and history behind the characters.

All-American Murder” (1991, Vinegar Syndrome) Self-styled bad boy Charlie Schlatter is packed off to a Midwestern college with implicit instructions to straighten out his act; his efforts in this department involving sleeping with the dean’s wife (Joanna Cassidy) and becoming embroiled in the murder of coed Josie Bissett. Oddball direct-to-video thriller was intended for director Ken Russell but ended up in the hands of Anson Williams (Potsie from “Happy Days”), who wisely leaves the heavy lifting to Christopher Walken as a deeply eccentric police detective and a script by Barry Sandler (“Making Love,” Russell’s “Crimes of Passion”) that gleefully careens from genre to genre (crime thriller, gory horror, youthquake drama, college hijinks), often with entertaining results. Vinegar Syndrome’s Blu-ray features a 2K scan, commentary by the Hysteria Continues podcast crew, and interviews with Schlatter and cinematographer Geoffrey Schaaf, both of whom testify to Walken’s otherwordliness.

Eloy de la Iglesia’s Quinqui Collection” (1980-1984, Severin Films) A trio of Spanish cine quinqui – which translates roughly as “juvenile delinquent movies” from filmmaker Eloy de la Iglesia, who manages to inject his signature brand of exploitation tropes and raw social commentary into the three features. The three features – “Pals,” “El Pico” (“The Needle”) and “El Pico 2” – trace the endless loop of a teenager (Jose Luis Manzano) in post-Franco Spain as he cycles through addiction, crime, hustling, corruption, and prison. Iglesia doesn’t spare on the grimy aspects of his protagonist’s life, but delivers it in semi-documentary style, using non-professional actors (Manzano was a street kid and later, Iglesia’s partner) for considerable authenticity and riffing on the pungent, symbiotic relationship between police, government officials, and the criminal faction. The drama gets overheated at times, but what results is a cold-eyed examination of a state that has failed its most vulnerable members that’s on par with “Over the Edge,” “Suburbia,” “Trainspotting,” and the like. Severin’s two-disc Blu-ray set includes interviews and a scholarly panel on Iglesia’s films, a featurette on quinqui films, and trailers for the “El Pico” pictures.

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 Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, 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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