DVDs and streaming for Oct. 16 by Boo Allen
This week, we begin in New Zealand:
Z for Zachariah (***)
This minimalist, post-apocalyptic tale contrasts a somber bearing with its stunning, unexpectedly beautiful New Zealand setting. Margot Robbie plays Ann, a simple-minded farmer’s daughter left alone when a vaguely explained disaster wiped out her known civilization, leaving only unpredictable radioactive patches. She repulses but then welcomes interloper John (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Wary of each other at first, they eventually bond and work towards rehabilitating her farmland and neglected home. Their perceived reverie bends when Caleb (Chris Pine) arrives. Together, the three work towards erecting a power source, but something lurks underneath their surface bonhomie. Craig Zobel directs from Nissar Modi’s script of Robert O’Brien’s novel. The familiar plot has been used many times previous but Zobel succeeds in creating the sense of unease surrounding the farmhouse.
Rated PG-13, 98 minutes.
Extras: a 12 minute “making of” featurette, four deleted scenes totaling six minutes, and 20 minutes total of separate interviews with Ejiofor, Robbie, Zobel and Modi.
Beat the Devil (***1/2), Salt of the Earth (***1/2)
Two unrated releases from the early 1950s arrive on digitally remastered Blu-ray, one a light Hollywood production and one anti-Hollywood and definitely not light. A dozen years after his seminal caper film The Maltese Falcon, director John Huston reassembled part of his cast for Beat the Devil (1953, 89 minutes). This whimsical, even satirical, twist on the caper genre stars Humphrey Bogart as a confidence man stranded in a coastal Italian village with his wife (Gina Lollobrigida) and a gang of four petty shysters. Peter Lorre plays one of the gang, and Robert Morley takes the lead role taken by Sidney Greenstreet in “Falcon.” But it’s Jennifer Jones who enlivens the action as the flighty wife of a stuffy British man also stuck in town. Huston co-wrote the screenplay with Truman Capote, and it’s hard not to think the film’s biting wit and off-hand humor came from the then-young novelist. Overall, it’s a shaggy dog story of epic proportions but one that delivers a surprisingly constant level of humor. As opposed to the loose re-assembling of a cinematic classic, Salt of the Earth (1954, 94 minutes), a no-budget production from blacklisted producer Paul Jarrico, brought together various other talents then blacklisted by Hollywood. Herbert Biberman directed a story from scriptwriter Michael Wilson about a strike at a New Mexico zinc mine. Using mostly non-professional actors, Biberman rendered an emotional story revealing the plight of Mexican-American miners whose only ally to gain safety and equality demands was their union. Various confrontations play out on the picket line and within the union rank and file, while, personally, the families suffer. Blacklisted Will Geer, future Grandpa Walton of TV’s “The Waltons,” plays the local sheriff. At the time of its completion, the film could not find a distributor and had only been infrequently displayed thereafter until home video came along.
And, finally, from this week’s TV arrivals:
The Making of the Mob: New York
This summer, AMC-TV presented this eight part, entertainingly salacious series (now on two discs) featuring some of the most colorful characters this country has ever had to offer. Using abundant docudrama techniques and History Channel-like re-enactments, the series examines the history of organized crime in the U.S., with the obvious concentration on New York’s Mafia figures (Chicago’s Al Capone will be featured in season two). Prominent, movie-friendly, characters are studied in detail, from their births, many in Italy, and to their deaths, many surprisingly non-violent. They include Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Albert Anastasia, Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Vito Genovese, and on up to the relatively recent mafioso John Gotti. The series begins with the wave of Italian immigration in the late 19th century, which leads to filling in the backgrounds for the future mob bosses. Goodfella Ray Liotta narrates, and the impressive roster of Italian-American interviewees include Rudolph Giuliani, Meyer Lansky III, Chazz Palminteri, and many others. Author Selwyn Robb (“The Five Families”) also offers his often trenchant observations.
Not rated, 343 minutes.
Extras: eight additional scenes totaling around ten minutes, along with six brief featurettes on Arnold Rothstein, mob wives, “Style,” “Mob innovation,” “The Mob and Mussolini,” and “The Mob Shrink.”
Mr. Warmth! Don Rickles: the ultimate TV collection
This eight disc collection assembles virtually every known, unknown, and known unknown TV appearance starring the great Rickles. Four separate collections make up the single package, including seasons one and two of Rickles’ TV show, “CPO Sharkey,” and volumes one and two of “The Don Rickles TV Specials.” The two “CPO Sharkey” packages include all 37 half hour episodes. The TV programs include his four 1970s specials: “The Many Sides of Don Rickles,” “Don Rickles: Alive and Kicking,” “Mr. Warmth,” and “Rickles.” The programs feature appearances from some of the biggest stars of the era, including John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Michael Caine, Helen Reddy, Dean Martin, Bob Newhart, Don Adams and many others.
Not rated, 1240 minutes.
Extras: a new introduction from Rickles, outtakes and deleted scenes, clips of Johnny Carson visiting Rickles’ “Sharkey” set as well as Rickles being awarded the “TV Land Award” from Jimmy Kimmel.
Also on DVD and streaming: Gueros, Hungry Hearts, Jurassic World, San Andreas, The Vatican Tapes, The Wolfpack.