Criterion Releases for October
This October the Criterion Collection releases include a beloved fairy-tale classic, a German soap opera, a 1960s sex-capade, an ode to Alfred Hitchcock, and a man hunt. Sounds just about right for October.
The Princess Bride will join the respected collection in a clothbound storybook Blu-ray edition packed with special features. Since the film just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary, it seems only right that it should receive such a lavish, fairy-tale treatment. And with most of its stars still with us and enjoying successful careers, it also seems appropriate to celebrate what many would consider their star-making moments. I remember seeing the film without knowing anything about it and was blown away with how enjoyable the whole production was. I still am surprised when I meet someone my age who hasn't seen it, and encourage all of my students to watch it.
Included in the October haul is Rainer Werner Fassbinder's long-unavailable television series Eight Hours Don't Make a Day. The German production (which will appear in a new 2K restoration) is a working-class soap opera suffused with affection and solidarity. The acclaimed filmmaker is best known for directing The Marriage of Maria Braun, and for completing 44 projects between 1966 and 1982, the majority of which can be characterized as highly intelligent social melodramas.
And then there's Warren Beatty starring in Shampoo, which will be making its Blu-ray debut. The film is a sly sendup of sex and politics in the 1960s directed by Hal Ashby. Released in 1975, the whole story is about lovers who undo a hairdresser from Beverly Hills around Election Eve in 1968. The film is directed by Hal Ashby who is best known for helming Harold and Maude, Being There, and Coming Home. That's a pretty impressive list for a man who died at the relatively young age of 59.
There's also Brian De Palma's Sisters, the virtuoso director's twisted and terrifying first foray into Hitchcock territory, appearing in a new 4K restoration. The plot in this "murder mystery" is about a journalist who witnesses a brutal murder in a neighboring apartment, but the police don't believe her. So, with the help of a private detective, she seeks out the truth. It sounds pretty regular as far as mystery plots go until you realize that Margot Kidder (of 1978's Superman fame) is playing siamese twins who have been separated. Personally, I hate it when the "twin" card is played. You can pretty much see the ending coming a mile away. But then this film was made at a time when that kind of a twist would be fresh.
And lastly, Cornel Wilde plumbs primal terror and colonialist violence in the stripped-down (literally) action film The Naked Prey. This fascinating tale of survival against all odds, which stars and is directed by the under-appreciated leading man, will be appearing on Blu-ray for the very first time. The story is set during the 1800s, when a safari guide, two elephant hunters and their crew run into trouble with the natives in the South African veld. The Europeans are massacred horrifically, yet Wilde manages to avoid immediate death and begins an incredible escape where he becomes the prey.
The October releases are certainly an eclectic group, offering something for just about everyone. And if none of these titles happen to peak your interest, don't worry. There's always next month. No doubt the Criterion Collection will have a whole new bunch of eclectic titles to chose from once again.