Underground (Emir Kusturica, 1995)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Underground.

criterion logoEmir Kusturica’s epic masterpiece recounts the demise of his native Yugoslavia through the metaphorical relationship of Blacky and Marko over fifty years.  The pair booze and brawl their way through World War II, enhancing their reputations as communist guerrilla fighters and black marketeers until Marko tricks Blacky and others into hiding in his cellar where they manufacture weapons for twenty years under the false understanding that the war continues.  This raucous and tragicomic parable won Kusturica the Palme d’Or at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival and inspired a flurry of controversy that resulted in the filmmaker’s temporary retirement from the cinema.  Included here is Kusturica’s stunning, savage, and hilarious theatrical release and his five-hour television version, Once Upon a Time There Was a Country.

Disc Features:

  • New 4K digital restoration of the theatrical version, approved by director Emir Kusturica, with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Once Upon a Time There Was a Country, the 5-hour mini-series cut of Underground for Serbian television
  • New interview with Kusturica on his influences, the film, its reception, and its legacy
  • Journalist Tommaso Di Francesco on Underground
  • Shooting Days: Emir Kusturica Directs Underground, Aleksandar Manic’s 73-minute documentary on the making of Underground
  • Underground at Cannes, footage from the post-screening party at the 1995 Cannes Film Festival
  • Guernica, Kusturica’s 1978 short film
  • Interviews with cast and crew
  • Behind the scenes footage
  • New and improved English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Sean Homer and production photos

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Ninja Hunt (Tetsuya Yamauchi, 1964)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents Ninja Hunt.

criterion logoWhen the corrupt Tokugawa shogunate seeks to abolish the Matsuyama clan during a transition of power and seize its wealth, it deploys its sinister Koga ninja to destroy an official proclamation that would confirm the clan’s new heir.  Aware of the shogunate plot, the Matsuyama clan hires four ronin whose clans were dissolved in similar plots and charges them to protect the proclamation and ferret out the ninja spies by any means.  These masterless samurai, led by the elder swordsman Wadakuro (Jûshirô Konoe), pursue their vengeance against the Koga ninja with brutal and single-minded intensity.  A masterpiece of the ninja film craze of the 1960s that remains little known outside of Japan, Tetsuya Yamauchi’s first film is a highly suspenseful and bitterly violent thriller.

Disc Features:

  • High-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Trailer
  • New English subtitle translation
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring a new essay by film scholar Alain Silver and critic, novelist, and musician Chris D.

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Perils of Nyoka (William Witney, 1942)

Eclipse LogoPerils of Nyoka is an action-packed cliffhanger classic that chronicles the efforts of an African expedition to locate the fabled lost Tablets of Hippocrates, golden artifacts that contain a cure for cancer.  Former Powers model Kay Aldridge stars as Nyoka in this sequel to Republic Pictures’ 1941 serial Jungle Girl.  Nyoka joins the expedition while attempting to find her lost father, but the beautiful Arab ruler Vultura and her cutthroat servants seek the tablets and the riches that accompany them for herself and will do anything to beat Nyoka to the treasure.  Hailed as the best of the Jungle serials, Perils of Nyoka is a fast and furious treasure hunt boasting an enthralling cast of characters, spectacular sets, and an array of fearsome deathtraps.

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The Heroic Serials of Republic Pictures

Eclipse is a selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple affordable editions.  Each series is a brief cinematheque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer.

Eclipse LogoMovies serials were an iconic part of the cinema experience and none did it better that Republic Pictures and filmmaker William Witney.  Filled with spectacular stunts, break-neck editing, and iconic clashes of good and evil, these serials entertained young and old and their legacy is still felt in the summer blockbuster, special effects bonanzas that sell-out theaters today.  Collected here are three of Republic’s greatest efforts adapted from comic books and inspired by pulp literature, sure to entertain with their daredevil feats, magnificent sets, and cliffhanger endings.

Adventures of Captain Marvel

Radio reporter Billy Batson works to keep a powerful weapon out of the hands of evil mastermind the Scorpion, needing only call out the magical word “SHAZAM!” to transform into the nigh-invulnerable Captain Marvel when fists are thrown and bullets fly.

Spy Smasher

America may not yet be at war, but that is no deterrent to independent agent Spy Smasher fighting the Mask and his Nazi agents both at home and abroad in this jaw-dropping, stunt-filled spectacular by William Witney.

Perils of Nyoka

Nyoka, while searching for her missing father in northern Africa, agrees to join an expedition searching for the lost Tablets of Hippocrates and finds herself and her colleagues racing  against the wicked queen Vultura and her conspiring mole Count Benito Torrini through a series ancient traps that protect untold treasure.

With notes of the films by film critic and historian Leonard Maltin.

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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Joseph Sargent, 1974)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

criterion logoFour ruthless men hijack a subway train en route from New York’s Pelham Station, threatening to kill one hostage per minute unless a million dollar ransom is paid in an hour.  When the mayor reluctantly decides the cash-strapped City will meet the demand, it’s up to Transit Police Lt. Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) to somehow stall one of cinema’s craftiest, cruelest villains (Robert Shaw) from carrying out his threats while also trying to unlock how the hijackers plan to escape from a subway tunnel while surrounded by police from all sides.  With an exceptional cast including Martin Balsam, Héctor Elizondo, Dick O’Neill, and Jerry Stiller, a highly admired score composed and conducted by David Shire, and innovative cinematography by Owen Roizman, Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a fascinating document of 1970s New York and an underrated marvel in urban tension.

Disc Features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Owen Roizman and approved by director Joseph Sargent, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New audio commentary featuring Sargent and Roizman
  • David Shire: One To Twelve, a new interview with composer David Shire on the film’s score, including unused music and an alternate version of the film’s main theme
  • Location tour with New York City subway historian Joe Cunningham
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring essays by TIME arts editor Jessica Winter and comedian Greg Proops

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The Stars Look Down (Carol Reed, 1940)

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films presents The Stars Look Down.

criterion logoCarol Reed’s adaptation of A. J. Cronin’s novel presents the hardscrabble existence of a northern England mining town. Davey Fenwick (Michael Redgrave) escapes the dangerous Scupper Flats seam for a college education and plans to improve the lot of his coal-mining community.  Trapped in an unhappy marriage and forced to return to his grimy home, Davey is embroiled in a labor dispute and then a mining disaster.  Starring Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood on loan from Gainsborough Pictures to Grand National and filmed both on location and on elaborate sets at the Denham and Twickenham Studios, Reed invests The Stars Look Down with a gritty documentary look and a poetic naturalist style that garnered him international acclaim, launching him to further cinematic accomplishments.

Disc Features:

  • New 2K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • New interview with Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry
  • Comparison between the English and American versions
  • “Michael Redgrave: My Father,” Roger Michell’s 1997 BBC Omnibus documentary narrated by Michael Redgrave’s son Corin Redgrave
  • Trailer
  • PLUS:  A booklet featuring a new essay by film critic Dave Berry and Graham Greene’s review for The Spectator.

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