Plus "Platoon," "Papillon" and two civil war epics
Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning and culture-defining "Platoon" debuts on Blu-ray for its 25th Anniversary (reviewed on Videodrone here) and, marking a different anniversary, Ron Maxwell's labor of love epics "Gettysburg" and "Gods and Generals" arrive in Blu-ray Book editions (happy 150th anniversary to you, Civil War!). (Reviewed on Videodrone here.)
But my rediscovery of the week is "Papillon" – Steve McQueen's other great escape movie – a superb disc of a compelling and rich film (reviewed on Videodrone here). Blu-ray has become my home repertory program. Here are some more offerings from this week's Blu-ray calendar.
"Solaris" (Criterion) - Famously promoted as the anti-"2001," Andrei Tarkovsky’s meditative adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel is less science fiction than metaphysical trance. A psychologist (Donatas Banionis) travels to a deep space station to discover why the crew has broken contact and discovers a skeletal crew (the others have killed themselves or fled) teetering on the edge of sanity. Curiously it shares a relentlessly tracking camera and a fascinatingly sterile technological environment (though this space station is trashed and thrashed and virtually abandoned) with Kubrick’s masterpiece, but Tarkovsky invests his work with emotion that overwhelms its characters: this is a study in grief and guilt and second chances, set aboard a space station haunted with ghosts from the past, orbiting an enigmatic planet that may be alive.
Criterion released the film on DVD a few years ago. The Blu-ray debut reproduced the supplements from that release in HD: commentary by Tarkovsky scholars Vida Johnson and Graham Petrie, nine deleted and alternate scenes, video interviews with actress Natalya Bondarchuk, cinematographer Vadim Yusov, art director Mikhail Romadin, and composer Eduaord Artemyev, an excerpt from a documentary on novelist Stanislaw Lem. The accompanying booklet, however, has been expanded with an essay by critic Phillip Lopate and an appreciation by director Akira Kurosawa.
"Grand Prix" (Warner) - The story is something of a soap opera as it follows four racers vying for the title – disgraced maverick American James Garner (in a role developed for Steve McQueen), ultra-professional French veteran Yves Montand, British Brian Bedford (recovering from a near-crippling accident in the first race), and cocky young Italian phenom Antonio Sabato – and their lives and loves over the course of the year. Yert John Frankenheimer's racing drama, set and shot over the 1966 season on the Grand Prix Formula 1 circuit, is still considered one of the greatest car racing films every made, thanks to Frankenheimer's thrilling race footage, dynamic split-screen effects, and documentary detail behind the scenes. Eva Marie Saint, Jessica Walter and Francoise Hardy co-star and you can hear echoes of David Lean themes in the score by Maurice Jarre.
The almost three-hour production, restored from original 65mm elements, features the original entr'acte and intermission, and there are five featurettes: "Pushing the Limit: The Making of Grand Prix," "Flat Out: Formula One in the Sixties," "The Style and Sound of Speed," "Brands Hatch: Behind the Checkered Flag" and the archival "Grand Prix: Challenge of the Champions."
"Le Mans" (Paramount) – When Steve McQueen was unable to make "Grand Prix," he set up his own production with the intention of creating the most authentic racing film ever made. "Le Mans," set over the course of the famed 24-hour race and its 8 ½ mile track, was begun without a script and quite literally constructed out of footage captured during the 1970 Le Mans, where the production ran their own car with a camera mounted on the hood, with a narrative written around the footage and shot (along with stunt crashes) after the race. The result is a film with the texture of a stylized documentary—there's no dialogue (beyond the voice of the PA announcer) for the first half hour—and the immediacy of experience that marked so much of seventies filmmaking. But it's also an impressive widescreen production, shot like a high-end photo spread for a sports magazine, peering into the high-octane world without being of it. It's as stripped down a story as you'll find, with McQueen in classic form as a dedicated and focused professional who lets actions speak for him, and it defies the usual expectations of the "big race" movies, much to the film's credit. Director Lee H. Katzin came from TV and returned soon after, but for this film he carved out something unique: a fictional race drama that feels like the real thing. And for race fans, it has a couple of other attention-grabbing stars: the legendary Porsche 917s and Ferrari 512s that soon left the race tracks.
The Blu-ray debut shows off the photography and the beautifully-sculpted sound design superbly and features the 23-minute featurette "Filming at Speed: The Making of the Movie Le Mans," a well-researched production originally made for the Speed Channel over ten years ago.
"Tigerland" (Fox) – Just when we'd written Joel Schumacher off as a big budget hack in it for the paycheck, the director makes this Vietnam drama with Colin Farrell as a rebellious young soldier galvanizes every member of the platoon during infantry training in 1971. He can't quite overcome his tendency to smooth everything down to a polish but he allows his cast to carry the film and lets his cinematographer go at it with the you-are-there handheld approach, a cliché to be sure but one that throws a raw texture into Schumacher's slickness. Features commentary by Joel Schumacher, casting tapes of Colin Farrell and three additional featurettes.
"Money Train" (Image) – Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson reunite (after the success of "White Men Can't Jump"), this time playing foster brothers and transit cops who join forces to rob the revenue train that collects subways tolls. Jennifer Lopez, Robert Blake and Chris Cooper co-star. No supplements.
Join a new edition of Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" and the Norwegian silent epic "Laila"
Criterion releases a new edition of Charlie Chaplin's "The Great Dictator," with both new and previously released supplements, on DVD and premieres the film on Blu-ray (reviewed on Videodrone here), and Flicker Alley releases the 1929 "Laila," the last great Norwegian epic of the silent era and a reminder of what the cinema lost in the transition to sound (reviewed on Videodrone here).
"Picasso And Braque Go To The Movies" (Arthouse Films) – Martin Scorsese produces and narrates this documentary about the influence of the early art and technology of cinema and the invention of aviation on artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque and the Paris avant-garde. "What holds the film together, more or less, is the steady stream of mostly slapstick clips from early cinema — especially Georges Méliès’ photographic magic tricks — whose playful spirit found its way into Cubist paintings and drawings," writes New York Times critic Stephen Holden. The DVD features over 80 minutes of early cinema shorts.
"We Dive at Dawn" (VCI)
"The Way to the Stars" (VCI)
"The Malta Story" (VCI)
"Above Us the Waves" (VCI)
"Sea of Sand" (aka "Desert Patrol") (VCI)
VCI digs deep into the vaults of the Rank Organization for the American DVD debuts of five notable World War II dramas, made during and after the war by some of Britain's top talents. Anthony Asquith ("The Importance of Being Earnest") directs the 1943 "We Dive at Dawn," a submarine thriller starring John Mills and Eric Portman, and "The Way to the Stars" (1945), starring Michael Redgrave and John Mills as pilots in the air war. Alec Guinness and Jack Hawkins star in "The Malta Story" (1953) as British soldiers who go on the offensive to stop an invasion of Malta. "Above Us the Waves" (1955) stars John Mills and John Gregson as two of the sailors manning an experimental four-man mini sub in a mission to stop a German battleship. North Africa is the setting for "Sea of Sand" (aka "Desert Patrol") (1958), starring Richard Attenborough and Michael Craig as two of the soldiers on a mission to destroy a German fuel depot. The British war film has a different quality than the American and these make an interesting contrast to the gung-ho patriotism of American World War II dramas of the era.
Also new this week:
"The 39 Steps" (VCI) – Kenneth More stars in the 1959 remake of the John Buchan novel, this one directed by Ralph Thomas.
"Silent Discoveries" (VCI) features the 1920 Italian biblical epic "After Six Days" (aka "La Bibbia") and the 1953 compilation film "Yesterday and Today," a collection of early (mostly pre-1910) cinema narrated by George Jessel.
"Eyes of the Chameleon" (Troma) – A low-budget slasher film from Troma, the company that celebrates bad taste and DIY excess.
The story of Henri 'Papillon' Charriere and his escape from Devil's Island
Ten years after Steve McQueen made his name in the most famous escape thriller of them all – "The Great Escape" – he stepped into the role of Henri 'Papillon' Charriere, the real-life French safecracker convicted of murder (unjustly, he maintained) and sentenced to the prison colony in French Guyana and, alter, Devil's Island.
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, the 1973 film in no action spectacle or cliffhanger thriller. The film moves at a pace befitting Papillon's experience as he endures the work gang in the swamps, sits out solitary confinement designed to break his mind and his spirit and makes his way through the jungles and across the open seas in his escape attempts, motivated by the same spirit that keeps him alive: the drive to escape. Schaffner seeps the film in the humid, fetid texture of the jungle prison camps, the oppressive silence of solitary, the death watch of the infirmary (bodies are unceremoniously dragged off of beds and out of the ward on a nightly basis) and the brutality of a prison culture where there is no oversight and no consequences for the behavior of the guards.
While McQueen is undeniably the star here (and in perfect taciturn McQueen form), the film works thanks to the relationship between Papillon and Louis Dega, a physically meek but cagey forger played by Dustin Hoffman. Initially united by nothing more than a means to an end—Papillon serves as the vulnerable (and despised) Dega's bodyguard in return for the money to finance his escape—they end up putting their own liberty and lives on the line for one another, almost by impulse. In a place where trust is sold out for bounty, favors or even extra rations, they are friends and their devotion is not just a measure of their friendship, but of how such trust can make their ordeal bearable.
The Blu-ray, which comes in a 32-page Blu-ray Book with photos and production background (but, frustratingly, no credits for cast and crew), is beautifully mastered and features the 12-minute archival promotional featurette "The Magnificent Rebel." While it includes a fair amount of behind-the-scenes footage, it is notable for footage of the real Henri Charrière leading us through the recreation of the French Guyana prison camp.
Ron Maxwell's labors of love are vivid history, but not necessarily riveting films
There's little doubt that "Gettysburg" (1993) and "Gods and Generals" (2003) were labor of love projects for director/writer/producer Ron Maxwell. They are both seeped in detail and scope and he (thanks to the participation of a small army of dedicated Civil War re-enactors) recreates two of the most important battles of the Civil War with great fidelity to history and painstaking effort to communicate the culture of war in the 19th century. As cinema, however, they are not always so compelling.
See an MSN exclusive clip from supplements below
"Gettysburg" is the more successful of the two. Built on the unshowy incarnations of Civil War officers by Martin Sheen (General Robert E. Lee),Tom Berenger (Lt. General Longstreet), Stephen Lang (Major General Pickett), Richard Jordan (Brigadier General Armistead) and especially Jeff Daniels as Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a former schoolteacher whose leadership held an essential ridge for the Union, it puts the battle in human terms without sinking into melodrama off the field of battle. It's a hard balance to maintain and the film tends to flounder when Maxwell stops to give every officer some rousing speech before battle, which the actors deliver in a manner that suggests 19th century stage Shakespeare, very dramatic and theatrical and self-aware. It feels right for the period but stops the momentum dead time after time.
Maxwell is far more effective explaining the tactics and battle plans in practical terms as officers pour over maps and discus troop movements and commanders try to convey their piece of the plan to often uneducated and nominally-trained soldiers. And through it all, he reminds us that there are human beings behind every attack and every death. It's quite an accomplishment.
"I began watching with comparative indifference, and slowly got caught up in the majestic advance of the enterprise," wrote Roger Ebert in his 1993 review. "By the end, I had a completely new idea of the reality of war in the 19th century, when battles still consisted largely of men engaging each other in hand-to-hand combat. And I understood the Civil War in a more immediate way than ever before."
"Gods and Generals" (2003), made ten years later but set earlier, attempts the same project with diminishing returns. Robert Duvall is General Robert E. Lee this time around, Stephen Lang is General Thomas 'Stonewall' Jackson and Jeff Daniels reprises his role as Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (one of the only cast members to return in the same role, along with C. Thomas Howell as his younger brother).Boasting impressive physical detail and an unending collection of long-winded speeches, it covers two years of Civil War history from a largely Confederate perspective: as a kind of holy war to protect the “misunderstood” relationship between master and slave. Mira Sorvino, Bruce Boxleitner, Jeremy London, and Bill Campbell co-star in what is literally a cast of thousands.
The film is "the kind of movie beloved by people who never go to the movies, because they are primarily interested in something else--the Civil War, for example--and think historical accuracy is a virtue instead of an attribute," wrote Ebert in 2003. "The film plays like a special issue of American Heritage."
Plus the documentaries "Freedom Riders" and "Public Speaking" and the HBO
Sitcom vets Melissa Joan Hart and Joseph (Joey) Lawrence are back in the ABC Family Channel series "Melissa & Joey" and The Kids in the Hall reunites for the comedy mini-series "Death Comes to Town," which debuts as a stand-alone release and in a new "Complete Series" box set.
Rob Corddry created, wrote, directed and starred in the original incarnation of this live action spoof of medical drama soap operas created for the Cartoon Network. The first season consisted of six-minute chapters of absurdities, with Corddry as the clown doctor (promoting "the healing power of laughter," which isn't doing well under his watch), Lake Bell as the hot doc who narrates with distracted, confused musings, Ken Marino as the nation's leader in malpractice suits and Megan Mullally channeling "ER"'s Dr. Kerry Weaver as the chief surgeon and administrator, just a few of the friends he brought in to goof in the hall of Childrens Hospital. For the second season the episodes expanded to twelve minutes apiece, Henry Winkler and Malin Akerman (replacing Lake Bell as the hot doc) joined the cast and Corddry split writing and directing duties with friends, who expanded the parody to encompass a behind-the-scenes episode and a "live" episode with a race to save the only man capable of bringing peace to the world. Yeah, that's gonna end well.
The brevity of the format lends itself to gonzo turns without wearing out the gag and to guest stars dropping by (Nick Offerman , Nick Kroll, David Wain, Ed Helms, Jason Sudeikis, Kurtwood Smith, John Cho, Paul Scheer, Eva Longoria and others show up for an episode or two). By the same token, it's better appreciated in short pieces; Continuity isn't essential (half of the "Previously on Childrens Hospital" clips are just made up) for enjoyment. And if you're wondering who the heck is Sal Viscuso, the character that Michael Cera is credited with playing in each and every episode, just listen to the PA announcements.
The two seasons (10 from Season One, 12 from Season Two, each on separate disc) run about three hours altogether. The two-disc set (in a standard case with hinged trays) also features "Rob Corddry and Cutter Spindell: The Man Inside the Man Behind Childrens Hospital" (with Corddry playing both the real and the fiction stars of the show), "Dr. Owen Maestro Answers Questions From Kids" (with Rob Huebel), 30 minutes of deleted scenes and outtakes, a gag reel, a music video and wraparounds from The Cartoon Network broadcasts.
"Freedom Riders" (PBS) – Originally made for the PBS documentary series "American Experience" (where it premiered just last week), this documentary from Stanley Nelson profiles the "Freedom Riders," the hundreds of college students from the north, white and black, who took Greyhound busses to the Deep South to join the struggle against racial inequality and draw the nation's attention to the civil rights inequities and the culture of intimidation and violence.
"Public Speaking" (HBO) – Martin Scorsese profiles New York wit and writer Fran Lebowitz in this documentary produced by "Vanity Fair" editor Graydon Carter. "The legendarily blocked writer may have a slim oeuvre.. but she remains a sharp observer, holding forth on racism, sexism, tourism, and, most pungently, elitism," writes Melissa Anderson in The Village Voice. The DVD features bonus interviews with Scorsese and Lebowitz and bonus footage. Here's the official HBO page on the film.
"Capadocia: Season One" (HBO/Maya Entertainment) - HBO has been just as active in creating original Spanish language series for audiences in Mexico and Latin America as it has been in the U.S. You could describe "Capadocia: A Place Without Forgiveness" as the Latin American answer to "Oz," a melodrama set in an experimental women's prison, where activists tangle with greedy businessmen, corrupt government officials and prison workers to shut down an experimental prison nicknames "A Place Without Forgiveness." 13 episodes plus supplements (and character collector cards!) on five discs in a foldout digipak. Features Spanish and Portuguese soundtracks with optional English subtitles.
"Lemonade Mouth: Extended Edition" (Disney) is a Disney Channel original movie about five high school freshman who meet in detention and end up uniting a garage rock group. It's "Breakfast Club" meets "Making of the Band"! Bridgit Mendler and Adam Hicks star and Patricia Riggen directs, and the soundtrack hit the Billboard iTunes charts.
"The Unknown War: WWII And The Epic Battles Of The Russian Front" (Shout! Factory) - Burt Lancaster narrates the 1978 documentary series on Russian Front of World War II, a co-production between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Rod McKuen adapted the screenplay and composed the score for the American version. The 20 episode series (about 16 ½ hours) is on five discs in a box set of five thinpak cases. Features interviews with Rod McKuen and Russian history professor Willard Sunderland.
Also new this week:
"A Tale of Two Cities" (BFS) - James Wilby is Sydney Carlton in this 1989 mini-series adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel, original made for British TV and shown stateside on "Masterpiece Theatre."
"Midnight is a Place" (VCI) – 1977 British series, based on the novel by Joan Aiken, follows the adventures of two orphaned kids and the mystery surrounding the death of their rich guardian. 13 episodes on two discs.
"Swamp People: Season One" (History Channel) – A documentary series on the Cajun culture that lives in the Louisiana bayous and swamplands. Ten episodes on three discs.
"IRT Deadliest Roads: Season One" (History Channel) – The "Ice Road Truckers" take on the challenge of driving through the ancient trade routes and mountain roads of the Himilayas in this series. Ten episode on three discs, on both DVD and Blu-ray.
"Brad Meltzer's Decoded" (History Channel) – Best-selling author and history buff Brad Meltzer investigates the mysteries surrounding events in American history, from the Lincoln assassination to D.B. Cooper, from hidden messages in the Statue of Liberty to the lost Confederate treasury. Ten episodes on three discs.
"Reagan" (History Channel) – Documentary on Ronald Reagan, the man and the president, originally made for the History Channel.
"The Royal Wedding: William and Catherine" (BBC) – For those who need a keepsake, consider this the official wedding video as recorded by the BBC. Also features a 50-minute documentary on the William and Kate.
Criterion's Edition of Chaplin's Masterpiece on DVD and Blu-ray
"The Great Dictator" (Criterion)
Chaplin knew it, and so did Lubitsch: comedy is the best weapon against hate. Like Lubitsch’s brilliant "To Be or Not to Be," Chaplin’s 1940 classic satirizes Fascism and the Third Reich with his own stock in trade: vaudeville burlesque. Chaplin leaves the Tramp behind to play -- in his first genuine speaking role(s) -- both 20th century Napoleon “Adenoid Hynkel” and a look-a-like amnesiac Jewish barber, and Jack Oakie is a dead ringer for a certain Italian dictator as Napaloni of Bacteria.
If it soars when Chaplin plays to his strengths (a balletic pantomime with Hynkel bouncing a globe like he owns the world), it threatens to sinks in his weakness for pathos -- his climactic plea for peace, understanding, and tolerance, for all its sincerity, is played so straight-faced you keep waiting for the punchline -- but for the passion of the speech. Chaplin once said that if he had known the true extent of Hitler’s horrors, he would have never made the film, but there’s nothing belittling in the film or in Chaplin's portrayal of the victims of the despot.
Richard Brody has been writing on "The Great Dictator" for "The Front Row" blog at The New Yorker over the past month, tackling various aspects of the film in multiple posts. He takes on the climactic speech in "The Great Dictator in Black and White." In "Glourious Basterds," he observes "By means of comedy, Chaplin depicts matters of the greatest historical and moral significance, and careful viewing reveals the profundity of Chaplin’s perspective on them." And in "Thousands Cheer," he ponders the final shot of the film and "the expression on Chaplin’s face at the moment that the cheering erupts: it’s a look of desperate fear, even terror, and it’s the last look at Chaplin that the movie offers."
The film has previously been released on American DVD in editions by Image and Fox. Criterion remasters the film for their new DVD edition and Blu-ray debut and loads the discs with supplements. The excellent hour long documentary "The Tramp and the Dictator," directed by Kevin Brownlow and Michael Kloft and narrated by Kenneth Branagh, was also featured on the Fox release. Though the parallels between Chaplin and Hitler are somewhat forced, the story behind the making of the film, the pressure from Hollywood studios to abandon the project for fear of alienating Hitler and the German film market, and the film’s huge success (banned all over Europe and even parts of South America, it became Chaplin’s biggest hit to date) is amazing. Also features 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes color film footage shot by Chaplin’s brother Sydney (clips of which are featured in the documentary) and a deleted scene from the 1919 short "Sunnyside" featuring Charlie as a barber.
New to DVD/Blu-ray is commentary by Chaplin historians Dan Kamin and Hooman Mehran, visual essays by Chaplin archivist Cecilia Cenciarelli and Chaplin biographer Jeffrey Vance and the barbershop sequence from Sydney Chaplin's 1921 film "King, Queen, Joker." And, of course, a booklet with a new essay (by film critic Michael Wood) and reprints of a 1940 article written by Chaplin for The New York Times and a 2010 piece by Jean Narboni (with an introduction by Richard Brody). And it is beautifully illustrated with caricatures drawn by Al Hirschfeld.
He's got the whole world in his hands
The last great Norwegian epic of the silent era is a vision
"Laila" (Flicker Alley)
The last great Norwegian epic of the silent era, "Laila" (1929) is a reminder of what the cinema lost in the transition to sound. Shot on location in the mountains of Norway, there is an elemental power to the often old-fashioned direction and a visual sweep and scope that disappeared in the early days of sound filmmaking.
Directed by George Schnéevoigt, a former cinematographer who shot Carl Th. Dreyer's early films, and adapted from a novel considered a national classic in Norway, "Laila" is built on a culture of frontier prejudice covered up by a veneer of politeness and a show of tolerance that, while understood in Norway, is rather vague for American viewers, like a meeting of cultures in an American western with wary politeness in place of frontier violence.
Mona Mårtenson ("Gosta Berling's Saga") stars as Laila, Norwegian born but (thanks to narrative complications) raised by the richest landowner in the Lapp lands and Harald Schwenzen is the Norwegian storekeeper Anders who falls in love with the lively and energetic young woman, an impossible romance in the segregated societies. "No Norwegian marries a Lapp girl," one townswoman explains, but of course we know Laila's true parentage in the dramatic rescues and turns of fate that toss her into the loving care of the great Lapp landowner Aslag Laagje (Peter Malberg) and his rugged hunter and devoted guardian to Laila, Jåmpa (Tryggve Larssen), a bear of a man with a tender heart.
The physicality of the natural world, in all its beauty and power and overwhelming dominance, and of the two people, the rugged Lapps in rough furs and weather-beaten faces and rugged tangles of hair next to the reserved manners and elegant fashions of the daro, gives the Griffithian melodrama more strength that Schnéevoigt's narrative direction and Mårtenson has a directness and a behavioral authenticity that stands out from the more traditional silent movie performance around her. These two forces of nature carry the drama through narrative complications that, at least under Schnéevoigt's hand, come off largely as obstructions on the road to destiny.
Flicker Alley releases the film in a version restored by the National Library of Norway in 2006 and digitally remastered for DVD in collaboration with Turner Classic Movies, with English subtitles under the Norwegian intertitles. Apart from a brief sequence of worn and scratchy images and couple of sequences where the frame drifts slightly out of plumb, the film is generally strong and clean, though the rounded edges of the frame are a curiosity.
Robert Israel contributes a dramatic piano score that at times veers into odd, atonal alleys inspired by the work of Edvard Grieg, which Israel notes in the accompanying 20-page booklet. The essay by Casper Tybjerg is essential reading if only for the cultural background of the novel and this film, the first of multiple adaptations. The disc also includes very brief biographical notes on the actors and filmmakers.
"Death Comes to Town" debuts separately and in a new "Complete Series" box set
All five seasons of comic insanity from kooky kids Dave Foley, Bruce McCulloch, Kevin McDonald, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson, the improv comedy group that became Canada’s answer to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And I don’t just mean that they like to dress up as women. They do, of course, in between crushing heads, dating cabbage heads, and lisping monologues by the out, flaming and proud Buddy Love (Thompson). Other favorite characters include the Chicken Lady and Mr. Heavyfoot. The shows were originally made for HBO (and the CBC in Canada), so don’t be surprised to hear some salty language or comic gore slip into the skits. 30 Helens agree: "The Kids in the Hall" is as irreverent, energetic, and inventive as sketch comedy gets.
100 episodes on 20 discs, plus interview featurettes, "Best of" sketch compilations, commentary to select episodes and bonus performance, in a box set of five cases, along with the two-disc "The Kids in the Hall: Death Comes to Town," a new mini-series made for Canadian TV and shown stateside on IFC.
Made in 2010, "Death Comes to Town" (also available separately) reunites the troupe for an original eight-part series of half-hour episodes written by and starring the five Kids. They take all of the major roles in the bizarre tale of a small Canadian town beset by mystery when Death, his paunch protruding over his codpiece, arrives on a motorcycle and dispatches the unctuous mayor, leaving plenty of suspects.
These Kids left their youth behind long ago and much of the humor is grounded in the disappointment and regret and lives of mediocrity and missed opportunities (from the Mayor's alcoholic wife to an obese former hockey player living off of pizzas sent to him in bulk by Death), though they are more adept at grotesqueries unbound than narrative. The spark of the freewheeling, fun-loving kids is not much in evidence here and the mini-series is carried more by the chemistry they bring to the characters than the material itself.
Features commentary on select episodes by Dave Foley and Bruce McCulloch, deleted and extended scenes and bloopers.