Blu-ray Round-up: 'Django Kill' – The Most Cynical Spaghetti Western Ever Made
Plus the 20th anniversary of 'Newsies,' the samurai drama 'The Hidden Blade,' and more
"Django Kill" (aka "… If You Live, Shoot!") (Blue Underground) is one of the great spaghetti westerns, perhaps the best you've never heard of it. Directed by Guilio Questi and starring Tomas Milian as "The Stranger" (the "Django" title was added for American release), opens as a simple revenge film (simple at least simple by spaghetti western standards) but disposes of the revenge quickly and then sets the Stranger against the thoroughly mercenary schemers of a town even worse than the cutthroat gang. "The people of the Indian tribes call it The Unhappy Place," we're told, an understatement that is almost bitterly comic. This is a place where a wounded man is literally torn to pieces by the townsfolk when they discover the bullets in his wounds are made of gold!
Questi was a committed leftist and, while the film is apolitical as such, he lets this vision serve as his satire of capitalism at its most mercenary and vicious. Milian isn't exactly the messiah, but he has his share of Christ-like trials as the townsfolk nearly tear one another apart looking for stolen gold, while another subplot twists "Jane Eyre" into gothic horror in the desert. There may not be a more cynical portrait of frontier greed and human corruption in the spaghetti genre, and that's saying something.
The Blu-ray debut features both the uncut version of the film with both Italian and English language soundtracks (the English version momentarily slips into Italian for scenes that were cut for American release), both in mono, with English subtitles. Pick your preference, as both are sloppily post-synched and at times the Italian soundtrack is a more dramatic mismatch to the actors' mouths than the English dub. Also features the 20-minute interview featurette "Django, Tell!" with director Giulio Questi and actors Tomas Milian and Ray Lovelock.
"Newsies: 20th Anniversary Edition" (Disney) - All singing, all dancing, all street urchin newsboys. Disney’s 1992 attempt at an old fashioned musical showcases the moxie of Christian Bale who, in the awkward stage between child actor and adult, acquits himself nicely as a street kid who organizes the rag-tag newsboys into a union to stand-up to the money-grubbing newspaper magnates of turn of the century New York City. Alan Menkin wrote the music and choreographer Kenny Ortega directs with a lively energy, but adults seem to just get in the way, notably Ann-Margaret as the “showgirl” with the heart of gold and Robert Duvall as the stuffy Joseph Pulitzer.
Features all the supplements of the previous DVD special editions: commentary by director Kenny Ortega with producer Michael Finnell, writers Bob Tzudiker and Noni White, and co-choreographer Peggy Holmes, the production featurettes "Newsies, Newsies, See All About It" and "Newsies: The Inside Story," the historical featurette "The Strike! The True Story," which delves into the real-life incident that inspired the film, plus a storyboard-to-scene comparison with commentary and a sing-along,
"The Hidden Blade" (Palisades Tartan), the second film in Yoji Yamada's elegiac samurai trilogy (begun with "The Twilight Samurai"), stars Masatoshi Nagase is a low caste samurai in a backwater village trying to hold on to his honor and his moral purpose in the rapidly changing world of the 1860s. It both punctures the mythic ideal of the samurai culture (though trained as fighters, they mostly serve as clan bureaucrats) and spins a romantic portrait of one man who values principle over protocol despite the cost to his reputation. Takako Tabata co-stars as the family maid he secretly loves but cannot marry because of caste differences. In Japanese with English subtitles. Includes a behind the scenes featurette with director Yoji Yamada and footage from the Berlin Film Festival premiere.
"The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea" (Shout! Factory), the notorious American adaptation of the Yukio Mishima novel, stars Kris Kristofferson as a rugged American sailor who falls in love with English widow Sarah Miles. Her young son (Jonathan Kahn), however, has different ideas when they decide to marry and, with the help of his friends, plots a terrible revenge. The film’s notoriety is not simply for the shocking nature of the violence but for the sex scenes, which were explicit for 1976. Lewis John Carlino directs. No supplements.
"Evita: 15th Anniversary Edition" (Disney), the big screen version of the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical, stars Madonna as Eva Peron and co-stars Antonio Banderas and Jonathon Pryce. With a featurette and music videos.
"Sister Act / Sister Act 2: 20th Anniversary Double Feature" (Disney) collects the two anonymous comedies starring Whoopi Goldberg as a lounge singer on the run from the mob who hides out in a convent and transforms their tone-deaf choir into a swinging chorus. With a featurette and music videos.