The boutique Blu-ray label delivers a massive and mixed bundle this month, from big screen British TV comedy and cult sci-fi, to acclaimed Chinese cinema and Michael Caine as a working-class James Bond.
Based on Terence Rattigan’s 1948 stage play, The Browning Version (1951) follows an unpopular schoolmaster, Andrew Crocker-Harris (Michael Redgrave), who is forced into early retirement and must come to terms with his failed career and marriage.
A slice of British realism, this literate drama won the Best Actor and Screenplay awards at Cannes in 1951 and was adapted again in 1994 with Albert Finney in the leading role and director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) at the helm. The title refers to poet Robert Browning’s translation of the Greek tragedy Agamemnon – a parting gift to Crocker-Harris from a pupil. Imprint’s Limited Edition Hardbox includes both the 1951 and 1994 version on Blu-ray in new 2K transfers, along with new audio commentaries and interviews, theatrical trailers, archival interviews and more.
A Reflection of Fear (1972) is a seldom-seen bizarro horror-thriller involving a young girl who suspects something sinister is afoot when her estranged father shows up with his new bride-to-be. Featuring a killer final twist and an all-star cast including Robert Shaw (Jaws), Sally Kellerman (M.A.S.H.) and Sondra Locke (the future partner of Clint Eastwood), Imprint brings the film to Blu-ray for the very first time with a new audio commentary by critic Lee Gambin, and audio interviews with Sondra Locke and actor Gordon Devol.
Australia’s most notorious bushranger is given the biopic treatment in Ned Kelly (1970). But what sets this Kelly film apart from the others, besides it being the first one in colour, is the casting of Rolling Stones’ frontman Mick Jagger in the title role, which has since elevated the film to cult status. This British-Australian co-production from with Oscar-winning director Tony Richardson (Tom Jones) also features Aussies Frank Thring and Diane Craig in supporting roles. Extras include a new audio commentary by film scholar Adrian Martin and new interviews on the making of the film.
Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas assemble for The Assassination Bureau (1969), a cheeky British crime-caper based on a posthumously published Jack London novel. Set in 1906, Rigg plays an aspiring reporter who discovers the title organisation and takes drastic measures to bring it down.
Extras include a tribute to Diana Rigg video essay and new audio commentary by the BFI’s Vic Pratt and critic Kim Newman.
The Harry Palmer Collection compiles all three films featuring the titular spy, played by Michael Caine, into a Limited Edition Hardbox. The hero of Len Deighton’s best-selling novels, Harry Palmer is a working-class version of James Bond who isn’t shy in turning on his Cockney charm to get results. And the 007 connection doesn’t end there – all three Palmer films are produced by longtime Bond co-producer Harry Saltzman.
The Ipcress File (1965) introduces Harry on assignment to investigate the brainwashing of British scientists, while suspenseful follow-up Funeral in Berlin (1966) sends him to the German capital to extricate a defecting Russian general. The third and final film in the series, Billion Dollar Brain (1967), adds genre to the espionage, with Harry lured out of retirement to investigate an anti-Communist plot involving a supercomputer and bioterrorism. This one’s directed by legendary Brit filmmaker Ken Russell (The Devils), but don’t expect the bonkers shenanigans that distinguished his later films. Extras for the set include Michael Caine documentaries, audio commentaries, archival interviews, featurettes and more. Out Sept 29.
Three much-loved, long-running ’70s British sitcoms – Dad’s Army, Steptoe & Son and Are You Being Served? – made the leap to the big screen with the original casts and all the broad gags. A Big Screen British Comedy box set brings these four features to Blu-ray for the very first time along with a bounty of bonus features. Shot between series three and four, Dad’s Army (1971) sees bank manager Captain Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe) assembling a motley platoon to become the Home Guard during World War II, in what is basically a big screen reboot of the series. Steptoe & Son (1972) follows the grimy misadventures of Shepherd’s Bush junk peddlers Albert Steptoe (Wilfrid Brambell) and son Harold (Harry H. Corbett) in a spin-off feature from the series. When Harold marries a stripper, Albert is determined to put an end to their wedded bliss. A box office hit, a sequel quickly followed, Steptoe & Son Ride Again (1973), involving a knackered horse and a big loss on the greyhounds. And finally, the dysfunctional Grace Bros. gang pack their bags – and a bunch of obligatory jokes about Mrs. Slocombe’s cat and Mr. Humphries’ sexuality – and head off on holiday to Costa Plonka in Are You Being Served? (1977). What could possibly go wrong? Extras across the set include new audio commentaries, archival interviews, trailers, and a recording from the 1977 Steptoe & Son Down Under Australian stage show!
World Cinema connoisseurs are well served this month with the first of Imprint’s Collaborations collections – The Cinema of Zhang Yimou and Gong Li. The filmmaking partnership between Chinese director Zhang Yimou and his muse, actress Gong Li, has produced some of cinema’s most sumptuous and acclaimed films – many of them initially banned in the director’s home country. Their collaboration spans 10 films – eight of which are collected for the very first time in this Limited Edition Blu-ray Hardbox, featuring new 2K scans from the original negatives along with a 60-page booklet and a wealth of supplementary material including featurettes, interviews, documentaries and more. Yimou and Li made their feature debuts together on Red Sorghum (1988), with Li playing a young widow in a rural village who must fend off bandits and the invading Japanese army during the 1930s. Ju Dou (1990) sees Li struggling to keep the parentage of her son a secret from her brutal and infertile husband, while in Raise the Red Lantern (1991) – one of Yimou’s best and most acclaimed features – she becomes the concubine to a wealthy lord in 1920s China. Li plays the title role in The Story of Qui Ju (1992), a tenacious farmer seeking justice for an assault on her husband, and in To Live – aka Huo zhe (1994), she must navigate the turbulent period of Chinese history from the 1940s to the ’70s. Yimou takes a different direction with Shanghai Triad (1995), a crime-drama set in Shanghai’s underworld during the 1930s. This would be the final collaboration between Yimou and Li in the 1990s, and they would not reunite until 2006’s The Curse of the Golden Flower, a wuxia martial arts epic with flying ninjas set in the Forbidden City. Which brings us to the most recent collaboration, Coming Home (2014), a historical drama with Li playing the amnesiac wife of a professor who has been sent to a labour camp during China’s cultural revolution.