The DVD debut of Spalding Gray’s monologue “Swimming to Cambodia” is head and shoulders above the rest of this week’s releases.
“Swimming to Cambodia” (Shout!, 1987, not rated, $19.93, featurette). Gray was a brilliant monologist, having developed more than a dozen hilarious and thoughtful performance pieces, three of which were committed to film. This was the first, deftly directed by Jonathan Demme (later an Oscar-winner for “The Silence of the Lambs”) and enhanced with music by Laurie Anderson.
What we have here is basically 90 minutes of Gray sitting at a table and talking, but the tales he spins and the manner in which he tells them offer insightful observations on the human condition wrapped up in true events from his life, and the result is very funny, albeit occasionally wincing, storytelling.
“Shoot First, Die Later” (Raro, 1974, not rated, $19.95, in Italian with English subtitles, featurettes, trailers; 20-page booklet). Violent police thriller by Italian filmmaker Fernando Di Leo focuses on a dirty cop giving up information to mobsters for money, but when his father, also a police employee, learns of his son’s deception, things begin to go south. (Luc Merenda) (Also on Blu-ray, $24.95)
“Dorfman in Love” (Virgil, 2013, PG-13, $24.99). A young woman (Sara Rue) who has been enabling her family takes a stand for herself in this featherweight comedy trafficking in clichés and stereotypes. Elliott Gould as her father gives it a lift.
“Priest of Evil” (Shout!, 2012, not rated, $19.97, in Finnish with English subtitles). Thriller from Finland has an upright cop who has recently lost his daughter getting caught up in a case involving a serial killer, which takes on dimensions he has not anticipated.
“Nailbiter” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for violence, language; $26.98, audio commentaries, featurette). A recovering alcoholic and her three teenage children are caught in a violent storm, so they head for the nearest house, take shelter in the cellar and when the storm is over find they are trapped by someone or something.