Ridley Scott’s first film benefits greatly from a Blu-ray upgrade and Cabaret also lands on Blu-ray, leading an array of vintage movies newly released on home video. (The Warner Archive titles are available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
“The Duellists” (Shout!/Blu-ray, 1977, PG, $19.97, audio commentaries, featurettes). After years of making eye-catching commercials, Ridley Scott directed this, his first feature, signaling the arrival of a filmmaker with a singular eye for striking visual composition, as affirmed by such later hits as “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator.”
But Scott was meticulous from the get-go. “The Duellists” follows a rivalry between French military officers Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel over three decades beginning in 1800. Peers in Napoleon’s army, they initially clash over what Keitel perceives as an insult and his anger and desire for revenge escalates into years of confrontations and duels.
Adapted from a Joseph Conrad short story, the film has flourish and an array of interesting supporting characters but is most notable for its stunning atmosphere, which receives a real boost from this gorgeous Blu-ray. (One of the bonus featurettes is a new interview with Carradine.)
“Cabaret” (Warner/Blu-ray, 1972, PG, $27.98, audio commentary, featurettes; 40-page book packaging). Decadent 1931 Berlin and the Kit Kat Klub are the setting for this adaptation of the popular Broadway musical, which was a big hit under Bob Fosse’s direction, earning Oscars for Fosse, Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and five more. Fans will enjoy the look of this Blu-ray release, and the photo-filled booklet that goes with it. (Also on DVD, $14.97)
“Boris Karloff Triple Feature” (Warner Archive, 1937/1938/1939, b/w, $18.95, trailer for “West of Shanghai”). The great Karloff stars as a Chinese warlord in “West of Shangai,” the weakest of these; as an ex-con suspected of murder in “The Invisible Menace”; and in “Devil’s Island” as an innocent French doctor at odds with a cruel commander in a penal colony. The latter two are most enjoyable programmers for fans.
“Sweepings” (Warner Archive, 1933, b/w, $18.95). This early “talkie” is somewhat creaky but nonetheless provides a real showcase for Lionel Barrymore as he goes from youth to middle age building a department-store empire in Chicago, only to see his children’s indifference threaten to destroy his dream of passing it down to the next generation.
“Code Two” (Warner Archive, 1953, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Ralph Meeker stars in this B-movie thriller as one of three pals who join the L.A. police force. Eventually, after one of their members is killed by cattle-rustling truckers, Meeker vows revenge. Efficient, well played cops ‘n’ robbers.
“Blue Lightning” (Timeless, 1986, $9.99). Sam Elliott is the draw for this TV movie, playing a private eye hired to find the stolen opal of the title, which takes him to Australia where he must confront evil Robert Culp. Fun for Elliott fans.
“The Silk Express” (Warner Archive, 1933, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Fast-paced early-sound whodunit revolves around the silk trade and a murder onboard a speeding train. Hourlong programmer highlights Warner Bros. stock company of character actors at the time.
“RKO Double Feature” (Warner Archive, 1932, b/w, $18.95). Before he was Hopalong Cassidy, William Boyd starred in “Men of America,” an early-sound Western/mobster mix, as a modern-day (1932) rancher who takes on gangsters hiding out in his beloved Paradise Valley. Then silent/early sound star Richard Dix is a riverboat captain who reluctantly saves the day in “Roar of the Dragon,” helping Westerners that are holed up in a Manchurian hotel at the mercy of Tartar bandits.
“Music for Millions” (Warner Archive, 1945, b/w, $18.95, trailer). Cute musical is part sentimental tearjerker, part comedy and all morale-boosting World War II propaganda. Pregnant June Allyson awaits her overseas husband’s return while playing in a symphony orchestra. Margaret O’Brien plays her kid sister and, in a real highlight, the classical music gives way to Jimmy Durante singing his famous “Umbriago.”
“That Obscure Object of Desire” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray, 1977; rated R for violence, nudity; $29.99, in French with English subtitles, featurettes). Luis Bunuel’s final film is as avant-garde as ever, though, despite a pair of Oscar nominations, it’s rather off-putting in its story of a middle-aged man (Fernando Rey) obsessed with an 18-year-old girl, played back-and-forth by two different actresses (Angela Molina and, in her film debut, future Bond girl Carole Bouquet), an odd conceit that doesn’t really work.