Lots of vintage movies are making their Blu-ray debuts this week.
“Three O’Clock High” (Shout Select, 1987, PG-13, audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, photo gallery). This is an amusing, light teen comedy about a meek writer for the school newspaper (Casey Siemaszko) who is assigned to do a story about a new kid. But the kid turns out to be a violent bully who challenges the writer to a fight after school. In his first film, director Phil Joanou emphasizes style over substance with a few too many flashy, hyperactive camera zooms. This one’s of particular local interest as it was filmed almost entirely at Ogden High School.
“A Fish Called Wanda” (Arrow, 1988; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; deleted/alternate scenes, audio commentary, trivia track, featurettes, trailer, photo gallery; booklet). John Cleese wrote and stars in this hilarious crime-caper farce with a sterling cast that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Oscar-winner Kevin Kline and Cleese’s “Monty Python” pal Michael Palin, all of them in rare form. This remastered Blu-ray includes all previously released bonus features plus new material.
“Dreamgirls: Director’s Extended Edition” (Paramount, 2006, PG-13, theatrical and extended versions, extended/alternate scenes, Jennifer Hudson audition/screen-test footage; photobook packaging). Director Bill Condon’s extended version has 10 extra minutes of this hit musical about a streetwise entrepreneur guiding a female vocal trio to stardom. Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Loretta Devine and Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson star in this film.
“Beauty for the Asking” (Warner Archive, 1939, b/w). Lucille Ball stars in this romantic triangle as a lowly manicurist who comes up with a gotta-have-it beauty cream that gives her an unexpected payday. Ball is terrific in this forgotten B-movie, now on video for the first time. (This is the only one of these titles not on Blu-ray; it’s a manufacture-on-demand DVD-R available at wbshop.com.)
“Brigadoon” (Warner Archive, 1954, deleted musical numbers, audio outtake, trailer). Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse are great and the songs are good in this musical fantasy about a Scottish village that comes to life once every 100 years for just one day. "Brigadoon" cries out for location filming instead of backlot sets, but it’s still fun. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
“Waiting for Guffman” (Warner Archive, 1996, R for language, deleted scenes, audio commentary, trailer). Hapless stage director Corky St. Clair (Christopher Guest) mounts a musical pageant for his Missouri hometown and everything goes wrong in his funny farce, the first of Guest’s faux documentaries, which include “Best in Show” and “A Mighty Wind.” The film stars Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Fred Willard et al. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
“Buffy the Vampire Slayer: 25th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition” (Fox, 1992, PG-13, featurette, trailer/TV spots). Kristy Swanson stars in this Valley girl-vampire spoof that was the basis for the subsequent and far superior TV series. Donald Sutherland, Luke Perry and Rutger Hauer are on hand, though Paul Reubens steals the show in a flashy supporting role, but the film’s pacing is deadly dull.
“The Illustrated Man” (Warner Archive, 1969, PG, featurette, trailer). Rod Steiger stars in this sci-fi fantasy as a tattooed man who explains to a drifter three of his “skin illustrations,” which unfold as futuristic cautionary tales. It's an interesting but slow and stolid adaptation of three Ray Bradbury short stories. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
“Charlotte’s Web Gift Set With Book” (Paramount, 2006, G, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video, bloopers; book). This live-action adaptation of the beloved children’s novel has a charming central performance by Dakota Fanning as Fern and benefits from an all-star voice cast that includes Julia Roberts (as spider Charlotte), John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Kathy Bates, Reba McEntire and Robert Redford.
“My Neighbor Totoro” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 1988, G, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, trailers; booklet).
“Kiki’s Delivery Service” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 1989, G, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, trailers; booklet).
“Princess Mononoke” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 1997, PG-13, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, trailers/TV spots; booklet).
“Spirited Away” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 2001, PG, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, TV special, trailers/TV spots; booklet).
“Howl’s Moving Castle” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 2004, PG, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, trailers/TV spots; booklet).
“Ponyo” (Studio Ghibli/GKids, 2008, G, in Japanese with English subtitles or English-dubbed, featurettes, music video, trailers/TV spots; booklet). These six gorgeous Japanese anime features by Hayao Miyazaki are delightful fantasies that parents can enjoy as much as their children — reissued here in upgraded Blu-ray/DVD sets that include new bonus features. English-language casts include Dakota and Elle Fanning, Jean Simmons, Lauren Bacall, Billy Crystal, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Cloris Leachman, Betty White, Lily Tomlin, Liam Neeson, Debbie Reynolds and Mark Hamill, among others.
“Innocent Blood” (Warner Archive, 1992; R for violence, sex, nudity, language; trailer). Eleven years after his success with “An American Werewolf in London,” filmmaker John Landis went back to the well for this much-less successful, too-gory yarn about a French female vampire (Anne Parillaud) feeding on mobsters in Pittsburgh. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
“Children of the Corn” (aka “Stephen King’s Children of the Corn,” Arrow, 1984, R for violence and language, audio commentaries, featurettes, trailer, 1983 short film: “Disciples of the Crow”; booklet). This is Stephen King’s 1977 short story (from “Night Shift”) about killer kids in a remote rural town threatening a couple (Linda Hamilton, Peter Horton) that happens to pass through. The movie's pretty awful, though it created a franchise. (The 30-minute bonus film included here, and based on the same story, is better.)
“Dudes” (Shout Select, 1987, R for language and violence, featurettes, trailer, photo gallery). This frenetic slapstick comedy stars Jon Cryer and Daniel Roebuck as inner-city punks in the rural West, tracking down the rednecks that killed their friend and meeting up with characters even more offbeat than themselves. An unfortunate misfire from Penelope Spheeris (“Wayne’s World”) that nonetheless has a cult following.