Vintage classics get Blu-ray upgrades and new films are on Blu-ray, DVD and various streaming platforms this week.
“The Apartment” (Arrow, 1960, b/w, not rated/probable PG, audio commentaries, featurettes, text screenplay, trailer; 150-page book). Co-writer/director Billy Wilder’s classic comedy-drama stars Jack Lemmon as an office drone who climbs the corporate ladder by allowing married middle-management bosses to use his apartment for dalliances. Things go swimmingly until he falls for the latest girlfriend (Shirley MacLaine) of a sleazy upper-management boss (Fred MacMurray).
Interestingly, instead of feeling dated, this film’s cynical skewering of big business, office politics and rampant male chauvinism couldn’t feel more relevant.
Wilder is in top form, and he took home three Oscars for his efforts — for best picture, best direction and best screenplay, the latter shared with his frequent collaborator I.A.L. Diamond. They laced the punchy dialogue with endless witticisms delivered by a pitch-perfect cast, which includes Ray Walston, Jack Kruschen, Edie Adams and an array of recognizable character actors.
“Auntie Mame” (Warner Archive, 1958, not rated/probable G, music-only audio track, trailers). In 1928, free-spirited and overly generous Manhattan socialite Mame Dennis becomes the guardian of her young nephew, whom she reluctantly enrolls in a stuffy private school. Will the boy grow up equally stuffy? Or can she embolden him to embrace her mantra: “Life is banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Rosalind Russell, re-creating her Broadway success, is a dynamo in this tailor-made comedy that became the second biggest box-office hit of 1958 (after “South Pacific”). It’s rather broad and overlong but remains a funny, if old-fashioned, farce. (Blu-ray debut available at wbshop.com)
“Victoria & Abdul” (Universal, 2017, PG-13, featurettes). Judi Dench powerfully dominates this true story of an unlikely friendship that developed in 1887 between aging Queen Victoria and an Indian servant (Ali Fazal) as a result of their meeting during the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. This belated sequel to “Mrs. Brown” (the events of that film get a nod here) develops as a fascinating character study, laced with warmth, humor and a candor that can only come from an outsider’s view of the politics of royalty.
“Stronger” (Lionsgate, 2017; R for language, injury images, sex and nudity; featurette). Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a powerhouse performance in this true story of Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs as a result of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, and then provided information that helped the FBI identify the bombers. And Gyllenhaal is matched by Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”) as the girlfriend who helps him battle post-traumatic stress disorder and complete a grueling rehabilitation process. Miranda Richardson and Clancy Brown co-star.
“Detroit” (Fox, 2017. R for violence and language, featurettes). John Boyega (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”) heads the cast of this gritty re-creation of the 1967 12th Street Riot in Detroit, which lasted five days and became one of the most deadly and destructive riots in American history. Also in the cast are Anthony Mackie, Jacob Latimore and John Krasinski; Kathryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) directed.
“Heat & Dust” (Cohen, 1984; R for sex and nudity, with some violence and language; audio commentary, featurettes, trailer, 1975 60-minute feature: “Autobiography of a Princess”). This romanticized view of India jostles back and forth between the 1920s and the modern day (circa 1984) as Julie Christie learns about a scandalous affair involving her aunt (Greta Scacchi) some 60 years earlier, then travels to India and more or less replicates the events herself. This one is well acted and vividly realized by the Merchant-Ivory folks (“A Room with a View,” “Howards End”) but marred by its nonlinear narrative and the unnecessarily protracted sexuality.