This week, we begin in Italy:
Three Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman
Stromboli (1950, 106 minutes; in Italian, Stromboli Terra di Dio, 100 minutes), Europe 51 (1952, 105 minutes; in Italian, 118 minutes), Journey to Italy (1954, 85 minutes). Available now on Blu-ray.
In this four-disc collection, the Criterion Collection gives a Blu-ray debut to three films directed by Roberto Rossellini and starring Ingrid Bergman. The famed master of neorealism cast Bergman after she approached him about possibly collaborating, a teaming that led to a successful working relationship and eventual marriage (but not before they were denounced for their scandalous behavior on the floor of the U.S. Senate).
The boxed collection holds both the English and Italian versions of Stromboli, a compelling drama about a woman (Bergman) in post World War II on the title Mediterranean island fighting to reunite with the Italian husband she married during the war, and Europe 51, in which Bergman plays a rich Rome resident whose son dies, leading her to seek solace by tending to the poor. Journey to Italy sees an estranged married couple (Bergman and George Sanders) as they try to rescue their marriage during a trip to the countryside near Naples.
The new Blu-ray set allows for copious supplements, including digital restorations of the films; commentaries; new interviews (including Martin Scorsese); reminiscences from the director’s daughters, Isabella and Ingrid Rossellini; home movies from the director; a 2005 short film from Guy Maddin starring Isabella Rossellini; a 1952 short film from Roberto Rossellini starring Bergman; a 1995 documentary on Bergman; an 86-page booklet on Bergman, Rossellini and the director’s films; and much more.
Frozen Ground (**1/2) In this deliberately paced, fact-based drama written and directed by Scott Walker (not the Wisconsin governor), a deadly serious Nicolas Cage stars as Alaska State Trooper Jack Halcombe, as he tracks down Robert Hansen (John Cusack), a serial killer who has eluded capture for more than a decade.
Worse, the body count rises as the authorities know they cannot make a case against him with the evidence they have. But one of the girls, 17-year-old Cindy (Vanessa Hudgens), whom Hansen abducted and then lost, might be able to testify against him.
Chilly Alaskan environs add to the overall creepiness and turgid atmospherics.
Rated R, 105 minutes. The DVD contains commentary, seven deleted scenes, a 20 minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, a 14 minute featurette on writing the film, and seven extended interviews with cast and crew.
Room 237 (**) In this so-called “documentary,” director Rodney Ascher throws up seemingly every possible scatter-brained theory about the making of and the secrets inside Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.
A roster of conspiracy mavens rest secure in their interpretations as they drudge out their theories concerning hidden codes and clues that Kubrick supposedly inserted into his film. The many interviews fail to persuade or elevate the discussion beyond nonsense.
Not rated, 102 minutes. The DVD contains commentary, a “Secrets of The Shining” featurette, 11 deleted scenes, a “making of” featurette on the music, and more.
Halloween: 35th Anniversary Edition John Carpenter’s influential horror classic returns on Blu-ray in this 35th anniversary release. The much-imitated film, which initiated seven sequels, starred then-newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis as the baby sitter who must face down the masked Michael Myers as he seeks revenge against a small town, and all on Halloween. Chaos ensues.
Not rated, 92 minutes. The Blu-ray offers a new commentary from Carpenter and Curtis, HD transfer and 7.1 sound mix. Plus: a 20-page booklet, the new featurettes “The Night She Came Home” and “On Location: 25 Years Later,” and more.
Blood of Redemption (1/2) An all-star array of cinematic bad guys gives flavor to this otherwise routine rendering of a story about a failed businessman (Billy Zane) who goes to jail and then, years later, teams with his former second-in-command (Dolph Lundgren) to seek revenge on those who wronged him, including Vinnie Jones, Robert Davi and Gianni Capaldi.
Not rated, 85 minutes. The DVD includes a 12-minute “making of” featurette.
The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition (****) Disney has digitally restored one of its all-time favorite animated features. Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s beloved fairy tale, the 1989 film tells the story of Ariel (voice of Jodi Benson), a mermaid who wants to become human so badly that she makes a careless bargain.
The colorful film won Oscars for best original score and best original song. Pat Carroll, Samuel E. Wright and Christopher Barnes supplied voices, along with Hollywood veterans Buddy Hackett, Rene Auberjonois and Kenneth Mars.
Rated G, 83 minutes. The DVD debuts on Blu-ray and arrives in several formats and combo packs. Supplements total more than three hours and include the original DVD bonus features, such as several “making of” featurettes, commentary, music videos and more. New features include a music video, an introduction to the new Disney animators, a sing-along, new featurettes and more.
And finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
China Beach: The Complete Collection This effective series ran on ABC from 1988 to 1992, and it served as the TV template for the Vietnam War more realistically than M*A*S*H did for the Korean War. In one of the most popular series never available, until now, on any home entertainment format, two-time Emmy winner Dana Delany stars as 1st Lt. Colleen McMurphy, an Army nurse.
She and her fellow soldiers (played by Marg Helgenberger, Michael Boatman, Robert Picardo and others) are stationed at the title locale, specifically the 510th Evacuation Hospital, the middle of the action for entering and exiting troops. The series was created and written by John Sacret Young and Texas native William Broyles Jr., who went on to a successful screenwriting career (Apollo 13, Cast Away, Flags of Our Fathers).
China Beach’s 62 episodes arrive in a packaged 21-disc set also filled with an abundance of supplements: commentaries, a 32-page collector’s book, three scripts signed by the cast and five photos of the original cast. Also: archival photos, a cast reunion featurette along with other featurettes on the real China Beach, behind-the-scenes footage, a gag reel, deleted scenes, three separate round-table discussions with cast and crew, and old and new interviews with cast and crew.
In conjunction, the first season of the series is available separately.
Also available on DVD: Big Bang Theory: The Complete Sixth Season, The Croods, Fright Night 2, This Is the End.