This week, we begin in 16th-century France:
Queen Margot: 20th Anniversary Director’s Cut
Not rated, 159 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Cohen Film Collection gives a Blu-ray debut to Patrice Chereau’s original vision of his 1994 epic (when released in the U.S., it played half an hour shorter). Even with the added footage, Chereau maintains the rapid pace found in Alexander Dumas’ source novel based on events in 1572 France.
Margot (Isabelle Adjani), nee Marguerite de Valois, sister to two kings and daughter to another, submits to her queen mother, Catherine de Medici (Virna Lisi), and grudgingly marries the king of Navarre, Henry (Daniel Auteuil), the future Henry IV. Ostensibly, this coupling aims to quell the conflict between the Catholic royal family and the Protestant Huguenots.
But soon after the wedding, the court initiates the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, slaughtering a still-unknown number of Huguenots who had come to Paris with and for Henry.
Conflicts continue to break out, but director Chereau deftly integrates the love story between Margot and her secret lover, the Protestant La Mole (Vincent Perez), along with numerous other subplots, including the murder of King Charles IX (Jean-Hugues Anglade), voyages to Holland for support, incestuous relationships and more salacious diversions. It’s fast, compelling, and beautifully rendered by cinematographer Philippe Rousselot.
DVD extras: commentary, a trailer and a 28-page booklet with several interviews and essays.
High School Confidential (2.5 stars) Olive Films brings back this campy oddity on Blu-ray and DVD, which remains entertaining in a Reefer Madness sort of way.
The woefully dated 1958 cautionary drama — it was probably dated when it was released in 1958 — stars Russ Tamblyn as an obviously overage rebel who enters a new high school. As Tony, he makes his mark faster than you can say 21 Jump Street (hint, hint), with his unintentionally funny slang and swagger.
He immediately weasels his way into the school’s teenage hierarchy, befriends the local marijuana pusher (26-year-old John Barrymore, father of Drew), nabs the school’s most beautiful student (Diane Jergens), and even catches the attention of his teacher (Jan Sterling).
The school’s other students all look to be on the north side of 30. But the sly Tony has secrets, and those secrets slightly elevate the film, even if director Jack Arnold pauses about every 10 minutes and has someone deliver a lecture on the evils of smoking marijuana (if you smoke marijuana, you will eventually take heroin and die). Jerry Lee Lewis sings the title song and appears in the opening sequence.
Not rated, 85 minutes.
Revelation Trail (1.5 stars) The recent zombie craze receives a stiff test in this unsuccessful mix of genres. In the Old West, Preacher (Daniel Van Thomas) discovers a new sort of enemy: zombies. He guns them down, some of them anyway, while fighting against other more-worldly demons. With Jordan Elizabeth.
Not rated, 108 minutes.
DVD extras: commentary, a 39-minute “making of” featurette titled “Life of the Trail: The Story of the Film,” four brief “behind-the-scenes” featurettes; four brief “On Location” featurettes, a music video, and eight minutes of bloopers and outtakes.
Finally, the week’s TV arrivals:
Now and Again: The DVD Edition The 22 episodes of this 1999 science-fiction thriller receive a belated release. Glenn Gordon Caron’s ingenious drama lasted only this single season, despite a plot that promised endless future programs.
In the opening episode, John Goodman plays New York insurance executive John Wiseman. He suffers a fatal subway accident, waking to find himself without a body but with a working mind. He can see Dr. Morris (Dennis Haysbert), who explains to Wiseman that his body no longer exists, only his brain, kept alive artificially.
This leads to Wiseman’s consciousness being shifted into a young, handsome body (Eric Close). But, on threat of death, he can no longer contact his wife (Margaret Colin) or daughter (Heather Matarazzo).
So the new Wiseman helps Dr. Morris and the U.S. government fight crime for the remainder of the season, resulting in regular confrontations, conflicts and plenty of action, with regular twists involving some strange characters. Charles Durning narrates.
On five discs. Not rated, 16 hours and 12 minutes.
DVD extras: A six-minute “on-the-set” featurette; a 35-minute featurette on Caron’s writing; and the near two-hour-long, four-part “making of” featurette “Gimme a Sign: Engineering Now and Again,” offers segments on “Genesis,” “New Life,” “Remembrance” and “Timelessness.”
The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season Sixteen chilling episodes of cable’s most popular series now arrive on five discs. This season, a virus forces everyone to leave the prison, leading to a fatal new confrontation with the Governor (David Morrissey).
Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) hit the road, with Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Beth (Emily Kinney) heading in another direction and Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) in yet another. But they all eventually travel toward the mysterious Terminal. There, the season ends but with an appropriately ominous situation.
Every episode contains requisite frights and dangerous brushes with the series’ excellent zombie creations.
Not rated, 11 hours and 36 minutes.
DVD extras: The fifth disc contains an amazing selection of materials, including commentaries on five episodes, separate “making of” and “Inside The Walking Dead” featurettes running between six and eight minutes on all 16 episodes. Plus: the six-minute featurette “Drawing Inspiration,” eight- and nine-minute featurettes on prominent characters, titled “Hershel” and “The Governor Is Back.” The series’ special effects are detailed in the 18-minute “Inside KNB EFX,” and eight minutes are devoted to “A Journey Back to Brutality.” Also: eight deleted scenes.
Elementary: The Second Season The 24 episodes of the sophomore season of this clever reinterpretation of the world’s most famous detective returns on six discs. Jonny Lee Miller plays Sherlock Holmes, and Lucy Liu is his live-in partner, Dr. Joan Watson.
The second season begins with the pair in London, but then returns to Manhattan. Eventually, during the season, Holmes suffers through an extended, unwanted visit from his brother, Mycroft (Rhys Ifans).
Also, Inspector Lestrade (Sean Pertwee) now capitalizes on his London successes with Holmes and comes to the U.S. in deluded hopes of duplicating them. Watson continues her threat to move out, made more pressing when she becomes personally involved with Mycroft.
Otherwise, the season sees weekly mysteries, usually murders offered up by police Capt. Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and detective Marcus Bell (John Michael Hill).
Not rated, 17 hours and 11 minutes.
DVD extras: an eight-minute featurette on the first two episodes, “Holmes Goes Home”; eight minutes with the series’ writers; a 20-minute featurette “inside” Season 2; the seven-minute “Skill Set” with Miller, Liu and the show’s technical advisers discussing specifically needed abilities and skills; nine minutes with Rhys Ifans discussing his character; a three-minute gag reel; a four-minute featurette on Sherlock’s pet turtle Clyde; deleted scenes and more.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Aftermath, Belle, The Double, Jackpot and The Normal Heart.