This Review Roundup includes some releases new for this week and some releases that came out earlier in the month that I didn’t receive in time. Up first is the documentary The New Deal for Artists narrated by Orson Welles. First airing in 1981 in the US on PBS, it has been remastered for this DVD release and discusses the effects of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal on artists after The Great Depression. It gets into all kinds of art from painters being hired to paint murals and buildings to the rise of theater especially in the African-American communities thanks to the Works Progress Administration. I really enjoyed the photography section with photographers taking photos of people in areas that normally weren’t photographed. FDR’s program helped get people paid and put to work in the arts, but these programs and funds would be taken down by House Un-American Activities Committee decades later. Welles is the perfect narrator for this with his smooth voice, knowledge of theater and art and ability to take non-fiction and make it into a story. I knew nothing about it so it was pretty interesting to me.
Second we have Vengeance Trails: Four Classic Westerns. This is a solid collection of Italian-made American style westerns. First is Lucio Fulci’s Massacre Time which sees a man return home after receiving a message. His brother has turned into a drunk and a man has taken over the town owning most of the land. The man and his brother fight back to gain what was theirs and the man learns a family secret. There is an absolutely brutal whipping scene and it has some great gun play as well. Maurizio Lucidi’s My Name is Pecos is about a man returning to Houston to exact revenge on the man who killed his family while that man is trying to find money stolen from him. Robert Woods as Pecos Martinez returned for its sequel. Massimo Dallamano’s Bandidos is third and sees a gunman get shot in his hands during a train robbery by a former student. Years later he trains the man wrongly convicted for that train robbery to seek their revenge. Last is Antonio Margheriti’s And God Said to Cain starring Klaus Kinski. Kinski plays a man in prison sentenced to forced labor for an attempted robbery he didn’t commit. Once released he’s out for revenge as well. All 4 have a similar theme, but most of these spaghetti westerns did. I grew up on films like this and had fun watching this collection. All 4 films have been restored and come with a slew of bonus materials. If you like spaghetti westerns you’ll dig this.
This next batch of releases came out earlier in July and come from Mill Creek Entertainment. First is Saving Silverman which I think is a criminally underrated comedy. This 2001 film sees Steve Zahn and Jack Black kidnap their friend’s new girlfriend played by Amanda Peet. They think she is awful for their friend (Jason Biggs) because she’s a domineering psychologist who wants him to quit their Neil Diamond tribute band. While she’s kidnapped the pair try to reunite Biggs with an ex who has returned to Seattle to become a nun. I first saw it at the theater and have always had a soft spot for it. I’m not 100% sure, but I think this is the first time the comedy has been available on Blu-ray.
Next we have Two If By Sea starring Denis Leary and Sandra Bullock. This 1996 film is one of Bullock’s lowest earning movies of her career. Leary plays a thief with Bullock as his cashier girlfriend. He steals a $4 million painting and Bullock befriends the potential buyer who turns out to be an art thief as well. It’s quirky, but not very good. I hadn’t seen it in years and both Leary and Bullock have way better films on their resume.
Skin Deep is a 1989 film starring John Ritter which I had never seen before. He plays a womanizing writer whose girlfriend walks in on him cheating with a hair stylist and then his wife walks in as well. He gets kicked out and drinks too much getting into all kinds of trouble. He gets into a car accident, sleeps with a female body builder, hooks up with another woman (while wearing glow in the dark condoms) right after she just broke up with her musician boyfriend. He starts to get his life together and starts writing again by film’s end. I’ve never been a fan of these manic type characters who are their own worst enemies. Every issue in his life is his own fault and even his shrink doesn’t help. But Ritter was great in these types of roles and I’m sure this film has a cult following.
Next is Equal Standard which comes in both DVD and Blu-ray. The film is about police violence towards the African-American community with most of the cops looking like racists. One cop, an African-American man, is shot while off duty. He had told the officers he was a fellow officer and he killed a white cop when returning fire. New York police is going into neighborhoods and starting trouble while this cop fights to get back on duty. At first they charge him with killing the white cop, but the white cop’s partner is caught lying and he is released. His house is broken into by the brothers of the slain officer and Ice-T plays a gang leader. The African-American cop is asked to help retrieve another officer’s radio which he lost shooting a black man. It’s definitely pandering to everything going on the past few years, but it’s also not well made or well acted. Ice-T is the biggest name in the cast so that should tell you whether or not you’ll like it.
Last we have Secrets of The Rise of Ultraman. This is a Blu-ray set containing 9 exclusive episodes of the original Ultraman series featuring English dubs, collectible artwork, and a bonus feature from Marvel Comics and Starlight Runner Productions. The episodes are remastered and are from the show I grew up watching reruns of. I love the original stuff way more than the newer shows. It comes with a 12-page collectible booklet and a new 5-part bonus feature which connects all the Ultraman worlds, series and movies and is a great introduction for newer fans. For someone like me who watched the older stuff when I was younger, it’s also helpful to see how it all connects and developed through the decades. It’s a really cool collectible piece that even if you already own all the Ultraman releases is a great addition to your collection.