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April's DVD reviews

Simon Evans picks some of the spring DVD releases in his April review.

The_Holdovers_UK_Home_Entertainment_DVD_coverThe Holdovers

(Dazzler Media, Blu-ray and DVD)

It’s Christmas 1970 and a determinedly unlovable teacher, a bright but troublesome pupil and a recently bereaved mother find themselves holed up in a New England boarding school, much against their will. Goodbye Mr Chips or Dead Poets Society it most certainly isn’t – there’s not a trace of sentiment here – and Alexander Payne’s magical film is all the better for it, with an undertow of melancholy that never really lets up to the final shot.

But moving it most surely is, thanks to astonishing performances from all three principles, Paul Giamatti as ancient history teacher and confirmed bachelor Paul Hunham, cook Mary, who has lost her son to Vietnam, played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and newcomer Dominic Sessa as Angus, whose parents have abandoned him at school for the holidays.

Together they form a most unlikely family unit, and discover much about themselves in the process. It’s a charmingly old-fashioned film; even the way it is shot evokes the Seventies golden age of American cinema. And although Da’Vine Joy Randolph has carried off multiple prizes for her performance, deservedly so, it is Paul Giamatti who most impresses as a man who has become immune to disappointment but finds a new purpose in life.

Extras include a behind the scenes documentary, alternative ending and deleted scenes.

The_Cat_and_Canary_DVD_cover.The Cat and the Canary

(Eureka Entertainment, Blu-ray)

Available on Blu-ray for the first-time, in a new restoration, is Paul Leni’s 1927 silent masterpiece, one of the most important films of early American genre cinema that inspired numerous films, including James Whales’ The Old Dark House, and a comedic 1939 remake featuring Bob Hope. It also paved the way for the great Universal horror movies of the Thirties.

Based on a 1922 stage production, this addition to Eureka’s excellent Masters of Cinema collection tells the story of how, 20 years after the death of millionaire Cyrus West, his surviving relatives gather at a decaying mansion on the Hudson River for the reading of his Will. They learn that everything has been left to Cyrus’s niece Annabelle, on the condition that she is judged to be legally sane. But tensions soon rise when the assembled company is told that a murderer known as the Cat has escaped from a nearby asylum and is suspected to be in the grounds, the prelude to an evening of terror.

Extra features include commentary from author Stephen Jones and critic Kim Newman, a video essay by David Cairns and Fiona Watson, and extracts from John Willard’s original 1922 play on which the film was based.

Bangers_and_Cash_DVd_coverBangers and Cash

(Dazzler Media, DVD)

The Mathewsons are a dynasty of classic car auctioneers from North Yorkshire and this series follows them as they hunt for rare vehicles to sell. The family auctions more than 2000 classic cars a year, as well as rare and vintage motorbikes and memorabilia, and as they seek out more vehicles to sell the Mathewsons uncover many heart-warming, and heart-breaking, stories.

Already into its ninth series on UKTV Play, this DVD features the very first season and, full of great stories and characters as it is, you can see why the show has proved to be such a winner with viewers.


Whitstable_Pearl_series_2_dvd_cover.Whitstable Pearl, Series 2, and Series 1 and 2 box set

(Acorn Media International, DVD)

This likable detective series, set on the Kent coast, has, as its main character the eponymous Pearl, a restaurateur turned private investigator, played by the excellent Kerry Goldiman. The first series found Pearl forming a relationship with gruff copper DCI Mike McGuire but, following their break-up, she is now ‘dating’ a supply teacher, Tom, played by Peep Show’s Robert Webb.

Mum Dolly (a scene-stealing Frances Barber), who runs the restaurant with Pearl, is still very much present, but the focus in the second series is more on Pearl’s detecting skills, which allows for greater depth in plotting and an emphasis on the mystery angle of the series. And Mike is also still very much on the scene, as collaborator and sometime rival, involving cases that include a missing child, slain bride and a Seventies film legend in peril (a great cameo from Stephanie Beecham).

Childrens_film_foundation_Bumper_Box_Vol_5_DVD_coverChildren’s Film Foundation Bumper Box 5


More great nostalgia from the vaults of the BFI featuring films produced by The Children’s Film Foundation (CFF), a state-funded body set up after the war to counter the wave of ‘corrupting’ American westerns, war films and sci-fi features with more wholesome, improving fare.

Saturday morning film shows were the treat of the week for many post-war youngsters, and for your hard-earned sixpence there would be an adventure serial, perhaps featuring Zorro or Flash Gordon, a bout of community singing, and, just as the sugar rush was kicking in, a gentle CFF adventure yarn. Part of the charm of these films is not just the chance to relive a lost age of innocence but to also enjoy early performances from future stars of film and television.

This latest collection, spanning the Forties to the Eighties, includes, behind the camera, future Carry On film-makers Gerald Thomas and Peter Rogers, director Muriel Box and adventure specialist Don Chaffey but also, in starring roles, famous faces like Peter Butterworth, Carol White, Robin Askwith and a young Keith Chegwin.

The films included are The Secret Tunnel (1947), The Piper’s Tune (1962), The Rescue Squad (1963), Daylight Robbery (1964), All At Sea (1969), The Hostages (1975), Robin Hood Junior (1975) and The Boy Who Never Was (1980). The set also includes five shorts from the CFF collection and a new documentary, Danger at the CFF, revisiting some of the hair-raising stunts performed for the films. There’s also a fully illustrated booklet, featuring details of the films and recollections from some of those involved.





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