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July 2023 DVD releases

Fancy a night in front of the box? Simon Evans has some great ideas from the latest batch of home entertainment releases


Western Approaches (BFI)

This 1944 film, one of the crowning achievements of the British documentary movement, pays tribute to the bravery of the Merchant Navy and the perils they faced during the Atlantic Convoys. Serving merchant seamen were cast as the survivors of a torpedoed ship being shadowed by a U-Boat, bringing a powerful aura of realism to this thriller, shot in Technicolor by acclaimed cinematographer Jack Cardiff.

Released in a Dual Format Edition (Blu-ray and DVD), the film is presented in a new restoration by Imperial War Museums, and special features include an archival audio commentary, complementary archival films and an illustrated booklet.

Succession_The_Complete_Series DVD coverSuccession: The Complete Series - (Warner Brothers)

One of the most talked-about TV shows of recent years is now available in its entirety on DVD, alongside a stand-alone release of the fourth and final season. An aging patriarch, head of one of the world’s largest media conglomerates, considers retirement, leading to his family members positioning themselves for a takeover. But tensions rise as corporate battles threaten to turn into a family civil war – sound familiar? The show’s creator, Jesse Armstrong, was previously partly responsible for the ground-breaking Peep Show, and there’s a strong satirical edge to this show, with Brian Cox superb as the Dundee-born billionaire Logan Roy.

The_Kid_DVD_coverThe Kid - (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Originally released in 1921, this was Charlie Chaplin’s first full-length feature, and marked the point at which he started to be taken seriously as a film director rather than as a uniquely gifted international star of the short-film format. The film also remains an expressive piece of silent cinema and stars Chaplin as the Tramp, raising an orphan (a young future star, Jackie Coogan) he has rescued from the streets. The Chaplin and Coogan partnership makes for cinematic gold, and together they deftly navigate the film’s marriage of sentiment and slapstick – the title card says it all, “a picture with a smile—and perhaps, a tear”. It’s now available on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection and features a new digital restoration of the 1972 re-release of the film, featuring an original score by Chaplin himself. There are also shorts, interviews and documentaries.

The_Last_of_Us_DVD_coverThe Last of Us: The Complete First Season

(Warner Brothers Discovery Home Entertainment, Blu-ray and DVD)

This dystopian TV series takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed by a parasitic fungus. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone, but what appears to be a relatively simple task turns into a brutal, heartbreaking journey as they cross the United States, encountering all manner of perils on the way. It’s a masterful piece of story-telling, with an excellent cast (Bella Ramsey is outstanding as Ellie) and for once the knowledge that a second series is on the way is a cause for celebration.

Le_Mepris_DVD_coverLe Mépris - (StudioCanal, Blu-ray and DVD)

Also known as Contempt, this 1963 French New Wave film, directed by Jean-Luc Goddard, featured sex symbol of the time Brigitte Bardot, and her physical assets, shall we say, feature prominently in the opening scene, inserted at the producer’s request. The film – now newly restored for its 60th anniversary – didn’t need it, and Bardot was too good an actress to be used in this way to sell a film – but it was 1963 after all.

Set around the Villa Malaparte on Capri, the film is a tragic romance following the story of Paul (Michel Piccoli) and his wife, Camille (Bardot) whose relationship deteriorates as Paul is enlisted with the task of re-writing a film script, an adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey. Also starring the great American actor Jack Palance, and the director Fritz Lang as himself, the film is notable for its soundtrack, in particular Theme of Camille, which would later turn up in the 1995 film Casino.

Also newly released…

Gallivant_DVD_coverPart home movie, part road movie, Gallivant (BFI, Blu-ray), from artist turned film-maker Andrew Kotting, stars his opinionated 85-year-old grandmother Gladys and seven-year-old daughter Eden – who communicates through sign language – on a highly unusual 6000-mile trip around Britain’s coastline…

The_Laureate_DVD_coverThe Laureate, starring Tom Hughes, Dianna Agron and Laura Haddock (Dazzler, DVD and Blu-ray) tells how, in the Twenties, the poet and writer Robert Graves returned from the Great War a broken man and embarked upon a passionate three-way relationship that re-ignited his creative passion but scandalised polite society…

Skinamarink_DVD_coverThe creepy Skinamarink (Acorn Media International, Blu-ray and DVD) cleverly plays on our most deep-rooted childhood fears as two siblings awake in the night to discover their father has gone and the windows and doors in their home have vanished. Who, or what, is out to get them? And The Lair, also from Acorn Media International (DVD and Blu-ray), is an inventive monster feature that is perhaps not for the faint-hearted…

The_Drivers_Seat_DVD_cover.The Driver’s Seat (also known as Identikit) (BFI, Blu-ray) was the most obscure and bizarre film of Elizabeth Taylor’s long career. She stars as a troubled woman who experiences a series of bizarre encounters in Rome while pursuing her own singularly bizarre, self-destructive mission. Originally released in 1974, adapted from a novella by Muriel Spark, and delightfully unhinged, the film has never been released in the UK before. Extras include a filmed introduction, audio commentary and selection of complementary archival films.

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