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March's DVD review

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


A Kid for two Farthings

(StudioCanal, DVD and Blu-ray)

Originally released in 1955, The Third Man director Carol Reed’s charming fable is set in the Jewish retail community of the East End, where dreams are plentiful, but rarely realised. A young boy, Joe, played by Jonathan Ashmore, buys what he thinks is a unicorn (it’s actually a sickly young goat with just one deformed horn in its forehead), having being told by an old tailor that it will make any wish come true.

Reed’s first film in colour, and his last British production until Oliver! some 13 years later, the film was adapted by Wolf Mankowitz from his own 1953 novel and is an affecting portrait of life in and around Petticoat Lane in the mid-Fifties, having been filmed partly on location.

The cast includes Celia Johnson, who plays Joe’s mother, and David Kossoff as the old tailor, as well as Irene Handl, Sid James and Sydney Tafler.

A fascinating array of extras includes an interview with Jonathan Ashmore, a video essay by film critic Ella Taylor, and a restoration of Jack Clayton’s 1955 Oscar-winning short film The Bespoke Overcoat, written by Wolf Mankowitz and starring David Kossoff and Alfie Bass.


Doctor Who: Season 15

(BBC, Blu-ray)

This season, Tom Baker’s fourth in the role, dates from 1977 and marked a shift away from the Gothic horror of Baker’s first three seasons towards the camp, tongue-in-cheek space operas that would ultimately prove to be the undoing of what is now called ‘classic Doctor Who’. Containing six stories, also featuring Louise Jameson as the Doctor’s warrior companion Leela and the robot dog K9, this limited-edition seven disc set also has bonus material carried over from the original DVD releases, as well as exclusive new content.




One From The Heart: Reprise

(StudioCanal, DVD and Blu-ray)

This romantic musical drama, originally released in 1982, could not have been in greater contrast with director Francis Ford Coppola’s previous film, Apocalypse Now, the war movie to end all war movies, one that nearly killed Coppola and its star, Martin Sheen.

Although less well remembered – and a resounding flop at the time that almost ruined Coppola, – there is no doubting the influence of One From The Heart on moviemakers down the decades, not the least Baz Luhrmann, whose visual style owes much to the film, as he acknowledges in a special interview included as one of a number of extras on the new DVD and Blu-ray releases.

The film stars Frederic Forest and Teri Garr as a young couple, Hank and Frannie, who break up after arguing on their fifth anniversary. They both spend the night with strangers, after which Frannie tells Hank that she wants to start a new life with Ray (Raul Julia) a handsome waiter who also doubles as a cocktail pianist and singer, but can Hank win her back?

Almost entirely filmed on the soundstages of Coppola’s American Zoetrope studio, the film has an artificial, stylised look that may be part of the reason for its failure – a similar British production, Absolute Beginners, would suffer the same fate four years later. Viewed today, however, the film’s look is part of its appeal, thanks in part to the excellent new restoration.

For this reissue the film has been fully restored and also recut by Coppola, and this new Reprise version includes previously discarded footage and new titles, as well as more than 19 minutes of footage replaced with new source scans.



Room At The Top

(StudioCanal, Blu-ray and DVD)

Although not strictly part of the mid Fifties ‘Angry Young Men’ literary movement, John Braine’s 1957 novel Room At The Top had much in common, in particular, with John Osborne’s play Look Back In Anger, most notably its working-class hero who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.

This film version of Braine’s novel, which followed two years later, was notable for being the first of the major British ‘kitchen sink’ realist dramas, and it follows the fate of a demobbed working-class lad, Joe Lampton, who takes on a job as an accountant with the Borough Treasury in the Yorkshire town of Warley.

When Joe’s social-climbing ambitions and romantic life become entwined he finds himself in the middle of a deadly love triangle, and although, ultimately, he does succeed in moving up in the world it is at quite a cost.

Directed by Jack Clayton, Room At The Top’s treatment of sex was daring for the time and the film was initially refused a certificate by the censors until they eventually relented and rated it ‘X’. Laurence Harvey is excellent as Joe, and Simone Signoret won an Academy Award for her role as his lover, Alice.


Also available:


The feel-good 1996 film Beautiful Thing (BFI, Blu-ray) is a coming of age romantic comedy, based on the award-winning play by Jonathan Harvey, and produced by Tony Garnett, Set in south London, it focuses on the relationship between three teenagers with problematic home lives and boasts a soundtrack featuring songs by Mama Cass and the Mamas and Papas…



The Comedy Man (StudioCanal, Blu-ray and DVD) is a 1964 kitchen-sink drama that boasts a career-best performance from Kenneth More. Directed by Alvin Rakoff, this often overlooked example of the late British New Wave features an outstanding supporting cast, including Cecil Parker Dennis Price and Billie Whitelaw, in a fascinating portrait of the darker side of Sixties London…


BAFTA winner Shia LaBeouf gives a charismatic performance in Padre Pio (Dazzler, Blu-ray and DVD) the story of a troubled real-life Italian priest beginning his ministry in the immediate aftermath of the First World War. Free elections are being held for the first time, but San Giovanni Rotondo, in Southern Italy, is in thrall to wealthy landowners and the church, who are in turn determined to stop the insurgent socialists. And amidst all the violence, what can a poor priest do?…



Although it missed out on most of the awards it was nominated for, Emma Stone deservedly carried all before her in the extraordinary Poor Things (Elevation, Blu-ray and DVD), The Favourite director Yorgos Lanthimos’s visually dazzling story of a Frankenstein-like girl brought back to life and discovering her place in the world…

favourite, its uplifting soundtrack featuring songs by Cass Elliot and The Mamas and The Papas, makes its UK debut on Blu-ray on 18 March. Special features include a commentary by the director and writer and a filmed Q&A.



The Shamrock Spitfire (101 Films, DVD) chronicles the remarkable true story of Brendan ‘Paddy’ Finucane, the Irish pilot who became one of the most celebrated fighter aces of the Second World War, and the youngest Wing Commander in RAF history…



From the late Sixties to the signing of the Good Friday agreement in 1998 was one of the most brutal periods in Irish history and The Troubles: A Dublin Story (High Fliers, DVD) pulls no punches in examining the conflict through the eyes of two brothers who join up for the IRA…

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