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May DVD Reviews

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

Billy_Connolly_big_banana_feet_DVD_coverBig Banana Feet (BFI, Blu-ray)

In the early to mid Seventies Billy Connolly started making the transition from sometime Glasgow folkie to full-blown stand-up comedian, the humorous between-song patter Billy had developed during his partnership with Gerry Rafferty in their folk duo The Humblebums having expanded to encompass his whole act.

Then in 1975 Billy became, almost overnight, a household name thanks to his appearance on the Parkinson show and towards the end of that year even had a Number One record, his heavily ‘bleeped’ parody of Tammy Wynette’s DIVORCE.

This long-lost film, something of a holy grail for Connolly fans, also dates from 1975 and follows Billy during his tour of Ireland.

This was at the height of the Troubles, and just a week before Billy’s appearance in Belfast, part of which is captured in the film, three members of a show band had been murdered by the IRA. A camera man involved in making the documentary recalls that 30 people had to be turned away from the show because they were carrying weapons.

Despite these challenges Billy is at his irrepressible best, and the fly-on-the-wall nature of the documentary provides a fascinating portrait of the comedian, both on stage and off, at the very moment when he was on the cusp of stardom.

Long thought lost, the film enjoyed only a brief cinema run in 1976, followed by an equally brief video release, before the distributor went bust. One of only two copies known to be in existence was lodged in the Pacific Film Archive by the film’s director, Murray Grigor, and the film has been diligently restored by the BFI archivist Douglas Weir.

The banana boots that gave the film its title were made especially for Connolly by Glaswegian pop artist Edmund Smith and became a regular fixture of his Seventies shows. They are now on display in the People’s Palace, Glasgow.

D-Day_80th_anniversary_DVD_coverD-Day 80th Anniversary (Reel 2 Reel, DVD)

Marking the 80th anniversary of Operation Overlord, the largest seabourne invasion in history, Bruce Vigar’s film looks at the key strategic decisions and many acts of heroism and sacrifice that make D-Day, June 6, 1944, such an important moment in our history. With recent reports suggesting a younger generation either don’t know what D-Day is, or show no interest in commemorating it, schools could do worse than add this informative and accessible film to the curriculum.

As the rest of us know, the Allied invasion of Normandy signalled the beginning of the end of the Second World War, and Vigar’s film features military experts, historians and eyewitnesses all providing fascinating insights into those momentous events. Together they shed new light on the planning and execution of D-Day while also paying tribute to those whose courage and sacrifice will surely never be forgotten.

Jane_Seymour_Harry_Wild_series_2_DVD_coverHarry Wild Series 2 Acorn Media International, DVD)

With its third series just launched on Acorn TV, there seems to be no stopping Jane Seymour’s retired literature professor turned detective and this second series was, if anything, even better than the show’s debut run.

Working alongside her trusty sidekick Fergus, Seymour’s character, the eponymous Harry, investigates the mysterious death of her old lover, a poisoning that rather takes the gilt off a bachelorette party, a crossbow killer and the demise of a gym owner. There’s a touch of folk horror, a locked room puzzler and an old-fashioned country house murder mystery, certainly a more varied mix of stories than you would expect from the often misleading titled ‘cosy crime’ genre with which this show is inevitably associated.

Certainly there is enough going on to keep a full-time copper busy you would think, let alone a retired academic, and there is an added complication this series when Fergus’s mum turns up out of the blue, years after abandoning her family.

Jane Seymour’s abrasive character may take a while to warm too but it’s worth keeping faith with this Irish-set show, not least for the well-plotted crime stories.

Raging_Bull_DVD_coverThe Raging Bull (Spirit Entertainment. Blu-ray)

Part of Martin Scorsese’s great run of Seventies and Eighties movies, this visceral portrait of a boxer on the rise, all the more powerful for being shot in black and white, is now regarded as a modern classic. Robert De Niro, as always, throws himself heart and soul into the role of Jake La Motta, the Bronx fighter whose overwhelming ambition and machismo propels him to the top but at the expense of those he has ever loved.

This new edition includes audio commentaries, a making-of documentary and vintage interviews with De Niro’s co-star Cathy Moriaty as well as the real-life Jake La Motta and his wife Vikki.


Bob_Marley_One_Love_DVD_coverOne Love (Paramount Home Entertainment, Blu-ray and DVD)

This rather by-numbers telling of the story of Bob Marley inevitably suffers from being sanctioned and produced by the Marley family. A certain amount of deification is therefore inevitable although the film does not shy away from Marley’s infidelities and imperfections. The decision to have the main characters speak in patois, however, while admirable in terms of authenticity, does not help when it comes to making sense of what’s going on. The music’s great though – in fact more would have been welcome – and Kingsley Ben-Adir does a perfectly serviceable job in the role of Marley, but you can’t help wondering if an opportunity hasn’t been missed here.



Also available:


The_Promised_Land_DVD_coverMads Mikkelsen stars in the powerful Nordic western – yes, there is such a thing – The Promised Land (Icon, Blu-ray and DVD) playing an impoverished captain, Ludvig Kahlen, who, in 1755, sets out to conquer the uninhabitable Danish heath in the name of the king. But first he must encounter the sole ruler of the area, Frederik de Shinkel, who also lays claim to the land and has good reason to feel aggrieved with Kahlen…


This_Town_DVD_coverIn the drama This Town (Dazzler Media, Blu-ray and DVD), Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight evokes the spirit of Coventry in 1981 and the rise of the TwoTone musical movement…


Dune_part_2_dvd_coverDune: Part Two (Warner Brothers, Blu-ray and DVD) continues the mythic journey of Paul Atreides in this imaginative re-telling of Frank Herbert’s classic novel…


A curious mixture of soap opera and Line of Duty that somehow seems to work without tipping over too far into pure melodrama, the second series of Blue Lights (BBC, DVD) finds recent recruits Grace, Annie and Tommy having to deal with the traumatic events of the first series and facing a new threat on their always challenging Northern Irish beat, a Loyalist gangster aiming to make a name for himself....

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