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September's DVD Reviews

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

Midsomer_MurdersMidsomer Murders: The Complete Series 22

The Chelsea Detective: Series One

 (Acorn Media International)

The Killing may have ushered in a generation of Scandi-noir, dark, angsty, dimly-lit TV crime thrillers, with even our very own Silent Witness forced to adapt to the new zeitgeist, but there’s still plenty of slightly lighter, more character-driven detective dramas if you know where to look, more Morse than Sarah Lund.

Two of the best are thankfully available on DVD through Acorn Media, with Midsomer Murders, the granddaddy of them all, still going strong after 26 years, surviving a change of lead actor and a revolving cast of side-kicks. The 22nd series finds DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Jamie Winter (Nick Hendrix) investigating an urban myth come to life at a photography competition, a murderous stitch-up in a rehab centre and a murder mystery weekend that goes scarily wrong. It is also available on Blu-ray.

The Chelsea Detective won instant plaudits when it aired on Acorn TV last year (the second series has just finished), not least for Adrian Scarborough, who plays down-to-earth DI Max Arnold. Scarborough has an impressive CV, including Gavin and Stacey, The King’s Speech, Little Britain, Killing Eve and Miranda, and he is excellent as down-to-earth Max who, after separating from his art dealer wife has taken up residence on a houseboat in Chelsea. His ‘beat’ includes some of the most valuable real estate in Europe and a host of the self-styled beautiful people, but also an underbelly of greed, corruption and deprivation. Together with his colleague DC Priya Shamsie (Sonita Henry) Max takes on some strange and bizarre cases, including a haunting, the disappearance of a social media star and the murder of a teacher at a prestigious international school.


The FlashThe Flash

(Warner Brothers, DVD and Blu-ray)

The Flash was the character who ushered in the Silver Age of comics back in 1956, reinventing the superhero for the modern age and paving the way for the stable of Marvel Comics heroes that are now such a part of our cultural landscape – Captain America, Spider Man, The Hulk, Thor and so on. Somewhere along the way the Flash was rather forgotten, at least until the long-running TV series that is now drawing to a close. The character made little more than a cameo in the ill-fated Justice League film of a few years back but clearly DC Comics, and its parent company, Warner Brothers, saw potential in the Flash, as played by Ezra Miller – hence this film. A flop at the box office, it is nevertheless one of the wittiest and most effective super hero movies, retaining much of the humour and playfulness of the original comic book and multiple references to characters old and new – Eighties Batman Michael Keaton plays a key role, and even Burt Ward, who played Robin in the Sixties Batman TV series, makes an appearance.

When the super speedster Flash goes back in time to save his family he inadvertently changes the future and finds himself exploring parallel worlds and universes, a chance to view various TV and cinema versions of Batman and Superman over the decades, culminating in a quite wonderful final moment for comic book geeks of all ages.


Gregorys_GirlGregory’s Girl

(BFI, Blu-ray)

Bill Forsyth’s charming coming-of-age comedy, set amidst the brutalist housing estates of new town Cumbernauld, was a surprise box office hit in 1981. Starring John Gordon Sinclair as the eponymous Gregory, who is smitten by girl footballer Dorothy (a Bafta-winning performance by Dee Hepburn) the film has some wonderful moments and perfectly captures that strange hinterland between adolescence and adulthood. Extras include an interview with Clare Grogan, the Alternative Images singer who played Dorothy’s friend Susan in the film, an onstage Q and A with John Gordon Sinclair and Dee Hepburn that marked the film’s 35th anniversary, and a feature on Bill Forsyth.



(BFI, Blu-ray)

Peter Bogdanovich’s directorial debut was loosely based on the horrific case of Charles Whitman, who in 1966 killed 15 people, firing from the tower of the main building at Texas University. It features two, convergent, plots, the first involving a Vietnam veteran who goes on a killing spree, culminating in him picking off patrons at a drive-in, firing his gun from the projection booth. That same drive-in is showing an old film featuring Bryan Orlok, a jaded horror movie star who is contemplating retirement, believing modern news bulletins full of violence are making the horror films of his time redundant.

Casting Boris Karlov as Orlok adds an extra ‘meta’ level of meaning to the film, especially when his character, who is making a personal appearance at the drive-in, poignantly ends up confronting the mass killer. It’s a hugely effective, and disturbing film, all the more so because its release followed shortly after the murders of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. And it’s an indictment of our times, perhaps, that Targets is just as relevant to 2023 as it was in 1968.

Extras for this Blu-ray release include a commentary by Peter Bogdanovich, documentary on the life and career of Boris Karlov and a 1972 interview with Bogdanovich at the National Film Theatre.


Also available:

CreepshowThe TV series Creepshow is based on the Eighties cult classic from George A Romero and Stephen King, which was in turn inspired by the EC horror comics of the Fifties. As with the original film, the series is an anthology of creepy tales, ranging from a girl who discovers a brand new toy to astronauts who go down in history for all the wrong reasons. All three series are now available on Blu-ray and DVD from Acorn Media International, ahead of the fourth series airing on the Shudder TV channel…


Neil Jordan’s stylish film Marlowe (Dazzler, DVD and Blu-ray) finds private detective Philip Marlowe (played by Liam Neeson) hired to find the ex-lover of a glamorous heiress. It looks like an open and shut case,
 but Marlowe soon finds himself drawn into the dark underbelly of Thirties Hollywood’s film industry…

McVicarMcVicar (Fabulous, Blu-ray and DVD) stars Roger Daltrey in the true-life story of professional British criminal John McVicar. It pulls few punches in its depiction of the brutal prison system but is also a powerful story of redemption. Bonus features available on both the new Blu-ray Breakout Edition and the DVD include a new documentary on the story of the film’s production and an interview with John McVicar…

Partie_de_CampagneFinally released in 1946, ten years after it was shot, Jean Renoir’s Partie De Campagne was hailed as one of the great unfinished masterpieces and is now regarded among Renoir’s best-loved films. It has now been released on Blu-ray by the BFI in a new digital restoration with special features including an audio recording of a lecture Jean Renoir gave in 1963 at the BFI’s National Film Theatre…

The Wicker ManNewly restored for its 50th anniversary, folk-horror classic The Wicker Man is now available in a five-disc Collector’s Edition as well as a four-disc Steelbook version. The film, which starred Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, concerned strange events on a remote Scottish island, and it has had a tortured history, with the search for missing scenes only adding to its mystique. Both the new sets, released by StudioCanal, feature the three versions of the film, The Theatrical Cut, The Director’s Cut and The Final Cut, as well as numerous extras…


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