Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Spanish director Agusti Villaronga’s 1987 surrealist masterpiece In a Glass Cage is challenging. That’s the only way I can really describe it. Challenging. Mixing the youthful, lust-filled brutality of Pasolini’s Salo, Or the 120 Days of Sodom with the Stockholm Syndrome master-slave love affair of Cavani’s The Night Porter — with a large dose of Gilles de Rais for inspiration — In a Glass Cage is about a former Nazi doctor whose favorite concentration camp pastime was molesting and murdering young boys. Years later, living incognito in Spain, he’s stuck in an iron lung after a failed suicide attempt. A young male nurse shows up to care for him, only to admit that he was one of the Nazi’s old playthings. Driven mad by the incident, the young nurse decides to continue the doctor’s work, leading to repulsive shocks galore that are unsettling and uncomfortable and unlikable, yet masterful in the psychological tension.
I’ve probably seen the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical based on The Phantom of the Opera more times than I’ve seen the original 1925 silent film. I’m sure that's true for most of us. But the absolutely stunning Image Entertainment Blu-ray release has made me more greatly appreciate the original. Offering three different cuts of the film — the original 1925 version and two 1929 reissues — as well as three amazing new scores from the likes of the Alloy Orchestra, Gabriel Thibaudeau and Frederick Hodges, this is The Phantom as you’ve probably never seen it before, in a release that’s comparable to the recently rediscovered cut of Metropolis. Colorado Springs' favorite son, Lon Chaney, is as movingly frightful as ever, with a performance that was not only light years ahead of its time, but damn near impossible to replicate today. Throw away those maudlin Broadway notions of romance — this is how The Phantom of the Opera should be remembered.
As far as ’60s musicals go, I’ve always been more of a Rodgers and Hammerstein guy. You know, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, The King and I … those were the musicals I was raised on. My mother was a huge fan, so, by proxy, I was, too. It wasn’t until high school and my obsession with an unattainable drama-club girl that I found West Side Story. While she didn’t fall in love with me, I fell in love with this movie. Directed by Robert Wise (who’d actually go on to direct The Sound of Music four years later), West Side Story is basically a lower-class retelling of Romeo and Juliet, with knife-carrying gangs who snap their fingers and go heel-toe, heel-toe to a romantically lush Leonard Bernstein score that mingles beautifully with Stephen Sondheim’s jazzy lyrics. MGM’s 50th Anniversary Edition is phenomenal, digitally remastered in 7.1 DTS-HD master audio. That may not mean anything now, but wait until you see it in your own home. It’s truly the only way to watch West Side Story.