(Enlarge) Malcolm McDowell had a signature role as the futuristic thug in "A Clockwork Orange," arriving this week as the centerpiece of a new high-definition Stanley Kubrick collection.
Warner Home Video has chosen “A Clockwork Orange”
as the centerpiece of its new high-definition line of Stanley Kubrick films, appearing on movie-lover radar screens across the land this week. Respectability came late indeed for Kubrick’s future-shock dissertation on “the old ultra-violence.”
The 1971 film touched off firestorms of controversy on its way to becoming forever lodged in our collective culture. It was banned in England for decades — long enough to introduce a whole generation of British males to the naughty thrill of bootlegged tapes.
That’s really the theme of “Turning Like Clockwork,”
a newly produced documentary on one of the two Blu-ray discs in Warner’s “A Clockwork Orange” 40th Anniversary Edition (rated R, $34.99
Also tempting us to upgrade to this new “digibook” hardcover set are two prized, feature-length documentaries: “O Lucky Malcolm!,”
about the career of star Malcolm McDowell; and “Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures,”
the superb 2001 documentary by longtime associate Jan Harlan, here making its high-def debut.
Kubrick started out as a photographer, selling his still photos to Look magazine before applying what he had learned to the movie camera. Kubrick always insisted on the finest lenses, and his black-and-white films like “Lolita”
and “Dr. Strangelove,”
especially, have an antiseptic clarity on Blu-ray Disc.
Judging by the clips we’ve seen of the new Blu-ray transfer of the 1975 costume drama, “Barry Lyndon,”
Kubrick’s match-up of technology and artistry proved momentous. Using a special, high-speed lens on a modified Mitchell camera housing, he conveyed the magical aura of living by candlelight, something akin to recreating on celluloid the living, breathing embryo of modern European culture.
Of course, the deep-space majesty of “2001: A Space Odyssey”
will always be the technical wizard of ahhhs
in any Kubrick package. It could almost stand as a metaphor for Kubrick’s entire professional career, which was all about the search for better tools in the struggle to escape the limitations of our senses.More (or less) Malcolm
A previous generation of movie nuts would have drooled over the idea of owning even two or three Stanley Kubrick films. Now they can all be had on digital video, with his final nine feature films included in the new 10-disc “Stanley Kubrick: Limited Edition Collection on Blu-ray.”
Retail priced at $148.95, that’s $50 less than what a similar DVD-only Kubrick collection cost in 2001 (and just $6 more than that year’s new VHS set).
The new lineup includes “Spartacus”
for the first time, representing a new partnership between Warner and Universal Studios Home Entertainment. It must be noted that most of the Blu-ray films here, including “Spartacus,” are apparently identical to earlier high-def versions, with the exception of those two titles that are new to Blu, “Lolita” and “Barry Lyndon.”
The other films in the collection are “The Shining,” “Full Metal Jacket”
and “Eyes Wide Shut.”
The “Clockwork Orange” discs come with a 40-page color booklet of stills and production notes. All the same titles and that 40-page booklet (though minus the other Blu-ray extras) are also available on standard DVD as “Stanley Kubrick: The Essential Collection” for $74.92 suggested retail.
To sample these treasures is to be bowled over once again by the depth and variety of the filmmaker’s output. As Jack Nicholson says of Kubrick with his usual impish demeanor on the Harlan documentary, “Everybody seems to feel that he’s the man. I, personally, think that under-rates him.”
Some of the same anecdotes about working with Kubrick pop up in a one-man stage show put together by Malcolm McDowell in 2007 as a tribute to director Lindsay Anderson. A filmed record of the event is also new-to-DVD this week as “Never Apologize” (Warner Home Video, not rated, $19.97).
It’s an egocentric endeavor, more often focused on the art of actors than of cinema, and it’s full of anecdotes that probably came off as much more amusing and revealing at cocktail parties. Still, the embedded film clips from classic dramas like “This Sporting Life,” “If” and “O Lucky Man” are good to see, and McDowell’s audience generally responds very warmly to the memories, as will most home viewers.Also new on DVD“Gnomeo & Juliet” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, DVD $29.99; Blu-ray Disc $39.99)
. Kids may enjoy this facetious re-enactment of the Shakespeare love story by ceramic garden gnomes, lawn flamingos and other suburban artifacts that spring to life, “Toy Story”-style, when no one is looking. New and recycled soundtrack goodies by Elton John give a little lift to a mostly uninspired family entry.“I Am Number Four” (DreamWorks Studios, rated PG-13, DVD $29.99; Blu-ray Disc $39.99).
Despite a big-budget producer (Michael Bay) and a competent action director (D.J. Caruso), the guilty fingerprints all over this teen sci-fi thriller belong to the writers of TV’s “Smallville.” Their story conferences must have ended a bit short, because the viewer will know everything to come from just a DNA swab of the opening sequence: incoherent action, phony CGI beasts, convenient escapes and a cast full of pretty mannequins. Former child star-turned-teen-hunk Alex Pettyfer plays an otherworldly newcomer just trying to conform to the low-expectations of a small-town high school and avoid the alien bounty hunters who have already eliminated numbers one, two and three. Timothy Olyphant as his guardian and Dianna Agron as his first love help us overlook the noisy but insipid action scenes.“Lemonade Mouth” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment, rated G, two-DVD combo pack $26.99)
. Another Disney Channel Original that is anything but, this narrated look at the formation of a squeaky-clean high school rock band is an attempt to launch a new Hannah Montana-like franchise for kids. But it lacks even the freshness of the “High School Musical” films.“Tracy and Hepburn: The Definitive Collection” (Warner Home Video, not rated, $59.92)
. The blue-ribbon team of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn grace video shelves again in this 10-disc set, the only complete assemblage of all nine films featuring both screen icons. As a further enticement, Warner has included the 1986 Emmy-winning documentary “Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katherine Hepburn.” The special chemistry is on view in such audience-pleasers as “Pat and Mike,” “Woman of the Year,” “Adam’s Rib,” “Without Love” and “Desk Set.” But even the more thoughtful dramas shine here, like “Keeper of the Flame,” “The Sea of Grass,” “State of the Union” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” All of them have been given exceptional transfers that include extras like vintage shorts and cartoons, special introductions and even a commentary or two. As Spence would say, brother, that’s cherce!