‘January, sick and tired, you’ve been hanging on me.’ Yes, it’s that cruelest of months where our bank accounts are empty and the sofa becomes our best friend. Good thing really because it turns out there are actually some superb DVD releases and re-releases in the second half of the month.
Despite pretentious gestures towards highbrow cinema there’s nothing I love more than a good Carry On film. As luck would have it, Williams, Windsor, Hawtrey, James and co go standalone DVD crazy this month. The best of this broad batch (which includes the delightful Carry Ons Spying, Cabby, Cowboy and Nurse) are the wonderfully hair-raising horror spoof Carry On Screaming (Optimum - 4 stars) and the impeccably timeless Carry On Cleo (Optimum - 4 stars) - ‘Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!’ No sight yet of the comedy team’s one true masterpiece, Carry on Up the Khyber, but time will tell. Despite all being good digital transfers the extras on these discs are pretty slender so rental may be the way to go. Look out later in the year or early next for The Comic Strip stalwart Peter Richardson’s all new Carry On feature Carry On London starring (gulp) Vinnie Jones and Shane Ritchie.
There are also loads and loads of fantastic box sets out this fortnight. Billy Wilder Collection Vols 1&2 (Fox - 4 stars) includes many of the oddities, delights and conundrums from across this great filmmaker’s illustrious career from Some Like It Hot to Avanti! A new Blacksploitation box set (Fox - 3 stars) offers up a more female perspective on what is often perceived as a misogynist film movement with sassy chick flicks Foxy Brown, Coffy and Black Mama White Mama. Sean Penn gets his second box set (Fox - 3 stars) in as many years, a curious selection which includes 21 Grams, TAPS and Colors. Kubrick’s first three features Killer’s Kiss, The Killing and Paths of Glory get cleaned up and repackaged for the Stanley Kubrick Collection (Fox - 4 stars). Best box set by quite some margin however is the phenomenal, long overdue Luis Buñuel Collection (Optimum - 5 stars) featuring eight of the Andalucian dog’s finest films, among them The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Diary of a Chambermaid and the seminal arthouse porno Belle De Jour.
More singular treats include a sumptuously upholstered release of Derek Jarman’s finest film Caravaggio (BFI - 4 stars) which includes superb interviews with the main cast and crews and Jarman’s gallery of storyboards, production sketches and notebooks. Allison Gas, Food, Lodging Anders’ troubling, underrated 2001 rape drama Things Behind the Sun (Cinema Club - 3 stars) also finally comes up for air this fortnight. Next issue we will be talking Frankie Howard, Leslie Phillips and Robert Mitchum. What a curious mélange, ooh er, missus.