The stand-alone DVD rental and retail markets have been buzzing over what turned out to be a perfect summer for home entertainment. As we move into September, the box-set heavyweights move in to fill the hole in those darkening nights. You really can’t go wrong with This is Shane Meadows (Optimum, ****), a collection of four of this very fine filmmaker’s features from the flawed but eager TwentyFourSeven (1997) to the more sublime and seamless pleasures of A Room for Romeo Brass (1999), Dead Man’s Shoes (2004) and his recent startling skinhead drama This is England.
The great Ken Loach has not one but two box sets out (Sixteen Films, both ****). Navigating Loach’s social realist progression from 1967’s Poor Cow to last year’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley, this is an astonishing body of work and one that should serve to remind us that history will remember Loach long after his death. For deadpan Finnish delights, look no further than the first volume (of a planned three volumes) of the Aki Kaurismäki Collection (Artificial Eye ****) featuring the great chain-smoker’s peerless early features, which he later described as his ‘worker’s trilogy’ — Shadows in Paradise (1986), Ariel (1988) and The Match Factory Girl (1990).
The genius of the great, low-budget US filmmaker Sam Fuller is finally given full reign on DVD this month with stand-alone releases of a load of his films. The best of which — Fixed Bayonets, Pickup on South Street, House of Bamboo (pictured) and Forty Guns (all Optimum ****) offer a minimalist, deeply alternative picture of America at war and play in the 20th century.
There are two genuine oddities out in the shape of Theodore Flicker’s insane 1967 cold war satire The President’s Analyst (Paramount ***) starring the ever dependable James Coburn as a psychiatrist at the pointy end of hippy sub-culture terrorism and Richard Fleischer’s even more bizarre Che! (Optimum ***), a genuinely deranged Guevara biopic from 1969.
Finally, if you can stomach it, Shake Hands With The Devil (Metrodome ****) is a really remarkable documentary that recounts the Rwandan genocide of 1994 through the eyes of Canadian Lieutenant General Roméo Dallaire, the man tasked with maintaining peace in the country by the UN Security Council. Horror lessons from history do not come any clearer or more unforgettable than this. (Paul Dale)