Plus worldwide Blu-ray debuts of ‘Nobody’s Fool,’ ‘The Music of Chance,’ and Ken Russell’s ‘Whore.’
By Rob Hunter · Published on September 21st, 2022
Australian label Imprint Films continues to great work bringing films home, often as worldwide Blu-ray debuts, and their July 2022 slate is once more filled with winners. Keep reading for a look at Imprint’s releases of The Beast, Nobody’s Fool, The Music of Chance, Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead, and Whore.
The Beast (1988)
While British and Roman invaders were once all the rage, more recent years (and decades) have seen that role occupied mostly by the United States and Russia. The latter is currently getting their asses handed to them by soldiers in Ukraine, but forty or so years ago their battlefield was Afghanistan. The Beast (aka The Beast of War) refers to a metallic, motorized “beast” — a Russian tank, occupied by a crew tired of battle in a desert far removed from home. They take part in in their army’s atrocities, but the tides turn when their tank is separated from the rest of the armored column and targeted by Afghan rebels.
Kevin Reynolds’ unlikely follow-up to his acclaimed debut (the warm, friendship-focused Fandango) is a tense and at times thrilling adventure. The Russian crew — an equally unlikely cast featuring Hollywood actors as the ostensible villains of the film — shift from aggressors to panicked soldiers on the run, and Reynolds punctuates their dramas with intense battle scenes and suspenseful set-pieces. The wide expanse of the Afghan landscape contrasts against the cramped, claustrophobic tank quarters making for a tense and beautiful journey.
Jason Patric stars as the one soldier who shows an appreciation for both the Afghan’s humanity and spirit, and it’s an empathetic, invigorating performance. His counterpoint is a stellar George Dzundza as the cruelly determined ranking officer, and they’re joined by Stephen Baldwin, Don Harvey, and others. All do great work in a film that remains a fantastic ride with its echoes of the American experience in Vietnam.
Imprint Films’ new release of The Beast is only the film’s second time on Blu-ray after a French release earlier this year. As with all of the label’s releases, there’s no restoration here, but the print still shines in high definition. The disc includes an extensive making-of documentary with interviews with the principals and plenty of insight into its production.
- *NEW* Commentary by author David J. Moore
- *NEW* Nanawatai!: Inside the Beast [2:02:04] – A feature-length, in-depth look at the film’s origins and production featuring interviews with Kevin Reynolds, Jason Patric, Steven Bauer, Dale Pollock, William Mastrosimone, and more. This is a fantastic watch detailing the behind the scenes ups and downs, how Kevin Costner wanted to star but Reynolds said no, how Christopher Plummer almost landed the George Dzundza role, and more.
Nobody’s Fool (1994)
Plot is an important element in a narrative feature, but sometimes it’s the characters who craft an engaging story out of their own interactions. Sully (an expectedly fantastic Paul Newman) has lived a life on his own terms, much to the chagrin of nearly everyone around him. Friends, family, and strangers alike endure him more than enjoy him, but as his later years wind down he comes to realize that maybe that’s not how he wants to go out. He makes small attempts to reach out towards some even as he snaps back at plenty of others.
Director Robert Benton and star Newman would rejoin four years later for an odd neo-noir (Twilight), but it’s this first collaboration that results in a home run. The legendary actor is simply the definition of charismatic despite his cranky attitude resulting in laughs both boisterous and heartwarming. It’s never too late grow up, and as Sully finds himself fighting against his own bad habits he’s guided by those interactions shaping his days, his choices, and his future.
Newman headlines and is in most scenes of Nobody’s Fool, but Benton has given him an incredible supporting cast including Melanie Griffith, Bruce Willis, Jessica Tandy, Dylan Walsh, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, character actor Margo Martindale, and more. The entire film feels like spending time with friends and neighbors, for better and worse, and it’s ultimately just a light joy.
Nobody’s Fool comes to disc as a worldwide Blu-ray debut from Imprint Films with a fine-looking transfer and the following extras.
- *NEW* Commentary by film historian Jim Hemphill
- *NEW* Nobody’s Fool [16:02] “He always wanted to talk about Robert Redford.” – Actor Catherine Dent talks about the impact of this being her first feature, how Paul Newman was the worst joke teller, how director Robert Benton believed half of his job was in the casting, and more.
- *NEW* The Origins of Nobody’s Fool [22:38] “This was an exercise.” – Writer Richard Russo talks about his novel as an opportunity to bring his father back to life, how the story continued in his own sequel with Paul Newman being as much of an influence as his own father, and more.
- *NEW* Somebody’s Spool [22:58] – Editor John Bloom explains how he got the job through producer Scott Rudin, about its filming in a small town in upstate New York, and more.
The Music of Chance (1993)
It’s not unusual to come across a film from a few decades past that you’ve never heard of. It’s a bit more rare, though, when that movie stars some big names. The Music of Chance is one of those rarities. Jim (Mandy Patinkin) has money to burn, and he finds the match in a stranger named Jack (James Spader). Jack is a gambler, one who needs cash for a sure thing poker game, and soon the pair are heading to a remote estate that’s home to Bill (Charles Durning) and Willy (Joel Grey). And this game is anything but a sure thing.
The setup of Philip Haas’s underseen feature, based on a novel by Paul Auster, is one that could go in any number of directions. From broad comedy to drama about addiction to a horror/thriller in the vein of Ready or Not. The actual film is both all of those things… and none of those things? There are some funny beats here alongside moments revealing Jack’s inability to walk away from a growing loss. That mixed tone remains throughout the film even as things seem to lean in more ominous directions.
The entire cast, which also includes the legendary M. Emmet Walsh, does good work. Spader delights with a squirrely turn and a character who finds empathy despite himself. It’s Patinkin’s show, though, and his journey through it all is one of joy, loss, pathos, and the simplicity of accepting life on terms outside your control. This is an odd film, but it’s a memorable one.
Imprint Films’ new disc is a worldwide Blu-ray debut, and it includes the following extras.
- *NEW* Commentary by critic A.S. Hamrah
- *NEW* Chance and Destiny [11:25] – A video essay by film scholar Adrian Martin and film critic Cristina Alvarez Lopez
- *NEW* A Character at a Tim [3:55] “My agent called and said they want you to be weird.” – Actor Joel Grey talks about the quick shoot, how everyone was playing it weird, how he knew he wanted to be an actor from his first job as a child, and more.
- *NEW* Defining the Character [5:35] “If people saw my work and said I’m an asshole, they saw the character I was playing.” – Actor M. Emmet Walsh is still alive and shares memories of screwing around at college, learned acting in New York City, playing the president of Princeton and then getting a letter from them asking him to never do it again, and more.
- *NEW* Music for Misguided Tasks [14:35] “Like any film, there’s so many crazy things that happen.” – Composer Phillip Johnston talks about his atypical approach to the score, his working relationship with director Philip Haas, and more.
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995)
The 90s saw a wave of crime movies riffing on the success of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, but while Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead is often lumped in with them the films were actually in production at the same time. The comparison stands, though, in regard to the topics at hand, but it can’t compete quality wise. Dialogue meant to sound cool and part of its world-building instead grow tiring and repetitive through over use. Boat drinks? Boat drinks. Boat drinks!
Jimmy “The Saint” (Andy Garcia) is a legitimate businessman these days, but once upon a time he was a member of Denver’s organized crime syndicate. His past returns (in the form of a sickly and sleazy Christopher Walken) and tasks him with a job, but when the crew he assembles screws up royally they’re all marked for death. At the hands of Steve Buscemi.
There’s no arguing with the cast which also includes Christopher Lloyd, Treat Williams, Bill Nunn, William Forsythe, Jack Warden, Fairuza Balk, Glenn Plummer, and Gabrielle Anwar. The issue is a script that sets them up with the absolute dumbest clusterfuck, one that anyone will see coming a mile away, and then lets them get picked off with the same general idiocy. Williams’ final scene is the exception there for some very quotable reasons, but it’s not enough to make up for the missteps. Still, the cast and the attempt at creating this world earn it enough enjoyment for one watch at least.
Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead hasn’t gotten a U.S. disc release yet although it has landed elsewhere. Imprint Films’ new disc is the best thanks in part to its numerous extras.
- *NEW* Things to Write in Denver When You’re Dead [16:00] “The movie’s ultimately a metaphor for having a terminal disease.” – Writer Scott Rosenberg recalls the early days of his career, his loyalty to Gary Fleder, how actors kept the script the talk of Hollywood, and more.
- *NEW* Things to Direct in Denver When You’re Dead [17:42] “Something crazy happened, we had the opportunity to make it at Miramax.” – Director Gary Fleder talks about the luck and timing involved in getting the film made, how Tony Scott wanted to direct it, the realization that they would be in the shadow of Pulp Fiction, and more.
- *NEW* Things to Perform in Denver When You’re Dead [19:21] “Working with Chris Walken was the highlight of my acting career.” – Andy Garcia says he wanted to do the film as soon as he read the script, how he still calls Scott Rosenberg “Word Man” when he sees him, how the film shifts between tones, and more.
- *NEW* Things to Design in Denver When You’re Dead [23:21] “If you look out the window, the gun comes to his head over and over again.” – Production designer Nelson Coates talks about heading into production after the Los Angeles earthquake, finding locations in Denver’s rundown neighborhoods, and more.
The apocryphal “oldest profession” has been at the heart of numerous films over the years from the sadistic (Angel) to the sweet (Pretty Woman), but a crassly explicit, fourth wall-breaking comedy? Ken Russell fills that gap with this provocatively titled attention grabber, one that was nailed by the MPAA with an NC-17 and generated lots of press — but that was ultimately seen by very few people.
Theresa Russell, no relation, stars as Liz, a prostitute who’s been around the block more than a few times, and as she tells the viewer via direct looks to the camera, it’s rarely a pretty ride. We follow her as she does tricks, evades a violent pimp, and goes off on the world. The variety of johns and time spent with friends are minor plusses, but Liz knows the dark side of it carries a heavier weight.
While the pieces of Russell’s film seem engaging and interesting, the execution leaves a lot to be desired. The film feels like a comedy, from its dialogue and performances to the fourth wall shtick, but attempts at more dramatic beats fall flat as the wobbly tone can’t commit. Worse, the explicitly comedic bits aren’t really all that funny. Theresa Russell seems a bit lost with it all too turning in a performance that seems equally unsure of the content, but her new interview on the disc is amazing.
Imprint Films’ disc is a worldwide Blu-ray debut and includes the following extras.
- *NEW* Commentary by film critics Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Josh Nelson
- *NEW* Artist [13:14] “That whole Hollywood ingenue scene was just not my deal.” – Actor Theresa Russell talks about choosing challenging films even though they don’t pay the bills, getting into acting after being discovered at a mall, and how you sometimes get so into the character that you start dreaming their dreams. This is a great and very honest interview.
- *NEW* Dignity [8:04] “We’re shooting in downtown L.A., it’s the middle of the night, everybody’s tired, and Ken is shitfaced.” – Actor Ginger Lynn Allen offers up her definition of “whore,” talks about studying at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, her desire to break into the mainstream, and more.
- *NEW* Raw [12:09] “I don’t think anyone else can do a film like he does.” – Writer Deborah Dalton talks about starting her career as an actor, deciding she wanted more control over characters which led to writing, how she Americanized Ken Russell’s first draft of the script, and more.
- *NEW* Provocateur [12:13] “I love films about prostitutes.” – X-rated auteur Bruce La Bruce explores the label of provocateur, his mixed feelings on Whore, the geography of Los Angeles prostitutes, and more.
- *NEW* Legitimate and Illegitimate Women in Ken Russell’s Whore [28:41] – A video essay by critic Kat Ellinger
Visit the official Imprint Films page for these titles and more.
Related Topics: Home Video, Imprint