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Under the Radar: The Blu-rays You Haven't Seen

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Aug 28, 2011 | 6:07am EDT

As we wrap up another month, and the summer as well, perhaps you’re noticing that with all the time you spent sitting in a theater to gawk at the latest blockbusters, you’ve been neglecting your DVD shelf. Sure, you could run out and buy whatever mainstream Hollywood films just hit stores, but variety is the spice of life…as well as the key to a more impressive DVD collection.

Here are a few gems that probably escaped your notice during that first pass down the aisle.

Blitz

Company: Millennium Entertainment

Format: DVD & Blu-ray

Despite getting his start in Guy Ritchie comedies, Jason Statham has established himself as a major action hero. Films like The Transporter, Death Race, The Expendables, and—most recently—The Mechanic have demonstrated Statham’s propensity for kicking serious ass.

In Blitz, he returns to London to take on a serial killer picking off police officers one by one. Blitz is far more compact in scale than something like The Expendables or Death Race, but packs just as much punch. The back and forth between Statham and Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz, Dead Man’s Shoes) alone is worth the price of admission.

Special Features Include: UK Theatrical Trailer, Cast & Crew Interviews, Behind the Scenes Featurette

The Clinic

Company: Image Entertainment

Format: DVD

If you’re an expecting mother, you’re probably constantly bombarded with concerns. I would therefore highly recommend that expecting mothers not watch The Clinic—lest she add “Having Baby Stolen Directly From Womb” to that list of concerns.

A young couple stops at a backwater motel for the night, and thus begins the most unsettling nightmare of their lives. The Clinic is a dark, viscerally horrifying film that relies more on nuance and building a relationship between the audience and its female protagonist than it does on cheap scares. You may recognize the male lead, Andy Whitfield, from the Encore original series Spartacus: Blood and Sand.

Special Features Include: None

High and Low

Company: Criterion

Format: Blu-ray

There is little argument that Akira Kurosawa is one of the greatest filmmakers who ever lived. What is particularly fascinating about his career is that he created two very distinctive categories for his cannon: samurai movies and film noir. He proved to be equally skilled at making gritty crime dramas as he was at creating sweeping samurai epics.

In High and Low, he tells the story of a kidnapping plot involving a shoe company executive and his servant. The film is suspenseful, gripping, and visually playful; Kurosawa choosing interesting angles and unceremonious movements for his detective characters in order to avoid being spotted by the kidnapper. Doubly interesting is the fact that Kurosawa is adapting an American crime novel here; the epitome of his love affair with American film noir.

Special Features Include: Commentary featuring Akira Kurosawa and scholar Steven Prince, Making of Documentary, 1984 Video Interview with Toshiro Mifune, Theatrical Trailers

Roger Corman’s Cult Classics Sword and Sorcery Collection

Company: Shout! Factory

Format: DVD

If you dug the remake of Conan the Barbarian and were interested in its roots, of course the two Schwarzenegger Conan movies would be the place to start. But if you wish to gain a better understanding of the sword and sorcery craze that swept the '80s, this is the box set for you.

Roger Corman was a producer who always had his finger on the pulse of what was popular and knew the best ways to exploit varying trends. The highlights of Shout! Factory’s latest Corman four-pack are the hilariously inept Deathstalker and The Warrior and the Sorceress starring the late, great David Carradine. Run through all four films in a single sitting and you may find yourself wearing a loincloth by the end of the day.

Special Features Include: Audio Commentaries, Trailers, Deathstalker II director’s cut, and Photo Galleries

A Horrible Way to Die

Company: Anchor Bay

Format: DVD & Blu-ray

Release Date: September 6th

One of my favorite films of 2010, A Horrible Way to Die is a testament to the power of independent horror films. Sarah just got out of a bad relationship—I mean REALLY bad. Her ex turned out to be a mass murderer and it fell upon her to lead the police to him. Now he’s escaped from prison and is making his way back to her, leaving a trail of bodies in his path.

The ever-escalating suspense, the intriguing story, and the knockout performances by Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen elevate the bare-bones production to something truly remarkable. The ending of the film is absolutely chilling.

Special Features Include: Audio Commentary featuring Director/Editor Adam Wingard and Writer/Producer Simon Barrett and a Behind-The-Scenes Featurette

The Exterminator

Company: Synapse Films

Format: Blu-ray

Release Date: September 13th

Synapse is a company that specializes in almost completely forgotten films. This time around, they bring us the nasty little revenge film, The Exterminator, from 1980. It is entirely unnecessary to go into detail on the plot of this film, partially because it is a paint-by-numbers revenge film and partially because the movie doesn’t trouble itself with trifling things like exposition and character development.

In its place, they have loaded this thing to the gills with wanton violence and destruction. The violence reaches slasher movie levels by the time the titular vigilante is finished. I’m not knocking the film by any means, but it’s definitely for hardcore exploitation fans only. Synapse has done a phenomenal job cleaning up the picture quality and making The Exterminator look better than it ever has before.

Special Features: Original Director’s Cut, Audio Commentary with Director James Glickenhaus, High-Def Theatrical Trailer and TV Spots

Be sure to check out our weekly column New in Blu for all the latest DVD and Blu-ray releases!

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