A slow week for new releases was reinvigorated with a quartet of older flicks, with most sporting deluxe extras.
“Doctor Who: The Web of Fear” — This classic Who adventure, featuring second doctor, Patrick Troughton, was saved when an intern in Australia found the reels in a pile marked for refuse. The adventure finds the second incarnation of the character having his first interaction with U.N.I.T. , a group that was more involved in the plot lines of the next doctor. The plot centers on a robotic Yeti that is out to drain the Doc’s brain. Fun stuff.
“The Pawnbroker” — Sidney Lumet’s classic 1964 flick showcases the acting talents of Rod Steiger. Here, he is cast as a concentration camp survivor running a pawn business and battling demons. Now we have a name for what he suffers from — post-traumatic stress disorder — but this film does a fine job of showing how someone tries to go through the motions of being alive after a tragic event. It also sports some excellent handheld camera work before it was a popular independent film staple.
“Riot in Cell Block 11” — This film comes to you courtesy of the “Criterion Collection,” so there are a ton of extras. The film itself is a gritty prison drama that was directed by Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”). It is a fearless depiction of life in a jail and benefits from location shooting at Folsom Prison. Siegel also uses real guards and prisoners as extras, which enhances the ambience. It comes across as a little melodramatic but is the first authentic depiction of prison life in American cinema.
“Sorceror” — Back in the 1970s, William Friedkin was riding the wave of success after directing “The French Connection” and “The Exorcist.” He was given carte blanche to make film and decided to film this remake of a French film noir about four losers having to take a job driving unstable boxes of nitroglycerin over harsh terrain. Audiences stayed away and what a shame, as Friedkin is at the top of his form here. This is beautifully filmed and the international actors are up to the job. The film also benefits from a solid leading performance by Roy Scheider. A great film that will be appreciated in time, one hopes.