Retail dvd (mgm home entertainment, widescreen)

Ronin: Special Edition

John Frankenheimer's ruthlessly constructed, hugely entertaining actioner is essentially three stand-out car chases (Paris by night, Nice, and Paris by day) surrounded by a heist movie, a silver McGuffin suitcase, a sassy Provo pin-up (Natascha McElhone), an ex-CIA hitman (De Niro), the Russian Mafia, Sinn Fein and the Northern Ireland Peace Process. Naturally.

52 Pick-Up

When blackmailers try extorting businessman Roy Scheider over his fling with a stripper, he thwarts them by telling his wife—so they film the girl being murdered and threaten to frame him. At which point, it gets personal. Although co-scripted by the author, John Frankenheimer's flat 1986 movie is just another unsatisfactory Elmore Leonard adaptation. The dialogue occasionally crackles, but the casting is off and the pace drags enough to let you count the implausibilities.

Blank Degeneration

IN 1981, IN MILPITAS, California, a 16-year-old boy raped and murdered his girlfriend. Over the next few days, he took friends on trips to see her corpse, left lying by the riverbank.

To Live And Die In La

Ridiculously entertaining car chase and all, William Friedkin's brutal, dumb 1985 crime flick resembles his French Connection resprayed for the West Coast. The movie benefits from LA shimmer and deployment of under-used actors: Willem Dafoe plays a ruthless, faintly perverse counterfeiter and William Petersen is the lawman in tight jeans crossing the line in pursuit of him. Listen for the Wang Chung soundtrack! Maybe not.

Billion Dollar Brain

Ken Russell's 1967 movie was the last in the original Harry Palmer trilogy, and it's lunatic great. Retired from MI5 and living on cornflakes as a flea-bitten private eye, Michael Caine's downbeat, kitchen-sink Bond has to deliver some eggs, and deal with a militaristic right-wing Texan oil baron who's planning to destroy Soviet Russia with his computer (the titular brain). Caine is quite brilliantly morose.

Women In Love

The simmering sexuality. The blood lust. The savaging of bourgeois restraint. The horse flagellation. Ken Russell and DH Lawrence were made for each other. The nude wrestling scene is the one that everyone remembers, but the satire bites best in the form of Hermione, Eleanor Bron's caricature of avant-garde pretence. Made in 1969, this is probably the last time Russell showed restraint before he hurtled into kitsch overkill.


With grim, grubby retro-future styling, Michael Radford's movie, originally released in the eponymous year, is the best adaptation of George Orwell's feel-bad totalitarian parable. As reluctant rebel Winston Smith, John Hurt is perfect—looks like he's spent his life in misery. The revelation is Richard Burton, weighed down with strange love, melancholy and menace in his final role as O'Brien, the investigator who takes Hurt under his wing to crush him.

Thrill Kill Cult

Cool crime thriller starring a homicide detective with dentures


In 1980, one year before Anthony Burgess composed a whole new language for Quest For Fire, the producers of this dumbass Neanderthal comedy achieved much the same effect by just having actors go "oog". Insanely, Ringo Starr plays a horny caveman who forms his own tribe of losers (a young Dennis Quaid among them) and gets into scrapes. A must-have for Beatles completists; for everyone else, the animated dinosaurs are sweet. (DL) DVD EXTRAS: None.

The Missouri Breaks

Arthur Penn's smouldering anti-western tells the story of Nicholson's Montana horse-rustlers and the pursuit of them by Brando's regulator Lee Clayton. The action is rationed into short, ferocious bursts and used as a counterpoint to the director's paced dissection of power and politics on the anarchic frontier. Brando's whispering Irish accent flirts with parody, but ultimately helps to lend Clayton a compelling air of psychotic menace.

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