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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Drama > Military > Counterculture > Marriage > Musical > Wealth > Epic > Satire > Folk Music > Mockum > The Last Detail (1973/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Madam Satan (1930/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/A Mighty Wind (2003/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Miss You Already (2015/Lionsgate Blu-ra

The Last Detail (1973/Columbia/Sony/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Madam Satan (1930/MGM/Warner Archive DVD)/A Mighty Wind (2003/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/Miss You Already (2015/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Togetherness: The Complete First Season (2015/HBO Blu-ray set)/A Violent Life (1970/One 7 DVD)

Picture: B/C/B-/B/B/C+ Sound: C+/C/B-/B/B/C Extras: C+/D/C/C/C/D Main Programs: B/C+/C/C/C/C+

PLEASE NOTE: The Last Detail Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last, while the Madam Satan DVD and A Mighty Wind Blu-ray are now only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series. All can be ordered from the links below.

Here is a mixed group of new comedy releases that can sometimes be wild, but not always are ones that work...

Hal Ashby's The Last Detail (1973) was only the director's third film, but he was on a roll and though this was not the hit it should have been (Columbia had a right to think Jack Nicholson in a M*A*S*H-like military comedy could hit), but Ashby was proving to be one of the great, important directors of the time and a pattern started to develop. His films are Great American Road Trip films... with a catch. From The Landlord (a trip to the ghetto) to Harold & Maude (young and very old with little time to take their trip), this film (a fun week with the trip ending at a military prison), Shampoo (the counterculture trip that empties you), Bound For Glory (going across America... on the cheap in The Great Depression as people are suffering, being beaten, dying and worse; reviewed on Twilight Time Blu-ray elsewhere on this site), Coming Home (home is 'gone' thanks to Vietnam, so it is an empty/bad trip all around) and Being There (Peter Sellers can only take happy trip's through the safety of television) speaks to so much of the time, the rise and fall of the counterculture and is an often brilliant record like no other of living, especially then and still now.

Jack Nicholson and Otis Young are two Navy men who are charged with delivering a prisoner (Randy Quaid in one of his best roles) to jail for crossing the line with the wife of the big honcho where they are stationed. According to their mentor (a nice brief turn by Clifton James), they have a week to take the man for his lock-up, but instead of a simple trip, they decide to show the naïve kid a good time with drinking, women and wild behavior. It is amusing how the relationship quickly grows between the three, what they get themselves into, the choices they make and their reflections on life then and now.

They get caught up with a chanting group, hookers, rednecks and more as the film (and its raw, no holds barred dialogue) show the trip as a real experience. Nicholson gets to reference another Marvel Comics character (connecting intertextually to the Captain America motorcycle in Easy Rider as it is early Cap ally The Human Torch who is discussed) and has another fight with food and drink service scene that mirrors the classic anti-conformity restaurant scene in Five Easy Pieces (both reviewed on Criterion Blu-ray elsewhere on this site). This might to be for everyone, but Nicholson is in rare,effective form here even more than usual, you buy Quaid as 'just a kid' and early appearances by Gilda Radner, Carol Kane, Nancy Allen and Michael Moriarty make this a film that only gets better with age.

It is also often authentically funny, watching so many adults trying to find more meaning in their lives when they all know deep down they are somehow stuck and keep getting reminded of that from various incidences and their deep cynicism, even when they turn to spirituality, the counterculture, sex and/or the stability of military life to make things less dead end. Thus, it has been issued as a Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray, but worth going out of your way for. A real gem.

Cecil B. DeMille was long established for making big silent epics that were big hits when sound came in, so with his clout, he tried to do something big and different when he made Madam Satan (1930) for MGM. A comedy, drama, musical on a big scale, made before the Hollywood Production Code arrived, Kay Johnson is a married woman who finds her husband (Reginald Denny) is having an affair with a hot brunette (Lilian Roth), but instead of going for a divorce (whether that was acceptable or not), she decide to go get her man at a costume party being held by more of her rich friends (we see them having a party on a yacht in the opening) in a brand new giant blimp!... That will be partly airborne, connected only to a tower!

The money is up on the screen in big production pieces, the musical numbers sometimes come out of nowhere awkwardly because this is not a musical outright and some of the ideas of the future and grand production in general can range from amazing to hilariously over the top. Still, it is a wild work worth worth seeing once with Johnson's dismayed wife becoming the title character, who looks like a forerunner of a few version of Batman villainess Catwoman we've seen in the last 70 years. No, this is not a great film, but manages to never be boring in its 115 minutes and some of this is truly funny and entertaining, even if that is sometimes unintentionally. See it once!

Christopher Guest's A Mighty Wind (2003) wants to do for the Folk Music movement of the late 1950s/early 1960s that This Is Spinal Tap did for Rock Music, but there is only so much to get out of this subject, especially since any political satire or ironic distance on the motivations for this music succeeding to begin with in its time (Rock's temporary decline with Elvis drafted, Little Richard finding Jesus, Jerry Lee Lewis finding jail and The Big Bopper, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly dying in that horrid plane accident) are never even considered. Again in faux documentary mode, there is a reunion of all the old acts and most of the original artists are still alive for the event.

Through interviews, 'vintage performance clips' and flashbacks, we see the history of the world these people created and once inhabited. Needless to say they go all out on this one and the cast including Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, John Michael Higgins, Jane Lynch, Catherine O'Hara, Michael McKean, Parker Posey, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer and a way-too-brief Mary Gross play it straight and well all the way. However, they cannot overcome the limits of the script, material or add any new energy to things in its thankfully 92 minutes. Warner Archive has issued this on a web-exclusive Blu-ray and considering it was not a big hit, that makes sense.

Catherine Hardwicke's Miss You Already (2015) would fall under a disease of the week film category (created during the 1970s when TV movies hit their early stride and one too many of those melodramas with sick people dying before your eyes got produced), with Toni Colette befriending 'yank' Drew Barrymore early in life as children. Now, Toni's character finds out she is very sick and Drew's is very pregnant. Of course, we get the pregnant part at the beginning then this unwinds in sometimes awkward flashback with Dominic Cooper and Paddy Considine well cast as 'the guys' except that he script is very weak and formulaic, even when it has its Brit moments.

Hardwicke can direct, but she is not at her best when she plays it too safe as she does here. This may have been intended as a commercial project to boost the careers of all, but it backfires and is a bit long at 113 minutes.

The Duplass Brothers get into television for the worse with Togetherness: The Complete First Season (2015) made for HBO and helping to bring the network into a strange lull that we hope they soon break out from. The comedy is supposed to be about dark sexual humor, dysfunctional families and only gets worse when one couple (Melanie Lynskey and Mark Duplass) allow two friends (Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis) move in with them. What we get is uninteresting, boring and even obnoxious character after uninteresting, boring and even obnoxious character who only increase exponentially their repellent nature when they get together.

Somehow picked up for another season, this bore-fest (rhymes with gore-fest) runs eight very long episodes that went back and forth between being annoying, almost putting me to sleep and wanting me to reinvent the TV brick for the Ultra High Definition era. Sadly, I like Peet at least, but even she cannot save this ill-advised trainwreck. Breaking up is hard to do, but they should do it immediately because this is really bad.

Franco Citti's A Violent Life (1970) is the second film in only a few who ears of a story by the legendary Pier Paolo Pasolini that was shot in black and white in the early 1960s. This one is in color and has the surreal story of a group of men who bring home a woman they find on a beach who may or may not be dead. At least one of them sees her as alive when none of them can see her at first at all despite her being right in front of them. When the 'visionary' of the group convinces them otherwise, they suddenly see her and bring her back to their place.

That is the home of two brothers (Franco Citti and Laurent Terzieff) who come from a broken, messed-up family and this latest event brings back the return of the repressed and other things that result in things only getting worse. Also qualifying as part of the crime cycle of Italian cinema of the time, I have no idea how this compares to the original Pasolini script or first film, but it is one of the better releases here, even if it can be uneven and does not always work. Pasolini fans will want to see it at least once and it is worth a look for all.

The Blu-ray discs perform all as well as about expected with the 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on the two older feature films Last and Wind, both shot on 35mm film, are better than they would be on DVD, but Last is a newer HD master really capturing the look, feel, composition and smart approach by Ashby in collaboration with Director of Photography Michael Chapman (White Dawn, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Waltz, Scrooged, Rising Sun, Hardcore, The Lost Boys and (available on Twilight Time Blu-ray & reviewed elsewhere on this site) The Front) in his debut work. Wow, what a way to start! It is consistently deceptive how strong, good and involving the work is here throughout, putting you with the characters, their situations and where they are, where they go, with a palpability like few other cameramen could pull off. This always had a unique look, but on this Blu-ray, you can see what he & Ashby were also doing visually to enhance the narrative. Serious film fans need to see this transfer.

Wind has flaws beyond the intended ones of old faux film and video footage, sometimes looking a little detail and even color-challenged when it should not, but some of the fakeness is of course, intended.

That leaves the 1080p 2.35 X 1 HD-shot digital High Definition image transfer on Already being consistent if nothing special, but a few shots rise above the usual. I cannot say the same for the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer can on episodes of Togetherness, which is as together as a flat, dull, unexciting and competent-at-best production can be, but its flatness makes the already unfunny show even more boring.

The 1.33 X 1 black & white image on Satan is obviously a generation down, but even for a film this old in this condition, you can see a certain look and money on the screen coming through the softness and the damage and dirt on the print here and there.

That leaves the anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on Violent, originally shot in Techniscope and issued in 35mm dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints. You can see the grain from the smaller negative, but the color that you would have seen on such a print does come through often throughout, making this part of the disc a pleasant surprise.

All Blu-rays offer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes, save the DTS-MA 1.0 Mono on Last that shows its age and that Ashby was not always concerned with the top audio fidelity of the time, but this is as good as the film will ever likely sound (the isolated, lossless music track is 2.0 DTS-MA simple stereo that plays a bit better) and jeeping it just above the somewhat weak, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on both DVDs that can be thin, have flaws and be a bit inconsistent. Be careful of high playback volumes and volume switching on those three theatrical mono titles and you should be just fine.

The newer DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mixes on Already and Togetherness are the best playback releases here but that tends to be by default because there is nothing special about either, nothing impressive beyond a consistent soundfield and in fairness to both, they are both dialogue and joke-based, so on can only expect so much even if I wanted a bit more. The same mix on the similar Wind also has music of course, but the soundfield is inconsistent and I believe it is more the soundmaster than any generation of the sound, though some of the sound is supposed to sound old in the flashbacks and the age of the 'original' music recordings from the 1960s in fairness to the sound designers. Still, a bit underwhelming just the same.

The DVDs have no extras unfortunately, while Last has the most and best extras with yet another quality, illustrated booklet on the film including informative text and an another very cinematically literate essay by Julie Kirgo, something I have noticed lately is not being noted in listings of Twilight Time Blu-ray releases and especially reviews of their remarkable releases in certain corners. That's outrageous, unprofessional and unacceptable.

Last also adds the aforementioned Isolated Music Score and an Original Theatrical Trailer, Wind has a feature length audio commentary track by Guest & Eugene Levy, trailer, full-length footage of vintage faux TV appearances and about a half-hour of additional scenes, Already also has a feature length audio commentary track, plus Digital Copy, 2 music videos for the film, On Set Selfies, Deleted Scenes with optional commentary and two Making Of featurettes, leaving Togetherness with Digital Copy, Inside The Episode pieces, Deleted Scenes and an Interview/Behind The Scenes featurette with Amanda Peet and Steve Zissis with the challenging title Amanda & Steve!

To order The Last Detail limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and more great exclusives while supplies last at these links:




...and to order either of the Warner Archive releases, the Madam Satan DVD and A Mighty Wind Blu-ray, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo


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