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US Blu-ray and DVD Releases: Once Upon A Time In The West, Orphan, The Gate, The Lair of the White Worm, Castle Keep, Bobby Deerfield and more

Once Upon A Time In The West

It’s a catalog-heavy week, with a long-awaited 4K title, a new collector’s edition of a horror hit, two gorgeous new steelbooks, and more. Read on to see the full slate of releases!

Once Upon a Time in the West (4K Ultra HD)

The Movie: Sergio Leone is best known for his “spaghetti westerns,” a genre of films that were Italian productions (produced on low budgets) and were most famously characterized by Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name Trilogy. Right after that trilogy launched Clint Eastwood’s career into overdrive, Leone returned with a brand-new western epic, Once Upon a Time in the West, a sprawling, complicated western that apparently wanted to fit a trilogy’s worth of material into a single film. While it was often truncated to a two-hour running time during it’s theatrical release, the film is actually a three-hour opus – for better or worse – and it’s that cut of the film which is included on this new 4K Ultra HD release from Paramount. Now, it would be impossible to boil down the multiple plotlines into a sentence or two. Suffice it to say, the film stars Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, and Jason Robards and focuses on three main characters whose stories start out somewhat independent of each other but are quickly intertwined. The various story elements involve a dusty town struggling to gain rights to the water that keeps the town alive, a revenge story, an assassin, railroad drama, and even a murder mystery of sorts. It’s a lot to take in, and while the three-hour running time is necessary to fit in all of these disparate elements, it also makes the film feel a little long. Much of the movie is gripping and interesting, but there are stretches where it drags a bit and you find yourself wishing for a gunfight or an explosion. Still, overall, it’s a pretty epic, sweeping film and I know it has a lot of fans, so this is a welcome addition to the 4K film library.

The 4K Audio/Video: There has been significant restoration work done by Paramount on the film, which is presented in its uncut, three-hour version here on the 4K Ultra HD disc. Some of it is impeccable, such as the natural and vibrant colors and overall fine levels of detail. But I’ve seen some comments about their being too much compression or grain reduction on the disc and once you hear that, it’s hard not to see it. It’s subtle moments here and there, but there is something a little bit off from time to time. That said, by and large, the picture quality is excellent. The surround soundtrack is nicely nuanced, allowing the passing of a tumbleweed to feel as real as a gunshot. There is also the film’s original 2.0 mono soundtrack, a nice addition for the film purists out there. Overall, its a pretty strong A/V package with a few minor quibbles.

The Special Features: There are two audio commentaries included: one with the guys from the Spaghetti Westerns podcast, and one that features some notable guest stars. That second track features by Sir Christopher Frayling and Dr. Sheldon Hall (along with guests John Carpenter, John Milius, Alex Cox, Claudia Cardinale, and Bernardo Bertolucci), and it’s all hosted by Lancelot Narayan. You also get three making-of features that are all in the 20-30 minute range, plus three shorter featurettes that run 4-6 minutes each. Finally you get a production gallery and the film’s trailer, as well as a digital copy.

The Wrap-UpOnce Upon a Time in the West isn’t a favorite of mine or anything – and admittedly I’m not the biggest fan of the Western genre in the world – but it’s a solid film that is fascinating as an exercise in filmmaking from a particular era. This is the best presentation of the film on home video yet, so if you’re a fan, you’ll want to track it down.

Orphan: Collector’s Edition 

The Movie: I find the timing of Scream Factory’s new Collector’s Edition of Orphan a little odd, seeing as how there was a sequel (or more accurately, a prequel) to this original film in theaters in 2022. It seems like that would have been a great time to release the first film in a new special edition. That minor complaint aside, this new version of Orphan sees the movie return to Blu-ray with upgraded packaging and new extra features. This is a little bit of a hard film to talk about without giving away the major plot point that drives it, but basically, after losing a pregnancy, distraught mom Kate (Vera Farmiga) and dad John (Peter Sarsgaard) set out to adopt a third child, and on a visit to an orphanage they connect with a 9-year-old girl named Esther. Esther comes from Russia and wears old-fashioned clothing, but she quickly wins them over. And then, things start to happen, and it becomes clear that Esther isn’t all that she seems. To say more would be to spoil the plot, but I will say that I think this was my first actual viewing of the movie and I enjoyed it overall. It has some major horror movie tropes in it, but Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard are terrific (Farmiga does most of the heavy lifting) and the suspense builds and builds throughout the film in a way that will have you chewing your fingernails by the end. The film is a little predictable in some ways, but it also features some solid surprises, so while it’s not a horror classic, it is a fun viewing experience.

The Special Features:  There are no less than four audio commentaries, all featuring groups of film critics, which feels a little excessive, but why not? There’s a 15-minute making of featurette as well as a 17-minute interview feature with composer John Ottman. A short reel of deleted scenes, a production gallery, and the trailer are also included.

The Wrap-UpOrphan came out in 2009, which feels like a lifetime ago at this point, and then there was a follow-up film 13 years later in 2022. So it’s a bit of a weird franchise, but this first film especially is really strong and this new Collector’s Edition is a sharp improvement over the previously released Blu-ray from back in the day.

The Gate (Walmart Exclusive Blu-ray Steelbook)

The Movie: I was really tempted to start this review of the ‘80s horror cult classic The Gate with a “The scariest thing in this movie are the hairstyles! Yuk Yuk!” kind of joke, but I realized I would be completely lying. For a low-budget horror movie that was (maybe?) aimed at younger viewers, The Gate does have some surprisingly scary moments. It also has some cheesy moments, but watching it for the first time in, maybe, ever, I was impressed by how intense and creepy certain scenes are. Watching it now, some 30+ years after its release, it’s hard to tell who the film is aimed at; The Gate manages to pull off being scary enough to creep kids out but not so scary as to scar them for life. It’s right in that sweet spot in between; I’m sure many kids stayed up with the lights on after watching it, but I doubt it caused abject terror in any but the youngest of viewers. With a (very) young Stephen Dorff in the lead role, the film holds up really well, and while the fashions and hairstyles and special effects are definitely dated, the film works really well. This week, The Gate returns to Blu-ray repackaged in an awesome-looking Steelbook case that is exclusively available at Wal-Mart.

The Special Features: This jam-packed disc starts off with two audio commentaries, including one with the director and other crew members. Then there’s a nice half-hour retrospective making-of feature. Then there are an additional four interview featurettes with various filmmakers that run a little under an hour total. There’s another half-hour feature about the film’s creation focusing on its shoot in Canada, and then there’s an archival making-of feature and another shorter making of that run a little under 40 minutes combined. There’s an isolated score and an interview with the composer, and then you get trailers, TV spots, and the like.

The Wrap-Up: Ultimately, this is just a repackage of the last Blu-ray release from Lionsgate’s Vestron Video imprint. However, that release was a high-def affair loaded with extra features, only now you get it in a super-cool collectable Steelbook case. What’s not to love about that?

The Lair of the White Worm (Walmart Exclusive Blu-ray Steelbook)

The Movie: Also available this week as a Wal-Mart exclusive is a Blu-ray Steelbook release of another ‘80s horror cult classic, The Lair of the White Worm. For me, this movie is much more interesting for its cast than it is as a movie itself. It starts with Hugh Grant in a supporting/lead role, but then former Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, is actually the main character (despite his fourth billing and the fact that he’s almost unrecognizable because he’s so young). ‘80s model/actress Catherine Oxenberg is also prevalent in the cast, which isn’t a bad thing. As for the movie itself, it’s a weird hybrid of vampire/cult/dragon (err– kind of) film that mixes horror and black comedy. While it does feel terribly dated, there are enough gonzo moments to keep it interesting. It’s not a great film by any stretch, but it certainly is an interesting time capsule of the 1980s.

The Special Features: There are two audio commentaries, including one with director Ken Russell. Then there’s a half-hour featurette looking at the film’s special effects work, interview featurettes with actress Sammy Davis and the movie’s editor, a stills gallery, and the movie’s trailers.

The Wrap-Up: I find The Lair of the White Worm to be an odd little film that I can’t quite warm up to, but I also don’t dislike. It’s so bizarre and out there that it’s not really like anything else, and the familiar faces – all much younger – are fun to see. But it’s also, well, weird. And at times, it’s a little weirder than I would want it to be. Still, it clearly has its fans as the film gets a new home video release every few years or so. If you’re one of those fans, this terrific-looking Steelbook Blu-ray release will be worth adding to your collection.

A Place Further Than the Universe

The Movie: Sometimes, with anime films/TV shows, I struggle to figure out how to describe their plots in a sentence or two. Often, what I’ll do is just default to pasting the official synopsis of the project and let the studios do the heavy lifting for me. And then you get A Place Further Than the Universe. Here’s the show’s product description from the new Blu-ray box set out this week: “Scenery that we have never seen. Sounds that we have never heard. Scent that we have never smelled. Food that we have never tasted. And the surge of emotion that we have never experienced. This is the expedition of recollecting the pieces torn apart and sensation left alone. When we reach that place, what will we think? Howling, 40 degree angle. Raging, 50 degree angle. Shouting, 60 degree angle. A wilderness beyond the heavy sea. The furthest south, far from civilization. At the top of the Earth. We will find lights through the girls’ eyes to live tomorrow.” Umm… okaaaay. Seriously, what the heck does that even mean?? Well, it turns out the show, which ran for 13 episodes, is a slice-of-life show (as opposed to sci-fi or fantasy, the domain of so much anime) about four high school girls. Mari Tamaki is a shy and timid girl who becomes friends with Shirase, who is obsessed with Antarctica and talks about it constantly. Joined by Hinata and Yuzuki, the foursome eventually decide to try and make their way to Antarctica for real. Now, does that sound like a pulse-pounding thriller? No, of course not, because that’s not what it is. However, it is a surprisingly effective and endearing show about friendship, adventure, breaking out of your comfort zone, and more. Over the course of the 13 episodes, you begin to care about the characters, and the strong animation style keeps things visually interesting, even when nothing cinematically amazing is occurring. While it’s not an absolute masterpiece, A Place Further Than the Universe is definitely better than I expected it to be. This week, the entire series has been released as a deluxe Blu-ray box set that is exclusively available online. In North America, it can be purchased at, while in the UK it can be ordered from Anime Limited (

The Special Features: There’s not a ton of video extras, but there are some cool physical goodies in this box set. There is a featurette about the making of the English dub of the show, but then most everything else comes in the box, starting with a gorgeous 92-page full-color book. You also get a poster, and then the entire show’s soundtrack on two CDs, which is an awesome bonus. Pretty cool stuff!

The Wrap-Up: As someone who likes anime but is a casual fan at best, I never know what to expect when I dive into a new anime series. While this show might not be for everyone, I think the target demographic (which seems to be teenage girls, one of the biggest age groups devouring anime content these days) will absolutely love it. This incredible box set is a real treat in terms of both the show and the bonus content and physical goodies included. Check it out!

Noryang: Deadly Sea 

The MovieNoryang: Deadly Sea is the third film in a Korean period war trilogy that includes The Admiral: Roaring Currents and Rising Dragon: Battle of Hansan Island. Now, in general, I love Asian action cinema, but I will admit that one of my (self-induced) blind spots is the historical action epic that seems to take up so much real estate in Asian cinema. Often overlong and set in the ancient past, it’s probably my least favorite subgenre of the action realm. That said, Noryang: Deadly Seas is set in the late 16th century and it tells the tale of the real-life Japanese Invasions of Korea that took place in the Noryang Strait. (Side note: I’m not current on my Asian geopolitics, but in reading about the film, apparently some Korean audiences didn’t like the film because it portrays the Japanese sailors/soldiers as too sympathetic rather than purely as villains. Full transparency, this is just my impression based on a few of the reviews and comments I’ve read online; I can’t speak for anyone or everyone.) The previous entry in the trilogy fell prey to some of the same issues that I have with other action epics: it was too long, and it saved up a lot of its action for a massive climactic battle at the end. Even though Noryang comes in at two-and-a-half hours, the film does feel more well-rounded from a character and action perspective than the previous entry in the franchise. Overall, it’s a good movie and the action scenes are spectacular; this is a big-budget film and it shows

The Special Features: There is a short four-minute featurette about the main character, and the movie’s trailer.

The Wrap-Up: Even though this is the third film in a trilogy, each one takes place decades after the previous one, making them each feel like a complete experience in its own right. You can watch Noryang: Deadly Sea without having seen the previous two movies. If you’re in the mood for a big-budget naval battle movie, you’ll want to check this one out.

Sydney Pollack Director Spotlight: Castle Keep & Bobby Deerfield

The Movie: Mill Creek specializes in lower-cost fare, mostly made up of repackaging existing films in new collections or reissuing movies that are out of print at budget prices. And I love them for it! It’s great that Mill Creek keeps a lot of movies alive that otherwise would become harder and harder to find on physical media. What it means, though, is sometimes they only have access to certain films from a studio or actor or director’s offerings. Such is the case with the Sydney Pollack Director’s Spotlight double feature Blu-ray, which features two movies directed by the late, great Pollack, neither of which are among his signature movies. Castle Keep and Bobby Deerfield are not exactly household names like TootsieThe Firm, and Three Days of the Condor, now, are they? Castle Keep is from 1969 and stars Burt Lancaster, Peter Falk, and Bruce Dern. The film focuses on a squad of American soldiers near the end of World War II protecting a castle that features priceless artworks in it, but they may have different motives than the castle’s owner is hoping for. Meanwhile, Bobby Deerfield (1978) sees a very young Al Pacino playing a Formula One race car driver who gets shaken when a colleague is killed in a crash during a race, and who meets a woman who might change his life. The two films are very different from each other, and in a lesser director’s hands, they’d probably both be completely forgettable. However, both movies are surprisingly good. Neither are perfect, and they both have some of the pacing issues that I find in films from the ‘60s and ‘70s, but both are solidly entertaining.

The Special Features: There are no special features on this release.

The Wrap-Up: As with most Mill Creek releases, this one offers up a good amount of bang for your buck. You get two movies from a great director and featuring star-studded casts on Bu-ray for the price of one. It’s hard to argue with that!


The Movie: I can’t tell if the timing of the release of Alam on DVD is excellent or terrible. On the one hand, it deals with the Israel-Palestine conflict through the lens of high school students in a dramatic film. Some might see that is insensitive timing. On the other hand, it paints a picture of the conflict through the eyes of real people who are just trying to live their lives – until one of them gets drawn into political activism. It probably paints a more realistic portrayal of what things are like over there in normal times than all of the news coverage we’re seeing these days. In order to make sure I don’t describe anything inaccurately, I’m going to use the official description of the film to explain the plot: “Part of a young generation of Palestinian Arabs whose families chose to stay and challenge the Israeli state after Al-Nakba, 17-year-old Tamer and his friends are just like any other group of teenage boys. They clumsily search for drugs, flirt with girls, play video games, and slack off at school. However, when a beautiful new student named Maysaa’ joins their class Tamer immediately falls for her and, by association, is drawn into her political activism. Together they join in an operation to covertly raise the Palestinian flag and peacefully disrupt the local celebrations planned for Israel’s Independence Day – otherwise known to Palestinians as a day of mourning and memorialization for their displacement 70 years prior. Unsure of his own political convictions, Tamer must quickly determine what matters to him and what price he is willing to pay for freedom.” So you can see how that might raise some feelings in the current political climate. That said, the film was made in 2022, before the current political issues exploded into what is going on today (although there’s obviously been political issues in that region for years and years.) The acting is a bit raw in places and the film doesn’t try to break too much new ground in filmmaking terms, but it’s a solid drama that offers up some new perspectives on an old conflict.

The Special Features: There are no bonus features.

The Wrap-UpAlam is a foreign film about a hot-button topic. That might not be for everyone. But if you’re looking for a movie that takes on a challenging subject through a human lens, Alam will fit that bill.

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