First Run Features will release TVTV: Video Revolutionaries (DVD: $24.99) on November 20. Featuring Bill Murray, John Belushi, Lily Tomlin, Hunter Thompson, Steven Spielberg, Bob Dylan, Goldie Hawn, and others, TVTV: Video Revolutionaries provides an insider’s look at Top Value Television, a collective of video makers who in the early 1970s took the brand-new portable video camera and went out to document the world. In those days, the three TV networks used giant studio cameras, and people weren’t used to having a Portapak stuck in their face. Since there were no rules about how to use it, the new video journalists made format-bending satirical shows about whatever struck their fancy—from the ‘72 Republican convention to an expose of a 15-year-old new-age guru to crashing the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl party. Directed by TVTV alum Paul Goldsmith, the film is like opening a treasure chest into the ’70s, filled with cultural and political events captured by now-iconic personalities who were then just beginning their climb to stardom.
Armageddon has never been so darkly funny as in The Atomic Café (DVD: $24.95, Blu-ray: $29.95), slated for release on December 4 from Kino Classics. Co-directed by Kevin Rafferty and Jayne Loader, the 1982 cult classic juxtaposes Cold War history, propaganda, music, and culture, seamlessly crafted from government-produced educational and training films, newsreels, and advertisements. Taken together, these sources cheerily instruct the public on how to live in the Atomic Age, how to survive a nuclear attack, and how to fight and win a nuclear war. Returning to home video in a sparkling 4K digital restoration created by IndieCollect, The Atomic Cafe is an absurdist blast from the past that would be downright laughable if it weren’t so eerily relevant to our saber-rattling present. Bonus features include selected government propaganda films, a Filmwax radio interview with the filmmakers, and audio excerpts from Loader’s CD-ROM “Public Shelter.”
Magnolia Home Entertainment is releasing the documentary Love, Gilda (DVD: $26.98) on January 1. In her own words, comedienne Gilda Radner (1946-89) reflects on her life and career in director Lisa D’Apolito’s documentary, which incorporates Radner’s recently discovered audiotapes and rare home movies. Radner was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, where she created and portrayed now-classic comic characters such as Roseanne Roseannadanna, Emily Litella, and Lisa Loopner. She quickly rose to meteoric fame in television, movies, and on Broadway. Working with the Radner Estate, D’Apolito unearthed a collection of diaries and personal audio and videotapes documenting her childhood, comedy career, life with husband Gene Wilder, and struggle with cancer. Also including interviews with Chevy Chase, Laraine Newman, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short, SNL creator-producer Lorne Michaels, Broadway composer Stephen Schwartz, and others, the film features diaries read by modern-day comedians who were inspired by Gilda, including Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph.
First Run Features will release Quiet Heroes (DVD: $24.95) on December 11. In Salt Lake City, the religious monoculture severely complicated the AIDS crisis, where patients received no support from—or were cast into exile by—the political, religious, and medical communities. Further, Mormon culture encouraged gay men to marry women and have a family to cure themselves of their “affliction,” counsel that led to secret affairs and accidental marital transmissions of HIV. In the entire state and intermountain region, there was only one doctor to serve all HIV/AIDS patients. Filmmakers Jenny Mackenzie, Jared Ruga, and Amanda Stoddard’s documentary tells the story of Dr. Kristen Ries and her fight to save the lives of a maligned population who others seemed willing to just let die.
PBS Distribution has announced the upcoming release of American Experience: The Circus (DVD: 2 discs, $29.99), slated for November 6. Drawing upon a vast and richly visual archive, and featuring a host of performers, historians, and aficionados, The Circus brings to life an era when Circus Day would shut down a town, its stars were among the most famous people in the country, and multitudes gathered to see the improbable and the impossible, the exotic and the spectacular. The two-part documentary begins with the history of the first one-ring show at the end of the 18th century in Philadelphia, when the circus met the disapproval of the religious. Eventually, circuses began to add elaborate menageries of exotic animals including lions, hippos and elephants, and “human oddities” from across the globe, and huckster P. T. Barnum transformed the trade in 1871, creating the largest touring show in existence. The second half chronicles events including James Bailey taking his circus to Europe on a five-year tour, the merging of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, and stories of performers such as the famed aerialist Lillian Leitzel, the horseback-riding (and somersaulting) May Worth, and big cat trainer Mabel Stark.
Newly re-priced for the home video market, God Knows Where I Am (DVD: $24.95) is slated for release on October 23 from Juno Films. Reviewed in VL-5/17, Todd and Jedd Wider’s haunting documentary recounts the life and strange, sad death of Linda Bishop, beginning with the discovery of a woman’s decomposing body in a supposedly abandoned farmhouse in New Hampshire. The authorities finally identified her as the mentally-ill Bishop, who—according to a diary she scrawled while squatting in the unheated house—had been living there for four months, hiding from outsiders and surviving on apples (scrounged from local trees) and rainwater until she died of cold and starvation. Poignant excerpts from the diary are read by Lori Singer as the filmmakers—using footage shot inside the house, combined with interviews of its previous owners, as well as local police—reconstruct Bishop’s last weeks. Poignant, beautiful, spiritual, and deeply disturbing, the film is both a study of systemic failure and also a testament to artistic and independent spirit.
BearManor Media is proud to announce the release of The Weirdest Movie Ever Made: The Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot Film, a new book by Video Librarian reviewer Phil Hall. Available now for $24.95 for the hardcover edition and $14.95 for the softcover, the book explores the convoluted history following Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin’s October 1967 trip in which they emerged from a forest in Northern California with 59 seconds of grainy, shaky, silent 16mm film that offered documentary evidence of the existence of the Sasquatch, a creature of Native American folklore. Although neither Patterson nor Gimlin had any previous experience in filmmaking or zoology, they presented their remarkable footage as the first motion picture evidence to confirm the existence of the elusive Sasquatch, although the debate over the authenticity of the Patterson-Gimlin film continues to percolate.
The Criterion Collection’s January slate kicks off January 8 with Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami’s 2017 final film, the contemplative 24 Frames (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), which sets out to reconstruct the moments immediately before and after a photograph is taken. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant enact an anguished romance in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 classic spy thriller Notorious (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), arriving January 15 in a stunning new 4K restoration, which follows an alluring woman of ill repute recruited by a mysterious intelligence agent who must seduce a Nazi industrialist (Claude Rains) hiding out in South America. On January 22, Elaine May will join the Criterion Collection with 1976’s Mikey and Nicky (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), starring John Cassavetes and Peter Falk as small-time gangsters in a barbed study of friendship and betrayal that includes supporting players Ned Beatty and Joyce Van Patten. Also coming January 22 is the Blu-ray debut of Cristian Mungiu’s riveting Palme d’Or-winning 2007 Romanian breakout film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), set during the prohibitive dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu and centering on college roommates (Anamaria Marinca and Laura Vasiliu) who seek an illegal abortion. And on January 29 look for director Norman Jewison’s 1967 courageous Oscar-winning Civil Rights-era drama In the Heat of the Night (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), presented in a new 4K restoration, which follows a traveling Philadelphia detective (Sidney Poitier) who becomes embroiled in a murder case and forms an uneasy alliance with the bigoted police chief (Rod Steiger) of a backwoods Mississippi town.
Public Media Distribution and the Smithsonian Channel have announced the upcoming release of The Obama Years: The Power of Words (DVD: $24.99), slated for October 30. Over eight years, President Obama delivered more than 3,500 speeches and statements that ranged from redefining patriotism, candidly addressing race relations, inspiring hope and healing, and turning divisive moments into an opportunity for national unification. But which are the moments that history will remember? Narrated by actor Jesse Williams, The Power of Words tells the story of Barack Obama, “writer in chief,” taking viewers inside the defining moments of his political career through the prism of six of his most memorable speeches. The program also features insights from eminent historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Douglas Brinkley, senior advisor Valerie Jarrett, Chief Strategist David Axelrod, Rep. John Lewis, Obama speechwriters Jon Favreau and Cody Keenan, Reagan speechwriter Clark Judge, and Smithsonian curator Harry Rubenstein of the National Museum of American History.
Acclaimed director James D. Stern provides an eye-opening look at Trump voters in American Chaos (DVD: $25.99), releasing October 23 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. In his latest documentary, Stern chronicles the cultural divide of the 2016 presidential election, traveling through America’s red states to interview and spend time with Donald Trump supporters from different backgrounds in an attempt to find answers and insights to explain the appeal of the billionaire candidate. Bonus features include audio commentary by Stern and cinematographer Kevin Ford, and a “Further Pandemonium” compilation of deleted and extended scenes.