Here’s a look at a few award-winning performances within a pair of new home entertainment disc movie releases.
Marathon Man (Kino Lorber, rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 125 minutes, $39.95) — Director John Schlesinger’s simmering, Nazi-infested thriller from 1976 debuts on the ultra-high definition disc packed with star power and some new and very classic extras.
In a story adapted by William Goldman from his popular novel, devoted jogger and Columbia University graduate student Thomas “Babe” Levy (Dustin Hoffman) finds himself in the middle of an ever-incomprehensible conspiracy.
It not only involves his mysterious government agent brother (Roy Scheider), but a Third Reich war criminal (Laurence Olivier) fascinated by teeth and looking to collect his stolen diamond collection (amassed during his days in Auschwitz) that he believes Babe knows all about.
The film will be remembered for Olivier’s Academy Award- nominated and Golden Globe-winning performance as the villainous Dr. Christian Szell, and for one of the most memorable torture scenes in the history of cinema that probably left some audience members unable to visit a dentist for years.
The 4K remaster from Paramount Pictures helps define the urban gritty and character-rich streets of New York City in the 1970s through a very muted color palette as well as Szell’s South American abode. Viewers will find also plenty of moments of soft focus throughout adding to the nightmarish horror of the screen-filling presentation.
A consistently ominous musical score from Michal Small in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 helps punctuate the levels of suspense in a movie, taking its cues from “The French Connection,” “The Conversation” and “Blow Out.”
Best extras: Viewers get a new optional commentary found on the 4K and Blu-ray disc from film historians Steve Mitchell and Nathaniel Thompson.
Mr. Mitchell is a first-person resource for the period, and listeners get a heavy dose of Big Apple history as he was living there at the time of the film. The pair also touches on the screenplay drafts; the violence; actor backgrounds; comparisons to the book; scene breakdowns including the torture segments; Mr. Hoffman working with Olivier; and shooting scenes in Los Angeles to look like New York.
Kino Lorber then adds to the Blu-ray the full set of extras culled from the 2001 DVD release led by a nearly 30-minute retrospective on the film (with informative interviews with Mr. Goldman, co-producer Robert Evans and most of the cast); and a 22-minute “The Magic in Hollywood” documentary hosted by Mr. Evans in fine promotional form along with words from the key crew and cast on location.
Finally, actors will appreciate 21 minutes of vintage rehearsal footage, even discussed by the principals, featuring scenes between Mr. Hoffman, Scheider and Marthe Keller (Babe’s love interest Elsa Opel).
The Whale (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, rated R, 1.33:1 aspect ratio, 117 minutes, $21.99) — Brendan Fraser’s Academy Award-winning performance in Darron Aronofsky’s emotional gauntlet arrives on the Blu-ray disc format ready to break the hearts of viewers who may never eat again.
Mr. Fraser plays Charlie, a morbidly obese recluse who teaches English online but never with the camera turned on. Unable to control his weight and food addiction and with only a single close friend who is as enabling as critical of his predicament, he has one remaining wish before potentially succumbing to congestive heart failure.
He wants to reconnect with his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink), which eventually occurs but only to find an intelligent teenager with extreme anger issues, reserved and emotionally broken.
Mr. Fraser admirably maneuvers through 300 pounds of seamless makeup prosthetics to deliver a performance of a lifetime as a man psychologically shattered by the past and eating himself into oblivion.
Although the film offers an empathic and well-rounded portrayal of Charlie, his plight and redemption, it’s also an infuriating narrative to watch unfold. His circumstances help highlight an immobile and rampant fast-food society that now exists and allows humans to economically eat themselves to death.
It’s a stark reminder that you get to live once and should never take it for granted, no matter what one must overcome to exist.
Mr. Aronofsky’s bold choice to frame the film in a letterbox, square format, like in the old TV days, makes the presentation of Charlie a nearly suffocating and more focused experience.
Best extras: Viewers get a 24-minute overview of the production mainly focused on Mr. Aronofsky and Mr. Fraser’s thoughts on the characters for a film 10 years in the making.
Another nearly eight-minute featurette offers a look at the musical score with the composer Rob Simonsen.
However, I could have also used a solo segment on the incredible makeup effects.