Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection. 8 discs. 644+ min. with booklet. Universal Studios, www.universalstudiosentertainment.com; amazon.com. 2012. Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3-D UPC 025192152269. $159.98. HORROR
The horror genre reached a watershed between 1931 and 1954, when Universal Studios produced some of the most iconic and influential fright films in the history of cinema. Eight of them—all classic, all symbolic, and all continuing to influence filmmaking to this day—gain new life in this outstanding collection. Viewers are treated to the remixed, remastered Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Invisible Man (1933), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), The Wolf Man (1941), Phantom of the Opera (1943), and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), along with a 46-page booklet jam-packed with film stills, movie posters, trivia, and a surfeit of frightful, fascinating facts. The discs themselves contain more than 12 hours of special features, including the very different, simultaneously filmed, and arguably superior Spanish adaptation of Dracula, the 3-D version of Creature, and an incisive documentary that contextualizes the 1930s rise of the monster movie alongside the Great Depression and the emergence of Nazi Germany. The extras are superb, the packaging elegant, and the content timeless. VERDICT While horrorphiles are sure to debate the choices here (where, oh where is 1932’s The Old Dark House?), this beautiful boxed set is absolutely essential viewing for film buffs.—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY
Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness. color & b/w. 93 min. Joseph Dorman, dist. by Filmakers Library, www.filmakers.com. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781463110703. $350. Public performance; home version dist. by Docurama c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. UPC 767685284353. $29.95. LIT/BIOG
Sholem Aleichem was the literary pseudonym of Solomon Rabinovich (1859–1916), who was called the Yiddish Mark Twain. Like Twain’s, Aleichem’s writings often display a pungent wit and an unvarnished look at human life. As Twain was a master of spoken English, Aleichem took the everyday language of Eastern European Jews—Yiddish—and made of it great literature. Aleichem’s subjects and his audience were poor, downtrodden Jews living in a demarked “Pale of Settlement” within the Russian empire. Primarily known today for his Tevye stories (made famous by the film and musical Fiddler on the Roof), Aleichem wrote prodigiously and created many memorable characters. Viewers will be charmed by the thoughtful interviews with insightful scholars who are trying to resurrect Aleichem in translation for a new generation of readers. Aleichem’s centenarian granddaughter, the writer Bel Kaufman (b. 1911), provides loving and telling anecdotes. The DVD uses footage from older Yiddish films for background and to set the scene. VERDICT Viewers will enjoy the leisurely storytelling pace of the documentary and the love shown for a rediscovered great. Once you watch the film, you will surely want to dip into Aleichem’s tales.—Paul Kaplan, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL
Give Me the Banjo. color & b/w. 84+ min. Marc Fields, dist. by Docurama c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. DVD ISBN 9781422918500. $29.95. Closed-captioned. MUSIC
It’s time to give the banjo some love. Quintessentially American (via Africa) and with a rich and varied musical tradition, the banjo is enjoying something of a cultural renaissance. Narrated by actor, comedian, and Grammy Award–winning banjo player Steve Martin, Give Me the Banjo details the many musical forms in which the banjo has played a major role, including work songs, minstrel shows, ragtime, early jazz, old-time folk, country, bluegrass, and the folk revival. With wonderful historical footage and interviews with musicologists and performers such as Earl Scruggs, Pete Seeger, Bela Fleck, and Abigail Washburn, the film elucidates Martin’s statement that “one of the dark secrets is that the banjo is an emotional instrument.” Bonus extras include performances by Ralph Stanley, Taj Mahal, and others. VERDICT Director Fields has put together an excellent introduction to the rich history of the banjo. The film resonates long after the last note on the fifth string has been picked. Delightful.—Bill Baars, Lake Oswego P.L., OR
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The following titles are reviewed in the April 1, print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.
Rake: The Bar Has Been Lowered. 3 discs. color. 433 min. Peter Duncan & others, Essential Media & Entertainment Pty. Ltd., dist. by BFS Entertainment, www.bfsent.com. 2012. DVD UPC 066805311178. $39.98. F/TV
Still the Drums. color & b/w. 80+ min. Talbot Perry Simons, American Patriot Pictures, LLC, www.stillthedrums.com. 2012. DVD UPC 634479998478. $24.99. F/VIETNAM
Thomas & Sarah. 4 discs. color. 653 min. Christopher Hodson & others, dist. by Acorn Media, 888-870-8047; www.acornonline.com. 2012. ISBN 9781598288094. $49.99. SDH subtitles. F
ARTS & HUMANITIES
William Shakespeare Henry IV. Pt. 1. 167 min. ISBN 9780769792019.
William Shakespeare Henry IV. Pt. 2. 171 min. ISBN 9780769792026.
ea. vol: 2 discs. color. Globe Theatre on Screen, dist. by Kultur, 732-229-2343; www.kultur.com. 2012. DVD $29.99. DRAMA
Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman; A Bible Story. 2 discs. color. 93+ min. David Di Sabatino, dist. by Jester Media, www.fallenangeldoc.com. 2012. DVD $19.99. MUSIC/REL
Nina Conti: Her Master’s Voice. color. 60+ min. Nina Conti, dist. by Virgil Films, www.virgilfilms.com. 2012. DVD UPC 829567082720. $19.99. PERFORMING ARTS
Minarets in Temecula: Islam and the Right to Religious Freedom. color. 29+ min. dist. by Choices, Inc., www.choicesvideo.net. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781933724393. $24.95. REL
Klitschko. color. 117+ min. Sebastian Dehnhardt, Broadview Pictures, dist. by Corinth Films, www.corinthhomevideo.com. 2012. DVD UPC 896137001153. $19.99. SDH subtitles. SPORTS/BIOG
Anne Braden: Southern Patriot. color & b/w. 77+ min. Anne Lewis & Mimi Pickering, Appalshop, dist. by California Newsreel, www.newsreel.org. 2012. DVD $49.95; acad. libs. $195; plus streaming $299. Public performance; closed-captioned; home version $24.95. BIOG
Your Complete SAT Critical Reading Prep Course with Amy Lucas. 2 vols. color. 3 hrs. with textbook. Private Tutor, 818-508-1296; www.privatetutorsat.com. 2012. Vol. 1: DVD UPC 677070258060; Vol. 2: DVD UPC 677070259067. ea. vol: $29.95; DVD & book set $89.95. ED
The Revolutionary. color. 92 min. Lucy Ostrander & others, dist. by Stourwater Pictures, revolutionarymovie.com. 2012. DVD $79; public performance $150; acad. libs. $295. INT AFFAIRS/HIST
Sons of the Clouds: The Last Colony. color. 78 min. In Spanish w/English subtitles. Álvaro Longoria, Morena Films & Candescent Films, dist. by GoDigital c/o iTunes. 2012. DVD $12.99. INT AFFAIRS
Latinos Beyond Reel: Challenging a Media Stereotype. color & b/w. 84 min. w/English & Spanish subtitles. Miguel Picker & Chyng Sun, Open Lens Media, dist. by Media Education Fdn., www.mediaed.org. 2012. DVD ISBN 9781932869705. $34.95; acad. libs. $275. Public performance. SOC SCI/MEDIA
My Reincarnation: An Epic Twenty-Year Journey. color. 101+ min. In English, Italian, & Tibetan w/English subtitles. Jennifer Fox, Zohe Film Prods., dist. by Docurama c/o New Video, 800-314-8822; www.newvideo.com. DVD ISBN 9781422918746. $29.95. SOC SCI
Rehearsal for a Sicilian Tragedy. color & b/w. 86 min. In English & Italian w/English subtitles. Roman Paska, dist. by First Run Features, 800-229-8575; www.firstrunfeatures.com. 2012. DVD UPC 720229914857. $24.95. TRAV/MEMOIR
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman. 3 vols. 7 discs. 600 min. Cindy Meehl & Cedar Creek Prods., dist. by Trafalgar Square, 800-423-4525; www.horseandriderbooks.com. 2012. Set 1: Groundwork. DVD ISBN 9781570765872. $49.95; Set 2: Lessons on Horseback. DVD ISBN 9781570765889. $49.95; Set 3: Lessons on Horseback, Problem Solving, Words of Wisdom. DVD ISBN 9781570765896. $59.95. ANIMAL HUSBANDRY