Not sure what to watch on DVD this week? You could check out the special edition of Smokey and the Bandit, or maybe the unrated director's cut of The Boondock Saints. Or maybe you could watch something good, perhaps a seldom-seen film given a new lease on life by DVD.
Winter Soldier—Just released this week is the documentary Winter Soldier. Produced in 1972 and languishing in a limbo where provocative, incendiary cinema often gets banished, this film is just now getting seen. It simply documents the testimonials of Vietnam veterans who in 1972 journeyed to Detroit to testify about the war crimes they witnessed and committed. What the film captures is 96 minutes of men attempting to atone for their sins. It is powerful, disturbing, thought-provoking, gut-churning and, perhaps most important, cautionary. These are the tales of war the military and government never want parents to hear, as few would ever send their sons off to war again. The disc is loaded with bonus material, including more interviews and additional documentaries.
Purlie Victorious—Recently released on DVD is this lost classic from 1963, based on the successful stage play of the same name by Ossie Davis that had debuted two years earlier. Davis stars as Purlie Victorious Judson, a fast-talking reverend who returns to the backwoods of Cotchipee County in rural Georgia and the cotton plantation he fled 20 years earlier. The plantation is owned by Ol' Cap'n Stonewall Jackson Cotchipee (Sorrell Booke), an old-school Southerner who misses the good old days of slavery and laments the recent Supreme Court decision regarding segregation. With help from the love of his life, Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins (Ruby Dee), the preacher plans to con the plantation owner out of $500, which Purlie will use to start a church. A brilliant comedy, Davis' script is a wicked farce brimming with tongue-twisting poetic dialogue and profound observations about racism and civil rights. Over 40 years later, few films have taken such a razor-sharp comedic look at old Southern culture and the dawn of a new era in Dixie.