Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1979), The Innkeepers, Titanic (Miniseries)
This time we take a look at two new Blu-ray releases that could easily be mistaken for others: small-screen versions of the brilliant spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and Titanic, the latter having only just aired on ABC. Throw in a recent under-the-radar chiller and you have a long weekend's offbeat viewing sewn up.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (1979; Acorn Media)
Did you read the book, or see the Oscar-nominated Gary Oldman movie? Yes or no, this TV miniseries, which originally aired in more than 30 years ago, uses its five-and-a-half hours to great advantage. The six episodes capture more of the slow-burn suspense of John le Carré's tome, its proximity to The Cold War giving it that much more chill. And the restrained performance of Alec Guinness as former British Secret Intelligence Service agent George Smiley, on the trail of a traitor in their midst, brings an irresistible gravitas.
In its original 4:3 aspect ratio, the video shows a charming vintage grain. Substantial new interviews with author le Carré and director John Irvin supplement this two-disc set, along with a helpful glossary so we can keep up with all of the intrigue, and learn more about the inner workings of the "Circus."
The Innkeepers (MPI/Dark Sky)
Whereas director Ti West's previous original film, House of the Devil, flaunted a blatant low-budget charmpartly because it sought to recapture the feel of '80s quickies, but also because it really had a low budgetThe Innkeepersis a much more accomplished work. Largely set once again in a single locale, the story follows a couple of employees at an historic New England hotel who, as the place is about to close down and they are poised to lose their jobs, decide to prove that this inn is haunted. Weirdness and outright danger ensue.
Innkeepers also plays better than Devil in HD, thanks to some fine 35mm photography, while the audio (and the disc itself advises us to crank this mother) alternately hypnotizes and jolts us, as good horror movies do. West headlines a pair of audio commentaries, one with members of his crew and another with stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy, in addition to a behind-the-scenes-featurette.
Titanic (Entertainment One)
Oh, the temerity to once again attempt to dramatize the events on board that fateful maiden voyage of the Titanic, right down to the same one-word title as James Cameron's glory-hogging megahit. But with the 100th anniversary of the disaster this month, ABC aired this three-hour (sans commercials) miniseries, promptly ported to a respectable Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.
Elevating this blend of fact and fiction is a script by Oscar winner (for Gosford Park) Julian Fellowes, currently enjoying the smash success of TV's Downton Abbey. He brings much of that same trademark observation of the manners of British high society, and the ample culture clashes that inevitably arise, for another mostly compelling exploration of the fabled tragedy.
Multiple featurettes focus on the creation of the miniseries, in addition to a documentary comparing the Titanic and her doomed "sisters" the Olympic and the Britannic, while Fellowes joins director Jon Jones and producer Nigel Stafford-Clark for an audio commentary on Part One.