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New on Disc: 'The Makioka Sisters' and 'Orgasm Inc.'

20 Jun, 2011 By: Mike Clark

The Makioka Sisters

Criterion, Drama, $19.95 DVD, $29.95 Blu-ray, NR.
Stars Keiko Kishi, Yoshiko Sakuma, Sayuri Yoshinaga, Yuko Kotegawa.
Director Kon Ichikawa’s splendid sprawler, adapted and modified from Junichiro Tanizaki’s popular novel, takes place in 1938 Osaka and Ashiya but only tangentially addresses Japan’s escalating state of war in that decade. Whenever there are fleeting references to the army during the course of 140 event-packed minutes, they usually have to do with how the military economy is contributing to tougher times and other concerns involving money, a subject never far from the minds of the movie’s title quartet. Sibling rivalry knows no geographic storytelling boundaries, and it would take a pretty dour type (or maybe the least-enlightened red-meat macho man) not to get caught up in the roller coaster emotions of older sisters Tsuruko and Sacahiko, who both “married down” — though one wouldn’t say unhappily — after their merchant parents died, or to those of younger Yukiko and Taeko, whose attempts to land husbands from something less than an ‘A’-list of contenders constitute much of the narrative.
Extras: Uncommonly short on bonus features for a Criterion release, Sisters does have a lovely new transfer befitting its classiness and a solid essay by Audie Bock, still one of the first scholars you think of when it comes to any knowledgeable discussion of Japanese cinema.
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Orgasm Inc.

Street 6/21
First Run, Documentary, B.O. $0.05 million, $27.95 DVD, NR.
If the title sounds a bit on the flip side, it turns out to be a dead-on precise one to serve subject matter that could have befitted a Robert Altman comedy. Documentary filmmaker Liz Canner casts a wary eye on scientific attempts to develop a kind of equal-opportunity Viagra: a pill to enable women to have more and better orgasms. Perhaps a little of this public servicing has been for altruistic reasons: the pleasing kind involving patient blood flow. Much more of it is for the cash flow of pharmaceutical companies. Before very long, the tone relaxes some, and Orgasm Inc. simply elects to mine the rich material at hand. Eventually, it even turns footage of FDA testimony into a mild nail-biter.
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The Prize

Available via WBshop.com’s Warner Archive
Warner, Drama, $19.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Paul Newman, Edward G. Robinson, Elke Sommer, Diane Baker.
As part of a movie designed to remind us of Hitchcock all the way down to Hitch regular Leo G. Carroll’s subordinate role, this glossy adaptation of Irving Wallace’s same-name novel has a script by Ernest Lehman, who wrote the brilliant original screenplay for North by Northwest as well. Sometimes, it’s harder to go back to the drawing board than it is to go back to the well. For all its handsome Panavision clunkiness partly redeemed by a mostly snappy on-demand Warner Archive print, there’s more than a smidgen of amusement in seeing Newman involved in Cold War intrigue much lighter in tone than anything in the actor’s “official” Hitchcock movie: 1966’s Torn Curtain.
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Park Row

Manufactured on demand via online retailers
Fox/MGM, Genre, $24.95 DVD, NR.
Stars Gene Evans, Mary Welch, Bela Kovacs.
Even by Sam Fuller standards, this affectionate (and affection-engendering) labor of love by the distinctive writer-director is undeniably on the broad side — not that the world of cutthroat New York City journalism in the mid-1880s would be portrayed very accurately with a dainty approach.
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About the Author: Mike Clark

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