New to Blu-ray/DVD: Deutschland 83, The Epic of Everest, & Play Motel


Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.50.56 PM

Editor’s Notes: Deutschland 83 was released on was September 29th, The Epic of Everest was released on September 8th, and Play Motel was released on August 25th. 

Deutschland 83

Screen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.45.08 PM
Deutschland 83 (Kino Lorber) is an espionage TV series from Germany.  Martin (Jonas Nay) is a 24-year-old East German who is taken from a comfortable life in the military and, against his will, turned into a spy for the Stasi, the nation’s secret police. His assignment: he must assume another man’s identity and become an aide to a West German general at the heart of NATO’s nuclear-deterrance strategy. The show blends actual historical events with fiction. Ronald Reagan and other world leaders of the period are seen in video clips, issuing their blunt Cold War threats and warnings and serving as backdrop to the adventures of burgeoning spy Martin.
The show succeeds in capturing the paranoia of the 1980s when superpowers mistrusted each other and each played a game of one-upmanship from diplomatic posturing to the size of their nuclear arsenals. The personal story often feels forced, as when Martin’s aunt (Maria Schrader) pushes her nephew into the spy game, promising that his success will place his mother, who needs a kidney transplant, on a high place on the transplant waiting list. There’s also a so-so romantic subplot involving a girlfriend whom Martin is reluctant to leave.
What distinguishes the series is that Martin isn’t immediately transformed into a Teutonic James Bond. He’s initially awkward at even the most basic of tasks. The writers also have fun showing Martin being baffled and amazed at the culture, luxuries and technologies of the West. For those who like good old-fashioned spy-vs.-spay intrigue, there is that, too, but it all has a refreshing look as channeled through the eyes of a novice agent learning on the job.
The DVD release contains 8 widescreen episodes on 3 discs. Bonus features include interviews and a Q & A with cast and creators. Episodes are in German, with English subtitles.
The Epic of EverestScreen Shot 2015-10-21 at 10.49.38 PM

The Epic of Everest (Kino Lorber) is a documentary chronicling the 1924 expedition by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine to reach the peak of Mt. Everest. The expedition is still clouded in mystery. Both climbers died as well as several others who accompanied them. It is not known whether they actually reached the mountain’s summit. The mountaineers were joined by filmmaking pioneer Captain John Noel who filmed every aspect of the effort, capturing considerable climbing footage as well as images of local wildlife and culture of the Tibetan region, an area seldom seen by foreigners at the time. The movie contains the first images on film of both Everest and Tibet, stimulating worldwide interest in this remote part of the world.

The new restoration features landscapes resembling the terrain of distant planets in science fiction films. Noel obtained some stunning views of the mountain at various times of the day, with sunlight casting atmospheric shadows. Inter titles indicate the various period that faced the climbers, with the elements a chief obstacle. Of particular interest are the scenes of daily life among the Sherpas, views of the world’s highest village and several monasteries, and footage of the trek to the mountain in a caravan of yaks. Made just two years after Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, The Epic of Everest introduced the public to yet another distant, frigid part of a still largely unexplored planet.

Special features on the Blu-ray edition include an introduction by Noel’s daughter, Sandra Noel, featurettes about the scoring of the film and its restoration, and a trailer.

Play MotelScreen Shot 2015-10-22 at 10.01.16 PM

Play Motel (Kino Lorber) falls into the category of Italian sexploitation thriller. Directed by Mario Gariazzo, the film opens at the garishly illuminated Play Motel where several buxom blondes are being secretly photographed while having kinky sex. The motel, just outside of town, is the destination of rich, respectable men who come to live out their perverted sexual fantasies with accommodating call girls. Rinaldo Cortesi (Enzo Fisichella) is an upper-class citizen who discreetly picks up a sexy blonde woman named Loredana (Marina Frajese) in the lobby of the Play Motel and brings her to an upstairs room. More than pleasure awaits him.

Because director Gariazzo is obsessed with elaborate soft core-style sex scenes, the plot is often hard to follow. The film has a creepy allure, though many viewers will be bored by the far-too-lengthy displays of flesh rather than titillated. The plot hinges on a blackmail scheme directed against affluent male visitors to the establishment. There are the makings of a decent thriller lurking in the plot, but it’s unfortunately not developed adequately. The screenplay could use a solid dose of Agatha Christie polish. Acting is pretty good, even though the performers have to slog their way through unimaginative dialogue and a sluggish pace.

Bonus features on the Blu-ray release include a booklet containing background production information, original cover art, and the featurette “Midas Touch,” about the production company that made Play Motel.


About Author

For over 25 years, I was the Film and Home Entertainment Reviewer for "The Villadom TIMES," a New Jersey weekly newspaper, and have written for several other publications. I developed and taught a Film Studies program for two New York City high schools that included Film History, Horror/Fantasy, and Film Making.