This is not an easy time to be a fan of cult-ish movies on home video:  Warner Brothers has led the charge to release back-catalog films on DVD-R’s instead of pressed DVD’s and it looks like the other major studios are slowly falling in line.  While it’s nice to be able to get rarities, it’s sad that they aren’t given the full archival treatment craved by the fans who will actually buy them.  Thankfully, a few DVD companies are still willing to take a gamble on the more cultish major studio titles – and Shout! Factory has committed themselves to this approach by signing on to reveal several overlooked items from the 20th Century Fox film catalog.

Capone is one of the early releases in this series: if it’s any indication of the overall line’s quality, things are off to a good start.  The anamorphic transfer does a solid job of capturing a difficult film: there’s lots of Gordon Willis-inspired darkness and shadow to the cinematography and the transfer avoids the kind of artifacting/grain pitfalls this style of filmmaking can lead to on video.  Outside of a few dark shots that would have a hard time looking good in any transfer, this disc looks quite nice.  In fact, it’s strong enough that the poorly blown-up stock footage used in one scene really leaps out at the viewer when compared with the material shot for the film.  The Dolby stereo soundtrack has a basic but effective mix, ensuring the viewer will get to hear every shouted line of dialogue from Ben Gazzara during his frequent eye-popping rants.

Elsewhere, the disc offers a small but potent set of extras.  First up is a set of trailers – two theatrical and two television – for Capone.  Despite the film’s major studio pedigree, these trailers are cut and narrated in the punchy, hard-sell style of Corman’s New World Pictures releases.  They’re great fun to watch and there are enough variations between the trailers to make them all worth a look.  In a smart nod, the disc also includes the trailer for Corman’s The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, which Capone cribs a bit of stock footage from.

The other extra – and the most substantial – is a commentary track by director Steve Carver and moderator Nathaniel Thompson of Mondo Digital fame.  Carver covers a lot of interesting material on the track, discussing everything from his unexpectedly arty filmmaking influences to the L.A. locations and backlot sets used to give the illusion of vintage East Coast locations.  The best material here deals with the personalities of the different actors, including some hilarious tales about how Harry Guardino and Gazzara would use old acting tricks to upstage each other.  Thompson does a strong job as moderator, giving Carver plenty of room to talk but peppering the track with questions that keep the director focused and talking.  It’s a fine track that anyone interested in the film will want to check out.

In short, Shout! Factory has done a fine job with a catalog title on this disc of Capone.  The company has got some gems in the pipeline for this series (Your Humble Reviewer is particularly excited about the forthcoming disc of 99 And 44/100% Dead) so cult film fans should keep their fingers crossed that the company continues in this direction with their 20th Century Fox releases.

Capone

Capone

From his hood roots in New York, to the St. Valentines Day Massacre and “king of racketeering” reign in Chicago, to the end of his days in Florida, Capone is the definitive biopic of the world’s most infamous gangster.Ben Gazzara (Road House, The Big Lebowski) is Al Capone, submerged in the bustling and bootlegging underbelly of the 1920s. He’s surrounded by a gritty ensemble cast featuring Sylvester Stallone (Rocky) as arch-criminal Frank Nitti, John Cassavetes (Rosemary’s Baby) as New York gang lord Frankie Yale, Susan Blakely as Capone’s flapper love interest Iris Crawford, and Harry Guardino (Dirty Harry) as Chicago crime boss Johnny Torrio.Produced by Roger Corman, this feverishly paced and stylistic crime drama in the spirit of The Godfather and a precursor to Goodfellas holds no punches when it comes to portraying violence and brutality that came with the territory and the times.