Blu-Ray Pick | A Letter To Three Wives (Fox, $24.99)

A Letter to Three Wives Joseph L. Mankiewicz

This 1949 adaptation of John Klempner’s 1946 novel is the first Joseph L. Mankiewicz film to demonstrate his very personal approach to cinema—creating sparkling yet bittersweet, intricately structured multi-character comic dramas with a frankness about matters that other films of the period fudged or looked away from, in this case class and money. Jeanne Crain, Ann Sothern, and Linda Darnell are the three Connecticut society wives who receive a letter from their mutual enemy informing them that she will run away with one of their husbands that night. Constructed as three consecutive flashbacks, each from the POV of one of the women, the film quietly builds suspense as it moves from one high point to the next before soaring into the stratosphere with supermarket mogul Paul Douglas’s courtship of hard-nosed Darnell. For years, Letter has been available as a DVD only with substandard sound. This Blu-ray, which sounds as good as it looks, is an absolute must-own.—Kent Jones

Experimental Pick | Rumstick Road (Wooster Group, $400)

Rumstick Road Spalding Gray

Orbiting around the suicide of Spalding Gray’s mother, this “video reconstruction” of the 1977 Wooster Group theater production, using Super 8 and video footage from its original run, spins out of conversations between Gray and his family. The play’s set is expansive yet claustrophobic, consisting of two compartments divided by an audio booth. The spasmodic thrashings of a female performer on the left of frame contrast with Gray peering out a window on the right, his rigor mortis composure periodically giving way to bursts of frenzied dashing about. We are seeing the inside of Gray’s mind, his projections of meaning onto events and the interior lives of loved ones, familiar yet unknown. Perplexing spatial perturbations are produced by slide projections superimposed on the performers, creating a ghostly sense of discomposure. A tent from which Gray emerges floats out the window and finally becomes home to a woman folding and refolding linen—evoking memory patching over trauma with an endless search for the self.—David Gregory Lawson

Animation Pick | The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney, $49.99)

The Little Mermaid

The success of The Little Mermaid in 1989 reinvigorated Disney’s long-stagnant animation division, leading to a string of memorable hits, and paving the way for the explosion of studio-produced animation we’ve enjoyed (or endured, depending on the film) over the past 20 years. The Little Mermaid was the last Disney film to be produced with hand-painted cels, and the studio spared no expense in attempting to recapture the magic of classics such as Snow White, Pinocchio, and Cinderella. As with the best works from the studio’s past, it features gorgeous traditional animation, a memorable villain (the sea witch Ursula steals the show), and a selection of songs that quickly became standards such as “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea” (though I’m partial to “Kiss the Girl”). The Diamond Edition’s extra doc on Disney’s history of using live-action reference is a great bonus.—David Filipi

Art House Pick | The Big City & Charulata (Criterion, $29.95 Each)

Charulata Satyajit Ray

One of the great Satyajit Ray’s most significant collaborations was with Madhabi Mukherjee, with whom he made these two masterpieces, both featuring the actress as a housewife seeking independence, at a time when lead roles for female actors were uncommon in Indian cinema. These feminist melodramas come with Ray’s humanist touch but present dark portraits of Calcutta family life in two very different contexts: the unforgiving middle-class struggle to get by in The Big City (63), and the idle existence of the wealthy at home in Charulata (64). Ray’s eloquent sense of form was perhaps never on finer display, and the digital transfers here—immaculate even by Criterion’s standards—make viewing his work even more pleasurable. Serious bonus: The Big City disc includes The Coward, a minor but still significant 1965 feature (no less lovingly restored, in spite of its status as a supplement), also starring the incredible Mukherjee.—Adam Cook

Cult TV Pick | Robin Redbreast (Bfi, £19.99)

Robin Redbreast

Confined to the vaults since it aired in 1970 (an unforgettable night for this teenage viewer), this oft-cited but little-seen BBC drama finally re-emerges, undiminished in its menace and subtlety. That it only survives in a black-and-white recording even renders more seamless the original mix of color video studio-shot scenes and 16mm exteriors. Outwardly tough TV professional Norah, thirty-something and abruptly single, decides to escape to a country life, but finds the local villagers strangely manipulative and intrusive. Is a handsome young gamekeeper really just potential fling material, or can the unexplained disappearance of Norah’s contraceptive cap (contentious stuff at the time) be part of a pagan ritual to ensure she becomes pregnant? John Bowen’s tautly woven script takes Norah’s uncertain point of view, echoing Rosemary’s Baby while looking forward to Straw Dogs and, of course, The Wicker Man. Rarely has the dark side of British folk legend been portrayed with such fearsome precision.—David Thompson

Public Domain Pick | The Stranger (Kino, $34.95)

The Stranger Orson Welles Edward G. Robinson

Genteel prep school teacher Charles Rankin (Orson Welles) fits right in with the wholesome American locals of his small town. But Rankin is actually Franz Kindler, a diabolical Nazi who will stop at nothing to keep his identity a secret in this postwar thriller. Rankin’s act may fool a town of well-meaning rubes, but he meets his match with the arrival of Edward G. Robinson’s cunning Nazi-hunter. They battle over the soul of Rankin’s innocent new wife (Loretta Young); whoever wins, her blissful ignorance is surely doomed. The Stranger is among Welles’s less-acclaimed works, its neglect reinforced by his later disavowal of it. The 1946 film’s travails continued as it fell into the public domain by 1974 due to the caprice of archaic provisions of U.S. copyright law, leaving the market to be saturated with releases of dubious quality. Kino offers a superior new HD transfer from an archival print, with markedly improved crispness and contrast relative to other circulating copies.—Jared Eisenstat

On Demand Pick | The Fall (Acorn, $39.99)

The Fall Gillian Anderson

Belfast reeks of literal and social violence in the BBC’s latest addition to its growing stable of police procedurals (now on DVD and Netflix streaming). In The Fall, a serial killer is targeting young professional women and then meticulously posing their bodies as post-factum pornography. But the good-looking young killer, Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan), isn’t the only thing Belfast’s women have to worry about: everything from domestic violence to the damning repercussions of wardrobe malfunctions are subject to a mentality that holds women to blame for and perpetuates men’s violence against them. Over the course of five episodes the series excels at contextualizing Spector’s misogyny as the natural product of a social climate that both degrades and fetishizes career women, with head investigator Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson, icy, fantastic, and miraculously skirting cliché) as just the hyper-intelligent female to throw her male colleagues’ unchecked behaviors into relief. She’s not moralizing, she’s just making them look bad.—Sarah Mankoff

Hip-Hop Pick | Wild Style (Music Box Films, $29.95)

Wild Style

Chaotically scripted and shot in 1980 by a Downtown scenester and Uptown boulevardier, this tale of a teenage Bronx graffiti artist premiered at a dingy Times Square theater in 1983 and quickly joined the three or four scrolls recording U.S. subculture in the pre-Internet Dark Ages. Charlie Ahearn’s film made its strongest impact via a proto-long tail of campus cinemas, VHS tapes, and OST albums, where performances by Grandmaster Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, and the Rock Steady Crew wrote hip-hop’s Old Testament while its history was still unfolding. This 30th-anniversary DVD’s hour of bonus features adds little of substance to Rhino’s 25th anniversary release, but key sequences in its HD-transferred 16mm feature now gloriously capture the kind of unruly life that reclaimed subway cars and the walls of housing projects from a Reagan-era wasteland. Recently, Banksy told The Village Voice: “Graffiti writers [are] performance artists who happen to use paint. And trespass.” It’s unclear if he’d just rewatched Wild Style.—Chris Norris

Indie Pick | Romeo and Juliet In Yiddish (Nancy Fishman Releasing, $24.99)

Romeo and Juliet in Yiddish

Director Eve Annenberg stars as Ava, a dropout from a Hasidic community who is trying to save her daughter from an arranged marriage at the same time as she takes on a paid assignment to modernize an existing Yiddish translation of Romeo and Juliet. To fulfill this absurd and seemingly useless project (Hasidic schoolchildren aren’t allowed to read Shakespeare, and the adults who read Yiddish are past the age when the poetry of adolescent passion could possibly matter), Ava hires a group of young men—self-exiled from their religious community and surviving on the street through credit card scams—who soar in their imaginations, as they take on the roles of Romeo, Benvolio, and Mercutio. Juliet, of course, is played by Ava’s daughter. A shape-shifter of a movie, and more radical than Pirandello, it also delivers a passionate, often hilarious, wildly unpredictable version of a play that many of its potential viewers know by heart—although not in Yiddish.—Amy Taubin