‘Judex’ and much more: Home Movies picks for the week of June 17

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If the endless parade of rehashes, remakes and reboots emanating from Hollywood get you down, here’s a nice reminder that the process doesn’t always have to be lame. French director Georges Franju’s 1963 film about a mysterious avenger seeking justice from a corrupt banker is based on the silent-era serial by Louis Feuillade, and turns out to be a tremendously enjoyable piece of pulp.


As you might expect from a film that boils a five-hour series down to 97 minutes, “Judex” is chock full o’ plot. The banker is blackmailed, then apparently murdered, by an unknown figure, but awakens trapped in Judex’s subterranean lair. Meanwhile, the banker’s daughter (Franju favorite Edith Scob) tussles with a brother-sister team of criminals, while a seemingly hapless private detective ambles through the story before helping to save the day in the end.


The movie’s elaborate story, though, is less important than the visual pleasures it provides. Judex (played by American stage magician Channing Pollock) makes his entrance at a masquerade ball, clad in a massive bird’s-head mask, performing illusions with doves. Francine Bergé, as the female half of the sibling duo, makes a captivating and sexy villainess, whether she’s scaling walls in a black catsuit or hijacking an ambulance disguised as a nun.


Franju, best known for his 1960 horror classic “Eyes Without a Face,” conjures the spirit of a Perrault fairy tale mixed with a Buck Rogers adventure. Judex’s hideout lies beneath ancient castle ruins, and is equipped (in 1914) with closed-circuit television and a variety of other scientific gizmos. The movie is a fitting tribute to Feuillade, as well as to early cinema’s master magician George Méliès.


The Criterion Collection dual-format edition includes Franju’s 1952 short documentary about Méliès, as well as another early work about a French military hospital. There are also retrospective interviews with Bergé and Franju’s co-writer Jacques Champreux, and an informative French TV documentary on Franju’s career.


(1963, 97 minutes, not rated, $39.95 DVD + Blu-ray)




“Ernest and Celestine” A bear and a mouse form an unlikely friendship in this utterly charming French animated film, which was nominated for a 2014 Academy Award.


“The Final Member” The world’s only phallological museum, located in Iceland, seeks the one item missing from its collection of male genitalia — a human specimen— in this offbeat documentary.


“The Grand Budapest Hotel” The latest distinctive effort from director Wes Anderson stars Ralph Fiennes as the fussy but ultimately heroic concierge in a 1930s European resort.


“Hearts and Minds” Peter Davis’ Oscar-winning 1974 documentary about the Vietnam War makes its Blu-ray debut.


“Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian” French director Arnaud Desplechin’s first English-language feature is a fact-based tale about a Native American Blackfoot (Beinicio Del Toro) suffering from post-WWII psychological distress and the anthropologist (Mathieu Amalric) who helps him.


“Joe” Nicolas Cage delivers a refreshingly down-to-earth performance as a Texan ne’er-do-well who becomes a surrogate father to an abused teen in David Gordon Green’s evocative Southern drama.


“The Lego Movie” Everything is awesome in this surprise family-friendly animated hit about a plastic worker bee who starts to think outside the blocks.


“Picnic at Hanging Rock” Peter Weir’s haunting 1975 masterpiece about the mysterious disappearance of Australian schoolgirls in 1900 makes its Blu-ray debut.




“13 Sins” A hapless schmuck gets a mysterious phone call which offers him money to commit small crimes, but as the reward grows, so does the mayhem.


“Almost Human” Two years after being mysteriously abducted, Seth’s best friend has returned, but as something other than he once was. A gory slaughterfest ensues in this old-school horror flick.


“The Angela Mao Ying Collection” Six films, made between 1973 and 1977, starring the queen of kung fu and such co-stars as George Lazenby, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Biao.


“James Thurber: The Life and Hard Times” This 2000 documentary was the first in-depth film on one of America’s greatest humorists.


“Paul Bowles: The Cage Is Always Open” Interviews with the author of “The Sheltering Sky” recorded shortly before his death form the spine of this documentary.


“Test” A rookie dancer gets a job with a demanding troupe and enters a relationship with a veteran colleague, as the AIDS epidemic takes hold in 1985 San Francisco.


“Vic + Flo Saw a Bear” A woman recently released from prison reunites with her lover while staying in a forest cabin in Canadian director Denis Côté’s film.


“Walk of Shame” The once-promising career of Elizabeth Banks continues to crumble with this barely-released slapstick comedy about a news anchor trying to get home after a one-night stand.


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