Roman Polanski Collection [Limited Edition] [2 Discs] [DVD]

Features the iconic works of genre-defying director Roman Polanski. Collection includes: The Fearless Vampire Killers, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, The Tenant, Frantic, and The Pianist.
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Overview

Special Features

  • Closed Captioned

Synopsis

Frantic
Following the disastrous Pirates (1986), director Roman Polanski got back on creative track with this finely-wrought thriller that, while failing to impress at the box office, was nevertheless his most critically well-received film of the decade. Harrison Ford stars as Richard Walker, an American doctor who has come to Paris, where he's scheduled to deliver a paper to a medical conference. Richard has brought along his wife Sondra (Betty Buckley), because Paris was the site of their honeymoon 20 years earlier. Sondra picks up the wrong suitcase at the airport, which leads to her kidnapping and an ever-more complicated quest that takes Richard into the seedy and dangerous underworld of European drug smuggling and terrorist arms sales. Along the way, he is rebuffed by skeptical officials at the American Embassy and meets Michelle (Emmanuelle Seigner), a sexy courier who agrees to help him in exchange for the money she's owed for trafficking in narcotics. Playing cleverly on American fears about Europe's Byzantine politics and "decadent" society, Frantic received, from many observers, perhaps the greatest compliment possible for a thriller, comparison to the work of Alfred Hitchcock. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Chinatown
"You may think you know what you're dealing with, but believe me, you don't," warns water baron Noah Cross (John Huston), when smooth cop-turned-private eye J.J. "Jake" Gittes (Jack Nicholson) starts nosing around Cross's water diversion scheme. That proves to be the ominous lesson of Chinatown, Roman Polanski's critically lauded 1974 revision of 1940s film noir detective movies. In 1930s Los Angeles, "matrimonial work" specialist Gittes is hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to tail her husband, Water Department engineer Hollis Mulwray (Darrell Zwerling). Gittes photographs him in the company of a young blonde and figures the case is closed, only to discover that the real Mrs. Mulwray had nothing to do with hiring Gittes in the first place. When Hollis turns up dead, Gittes decides to investigate further, encountering a shady old-age home, corrupt bureaucrats, angry orange farmers, and a nostril-slicing thug (Polanski) along the way. By the time he confronts Cross, Evelyn's father and Mulwray's former business partner, Jake thinks he knows everything, but an even more sordid truth awaits him. When circumstances force Jake to return to his old beat in Chinatown, he realizes just how impotent he is against the wealthy, depraved Cross. "Forget it, Jake," his old partner tells him. "It's Chinatown." Reworking the somber underpinnings of detective noir along more pessimistic lines, Polanski and screenwriter Robert Towne convey a '70s-inflected critique of capitalist and bureaucratic malevolence in a carefully detailed period piece harkening back to the genre's roots in the 1930s and '40s. Gittes always has a smart comeback like Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe, but the corruption Gittes finds is too deep for one man to stop. Other noir revisions, such as Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) and Arthur Penn's Night Moves (1975), also centered on the detective's inefficacy in an uncertain '70s world, but Chinatown's period sheen renders this dilemma at once contemporary and timeless, pointing to larger implications about the effects of corporate rapaciousness on individuals. Polanski and Towne clashed over Chinatown's ending; Polanski won the fight, but Towne won the Oscar for Best Screenplay. Chinatown was nominated for ten other Oscars, including Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Cinematography, Art Direction, Costumes, and Score. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

Rosemary's Baby
In Roman Polanski's first American film, adapted from Ira Levin's horror bestseller, a young wife comes to believe that her offspring is not of this world. Waifish Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) and her struggling actor husband, Guy (John Cassavetes), move into the Bramford, an old New York City apartment building with an ominous reputation and only elderly residents. Neighbors Roman and Minnie Castevet (Sidney Blackmer and Ruth Gordon) soon come nosing around to welcome the Woodhouses to the building; despite Rosemary's reservations about their eccentricity and the weird noises that she keeps hearing, Guy starts spending time with the Castevets. Shortly after Guy lands a plum Broadway role, Minnie starts showing up with homemade chocolate mousse for Rosemary. When Rosemary becomes pregnant after a mousse-provoked nightmare of being raped by a beast, the Castevets take a special interest in her welfare. As the sickened Rosemary becomes increasingly isolated, she begins to suspect that the Castevets' circle is not what it seems. The diabolical truth is revealed only after Rosemary gives birth, and the baby is taken away from her. Polanski's camerawork and Richard Sylbert's production design transform the realistic setting (shot on-location in Manhattan's Dakota apartment building) into a sinister projection of Rosemary's fears, chillingly locating supernatural horror in the familiar by leaving the most grotesque frights to the viewer's imagination. This apocalyptic yet darkly comic paranoia about the hallowed institution of childbirth touched a nerve with late-'60s audiences feeling uneasy about traditional norms. Produced by B-horror maestro William Castle, Rosemary's Baby became a critically praised hit, winning Gordon an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Inspiring a wave of satanic horror from The Exorcist (1973) to The Omen (1976), Rosemary's Baby helped usher in the genre's modern era by combining a supernatural story with Alfred Hitchcock's propensity for finding normality horrific. ~ Lucia Bozzola, Rovi

The Pianist
Filmmaker Roman Polanski, who as a boy growing up in Poland watched while the Nazis devastated his country during World War II, directed this downbeat drama based on the true story of a privileged musician who spent five years struggling against the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. Wladyslaw Szpilman (Adrien Brody) is a gifted classical pianist born to a wealthy Jewish family in Poland. The Szpilmans have a large and comfortable flat in Warsaw which Wladyslaw shares with his mother and father (Maureen Lipman and Frank Finlay), his sisters Halina and Regina (Jessica Kate Meyer and Julia Rayner), and his brother, Henryk (Ed Stoppard). While Wladyslaw and his family are aware of the looming presence of German forces and Hitler's designs on Poland, they're convinced that the Nazis are a menace which will pass, and that England and France will step forward to aid Poland in the event of a real crisis. Wladyslaw's naïveté is shattered when a German bomb rips through a radio studio while he performs a recital for broadcast. During the early stages of the Nazi occupation, as a respected artist, he still imagines himself above the danger, using his pull to obtain employment papers for his father and landing a supposedly safe job playing piano in a restaurant. But as the German grip tightens upon Poland, Wladyslaw and his family are selected for deportation to a Nazi concentration camp. Refusing to face a certain death, Wladyslaw goes into hiding in a comfortable apartment provided by a friend. However, when his benefactor goes missing, Wladyslaw is left to fend for himself and he spends the next several years dashing from one abandoned home to another, desperate to avoid capture by German occupation troops. The Pianist was based on the memoir of the same name by the real-life Wladyslaw Szpilman; the book was first published in 1946 as Death of a City, but was banned by Polish Communist officials and went out of print until 1998, when a new edition was issued as The Pianist. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

The Cinema of Roman Polanski: A Conversation with Brett Ratner
The Tenant
Director Roman Polanski casts himself in the lead of the psychological thriller The Tenant. Trelkovsky (Polanski) rents an apartment in a spooky old residential building, where his neighbors -- mostly old recluses -- eye him with suspicious contempt. Upon discovering that the apartment's previous tenant, a beautiful young woman, jumped from the window in a suicide attempt, Trelkovsky begins obsessing over the dead woman. Growing increasingly paranoid, Trelkovsky convinces himself that his neighbors plan to kill him. He even comes to the conclusion that Stella (Isabel Adjani), the woman he has fallen in love with, is in on the "plot." Ultimately, Polanski assumes the identity of the suicide victim -- and inherits her self-destructive urges. Some critics found the movie tedious and overdone; others compared it to Polanski's early breakthrough, Repulsion. The film was based on Le Locataire Chimerique, a novel by Roland Topor. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me but Your Teeth Are in My Neck
A pair of bumbling vampire-hunters attempts to destroy an undead nobleman and his cronies and rescue a buxom maiden in actor/director Roman Polanski's playful update of the venerable vampire genre. Bat expert and vampire obsessive Professor Abronsius (Jack MacGowran) barely survives his journey through the Alps into snowy Slovenia to continue his oft-maligned research into the undead. Thawed out by his hapless assistant, Alfred (Polanski), and the frisky local innkeeper, Shagal (Alfie Bass), Abronsius quickly notices the overabundance of raw garlic as a decorating motif in the inn and its environs. Too ineffectual to save Shagal from having his blood sucked, the professor and Alfred miss the boat again when the mysterious Count Von Krolock (Ferdinand Mayne) kidnaps Shagal's built, beautiful daughter, Sarah (Sharon Tate). The itinerant vampire hunters must travel through the icy wilderness to Von Krolock's abode and evade his manservant and his effete son Herbert (Iain Quarrier) before Sarah joins the ranks of the ghouls. They soon learn, however, that the luxury-starved lass actually enjoys her captors' lavish attentions. The action climaxes during a costume ball attended by a phalanx of blood-suckers, although the laughs and surprises continue until the very end. Sixteen minutes of unauthorized cuts have been restored in some video editions of The Fearless Vampire Hunters, although the animated credits sequence that replaced them is also retained. The film marks the feature debut of Tate, who replaced Polanski's original choice, Jill St. John, on the advice of producer Martin Ransohoff. ~ Brian J. Dillard, Rovi

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