[DVD Vault]

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Return to nuke ‘em high vol. 1 (Anchor Bay)

After almost 30 years, school’s back in session at Tromaville High, located in the heart of beautiful Tromaville – still the toxic chemical capital (sic) of the world. Nice to know some things never change, isn’t it?

Indeed they don’t, as this free-wheeling, deliriously gratuitous, politically incorrect satire proves beyond the shadow of a doubt. The Troma formula – sex, gore, jokes, slime, meltdowns and unabashed low-rent cinematic madness – is back with a vengeance, gleefully served up by director/co-screenwriter Lloyd Kaufman, who co-stars as the corrupt CEO of the Tromorganic Foodstuffs Conglomerate, purveyors of the toxic tacos that turn Tromaville’s student body into mutants, maniacs, or simply mush.

Catherine Corcoran and newcomer Asta Paredes are a delectable duo as the respective rich girl (“Lauren”) and rebel blogger (“Chrissy”) who indulge in lesbian love amid the rampant chaos around them. Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee (billed as “Peter Parker”) introduces the saga, Lemmy Kilmister (of Motorhead) plays the President, “The Star-Spangled Banner” is a recurring theme, and such Troma favorites as Debbie Rochon, Lisa Gaye, Rick Collins and Brick Bronsky (from earlier Nuke ‘Em High films) make welcome appearances. It’s beyond belief, beneath contempt, and entertaining from beginning to end – and it’s only the first volume!

The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99.

(For an exclusive interview with filmmaker and Troma founder Lloyd Kaufman, turn to page 39)

BIG BAD WOLF (Horizon Movies): This modern-day “reinterpretation” of Three Little Pigs (!) stars Charlie O’Connell as a sadist trailing his teen stepdaughters (Marie Bollinger, Jenna Stone and newcomer Elly Stefanko), who have absconded with his loot. Clint Howard and real-life dad Rance Howard also appear in this unpleasant shocker that wastes a cast playing with  more conviction than warranted. 

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (The Criterion Collection): Abdellatif Kechiche’s award-winning adaptation of the graphic novels Le vie d’Adele – Chapitres 1 et 2 is a (very) graphic depiction of the relationship between a sexually curious teenager (newcomer Adele Exarchopoulos) and a free-spirited older woman (Lea Seydoux). Well-acted and passionate, but excessive length (almost three hours) is a hindrance. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $24.95. Rated NC-17.

BOY BAND (Indican Pictures): High-school jock Michael Copon rocks everyone’s world when he forsakes football to front an all-boy band called “A New Condition” in this silly, knockabout comedy in the “Glee”-ful tradition, subtitled “Breakin’ Thru in 82” and aided by a spunky cast including Ryan Pinkston, Kurt Fuller, Ming-Na, Richard Riehle, Ryan Hansen, Robert Hoffman, Ernest “E-Knock” Phillips, Lorenzo Hooker III, Tom Wright, Ryan Hansen, Rachel Specter, Laura Breckenridge and writer/director Jon Artigo.

“COMING ATTRACTIONS” (Alpha Home Entertainment): For nostalgia buffs, these self-explanatory DVD compilations — Classic Cliffhangers and Classic Westerns – feature dozens of vintage trailers. Each retail for $7.98.

FRIGHTMARE (Redemption/Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of director Pete Walker’s notorious 1974 shocker (also known as Cover Up), starring Rupert Davies (in his last film) and Sheila Keith as an elderly couple recently released from an asylum … only neither of them (especially her) seems cured. Deborah Fairfax and Kim Butcher play their daughters, and Leo Genn (in his final English-language film) and “Fawlty Towers” mainstay Andrew Sachs also appear. Not for the squeamish.

HOMEFRONT (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Ex-DEA agent Jason Statham clashes with small-town Louisiana meth lord James Franco (having a grand old time) in this gritty, gutsy throwback to the drive-in B-movies of yesteryear, with surprisingly skanky Winona Ryder and Kate Bosworth in support. Pure popcorn fare, and none the worse for it. Rated R.

IN FEAR (Anchor Bay): Writer/director Jeremy Lovering’s feature debut is an atmospheric but one-note thriller starring Alice Englert and Iain De Caestecker as a young couple lost on the back roads of Ireland. Allen Leech plays the guy they pick up (but shouldn’t). Rated R.

JEFF DUNHAM’S ACHMED SAVES AMERICA (Comedy Central/Paramount): Funnyman Jeff Dunham brings his most popular character – Achmed the Dead Terrorist – to small-town USA in this animated feature detailing Achmed’s misfired attempts to spread dissent and destruction. The DVD retails for $16.99, the Blu-ray for $22.98.

“LAST STAND OF THE 300 AND OTHER FAMOUS GREEK BATTLES” (LionsGate): A self-explanatory three-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of six History Channel specials recounting Greek history.

PIG (Horizon Movies): Writer/director Henry Barrial’s award-winning head-spinner stars Rudolf Martin as an amnesiac trying to piece his past together. This methodically paced, intentionally fragmented variation of Memento (2000) doesn’t quite add up, but tries hard.

“POMPEII: THE DOOMED CITY” (LionsGate): A DVD selection ($14.98 retail) of three History Channel documentaries recounting the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD: “Digging for the Truth: Pompeii Secrets Revealed,” “In Search of History: Pompeii” and “Mega Disasters: The Next Pompeii.”

THE REVEREND (Level 33 Entertainment): Producer Stuart Brennan plays a young clergyman who cleans up his community’s criminal element after being bitten by a vampire in this boring, uninspired screen version of a graphic novel, adapted none too nimbly by director/producer/editor Neil Jones, with Tamer Hassen, Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley, Giovanni Lombardo Radice (AKA John Morghen) and Rutger Hauer wasted in support.

SCORNED (Anchor Bay): Botched black comedy with AnnaLynne McCord (better than the material) as a psychopath who tortures her boyfriend (Billy Zane) and best friend (Viva Bianca), who have been having an affair. Rated R.

SORORITY PARTY MASSACRE (Anchor Bay): Noisy, bloody and predictable horror spoof wherein lusty college girls fall prey to a homicidal maniac. The cast tries hard: Tom Downey (also a producer), Ed O’Ross, Richard Moll, Leslie Easterbrook, Kevin Sorbo, Louis Mandylor and the indomitable Ron Jeremy. A sequel is threatened … errr, promised: Bachelorette Party Massacre. Rated R.

“SUPER BOWL XLVIII CHAMPIONS: SEATTLE SEAHAWKS” (NFL Films/Cinedigm): The title tells all in this official documentary detailing the Seahawks’ 43-8 trouncing of the Denver Broncos, earning the franchise its first championship. The DVD retails for $24.99, the Blu-ray for $34.93.

VIOLATED (Alpha Home Entertainment): Someone’s slashing and scalping prostitutes in Greenwich Village in this appropriately seedy, low-budget 1953 whodunit, with slatternly stripper Lili Dawn (her only film) and naïve young model Vicki Carlson (her only film) among the targets. Producer Wim Holland (his only film) plays a twitchy fashion photographer and Mitchell Kowal the cop on the case. This was also director Walter Strate’s only film, although screenwriter/producer/co-star William Mishkin later became a prolific exploitation distributor. The original music is by guitarist Tony Mottola (Tommy’s cousin).

WILD ONES ON WHEELS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Thugs fall out when they force waitress Francine York to lead them to her paroled husband’s buried fortune in this low-rent 1962 exploitation item, with cinematographer and future filmmaker Ray Dennis Steckler in his film debut. Good for a few laughs.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.

‘© 2014, Mark Burger.