Mark Burger’´s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger


COOL HAND LUKE (Warner Home Video): One of Paul Newman’s most memorable vehicles gets the “deluxe” treatment in a new special edition that arrives a year late for its 40th birthday Newman, who earned an Oscar nomination (his fourth) as best actor, portrays Luke Jackson, a laconic ne’er-do-well who is sentenced to a Southern chain gang where his restlessness puts him at odds with the powers that be, particularly the drawling warden (Strother Martin), who justifies his cruelty in the immortal line “What we got here is failure to communicate.”

In addition to Newman’s classic turn as the charismatic but luckless Luke, George Kennedy won the Academy Award as best supporting actor for his performance as Dragline, the hulking con who first perceives Luke as a rival and then becomes his protector. The film also earned Oscar nominations for Lalo Schifrin’s score and adapted screenplay. Cool Hand Luke was perfectly in tune with the attitude of the era in which it was made, but also remains an enduring portrait of non-conformity and rebellion. This digitally remastered edition of the film includes a retrospective documentary featuring interviews with cast members (Newman notably absent) and director Stuart Rosenberg (who died last year). Rated PG. ***’½


88 MINUTES (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Al Pacino toplines this clunky suspense potboiler as a criminologist who is methodically stalked by an unknown, but ever present, assailant during the title time-frame. Despite the presence of Pacino (who is expectedly but appropriately over-the-top) and a good supporting cast (including Amy Brenneman, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Deborah Kara Unger, William Forsythe and Neal McDonough), this spent some time on the shelf. Re-shoots and re-editing didn’t help matters any. Rated R. *’½

BEST OF THE BEATLES (Best Wishes Productions/Lightyear Entertainment): Director Geoff Wonfor’s documentary feature traces the life of Pete Best, the original drummer for the Beatles from 1960-’62, who was replaced by Ringo Starr at just the moment when the band hit it big. Best himself is the executive producer of this enjoyable rock doc, which is a must for Beatles buffs and an informative portrait of the British music scene in the early 1960s. ***’½

“THE BIG BANG THEORY” — THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): All 17 episodes from the 2007 (debut) season of the CBS- TV sitcom with Johnny Galecki and Jim Parsons as egghead roommates and Kaley Cuoco as their sexy new neighbor. This boxed set, which includes a preview of the show’s second season, retails for $29.98.

“THE CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION” — VOL. 5 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Sidney Toler returns as the persistent Chinese sleuth Charlie Chan in a selection of seven feature films inspired by Earl Derr Biggers’ classic character. Charlie Chan in Panama (1940) co-stars Lionel Atwill and Jean Rogers, Charlie Chan’s Murder Cruise (also 1940) features Atwill (in a different role) and Leo G. Carroll, Charlie Chan at the Wax Museum (’40 again) co-stars C Henry Gordon and Marc Lawrence, Murder Over New York (’40) co- co- Love Hewitt (also a producer) as a young wife with stars Marjorie Weaver and Ricardo Cortez, Charlie an ability to communicate with spirits of the dead. Chan in Rio (1941) co-stars Mary Beth Hughes and Victor Jory, and Castle in the Desert (1942) features This boxed set retails for $68.99. Richard Derr and Henry Daniell. Victor Sen Yung

JAILBAIT (Lightyear Entertainment/Warner appears in all seven films as Chan’s “number-two Home Video): Writer/producer/director Brett son,” Jimmy. This marks the final selection of Chan C. Leonard’s award-winning debut feature is films released by Fox, after which the series moved essentially a two-hander, with Michael Pitt over to lower-budgeted Monogram Pictures. This and playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis as prison boxed set retails for $49.98. cellmates whose complex relationship is depicted in creepy, occasionally harrowing fashion. Rated R. **’½

“DC SUPER HEROES: THE FILMATION ADVENTURES” (Warner Home Video): A selection of 18 animated shorts from the cartoon series’ “Justice League of America” and “Teen Titans,” which featured such popular DC Comics superheroes as Green Lantern and the Flash. This two-disc boxed set, which retails for $24.98, includes a profile of Filmation Animation Studios and its founder, Lou Scheimer.

“ERROL FLYNN WESTERNS” (Warner Home Video): In his addition to the swashbuckling roles for which he was renowned, Errol Flynn (1909- 1959) saddled up for several big-screen Westerns, four of which are included in this collection: co-starring with Randolph Scott and Humphrey Bogart in Michael Curtiz’ Virginia City (1940); opposite Alexis Smith in both San Antonio (1945), which earned Academy Award nominations for best art direction/set decoration (color) and song (“Some Sunday Morning”) and Montana (1950); and opposite real-life wife Patrice Wymore in Rocky Mountain (also 1950). This boxed set retails for $49.92.

THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG (CBS DVD/ Paramount Home Entertainment): Tommy Lee Jones won an Emmy Award (outstanding lead actor in a limited series or special) for his mesmerizing turn as death-row inmate Gary Gilmore in producer/director Lawrence Schiller’s 1982 adaptation of Norman Mailer’s best-selling book, for which Mailer wrote the teleplay (and earned his own Emmy nomination for outstanding writing in a limited series of special). Grim and bleak, but well-acted by a cast that includes Christine Lahti, the always-welcome Eli Wallach and Rosanna Arquette (Emmy nominee for outstanding lead actress in a limited series or special). This won second Emmy, for outstanding film sound editing for a limited series or special, and another nomination for outstanding film sound mixing for a limited series or special. Billed as “the director’s cut,” this restores the language but not the nudity of the theatrical release version. ***

“FOX HORROR CLASSICS” — VOL. 2 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Getting the jump on Halloween, Fox — a studio not particularly known for its horror output — has released a triple-bill of golden oldies from its vaults: Edmund Lowe battles Bela Lugosi in Chandu the Magician (1932), based on a popular radio serial; mad scientist George Zucco monkeys around with evolution, and J. Carrol Naish is the result, in Dr. Renault’s Secret (1942); and Gene Tierney, Walter Huston and Vincent Price star in the 1946 adaptation of Anya Seton’s best-seller Dragonwyck, which is more gothic thriller than horror, and which marked the directorial debut of screenwriter Joseph L Mankiewicz. This boxed set retails for $19.98.

“GHOST WHISPERER” — THE THIRD SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 18 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the award winning, CBS-TV prime-time series with Jennifer

JOHNNY BELINDA (Warner Home Video): Jane Wyman won the Academy Award as best actress for Jean Negulesco’s 1948 adaptation of Elmer Harris’ play, in which she plays a young deaf mute living on a simple farm in Nova Scotia who is befriended by a lonely doctor (Lew Ayres, who earned an Oscar nomination as best actor) and forced to confront the prejudices and suspicions of the townspeople when she becomes pregnant. One of the all-time great tearjerkers, this was one of the first major Hollywood films to take a serious, heartfelt look at the hearing-impaired. After 50 years, it’s a little creaky but still emotionally powerful. Wyman’s Oscar was the film’s only win out of 12 nominations, including best picture, director, supporting actor (Charles Bickford), supporting actress (Agnes Moorehead), adapted screenplay, cinematography, art direction/set decoration, sound recording, editing and score. ***’½

“THE OFFICE” — SEASON FOUR (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): All 14 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the hit NBC-TV prime-time sitcom, based on a popular British sitcom, depicting the inter-office goings-on in the Scranton, Penn. branch of the Dunder-Mifflin paper-supply company. Nominated for two Emmy awards: Steve Carrell as outstanding lead actor in a comedy series and Rainn Wilson as outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series. This boxed set retails for $49.98.

STARSHIP TROOPERS 3: MARAUDER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): It’s still us battling the giant bugs in the future, in the second sequel to the 1997 box-office hit. Screenwriter Ed Neumeier makes his feature directorial debut, and Casper Van Dien returns from the first film to reprise his role as Johnny Rico. This sometimes-jumbled combination of sci-fi action, social commentary and political satire doesn’t quite add up, but it’s not without interest. Rated R. **

“SUPERNATURAL” — THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Home Video): All 16 episodes from the 2007-’08 season of the popular CW series starring Jared Paledecki and Jensen Ackles as brothers who battle the forces of evil on a weekly basis. This boxed set retails for $59.98, and includes such special features as a gag reel and special effects featurette.

WARGAMES (MGM Home Entertainment/ Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A 25 th -anniversary special edition of John Badham’s groundbreaking, award-winning 1983 cyber thriller, with Matthew Broderick as a teenager who unwittingly hacks into the Defense Department’s computer system and nearly ignites World War III. A quintessential high-concept political thriller of the Reagan Era that is both entertaining to a fault, and still relevant in today’s political climate. An excellent cast includes Ally Sheedy, Dabney Coleman, John Wood, Barry Corbin, John Spencer, James Tolkan, Maury Chaykin, Eddie Deezen and Michael Madsen (in his screen debut). Academy Award nominations for best original screenplay, cinematography and sound. Rated PG. ***

“WARNER HOME VIDEO WESTERN CLASSICS COLLECTION” (Warner Home Video): A selection of six Westerns making their DVD debuts: William Holden, Eleanor Parker and John Forsythe star in John Sturges’ Escape from Fort Bravo (1954); Parker co-stars with Robert Taylor and Victor McLaglen in the 1955 adaptation of Many Rivers to Cross; Taylor joins John Cassavetes in 1958’s Saddle the Wind, written by Rod Serling; Taylor plays the title role in Sturges’ The Law and Jake Wade (also 1958), co-starring Richard Widmark and Henry Silva; Anthony Mann’s 1960 remake of Cimarron, adapted from the classic Edna Ferber novel, stars Glenn Ford, Maria Schell, Lee J Cobb, Arthur O’Connell and Vic Morrow, and received Oscar nominations for best art direction/set decoration (color) and sound; and Robert Mulligan’s 1968 adaptation of The Stalking Moon features Gregory Peck, Eva Marie Saint and Robert Forster. The boxed set retails for $59.92, individual titles for $12.97.

“WINGS” — THE SEVENTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 26 episodes from the 1995-’96 season of the NBC- TV prime-time sitcom starring Timothy Daly and Steven Weber as brothers who run a small charter airline on Nantucket. The series picked earned its final Emmy nomination that season, for outstanding makeup for a series (for the episode “Death Becomes Him”). This boxed set retails for $42.99.

THE WIZARD OF GORE (Dimension Extreme/ Genius Products): An unrated edition of director Jeremy Kasten’s feature debut, a self-consciously surreal remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ 1970 drive-in cult favorite, with the inimitable Crispin Glover as Montag the Magnificent, an eccentric stage performer whose grisly feats of illusion have a strange way of becoming reality. Kip Pardue, who makes every attempt to out-twitch co-star Glover (no mean feat), is top-billed as a reporter who gets too close to the story. Bijou Phillips, Jeffrey Combs and Brad Dourif also find themselves in harm’s way (not a good place to be). **

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger