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Mark Burger’´s DVD Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK

MOTHER OF TEARS (Dimension Extreme/Genius Products): At long last, Dario Argento completes the Three Mothers trilogy begun with his 1976 classic Suspiria and continued in 1980’s Inferno. Although larger in scale and scope than its predecessors, the new film is the least in terms of surreal impact — although it’s not for lack of trying. When the title character, an ancient witch of infinite evil and power, is inadvertently resurrected in contemporary Rome, the city is soon gripped by a supernatural frenzy that encompasses madness, murder, mutilation, cannibalism and any number of unsavory occurrences. Asia Argento, Dario’s delectable daughter, plays the resident heroine, Sarah Mandy by name, who must uncover the mystery of the Mother of Tears and vanquish her before Rome, and the rest of the world, goes to hell (literally). It doesn’t make much sense, but Argento’s penchant for the macabre is often in full, bloody bloom… and that’s as it should be. Fans of the franchise will enjoy appearances by Suspiria veterans Udo Kier and Daria Nicolodi, although they play different roles here. Nicolodi, who also appeared in Inferno, is Asia’s real-life mother, and plays her onscreen mother here (as a ghost, no less). It’s not a classic, but on Halloween’s eve, Mother of Tears certainly delivers the gory goods in savage style. For Argento fans — and I count myself among them — that’s good enough. **’½

ALSO ON DVD

ASYLUM (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): From David R. Ellis, director of the legendary (and lamentable) Snakes on a Plane, comes this well-made but stupidly-written shocker about the renovation of a long-condemned mental institution into a college dormitory. In a movie like this, that can only mean bad things… and it does. Mark Rolston plays the resident boogeyman, in this case the mad medico Dr. Burke. Rated R. *’½

A BROKEN LIFE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Neil Coombs’ intriguing but hit-or-miss psychological drama stars the ever-intense Tom Sizemore as a middle-aged man who plans to commit suicide and drags a student filmmaker (Corey Sevier) along to document his last day. A good cast also includes Ving Rhames, Saul Rubinek, Cynthia Dale and Grace Kosaka (also a writer and producer), but this is one case where the parts are greater than the whole. **

THE EYE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): After a cornea transplant, Jessica Alba starts seeing dead people in this wellmade but uninvolving American remake of the hit 2002 Asian shocker. Available in both a single-disc and a special double-disc editions. Rated PG-13. *’½

“FRIGHTFULLY FUNNY — VOL. 2” (BCI): For the kids at Halloween, here’s a compilation of episodes from such popular Saturday-morning ’70s cartoons as “Fraidy Cat,” “Ghostbusters” and “Groovie Goolies,” all of which I watched as a kid until I graduated to real horror films… and look how I turned out! This boxed set retails for $19.98.

HALLOWEEN 30 TH ANNIVERSARY COM- MEMORATIVE SET (Anchor Bay Entertainment): To celebrate the third decade of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, here’s a six-disc limited-edition boxed set ($89.97) that includes special editions of both the theatrical version and the extended version of the original film, the 1988 sequel Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (which is far better than it had any right to be), the 1989 sequel Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (perhaps the nadir of the entire series), the documentary Halloween: 25 Years of Terror, a bonus Blu-ray disc and a miniature version of the Michael Myers mask! All special features aside, the original film is a perfect exercise in screen suspense and remains one of my favorite films. What’s wrong with it? Not a single thing. Rated R. ****

HOLLYWOOD CHAINSAW HOOKERS (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): A 20 th – anniversary of Fred Olen Ray’s intentionally campy 1988 horror spoof, with Jay Richardson as a wise-cracking LA detective on the trail of a cult of Egyptian worshippers led by Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Among the babes who wield the blades are Linnea Quigley, Michelle Bauer (then Michelle McLellan) and Olen’s then-wife, Dawn Wildsmith (who’s also credited with special makeup design). With a title like this, a cult following was inevitable. **

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Paramount Home Entertainment): After a 19-year hiatus, Harrison Ford returns as the fearless, fedora-wearing, archaeologist hero in the fourth installment of the phenomenally popular franchise, directed once again by Steven Spielberg. The film was a worldwide blockbuster, and although some fans were dismissive, this delivers everything it promises — and maybe a bit more. As a lethal KGB ice princess, Cate Blanchett is one of the series’ best villains to date. Shia LaBeouf, John Hurt, Ray Winstone, Jim Broadbent and Karen Allen (reprising her role as Marion Ravenwood) lend solid support. This is available in a single-disc edition ($34.99 retail), a twodisc special edition ($39.99 retail), a Blu-ray disc (also $39.99), or in an “Indiana Jones Complete Adventures” gift set containing all four films ($99.98). Is this the last of Indiana Jones? We shall see…. Rated PG-13. ***’½

JEROME BIXBY’S THE MAN FROM EARTH (Starz Home Entertainment/Anchor Bay Entertainment): The final story of sci-fi writer Jerome Bixby (1923-1998) is adapted nearly 10 years later in this award-winning drama in which a college professor (David Lee Smith) tells his friends and colleagues that he is an immortal who has lived for 14,000 years. Absorbing and thought-provoking in the best science-fiction tradition, and well-played by an ensemble cast that also includes William Katt, Tony Todd, Richard Riehle, John Billingsley, Alexis Thorpe, Annika Peterson and Ellen Crawford. ***

“KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS” — SEASON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): All eight episodes from the 2007 season of the E! Entertainment Television reality-TV series focusing on the oh-so-glamorous life of LA socialite Kim Kardashian. This boxed set retails for $19.98.

“KIMORA: LIFE IN THE FAB LANE” — SEA- SON ONE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): All seven episodes from the 2007 season of the top-rated Style Network reality series focusing on the life of fashion model and Hollywood diva Kimora Lee Simmons. This boxed set retails for $19.98.

“MORELLA’S BLOOD VISION” (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): A triple-bill of lowbudget horror films from the golden daze of the drive-in, each one presented by a buxom, black-clad hostess (Kimberly A Ray, embodying sort of a second-tier Elvira) who appears in introductory segments known as “Graveyard Theatre.” The selections include: Del Tenney’s Zombies (1964), better known as I Eat Your Skin; the 1965 Filipino fright-fest The Blood Seekers, also known as Blood Thirst; and Blood Stalkers (1978), in which dumb city folk encounter sadistic yokels in the Florida Everglades. This special-edition DVD retails for $19.98.

“THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION” (Deimos/ BCI): Just in time for Halloween, a five-film selection of feature films starring Paul Naschy (born Jacinto Molina), the “Spanish King of Horror” and an international icon among genre buffs. The collection includes Horror Rises from the Tomb, Vengeance of the Zombies and Blue Eyes of the Broken Doll (all 1973), Exorcism (1974) and Human Beasts (1980). Naschy had a hand in scripting all of them and he directed Human Beasts. The prolific and durable Naschy, who introduces each film, is still cranking ’em out to this day. This boxed set retails for $39.98.

RAIN OF FIRE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Kirk Douglas, dignity intact, toplines this 1977 knock-off of The Omen, playing an industrialist whose construction plans for a nuclear power plant could have devastating, even apocalyptic, consequences… especially since his own son (Simon Ward) is the Anti-Christ. Not very scary, but very amusing as a guilty pleasure. Highlights include Kirk’s nude nightmare, Ennio Morricone’s hyper score, loopy leaps of theological folly, the obligatory “accidental” fatalities and a supporting cast that far outclasses the material: Alexander Knox, Virginia McKenna, Romolo Valli, Geoffrey Keen, Adolfo Celi and the always-welcome Anthony Quayle. Incredibly, the ending of this version is completely different from the one I’ve seen countless times before. Originally released as Holocaust 2000, this was released in the US as The Chosen in 1978. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore! (I wish they would.) Rated R. **

SPEED RACER (Warner Home Video): Emile Hirsch plays the title role in Andy and Larry Wachowski’s bombastic, bigscreen adaptation of the popular animated series (see below), depicting the origins of a young speed demon and his adventures both on and off the track. At its best, relatively speaking, this captures the colorful spirit of the old series (which wasn’t exactly Shakespeare to begin with, even for a cartoon), but it’s overlong, overblown, and on sensory overload the entire time. This was supposed to jump-start a franchise but never kicked into gear at the box-office. Oh, well…. Amidst the visual chaos you’ll find John Goodman and Susan Sarandon (as Speed’s parents), Christina Ricci, Matthew Fox and the always-welcome Richard Roundtree. But, in the end, no go Speed Racer. Rated PG. **

“SPEED RACER THE NEXT GENERATION: THE FAST TRACK” (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The latest animated feature based on the popular Nicktoons Network series, itself a latter-day continuation of the popular ‘60s cartoon series. This special-edition DVD, which includes a sneak peek at real-life NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon’s appearance in an upcoming episode of the series, retails for $19.98. In addition, LionsGate is also releasing the “Speed Racer Complete Classic Series Collection,” a special-edition, five-DVD boxed set (in a collector’s case shaped like Speed Racer’s car) that includes all 52 episodes of the original animated series and retails for $49.98.

THE STRANGERS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Writer/director Bryan Bertino makes a noteworthy feature debut with this simple but effective thriller in which a young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman) is terrorized by vandals who instigate a violent home invasion against them. This DVD includes both the R-rated theatrical version and an unrated version. **’½

“TNA ULTIMATE MATCHES” (TNA Home Video/ Navarre): This “Total Nonstop Action” wrestling compilation highlights such popular matches as “The Six Sides of Steel,” “Ultimate X,” “King of the Mountain,” “Full Metal Mayhem” and more, featuring such wrestlers as Kurt Angle, Jeff Jarrett, AJ Styles, Robert Roode, Christian Cage and Samoa Joe. This two-disc set retails for $19.98.

“ULTRAMAN BOX SET” (Golden Media Group/BCI): All 39 episodes from the cult sci-fi series that ran from 1966-’67 in its native Japan before becoming an international sensation in the US shortly thereafter. Susumu Kurobe plays Shin Hayata, a member of the Science Patrol, a group dedicated to thwarting attacks on our planet by alien invaders and giant monsters. What his colleagues don’t know is that Hayata is actually Ultraman, a heroic emissary from another world sent to assist in ridding ours of evil. Boy, could we use him now! In Japan, this spun off more than 20 subsequent TV series’! The episodes contain both versions: In the original Japanese and dubbed into English. This boxed set retails for $49.98.

“WARNER BROS. PICTURES GANGSTES COLLECTION VOLUME 4” (Warner Home Video): Five classic gangster films make their DVD debuts in this boxed set ($59.92 retail). The selection includes: The 1933 bootlegging melodrama The Little Giant, with Edward G. Robinson (who else?) in the lead; Robinson’s back in Michael Curtiz’ Kid Galahad (1937), co-starring Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart; Robinson and Bogart are joined by Claire Trevor in Anatole Litvak’s The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938), adapted from the Barre Lyndon play by John Wexley and John Huston; Lloyd Bacon’s 1939 adaptation of Invisible Stripes stars Bogart, George Raft and William Holden; and Larceny, Inc. (1942), a light-hearted romp with Robinson and future Oscar winners Broderick Crawford, Anthony Quinn and Jane Wyman. Incredibly, Robinson was never once nominated for an Academy Award, and the honorary one he received in 1973 was posthumous.

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

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