Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK: SEENO EVIL: THE STORY OF THE MOORS MURDERS (MPI Home Video): One ofEngland’s most notorious murder cases is given thorough and effectivetreatment in this well-rendered docudrama, originally broadcast in twoparts on English television. For devotees of true crime, thenames Ian Brady and Myra Hindley need no introduction. In themid-1960s, the couple (played here by Sean Harris and Maxine Peak) wasaccused of murdering five children. Shortly before their trial, thedeath penalty was abolished in England, yet the crimes were so heinousthat there was a huge public outcry to reinstate it. Leavingmost of the grislier details of the murders to the viewer’s imagination- which in no way render them less effective – this persuasiveprocedural tends to focus on the principal characters in the case. Inaddition to Hindley and Brady, who remain (appropriately) inscrutablethroughout, the impact of the case is also felt by Myra’s sisterMaureen (Joanna Froggatt) and brother-in-law Dave (Michael McNulty),both of whom were also vilified to some extent given how much time theyspent with Myra and Ian. There’s also superior work by GeorgeCostigan as Joe Mounsey, the diligent police detective who eventuallycracked the case, and Charlotte Emmerson as his partner, Pat Clayton.As for the actual perpetrators, Brady and Hindley were sentenced tolife imprisonment. Hindley died in 2002; Brady is still alive. *** ALSO ON DVD “BURKE’SLAW” – SEASON ONE, VOLUME ONE (VCI Entertainment): Gene Barry stars inthe title role of the first 16 episodes from the 1963-’64 season of theprime-time ABC-TV mystery series (one of the first produced by AaronSpelling), in which the chief of detectives of the LA Police Department- who also happens to be a millionaire playboy – solves a seeminglyunsolvable murder each week. Other regulars: Gary Conway, Regis Toomeyand Leon Lontoc, the latter as Burke’s faithful driver, Henry. Thelineup of guest stars includes Telly Savalas, Gloria Swanson, MaryAstor, Broderick Crawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Terry-Thomas, Carolyn Jones(then married to Spelling), Zasu Pitts (in her final TV appearance), EdBegley, William Bendix, Burgess Meredith, Keenan Wynn, Ida Lupino, DonRickles, Cedric Hardwicke, Nick Adams, John Ireland and even SoupySales. Both Swanson and Jones earned Golden Globe nominations for theirwork here. This boxed set retails for $29.99. CITY SLICKERS (MGMHome Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A”collector’s edition” of director Ron Howard’s satisfying high-concept1991 comedy smash, with Billy Crystal (also the executive producer),Bruno Kirby and Daniel Stern as three friends who embark on an eventfulvacation sojourn at a modern-day dude ranch. The cherry on top is JackPalance’s Oscar-winning performance (best supporting actor) as Curly,the grizzled (but ill-fated) trail boss. Jake Gyllenhaal makes hisscreen debut as Crystal’s son. Rated PG-13. ***’ CUT OFF(Union Station Media/Anchor Bay Entertainment): An engagingly trashyguilty pleasure with Amanda Brooks as a spoiled heiress who turns tocrime immediately after being cut off by her wealthy father (MalcolmMcDowell). Fast-paced and occasionally hilarious, with nods toward TheWizard of Oz and nice work from Thomas Ian Nicholas (as Brooks’drug-addled boyfriend), Patricia Rae, Jimmy Shubert, rapper Kurupt,James Russo (in his umpteenth turn as a hard-boiled cop), RichardEdson, Francesco Quinn, Clint Howard, Anne Archer, Faye Dunaway (asBrooks’ mother) and Matthew H Fisher and Robert F Lyons as sleazypolicemen named “Bush” and “Cheney.” Can you dig it? **’ DARFURNOW (Warner Home Video): Writer/director Ted Braun’s well-rendered andaward-winning documentary feature focuses on the efforts of sixdifferent people (including actor Don Cheadle, who also produced anddid some filming) to raise awareness and lobby for support on behalf ofthe suffering populace of war-torn Darfur in the Sudan. Rated PG. *** “ESPNRINGSIDE RIVALRIES” (ESPN Home Entertainment/Genius Products LLC): Aspecial-edition DVD that examines some of professional boxing’s morenoteworthy (and notorious) rivalries, including James Braddock/JoeLouis, Jake LaMotta/Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Frazier/Muhammad Ali.This two-disc “Slugfest Edition,” which retails for $27.95, includesobservations from boxing experts about the fights and fighters, as wellas the complete, uncut broadcasts of the “Thrilla in Manila” and the”St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” Everybody reveres Muhammad Ali, andthat’s fine – but give me Smokin’ Joe Frazier any day. “FORGOTTENNOIR – COLLECTOR’S SET, SERIES ONE” (VCI Entertainment): A selection ofDVD double-features of low-budget film-noir rarities. Volume 1 includesKurt Neumann’s 1954 white-slavery melodrama They Were So Young, withScott Brady, Raymond Burr and Gert Frobe, and Portland Expose (1957)with Edward Binns and Frank Gorshin. Volume 2 includes George Raft inLoan Shark (1952) and director William Berke’s Arson, Inc. (1949).Volume 3 includes Cesar Romero in the 1953 whodunit Shadow Man (AKAStreet of Shadows) and Berke’s 1947 crime drama Shoot to Kill,featuring a great turn by Edmund MacDonald as a corrupt DA. The boxedset retails for $29.99, individual volumes for $14.99. GIRLSJUST WANT TO HAVE FUN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): This bubble-headedteen comedy from 1985 is harmless fun, due in large part to suchenthusiastic up-and-comers as Sarah Jessica Parker, Helen Hunt, ShannenDoherty and Jonathan Silverman. Evidently, however, the budget didn’tallot for Cyndi Lauper’s rendition of the title tune… which, as weall know, is the definitive one. Rated PG. ** A GOOD MAN IS HARDTO FIND (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment):Screenwriter/director Leslie Small’s adaptation of David Payton’spopular ’90s’ touring play stars Darrin Dewitt Henson as a handsomeminister trying to deal with the personal problems of his parishoners,while his ambitious wife (Golden Brooks) succumbs to the temptations ofa potential show-biz career. Melissa De Sousa, Joe Torry, DariusMcCrary, Hill Harper, real-life bishop Noel Jones (in his screen debut)and Tatyana Ali (briefly) also appear in this soap-opera melodramathat’s at least better-acted than expected. Rated PG-13. ** NAVAJOJOE (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment):A strapping Burt Reynolds plays the title role in Sergio Corbucci’s1966 spaghetti Western, that of a cunning and fearless Navajo brave whoavenges his tribe’s massacre at the hands (and guns) of a gang ofoutlaws. Produced by Dino De Laurentiis’s company, Reynolds joked inlater years, when it came to his spaghetti Western, “I worked with thewrong Sergio.” The blaring score, replete with blaring theme song, isby Ennio Morricone under the pseudonym “Leo Nichols.” This is standardissue all the way, but does offer the novelty (still) of a NativeAmerican character who is the hero of the story, and the widescreen DVDtransfer is quite nice. ** THE NUDE BOMB (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): Don Adams returns as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, in thisfitfully funny 1980 comedy based on the popular 1960s TV series “GetSmart.” Here, Smart is once again battling the forces of KAOS, whichhas developed a weapon that can destroy all clothing throughout theworld. Vittorio Gassman hams it up as the villain, and the castincludes such familiar faces as Dana Elcar (succeeding the late EdPlatt as “The Chief”), Norman Lloyd, Vito Scotti, Walter Brooke,Richard Sanders, Rhonda Fleming, co-screenwriter Bill Dana and someholdovers from the series: Joey Forman as Agent 13 and Robert Karvelasas Larrabee. Fans of the show have a big head start. Best gags: Thedesk-mobile and the “shush”-copter, and the filmmakers get plenty ofmileage out of the Universal Studios Tour. I saw this in the theaterfor my 12th birthday. (It had to be something rated PG, so…) RatedPG. **’ “THE ODD COUPLE” – SEASON FOUR (CBS DVD/ParamountHome Entertainment): All 22 episodes from the 1973-’74 season of theever-popular TV sitcom adapted from Neil Simon’s hit play, with thepeerless pairing of Tony Randall as Felix Unger and Jack Klugman asOscar Madison. During its prime-time run, the series was only a mildratings success. In syndication, however, it went through the roof -and still airs regularly. This is one show I never get tired ofwatching. Three Emmy nominations that season: Outstanding comedy seriesand best lead actor in a comedy series (Randall and Klugman both). Thisboxed set retails for $39.98. “THE PASSION OF GREG THE BUNNY” -THE BEST OF THE FILM PARODIES VOLUME 2 (Shout! Factory): All fiveepisodes from the 2006 (and second) season of the popular IndependentFilm Channel series in which obnoxious puppets “remake” popular films -in this case, Blue Velvet, Dogville, Freaky Friday and both AmericanMovie and The Passion of the Christ (in the same episode, no less).This DVD includes deleted scenes and outtakes, commentaries by seriescreators and a reunion special, and retails for $19.99. “PRIDESHOCKWAVE 2006” (Pride FC Worldwide LLC/BCI): For extreme-fightingfans, here’s the championship event held in Japan on Dec. 31, 2006, asFedor Emelianenko defends his title against Mark Hunt. Other boutsinclude Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Ikuhisa Minowa, Shinya Aoki vs. JoachimHansen, Takanori Gomi vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida, etc. This DVD retails for$19.98. PS I LOVE YOU (Warner Home Video): Hilary Swank, wholooks great in her underwear, plays a young widow who starts receivingletters from her deceased hunk of a husband (Gerard Butler, no slouchin the looks department himself) giving her advice on how to move onwith her life, in this awkward adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’sbest-seller, a bizarre and occasionally jaw-dropping combination ofromantic comedy and pathos. A “chick flick” to the Nth degree, this isat least better than Swank and director/co-screenwriter RichardLaGravnese’s earlier team-up, the unbearable Freedom Writers. Two orthree more movies together and they might make something tolerable. Afull-tilt supporting cast includes Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow, GinaGershon, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, James Marsters and Harry Connick Jr., butthe end theme song by James Blunt is the last straw for anyone withtestosterone. Rated PG-13. *’ “SOAP” – THE COMPLETE SERIES(Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): All 90 episodes from thecontroversial but often inventive ABC-TV sitcom that poked fun at theclich’s of nighttime soap operas as it depicted (in broad fashion) theantics of two suburban families: The blue-collar Campbells and thewhite-collar Tates. This was the first prime-time series to feature anopenly gay character, Jodie Tate – and it launched the actor playinghim (Billy Crystal) to prominence. During its 1977-’81, the show thriceearned Emmy nominations as outstanding comedy series, and won Emmys forRichard Mulligan (Burt Campbell), Cathryn Damon (Mary Campbell) andRobert Guillaume (Benson) – as well as spawning the series “Benson.” Mymom wouldn’t let me watch this show but I did anyway. This 12-discboxed set retails for $59.95. TO KILL A KING (Union StationMedia/Starz Home Entertainment): A familiar but well-acted historicalmelodrama tracing Oliver Cromwell’s rise to power in 17th-centuryEngland – the first (and last?) time that the country would be arepublic instead of a monarchy. Tim Roth seethes as Cromwell, RupertEverett dithers as the doomed King Charles I, and Dougray Scott (alsoan associate producer) plays Lord Gen. Thomas Fairfax, whose notions ofreform were less extreme than Cromwell’s, which brought the two meninto conflict. Olivia Williams, James Bolam and the always-welcomeCorin Redgrave round out a polished cast. **’ WELCOME HOME,ROSCOE JENKINS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Martin Lawrence,in one of his better performances, plays the title role inwriter/director Malcolm D. Lee’s so-so ensemble comedy about a popularTV talk-show host whose family reunion (predictably) goes haywire. Alsopart of the clan: James Earl Jones, Margaret Avery, Michael ClarkeDuncan, Mike Epps, Cedric the Entertainer (who’s funny) and Mo’Nique(who’s not). Rated PG-13. ** Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.