Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK: THEGUNFIGHTER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Henry King’sexcellent 1950 drama was one of the first post-war Westerns to take amore realistic look at violence and the circumstances which beget it.This is no cut-and-dried shoot-’em-up pitting good guys against badguys but a far deeper meditation on the themes of retribution and fate. GregoryPeck is superb as Jimmy Ringo, a notorious gunslinger with both a pastand a reputation, and he’d like nothing more than to leave them behind.A weary Johnny has come to town to reconcile with his ex-wife, Peggy(Helen Westcott), only to discover that his reputation has precededhim, which will force him on more than one occasion to defend himselfthe only way he knows how – with a gun. A sterling supportingcast includes Millard Mitchell as Johnny’s former partner in crime (nowthe town sheriff), Karl Malden, Jean Parker, Richard Jaeckel, SkipHomeier and Anthony Ross. Although not a box-office hit, thefilm earned rave reviews and an Oscar nomination for best motionpicture story. In later years, Peck would often cite this film as oneof his personal favorites – while also telling the anecdote how thestudio desperately wanted him to shave his moustache for the role,whereas he felt it was the perfect touch (it was). ***’ TheGunfighter is included as part of the “Fox Western Classics” triplefeature, which also includes two Henry Hathaway films starring SusanHayward: Rawhide (1951), with Tyrone Power, Dean Jagger and Jack Elam;and 1954’s Garden of Evil, with Gary Cooper, Richard Widmark, CameronMitchell and Rita Moreno. The boxed set retails for $19.98. ALSO ON DVD THEBUCKET LIST (Warner Home Video): You simply cannot go wrong with JackNicholson and Morgan Freeman, teamed here as terminally ill men whodecide to go on one last jaunt around the world, fulfilling dreamsthey’ve never been able to before. In addition to the solid star duo,this also marks a return to form for director Rob Reiner. Rated PG-13.*** “CHiPs” – THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video):All 23 episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the prime-time NBC-TVseries depicting the on- and off-road adventures (mostly on) ofCalifornia Highway Patrolmen Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and “Ponch”Poncherello (Erik Estrada). Guest stars that season included DannyBonaduce (of “The Partridge Family”) and Christopher Knight (of “TheBrady Bunch”) on the same episode, as well as Troy Donahue, JackCarter, Shelley Berman, Michael Conrad, Mary Crosby, Eric Braeden andothers. This boxed set retails for $39.98. “THE CLASSICCABALLEROS COLLECTION: SALUDOS AMIGOS AND THREE CABALLEROS” (WaltDisney Studios Home Entertainment): A DVD double-feature of twoacclaimed Disney features from the studio’s golden era: Saludos Amigos(1942) boasts a quartet of animated short films inspired by a trip toSouth America by the Disney artists, and earned Oscar nominations forbest song (the title number), sound recording and scoring of a musicalpicture; the 1945 follow-up, Three Caballeros, earned Oscar nominationsfor best scoring of a musical picture and sound recording. Bonusfeatures include a vintage interview with Walt Disney and a pair ofDonald Duck cartoon shorts. Rated G. This DVD retails for $19.99. “THECOLOR ‘HONEYMOONERS’ COLLECTION” – VOLUME 3 (MPI Home Video): Anotherinstallment of 12 episodes from “The Jackie Gleason Show,” which ran onCBS from 1966 to 1970, in which Gleason revisited the character ofRalph Kramden, with Art Carney back as Ed Norton, Sheila MacRae asAlice Kramden and Jane Kean as Trixie Norton. Carney won a total ofseven (!) Emmy Awards playing Norton, while Gleason never won any. Thisboxed set retails for $39.98. “CORY IN THE HOUSE: NEWT &IMPROVED EDITION” (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Fourepisodes from the popular Disney Channel sitcom (spun off from “That’sSo Raven”) with Kyle Massey as the title character, a fast-talkingadolescent whose father (Rondell Sheridan) happens to be personal cheffor the President of the United States (John D’Aquino). This DVD, whichincludes behind-the-scenes footage, retails for $19.99. “COMEDYCENTRAL’S HOMEGROWN: UNCENSORED” (Comedy Central HomeEntertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): A special collection ofuncensored episodes of such popular Comedy Central series’ as”Chappelle’s Show,” “Crank Yankers,” “Strangers With Candy,” “Reno911!” and others. This DVD retails for $19.99. “‘DRAWN TOGETHER’SEASON THREE: UNCENSORED” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/ParamountHome Entertainment): All 14 episodes from the 2006-’07 (and final)season of the award-winning Comedy Central animated series, a take-offon reality shows in which the participants are reminiscent (and riffs)of classic cartoon characters. This boxed set, which includes suchspecial features as karaoke sing-alongs and audio commentaries, retailsfor $26.98. “FLAVOR OF LOVE” – SEASON 3 (Anchor BayEntertainment): A boxed set of uncensored episodes from the hit VH1reality series’ 2008 season, in which rapper Flavor Flav looks forlove… frequently in all the wrong places. Special features include”Girls Gone Flav: Ultimate Moments” and “Flav’s Philosophies” (whichmay be worth the price alone). This collector’s edition retails for$34.97. FULL COUNT (Allumination FilmWorks): Actor Jason Wilesmakes his feature debut as screenwriter and director with thiswell-meaning, ultimately empty-handed, coming-of-age melodrama set in asmall Kansas town in 1988, centering on a group of boyhood friendsspending their last summer together. The cast (including MichaelRooker, Michael Beach, Chris Klein, Jason Ritter, William Baldwin andChristopher Curry) provides some nice moments. Rated R. ** HARRYPOTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (Warner Home Video): Year Five atHogwart’s for the boy wizard (Daniel Radcliffe) and his chums (EmmaWatson and Rupert Grint) in the latest installment of the mega-buckfranchise based on JK Rowling’s best-selling series of children’snovel. Director David Yates joins the team this time around, as doHelena Bonham Carter and Imelda Staunton, joining the all-star likes ofMaggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon,Emma Thompson, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Robbie Coltrane, et al. Bynow, the pattern is established, and this overstuffed special-effectsextravaganza won’t disappoint fans. (Judging by the box-office gross,it sure didn’t.) Like the earlier films, this one runs a bit long, butis building momentum toward the inevitable climax. This is available asboth a single disc ($29.98 retail) and a two-disc special edition($34.99 retail), and Warner Home Video has also released the HarryPotter Limited Edition DVD Gift Set, a 12-disc collector’s edition($149.99 retail) containing special editions of all five films. RatedPG-13. *** NORA’S HAIR SALON 2: A CUT ABOVE (Twentieth CenturyFox Home Entertainment): Predictability reigns supreme in this cornysequel to the 2004 comedy, with Tatyana Ali (also a co-producer) andJean-Claude LaMarre (producer, co-director, and two onscreen roles)back for mild hip-hop comedy in the Barbershop vein. Stacey Dash, BobbyBrown (also in a dual role) and an unbilled Mekhi Pfifer (also aproducer) are also on hand. Rated PG-13. *’ THE PLANET (MTI HomeVideo): Writer/director/editor/cinematographer Mark Stirton’s featuredebut is a low-budget sci-fi melodrama in the Pitch Black vein, as agroup of mercenaries are stranded on a hostile planet. Filmed inScotland, and with pretty good computer-generated effects, but evenwith a running time of barely 70 minutes, this doesn’t add up to much -even when everything goes boom at the end. Rated R. *’ THESECOND FRONT (MTI Home Video): During World War II, a German Jewishscientist (Todd Field) is pursued by the Nazis, the KGB and the Alliesfor the secrets of an experiment he’s working on. Lana Litwak (she ofthe dreadful narration) plays his lover, and Craig Sheffer plays anAmerican agent in on the hunt. This combination of soap opera, spy-jinxand gunplay is hampered by a low budget, but gets better as it goesalong – and Ron Perlman does a memorable turn as a ruthless Germangeneral. Rated R. ** “SINATRA” (Warner Home Video): There’sonly one Frank Sinatra (1915-1998), and this 1992 mini-series (whichwon the Golden Globe Award in that category) attempts to tell the wholestory behind Ol’ Blue Eyes himself, a kid from Jersey who would go onto become one of the most beloved entertainers of all time, but notwithout controversy over the years. The star-studded cast includesPhilip Casnoff as Frank, Olympia Dukakis as mother Dolly, Gina Gershonas Nancy Barbato (Wife No. 1), Marcia Gay Harden as Ava Gardner (WifeNo. 2), Nina Siemaszko as Mia Farrow (Wife No. 3) and Rod Steiger asmobster Sam Giancana. Tina Sinatra was the executive producer. Emmywinner for outstanding individual achievement in direction in amini-series or special (James Steven Sadwith) and costume design, withseven additional nominations including outstanding mini-series. ThisDVD retails for $19.98. SPIDER BABY (Dark Sky Films): Aspecial-edition “director’s cut” of Jack Hill’s low-budget,black-comedy cult classic depicting what happens when an inbred familyof cannibals welcomes some guests for dinner. Subtitled “The MaddestStory Ever Told,” this certainly makes the attempt. Originally made in1964, this “escaped” into a few theaters four years later and then wasconsidered a lost film. The cast includes Jill Banner in the titlerole, Lon Chaney (who also sings the theme song!) as faithful chaufferBruno, Sid Haig as Ralph, Karl Schanzer (in his last film to date) asthe sleazy lawyer Mr. Schlocker, Quinn Redeker (later an Oscar nomineefor co-writing The Deer Hunter), Carol Ohmart, Mary Mitchel, BeverlyWashburn and Mantan Moreland, who gets killed immediately. There’snever quite been another film like this one (which may not be a badthing), but a remake is in the works. ** THE STRANGE LOVE OFMARTHA IVERS (Paramount Home Entertainment): Director Lewis Milestone’sonly film noir, this long but rewarding 1946 psychological thrillerstars Barbara Stanwyck in the title role, that of a fiery heiress whosepast comes back to haunt her when an old flame (Van Heflin) returns totown. Fine performances all around, including those of Lizabeth Scott,Judith Anderson and Kirk Douglas, making his screen debut as Stanwyck’sboozy DA husband. Robert Rossen adapted John Patrick’s motion picturestory (which earned an Oscar nomination), and Miklos Rosza’s floridscore is great. Beware public-domain versions of the film, which don’tlook nearly as good as Paramount’s transfer here. *** UNSHACKLED(MTI Home Video): A well-meaning and well-acted, but soft-pedaled,adaptation of writer/producer Harold Morris’ non-fiction best-sellerTwice Pardoned, detailing his years in prison, his friendship with ablack cellmate (James Black), and his eventual conversion to become amotivational speaker. Winston-Salem’s own Burgess Jenkins plays Morris,with Stacy Keach on hand as the hard-nosed but not inhuman warden.Rated PG-13. ** Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2008, Mark Burger