Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK: “THEDARIO ARGENTO BOX SET” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A five-film boxedset of fearful features from the internationally renowned cultfilmmaker known to some as “the Italian Hitchcock” and to others as,simply, “the Maestro.” (Well, that’s what I always called him…). Thiscollection includes the special edition of 1982’s Tenebre (**’), whichstars Anthony Franciosa as a horror author stalked by a derangedkiller; the special edition of 1985’s Phenomena (**), which starsJennifer Connelly (in her first leading role) and the ever-delightfulDonald Pleasence; the disappointing but still-interesting 1993 Trauma(**), which boasts an all-star cast including Piper Laurie, FredericForrest, James Russo, Brad Dourif and Argento’s intoxicating daughterAsia; the 2005 thriller Do You Like Hitchcock?, which was made forItalian television and is Argento’s tribute to Alfred Hitchcock; and,the gem of this collection, the 2004 serial-killer thriller The CardPlayer (***), which marked a distinct return to form for Argento andboasts strong performances by Stefania Rocca and Liam Cunningham ascops trailing a fiendish murderer who broadcasts his crimes on theInternet. Good or bad, Dario Argento’s films are alwaysinteresting and they bear the distinctive visual and thematic imprintof their maker. In this day and age of high-concept, low-impact,cookie-cutter filmmaking, that matters. This collection retails for$49.97, individual titles for $19.97. (Truth in disclosure:Yours truly wrote the official press release for this boxed set, butaside from my basic writing fee I don’t see a cent from any sales. Idid it primarily because I’m a huge Argento admirer and it was an honorto do it. And that’s the whole truth.) ALSO ON DVD “BESTOF LOCO COMEDY JAM” – VOL. 1 (Mars Films/BCI Latino): George Lopez,Gary Owen, Mike Robles, Gabriel Iglesias, Joey Medina and Jeff Garciaare among the all-star, all-Latino line-up of stand-up comedians, tapedlive in Pasadena. This DVD retails for $14.98. CAN I DO IT…TILL I NEED GLASSES? (Code Red DVD/BCI): This low-budget 1977 comedy,essentially a series of one-liners and bawdy shtick in the KentuckyFried Movie/Groove Tube vein, is noteworthy because of Robin Williams’screen debut, although he only has a few scenes. The level of wit caneasily be ascertained by the bit that begins: “Hey buddy, got anytoilet paper?” Most of the gags are groaners, but you may find yourselflaughing in spite of yourself (and your good taste). Hard to believethe theme song wasn’t a hit. This is actually a sequel to a similarfilm called If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind, so you can seethere’s a theme here. Rated R. ** DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE(Genius Products): There’s plenty of life in the old chestnut yet, asthis updated version of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale addssome interesting contemporary twists and boasts a fantastic turn byDougray Scott in the dual role of the driven scientist Dr. Henry Jekylland his murderous alter-ego, Edward Hyde. Nice supporting work fromKrista Bridges as Jekyll’s attorney and reliable Tom Skerritt as hisfriend, Utterson. *** HAMBURGER HILL (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): A special edition of director John Irvin’s fact-based1987 Vietnam War drama in which a group of GIs desperately attempt tocapture the title territory from the Viet Cong in 1969. In the wake ofthe Oscar-winning Platoon (1986), this was one of the first films totake a more realistic approach to the war in Vietnam – and it remainsone of the better ones. An up-and-coming cast includes Dylan McDermott(in his screen debut), Don Cheadle, Steven Weber and the terrificCourtney B. Vance (also in his screen debut). Rated R. *** “HE-MANAND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE” – VOLUME TWO (Mattel/BCI): All 39episodes from the 2002-’03 season of the award-winning animated seriesbased on the popular line of Mattel action figures. Winner of a DaytimeEmmy for outstanding achievement in sound editing (live-action andanimation). This boxed set, which retails for $26.98, includes suchspecial features as interviews, sketch galleries, commentaries andcollectible cards. THE HOTTIE AND THE NOTTIE (LiberationEntertainment/Genius Products): Paris Hilton is the former andChristine Lakin the latter in this sometimes-charming romantic comedyabout a lovelorn slacker (Joel David Moore) who tries to woo the girlhe’s had a crush on since first grade but must contend with herless-attractive best friend… who begins to fall for him. Utterlypredictable at the outset, this gets better as it goes along, withHilton actually giving her best performance to date(!)… but this isLakin’s movie all the way. Rated PG-13. ** “I LOVE NEW YORK” -SEASON 2 (Anchor Bay Entertainment): All 11 episodes from the 2007-’08season of the popular VH1 reality series focusing on the efforts offormer “Flavor of Love” contestant Tiffany Pollard as she chooses from20 eligible bachelors in the Big Apple. This boxed set retails for$34.97. “THE INCREDIBLE HULK” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Timedto coincide with the release of the second Incredible Hulk feature filmcomes this DVD double-feature of two TV movies based on the popularprime-time series (which ran on CBS from 1978 to 1982) starring BillBixby as David Banner and Lou Ferrigno as his alter-ego, the Hulk. InThe Incredible Hulk Returns (1988), Eric Allan Kramer portrays theMighty Thor, and in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk (1989) – whichBixby also directed – the cast includes Rex Smith as blind attorneyMatt Murdock (AKA “The Daredevil”) and John Rhys-Davies as thenefarious Wilson Fisk (AKA “Kingpin”). This DVD retails for $9.98. “THEJAMES STEWART WESTERNS COLLECTION” (Universal Studios HomeEntertainment): To commemorate the 100th birthday of one of America’sgreatest stars – and a great actor, to boot – here is a six-filmcollection including some of his most memorable Westerns: GeorgeMarshall’s classic 1939 Western comedy Destry Rides Again pairs Stewartwith Marlene Dietrich; Anthony Mann’s Winchester ’73 (1950) marked thefirst, but hardly the last, time that a star took a percentage of theprofits instead of a normal salary; Mann’s 1953 adaptation of Bend ofthe River co-stars Arthur Kennedy and Rock Hudson; Stewart and Mannreunited a year later for The Far Country; Stewart is joined by AudieMurphy and Dan Duryea in Night Passage (1957), and then by MaureenO’Hara and Brian Keith in The Rare Breed (1966). There wasn’t a genre,it seems, that Stewart wasn’t good in. This boxed set retails for$39.98. PARK (Monarch Home Video): Writer/directorKurt Voelker’s award-winning but uneven debut feature is an ensemblecomedy in the Robert Altman mold, focusing on a group of people parkedin a public park on an average day in LA. Melanie Lynskey, WilliamBaldwin, Ricki Lake, Cheri Oteri, Anne Dudek, Anthony “Treach” Criss,Izabella Miko and Dagney Kerry give it their all. It has its insightfuland satirical moments, but also a lot of shrill ones. Rated R. ** “REDSOX MEMORIES: THE GREATEST MOMENTS IN BOSTON RED SOX HISTORY” (Shout!Factory): You can be damned sure that the long-awaited worldchampionships of 2004 and 2007 will be highlighted in this baseballdocumentary tracing the highs (and lows) of Beantown’s beloved Sox,celebrating their 107th year in existence. The last few years, itseems, everyone’s a Red Sox fan. This DVD retails for $19.99. THERED VIOLIN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Director Francois Gerard’sepisodic 1998 drama traces the history of a rare and precious violinover the course of three centuries. A good cast includes Samuel L.Jackson, Colm Feore, Don McKellar (who co-wrote the film with Girard)and gorgeous Greta Scacchi, but despite Alain Dostie’s exquisitecinematography and John Corigliano’s Oscar-winning score, this isponderous in the extreme. Rated R. ** “SONNY CHIBA DOUBLEFEATURE” (Rarescope/BCI): A pair of martial-arts thrillers starring theinternationally popular Shinichi “Sonny” Chiba, available for the firsttime on these shores: In Fighting Fist (1992), Chiba plays a policesuperintendent intent on breaking the mob stranglehold of the Yakuza;and in 1974’s Soul of Bruce Lee (AKA Soul of Chiba), he joins forceswith Interpol to bring down a Thai drug empire. This double-featureretails for $14.98. “STARGATE: INFINITY” – THE COMPLETE SERIES(Shout! Factory): Somehow, Roland Emmerich’s 1996 sci-fi melodramaspawned two live-action television series as well as this animated one(which ran on Fox from 2002-’03), all 26 episodes of which are includedin this boxed set, which includes such bonus features asspecial-effects tests, and retails for $34.99. THOSE DARINGYOUNG MEN IN THEIR JAUNTY JALOPIES (Legend Films):Producer/director/co-writer Ken Annakin’s 1969 follow-up to his 1965hit Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines isn’t quite as muchfun (and has too many pit stops) but still offers colorful, breezy,slapstick escapism for all ages. The international all-star castincludes Tony Curtis, Terry-Thomas, Gert Frobe, Eric Sykes, SusanHampshire, Jack Hawkins, and the scene-stealing duo of Peter Cook andDudley Moore. As is customary with this sort of film, the team I rootfor doesn’t win. Also known as Monte Carlo or Bust!, the film’s themesong is sung by none other than Jimmy Durante. Rated G. **’ “TNADESTINATION X” (TNA Home Video/Navarre): For wrestling fans, here arehighlights from the “Total Nonstop Action” pay-per-view wrestling eventfrom March 9, 2008, including the “Six Man Main Event” (The AngleAlliance vs. Samoa Joe, Christian Cage and Kevin Gage), the X DivisionChampionship Match (“Black Machismo” Jay Lethal vs. “Maple Leaf Muscle”Petey Williams), and other matches. This DVD retails for $19.98. VIOLENTCITY (Blue Underground): Charles Bronson headlines director SergioSollima’s 1970 shoot-’em-up as a vengeful hit-man torn between a slymob boss (the inimitable Telly Savalas), who wants him to join theteam, and his ex-mistress (Jill Ireland, Bronson’s real-life wife), whojust plain wants him. Lina Wertmuller was one of the screenwriters ofthis uneven potboiler, which does boast a memorable finale and one ofEnnio Morricone’s loudest scores. This is the full, European cut of thefilm, which was released in the US in 1973 as The Family – more tocapitalize on Savalas’ fame than Bronson’s. Not a particularly goodmovie (although it does have its fans), but steer clear of thepublic-domain versions released under its US title, which tend to bebadly edited. ** Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.