Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK BONNIEAND CLYDE (Warner Home Video): Both a cinematic and cultural landmark,Arthur Penn’s hugely controversial 1967 gangster saga established anumber of major Hollywood careers, not the least of which were those ofdirector Penn, leading man/producer Warren Beatty, leading lady FayeDunaway and, perhaps most important of all, co-star Gene Hackman. “They’re young. They’re in love. And they kill people.” Thatwas the catch-phrase of the film, and it certainly hit a nerve withaudiences who flocked to revel in the hell-raising, bank-robbing andeventual downfall of Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Dunaway).Joined by Clyde’s brother Buck (Hackman), sister-in-law Blanche(Estelle Parsons) and tagalong CW Moss (Michael J. Pollard), thismotley band of misfits found nationwide notoriety in a nation ravagedby the Great Depression. There’s a palpable sense of doom as theirreckless misbehavior, which is almost comical at the outset, escalatesinto savagery and desperate self-preservation. The cast isgreat, with Gene Wilder (in his screen debut) and Evans Evans as ayoung couple who get taken for a ride, Denver Pyle as a stone-faced,vengeance-fueled lawman, and Dub Taylor as CW’s worried father. Initiallydumped by its studio and dismissed by some critics, the film slowlybuilt into one of the blockbuster hits of its year – and of the entiredecade. Parsons won the Academy Award as best supporting actress, andcinematographer Burnett Guffey went home an Oscar winner, too. The filmalso earned nominations for best picture, director, actor (Beatty),actress (Dunaway), supporting actor (both Hackman and Pollard),original screenplay and costume design. The film is available inboth a two-disc edition (retailing for $20.98) and an “ultimatecollector’s edition” (retailing for $39.98). Either way, you can’t gowrong. Rated R. ***’ ALSO ON DVD ALIENS VS. PREDATOR:REQUIEM (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Two of the studio’smost successful sci-fi franchises clash – again – in this violent butempty-headed farrago in which the warring monsters are far moreinteresting than any of the human characters. When both Predator andAliens descend upon a small Colorado town… oh boy, is there trouble!In the end, everything goes boom, but this made money so don’t besurprised if there’s another installment on the way. This marks thedirectorial debut of special-effects masters Greg and Colin Strause(the Brothers Strause). Rated R (also available in an unrated specialedition). *’ ALL MONSTERS ATTACK (Classic Media/GeniusEntertainment): A special-edition DVD of the 1969 Japanese monstermash, in which a young boy (Tomonoro Yazaki) dreams of hanging out withGodzilla’s son on Monster Island. This deliberate attempt to make theGodzilla series more child-friendly hasn’t dated as well as others inthe series, and all of Godzilla’s scenes are highlights from previousmovies. This special-edition DVD also includes the English-dubbedversion, Godzilla’s Revenge, which was released in the U.S. in 1971.Rated G. ** THE BACKWOODS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Thereare echoes of Straw Dogs and Deliverance in writer/director KoldoSerra’s debut feature, a brooding and intense thriller in which twocouples (Gary Oldman and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Paddy Considine andVirginie Leyoden) go on a hunting trip in Northern Spain in 1978 andencounter trouble – a lot of it. Excellent work from Considine andOldman (terrific in a straightforward role), but the film can’t come upwith a satisfying denouement. Great cinematography by Unax Mendia.Rated R. **’ BOARDING HOUSE (Code Red/BCI Eclipse): A specialedition (!) of John Wintergate’s jaw-dropping, ultra-cheap 1982 shockerabout supernatural doings in a seemingly normal suburban house.Needless to say, it’s a good idea to stay out of the shower. Wintergatealso scripted under the name “Jonema” and stars under the name “HawkAdly,” and co-stars with his real-life wife, Kalassu (a good screamer).Filmed in “HorrorVision,” which means it was shot on video. This wasco-star Joel Riordan’s last film, and for many in the cast it was theironly one. One of the very few horror movies to feature a pie fight, buteven that doesn’t help. Wintergate and Kalassu provide an audiocommentary and reveal the scariest thing of all: They’re planning asequel! Rated R. ‘* “THE CISCO KID ‘- WESTERN TRIPLE FEATURE”(VCI Entertainment): Just what it says, with Duncan Renaldo in thetitle role of O. Henry’s Western hero: The Cisco Kid Returns (1945)marked Renaldo’s debut as the Kid, with Martin Garralaga as thefaithful sidekick, Pancho; the immediate sequel In Old New Mexico (AKAThe Cisco Kid in Old New Mexico), released the same year, reunited thetwo leads, but Leo Carrillo steps in as Pancho for The Gay Amigo (1949)- a title that would surely have different connotations today! ThisDVD, which retails for a whopping $6.99, also includes a bonus episodeof the subsequent, Emmy-nominated television series which starredRenaldo and Carrillo. Following the end of the series’ run in 1956,Renaldo retired and lived until 1980. It is for this role that he ismainly remembered. DIAMOND DOGS (Sony Pictures HomeEntertainment): A sluggish action/adventure with Dolph Lundgren (alsoan executive producer) leading the search for a priceless Buddhistartifact in modern-day Mongolia. Nothing special here. Rated R. ‘* HEROWANTED (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Violent revenge melodramawith Cuba Gooding Jr. as a trash collector mixed up in a bank robberythat goes wrong. The film takes some odd turns, some of them good…but not always, and not often enough. Ray Liotta plays the cop on thecase, with Norman Reedus, Kim Coates, Jean Smart, Tommy Flanagan,Christa Campbell and Ben Cross (sporting a Southern twang) also onhand. Good cinematography by Larry Blanford. The film is dedicated toco-star Steven Kozlowski, who died shortly after its completion. RatedR. ** JUNGLE QUEEN (VCI Entertainment): In one of her firstscreen roles, Ruth Roman plays the title role (Lothel, the Queen of theJungle) in this 13-chapter serial from 1945, in which Nazi agentsattempt to turn African tribes against the British during World War II.Edward Norris and Eddie Quillan play the heroes, Tala Birell andDouglass Dumbrille the villains. Guess who wins? This DVD retails for$19.99. “LEGENDS OF HOLLYWOOD – THE KINGS OF HORROR” (BCI): Aselection of 16 feature films (many in the public domain) commemoratingthe enduring legacy of horror favorites Bela Lugosi (1882-1956) andBoris Karloff (1887-1969). This boxed set, which retails for $14.98, isheavy on Lugosi: White Zombie (1932), The Death Kiss (1932), TheMysterious Mr. Wong (1934), The Human Monster (1939), The Gorilla(1939), The Devil Bat (1940), The Invisible Ghost (1941), Black Dragons(1942), The Corpse Vanishes (1942), The Ape Man (1943), Scared to Death(1947) and The Boys from Brooklyn (1952), better known as Bela LugosiMeets a Brooklyn Gorilla. The Karloff contingent, only four films,includes The Ape (1940), in the title role (guess which one) of DickTracy Meets Gruesome (1947), opposite Jack Nicholson and Nicholson’sthen-wife Sandra Knight in The Terror (1963) and The Snake People(1969), which wasn’t released in the US until two years after theactor’s death. MANDINGO (Legend Films): At long last on DVD,producer Dino De Laurentiis and director Richard Fleischer’s hugelycontroversial 1975 adaptation of Kyle Onstott’s best-selling novel,detailing – in lip-smacking fashion – the rampant cruelty andimmorality of 1840s Louisiana, particularly with regard to thetreatment of slaves. The immortal James Mason, not in top form andsporting a Cajun accent like no other, plays the rheumatic patriarch ofFalconhurst, a gone-to-seed plantation and principal setting of thisdecadence. Perry King, quite good under the circumstances, playsMason’s son, romantically involved with a “bed wench” (Brenda Sykes)even after he marries his cousin Blanche (a hysterical Susan George).Heavyweight boxer Ken Norton (in his screen debut) plays the muscular”Mandingo” slave Mede, who ultimately winds up in Blanche’s bed.Needless to say, things go from bed to worse in quick succession – kindof like the movie itself. Arguably the most reviled film of its time,if not the entire 1970s, this was nevertheless a huge box-office hit,spawned a sequel (Drum), and possesses a weird sort of fascination notunlike watching a train wreck. If the intent was to present thetackier, more sordid side of pre-Civil War racism in the AmericanSouth, then that surely is achieved. Norman Wexler’s dialogue isalternately atrocious, embarrassing and sometimes unintentionallyhilarious. Maurice Jarre’s score, on the other hand, is quite good.Muddy Waters sings the theme song! One thing’s for sure (well, prettymuch): This will never be remade. Rated R. *’ NANCY DREW(Warner Home Video): Emma Roberts plays the resourceful teen sleuth inthis contemporized version of Carolyn Keene’s mystery stories, whereinNancy finds herself trying to solve an unsolved Hollywood mystery. Alittle slick at times, but like its protagonist it’s spunky andgood-natured throughout. Also on hand: Barry Bostwick, Chris Kattan,Marshall Bell, Tate Donovan, Caroline Aaron, Rachael Leigh Cook, JoshFlitter, Adam Goldberg, Laura Harring and an unbilled Bruce Willis (ashimself). Rated PG. **’ SEA OF FEAR (LionsGate HomeEntertainment): Even the presence of Winston-Salem’s own BurgessJenkins in a supporting role can’t save this water-logged, low-budgetthriller about an ocean cruise gone deadly. An obvious nod to the 1989knockout Dead Calm, this ought to be called Dead Sleep. Jenkins isactually one of the luckier ones; he gets bumped off midway through.Sadly, this was one of Edward Albert’s last films. Rated PG-13. ‘* ASHOT IN THE DARK (Alpha Home Video): Not to be confused with theclassic Peter Sellers comedy of the same name, this 1935 whodunit is apretty routine adaptation of Clifford Orr’s The Dartmouth Murders, witha college campus rocked by the murder of a student. Fellow studentCharles Starrett (later the star of many B-Westerns) and his cop fatherRobert Warwick are determined to get to the bottom of things. Lots offamiliar faces on hand, including Dracula veterans Edward Van Sloan andHerbert Bunston, Eddie Tamblyn (father of Russ), and Doris Lloyd.Director Charles Lamont made over 200 movies (including shorts) in hiscareer. This isn’t one of the better ones. *’ SOLE SURVIVOR(Code Red/BCI Eclipse): Writer/director Thom Eberhardt’s 1983 featuredebut stars Anita Skinner (in her last role to date) as the onlysurvivor of a plane crash, now being haunted by strange and threateningvisions. The low budget hampers its ambitions, but this etherealchiller – not unlike the earlier Carnival of Souls and the later FinalDestination – does have its moments. In his last role, Kurt Johnson(who died in 1986) plays Skinner’s doctor and love interest. Look fastfor Brinke Stevens, who doffs her top during a strip-poker scene. Thisspecial-edition DVD includes a commentary with producer/co-star CarenL. Larkey and executive producer Sal Romeo. Rated R. ** TERROROF MECHAGODZILLA (Classic Media/Genius Entertainment): The 15th film inToho Studios’ franchise – and the finale of the original series – seesthe indefatigable Godzilla battling both his cyborg counterpart (thatwould be Mechagodzilla) and the giant sea monster Titantosaurus, bothunder the control of malevolent aliens with a tendency to cackleuncontrollably when discussing their plans for world domination. Timehas been kind to this installment, particularly in terms of camp humor(dig those space helmets!), and the battle scenes are a lot of fun.This marked the final Godzilla film directed by Ishiro Honda (whohelmed the very first in 1954), as well as the final screen appearanceof character actor Ikio Sawamura. This special-edition DVD includes theoriginal Japanese version released in 1975 and the watered-down,English-dubbed version released in the US in 1977. Rated G. **’ Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.