Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger


THE LIFE AND HARD TIMES OF GUY TERRIFICO (THINKFilm): One of the unsung legends of country music in the 1970s, Canadian-born Jim Jablowski (Matt Murphy) blazed a meteoric musical trail that was over seemingly before it even started. Rechristening himself Guy Terrifico (and later “Señor Fantastico”), his music and his mischief impressed the likes of Kris Kristofferson, Levon Helm, Donnie Fritts and Ronnie Hawkins, although not so much Merle Haggard, with whom Guy had a legendary dust-up. All of these music legends play themselves and play it perfectly straight, often to uproarious effect. Just when it seemed that Guy Terrifico was on the verge of super-stardom, his life was cut short under circumstances that remain mysterious to this very day. Never again would audiences enjoy Guy’s propensity for performing in various states of intoxication, particularly his penchant for simulating sex onstage with the drum kit while fans deliriously shouted “Hump the drum! Hump the drum!” With a big assist from Murphy, writer/director Michael Mabbott fashions a mockumentary that ranks right up there with Rob Reiner’s This is Spinal Tap – the granddaddy of them all. Of course, the funniest thing of all – aside from the drum-humping, which is unbelievably hilarious – is that Guy Terrifico never existed. Or did he? Rated R. ***


“ANIMANIACS” VOLUME 3 (Warner Home Video): A collection of 25 episodes of the popular animated series produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment. Along with the extras, which include an interview with composer Richard Stone, this totals nine hours of ‘toons – and retails for $44.98.

BLACK SNAKE MOAN (Paramount Home Entertainment): Writer/director Craig Brewer’s overheated but well-acted character study starring Samuel L. Jackson as a broken-down blues musician who is determined to “cure” the local tart (Christina Ricci) by chaining her to the radiator in his house. By no means a perfect – or even totally successful – film, but the affecting performances linger in the memory. Rated R. **_ (Two and a half)

CRUSADE OF VENGEANCE (MTI Home Video): Joanna Pacula leads a beauteous team of babes into battle against despot Rutger Hauer in this medieval melodrama set in the 12th century. Originally titled Warrior Angels, this isn’t all that bad until the end – at which point it falls apart. The cast also includes Arnold Vosloo, Molly Culver and John Vernon in his final role, although you’ll be hard-pressed to spot him. Rated R. *_ (One and a half)

DAVID AND BATHSHEBA (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment): Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward play the title roles in this 1951 Biblical romance produced by Darryl F. Zanuck himself. Hayward’s lustrous hairdo seems a bit out of place, and although it smacks of soap opera, Philip Dunne’s Oscar-nominated screenplay does succeed in humanizing the characters of Scripture. Additional nominations for Best Cinematography (color), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (color), Best Costume Design and for Alfred Newman’s score. The featurette “Once in 3,000 Years,” which purports to tell how the project came about, is studio propaganda at its most entertaining.

DEAD EASY (MTI Home Video): Yet another Fatal Attraction knock-off from producer Pierre David, with Richard Grieco and Joanna Pacula as a couple whose respective extra-marital liaisons lead to blackmail, kidnapping and murder. Routine but watchable, with a lot of twists. Pacula is good, Grieco better than you’d expect, and Ron Smerczak (as a canny cop) steals the show. Filmed in South Africa. Rated R. **

“DEADWOOD” – THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO Video): The full dozen episodes from the 2006 season of the acclaimed, award-winning Western series set in the title town. The third season won five Emmy Awards (including Outstanding Cinematography and Outstanding Art Direction), with an additional seven nominations including Outstanding Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for Ian McShane’s riveting performance as town boss Al Swearengen. Based, believe it or not, on actual characters and incidents. This boxed set, which retails for $99.98, also includes such bonus features as multiple commentaries and a featurette on the series’ third season.

“GOMER PYLE, USMC” – SEASON TWO (Paramount Home Video): Jim Nabors and Frank Sutton star in the 1965-’66 season of the CBS situation comedy that was spun off from “The Andy Griffith Show” and wound up eclipsing it in the ratings. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

I WAKE UP SCREAMING (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment): An entertaining 1941 thriller – and you can’t beat that title. Carole Landis plays a starlet who is murdered in New York City, leading to an investigation in which there are suspects aplenty, including the sports promoter (Victor Mature) who first discovered her. He teams up with her sister (Betty Grable) to ferret out the killer while trying to avoid an obsessed detective (the excellent Laird Cregar). This was Grable’s first dramatic role. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Alan Mowbray, William Gargan, Morris Ankrum, Charles Lane and the perennially wide-eyed Elisha Cook Jr. Much of the background music is “(Somewhere) Over the Rainbow.” Fox remade this 12 years later as Vicki. ***

THE LAST HUNTER (Dark Sky Films): Director Antonio Margheriti (AKA Anthony M. Dawson) pays “homage” to such big-budget Vietnam films as The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now with this ultra-violent 1980 exploitation flick that certainly delivers on its dubious promise. Filmed on some of the same locations in the Philippines where Apocalypse Now was shot, and loaded with political incorrectness and blunt irony. British thespian David Warbeck plays the title role, with Tisa Farrow (Mia’s sister), Tony King, Bobby Rhodes, John Steiner and Margheriti regular Alan Collins in support. Not many of ’em get out alive. This was actually banned in some countries. It’s easy to see why. **_ (Two and a half)

THE LAST LETTER (MTI Home Video): William Forsythe, Yancy Butler and Grace Zabriskie portrays jurors deliberating the fate of an accused serial killer in this tight little number with plenty of plot twists. You may want to give this entertaining and well-acted B-movie a shot. Rated R. **_ (Two and a half)

THE MESSENGERS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The Pang Brothers directed this atmospheric but hackneyed shocker about a city family that moves to a remote farm in a sleepy little town… so you just know it’s haunted. The players (including Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, John Corbett and Penelope Ann Miller) do what they can. Rated PG-13. *_ (One and a half)

PAN’S LABYRINTH (New Line Home Entertainment): Guillermo del Toro’s incredible fantasy, set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, follows a lonely little girl (Ivana Baquero) as she discovers a fantastic netherworld lorded over by the titular Pan (Doug Jones). An exquisite, sometimes grotesque, exploration of innocence and evil, with superb performances by Ariadna Gil, Maribel Verdu and especially Sergi Lopez as the cruel Captain Vidal. One of 2006’s best films. Academy Award winner for Best Cinematography, Best Makeup and Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, with additional nominations for Best Foreign Language Film, Best Score and Best Original Screenplay. Rated R. ***_ (Three and a half)

“PINKY AND THE BRAIN” – VOLUME 3 (Warner Home Video): The third and final season (1997-’98) of the award-winning, animated series depicting the seemingly endless – and always futile – attempts by the title characters to take over the world. This boxed set, which retails for $44.98, includes a tribute to the show’s fans, who continue to support the show and clamor for a comeback.

POINT BREAK (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment): A “pure adrenaline” special edition of Kathryn Bigelow’s absurd, occasionally enjoyable 1991 thrill ride in which Keanu Reeves – as college football star-turned-FBI agent Johnny Utah – infiltrates a gang of surfers-turned-bank robbers, led by the blissful Bohdi (Patrick Swayze). Also on hand are Lori Petty (cute), Gary Busey (over the top, as usual), John C. McGinley, Tom Sizemore and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Lots of DVD extras – more bang for your buck – but, let’s face it: This movie always was pretty stupid, and it seems to go on forever. Rated R. **

THE RED SKULLS (Tempe Video): Gang warfare gets even gorier when members drink a potion that turns them into ravenous, rampaging zombies in this cheap but promising shocker from the Campbell Brothers. We know these gang members are tough because they drink Pabst Blue Ribbon. Some performances are strictly amateur night, but some of the gore effects are quite ingenious. If it’s strictly gore you’re looking for, this does the trick. **

“RENO 911” – THE COMPLETE 4th SEASON UNCENSORED (Paramount Home Entertainment): The 2006-’07 season of the popular (and ongoing) Comedy Central series about the badge-wearing wackos who enforce the law in Reno, Nevada. The boxed set retails for $26.99.

SHOOTER (Paramount Home Entertainment): Mark Wahlberg plays a burned-out Marine Corps sniper (and Gulf War veteran) tapped by the government to prevent a presidential assassination, but – surprise, surprise – it turns out he’s the fall guy for a diabolical conspiracy. Needless to say, he turns the tables on them in this slick action opus that forgoes its more interesting plot points for the usual barrage of stylized mayhem. Rated R. **

TAP (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director Nick Castle’s old-fashioned 1989 melodrama stars Gregory Hines as an ex-con who returns home and is torn between an old flame (Suzzanne Douglas) and returning to his criminal ways. Absolutely corny and hokey, and absolutely irresistible all the same – thanks to the fancy footwork on display courtesy Hines, Savion Glover (in his first film) and such legends as Harold “Sandman” Sims, Bunny Briggs, Harold Nicholas, Steve Condos (in his final film) and the incomparable Sammy Davis Jr. (his final film, as well). Nice villainous turn by Joe Morton, too. The DVD includes director’s commentary and vintage footage of Hines and Davis. Rated PG-13. ***

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2007, Mark Burger.