Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger


OH! WHAT A LOVELY WAR (Paramount Home Entertainment): Richard Attenborough made his directorial debut with this mammoth 1969 musical satire detailing the circumstances of World War I – at the time described as the “war to end all wars.” (If only…) Precariously balanced between an old-style, Gilbert & Sullivan musical with then-contemporary sensibilities regarding the Vietnam War, the film is overlong and often overstated – but its themes are timeless, its sensibilities are laudable, and the final scene really packs a wallop. Besides, Attenborough has always had a knack to keep even the lengthiest film moving right along, and this is no exception. A staggering cast includes Laurence Olivier, John Mills, John Gielgud, Ralph Richardson, Dirk Bogarde, Jack Hawkins, Maggie Smith, Susannah York, Kenneth More, Edward Fox, Ian Holm, Juliet Mills, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Cecil Parker (his last film) and several Redgraves: Michael, Vanessa and Corin (who is particularly good). For that all-star lineup alone, the film is eminently watchable throughout. This special-edition DVD includes commentary by Lord Attenborough and a terrific, three-part documentary about the making of the film. Rated G. ***


“THE BILL” (BCI/FremantleMedia): The first American video release of the popular, award-winning British TV series depicting the goings-on at the Sun Hill Police Station in London. The series premiered in 1984 and is still on the air. This boxed set, which retails for $34.99, includes the pilot episode and the entire first season.

THE DEAN MARTIN & JERRY LEWIS COLLECTION – VOL. 2(Paramount Home Entertainment): A five-film collection celebrating the pairing of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, arguably the most popular show-biz team of their time. This boxed set, which retails for $34.99, includes Living It Up (1954), based on a Ben Hecht play; You’re Never Too Young (1955), adapted from Fanny Kilbourne and Charles Childs Carpenter’s play by none other than Sidney Sheldon; Artists and Models (1955) co-starring Shirley MacLaine in her second film; the 1956 Western spoof Pardners; and the aptly titled Hollywood or Bust (1956), which marked their final film together. FRANKENHOOKER (Unearthed Films): An uncut special edition of Frank Henenlotter’s giddy, gory 1990 horror comedy with James Lorinz as an amateur surgeon from New Jersey whose fiance (Penthouse Pet Patty Mullen) is killed in a tragic mowing accident. In an effort to bring her back to life – from the head down – he solicits the help (and the body parts) of several foxy Times Square prostitutes. Although (clearly) not for all tastes, this is nevertheless an affectionate combination of homage and sleaze in the best grindhouse tradition. Henenlotter, who also made the cult classic Basket Case, should work more. ***

FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY NIGHTMARE (Unearthed Films): A low-budget, experimental effort from writer/producer/director John R. Hand, who also stars as Dr. Victor Karlstein, a brilliant young scientist trying to save his dying fiance through means that are unorthodox, to say the least. Whatever the expressionistic aspirations of the project, this is amateurish and annoying, to say nothing of incomprehensible and frequently inaudible. Even at 77 minutes, this feels like it’s moving in slow motion. It may, however, prove therapeutic for insomniacs. They don’t even have the possessive apostrophe in the title! Zero stars

“GHOSTBUSTERS” Ð VOL. 2 (Ink & Pen/BCI): The remaining 33 episodes of the animated children’s series from the mid-1980s. This boxed set retails for $39.98.

“GUNSMOKE” – THE 1st SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 39 episodes from the 1955-’56 season of the popular CBS prime-time Western, which would ultimately last 20 seasons. The first season earned an Emmy Award nomination as Best Action or Adventure Series. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

HIGH VOLTAGE (Allumination FilmWorks): It’s never a good move to rob a bank run by the Vietnamese mob, but that’s just what happens in this 1997 John Woo knock-off that’s not very original but moves pretty well. Lots of familiar folk on hand: Antonio Sabato Jr., Amy Smart, Lochlyn Munro, William Zabka, George Kee Cheung, Antonio Sabato Sr. and Shannon Lee (Bruce’s daughter). Rated R. **

“MY SUPER SWEET 16” – COMPLETE SEASONS 1 & 2 (Paramount Home Entertainment): For those who can’t get enough of the MTV reality series, this contains all 13 episodes of the first two seasons and two bonus episodes, and retails for $24.99. If that’s still not enough for you, there’s Super Sweet 16: The Movie, which stars Aly and AJ and was inspired by the series. It also retails for $24.99.

“SPORTSCENTURY: BARRY BONDS” (ESPN/Genius Products, LLC): As the San Francisco Giants slugger edges closer to Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run mark, this cable-TV documentary covers all the bases (so to speak) about Bonds’ remarkable career – and the seemingly endless controversies which have dogged, and continue to overshadow, his accomplishments on the field. ***

WHEN STAND UP STOOD OUT (THINKFilm): Fran Solomita directed this engaging documentary about the rise and fall of the stand-up comedy scene in Boston during the 1970s and ’80s, when such performers as Steven Wright, Bobcat Goldthwait, Denis Leary, Lenny Clarke and Janeane Garofalo burst onto the scene. Solomita is himself a stand-up comic, which lends this an affectionate but honest insider’s perspective. Rated R. ***

WHITE AIR (Monarch Home Video): A dull, drab melodrama with Riley Smith as a snowboarder trying to make a comeback. Dominique Swain and Tom Sizemore are in his corner, but doing their careers no favors. “Dead Air” is more like it. Rated PG. (half star)

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