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by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK

SO ENDS OUR NIGHT (VCI Entertainment): A forgotten “golden oldie,” John Cromwell’s 1941 wartime drama was quite topical in its day, until world events passed it by. Within a year of its release, it was old news.

Based on Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, Flotsam, the story follows a group of German refugees fleeing the Nazi onslaught throughout Europe. No matter how far they run, it seems only a matter of time before they are forced to flee again, further each time, all the while worrying about the fate of loved ones left behind.

A sympathetic cast includes Fredric March (first-rate, as always), Margaret Sullivan, Frances Dee, Anna Sten and a young Glenn Ford – and who better to play March’s nemesis than Erich Von Stroheim, who became so typecast as a Teutonic villain that he was touted as “the man you love to hate”?

So Ends Our Night offers a nice – and well-acted – balance of suspense and soap opera, with an emphasis on the human element.

Louis Gruenberg’s score earned the film’s only Oscar nomination, and future producer/director Stanley Kramer served as its production assistant.

***

ALSO ON DVD

“THE BEST OF X GAMES” (Genius Products LLC): What it says is what it is, highlights from the 12-year history of X Games and Winter X Games. This retails for $19.95.

DEMON HUNTER (Anchor Bay Entertainment): A scruffy Sean Patrick Flanery battles the forces of evil in this fast-paced but empty-headed shocker that feels an awful lot like a failed TV pilot. Rated R. *1/2

DOUBLE DOOM DOUBLE FEATURE (VCI Entertainment): A pair of low-budget documentaries – the sort that used to proliferate in the days before cable-TV. Cameron Mitchell narrates 1979’s Death: The Ultimate Mystery (**) while William Schallert hosts the same year’s Doomsday Chronicles (*1/2), which is overloaded with stock footage but has a few interesting and ironic points to make about environmental issues.

FROM THE DEPTHS DOUBLE FEATURE (VCI Entertainment): A pair of low-rent documentaries addressing fantastic phenomena. The slow-moving 1978 documentary The Lost City of Atlantis (*) simply takes the existence of the mythical kingdom for granted and plays like a third-grade lecture on geography and geology. Arthur Franz narrates the second feature, 1976’s The Legend of Loch Ness (**), which moves much more quickly and which claims to have the first motion-picture footage of the Loch Ness Monster. Don’t look too closely, though!

“THE FUGITIVE” – SEASON ONE, VOLUME ONE (Paramount Home Entertainment): The first 15 episodes of the 1963-’64 season of the immensely popular ABC-TV series starring Emmy nominee David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, who escapes police capture and tries desperately to locate the one-armed man (Bill Raisch) who murdered his wife. Hot on Kimble’s heels is Barry Morse as the tenacious Lt. Gerard. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

HAMMER FILM NOIR DOUBLE FEATURE COLLECTOR’S SET 2 (VCI Entertainment): Four more DVD double-features from the early years of Britain’s Hammer Studios, when it cranked out low-budget melodramas by the score. Volume #4 includes Terence Fisher’s Wings of Danger (1952) starring Zachary Scott and Kay Kendall, and Dan Duryea in 1953’s Terror Street (AKA 36 Hours). Volume #5 includes Dane Clark in 1954’s Paid to Kill (AKA Five Days) and The Glass Tomb (1955), starring John Ireland. Volume #6 includes 1954’s Black Glove (AKA Face the Music) starring Alex Nicol and 1955’s Deadly Game (AKA Third Party Risk) with Lloyd Bridges. Volume #7 includes Paulette Goddard in 1954’s The Unholy Four (AKA A Stranger Came Home) and Richard Conte in A Race for Life (AKA Mask of Dust). Each volume retails individually for $14.99, and the entire set for $39.99.

THE JACKHAMMER MASSACRE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A businessman (Aaron Gaffey) gets hooked on angel dust and then goes on the title rampage in this low-rent gore-fest originally titled Jackhammer. Rated R. 1/2*

LET HIM HAVE IT (Image Entertainment): Director Peter Medak’s riveting, hard-hitting, true-life drama stars Christopher Eccleston as Derek Bentley, a slow-witted teenager whose involvement in the shooting of a policeman caused a national uproar in 1950s England – one that ultimately changed the nation’s stance on capital punishment. Extremely well acted all around: Tom Courtenay and Eileen Atkins (as Derek’s parents), Paul Reynolds, Michael Gough (the judge), Mark McGann, Tom Bell, Michael Elphick, James Villiers, Edward Hardwicke, Clive Revill and Norman Rossington (in his last film). Rated R. ***1/2

THE LOVE BUG (Walt Disney Home Entertainment): A two-disc special edition of the 1969 Disney comedy about a Volkwagen Bug with a mind of its own. One of the studio’s biggest live-action box-office hits, this jump-started a franchise that (to date) includes five sequels, a TV movie and a short-lived TV series. Dean Jones, Michele Lee and the late Buddy Hackett star, and all three can be heard on an audio commentary. The biggest laugh may be that gas was once 40 cents a gallon! Rated G. ***

THE PICKLE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Paul Mazursky takes aim at high-concept Hollywood in this so-so 1992 farce starring Danny Aiello as a burned-out filmmaker (based, of course, on Mazursky) whose latest film is a science-fiction epic about a flying pickle. A noble but not-quite-successful attempt to marry satire and pathos, but the supporting cast is aces: Dyan Cannon, Jerry Stiller, Chris Penn, Shelley Winters, Camille Courau, Barry Miller, Rebecca Miller (no relation to Barry) and Stephen Tobolowsky (who wants a potato). Cameos in the film-within-a-film include Griffin Dunne, Ally Sheedy, Isabella Rossellini, Dudley Moore and Little Richard (as the president of the planet Cleveland). Look for Mazursky, too. The studio absolutely threw this away, but it’s not without interest. Rated R. **

“POPEYE THE SAILOR”: 1933-1938 VOLUME 1 (Warner Home Video): An authorized collection of 60 remastered theatrical shorts created by legendary animator Max Fleischer, based on Elzie Segar’s popular King Features comic strip – including “Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor” (1937), the very first Technicolor Popeye short and an Academy Award nominee as Best Short Subject (cartoon). This boxed set, which retails for $64.92, also includes more than five hours’ worth of bonus features. Popeye’s impact on the spinach industry can never be underestimated. “Well, blow me down!”

“SUPER FRIENDS: THE LEGENDARY SUPER POWERS SHOW” (Warner Home Video): DC Comics teamed with Hanna-Barbera to create this popular Saturday-morning cartoon series on ABC-TV in 1984. This boxed set, which retails for $26.99, includes all 16 episodes.

TALL IN THE SADDLE (Warner Home Video): John Wayne toplines this trim 1944 Western based on a Saturday Evening Post story. In support: Ella Raines (spunky and sexy), Ward Bond (robustly villainous), Paul Fix (who co-wrote the screenplay) and the ever-hammy George “Gabby” Hayes, who compares whiskey to women: “They both fool you but never figure out how to do without ’em!” Right on, Gabby! **1/2

ULLI LOMMEL’S GREEN RIVER KILLER (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Ulli Lommel, who’s been making a career out of low-rent exploitation films based upon real-life murder cases, strikes again – and strikes out again – with this dramatization of the ghastly handiwork committed by convicted serial killer Gary Ridgway (George Kiseleff). Interspersing actual footage of Ridgway’s testimony does nothing to elevate this dim, amateurish shocker. Lommel appears briefly as a detective in a cowboy hat. Rated R. *

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

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