Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

Pick of the Week

BLOODY MAMA (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Roger Corman’s 1970 gangster saga is dominated by inspired casting of the incomparable Shelley Winters as Ma Barker.

Desperate to escape the financial hardships of the Great Depression, Ma packs up her four boys and embarks on a bloody crime spree, robbing and killing with delirious abandon.

Ma loves her boys to the extent that she still bathes them and occasionally sleeps with them, too. This is one movie that holds nothing back, whether violence, drug abuse or sexual proclivities. Even in retrospect, the movie remains outrageous and shocking.

The four sons are played by Don Stroud, Robert Walden, Clint Kimbrough and a young Robert De Niro, all of whom give convincing performances. Others of note in the cast include a genuinely creepy Bruce Dern (as a jailhouse hustler who joins Ma’s gang), Pat Hingle, Diane Varsi, Scatman Crothers and Alex Nicol as Pa Barker, who gets left at home when Ma and the boys seek their fame and fortune. They find it, alright, in a hail of bullets. Rated R. ***

The DVD debut of Bloody Mama is part of the eight-film Roger Corman Collection that also includes A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Premature Burial (1962), X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963), The Young Racers (1963), The Trip (1967), The Wild Angels (1966) and Gas-s-s-s (1970). The boxed set retails for $39.99.


AFTER IMAGE (Miramax Home Entertainment): A burned-out crime photographer (an underwhelming John Mellencamp) teams up with a deaf clairvoyant (Terrylene) to track down a serial killer (Michael Zelniker) at large in Rochester, NY. This ponderous thriller premiered at the Sundance Film Festival but didn’t get much play afterward. Rated R. *

ANIMAL (DEJ Productions): Executive producer Ving Rhames wrote the story and stars in this earnest, well-meaning drama about a career criminal who tries to turn his life around while on parole, unaware that his son (Terrence Howard) is going down the same path. A solid cast also includes Jim Brown, Chazz Palminteri, West Studi, Beverly Todd, Paula Jai Parker, Faizon Love and Taraji P. Henson – but there aren’t many surprises here. A sequel is imminent. Rated R. **1/2

“CRIMINAL MINDS” – THE SECOND SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 23 episodes from the 2006-07 season of the popular CBS prime-time drama depicting the crime-fighting efforts of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. Series lead Mandy Patinkin’s final season, given his abrupt decision this summer to quit the show. This boxed set retails for $64.99.

“CSI: NY” – THE THIRD SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): Gary Sinise and Melina Kanakaredes are on the case in all 24 episodes from the 2006-’07 season of the top-rated, Emmy-nominated CBS prime-time, crime-time series. This boxed set retails for $72.99.

DEATH PROOF (Genius Products): The feature-length version of Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse segment, with Kurt Russell as the maniacal “Stuntman Mike,” who chases women in his souped-up Chevy Nova. The action’s fun, but Tarantino’s trademark dialogue scenes tend to go on and on…. **1/2

DORM OF THE DEAD (Under the BedFilms): Ho-hum horror with a legion of low-rent zombies prowling a college campus. As one of the characters says, “Mega-bummer.” She ain’t kidding. A sequel is promised, which would really be a bummer. 1/2*

“DRAWN TOGETHER” – SEASON 2 UNCENSORED (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 15 episodes from the 2005-06 of the irreverent, award-winning Comedy Central “reality” series in which animated superheroes are forced to share living quarters.

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The second big-screen installment of the popular Marvel Comics characters, in which they encounter a mysterious traveler from another galaxy. Plenty of big-bang special effects, but no better or worse than the first film. Rated PG. **

THE INVISIBLE (Hollywood Pictures Home Entertainment): A leaden chiller with Justin Chatwin as a teenager hovering between life and death after an assault, yet trying to compel a classmate (Margarita Levieva) to find his body before he dies. A murky, moody mess. Rated PG-13. *

“JERICHO” – THE FIRST SEASON (Paramount Home Entertainment): All 22 episodes from the 2006-07 season of the prime-time CBS series in which the residents of a small Kansas town are thrown into turmoil when a nuclear war takes place and they are cut off from the rest of civilization. When CBS canceled the show, viewers protested and the network agreed to seven more episodes this season. This boxed set retails for $54.99.

MERCI, DOCTEUR REY! (Image Entertainment): Writer/director Andrew Litvack’s debut feature is a frenetic, irritatingly quirky comedy about mistaken identities and narcissism, set in ever-picturesque Paris. Dianne Wiest and Jane Birkin tear into their roles with abandon, and the cast also includes Simon Callow, Jerry Hall and Vanessa Redgrave (as herself) – all of whom are wasted. One of the last Merchant Ivory productions is also a misfire. Rated R. *

A MIGHTY HEART (Paramount Home Entertainment): Angelina Jolie (clearly gunning for Oscar consideration) portrays Marianne Pearl, the widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) in Michael Winterbottom’s atmospheric but curiously unmoving docu-drama, based on Marianne’s best-selling book. Rated R. **

“THE SARAH SILVERMAN PROGRAM” – SEASON ONE (Paramount Home Entertainment): All six episodes from the 2007 season of the Comedy Central series in which comedienne Sarah Silverman plays herself as an accident-prone, immature single woman trying to navigate the pitfalls (and pratfalls) of life. Audio commentaries and musical performances are among the bonus features of this DVD, which retails for $19.99.

THE SEVERED HEAD NETWORK (Elite Entertainment): A (mostly bad) collection of eight short, experimental films and music videos. Even the best short, “Sedgewick,” runs on too long. Those fooled by the title into thinking these are horror shorts are in for a rude surprise. *

THE SURFER KING (Image Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Bernard Murray’s bland teen comedy focuses on the day-to-day antics at Water World, a popular amusement park. Veterans Alan Thicke and Lindsay Wagner put in token appearances. Cerina Vincent (Cabin Fever) looks great in a bikini, too – but it’s not enough. Rated PG-13. *1/2

“THE UNTOUCHABLES” – SEASON ONE, VOLUME TWO (Paramount Home Entertainment): Emmy Award winner Robert Stack returns as crime-buster Eliot Ness in the remaining 14 episodes from the series’ 1959-60 season. This boxed set retails for $42.99.

“UPRIGHT CITIZENS BRIDGADE” (Paramount Home Entertainment): The first two seasons of the popular Comedy Central sketch comedy that launched the careers of creator/stars Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Matt Besser. Each volume contains 10 episodes and each one retails for $26.99.

THE WAR (Paramount Home Entertainment): Keith David narrates Ken Burns’ epic, seven-part chronicle of World War II from the American point of view. Other voiceovers include Tom Hanks, Eli Wallach and Samuel L. Jackson. This boxed set, which also includes deleted scenes, extended interviews and commentary by Burns and fellow producer Lynn Novick, retails for $129.99.

“WHAT ABOUT BRIAN” – THE COMPLETE SERIES (Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment): All two seasons (2006-07) of the prime-time ABC-TV series starring Barry Watson as a bachelor looking for love in all the wrong places. This boxed set retails for $59.99.

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