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Mark Burger’s Video Vault

by Mark Burger

PICK OF THE WEEK:

REVAMPED (MTI Home Video): Mixing horror and humor is an iffy business, but writer/director/executive producer/leading man Jeff Rector gives it a full-tilt try with this light-hearted (and often light-headed), low-budget chiller that puts a new spin on the vampire legend.

Rector himself stars as Richard Clarke, who retaliates to his wife’s infidelity by deciding to become a vampire… which, in Los Angeles, is only a phone call away!

Eternal life isn’t quite as hip and cool as Richard envisioned it, and it hasn’t eradicated his human neuroses and insecurities. He’s a reluctant vampire, to be sure, and even more so when he falls in with a group of fellow bloodsuckers and half-breeds caught up in an ongoing battle between the Bleeders, a savage assemblage of “extreme” vampires (led by the ever-intense Billy Drago), and the government-sanctioned “Stake Team” (led by Sam J. Jones, erstwhile Flash Gordon of the 1980s).

There’s plenty of rock-“em, sock-“em, bite-“em, stake-“em action – on a budget, of course – and a comedic looseness to the proceedings, as well as a parade of cult actors dropping by: Fred Williamson (as a hard-nosed police captain – imagine that!), Martin Kove (as a hard-nosed police detective – wow!), Tane McClure, Carel Struycken, Christa Campbell, Anne Lockhart, Vic Lundin, Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister, Vernon Wells and even Kato Kaelin, who delivers the film’s biggest shock by actually giving an okay performance.

Sometimes inspired and sometimes clunky, Revamped is always eager to please. Great art? That’s debatable…. Okay, no it’s not – but the film’s principal aspiration is to be fast-paced, comic-book fun. Mission accomplished. (Read an exclusive interview with Jeff Rector on page 35.) Rated R. **

ALSO ON DVD

THE APOCALYPSE (GoodTimes Entertainment): In one of his last appearances, the great Richard Harris plays the apostle John, whose dire visions of the title cataclysm would form the basis for the Book of Revelations. It’s nice to see Harris one more time, but this heavy-handed Biblical potboiler is a textbook example of the old adage that “the book was better.” *1/2

BRATZ (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The popular animated series makes the leap – more like a stumble – to the big screen, with this bubble-headed, live-action comedy that tends to play like a feature-length music video. Jon Voight (with a funny nose) is wasted as a bumbling high-school principal. Rated PG. 1/2*

“COMIC RELIEF: THE GREATEST… AND THE LATEST” (Shout! Factory): A collection of uncensored highlights from two decades of “Comic Relief” specials, featuring the likes of Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, John Candy, George Carlin, Jim Carrey, Dave Chappelle, Eugene Levy, Bill Maher, Dudley Moore, Catherine O’Hara and many others. This two-DVD set retails for $24.99.

“CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM” – THE COMPLETE SIXTH SEASON (HBO Video): All 10 episodes from the 2007 season of the acclaimed, award-winning HBO series detailing the “real life” of comedy writer Larry David. Six Emmy nominations included outstanding comedy series, outstanding lead actor in a comedy series and outstanding supporting actress in a comedy series (Cheryl Hines). This boxed set retails for $39.98.

“DALLAS” – THE COMPLETE EIGHTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): All 30 episodes from the 1984-’85 season of the long-running CBS prime-time soap opera focusing on the triumphs and travails of the unconscionably wealthy Ewing oil clan in the title town. For this season only, Donna Reed replaced Barbara Bel Geddes as matriarch Miss Ellie. When Reed was let go and Bel Geddes rehired, Reed was planning a lawsuit when she died of cancer. These episodes marked her final appearances. The show scored a single Emmy nomination for outstanding costume design for a series. This boxed set retails for $39.98.

DEAD ABOVE GROUND (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Students in the same film class are getting knocked off one by one in this good-humored slasher opus from writer/producer Stephen J. Cannell, who also plays the professor. The cast, some of whom have some very amusing hairdos, includes Antonio Sabato Jr., Corbin Bernsen, Don Michael Paul, Lisa Ann Hadley and, in his last role to date, Robert Conrad (who was subsequently injured in a car accident). Rated R. **

DECEIT (THINKFilm): Ho-hum, small-town film noir with Emmanuelle Chriqui as a femme fatale who lures one-time lover Matt Long into a web of deception and murder. Long plays his dupe like a dope; he deserves everything that happens to him. Too bad it doesn’t happen more quickly. Ashley Scott, Pell James, Adrienne Barbeau, Timothy Bottoms and Joe Pantoliano (also a producer) are also on hand – but they can’t help. None of the plot twists are surprising in the least, including the “big” one at the end. “Film noir?” “Film bore” is more like it. Rated R. *

FAST GIRL (Allumination FilmWorks): Watchable teen melodrama, in the “Afterschool Special” mode, starring Mircea Monroe as a girl who wants to race cars, all the while dealing with lingering grief over her late father, a legendary racer who perished in a crash on the local track. Monroe is both pretty and plucky. Even “American Idol” veteran Justin Guarini, as Monroe’s love interest, isn’t bad. (The haircut was a good idea.) Rated PG-13. **

FUNNYMAN (Subversive Cinema): Writer/director Simon Sprackling’s 1994 feature debut is a cheeky, self-conscious attempt to fashion Britain’s answer to Freddy Krueger, with Tim Jones as a wise-cracking, wicked jester who taunts, terrorizes and ultimately murders a group of people who have won his English manor in a poker game… from no less than Christopher Lee! This is the US debut of the complete, uncut version of the film. Rated R. **

GANGSTA RAP – THE GLOCKUMENTARY (THINKFilm): Damon “Coke” Daniels wrote, produced, directed and appears in this intermittently amusing mockumentary about an ’80s rap group trying to make a comeback in the 21st century. Basically, it’s This is Spinal Tap with a hip-hop beat. Some of the jokes and songs (like “Beat Yo Mama With a Hammer”) are funny, but this follows the Spinal Tap blueprint so closely – and without acknowledgement – that it lacks its own identity. Rated R. **

THE HAUNTING OF #24 (MTI Home Video): The new tenant (Stuart Laing) of a British boarding house begins to lose his grasp on reality in this psychological thriller reminiscent of Polanski’s Repulsion and The Tenant. Originally titled “Lie Still,” this is a promising feature debut for writer/director Sean Hogan, with Robert Blythe a standout as the seemingly friendly landlord. Rated R. **1/2

“HE-MAN AND THE MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE” – VOLUME ONE (BCI): “I… have… the power!” The first 13 episodes from the (second) animated series based on the popular line of Mattel Toys. It actually won a Daytime Emmy for outstanding achievement in sound editing (live action and animation). Needless to say, additional volumes are to follow. This boxed set retails for $26.98 and includes a variety of special features including audio commentaries, image galleries and the “end-of-episodes morals,” which are most important.

THE INDEPENDENT (Allumination FilmWorks): Jerry Stiller stars in writer/director Stephen Kessler’s smart show-biz mockumentary as Morty Fineman, a prolific (400+ movies) but spectacularly untalented filmmaker trying to keep his “empire” from crumbling. Janeane Garofalo is the perfect foil as Morty’s long-suffering, oft-estranged daughter Paloma, while Stiller’s real-life wife Anne Meara plays Morty’s ex-wife. The Free Willy take-off (with son Ben Stiller) is a scream. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Roger Corman, Karen Black, Fred Williamson, Nick Cassavetes, Max Perlich, Fred Dryer, John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten), Ginger Lynn Allen, Amy Stiller (of course), the late Ted Demme and the late Richard Paul, in his final film appearance. Great fun, especially for B-movie buffs. Rated R. ***

PETER’S FRIENDS (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Producer/director Kenneth Branagh’s award-winning 1992 comedy focuses on the reunion of a group of college friends at the home of the title character (Stephen Fry). A fine cast includes Branagh and then-wife Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton, Alphonsia Emmanuel, Phyllida Law (Thompson’s real-life mom) and Rita Rudner, who co-wrote the script with husband Martin Bergman – but it sometimes smacks (broadly) of soap opera. Rated R. **1/2

RESIDENT ALIEN (Docurama): Jonathan Nossiter’s 1990 documentary feature focuses on Quentin Crisp, the gay, British-born author of The Naked Civil Servant, who later became a fixture in New York City as a role model for, well, eccentricity. This affectionate exploration of Crisp’s life is quirky, flippant and flaky – not unlike Crisp himself. Among those who weigh in on Crisp’s persona are John Hurt (who played Crisp in the acclaimed TV adaptation of The Naked Civil Servant), Sting (whose song “Englishman in New York” was inspired by Crisp), Fran Leibowitz, Holly Woodlawn and even Al Goldstein. ***

SHAUGHNESSY: THE IRON MARSHAL (Allumination FilmWorks): Matthew Settle made his debut in this low-impact 1996 Western based on a Louis L’Amour novel, playing a two-fisted Irish immigrant who winds up as the sheriff of a rowdy Kansas town in the 1870s. Also on hand: Linda Kozlowski, John Carroll Lynch, Michael Jai White and a pair of Western veterans: Bo Hopkins and Stuart Whitman. *1/2

STUDY HELL (MTI Home Video): A tormented war veteran-turned-high school teacher (Steve McDougall) snaps during afternoon detention and begins stalking and killing the students. This ultra-cheap “Breakfast Club Gone Bad” is strictly amateur night, but has its fun moments – not all of them intentional. Rated R. *1/2

WEREWOLF: THE DEVIL’S HAND (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Workers at a failing special-effects house are startled to receive an unexpected delivery from overseas. It’s hairy and it rips people to shreds. This jokey shocker – punctuated by some fancy camera moves – degenerates into mindless mayhem early on and never recovers. Rated R. *

ZOMBIE TOWN (MTI Home Video): A jerkwater Vermont village is infected by parasites and overrun by the living dead in this grisly, giddy, low-budget black comedy/shocker from writer/producer/director Damon Lemay. For those who groove on gore, this delivers. **

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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