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by Mark Burger

HELLRAISER LIMITED EDITION BOX SET (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Author Clive Barker’s first (and best) film as a director was the gruesome but imaginative 1987 hit Hellraiser, based on his original novel. Essentially, the film is a cautionary tale in the Old Testament mode, as such vices as greed, lust and deceit are punished in unspeakable fashion at the hands (and claws, and tenterhooks…) of the otherworldly Cenobites — among them the instant horror icon Pinhead (Doug Bradley). The film also introduced a new “Scream Queen” in Ashley Laurence, as the teenaged heroine Kirsty Cotton, whose father (Andrew Robinson) fell prey to the Cenobites in the first film — thanks to his duplicitous and adulterous wife, Julia (Clare Higgins). Kirsty manages to survives the horrors of Hellraiser, but her journey through Hell has only just begun. For sheer visceral impact, it would have been tough to top the original film, but the immediate sequel, Hellbound: Hellraiser II (which was released Christmas Week 1988!) does a pretty fair job of it, expanding the first film’s storyline and setting up what could — and perhaps should — have been one of the decade’s most imaginative horror franchises. Laurence and Higgins reprise their roles in Hellbound, as does Sean Chapman as nasty Uncle Frank — who opened Pandora’s Box in the first place. They’re joined by the terrific Kenneth Cranham, as the diabolical Dr. Channard — a quintessential mad doctor if ever there was one. After these first two films, however, the series degenerated precipitously, with none of the seven (!) follow-ups remotely capturing the horrific imagination of the first two. A remake is also on the drawing board… which may be the most frightening prospect of all. Are there no new ideas in Hollywood these days? (Answer: No.) The “box” that the set is enclosed in is designed like the Lament Configuration, the ornate box from whence the horrors of Hellraiser sprang, and includes special-editions of the first two films as well as a bonus Blu-ray of the first. Hellraiser is rated R; Hellbound: Hellraiser II is unrated; and the boxed set retails for $59.97 The single Blu-ray disc of Hellraiser retails for $29.97. Both films: ***

ALSO ON DVD

AFTER DARK HORRORFEST: 8 FILMS TO DIE FOR (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The third installment of LionsGate’s ongoing annual film festival in which eight

independent horror films are released as a package and screened in the top 30 markets in the nation. This year’s selection includes: Writer/director Sean Ellis’ award-winning The Broken, starring Lena Headey and Richard Jenkins; writer/director Stewart Hopewell’s debut feature Slaughter; Perkins’ 14, starring Patrick O’Kane and Richard Brake (as Perkins); The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations with Chris Carmack and Rachel Miner; cinematographer-turned-director Phedon Papamichael’s award-winning From Within, with Thomas Dekker, Elizabeth Rice, Jared Harris, Steven Culp and Rumer Willis; the Australian-made Dying Breed with Nathan Phillips and Leigh Whannell; Voices (AKA Du Saram- Yida), the screen adaptation of a popular Korean comic book; and screenwriter Adam Gierasch’s directorial debut, Autopsy with Robert Patrick, Jenette Goldstein and Jessica Lowndes. All of the films are rated R (guess why), except Autopsy, which is unrated. Each DVD retails for $19.98 or as a DVD boxed set for $159.98.

AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL (Anchor Bay Entertainment): There’s raunch to spare in writer/director Sean Cannon’s feature debut, an all-too-typical, way too smug and none too funny teen comedy. Leading lady Jillian Murray is easy on the eyes, but even a Trini Lopez cameo can’t save it. Rated R. *

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (Warner Home Video): That would be Gene Kelly, as a struggling expatriate artist who finds inspiration and romance in the City of Lights in the form of a young muse (Leslie Caron, in her screen debut). Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 musical extravaganza was a box-office smash and won the Academy Award as Best Picture, with additional wins for Alan Jay Lerner’s story and screenplay, score, art direction/set decoration (color), costume design (color) and cinematography (color). Additional nominations for editing and Minnelli’s direction. The two-disc special-edition DVD retails for $20.97 and the Blu-ray edition for $28.99.

APPALOOSA (Warner Home Video): Producer/director/coscreenwriter Ed Harris teams up with Viggo Mortensen for this adaptation of Robert B. Parker’s Western novel, pitting a pair of incorruptible lawmen against a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons) in the title town, circa 1882. Steeped in period detail but too low-key for its own good. The supporting cast adds flavor: Renee Zellweger, Timothy Spall, Lance Henriksen, James Gammon, Tom Bower and Rex Linn. Rated R. **’½

“DALLAS” — THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Like the title says, this boxed set ($39.98 retail) contains all 30 episodes from the 1987-’88 season of the long-running, award-winning CBS-TV prime time soap opera detailing the ongoing saga of the Ewing oil family in the title town, and in particular the devious JR Ewing (Larry Hagman). That season, the show earned its final Emmy nomination — for outstanding achievement in music composition for a series (for the episode “Hustling”). By this time, in its run series regulars or semi-regulars Victoria Principal, Susan Howard, Deborah Shelton, Morgan Brittany and Morgan Woodward had departed or were soon about to… but not all them for good.

GIGI (Warner Home Video): After their success in An American in Paris (see above), director Vincente Minnelli and writer Alan Jay Lerner reunited with Leslie Caron for this 1958 musical adaptation of the novel by Colette, with Caron as a young courtesan in training who falls for the son (Louis Jourdan) of one of Paris’ wealthiest families. The result was yet another smash hit for MGM and a treasure trove of accolades. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it swept the board and won all nine (then a record): Best Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Musical Score (by Andre Previn), Art Direction/set Decoration, Costume Design, Cinematography (color) and Song (the title tune). Maurice Chevalier sings “Thank Heaven for Little Girls.” Trivia note: This is the shortest title of any film to have won the best picture Oscar. The two-disc special-edition DVD retails for $20.97 and the Blu-ray edition for $28.99. Rated G.

THE JILL & TONY CURTIS STORY (SKD USA/KOCH Entertainment): This documentary feature examines the relationship between Hollywood legend Tony Curtis and his sixth wife, Jill Vandenburg Curtis, with particular attention paid to Jill’s ongoing efforts to save horses from slaughter, which led to the founding of the Shiloh Horse Rescue and Sanctuary in Nevada. **

LOVE OBJECT (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/ director Robert Parigi’s award-winning feature debut stars Desmond Harrington as a social misfit who orders a lifesized love doll but is then torn between “her” and a comely co-worker (Melissa Sagemiller). An extremely creepy and sometimes very amusing black comedy, with a fabulous score by Nicholas Pike and a well-chosen supporting cast: Rip Torn, Michael Pena and Udo Kier (as Harrington’s nosy landlord). Not for all tastes, but a safe bet for cult status. Rated R. ***

“MY OWN WORST ENEMY” — THE COMPLETE SERIES (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Christian Slater leads a double life — that of an all-American suburban father and his alter-ego, a highly-skilled government assassin — in all nine episodes from the 2008 season of the awardwinning but short-lived NBC-TV prime-time espionage series. This special-edition DVD retails for $29.98.

NEW YORK CITY SERENADE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Actor-turned-writer/director Frank Whaley’s glum, aimless comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Chris Klein as best buddies who always seem to find trouble when they’re together. The film-festival sequence has its laughs, as do Wallace Shawn (playing himself) and Whaley himself (as a jumpy limo driver), but there aren’t enough of them. Rated R. *’½

REDEMPTION (North American Motion Pictures): Writer/director/editor/producer Robert Conway’s feature debut is a gritty, low-budget Western with Dustin James as a guilt-riddled outlaw seeking redemption in a town called… Redemption. The unfamiliar cast is pretty good: Sandy Gibbons, Clint James, Ash Morgan, John Durban (as a frontier sawbones), Grady Hill (as an Indian tracker) and especially Tom Noga, as a pistol-packing priest known as “the Apostle.” Slow-moving at times but worth a look, especially for Western buffs. Rated R. **’½

THE SHE BEAST (Dark Sky Films): Barbara Steele and Ian Ogilvy play a young couple whose honeymoon in Transylvania goes awry when she is possessed by the spirit of an 18 th -century witch determined to exact revenge upon the descendants of those who put her to death. The 1966 debut feature of legendary cult director Michael Reeves (who directed only three films before his untimely death) is wildly uneven, with slapstick moments and oddball satire thrown in — seemingly at random — but does have its effective moments… and its devotees. Also known as Revenge of the Blood Beast and Sister of Satan. This special-edition DVD includes an audio commentary with Ogilvy, Steele and producer Paul Maslansky. **

“WILDFIRE” — SEASON THREE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): All 13 episodes from the 2007 season of the ongoing ABC Family series with Genevieve Cortese as a once-troubled teen who finds adventure, sanctuary and romance as a groomer at a ranch, where she forges a special bond with the horse for which the series is named. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN: HEROES RETURN TRIL- OGY (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Timed, undoubtedly, to coincide with the big-budget, live-action Wolverine movie, this is the initial three-part pilot episode (titled “Hindsight”) that kicked off the of the ongoing, animated Nicktoons series based on the popular Marvel Comics characters. This special-edition DVD, which includes commentaries and featurettes, retails for $14.98.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.Copyright 2009, Mark Burger

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