DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: SHALLOW GRAVE
(The Criterion Collection)
Future Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle made his bigscreen bow with this wickedly entertaining, award-winning 1994 Hitchcockian thriller that also boosted the careers of its three leads: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Eccleston and Kerry Fox.
They play Alex, David and Julia, best friends and flatmates whose relationship inexorably comes undone after their new roommate, Hugo (Keith Allen), promptly overdoses and dies, leaving behind a stash of cash. Money may not be the root of all evil, but it’s certainly the root for festering suspicion and mistrust among them, further exacerbated by the presence of Ken Stott, delightful as a nosy detective.
No good can come of this situation, but just how bad will it get? Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge craft a sly, atmospheric exercise in paranoia laden with dark humor. This was certainly a noteworthy debut for Boyle, who certainly went on to bigger and better things (usually).
Special features include retrospective interviews, audio commentaries and more. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Bluray for $39.95. Rated R.
“BURN NOTICE”: SEASON FIVE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Top spy Jeffrey Donovan rejoins the CIA and vows to right (and rewrite) some past wrongs, in all 18 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning USA Network series, co-starring Gabrielle Anwar and Bruce Campbell. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $49.98.
COUNTESS PERVERSE (Mondo Macabro): An original director’s cut (as if one were necessary) of Jess Franco’s 1973 rip-off of The Most Dangerous Game (originally titled La Comtesse Perverse) with Howard Vernon and Alice Arno as Count and Countess Zaroff, who bring guests to their island, seduce them, hunt them down, and then cook them for dinner. Lina Romay, Franco’s muse, plays their latest quarry. Softcore swill for the Franco faithful. Others beware. In French with English subtitles.
“CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM”: THE COM- PLETE EIGHTH SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Larry David’s back as “himself” in all 10 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning and now long-running HBO comedy series. Guest stars include Michael J. Fox, Richard Lewis, Gary Cole, Aida Turturro, Harry Hamlin, and former pro baseball players Bill Buckner and Mookie Wilson. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.
EROS SCHOOL (Impulse Pictures/CAV Distributing): Softcore slapstick at a Tokyo girls’ school in this absurd, mind-boggling and sometimes incomprehensible 1977 sexploitation comedy. Some humor just doesn’t travel or translate, and this is a case in point. In Japanese with English subtitles.
“FALLING SKIES”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Home Video): Survivors of an alien attack struggle to rebuild their lives — and civilization — in all 10 episodes from the premiere 2011 season of executive producer Steven Spielberg’s award-winning sci-fi drama series broadcast on TNT. Noah Wyle, Maxim Knight, Moon Bloodgood and reliable Will Patton head the regular cast. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Bluray boxed set for $49.99.
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Nicolas Cage seems to be on the periphery, rather than the lead, of this inferior follow-up to the 2007 adaptation of the Marvel Comics superhero, here trying to rescue a young boy (Fergus Riordan) from old Scratch himself (Ciaran Hinds, welcome but wasted here). Nonsensical mayhem from the directorial duo of Neveldine/Taylor (Mark and Brian, respectively). Available as a single DVD ($30.99 retail), a Bluray ($35.99 retail) or a 3-D Blu-ray ($45.99 retail). Rated PG-13.
INTRUDER (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) of the director’s cut of the gory 1989 black comedy about a maniac at large during the closing night of an 24-hour supermarket. Originally released on VHS as Night Crew: The Final Checkout, with a happily hammy cast including Bruce Campbell, Sam and Ted Raimi, Burr Steers, Renee Estevez (Martin Sheen’s daughter), Alvy Moore, Elizabeth Cox, Emil Sitka, Tom Lester, writer/director Scott Spiegel and first-time producer Lawrence Bender.
MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD (Well Go USA Entertainment): Eastern horror masters Noboru Iguchi, Yoshishiro Nishimura and Tak Sakaguchi join forces for this violent, darkly comic (and comic-book) sci-fi thriller, originally titled Sento shojo: ChiNo Tekkamen Denetsu, about a group of humanoid mutants who exact revenge upon those who would humiliate or destroy them. The DVD retails for $24.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.98. In Japanese with English subtitles.
RANCHERO (Indican Pictures): Roger Gutierrez plays a former ranch hand who seeks work in Los Angeles and reconnects with an old friend (screenwriter Brian Eric Johnson) in trouble with a local gangster (Danny Trejo). Sincere performances help this ponderous (but award-winning) melodrama that tries to be “deep and meaningful” when it’s just slow — and further slowed by unnecessary black-and-white flashbacks. Filmed in 2008.
THE RED HOUSE (HD Cinema Classics/Film Chest): A first-rate Edward G. Robinson stars in Delmer Daves’ 1947 adaptation of George Agnew Chamberlain’s novel, popularized as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post, about the mystery surrounding the title enclave in a sleepy little town with a few dark secrets. Less a film noir than a psychological thriller/whodunit, although not too far away. Lon McCallister and Rory Calhoun are surprisingly good, and Judith Anderson nearly steals it. Now available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($15.98 retail).
SATAN HATES YOU (Glass Eye Pictures/TLA Releasing): Writer/director James Felix McKenney’s bizarre, low-budget black comedy stars Don Wood as an alcoholic, self-denying homosexual prone to murderous rages. By riffing on the pervasiveness of immorality, this is something of a skewed morality play. Not for all tastes but certainly different, with a genre-friendly cast including Angus Scrimm, Debbie Rochon, Pauley Perrette, Reggie Bannister, Michael Berryman, Larry Fessenden (also a producer) and Christine Spencer.
“TRUE BLOOD”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Flesh and blood are frequently showcased in all 12 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular, award-winning HBO horror series created by Alan Ball and adapted from Charlaine Harris’ best-selling “Sookie Stackhouse” novels, with Anna Paquin and real-life husband Stephen Moyer. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.98.
“WHITE COLLAR”: THE COMPLETE SEASON THREE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Con artist Matt Bomer uses his expertise for the FBI, in all 16 episodes from the 2011 season of the light-hearted USA Network crime series. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.
ZOOM UP: THE BEAVER BOOK GIRL (Impulse Pictures/CAV Distributing): Sleazy photographers at work and play in this repulsive sexploitation film from Japan’s “legendary” (so to speak) Nikkatsu Studios, celebrating its 100 th (!) anniversary this year. In Japanese with English subtitles.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.