by Mark Burger



For fans of Britain’s most famous horror studio (yours truly included), it’s always Hammer time — and it’s been a long wait for this 1971 chiller, long out of print on VHS and now available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail).

The title beauties are played by Mary and Madeleine Collinson, Playboy’s first twin Playmates. Maria (Mary) is the demure one, Frieda (Madeleine) is the rebellious one who chafes at the strict upbringing of their uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a puritanical religious fanatic who leads “the Brotherhood,” a like-minded group of zealots. It’s not long before Frieda falls under the spell of Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), the resident decadent who’s recently joined the ranks of the undead.

This was one of the better films made during Hammer’s downward slide, offering glimmers of Gothic greatness. Steeped in atmosphere and directed with zest by John Hough, there are such familiar trappings as torch-wielding villagers, brandished crucifixes, bared fangs and some bared bosoms.

More explicit than earlier Hammer films, it’s probably the most satisfying of what is known as the Karnstein Trilogy (the others being The Vampire Lovers and Lust for a Vampire), and screenwriter Tudor Gates (who wrote all three films) offers some interesting character shading, particularly with regard to Cushing’s Weil.

Cushing and Thomas are in fine form as sworn enemies, backed by David Warbeck, Kathleen Byron and Dennis Price. As for the Collinson twins, they have a fine form all their own. Special features include a retrospective documentary (featuring my friend, filmmaker Ted Newsom) that’s almost as long as the film itself.Rated R.

THE BEAT HOTEL (First Run Features): Director Alan Govenar’s affectionate documentary flashes back to the illustrious bohemian residents of a rundown hotel in 1950s Paris, including Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, Gregory Corso, Ian Somerville and Harold Norse, who penned a novella titled The Beat Hotel.

THE BLOOD BEAST TERROR (Redemption/Kino Lorber): Brutal murders rock the English countryside in this talky 1968 shocker, a fairly dreadful version of an old penny dreadful. Poorly plotted, with out-of-place comedy interludes provided by Roy Hudd’s morgue attendant. Robert Flemyng, as a scientist with a dark secret, replaced Basil Rathbone, who died before production. Even Peter Cushing (see above), as the cop on the case, is lost. A fine widescreen transfer of a bad movie. (Even Cushing considered it one of his worst.) In the US, this was rated G!

CHERRY BOMB (Well Go USA Entertainment): A throwback to ’80s exploitation, Kyle Day’s directorial debut stars Julin Jean in the title role, that of a small-town stripper who takes revenge against the five men who assaulted her. Entertaining on a lowbrow level, with some inspired moments, but it can’t quite decide between action or comedy.

DARK NEMESIS (MTI Home Video): Writer/director Drew Maxwell’s post-apocalyptic fantasy pits a group of soldiers against a diabolical warlord with conquest on his mind. The DVD and the Blu-ray retail for $24.95 each.

THE GENESIS CODE (Entertainment One): The debate between creation and science plays out in this bloated, sermonizing drama that contains enough bits and a pieces for half a dozen movies, but nothing substantial enough for even one. Soapopera trimmings and a running time of nearly 2.5 hours(!) serve only to prolong the propaganda. The kind of dramatically, thematically unsatisfying film that gives faith-based entertainment a bad name, as well as a low point for most of the talent involved: Kelsey Sanders, Logan Bartholomew, Louise Fletcher, Catherine Hicks (in an embarrassing role), Susan Blakely (who’s comatose most of the time), Ben Murphy, Rance Howard, Fred Dalton Thompson, the late Ernest Borgnine and Lance Henriksen, whose name is misspelled in the opening credits. Original director Patrick Read Johnson was replaced by actor C. Thomas Howell in mid-production. It didn’t help. Rated PG. No stars

“THE GLADES”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Matt Passmore plays Jim Longworth — not the YES! Weekly columnist — an ex-Chicago cop who takes up residence in the Florida Everglades… where trouble seems to follow. This DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) includes all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning A&E mystery series.

“THE INBETWEENERS”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (Entertainment One): A DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) of all 18 episodes from the entire run (2008-’10) of the award winning British comedy series focusing on four teenagers (James Buckley, Simon Bird, Blake Harrison and Joe Thomas) wrestling with adolescent angst — often in outrageous terms. A feature film is due before year’s end.

MY AFTERNOONS WITH MARGUE- RITTE (Cohen Media Group/New Video): Gerard Depardieu and Gisele Casadesus topline Jean Becker’s award-winning comedy/drama about the friendship that develops between an illiterate, middleaged handyman and an aged writer who teaches him how to read. In French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95.

ORIGINS OF THE MOTION PICTURE (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD selection ($7.98 retail) of vintage documentaries, short films and features, among them the 1895 Lumiere Premiere Program which included the world’s first projected motion picture, the 1914 silent romantic comedy Under Royal Patronage, and more.

PRIVATE ROMEO (Wolfe Video): Seth Numrich and Matt Doyle of Broadway’s War Horse are reunited for this award-winning drama that puts a spin on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by making the protagonists male cadets at a present-day military school. The DVD retails for $24.95.

SPRINGTIME IN THE SIERRAS (American Pop Classics/Film Chest): Playing himself, Roy Rogers tracks down the murderer of a friend in this 1947 Republic Pictures Western, although he does find time to belt out a couple of tunes (backed by Bob Nolan and Sons of the Pioneers) and banter with giggling sidekick Andy Devine. Fairly routine, although there’s some novelty in the casting of Stephanie Bachelor as the principal villain. Filmed in “Trucolor.” This DVD also includes “The Chevy Show” Easter 1961 TV special, featuring Roy and Dale Evans.

“WEB THERAPY”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Entertainment One): Psychotherapy is sent up in this comedy series starring Lisa Kudrow (also co-creator and producer) as a therapist who dispenses counsel over the internet. Courteney Cox, Lily Tomlin, Alan Cumming, Victor Garber, Jane Lynch and producer/ co-creator Dan Bucatinsky also appear. This two-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) includes all 15 episodes (originally broadcast online) from the premiere 2008 season.

ZOOM IN: SEX APARTMENTS (Impulse Pictures): Naosuke Kurosawa — no relation to Akira — made his directorial debut with this 1980 sex thriller (originally titled Zumu in: Boko danchi and also known as Zoom In: Rape Apartments) starring Erina Miyai as a rape victim whose assailant was never caught and now appears to be continuing his reign of terror… only now he also sets fire to his victims! Surreal Eastern raunch with a touch of giallo, better than most of its ilk because at least it has a point. Sort of. 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.