DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: GORGO (VCI Entertainment)
Among the many giant-monster movies of the ’50s and ’60s, this 1961 British effort, newly available in an “ultimate collector’s edition,” stands tall as one of the best.An undersea quake near Nara Island unleashes a 60-foot-tall prehistoric reptile, which opportunistic fishermen Bill Travers and William Sylvester manage to capture and sell to a circus for exhibition in London, much to the consternation of young orphan Sean (Vincent Winter), who advises them, wisely as it turns out, to let Gorgo be.There’s just one problem — and it’s a big one: This monster is merely a baby, and no sooner is it shipped off to London than Mama Gorgo (more than 200 feet tall) rises from the sea in search of her offspring. The film generates a surprising amount of sympathy for the title terror. It’s the human characters who exhibit greed and avarice; Gorgo just wants her baby back.Even though it’s a stuntman in a rubber suit, the special effects hold up extremely well (never underestimate the value of miniatures or stock footage to give a low-budget film a large scope), there’s also the vicarious suspense of watching such familiar London landmarks as Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus and Big Ben being demolished.The DVD retails for $14.99, the Blu-ray for $19.99.
“ANIMANIACS”: VOLUME 4 (Warner Home Video): The final DVD collection ($29.99 retail) of 24 episodes from the award-winning animated comedy series, which aired from 1993-’98 first on the Fox Network on then on Kids’ WB, and concerned the (mis)adventures of the title trio (voiced by Rob Paulsen, Tress Mac- Neille and Jess Harnell), wreaking havoc on the Warner Bros. studio lot in Hollywood. From 1995-’97, the series won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Animated Program. Steven Spielberg was executive producer.
BROTHER BEAR AND BROTHER BEAR 2 (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A Blu-ray/DVD combo ($39.99 retail) of the animated 2003 Disney feature, which earned an Oscar nomination as Best Animated Feature, and its 2006 sequel, which was released direct to video. Among the familiar voices in both films: Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas, Jeremy Suarez and Michael Clarke Duncan. Both films are rated G.
CHILDREN’S HEROES OF THE BIBLE (VCI Entertainment): A self-explanatory collection of award-winning animated shorts produced in 1978: “The Old Testament” features six stories (including those of Moses, Joseph and David); “The New Testament” features seven stories (including those of Jesus, Paul and the Apostles).
Each DVD retails for $9.99.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOUR- NEY (Warner Home Video): After nearly a decade away, filmmaker Peter Jackson returns to the JRR Tolkien universe with this opulent, ornate and overlong adaptation of the classic story, following yet another perilous journey into Middle Earth. It’s nice to see Ian McKellen, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis reprise their Lord of the Rings roles, with Martin Freeman (as Bilbo Baggins), Richard Armitage, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Sylvester McCoy, Barry Humphries (erstwhile “Dame Edna”!) and Graham McTavish among the newcomers. Exhausting at times but there’s no doubt Jackson knows (and loves) this material. Academy Award nominations for Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design and Best Makeup/Hairstyling. Available as a two-DVD special edition ($28.98 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail) or a 3-D combo ($44.95 retail). Rated PG-13.
“MY BIG FAT GYPSY WEDDING”: SEASONS 1 & 2 (Flatiron Film Company/ Cinedigm): A four-DVD boxed set ($29.95 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2011 and 2012 seasons from the popular (and selfexplanatory) British reality series, aired in the US on the Learning Channel.
“THE OFFICIAL DIGIMON ADVEN- TURE SET: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON” (Flatiron Film Company/Cinedigm): A self-explanatory eight-DVD collection ($79.95 retail) of all 50 episodes from 2000-’01 season of the popular Toei Animation fantasy series (which aired in the US on ABC Family) focusing on a group of young adventurers battling to save the Digital World from the forces of evil. Flatiron/Cinedigm is also releasing “Digimon Adventure: Volume 2” ($19.95 retail), a three-DVD selection of 18 episodes from the inaugural 1999-2000 season.
THE POWER OF THE RESURREC- TION (VCI Entertainment): The last days of Christ as recounted by Simon Peter (Richard Kiley, adding a touch of class) in this stiff, low-budget 1958 Biblical drama. In support: Robert Cornthwaite, Morris Ankrum, Booth Colman, Jan Arvan (as Judas) and Jon Shepodd (as Jesus). Even at 60 minutes, this feels longer. *½
SAMSON AND DELILAH (Paramount): Victor Mature is appropriately brawny and Hedy Lamarr appropriately beauteous in the title roles of Cecil B. DeMille’s 1950 Biblical blockbuster, which earned Academy Awards for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Costume Design, with additional nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects and Victor Young’s score. George Sanders preens and sneers (as he was wont to do) as the Saran of Gaza, with Russ Tamblyn, Mike Mazurki, George Reeves and curvaceous Angela Lansbury in support. This follows the old adage that “the book was better” (to say nothing of shorter) – but it’s an entertaining romp. The highlight, of course, is when Samson brings down the temple.
TO THE ARCTIC (Warner Home Video): Meryl Streep narrates director Greg Mac- Gillivray’s G-rated nature documentary following a mother polar bear and her twin cubs as they struggle for survival in the Arctic wilderness, originally shown in the IMAX format. The single DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $44.95.
UNCLE VANYA (VCI Entertainment): Love’s labor lost — and crossed — in this award-winning 1957 adaptation of the Chekhov classic, set in late 19th century Russia and adapted by Stark Young. Never released on video, this is essentially a filmed record of the 1956 New York stage production directed by John Goetz in association with Franchot Tone, who plays Dr. Astroff. Stagey and stodgy at times — Chekhov isn’t renowned for his light touch, in any event — but acted with conviction by a cast including Peggy McCay, Mary Perry (in her screen debut), Dolores Dorn and George Voskovec (superb as Vanya). The DVD also includes the 1938 feature film The Rebel Son (AKA The Barbarian and the Lady), based Nicolai Gogol’s story of Cossack warrior Taras Bulba, with Harry Baur in the title role.
WAITING FOR LIGHTNING (First Run Features): This award-winning documentary focuses on the life of skateboarding daredevil Danny Way, who overcame a tough childhood to become one of the most popular “extreme sports” athletes around, even jumping the Great Wall of China in 2005. The DVD retails for $24.95, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $29.95. Rated PG-13.
YOU KNOW WHAT SAILORS ARE (VCI Entertainment): Director Ken Annakin’s lightweight 1954 Cold War comedy, based on the novel Sylvester, with Donald Sinden as a British sailor whose drunken prank sparks an international incident. Top-billed Akim Tamiroff customarily chews the scenery as the president of the fictional nation of Agraria — which looks remarkably like the Pinewood Studios lot. Michael Hordern, Dora Bryan, Bill Kerr, Ferdy Mayne, Peter Arne and Sarah Lawson round out an easygoing cast.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.