DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: GRAND DUEL (Blue Underground)
For those who savor spaghetti Westerns, this 1972 outing is a quintessential example and boasts a prime turn by Lee Van Cleef as a black-clad anti-hero.Set in 1900, the story follows Philipp Wermeer (Peter O’Brien, nee Alberto Dentice), a fugitive fleeing from the powerful and deadly Saxon brothers (Horst Frank, Klaus Grunberg and Marc Mazza), who are convinced he murdered their wealthy father, known as “The Patriarch.” Van Cleef, striding through the proceedings with cool detachment, plays Clayton, a disgraced ex-lawman with an agenda of his own.With (distant) echoes of King Lear, Ernesto Gastaldi’s screenplay unfolds in strange ways. It’s not until well into the narrative that the characters’ motivations become clear. As a result of this not altogether successful story structure, there are a few slow stretches, but there’s plenty of shoot-’em-up action along the way.Blue Underground’s release offers a nice widescreen transfer and engaging audio commentary by filmmaker/historians C. Courtney Joyner and Henry Parke.As befits the title, the story culminates in a “grand duel” reminiscent of the climax of Sergio Leone’s 1967 classic The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — not surprising, as first-time director Giancarlo Santi was Leone’s assistant director. This isn’t quite in the same league, but it’s a stylish and entertaining romp all the same. Rated R. **½
CLASSIC POVERTY ROW DOUBLE FEATURE (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of low-budget coming-of-age dramas, both starring Jackie Moran and Marcia Mare Jones: Barefoot Boy (1938), inspired by John Greenleaf Whittier’s poem; and The Old Swimmin’ Hole (1940), directed by perennial “Our Gang” helmer Robert McGowan. Although dated, both films have their nostalgic, corny charms.
ESCAPE (Entertainment One): Newcomer Isabel Christine Andreasen plays a teenager pitted against the band of marauders who slaughtered her family in this historical action/adventure (originally titled Flukt) set in 14 th century Europe. In Norwegian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.98
GETTING IT ON (VCI Entertainment): North Carolina’s own William Olsen made his feature debut as writer/editor/producer/ director of this low-budget 1983 teen romp, originally titled American Voyeur, with Martin Yost and Jeff Edmond (each in his first and last film to date) as high school buddies who secretly record their neighbors’ shenanigans (guess which kind?) for broadcast. Hardly the worst of its ilk, which isn’t saying much, with some attempt made to emphasize character over raunch. Rated R.
GOD’S COUNTRY (Image Entertainment): Jenn Gotzon toplines this faith-based drama as an investment banker who undergoes a change of heart (and spirit) when she attempts to foreclose on a Christian retreat in a remote corner of the Mojave Desert. The DVD retails for $27.97.
THE GREAT LEADERS OF THE BIBLE (VCI Entertainment): Originally titled I Grandi Condottieri, this two-part 1965 Italian drama (perhaps made for television?) dramatizes the stories of Gideon (Ivo Garrani) and Samson (Anton Geesink). The former is superior, thanks to Garrani’s gruff turn as Gideon and a charming, good-humored Fernando Rey as the Angel of the Lord. Alluring Rosalba Neri plays Deliliah in the latter.
JACK REACHER (Paramount Home Entertainment): Tom Cruise stars as Lee Child’s bestselling hero in Christopher McQuarrie’s entertaining if overlong screen adaptation, trying to uncover a murderous conspiracy and, naturally, finding himself in harm’s way. Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins, David Oyelowo, Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall round out the cast. Rated PG-13.
LOST COMEDY CLASSICS (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD triple-feature ($7.98 retail) of rare, vintage comedy shorts including The Stage Hand (1933) directed by and starring Harry Langdon, Dangerous Females (1929) starring future Oscar winner Marie Dressler, and Our Dare-Devil Chief (1915), from the makers of the Keystone Cops comedies.
“MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE”: THE COM- PLETE SECOND SEASON (TNT/Warner Home Video): Ray Romano, Andre Braugher and Scott Bakula play the title roles in all 12 episodes from the 2010-’11 (and final) season of the award-winning TNT series about three long-time friends contending with middle age. Braugher earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98.
NOBODY WALKS (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Lena Dunham and director Ry Russo-Young penned this award-winning comedy with Olivia Thirlby as a tempestuous filmmaker who creates upheaval in the lives of a Hollywood sound designer (John Krasinski) and his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt). Occasionally sharp and smart, more often smug and snide. Dylan McDermott and Justin Kirk also appear. Rated R.
SEXY EVIL GENIUS (LionsGate): Accused murderess Katee Sackhoff (also a co-producer) invites former and current lovers to a bar for an evening of deceit and deception in this stagey melodrama that doesn’t work but affords its ensemble cast (Seth Green, Harold Perrineau, William Baldwin and Michelle Trachtenberg) a lot of leeway. Worth a look, if not a recommendation. Rated R.
THE SOLOMON BUNCH (Slingshot Pictures/Image Entertainment): Five smalltown kids unwittingly wreak havoc when they try to solve a neighborhood mystery in this low-budget, family-friendly comedy, now available on DVD ($27.97 retail).
SUMMER SCHOOL (VCI Home Entertainment): Not to be confused with the 1987 Mark Harmon comedy, this low-budget 1979 teen outing (originally and more aptly titled Mag Wheels) spends far less time in the classroom than it does on the beach or racing vans. Fairly mean-spirited and only occasionally played for laughs, a fresh-faced cast includes John McLaughlin (later John Laughlin), Shelly Horner and Phoebe Schmidt. That’s producer and legendary auto customizer George Barris as himself. Rated R.
SUPERMAN: UNBOUND (DC Entertainment/Warner Home Video): The Man of Steel (voiced by Matt Bomer) returns in this full-length animated feature based on the popular DC Comics series — and coinciding with the upcoming big-screen release of Man of Steel. Stana Katic voices both Lois Lane and Supergirl. The DVD retails for $19.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $24.98. Rated PG-13.
WE ARE EGYPT: THE STORY BEHIND THE REVOLUTION (The Disinformation Company): Filmmaker Lillie Paquette’s selfexplanatory documentary ($24.98 retail) examines the circumstances leading up to, and the immediate aftermath of, the political uprising that ended the reign of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
WHAT COLOR IS LOVE? (A&E Networks Home Entertainment): Sincere performances elevate this fact-based Lifetime sudser (originally titled Playing for Keeps), with Jennifer Finnigan as a single woman whose affair with a famous — and married –— pro basketball star (Roger Cross) results in a baby and a very public custody battle. Doug Savant and Brian Markinson lend sturdy support.
THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD AND BE- YOND (Entertainment One): Troy Szebin’s 2009 documentary ($14.98 retail) explores the history of The Wizard of Oz, beginning with the original 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, with interviews and clips featuring Joel Grey, Mickey Rooney, Rob Marshall, Tommy Tune, Dom DeLuise, Beverly D’Angelo and Mervyn LeRoy (producer of the classic 1939 musical version). The DVD also includes the 1925 silent film version of The Wizard of Oz, with Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodsman and Dorothy Dwan as Dorothy.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.