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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

 marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: ROLLING THUNDER (Shout! Factory)

Quentin Tarantino took the name for his production company, but he’s hardly alone in remembering the visceral power of this 1977 action melodrama, a quintessential example of solid drive-in entertainment newly available on Blu-ray ($19.93 retail).Maj. Charles Rane (William Devane) returns home to San Antonio after eight years as a POW in Vietnam. His already difficult re-adjustment is further hampered when thugs rob his house, stick his hand down the garbage disposal, murder his wife and son, and leave him for dead.Of course, Rane is not dead. But he’s plenty angry. Aided by adoring barmaid Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), abetted by fellow POW Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones) and outfitted with a stainless-steel hook where his hand used to be — which he duly sharpens — he methodically tracks down the gang to deliver payback.Working from an effective screenplay by Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) and Heywood Gould (The Boys from Brazil), director John Flynn crafts an irresistible tale of retribution and revenge. Devane, Jones and Haynes are all excellent, offering shades of humanity underneath the intensity — of which there is plenty. Rolling Thunder is lean and mean — and, on its own terms, highly potent. Rated R. ***

“THE ADVENTURES OF CHUCK & FRIENDS: WHEN TRUCKS FLY” (Hasbro Studios/Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($12.99 retail) of 10 complete episodes from the animated children’s series, broadcast on the Hub, which follows the adventures of a dump truck (that would be “Chuck”) and his four-wheeled friends.

THE BURNING (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD/Blu-ray special edition ($29.93 retail) of the 1981 slasher film in which a scarred madman (Lou David as “Cropsy”) preys on young camp counselors after being burned in a prank. This was the first film from Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the brothers behind Miramax Films, and although well-made and gruesome (courtesy makeup master Tom Savini), it’s also very predictable. The fun is seeing Jason Alexander, Fisher Stevens and Holly Hunter in their first screen roles. Hunter later won an Oscar for The Piano (1993), a Miramax film! Rated R. *½

“COMBAT!”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Image Entertainment): This DVD collection ($39.98 retail) includes all 32 episodes from the 1964-’65 season of the ABC series still acclaimed as one of the most realistic small-screen portrayals of World War II — as well as the longest-running. Vic Morrow (who also directed a few episodes) and Rick Jason head the cast.

D4 (Indie Go!/VCI Entertainment): Mercenaries battle muscle-bound mutants near a secret military installation in this award-winning(!) but unremarkable sci-fi schlocker from writer/director/editor/co-star Darrin Dickerson. Even the twist ending feels tacked on. *

“THE GOOD WIFE”: THE THIRD SEASON (CBS DVD/ Paramount): A DVD boxed set ($64.99 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the award-winning CBS legal drama starring producer Julianna Margulies as the wife of a disgraced politician (Chris Noth) who re-enters the work force as a lawyer at a highpowered New York law firm. Guest stars include Michael J. Fox, Dylan Baker, Parker Posey, Jennifer Carpenter, Eddie Izzard, Bebe Neuwirth, F. Murray Abraham and Martha Plimpton, who won the Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. Six additional nominations: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Margulies), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Christine Baranski and Archie Panjabi), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Fox and Baker), and Outstanding Casting in a Drama Series.

HILLBILLYS IN A HAUNTED HOUSE (VCI Entertainment): If anything, this 1967 sequel to Las Vegas Hillbillys is worse — because it’s a bigger waste of talent. Ferlin Husky, Don Bowman and Sonny James encore from the first film (lucky them), joined this time by Joi Lansing as they tangle with enemy spies including John Carradine, Lon Chaney and Basil Rathbone (in his last film, sadly). ½

LAS VEGAS HILLBILLYS (VCI Entertainment): In the wake of the success of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” this lowbudget 1966 comedy trots out every stereotype in the book, spends much of its running time with musical acts, and ends with a pie fight. The cast includes Jayne Mansfield, Ferlin Husky, Sonny James, Don Bowman and Mamie Van Doren. It’s pretty awful but did well enough to spawn a sequel (see above). *

MARVEL KNIGHTS ANIMATION’S INHUMANS (Marvel Entertainment/Shout! Factory): The Marvel Comics’ series becomes a feature-length animated fantasy depicting the adventures of a group of genetically-superior race that finds its kingdom of Attilan threatened by both internal and external forces. The DVD retails for $14.97.

THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL (VCI Entertainment): Jack Lord is totally miscast — but still entertaining — as a Hungarian expatriate drawn into a web of seduction and deceit by three strange sisters (Susan Strasberg, Tisha Sterling, Collin Wilcox) and their mother (TC Jones) in a remote corner of Arizona. Echoes of Alfred Hitchcock, Mario Bava and William Castle in this weird, uneven 1968 exploitation thriller (also known as The Female Trap) with cinematography by future Oscar winner Vilmos (“William”) Zsigmond, a song by the Electric Prunes (“Shadows”), and a twist ending. The new “special edition” ($19.95 retail) includes a bevy of extra features. **½

NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): In this 1984 chop-socky opus from director Sam Firstenberg and “legendary” producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, pretty Lucinda Dickey is possessed by the malevolent spirit of a ninja warrior and proceeds to go on a rampage. Top-billed Sho Kosugi plays the noble ninja exorcist who helps out. Sheer unintentional hilarity in the “best” Cannon Films tradition. Rated R. *½

NO PRYOR RESTRAINT: LIFE IN CONCERT (Shout! Factory): A seven-CD, two-DVD collection ($99.98 retail) celebrating the life and legacy of the legendary and ever-controversial funnyman Richard Pryor (1940-2005), including highlights from his comedy albums and all of his feature-length concert films: Richard Pryor — Live in Concert (1979), Richard Pryor Live on the Sunset Strip (1982) and Richard Pryor… Here and Now (1983).

THE VIGILANTES ARE COMING (VCI Entertainment): Robert Livingston rides tall in the saddle as a masked dogooder known as “The Eagle” in this Republic Pictures 12- part 1936 Western serial set in 1840s California, featuring Kay Hughes, Raymond Hatton, Guinn “Big Boy” Williams, Robert Warwick, William Farnum and legendary stunt coordinator Yakima Canutt. The DVD retails for $19.93.

WAVES OF LUST (RaroVideo): Ruggero Deodato directed this 1975 thriller (originally titled Una ondata di piacere) starring John Steiner and Elizabeth Turner as a wealthy couple whose weekend cruise with young lovers Al Cliver and Silvia Dionisio soon becomes a diabolical game of betrayal. Clearly inspired by Polanski’s Knife in the Water (1962) — but hardly in the same league — though not without interest, especially for aficionados of Italian exploitation. **

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.

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