Fresh from the success of Halloween (1978), John Carpenter encored with this good old-fashioned 1980 ghost story that successfully (and scarily) emphasizes mood and atmosphere over blood and guts.A century ago, the residents of the California coastal town of Antonio Bay intentionally led a ship of lepers to their doom and pilfered their gold. Now, it’s payback time, as the ghosts have returned to wreak vengeance on those who did them wrong.A polished cast includes Hal Holbrook, Carpenter’s then-wife Adrienne Barbeau (in her screen debut), Jamie Lee Curtis and real-life mother Janet Leigh, Tom Atkins, Charles Cyphers and John Houseman, who sets the tone with a brief appearance as the fisherman Mr. Machen, who tells the tale which is to follow. Dean Cundey’s cinematography and Carpenter’s intense score enhance the scare quotient considerably. Although this might not be a classic, compared to the 2005 remake it’s a paragon of screen art.The Fog is now available in a “collector’s edition” DVD ($19.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.93 retail), each with audio commentaries, interviews and many special features. Rated R.
“ANNIKA BENGTZON: CRIME RE- PORTER” (MHz Networks): Malin Crepin plays the title role in this popular Swedish mystery series based on Liza Marklund’s bestselling novels, as a driven journalist trying to balance her personal and professional lives. Each DVD collection ($39.98 retail) includes three feature-length mysteries from the 2012 season. In Swedish with English subtitles.
A BOY AND HIS DOG (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($26.99 retail) of LQ Jones’ award-winning 1975 adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s novella, set in a postapocalyptic landscape and following the adventures of Don Johnson and his telepathic dog (voiced by Tim McIntire). Sometimes sharply satirical, sometimes silly — but always worthy of attention, with an eclectic cast including Jason Robards, Charles McGraw, producer Alvy Moore and shapely Susanne Benton. McIntire also did the music. Not for all tastes (an inside joke for those who know the film), but a genuine one of a kind and a staple of ’70s midnight screenings. Rated R.
THE BRUCE LEE LEGACY COLLEC- TION (Shout! Factory): A mammoth Blu-ray/DVD boxed set ($119.99 retail) that commemorates the life and career of legendary martial-arts movie star Bruce Lee, including extensive special features and four full-length films: 1971’s The Big Boss (AKA Fists of Fury ), 1972’s Fist of Fury (AKA The Chinese Connection), 1972’s The Way of the Dragon (AKA Return of the Dragon) and Game of Death (1979), which was completed (years) after his death. All four films are rated R (for obvious reasons).
“CATDOG: THE FINAL SEASON” (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($14.97 retail) of the final eight episodes from the animated Nickelodeon comedy series featuring the voices of Jim Cummings (“Cat”) and Tom Kenny (“Dog”) as perhaps the unlikeliest conjoined twins in cartoon history
DEADLY SWARM (LionsGate): CGI wasps lay waste to a Mexican town in this predictable time-waster originally broadcast on Syfy (in 2003). Shane Brolly plays a hunky scientist, Kaarina Aufranc a plucky writer and reliable Pepe Serna a friendly lawman.
EVIDENCE (Image Entertainment): Detectives Stephen Moyer and Radha Mitchell try to piece together the evidence of a murderous crime spree by watching video of the event in this nasty, nonsensical shocker that inevitably (and wearily) builds up to a Big Reveal.
FERNANDO DI LEO: THE ITALIAN CRIME COLLECTION VOLUME 2 (Raro Video): A DVD ($39.98 retail) or Blu-ray ($49.98 retail) triple-feature of crime thrillers by filmmaker Fernando Di Leo (1932-2003), all fully restored with exclusive bonus features: Shoot First, Die Later (1974) stars Luc Merenda, Delia Boccardo and Hollywood veteran Richard Conte; The Kidnap Syndicate (1975) stars Merenda and the great James Mason (albeit in a disappointingly small role); and Naked Violence (1969) stars Pier Paolo Capponi.
“HELL ON WHEELS”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Entertainment One): The construction of the Union Pacific Railroad is dramatized in this AMC Western series starring Anson Mount as a Confederate veteran pursuing his wife’s killers. The regular cast includes Colm Meaney, Tom Noonan, Wes Studi and Common. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title (Theme Music). All 10 episodes from the 2012 season (plus bonus features) are included in both the DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) and the Blu-ray boxed set ($49.98 retail).
THE INCREDIBLE MELTING MAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Rick Baker’s gooey, gory special effects are the highlight of this (unintentionally) amusing 1977 drive-in shocker about an astronaut (Alex Rebar) who returns to Earth afflicted with the title condition and must feed on human beings to arrest it. Needless to say, things get very messy…. The new Bluray retails for $19.97. Look for Jonathan Demme as a victim. Rated R.
THE LETTER (LionsGate): Neurotic theater director Winona Ryder is consumed by doubt, jealousy and paranoia before embarking on rehearsals in this dull, interminable effort from writer/director/cinematographer Jay Anania. An utter waste of Ryder (who provides pretentious narration) and co-stars James Franco, Josh Hamilton, Marin Ireland and Sam’s daughter Katherine Waterston. Rated R. ½
NURSE DIARY: WICKED FINGER (Impulse Pictures): Still more softcore shenanigans from Nikkatsu Studios, this one a 1979 comedy/drama with Etsuko Hara as a young nurse who’s both naughty and nice. Two sequels followed. The vacuumcleaner gag would be right at home in a Farrelly Brothers movie. In Japanese with English subtitles.
THE ODD ANGRY SHOT (Synapse Films): A special-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) release of writer/producer/director Tom Jeffrey’s 1979 adaptation of William Nagle’s bestselling novel depicting the Vietnam War as fought by Australian soldiers (including Bryan Brown, Graham Kennedy, John Hargreaves and Ian Gilmour) in the 1960s. Jeffrey’s last directorial effort to date. Special features include audio commentary and featurettes.
SCHOOLGIRL REPORT #10 (Impulse Pictures): Eva Berthold, Alexandra Bogojevic and Astrid Bonner are among the feisty frauleins in this softcore sex romp with a Teutonic twist, released in 1976 and based on Gunther Hunold’s bestseller. Also known as Every Girl Starts Sometime… and Sexy Schoolwork, but dopey by any name. There’s even a sequence “inspired” by The Exorcist(!). In German with English subtitles.
SWAMP THING (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): A new DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) of Wes Craven’s enjoyably campy 1982 big-screen adaptation of the DC Comics character, about a scientist (Ray Wise) who suffers a chemical a mutation and becomes the title superhero (Dick Durock). Louis Jourdan has fun as the villain and sexy Adrienne Barbeau plays the damsel-in-distress, who’s no shrinking violet. Rated PG.
ZOMBIE MASSACRE (Entertainment One): The title tells all in writer/executive producer/directors Marco Ristori and Luca Boni’s shocker (originally titled Apocalypse Z… hmmm), in which the US military’s biological-warfare program results in an undead outbreak. Producer Uwe Boll also plays the president(!). The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.98.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.