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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE WINGED SERPENT (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Maverick B-movie auteur Larry Cohen has made many entertaining films (It’s Alive, The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover, Black Caesar, etc.), but none as deliriously and crazily so as this 1982 monster mash and instant cult classic.

High atop the Chrysler Building in midtown Manhattan lurks the monstrous manifestation of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a giant reptilian bird that preys on unsuspecting New Yorkers. David Carradine and Richard Roundtree are the cops on the case, while Michael Moriarty – in a splendidly wacky Method performance – plays a bumbling ex-con who stumbles across the creature’s lair and decides to cash in by blackmailing the city of New York for its location.

King Kong it’s not, but Q has a refreshing, self-effacing charm all its own. Sometimes you laugh at it, sometimes you laugh with it – but you’re laughing all the way. The new Blu-ray ($19.97 retail) includes new Cohen audio commentary, and he’s always worth a listen! Rated R. ***

5 SOULS (Inception Media Group): Comatose architect Ian Bohen is caught between life and death in producer/director Ryan Donowho’s low-budget chiller, with vague echoes of M. Night Shymalan’s work. Parallel storylines is an interesting approach that doesn’t always pay off, but points for trying. Acted with conviction by its cast: Samaire Armstrong, Steve Bacic, Kristina Anapau and executive producer Charles Solomon Jr. 

“CHARLIE CHAN COLLECTION” (Warner Home Video): A DVD collection ($39.92 retail) of four late-entry low-budget whodunits in the long-running film series based on the character of the methodical Chinese-American sleuth, created by Earl Derr Biggers: Shadows Over Chinatown (1946) stars Sidney Toler as Chan; Docks of New Orleans (1948), Shanghai Chest (1948) and The Golden Eye (also ’48) star Roland Winters as Chan. All four films feature Victor Sen Yung as son Tommy Chan and Mantan Moreland as comic-relief chauffeur Birmingham Brown – a character widely considered stereotypical in retrospect.

DARK ANGEL (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($19.97 retail) of director Craig R. Baxley’s silly but enjoyable 1990 combination cop/buddy movie and sci-fi blowout, as hard-boiled detective Dolph Lundgren and straight-arrow FBI agent Brian Benben pursue aliens both good (Jay Bilas) and bad (Matthias Hues) who bring their inter-stellar grudge match to Earth. This was retitled I Come in Peace for its US theatrical release. Rated R. 

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (Paramount): Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Bruce Willis join the encoring Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Ray Park, Byung-hun Lee and Jonathan Pryce (as the president) in this follow-up to the 2009 box-office hit inspired by the Hasbro toys, in which an elite military unit battles the nefarious forces of Cobra. Originally scheduled for summer 2012, the film’s release was delayed nearly a year, ostensibly to add 3-D effects but actually for additional reshoots. Available as a single DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.99 retail), or a 3-D combo ($49.99 retail). Rated PG-13.

THE IDOLMAKER (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($19.97 retail) of director Taylor Hackford’s PG-rated 1980 feature debut, starring Ray Sharkey (in an award-winning performance) as a music promoter obsessed with creating stars, based on the life and career of Bob Marcucci (who appears in a cameo as a heckler). Peter Gallagher, Paul Land and Joe Pantoliano make their screen debuts, with Tovah Feldshuh, Maureen McCormick, Olympia Dukakis, Richard Bright and future “Dance Fever” host Deney Terrio also on hand.

“JESS FRANCO FILMS” (Kino Lorber): To commemorate the recent passing of the indomitable – some might say abominable — Spanish-born exploitation/cult filmmaker (AKA Jesus Franco), three of his most popular films have been fully restored and re-released: The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962), Nightmares Come at Night (1970), and A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973). Each DVD retails for $24.95, each Blu-ray for $29.95. All three films are in French with English subtitles.

MOSQUITA & MARI (Wolfe Video): Aurora Guerrero wrote and directed this award-winning, semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama about two Latina teens (Fenessa Pineda and Venecia Troncosco) attracted to each other – and the resulting consequences. The DVD retails for $24.95.

NO PLACE ON EARTH (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Janet Tobias’ award-winning documentary examines the heroic legacy of Esther Stermer, who sought refuge from the Nazis during World War II by hiding in an underground cave in the Ukraine for over the year. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG-13.

PETUNIA (Wolfe Video): Director/co-writer Ash Christian’s lumbering dysfunctional-family farce squanders a good cast: Thora Birch (also a producer), Christine Lahti, Brittany Snow, Eddie Kaye Thomas, David Rasche, Tobias Segal and Michael Urie. 

“R.L. STINE’S THE HAUNTING HOUR”: THE SERIES (Shout! Factory): A selection of episodes from the 2011 season of the popular, award-winning chiller series based on the best-selling novels by R.L. Stine, broadcast on the Hub Network: “Volume 5” and “Volume 6” each include five episodes and each volume retails for $14.97.

SHADOW DANCER (Magnolia Home Entertainment): The “troubles” in Northern Island erupt in this award-winning, R-rated political thriller set in Belfast in the 1990s, adapted from James Bratsby’s novel by the author. Andrea Riseborough, Clive Owen and Gillian Anderson head the cast. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

STRIPPED (Inception Media Group): Irritating friends party in Las Vegas, but unlike The Hangover they find themselves at the mercy of strippers who work for an organ-trafficking ring. Any film that opens with Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959) playing on TV can’t be all bad, but only at the end does it offer any thrills. Annoying hand-held camerawork throughout. Rated R.

TO THE WONDER (Magnolia Home Entertainment): The latest offering from the suddenly-prolific Terrence Malick details a love affair between American engineer Ben Affleck and Ukrainian single mother Olga Kurylenko, whom he meets in Paris. To some, Malick is a cinematic visionary. To others (ahem), he tends to wallow in an arid narrative distinguished as much by directorial self-indulgence as visual splendor. Even the most die-hard Malick devotee might be hard-pressed to argue the latter observation after sitting through this pretentious but award-winning exercise, blessed (as usual) with Emmanuel Lubezki’s gorgeous cinematography. Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem are also on hand to ponder things in ponderous fashion. Nice visuals do not a good movie make. One of the year’s worst. Rated R. 

“X-RAY/SCHIZOID COMBO” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD/Blu-ray double-feature ($26.99 retail) of two R-rated slasher shockers produced by the indomitable Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of Cannon Films: Barbi Benton stars in 1982’s deadly dull X-Ray (AKA Hospital Massacre), while Schizoid (1980) at least has an eclectic cast: Klaus Kinski (as a psychologist!), Christopher Lloyd, Marianna Hill, Craig Wasson, Richard Herd, Donna Wilkes and Joe Regalbuto. Both films are rated R for obvious reasons. 

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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