DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE UNINVITED (The Criterion Collection)
One of Hollywood’s first — and best — haunted-house movies, this 1944 screen adaptation of the novel Uneasy Freehold is an elegant and stylish chiller, afforded very classy treatment by a major studio (Paramount).Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey play siblings who impetuously purchase an abandoned mansion on the Cornish coast, unaware of its mysterious, tragic past. Of course, they learn soon enough — once things start going bump in the night. As they unravel the mystery of Windward House, they realize that supernatural forces are at work.Smoothly directed by Lewis Allen, The Uninvited boasts splendid atmosphere and mood, with Charles Lang’s black and-white cinematography earning an well-deserved Oscar nomination. The film depicts the supernatural in a serious fashion, but never with a heavy hand, as the story unfolds like a juicy Gothic novel.A fine cast includes Gail Russell (in her screen debut) as the object of both the haunting and Milland’s affections, Donalvd Crisp, Alan Napier and Cornelia Otis Skinner. Victor Young’s lush score includes the theme “Stella by Starlight,” which subsequently became a standard.The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
“BEING HUMAN”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Entertainment One): Sam Witwer, Meagan Rath and Sam Huntington play unusual roommates — each with a supernatural secret — trying to live normal lives in all 13 episodes from the 2012 season of the award-winning Syfy series, based on a popular British series of the same name. The DVD and Blu-ray boxed sets each retail for $39.98.
THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (VCI Entertainment): An uncut widescreen edition of writer/director Dario Argento’s award-winning, 1969 debut, a Hitchcockian thriller with Tony Musante as an expatriate American artist who witnesses an attempted murder in Rome, only to find he and his girlfriend (Suzy Kendall) next on the hit list. Ennio Morricone’s score and Vittorio Storaro’s cinematography are also noteworthy. In the early ’80s, this was re-released to theaters as The Phantom of Terror to cash in on the slasher craze. The DVD retails for $14.93, the DVD for $19.93.
BLOODY HOMECOMING (Image Entertainment): A murderer in fireman’s garb stalks the students who survived a tragic fire the year before in director Brian C. Weed’s throwback to ’80s slasher films. Not bad as these things go, with an enthusiastic cast including Lexi Giovagnoli, Randi Lamey, Taryn Cervarich, Rae Latt and Jim Tavare.
BYZANTIUM (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Neil Jordan’s R-rated adaptation of Moira Buffini’s play stars Gemma Arterton and Saorise Ronan as a mother and daughter who will never age, because they’re both bloodsuckers. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“DEFIANCE”: SEASON ONE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Life on Earth, circa 2046 — and it’s tougher than ever. Grant Bowler, Julie Benz, Tony Curran, Graham Greene and Mia Kirshner star in all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2013 season of the popular Syfy series, which earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.98.
I MARRIED A WITCH (The Criterion Collection): Rene Clair’s bright, beguiling 1942 screwball comedy stars Veronica Lake as the witch and Fredric March as the Massachusetts politician whose family she cursed in Salem centuries before, only this time her spell works a little too well— on both of them. Reportedly, the two stars did not get along, but you’d hardly know it given their charming chemistry here. Adding to the fun are Susan Hayward, Robert Benchley, Robert Warrick and Cecil Kellaway, terrific as Lake’s father. An uncredited Dalton Trumbo worked on the script and an uncredited Preston Sturges was a producer. Roy Webb’s score earned an Oscar nomination. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
A MONSTEROUS HOLIDAY (Arc Entertainment): The Frankenstein legend gets a family-friendly working-over in this animated comedy featuring the voices of Jon Heder, Brooke Shields, Matthew Lillard, Kyle Chandler and Drake Bell. The DVD retails for $14.99.
RED CLOVER (LionsGate): The luck of the Irish isn’t quite with this sometimes-jokey shocker (originally titled Leprechaun’s Revenge — although it has nothing to do with the Leprechaun franchise) about a murderous leprechaun unleashed upon a small town in Massachusetts. A hard-working cast includes Billy Zane, Courtney Halvorsen and reliable William Devane. Rated R.
STAR TREK: INTO DARKNESS (Paramount): The crew of the starship Enterprise battles new enemies in JJ Abrams’ awardwinning sequel to his 2009 reboot of the immortal sci-fi franchise. Like the first film, it’s jam-packed with futuristic action and hitech special effects — but tends to overstay its welcome, and aside from the guest villains (Peter Weller as a treacherous Starfleet admiral and Benedict Cumberbatch as the “new” Khan), some of the regulars get short shrift. It made a lot of money but also cost a lot to make. The next installment is currently in development. Rated PG-13.
THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A selfexplanatory Blu-ray collection ($79.97 retail) six classics starring the legendary Vincent Price (1911-’93): Roger Corman’s Edgar Allan Poe adaptations Fall of the House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Haunted Palace (1963) and Masque of the Red Death (1964), Michael Reeves’ 1969 final film Witchfinder General (AKA The Conqueror Worm) and 1971’s The Abominable Dr. Phibes (rated PG). In addition to audio commentaries and archival materials, the boxed set includes a 24-page collector’s book.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (Warner Home Video): A 75 th anniversary collector’s edition of the classic 1939 musical fantasy based on L. Frank Baum’s classic novel, with Judy Garland as Dorothy, whisked off to the land of Oz and joined by new friends (Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr) in her quest to visit the title character (Frank Morgan). Let’s not forget Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch and Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch. The stories behind the making of this film are almost as legendary as the film itself, which won Oscars for Best Musical Score and Best Song (“Over the Rainbow,” which became Garland’s signature number), with additional nominations for Best Picture, Best Cinematography (color), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration and Best Special Effects. Victor Fleming was the director of record, although others (including George Cukor, King Vidor, Richard Thorpe and producer Mervyn LeRoy) worked on it. Some people like to listen to Pink Floyd’s album Dark Side of the Moon while watching it, but there’s also a laughable urban legend that a depressed munchkin hanged himself and can be seen in the final film. In any event, this is undoubtedly one of Hollywood’s most beloved movies. Available as a two-disc DVD ($16.95 retail), a Blu-ray ($19.98 retail), a two-disc 3-D Blu-ray ($35.99 retail) or a fivedisc set ($105.43 retail). Rated G.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.