by Mark Burger



Not to be confused with Bob Clark’s Silent Night, Evil Night (1974) — better known as Black Christmas — or the controversial 1984 killer Santa schlock-fest Silent Night, Deadly Night, this atmospheric chiller predates both and stands on its own merits, shaky as they are.The holiday setting is almost incidental, although the wintry atmosphere enhances the story’s dread. Set in one of those small towns where nothing ever happens (yeah, right), the plot hinges on the sale of an old house with a dark and tragic past. At the same time, a patient has escaped from a nearby asylum.… The low-budget seams show (early and often), yet there’s a weird, fragmented, surreal tone to the proceedings that’s hard to shake off. This is one film it wouldn’t hurt to remake. The cast includes Patrick O’Neal, James Patterson (who died shortly after completing his role), Mary Woronov (then married to director Theodore Gershuny), John Carradine, Walter Abel, Astrid Heeren, Phillip Bruns, and some of Andy Warhol’s circle: Candy Darling, Tally Brown, Ondine and Susan Rothenberg.Also known as Night of the Dark Full Moon and Death House (misspelled Deathouse on this print), the film was made in 1970 yet popped up on drivein screens for a decade. Previous public-domain video releases have been so muddy and murky that it was difficult to even see what was happening onscreen. Film Chest’s new DVD ($11.98 retail) is digitally restored in highdefinition. It doesn’t look perfect but it looks a whole lot better. Rated R.

AS COOL AS I AM (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): Claire Danes and James Marsden star in this R-rated coming-of-age comedy/drama based on Pete Fromm’s book, as parents dealing with their adolescent daughter (Sarah Bolger). Peter Fonda, Jon Tenney, Jeremy Sisto, Anika Noni Rose, Mario Batali and Alanis Morissette (as herself) co-star. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

CLEAR HISTORY (HBO Home Entertainment): Larry David enthusiasts have a head start with this sometimes-shrill, mostlyimprovised comedy about an ex-auto executive who drops out after selling out his share of the company, only to see its fortunes skyrocket — then, years later, gets the chance to exact revenge on his former partner (Jon Hamm). The band Chicago figures prominently in a running joke, and a fun cast includes Michael Keaton, Kate Hudson, Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, Bill Hader, Phillip Baker Hall, Amy Ryan, JB Smoove and an unbilled Liev Schreiber. Conan O’Brien appears as himself.

DARK POWER (Green Apple Entertainment): FBI agents Sean Patrick Flanery and Kristanna Loken investigate a rash of assassinations in Boston in this clumsy, confusing political thriller “based on true events.” The presence of two directors (John Milton Branton and Jeffrey Robinson) could indicate post-production tampering, which may explain why some cast members disappear from the story altogether. Also on hand: Chris Carmack, Morgan Fairchild, Ken Olandt and an unbilled Kevin Dobson.

“FAMILY TREE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): Christopher Guest and Jim Piddock created this HBO comedy series starring Chris O’Dowd as a luckless Londoner exploring his lineage. The supporting cast includes Piddock, Nina Conti, Tom Bennett and Guest regulars Michael McKean, Fred Willard, Bob Balaban and Ed Begley Jr. The two-DVD collection, which contains all eight episodes from the inaugural 2013 season and special features, retails for $29.98.

THE HEAT (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): By-the-book FBI agent Sandra Bullock is paired with rulebreaking Boston cop Melissa McCarthy in this one-note, female variation of the old buddy film, listlessly directed by McCarthy’s Bridesmaids helmer Paul Feig, who displays zero aptitude for action. McCarthy’s foul-mouthed routine borders on the obnoxious. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).

LION OF THE DESERT (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The Blu-ray debut ($19.99 retail) of Moustapha Akkad’s sweeping 1981 epic detailing the efforts of Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar (Anthony Quinn) to fend off the invading armies of fascist Italy in the years before World War II. Oliver Reed plays Mukhtar’s adversary and Rod Steiger is perfectly cast as Mussolini, with John Gielgud, Raf Vallone, Irene Papas and Andrew Keir in support. Although a box-office failure in its day, the film’s political and military themes bear some fascinating parallels to more recent events in the Middle East. Rated PG.

MANIAC COP 2 (Blue Underground): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) special edition of director William Lustig’s superior 1990 sequel to 1988’s Maniac Cop with Robert Z’Dar reprising his title role. Written and produced by Larry Cohen. Fine action sequences and a solid cast: Robert Davi, Claudia Christian, Michael Lerner, Leo Rossi, Clarence Williams III, Charles Napier and Maniac Cop holdovers Bruce Campbell and Laurence Landon. Rated R.

MANIAC COP 3: BADGE OF SILENCE (Blue Underground): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) special edition of the 1993 follow-up, with Robert Z’Dar back in the title role and Robert Davi again as the cop on his trail, with Paul Gleason, Robert Forster, Jackie Earle Haley, Caitlin Dulany, Doug Savant, Julius Harris and Gretchen Becker in support. A troubled production, with director William Lustig adopting the “Alan Smithee” pseudonym after producer Joel Soisson completed the film, but it’s not bad. Rated R.

THE MESSAGE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($19.99 retail) of Moustapha Akkad’s PG-rated 1977 epic about the history of the Islam, featuring an international cast: Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas, Michael Ansara, Andre Morell, Johnny Sekka, Damien Thomas, Martin Benson and Michael Forest. Also released as Mohammad: Messenger of God. Maurice Jarre’s score earned an Oscar nomination.

ONE DIRECTION: REACHING FOR THE STARS (Inception Media Group): The title tells all in this unauthorized documentary ($12.98 retail) of the popular boy band.

“SOUTH PARK”: THE COMPLETE SIX- TEENTH SEASON (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount): Kenny’s still getting killed, per creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, in all 14 episodes from the 2012 season of the long-running, ever-raunchy Comedy Central cartoon series, which won the Emmy as Outstanding Animated Program, now available on DVD ($42.99 retail) or Blu-ray ($59.99 retail).

THE TOWER (CJ Entertainment): On Christmas Eve, a helicopter mishap turns Seoul’s luxurious, 108-story Tower Sky highrise into a blazing inferno, with residents and firefighters battling for survival. Director Ji-Hoon Kim has taken a page from the Irwin Allen playbook for this engrossing disaster saga (originally titled Ta-weo) with hair-raising action sequences and CGI special effects. In Korean with English subtitles (or you can watch the dubbed English-language track). Rated PG-13.

WE’RE THE MILLERS (Warner Home Video): Drug dealer Jason Sudeikis recruits stripper Jennifer Aniston and teenagers Emma Roberts and Will Poulter to pose as his family in order to smuggle marijuana across the Mexican border. Knockabout comedy in the National Lampoon’s Vacation vein benefits from a likable cast (and a memorable Aniston striptease) but is pretty predictable all the same. Kathryn Hahn, Nick Offerman and Ed Helms also appear. Rated R (also available in an extended version). !

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