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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE SHADOW

(Shout! Factory)

THE SHADOW (Shout! Factory): “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” Director Russell Mulcahy’s 1994 screen adaptation of the ‘30s pulp novellas and radio series didn’t connect with critics or audiences yet remains an unsung, under-appreciated gem – a true cult classic in the best comic-book tradition.

Alec Baldwin plays Lamont Cranston, a handsome playboy who moonlights as “The Shadow,” a mysterious crime-fighter with a secret network of informants and associates. He’ll need them too, when he comes face-to-face with Shiwan Khan (John Lone), a self-proclaimed descendant of Genghis Khan who wants to pick up where his predecessor left off by conquering the world.

The film fully embraces the ambiance of the 1930s’ setting, replete with elegant costumes and period design, and a sense of humor that borders on (and pays homage to) the era’s screwball comedies – as well as the requisite action and special effects. It’s very faithful to the source material while also adding some delicious touches of its own.

Baldwin and Penelope Ann Miller (as heroine Margo Lane) both possess a timeless elegance perfect for these surroundings, and Lone is superb as the ferocious, arrogant Shiwan Khan. Rounding out a solid cast are Ian McKellen, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Sab Shimono, Andre Gregory and Jonathan Winters. It’s been 20 years – isn’t The Shadow ripe for rediscovery?

The new collector’s-edition Blu-ray retails for $29.93. Rated PG-13.

“AFRICAN-AMERICAN LEADERS:

PAST & PRESENT” (LionsGate): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of five History Channel documentaries about the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, and Barack Obama.

CAT PEOPLE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The collector’s edition Blu-ray bow ($29.93 retail) of Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake of the 1942 horror classic, with the emphasis much more on eroticism and violence – to the detriment of the overall story. A game cast includes Nastassja Kinski, Malcolm McDowell, John Heard, Annette O’Toole, Ruby Dee and Ed Begley Jr. (who comes to a very messy end). An interesting (and very good-looking) failure, not without its followers. Giorgio Moroder’s score is a highlight. David Bowie sings the title song. Rated R.

“CIVIL WAR DOUBLE FEATURE” (LionsGate): A self-explanatory DVD duo ($14.98 retail) of History Channel documentaries: “Gettysburg” and “Lee & Grant.”

THE CONTRADICTIONS OF FAIR HOPE (Shelter Island): Whoopi Goldberg narrates this award-winning documentary ($24.98 retail) that explores the “benevolent societies” formed by newly-freed black slaves in the South after the Civil War. Actress S. Epatha Merkerson was the executive producer and makes her directorial debut, codirecting with Rockell Metcalf.

THE COUNSELOR (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Michael Fassbender plays the title role in Ridley Scott’s muddled thriller about a drug deal gone bad. Despite an original (but not very good) screenplay by Cormac McCarthy and an all-star cast (Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz), this is a major disappointment, one of 2013’s worst films, and a career low for all involved. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).

ENDER’S GAME (Summit Entertainment/LionsGate): A potential big-screen franchise was quashed in writer/director Gavin Hood’s uninspired adaptation of Orson Scott Card’s ‘80s best-seller, stranding a talented cast including Asa Butterfield (in the title role), Harrison Ford, Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld and Abigail Breslin. Rated PG-13.

ESCAPE PLAN (LionsGate): There’s no prison that can hold Stallone and Schwarzenegger – are first names necessary? – as this enjoyable (if predictable) action blow-out demonstrates. In support: Amy Ryan, Vincent D’Onofrio, Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones and a sheepish Sam Neill, but Jim Caviezel steals it as the wicked warden. Rated R.

“FAMILY GUY”: VOLUME TWELVE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of 22 uncensored episodes – including the 200 th – from Seth MacFarlane’s long-running, seemingly indestructible, animated Fox Network comedy series. Guest voices include Johnny Depp, Sofia Vergara and Jon Hamm. Plenty of bonus features, too.

“GAME OF THRONES”: THE COM- PLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The struggle to rule the mythical kingdom of Westeros continues in all 10 episodes from the 2013 season of the HBO series based on executive producer George RR Martin’s best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire fantasy novels. The cast includes Lena Headey, Iain Glen, Aiden Gillen, Emilia Clarke, Charles Dance, Julian Glover, Stephen Dillane, Ciaran Hinds, Liam Cunningham and Peter Dinklage. Nominated for 15 Emmy Awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Dinklage), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Clarke) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Series (Diane Rigg), with wins for Outstanding Special Visual Effects and Outstanding Makeup for a Single Camera Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.99, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.98.

KILLING KENNEDY (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The tragic events of Nov. 22, 1963 are recounted in this made-for-TV adaptation of the best-seller by Bill O’Reilly (also an executive producer) and Martin Dugard, with Rob Lowe as JFK, Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald, Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy and Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99.

“LEGIT”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Funnyman Jim Jefferies co-created and stars in this FX Network comedy series about the misadventures of an Australian stand-up comic trying to hit it big in Los Angeles. All 13 episodes from the inaugural 2013 season are available on DVD ($29.98 retail) or Blu-ray ($39.99 retail).

MADAME SIN (Timeless Media Group): Bette Davis plays a female Fu Manchu who abducts ex-CIA agent (and executive producer) Robert Wagner as part of a diabolical scheme to snatch a Polaris sub in this 1972 thriller, boosted by the indomitable Davis and Denholm Elliott as her henchman. A proposed ABC pilot, released theatrically overseas.

MILLION DOLLAR BABY (Warner Home Video): The Blu-ray bow ($19.98 retail) of the heart-breaking, beautifully crafted and acted 2004 boxing drama, adapted from F.X. O’Toole’s stories by Paul Haggis, with producer/director Clint Eastwood playing a veteran trainer who tutors an ambitious female boxer (Hilary Swank) … but that’s just the beginning of the story. Keep the Kleenex close by. Oscar winner for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman), with additional nominations for Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. Rated PG-13.

PRIDE AND PERSEVERANCE: THE STORY OF THE NEGRO LEAGUES (MLB Productions/LionsGate): Dave Winfield narrates this self-explanatory A&E documentary detailing the days of baseball segregation.

TANK GIRL (Shout! Factory): The Bluray debut ($24.97 retail) of the messy but entertaining 1995 sci-fi fantasy based on a popular British comic strip, with Lori Petty ideally cast in the title role of the bubbly, post-apocalyptic heroine, backed by Naomi Watts, Ice-T, Don Harvey, Jeff Kober and Malcolm McDowell (as the villain, of course). A critical and box-office fiasco that nevertheless has its fans. Rated R. !

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.

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