DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE(Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent Nosferatu, the first screen version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is among the first great horror classics, and in 1979 Werner Herzog fashioned this superior, award-winning remake worthy of the same accolade.Klaus Kinski is unforgettable as the bloodthirsty count. With his bald pate, chalky flesh, long nails and front fangs, Kinski’s Dracula is repulsive, pathetic and ghoulish – truly the stuff of nightmares.One look at a photo of the lovely Lucy Harker (impossibly gorgeous Isabelle Adjani) and Dracula’s sets out to make her his bride, leaving death in his wake and Lucy’s poor husband Jonathan (Bruno Ganz) back in Transylvania – duly, but not entirely, drained.There are many brilliant scenes, including the opening-credit sequence that lingers on mummified skeletons (including infants) representing generations of Dracula’s victims, and the shattering sequence wherein the ship Demeter sails into port, its crew dead but bringing Dracula and pestilence in the form of plague-carrying rats.Jorgen Schmidt-Reitwein’s cinematography and particularly Popol Vuh’s score add immeasurably to the film’s unsettling, creepy atmosphere – which lingers long after the final, evocative shot. The new Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes English and German audio commentaries by Herzog, a vintage documentary, and more. Rated PG.
(Warner Home Video): A 40th-anniversary Blu-ray edition ($24.98 retail) of Mel Brooks’ side-splitting 1974 Western spoof, starring Cleavon Little as the first black sheriff of the racist frontier town of Rock Ridge. A huge boxoffice hit that skewers many a sacred cow – and in riotous fashion. A memorable cast includes Gene Wilder (who replaced Gig Young!), Harvey Korman, Dom DeLuise, Alex Karras, John Hillerman, David Huddleston, Brooks himself (in a dual role) and Madeline Kahn, who earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her unforgettable performance as lusty saloon chanteuse Lili Von Shtupp. Additional Oscar nominations for Best Editing and Best Song (the title tune). Rated R.
BUSHIDO MAN: SEVEN DEADLY BATTLES
(Shout! Factory): Martial-arts superstar Mitsuki Koga hopes that seven is his lucky number in writer/director/ co-editor Takanori Tsujimoto’s adventure boasting action choreography by Kensuke Sonomura. In Japanese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $16.99, the Blu-ray for $19.97.
(Well Go USA Entertainment): First-time writer/director Herschel Faber’s R-rated romantic comedy stars Skylar Astin as an aspiring screenwriter struggling to find Miss Right in Los Angeles. Camilla Belle, Chad Michael Murray and Alexis Knapp co-star. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
CONFESSION OF MURDER
(Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Jung Byng-gil’s award-winning thriller (originally titled Nae-ga sal-in-beom-i-da) its a disillusioned detective (Jae-yeong Jeong) against a best-selling author (Shi-hoo Park) who claims to be a serial killer who eluded prosecution years before. In Korean with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“CRIMES OF PASSION”
(MHz Networks): A three-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of six feature-length mysteries from the popular Swedish series based on Maria Lang’s best-selling novels, starring Tuva Novotny as an inquisitive graduate student in post-war Sweden with a taste for mystery novels and solving actual crimes, aided and abetted by fellow academic and romantic interest Linus Wahlgren and police commissioner Ola Rapace. In Swedish with English subtitles.
(Gorgon Video/MPI Media Group): L.A.’s Starbody Health Spa is plagued by a vengeful poltergeist wreaking havoc from its state-of-the-art computer system in this cheesy shocker, produced in 1987 but not released until 1989. Gratuitous gore and nudity abound, as do wooden performances and unintentional laughs. Originally titled Haunted Health Spa and also known as Witch Bitch, the cast includes some familiar faces: Brenda Bakke, Chelsea Field, Ken Foree, Rosalind Cash, Shari Shattuck, Tane Mc- Clure and Merritt Butrick (in his final role). The new DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) boasts an unrated director’s cut, audio commentary and retrospective interviews, including one with cinematographer Arledge Armenaki, formerly a faculty member at the UNCSA School of Filmmaking. This falls squarely into the “so-bad-it’s-good” category … even if it’s really not very good at all.
(Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The latest R-rated “found-footage” shocker focuses – as it were – on newlyweds Alison Miller and Zach Gilford, who find themselves expectant (and fearful) parents after a bizarre night during their honeymoon in the Dominican Republic. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99.
DEVIL TIMES FIVE
(Alpha Home Entertainment): Weird, spotty 1974 shocker (originally titled Peopletoys) set in a wintry lodge where a group of selfish grown-ups (including Gene Evans, Sorrell Booke, Joan McCall, Carolyn Stellar and screenwriter John Durren) fall prey to five psychotic children (including Stellar’s real-life kids Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn). Original director Sean MacGregor was replaced by McCall’s real-life husband David Sheldon, and reportedly the entire production was on shaky ground throughout. Nevertheless, this found a cult following and played second bills and drive-ins until the ‘80s. This DVD ($7.98 retail), billed as “Attack of the Killer Kids!” also includes director Burt Kennedy’s 1974 made-for-TV thriller All the Kind Strangers (AKA Evil in the Swamp) starring Stacy Keach and Samantha Eggar as grown-ups held prisoner by a group of backwoods orphans (including John Savage and Robby Benson, the latter also crooning the theme song). Rated R. Both films:
“FALLING SKIES”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON
(TNT/Warner Home Video): The battle to save Earth from insidious and relentless alien invaders continues in all 10 episodes from the 2013 season of the award-winning TNT sci-fi series from executive producer Steven Spielberg, starring Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Maxim Knight, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter and reliable Will Patton. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.98.
“GRINDHOUSE DOUBLE SHOCK SHOW”
(Alpha Home Entertainment): For connoisseurs of screen schlock, these DVD twin-bills live up (and down) to that designation: “Non-Stop Demonic Terror” includes the 1981 South African chiller The Demon (rated R) with Cameron Mitchell and 1982’s R-rated Monster of Blood (AKA Panic) with David Warbeck (as a hero named Captain Kirk!) and Janet Agren; “Twisted Vampire Rampage” boasts 1973’s R-rated Count Dracula’s Great Love stars Paul Naschy (who also co-wrote the screenplay under his real name Jacinto Molina) as a corpulent count surrounded by a bevy of beauties (Rossana Yanni, Haydee Politoff, Ingrid Garbo and Mirta Miller), and actor-turneddirector Mel Welles’ Man-Eater of Hydra (1967) starring Cameron Mitchell as a mad baron with a botanical bent. Each DVD double-feature retails for $7.98.
(Warner Home Video): Spike Jonze took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this charming, ethereal – and overlong — romantic fantasy starring Joaquin Phoenix (first-rate) as a lonely writer who becomes infatuated with his home computer (voiced by sultry Scarlett Johansson). Amy Adams, Rooney Mara and Olivia Wilde also appear, albeit briefly. Additional Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Production Design and Best Original Song (“The Moon Song”). The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Bluray combo for $35.99. Rated R. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.