DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:
SOUTHERN COMFORT (Shout! Factory)
Director Walter Hill’s riveting 1981 action thriller was unjustly ignored during its theatrical release but stands as one of the filmmaker’s best efforts.In 1973, a National Guard unit on maneuvers in Louisiana becomes lost in the swamps and is targeted for execution by the indigenous bayou populace, whose boats they’ve stolen and whom they’ve jokingly fired (blank) rounds at. One by one, the soldiers are picked off – becoming more paranoid and panic-stricken, which doesn’t help their chances any.The analogy to Vietnam – and more recently Iraq – is unmistakable. This was a film ahead of its time, and more relevant now than ever. All told, a modern classic.The superb ensemble cast includes Keith Carradine, Powers Boothe, Fred Ward, Lewis Smith, T.K.Carter, Franklyn Seales, Les Lannom, Peter Coyote, Les Lannom and Carlos Brown (AKA Alan Autry) as the ill-fated platoon, and character actor Brion James as a one-armed Cajun taken prisoner by the unit. Ry Cooder’s score and Andrew Laszlo’s cinematography are topnotch, capturing both the eerie beauty and the unseen threat of the primitive locale.The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.93 retail) includes a retrospective documentary.Rated R.
ALOHA, BOBBY AND ROSE (Timeless Media Group): Writer/director Floyd Mutrux’s 1975 melodrama starring Paul Le Mat (fresh off American Graffiti) and Dianne Hull as lovers on the lam reportedly cost $60,000(!) but became a big hit and a cult favorite, fondly remembered for its rock soundtrack and Le Mat’s ‘68 Camaro. Atmospheric cinematography by William A. Fraker, with Tim McIntire, Robert Carradine, Leigh French, Noble Willingham and Edward James Olmos (billed as “Eddie Olmos” in his first credited role) in support. Actor Anthony Zerbe receives “special thanks” in the end credits. Rated PG.
“THE ANGELA MAO YING COLLEC- TION” (Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory, three-DVD selection ($34.93 retail) of six action thrillers produced by Raymond Chow starring female martial-arts icon Angela Mao Ying: When Taekwondo Strikes (1973), Stoner (1974) co-starring one-time 007 George Lazenby, The Tournament (also ‘74), Queen’s Ransom again with Lazenby and The Himalayan (both 1976), and Broken Oath (1977). Shout! Factory has also released the “Martial Arts Double Feature” ($14.97) with Mao Ying headlining Lady Whirlwind and Hapkido (both 1972); and the “Martial Arts Movie Marathon” ($19.97 retail) boasting four Chow productions: Manchu Boxer and The Skyhawk (both 1974) and The Association and Dragon Tamers (both 1975), the latter an early effort from acclaimed action director John Woo.
“THE BIG VALLEY”: SEASON 3 (Timeless Media Group): A DVD collection ($34.93 retail) of all 26 episodes from the 1967-’68 season of the popular, award-winning ABC Western series starring “Miss” Barbara Stanwyck (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) as the matriarch of the Barkley Ranch and Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors and Linda Evans as her children.
DEADLY EYES (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): Basketball coach Sam Groom and health inspector Sara Botsford team up – and hook up – to battle a horde of oversized, mutant rats wreaking havoc in (and under) Toronto in director Robert Clouse’s silly but fast-moving 1982 adaptation of James Herbert’s novel The Rats. Lisa Langlois and Lesleh Donaldson provide requisite teen appeal, and the always welcome Scatman Crothers turns up as an ill-fated maintenance man. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) includes cast interviews. Rated R.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN (TDC Entertainment): This feature documentary ($19.98 retail) traces the history of the Healing Tao System and its pioneer, Thai-born grandmaster Mantak Chia. Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) of screenwriter David E. Kelley and director Steve Miner’s enjoyably goofy – and very loose — 1999 monster mash set in a bucolic New England burg beset upon by an enormous (and very hungry) alligator. An appealing cast includes Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, Oliver Platt, Meredith Salenger, Mariska Hargitay, Betty White and Brendan Glee
HYSTERICAL PSYCHO (Indican Pictures): A troupe of young, dumb actors spend a weekend at Moon Lake and guess what happens next? You’d be right, but writer/director Dan Fogler’s feature debut is a cheerfully irreverent, intentionally cheesy send-up of horror cliches. A silly little gem well worth a look – especially for genre fans.
LAKE PLACID (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): A collector’s-editionson (whose Irish accent keeps slipping through). This spawned (get it?) a number of inferior, direct-to-video sequels. Special features include a retrospective documentary, vintage interviews and more. Rated R.
THE MONKEY’S PAW (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director Brett Simmons’ feature-length adaptation of W.W. Jacobs’ classic short story offers a modern-day riff on the quintessential warning “be careful what you wish for.” The cast includes C.J. Thomasen, Stephen Lang, Corbin Bleu, Michelle Pierce, Daniel Hugh-Kelly and Charles S. Dutton (hey, I’ve interviewed him!). The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.97.
MORNING (Anchor Bay): Real-life husband and wife Leland Orser and Jeanne Tripplehorn give anguished performances in this sincere but occasionally aloof tearjerker as a couple dealing with the death of their only child. This marks Orser’s feature debut as writer/director, and like many actors-turned-directors he allows the actors to shine: Laura Linney, Jason Ritter, Kyle Chandler and Elliott Gould. Rated R.
“PRETTY LITTLE LIARS”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Intrigue and deception continue to rock the small town of Rosewood and its residents, particularly four beauties with dark secrets, in all 24 episodes from the 2013-’14 season of the awardwinning ABC Family series based on Sara Shepard’s best-selling novels. The regular cast includes Ashley Benson, Troian Bellisario, Lucy Hale, Tyler Blackburn, Sasha Pieterse, Shay Mitchell, Ian Harding, Janel Parrish and Laura Leighton.
RIDE FOR LANCE (Anchor Bay): Writer/producer/director Scott Mactavish’s feature documentary follows four Navy SEALs who paid tribute to fellow SEAL Lance Vacarro (who died in combat in 2008) by biking across the country, from Virginia to Alaska and back again, a 31-day, 12,000-mile adventure in which they encountered active troops, veterans and families along the way. The DVD retails for $24.98.
SABOTAGE (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Arnold Schwarzenegger’s box-office woes continue with director David Ayer’s R-rated shoot-’emup about an elite DEA unit rocked by betrayal and murder after its members steal $10 million in drug money. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98.
SNAKE & MONGOO$E (Anchor Bay): The legendary rivalry (and friendship) between drag-racing legends Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen is depicted in this PG-13-rated sports drama starring Jesse Williams and Richard Blake in the respective title roles, with Ashley Hinshaw, Ian Ziering, Fred Dryer, Noah Wyle and Tim Blake Nelson on hand. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $24.99.
“THE SOUL MAN”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (TV Land/Shout!Factory): Executive producer Cedric the Entertainer created and stars in this CBS situation comedy (spun off from “Hot in Cleveland”) as a Las Vegas entertainer who comes home to St. Louis to preach at his father’s church. The DVD collection ($19.97 retail) includes all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2012 season. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.