DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
The renowned Richard Matheson adapted his own novel Hell House for this tight, absorbing 1973 chiller that, despite its modern setting, boasts a nice, old-school approach to scare fare.The “Hell House” of the title is the notorious Belasco House, the “Mount Everest of Haunted Houses,” the dark mysteries of which scientist Clive Revill and wife/assistant Gayle Hunnicutt are determined to unearth with the help of psychic mediums Pamela Franklin and Roddy McDowall, the latter the only survivor of a previous, ill-fated investigation.Directed in trim, efficient and highly credible fashion by John Hough, this is one of the rare films that take the supernatural seriously and not merely as an excuse to trot out standard genre trappings. The principal ensemble is first-rate, with McDowall especially good. Aside from brief appearances by Roland Culver, Peter Bowles and Michael Gough (in a neat cameo), they are the only actors on hand – although the argument could be made that the house is the star of the show.The Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes audio commentary with Franklin and a retrospective interview with Hough. Rated PG.
“100 YEARS OF WWI” (LionsGate): To commemorate the centennial of the first World War, this two-DVD collection ($14.98 retail) includes the four-part History Channel documentary mini-series The History of WWI: The First Modern War, and the specials Modern Marvels: World War I Tech, Dogfights: The First Dogfighters and Man, Moment, Machine: The Red Baron & The Wings of Death.
“75 YEARS OF WWII” (LionsGate): To commemorate the 75 th anniversary of the second World War, this two-DVD collection ($14.98 retail) includes the two-part History Channel documentary mini-series D-Day in HD, and the specials Bloody Santa Cruz, Enterprise Versus Japan and Ultimate World War II Weapons.
BAD BOY (Alpha Home Entertainment): Hard-working Johnny Downs’ life is derailed by gambling, graft and gorgeous Rosalind Keith in this 1939 cautionary parable. Helen MacKellar plays Downs’ worried mom.
BAREFOOT (LionsGate): Attractive leads Scott Speedman and Evan Rachel Wood struggle with a frenetic, terminally cutesy concept in Andrew Fleming’s comedy/drama, playing the estranged scion of a wealthy family and the unbalanced woman he falls for. Treat Williams, Kate Burton and J.K. Simmons face an equally uphill battle in support. Rated PG-13.
BLENDED (Warner Home Video): The third PG-13 big-screen go-’round for Adam Sandler (also a producer) and Drew Barrymore involves two single parents who endure a disastrous blind date, then find themselves vacationing together in Africa. Guess what happens next? The DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99.
“CLASSIC HORROR DOUBLE FEA- TURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this vintage twin-bill: The Phantom Fiend (1932) is a sound remake of Hitchcock’s The Lodger with Ivor Novello reprising his role as a possible Jack the Ripper, co-starring Elizabeth Allen and a young Jack Hawkins; The Ghost Walks (1934) is a quintessential old-dark-house mystery enlivened by Johnny Arthur’s turn as a fussy secretary. Both films:
“DEADBEAT”: SEASON ONE (LionsGate): Lovable loser Tyler Labine scares up business as a medium-for-hire in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the Hulu comedy series, co-starring Brandon T. Jackson as Labine’s dealer/sidekick, Cat Deeley as his nemesis, and Lucy DeVito (real-life daughter of Danny and Rhea Perlman). The DVD retails for $19.98. V.C. Andrews’ best-seller stars Heather Graham as a young widow forced to move her children (Mason Dye, Dylan Bruce, Ava Telek and a terrific Kiernan Shipka) into the attic of her estranged – and very strange – family’s mansion, lorded over by a grim grandmother (Ellen Burstyn, Emmy nominee as Outstand
EXCUSE MY DUST (Alpha Home Entertainment): An early example of a Hollywood sequel, this 1920 (!) silent follow-up to 1919’s The Roaring Road sees Wallace Reid (one of Tinseltown’s first narcotics casualties) reprise his role as a former racer compelled to get behind the wheel to procure medicine for his ailing son (played by Reid’s real-life son Wallace Jr.). An early directorial effort from Sam Wood, later a three-time Oscar nominee (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Pride of the Yankees, Kings Row).
FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC (LionsGate): This Lifetime adaptation of ing Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie). Occasionally provocative but too often tame, although the second half rebounds nicely. In any event, far superior to the botched 1987 big-screen version.
“GENE AUTRY COLLECTION 7” (Timeless Media Group): A selfexplanatory, two-DVD collection ($16.97 retail) of four feature films headlining the popular singing cowboy: Tumbling Tumbleweeds (1935), The Old Corral (1936), Prairie Moon (1938) and Carolina Moon (1940) – all pairing him with perennial sidekick Smiley Burnette. Each film includes special features, too.
A GOOD MAN (LionsGate): Producer/ star Steven Seagal reunites with cowriter/executive producer/director Keoni Waxman for this sub-standard melodrama in which a retired commando (guess who?) gets mixed up in a gang war between Russians and Chinese. Beefy Seagal’s hair and beard are thicker and blacker than ever. He may play “a good man,” but he’s (still) not a good actor … and this is not a good movie. Only for die-hard Seagal fans. Rated R.
“LABYRINTH” (LionsGate): Jessica Brown Findlay and Vanessa Kirby play women eight centuries apart but united in a common quest to locate the Holy Grail in this mini-series adaptation of Kate Mosse’s award-winning 2005 novel, broadcast in the US on The CW. John Hurt, Sebastian Stan, Tony Curran and Harry Potter veteran Tom Felton round out the cast. The DVD retails for $19.98.
“THE LEGEND OF SHELBY THE SWAMP MAN”: SEASON 1 (Lions- Gate): A DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of all eight episodes (plus bonus footage) from the inaugural 2013 season of the History Channel reality series, spun off from “Ax Men,” following Louisiana logger Shelby Stanga.
THE MIDNIGHT GIRL (Alpha Home Entertainment): Florid 1925 silent melodrama with Lila Lee an immigrant ingenue torn between leering operahouse lothario Bela Lugosi and his pious stepson Gareth Hughes. Creaky at times, but Lugosi (in only his third American film) and Lee stand out.
THE MILL ON THE FLOSS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Geraldine Fitzgerald and James Mason are the best things about this patchy, soapy 1937 adaptation of George Eliot’s classic novel about feuding families in 18thcentury England.
“RARE TV MYSTERY” (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this DVD compilation ($7.98 retail) of four episodes from vintage ‘50s television series’, including Stephen McNally in “Herald Playhouse,” Tom Conway as “Inspector Mark Saber,” “Police Station,” and the highlight – a 1952 segment of “The Visitor” that marked the first collaboration between Charles Bronson (billed as “Charles Buchinski”) and director Robert Aldrich.
THE RIVERSIDE MURDER (Alpha Home Entertainment): Ambitious inspector Basil Sydney and aggressive reporter Jody Gunn unite to solve a series of murders in this quaint 1935 whodunit. The denouement’s a bit dicey but the cast gives it a lift, especially scene-stealer Alastair Sim as a wide-eyed sergeant.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2014, Mark Burger.