DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: PROM NIGHT (Synapse Films)
One of the better post-Halloween slasher films, this Canadian-made 1980 horror favorite delivers the requisite gore but also works fairly well as a whodunit.Several years ago, a group of children accidentally caused a playmate’s tragic death. Now, as teenagers on the day of their high school prom, they get threatening phone calls from someone who knows their secret. Come the big dance, a masked killer goes to work.Plot-wise, that’s about it for Prom Night, but there’s a nice feel for high school life, a neatly compressed timeframe in which the action takes place (aside from the opening scenes and a few flashbacks), and aboveaverage performances.Top-billed Leslie Nielsen adds some heft (and name value) as the school principal, Jamie Lee Curtis (who else?) plays his daughter, George Touliatos a worried cop, Robert Silverman the drooling school custodian and Eddie Benton (AKA Anne-Marie Martin, who later married Michael Crichton), Casey Stevens, Mary Beth Rubens and Michael Tough bring a little something extra to their prototypical teen roles. Everyone’s a suspect “” at least until they get murdered. Even the disco numbers aren’t bad, and Curtis looks smashing as she boogies through them.The new special edition boast a treasure trove of extras, including retrospective interviews, trailers and TV spots (which misspell Nielsen’s name!) and a lively audio commentary featuring director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Gray. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $24.95. Rated R.
2ND SERVE (Green Apple Entertainment): Likable cast labors in this featherweight, by-the-numbers farce about a former tennis pro (Josh Hopkins) who leads underdog players from a public tennis court in an annual competition. Alexie Gilmore plays Hopkins’ love interest and Cameron Monaghan her son, with Sam McMurray, Dash Mihok and Guillermo DÃaz on hand.
CAMP DREAD (RLJ Entertainment/ Image Entertainment): Filmmaker Eric Roberts rounds up 10 contestants to vie for a $1 million prize by participating in a reality TV series based on his Camp Dread ’80s horror franchise, at which point cast and crew start getting killed off for real. Writer/director Harrison Smith’s whodunit/horror send-up (originally titled Dead-TV) has a few good gags and a genre favorites. With Danielle Harris and associate producer Felissa Rose aboard, but the film’s sluggish pace is the real killer.
DEATH DO US PART (Anchor Bay): A pre-wedding weekend getaway in the woods turns bloody when old grudges and recriminations erupt in this twisty, high-pitched shocker that stumbles in the second half. Writer/producers Julia and Peter Benson, who play the bride and groom, are married in real life. Rated R.
HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD/ RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR (Blue Underground): A “blood-soaked double feature” Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) of two Bruno Mattei chillers, the former a grisly 1980 zombie epic (released in the US as Night of the Zombies) and the latter a post-apocalyptic 1984 shocker pitting bikers against rampaging, radioactive rodents. Both films end on particularly memorable notes and both have their followers.
HINDENBURG: THE LAST FLIGHT (Anchor Bay): An award-winning but disappointing, only intermittently engrossing mini-series (aired on Encore) detailing the ill-fated flight of the German zeppelin, which exploded over Lakehurst, N.J. on May 6, 1937. Like the overrated Titanic (1997), this favors melodrama and contrivance over credibility, to the detriment of a potentially intriguing story. An international cast includes Maximilian Simonichek, Lauren Lee Smith, Stacy Keach, Greta Scacchi and Hannes Jaenicke, who steals the show as an enigmatic entertainer. Anachronistic songs don’t help matters. The 1975 Robert Wise film was no great shakes, but is still superior.
“HOW THE WEST WAS WON”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Warner Home Video): A six-DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) of all 14 episodes from the 1979 (and final) season of the ABC Western series inspired by the epic 1962 film, following the Macahan clan as they build a new life in the American frontier.
James Arness, Eva Marie Saint, Fionnula Flanagan (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series) and Bruce Boxleitner head the regular cast, with guest stars William Shatner, Tim Matheson, Lloyd Bridges and Ricardo Montalban, Emmy winner for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in a Comedy or Drama Series. The series won an additional Emmy win for Outstanding Achievement in Makeup.
“LOVEJOY”: SERIES 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Ian McShane returns as the titular character of the smooth-talking antiques dealer-turned-sleuth in all 12 episodes from the 1991 season of the popular BBC crime series. The three-DVD collection retails for $49.99.
“PORTLANDIA”: SEASON FOUR (VSC): Creators Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein return in all 10 episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning Broadway Video/IFC comedy series that puts an affectionately surreal spin on the environs and inhabitants of Portland, Ore. Kyle MacLachlan plays the mayor. A star-studded line-up of guest stars includes Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, Duff McKagan, Nick Swardson, Tuck and Patti, Olivia Wilde and others, with fanfavorites Jeff Goldblum, Jason Sudeikis, Ed Begley Jr. and Gus Van Sant encoring, too. Four Emmy nominations including Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (Armisen), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Steve Buscemi), Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series and Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. The DVD collection retails for $19.98.
“TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: COWABUNGA CLASSICS” (LionsGate): This DVD collection ($14.98 retail) boasts 10 episodes from the original animated series as voted by the fans. LionsGate has also released the self-explanatory “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete Classic Series Collection Party Van” ($99.98 retail), a 23-DVD collection including all 10 seasons.
“THEATRELAND” (RLJ Entertainment/Athena): a two-DVD, eight-episode collection ($39.99 retail) of the documentary series offering a behind-thescenes look at London’s historic Theatre Royal Haymarket (dating back to 1720) as it follows two 2009 productions: Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, which became the theater’s biggest success ever (and later went to Broadway), and the first staged reading of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Thespians Simon Callow, Ronald Pickup, Joseph Cross and Anna Friel appear as themselves.
“THE WALKING DEAD”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Anchor Bay): Mainstream “zombie-mania” continues in all 16 episodes from the 2013-’14 season of the award-winning AMC series starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Melissa McBride and Scott Wilson. The DVD boxed set retails for $69.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $79.99, and a limited-edition Blu-ray “Tree Walker” package for $129.99.
WORM (Synapse Films): Director Doug Mallette’s award-winning debut feature, expanded from a Nashville “48- Hour Film Project” short, is set in a future where dreaming has ceased, which creates a need for “fantasites” “” worms which allow users to experience their wildest dreams, but with unforeseen and dire side effects. This dark, satirical addiction parable starts a little slow but steadily gains in confidence and stature. Newcomer John Ferguson plays a lovelorn handyman in love with neighbor Jes Mercer (her feature debut, too), even after they become “hooked.” Expect to hear from these people again.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.