DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MANIPULATOR (Alpha Home Entertainment)
The legendary Mickey Rooney, who died in April, appeared in some 300 movies “” but perhaps none as bizarre and surreal as this 1971 psycho-drama that marked screenwriter Yabo Yablonsky’s only directorial effort.A bearded Rooney plays diminutive, delusional Hollywood has-been B.J. Lang, who holds captive a woman he calls “Carlotta” (Luana Anders) in an abandoned warehouse full of movie props. As Lang torments the poor woman, it becomes increasingly clear that she’s as demented as he is.Hallucinations and histrionics abound in this high-camp two-hander, with character favorite Keenan Wynn briefly stumbling in as an ill-fated wino who unwittingly intrudes upon this cascade of craziness. It might not be a great movie but it’s certainly a memorable one, with Rooney and Anders giving it all they’ve got, and then some.The film (also known as B.J. Lang Presents) has appeared periodically as a public-domain title, but only the Alpha DVD boasts liner notes written by yours truly! Rated R.
ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (RADiUS-TWC/Anchor Bay): Director Jonathan Levine’s feature debut stars Amber Heard in the title role of a highschool beauty whose attendance at a secluded weekend party turns deadly for her classmates. Completed in 2006, the film’s original distributor went bankrupt, landing the film in limbo where it gained an underground cult reputation as some sort of lost classic. Instead, it’s a mixed bag, sending up horror and teen genre trappings with limited success. Darren Genet’s cinematography is a standout. Anson Mount and Twilight veteran Michael Welch have early roles. Rated R.
CHEMICAL PEEL (LionsGate): A bachelorette party goes (very) bad thanks to a nearby chemical spill in producer/director/story writer Hank Braxton’s effective, gruesome shocker “” one of the few “chick-flick” horror films in memory and not for the squeamish. The ensemble cast performs with conviction, some particularly so: Arielle Brachfeld, Natalie Victoria, Stephanie Greco, Leigh Davis, Lony’e Perrine, Ron Vischer and newcomer Lacy Fisher. Rated R.
THE DEAD AND THE DAMNED 2 (Inception Media Group): Hard-bitten, heavily-armored Army colonel Robert Tweeten traverses a treacherous landscape populated by the living dead in writer/editor/cinematographer/producer/director Rene Perez’s follow-up to his 2011 zombie Western (released as Cowboys & Zombies) which is tied to this narrative in a late-inning plot twist. This was originally titled The Dead and the Damned and the Darkness. A few good moments, but by any title it’s nothing we haven’t seen a lot of recently.
DEVIL’S DEAL (LionsGate): There’s hell to pay when the townspeople of Burning Bush make a deal with the devil in this imperfect but watchable lowbudget horror Western originally titled The Merchant. Rated R.
EDGE OF TOMORROW (Warner Home Video): Tom Cruise re-lives his last day over and over again while battling an alien invasion in this enjoyable, headspinning sci-fi yarn based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s All You Need is Kill. Cruise is surprisingly appealing, Emily Blunt fetching as his fellow soldier and love interest, Brendan Gleeson has little to do as the general in charge, but Bill Paxton a lot of fun as a hard-boiled combat sergeant. The DVD retails for $28.98; the DVD/Bluray combo for $35.99; the 3-D Blu-ray combo for $44.95. Rated PG-13.
THE FINAL TERROR (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($26.99 retail) of director/cinematographer Andrew Davis’ grim, unpleasant 1983 shocker, a backwoods Friday the 13 th rip-off in which campers are preyed upon by a sadistic killer. This was one of the last films presented by B-movie legend Samuel Z. Arkoff and one of the first produced by his then-son-in-law Joe Roth, who later ran both Disney and Twentieth Century Fox. From such inauspicious beginnings, who could have predicted? Actually filmed in 1981, then released to capitalize on the subsequent fame of Rachel Ward, Daryl Hannah, Adrian Zmed, Joe Pantoliano, Ernest Harden Jr., Lewis Smith (in his screen debut) and Mark Metcalf. The new transfer looks great, especially given the muddy print I saw in ’84, but all told, this is pretty lousy. Still, it has its devotees. Rated R.
THE FORBIDDEN GIRL (Inception Media Group): Writer/director Till Hastreiter’s off-kilter, German-made chiller unfolds like a twisted fairy tale, with Peter Gadiot as a troubled tutor obsessed with the notion that his young pupil (Jytte-Merle BÃ¶hrnsen) might be possessed. Indescribable and sometimes clumsy, but not without its (mixed-up) charms.
“HANNIBAL”: SEASON TWO (LionsGate): The infernal legacy of the diabolical Hannibal Lecter continues in all 13 episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning NBC thriller series based on characters originally created for Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. Mads Mikkelsen steps into the shoes of the cannibalistic genius, backed by Hugh Dancy, Caroline Dhavernas and Laurence Fishburne, and guest stars Gillian Anderson, Eddie Izzard, Michael Pitt, Cynthia Nixon and Katharine Isabelle. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.97; the Bluray boxed set for $39.98; both contain extensive special features.
HEAVENLY SWORD (Cinedigm): An animated feature based on the popular PlayStation video game depicting the adventures of a fearless female warrior (voiced by Anna Torv) who possesses a supernatural sword. Alfred Molina, Thomas Jane and Barry Dennen also contribute voice-over turns. The DVD retails for $14.93; the Blu-ray for $19.97.
“HEMLOCK GROVE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Brian McGreevy’s best-seller becomes a Netfix horror series executive-produced by Eli Roth, in which a small Pennsylvania town is rocked by brutal murders that threaten to expose the residents’ darkest secrets. The regular cast includes Famke Janssen, Bill SkarsgÃ¥rd, Landon Liboiron, Penelope Mitchell and Dougray Scott. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Main Title Theme Music and Outstanding Special Visual Effects. All 13 episodes from the 2013 season (plus bonus features) are available in a DVD ($29.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.97 retail) collections.
THE PHANTOM EXPRESS (Alpha Home Entertainment): The railroad industry is rocked by a series of disasters in which engineers claim to have seen a “phantom express” bearing down on them, prompting owner Hobart Bosworth to assign son William Collier Jr. to investigate, in this 1932 mystery programmer. The train sequences are a hoot (love those miniatures!), but domestic scenes tend to distract. Reportedly, this was originally released at 70 minutes, which likely explains the choppiness of this 55-minute version.
VARSITY BLOOD (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): It’s Halloween at Hogeye High School in writer/ producer/director Jake Helgren’s familiar but competent slasher opus, with an attractive cast including Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Natalie Peyton, Elyse Bigler, Blair Jackson and perennial scream queen Debbie Rochon.
“THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION II” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Halloween is the perfect time of year for this seven-film Blu-ray collection ($79.97 retail) celebrating the career of film great Vincent Price (1911-1993): The House on Haunted Hill (1959), The Return of the Fly (1959), The Comedy of Terrors and The Raven (1963), The Last Man on Earth and Tomb of Ligeia (1964) and the PG-rated Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (1972). Bonus features include audio commentaries, vintage Price introductions, a 32- page collector’s book and more. Dig it. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.