DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE LEGEND OF LIZZIE BORDEN (Flatiron Film Company/Cinedigm)
One of the most notorious murder cases in American history is dramatized in this first-rate 1975 television movie starring an unforgettable Elizabeth Montgomery in the title role.In the summer of 1892, Massachusetts society was rocked by the brutal axe murders of Andrew Borden (Fritz Weaver) and his wife Abby (Helen Craig). The shock and controversy escalated to a national level when daughter Lizzie Borden (Montgomery) was tried for the crimes the next year. It was, at the time, branded “the crime of the century.”Director Paul Wendkos effortlessly weaves flashbacks into the narrative, incorporating a surprising amount of nudity and bloodshed for a TV movie. Associate producer William Bast’s literate teleplay explores the social impact of the case (even the blossoming feminist movement becomes an element) while also offering subtle hints of incest and necrophilia. Robert Hauser’s evocative cinematography and Billy Goldenberg’s superb score, which makes use of the creepy children’s song, add immeasurably to the film’s chilling tone.Montgomery earned an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Special Program, and there were four nominations in all, with wins for Outstanding Film Editing and Outstanding Costume Design. A strong supporting cast includes Ed Flanders as the prosecutor and Don Porter as the defense attorney, Fionnula Flanagan as the Bordens’ long-suffering maid, and Katherine Helmond as Lizzie’s sister Emma.
THE DEAD 2 (Anchor Bay): Sibling filmmakers Howard J. and Jon Ford follow up their 2010 zombie classic as the undead outbreak spreads to India (the original shooting title was The Dead 2: India), with Joseph Millson as a lone American engineer determined to reunite with his pregnant girlfriend (Meenu Mishra) in Mumbai before all is lost. Although well-paced and effective, it’s essentially a rehash of the original, but those white-eyed zombies are still the stuff of nightmares. Rated R.
THE DEVIL INCARNATE (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Shrill, scattershot found-footage shocker (originally titled Copii: The 1 st Entry) with Rod Luzzi and Graci Carli as a boring couple whose unborn child is either the victim or vessel of a supernatural curse, though one is hard-pressed to care which.
DON’T BLINK (Vertical Entertainment): Actor-turned-writer/director Travis Oates’ debut feature depicts a weekend gone wrong for a group of friends who inexplicably begin vanishing. A hard-working ensemble cast includes Mena Suvari, Brian Austin Green, Fiona Gubelmann, Joanne Kelly, Zack Ward (also a producer), and Robert Picardo in a cameo. It’s an intriguing concept hampered by lack of explanation.
“FROM DUSK TILL DAWN”: SEASON ONE (Entertainment One): Executive producer Robert Rodriguez brings his 1996 horror hit to the small screen in this El Rey Network series with D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz stepping in the shoes of George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino as the notorious Gecko brothers, with Robert Patrick, Wilmer Valderrama, Eiza GonzÃ¡lez, Jesse Garcia and Don Johnson. All 10 episodes from the debut 2014 season (plus bonus features) are available in DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.98 retail) boxed sets.
“IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES” (Film Chest): This 1973 TV documentary narrated by Rod Serling formed the basis for the subsequent “In Search Of …” series (hosted by Leonard Nimoy) and was actually released to some theaters. The DVD retails for $11.98.
LIFE AFTER BETH (LionsGate): UNCSA School of Drama graduate Dane DeHaan is shocked to learn that his girlfriend (Aubrey Plaza) is back from the dead in writer/director Jeff Baena’s zombie-themed romantic comedy (a “rom-com zom-com”?). The joke is stretched about as far as it can be, but the cast is pleasant enough: John C. Reilly, Molly Shannon, Paul Reiser, Cheryl Hines, Matthew Gray Gubler and Anna Kendrick. Rated R.
MR. JONES (Anchor Bay): Vacationing couple Jon Foster and Sarah Jones relocate to a remote cabin “” videotaping everything, of course “” only to suspect that their reclusive neighbor (the titular “Mr. Jones”) might be stalking them. The jumbled, jittery camerawork is more likely to inspire motion sickness than fright, and the final twist isn’t much of a surprise. Rated PG-13.
THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (Anchor Bay): Crisp cinematography and twisty camera angles aren’t enough to salvage first-time director David Jung’s found-footage shocker starring Shane Johnson as a disillusioned documentary filmmaker who tries to prove the existence of the supernatural by allowing himself to be possessed by evil spirits. Rated R.
RAVENOUS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray special edition ($24.97 retail) of the misfired 1999 black comedy (and sort-of cult classic) set in and around a remote military outpost in the 1840s where some inhabitants have developed a taste for human flesh. An excellent cast labors mightily: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, David Arquette, Jeremy Davies, Jeffrey Jones, John Spencer, Stephen Spinella and Neal McDonough. Special features include multiple audio commentaries including one with director Antonia Bird, who died this past October. Rated R.
THE ROVER (LionsGate): Dusty atmosphere and dreary locations dominate this Australian post-apocalyptic fable starring Guy Pearce as a loner who wants his stolen car back and is abetted by Robert Pattinson, the brother of one of the thieves. Western echoes abound. Rated R.
“SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS: SPONGEBOB’S HALLOWEEN COLLECTION“ (Nickelodeon/Paramount): A self-explanatory two-DVD collection ($12.99 retail) of 17 Halloween-themed episodes (plus bonus features) from the long-running, award-winning, animated Nickelodeon children’s series.
SQUIRM (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Thanks to a jolt of electricity, worms go wild in writer/director Jeff Lieberman’s memorable, effective 1976 feature debut. Future Oscar winner Rick Baker provided the appropriately gruesome special effects. The collector’sedition Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) includes an audio commentary, retrospective documentary and original trailer and TV spot, which yours truly remembers vividly. Rated R.
“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles return as the brothers Winchester, while continuing their ongoing battle against the forces of evil in all 23 episodes from the 2013-14 season of the award-winning CW horror series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98; the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97.
TOM HOLLAND’S TWISTED TALES (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Writer/director/executive producer Tom Holland hosts this collection of scary stories originally broadcast on FEARnet. Not surprisingly, some are better than others, but on hand is a fun cast of genre favorites including William Forsythe, Danielle Harris, Ray Wise, Sarah Butler, Angela Bettis, AJ Bowen and Amber Benson.
THE VANISHING (The Criterion Collection): George Sluizer’s vivid, award-winning 1988 adaptation of Tim KrabbÃ©’s suspense novel, The Golden Egg, stars Gene Bervoets as a young man obsessed with locating missing girlfriend Johanna ter Steege “” a quest that brings him to mysterious Bernard-Pierre Donnadieu, who claims to know the answer. (Indeed he does “¦) A textbook example of how to meticulously, methodically craft a thriller with an unforgettable ending that’s hard to shake. Alas, Sluizer’s 1993 American remake was an utter disaster. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $39.95. Special features include interviews with actress ter Steege and Sluizer (who died last month). In French and Dutch with English subtitles. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2014, Mark Burger.