DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
John Carpenter scored a direct hit with his 1981 action thriller – essentially a traditional Western in futuristic garb.In 1997, New York City is a walled, mined, maximum-security prison. Once you go in, you never come out. Unfortunately, terrorists have hijacked and crashed Air Force One inside the city. Grizzled war hero and convicted criminal Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell in an iconic performance) is sent to rescue the President (Donald Pleasence). He’s one man, against impossible odds … and he’s absolutely the right man for the job.A top cast includes Ernest Borgnine, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau (then married to Carpenter), Season Hubley (then married to Russell), Charles Cyphers, Tom Atkins and, providing requisite and vivid villainy, Isaac Hayes as the Duke of New York. (“He’s “A-Number-One”!) The belated sequel Escape from LA (1996) felt like a rehash, and although rumors of a remake surface periodically, there’s only one Escape from New York – and this is it.The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) includes multiple audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R.
ANIMAL (Scream Factory/Shout! tory): There’s something scary and hungry Fac- in the woods – which means trouble for weekend hikers in director Brett Simmons’ shocker, originally broadcast on Chiller Network and produced by Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films, with Joey Lauren Adams, Elizabeth Gillies, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Sumpter, Amaury Nolasco and rapper Eve. The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.97. Both include special features.
BREAKIN’/BREAKIN’ 2: ELECTRIC BOOGALOO (Shout! Factory): Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus of hypehappy Cannon Films hopped aboard the break-dance bandwagon with a pair of fleet-footed musicals based on the phenomenon, both released in 1984, both showcasing the trio of Lucinda Dickey, Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones and Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers, and both rated PG. Ice-T also appears in both films. The first film was a hit, the second (rushed into production) not as much. The double-feature Blu-ray retails for $24.97.
COFFEE TOWN (Shout! Factory): Glenn Howerton, Steve Little and Ben Schwartz play buddies desperate to save their local coffee shop in this slight comedy produced by CollegeHumor and marking the feature debut of writer/director Brad Copeland. Adrienne Palicki and singer Josh Groban also appear. Rated R.
DARK HAUL (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): This Syfy Channel shocker (originally titled Monster Truck) offers another variation on the legend of the Jersey Devil, as an ancient prophecy is fulfilled in fearful fashion. Tom Sizemore heads the cast. The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $24.97.
DEEP IN THE DARKNESS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Executive producer Sean Patrick Thomas relocates his family to a peaceful New Hampshire community, unaware of its haunted history, in this Chiller Network adaptation of Michael Laimo’s 2004 best-seller, co-starring Dean Stockwell, Blanche Baker and Kristen Bush, available on DVD $14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.97 retail).
DEMONS/DEMONS 2 (Synapse Films): Single “movie-only” reissues of producer Dario Argento and director Lamberto Bava’s super-stylish and very gory shockers Demons (1985) and Demons 2 (1986). The first film involves a demonic frenzy in a movie theater, the second a demonic outbreak through a TV set (!). Each film retails for $19.95 (DVD) and $24.95 (Bluray). The first film is better, but both are grisly fun for horror fans.
DUMB AND DUMBER TO (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): After 20 years, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels reunite with the Farrelly Brothers for this unabashedly silly, fun-filled romp. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated PG-13.
EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS & EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS II: EDDIE LIVES! (Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray twin bill ($24.97 retail) of the 1982 and 1989 rock ‘n’ roll melodramas starring Michael Pare as enigmatic ‘60s superstar Eddie Wilson. The original film was rated PG, the sequel PG-13, and John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band provided original songs for both.
“HILL STREET BLUES”: SEASON FOUR (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($34.93 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1983-’84 season of the acclaimed NBC police series, with Daniel J. Travanti heading an ensemble cast including Veronica Hamel, James B. Sikking, Charles Haid, Michael Warren, Joe Spano, Rene Enriquez, Betty Thomas, Ed Marinaro, Bruce Weitz, Robert Prosky, Taurean Blacque, Kiel Martin, Barbara Bosson (then married to series creator/executive producer Steven Bochco) and Michael Conrad, who died mid-season. Winner of 10 Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Weitz), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Alfre Woodard) and a three-way tie (!) for Outstanding Direction in a Drama Series, with an additional eight nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Travanti), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Hamel), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Conrad and Sikking) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Thomas and Bosson).
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES (Warner Home Video): Peter Jackson successfully steers his second JRR Tolkien big-screen trilogy (following Lord of the Rings) to a dazzling, eye-popping conclusion with the climactic battle for Middle Earth, with series stalwarts Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, Ian Holm, Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee among the many familiar faces on hand (again). Jackson truly has the magic touch for Tolkien, although there’s also a sense of relief that the franchise is finished. Or it it? The film, a box-office bonanza (no surprise there), earned an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Editing and is available on DVD ($28.98 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail) and a 3-D DVD/Blu-ray combo (also $44.95 retail). Rated PG-13.
LONG WEEKEND (Synapse Films): A Blu-ray special edition ($24.95 retail) of the award-winning 1978 Aussie shocker in which nature revolts against a couple (John Hargreaves and Briony Behets) on a camping trip.
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS 2 (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Co-writer RZA’s back in action as the titular character in this follow-up to the 2012 martial-arts thriller, set in 19thcentury China. Rated R (also available in an unrated version). The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98.
THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): On the heels of the Broadway smash – and since the Gaston Leroux story was public domain – along came erstwhile “Freddy Krueger” Robert Englund in the title role of this goofy, gore-soaked 1989 rendition filmed in Budapest under the auspices of veteran exploitation producers Harry Alan Towers and Menahem Golan. Dwight H. Little’s efficient direction helps. Jill Schoelen (miscast), Alex Hyde-White, Terence Harvey, Stephanie Alexander, an amusingly grubby Bill Nighy and Molly Shannon (in her screen debut) co-star. The new Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R.
“QUINCY, M.E.”: THE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): A six-DVD collection ($39.97 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 1982-’83 season of the award-winning NBC mystery series starring Jack Klugman as the methodical, tenacious L.A. County coroner and crime-solver. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Film Editing in a Series and Outstanding Achievement in Music and Lyrics. !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.