DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: GOD TOLD ME TO (Blue Underground)
Iconic cult auteur Larry Cohen’s 1976 shocker (also released as Demon) is one of his most fascinating films, alternately creepy, bizarre, thought-provoking and ragged around the edges – a true original.An excellent Tony Lo Bianco plays Peter Nicholas, a police detective investigating a rash of violent murders in New York City in which each perpetrator claims “God told me to.” The deeply religious, deeply troubled Nicholas becomes obsessed with the crimes, leading him down a hellish path that forces him to confront his own beliefs – and his very existence.The film, whose star-studded cast includes Sandy Dennis, Deborah Raffin, Sam Levene, Mike Kellin, Robert Drivas, Richard Lynch and Andy Kaufman (in his film debut), captures an aura of decay, moral rot and doom, echoing the fear of religious cults and prefiguring the fear of serial killers (less than a year after the film’s release, New York City was rocked by Son of Sam), while combining Christian theology with alien theory. God Told Me To is certainly novel in its concept, to say nothing of its execution.The new Blu-ray retails for $29.95 and includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more.
#1 SERIAL KILLER (Indican Pictures): Director Stanley Yung’s award-winning black comedy (originally titled Chink) offers corporate and cultural satire as it follows aspiring serial killer Jason Tobin making his dream come true. Not for all tastes, but likely destined for cult status, with Tzi Ma and Eugenia Yan scoring as Tobin’s sleazy boss and prospective love interest, respectively.
FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director Jeff Burr’s uneven 1987 horror anthology (released theatrically as The Offspring) benefits from a creepy, Southern-Gothic atmosphere and a veteran cast including genre icon Vincent Price, Susan Tyrrell, Clu Gulager, Rosalind Cash, Cameron Mitchell, Martine Beswicke and Terry Kiser. The new Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective documentaries and more. Rated R.
JESSABELLE (LionsGate): Sarah Snook is spooked when she returns to her ancestral Louisiana home after a car accident in this PG-13-rated shocker, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Bluray ($19.99 retail).
JUPITER ASCENDING (Warner Home Video): Andy and Lana Wachowski strike back – and strike out – with this overproduced, underwhelming, goofball sci-fi fiasco starring Mila Kunis in the title role, the Earthbound reincarnation of an alien monarch. The special effects soar but the rest crashes to earth, despite a cast including Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, James D’Arcy, Tuppence Middleton, Douglas Booth, filmmaker Terry Gilliam (in a cameo), and recent Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne. A critical and financial bust, now available on DVD ($28.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail), and 3-D combo ($45.95 retail). Rated PG-13.
LORD OF THE FLIES (Olive Films): A group of military cadets (including Balthazar Getty and James Badge Dale in their screen debuts) is stranded on a desert island in director Harry Hook’s effective 1990 screen version of William Golding’s best-seller about dehumanization and man’s propensity for violence. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
LOST RIVER (Warner Home Video): Actor/producer Ryan Gosling makes his feature writing/dieectorial debut with this R-rated thriller (originally titled How to Catch a Monster), with single mom Christina Hendricks drawn into a bizarre underworld to save sons Iain De Caestecker and newcomer Landyn Stewart. Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Ben Mendelsohn, Barbara Steele and Gosling’s real-life love Eva Mendes co-star. The DVD retails for $28.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“LOST SCIENCE FICTION DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) that includes Destination Space, a 1959 CBS pilot produced by Paramount utilizing extensive footage from the 1955 big-screen flop Conquest of Space and a familiar cast (John Agar, Harry Townes, Cecil Kellaway, Edward Platt, Charles Aidman, Robert Cornthwaite and Bert Remsen), directed by future “Star Trek” helmer Joseph Pevney; and writer/ producer/director Russ Marker’s only feature, The Yesterday Machine (1963), an amusingly cheesy, shot-in-Texas, grade-Z opus with Jack Herman (in his last film) hilariously hammy as a Nazi scientist who has built a time machine, James Britton (in his only film) as the reporter who tracks him down, and Tim Holt (in his penultimate film) as the obligatory cop.
LOVE IN THE TIME OF MONSTERS (Indican Pictures): At a Bigfoot-themed camp, tainted water turns the costumed actors into cannibalistic killers in this gory horror spoof that’s more energetic than funny, although it has moments – and genre icon Kane Hodder in a Bigfoot suit.
MAN, PRIDE AND VENGEANCE (Blue Underground): The classic tale of Carmen inspired this 1967 spaghetti Western (originally titled L’uomo, l’orgoglio, la vendetta and also known as Pride and Vengeance and With Django Comes Death), with outlaws Franco Nero and Klaus Kinski vying for the attention of Tina Aumont. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98, both replete with special features.
“MURDER IN THE FIRST”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (TNT): San Francisco cops Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson are on the case in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the TNT mystery series created by Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal, now available in a three-DVD collection ($39.98 retail) including bonus features.
“REVELATION: THE END OF DAYS” (LionsGate): Apocalypse now? This fourhour History Channel documentary miniseries theorizes how the end may come. The two-DVD collection retails for $14.98.
SAMURAI AVENGER: THE BLIND WOLF (Synapse Films): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of Kurando Mitsutake’s 2009 action extravaganza in which he stars in the title role, meting out retribution upon those who took his family and his sight.
THE SERPENT’S TONGUE (Alpha New Cinema): Writer/producer/director John Shade’s low-rent debut feature stars newcomer Ashley Devoe as a troubled teen possessed by a succubus (a sexually voracious demon). Devoe’s transition from awkward innocent to wicked temptress is the best thing about this film, which won an award for its screenplay – but, since much of the dialogue is drowned out by music, it’s hard to decipher. This DVD ($7.98 retail) also includes the Baltimore-lensed slasher opus Grayhaven Maniac, which features Serpent’s Tongue co-star Nicolette Le Faye but is slow going even for a movie running barely an hour.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MISS OSBOURNE (Arrow Video/ MVD Entertainment Group): A specialedition DVD/Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of Walerin Borowczyk’s award-winning 1981 shocker (originally titled Docteur Jekyll et les femmes), offering a new take on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale, with Udo Kier as the good (and mad) doctor and Marina Pierro as fiancee Fanny Osbourne. In French with English subtitles (or listen to the English dub).
SWEET LORRAINE (Garden Thieves Pictures): Tatum O’Neal (looking great, by the way) headlines writer/producer/director Chris Frieri’s ungainly political farce as a Machiavellian minister’s wife determined to sway the mayor’s race in a small New Jersey suburb.
THESE FINAL HOURS (Well Go USA Entertainment): It’s the end of the world as we know it in writer/director Zak Hilditch’s apocalyptic Aussie drama about Nathan Phillips’ journey of self-discovery as the end draws nigh. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.