DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE POPE OF GREENWICH VILLAGE (Shout! Factory)
Eric Roberts and Mickey Rourke are a marvelous duo in this 1984 adaptation of Vincent Patrick’s novel that didn’t find its audience until cable-TV and home-video. Michael Cimino was slated to direct, but was replaced by Stuart Rosenberg. (Cimino then joined Footloose, but left that, too.)
Paulie (Roberts) and Charlie (Rourke) are cousins and best friends, each trying to better their lives – Paulie by scheming and scamming, Charlie by trying to walk the straight and narrow. But it’s only a matter of time before Paulie gets into trouble and Charlie has to save him – which, of course, gets them both in trouble.
Scripted by Patrick himself, the film boasts a palpably gritty yet affectionate affinity for the mean streets of New York, a wide (often inspired) streak of character humor, and a first-rate supporting cast: Burt Young (the local godfather), Kenneth McMillan, Tony Musante, M. Emmet Walsh, Philip Bosco, Val Avery, Joe Grifasi and Geraldine Page, who scored an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her show-stopping cameo as corrupt cop Jack Kehoe’s booze-soaked mother. Daryl Hannah is relegated to the standard-issue role of Charlie’s disapproving, blonde, aerobics-instructor WASP girlfriend, but looks great nonetheless. The Pope of Greenwich Village is the highlight of the new “Mickey Rourke Double Feature” Blu-ray ($26.97 retail) also includes the dreadful 1990 remake of Desperate Hours, a hackneyed hostage thriller that actually was directed by Cimino. Rated R.
ABCS OF DEATH 2 (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): All 26 letters of the alphabet yield shock and terror in this anthology follow-up to the 2012 cult hit, with each letter and segment helmed by different directors including Vincenzo Natali, Larry Fessenden, Jerome Sable, Rodney Ascher and others, available on DVD ($26.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
APP (Ram Releasing): Hannah Hoekstra is a likable lead in this gimmicky but decent “second-screen” thriller about a student whose new cellphone download (named “Iris”) seems to have a mind of its own. Originally released in Dutch, but the English dubbing’s not bad.
ASSASSIN’S GAME (LionsGate): Tom Sizemore wants Vivica A. Fox dead in this generic, low-budget action opus originally titled Terms & Conditions. Martial-arts champ Mark Meketa, making his screen debut as the hero, delivers body blows and face-kicks more convincingly than dialogue. The CGI gunfire is particularly cheap-looking. Rated R.
THE BRITTANY MURPHY STORY (LionsGate): A glossed-up, dumbed-down, highly sensationalized “biography” starring Amanda Fuller as the ill-fated starlet who died at 32 in 2009 – and whom she doesn’t resemble in the least. Sherilyn Fenn plays Brittany’s mom, Eric Peterson plays husband Simon Monjack (who died not long after), and Adam Hagenbuch plays one-time boyfriend Ashton Kutcher and looks remarkably like him. All the film offers is a blanket condemnation of paparazzi and internet gossip, plus mawkish soap opera.
THE DROWNSMAN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): More soggy than scary, writer/producer/director Chad Archibald’s shocker introduces a demonic killer that thrives in even a single drop of water – much to the torment of hydrophobic heroine Michelle Mylett. An intriguing idea and spooky atmosphere can’t sustain it. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $26.99.
“DUCK DYNASTY”: SEASON 7 (LionsGate): The Robertson clan’s back in all 10 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the A&E reality series, now available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
“HART TO HART”: THE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers – plus Lionel Stander as the faithful Max – conclude their five-season run in all 22 episodes from the 1983-’84 season of the awardwinning, uber-chic ABC mystery series created by Sidney Sheldon, now available on DVD ($39.97 retail).
“HILL STREET BLUES”: SEASON FIVE (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($34.93 retail) of all 23 episodes from the 1984-’85 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, Joe Spano, Taurean Blacque, Kiel Martin, Mimi Kuzyk and Barbara Bosson (then married to creator/ executive producer Steven Bochco). Nominated for 11 Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Travanti), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Hamel), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Weitz), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Bosson) and two nominations for Outstanding Direction in a Drama Series, with Thomas taking home the lone statue as Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
JAMAICA INN (Cohen Media Group): A 75th-anniversary, digitally-remastered special edition of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1939 adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel about mystery and menace in 18th-century Cornwall, featuring Charles Laughton, Robert Newton, Leslie Banks and newcomer Maureen O’Hara. Hitchcock’s last film before going to Hollywood, and regardless of disagreements with uncredited producer Laughton, it’s a major disappointment, considred by some to be his worst film … yet even Hitchcock at his worst is worthy of interest. Trivia note: No Hitchcock cameo. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.98.
MOTHER’S MILK (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Edward Pionke’s award-winning debut feature is a confined, constrained, low-budget variation on The Collector, with newcomers Casey Chapman and Mackenzie Wiglesworth giving it everything they’ve got as a psychopath and his hostage, respectively.
NEW YEAR’S EVIL (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): A special-edition Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) of a tacky, low-rent 1980 slasher film in which killer Kip Niven goes to work during a New Year’s Eve celebration hosted by ex-wife dee-jay Roz Kelly (best known as Pinky Tuscadero on “Happy Days”). Produced by the infamous Cannon Films duo of Israeli cousins Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who never met an idea they didn’t like … especially when they could rip it off. Rated R.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI (Well Go USA Entertainment): Taking a cue from Sergio Leone, director Wong Ching Po’s martial-arts adventure stars Philip Ng as a country bumpkin who becomes a legendary fighter in ‘30s-era Shanghai but gets mixed up with the mob. In Cantonese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.
PRIVATE NUMBER (Arc Entertainment): Hal Oszan and Nicholle Tom are spooked by mysterious calls in writer/ producer/director LazRael Lison’s thriller, which trips over its plot twists but boasts a competent cast including Judd Nelson (as a grumpy sheriff), Tom Sizemore, Kyle T. Heffner and Ray Stoney, the latter quite good as an even-tempered deputy. Rated R.
SWELTER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/director Keith Parmer’s stylish but standard-issue shoot-’em-up comes replete with Western overtones and an eclectic cast including Lennie James, Alfred Molina, Josh Henderson, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Grant Bowler, Tracey Walter, Abby Miller, Mindy Robinson and Jean-Claude Van Damme (having fun as a heavy). Rated R.
“WELCOME BACK, KOTTER”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Shout! Factory): School’s in for Gabe Kaplan and his Sweathogs (John Travolta, Robert Hegyes, Ron Palillo and Lawrence Hilton- Jacobs), in all 27 episodes from the 1977- ’78 season of the popular, award-winning ABC comedy series, now available on DVD ($29.93 retail). !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.