DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: CONTAMINATION (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group)
Much as he “paid tribute” to Star Wars (1977) with his indescribable Starcrash (1979), Italian filmmaker Luigi Cozzi (nee Lewis Coates) did likewise with this 1980 sci-fi shocker inspired, to an extent, by Alien (1979).
A derelict ship arrives in New York, filled with glowing, pulsating eggs that have a nasty tendency to explode, spewing a corrosive acid that makes humans likewise explode. Cozzi lingers over these grisly deaths in blooddrenched slow-motion, accentuated by a fabulous score by Goblin. (The squeamish are hereby forewarned.)
Government agent Louise Marleau, wise-cracking cop Marino Mase, and booze-soaked astronaut Ian McCulloch vow to foil this plot to “egg-sterminate” the human race – which leads back to McCulloch’s Mars mission and fellow astronaut Siegfried Rauch, now in league with this interstellar threat.
Acquired by Cannon Films shortly after Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus took control, Golan not-so-subtly retitled the film Alien Contamination then proceeded to dump it. It’s a gory, goofy, guilty pleasure from beginning to end – rife with stilted dialogue, wooden acting and the obligatory dubbing. Yet Cozzi brings an unmistakable enthusiasm to the proceedings. The film moves, and it entertains … sometimes in spite of itself. No wonder it’s a cult classic.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) is loaded with special features including audio commentary, retrospective interviews, graphic novel, and more. Rated R.
BEYOND REMEDY (Martini Entertainment/Olive Entertainment): A stiff psycho-thriller (in the Mindhunters/ Saw mode) wherein medical students confronting their deepest phobias in a confined setting are stalked by a masked killer. Ho hum.
BURYING THE EX (RLJ Entertainment/Image Entertainment): Director Joe Dante’s patented in-jokes are present in this intermittently entertaining horror spoof with Anton Yelchin as a horror buff whose blossoming relationship with comely Alexandra Daddario is hampered when domineering ex Ashley Greene returns from the dead. A game cast, including Dante favorites Dick Miller and Archie Hahn, does what it can with the one-joke premise. Rated R.
CEMETERY WITHOUT CROSSES (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of director/star Robert Hossein’s 1969 spaghetti Western (originally titled Une corde, un colt …, and also known as The Rope and the Cross) in which he plays a gunslinger who aids old flame Michele Mercier avenge the murder of her husband. Although some versions credit Dario Argento as a screenwriter, Hossein has denied his involvement. In Italian with English subtitles
DELIRIUM (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/director/co-producer Jared Black’s feature debut stars newcomer Taylor Pigeon as a young girl who mysteriously reappears a year after she mysteriously vanished. Repeated attempts to surprise the audience only lead to confusion, but this fragmented chiller has its moments.
FUZZ TRACK CITY (Indican Pictures): Writer/editor/director Steve Hicks’ splashy, award-winning film-noir send-up casts co-producer Todd Robert Anderson as a mop-topped private eye scouring Los Angeles in search of a rare 45 record. Great use of split-screen, and Dee Wallace has her best role in years as Anderson’s former guidance counselor-turned-love interest (!).
GOOD KILL (Paramount): Writer/ director Andrew Niccol’s third collaboration with Ethan Hawke casts the actor as a disillusioned, hard-drinking combat pilot plagued by dilemmas on the job and at home. The film’s moral quandary about drone warfare is more persuasive than Hawke’s domestic discord (with wife January Jones), but this topical, sincere effort is worth a look and features Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kravitz and Peter Coyote (as the unseen voice of the CIA overseer) in supporting roles. Rated R.
HIDDEN AWAY (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Mikel Rueda’s gay romantic drama (originally titled A escondidas) details the relationship that develops between a Spanish teenager (German Alcarazu) and an illegal Moroccan immigrant (Adil Koukouh). In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“HOLLYWOOD CONFIDENTIAL”: VOLUME 2 (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($7.98 retail) of vintage shorts (1930s-’60s) showcasing lovely ladies in various states of undress. What’s amusing is that these shorts, almost quaint and tame in retrospect, would barely qualify as soft-core today.
HOUSEKEEPING (LionsGate): Writer/ producer/editor/cinematographer/director Jennifer Harrington’s overly stylized, expressionistic thriller stars Adriana Solis (who speaks nary a word) as a housekeeper dealing with an unseen, demanding, possibly deranged homeowner. This doesn’t quite work but it tries, and Linus Lau’s score is a standout. Rated PG-13.
THE KILLER SHREWS (Film Chest Media Group): The genetically-enhanced titular terrors (played by puppets or dogs in costumes) wreak havoc on a remote island in this low-rent 1959 B-movie cult classic whose (rapidly-dwindling) human cast includes James Best, Ingrid Goude, producer Ken Curtis, and Baruch Lumet (father of Sidney). An unintentional chuckle-fest that spawned a sequel 50 years later (!).
A LITTLE CHAOS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Alan Rickman directed, co-wrote and stars (as Louis XIV) in this R-rated period romp in which the gardens of the palace at Versailles are designed by headstrong and passionate Kate Winslet, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.98 retail).
MASSACRE GUN (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of Yasuharu Hasebe’s 1967 action thriller (originally titled Minagoroshi no kenju), starring Jo Shishido as a gangster on the rampage after being forced to execute his lover at his gang’s order. In Japanese with English subtitles.
“THE MISSING” (Anchor Bay Entertainment): While vacationing in Paris in 2006, James Nesbitt and Frances O’Connor’s young son is abducted, leading to an ongoing odyssey of despair, obsession and fading hope in this awardwinning BBC One/STARZ mini-series that earned Tom Shankland an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Directing for a Mini-series, Movie or Dramatic Special. Tcheky Karyo, Jason Flemyng, Arsher Ali and Ken Stott also star. All eight episodes from the inaugural 2014 season are available on DVD ($44.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($54.99 retail).
PLAY MOTEL (RaroVideo): A special edition of Mario Gariazzo’s 1979 erotic shocker (originally rated X!) in which Ray Lovelock and Anna Maria Rizzoli investigate a series of murders at a luxury hotel where the rich and powerful indulge their sexual fantasies and fetishes. In Italian with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
RETALIATION (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of Yasuharu Hasebe’s 1968 action thriller (originally titled Shima wa moratta), a follow-up to Massacre Gun (see above), with Akira Kobayashi as an ex-con drawn back into violence when reunited with his old gang. In Japanese with English subtitles.
THE SADISTIC BARON VON KLAUS (Redemption/Kino Lorber): Gruesome murders spread fear in a remote village where the superstitious inhabitants believe that the reincarnation of a brutal 17th-century baron has returned to continue his bloody reign of terror, in cult auteur Jess Franco’s 1962 shocker (originally titled Le sadique Baron Von Klaus), in French with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
SANCTIMONY (Martini Entertainment/ Olive Films): Uwe Boll’s 2001 American directorial debut sees Casper Van Dien go the American Psycho route as a psychotic stockbroker, pursued by cops Michael Pare, Jennifer Rubin and Eric Roberts, with Van Dien’s real-life wife Catherine Oxenberg as Pare’s endangered spouse. Not as aggressively awful as others in the Boll oeuvre, but hackneyed nonetheless.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.