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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

LIVING IN OBLIVION (Shout! Factory): Amidst the independent film boom of the ’90s, writer/director Tom DiCillo, a veteran of those trenches, crafted this knowing 1995 send-up that offers an inspired, often hilarious kick to seat-of-the-pants moviemaking.

A sparkling cast, many of whom made their name in the indie realm, includes Steve Buscemi as the harried director, Catherine Keener as the leading lady who realizes her ingenue days are behind her, Keener’s then-husband Dermot Mulroney as the temperamental cinematographer, James LeGros as a Hollywood hunk who suddenly decides to indulge his penchant for Method acting, and Peter Dinklage (in his screen debut) as a dwarf actor resentful of typecasting; he only gets offered dwarf roles.

This is great fun for film buffs and, very possibly, offers some practical advice about the rigors of low-budget filmmaking for aspiring filmmakers. The 20th-anniversary Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) features audio commentary, documentary and more. Rated R. ***

ALSO AVAILABLE

AUSCHWITZ (Martini Entertainment/Olive Films): “I am responsible for the movie,” says controversial cult filmmaker Uwe Boll in his introduction, but the newsreel footage and contemporary interviews with German teens are more persuasive than the re-enactments of the real-life horrors of the infamous Nazi concentration camp. **

BOTTOMS UP (Moguldom Studios/Cinedigm): Kurt Williamson’s documentary examines the cosmetic-surgery craze “backside augmentation.” The DVD retails for $19.97.

BOYS IN BRAZIL (TLA Releasing): Alexandre Carvalho’s comedy/drama (originally titled Do Lado de Fora focuses on a group of closeted friends who make a pact to come out in a year’s time after one is assaulted during Sao Paulo’s annual gay pride parade. In Portuguese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.99.

CALL ME LUCKY (MPI Media Group): Bobcat Goldthwait’s award-winning documentary examines the life and career of his mentor, stand-up comic Barry Crimmins, featuring interviews with Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Marc Maron and Margaret Cho. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

“CLASSIC EXPLOITATION DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A misleading DVD twin bill ($7.98 retail) that includes Geisha Girl (1952), a Cold War comedy with Steve Forrest (billed under his real name William Andrews) and Archer MacDonald in early screen roles, aping Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis – none too successfully – as GIs in post-war Japan, and writer/director Raymond Cannon’s final film Samurai (1945), a pseudo-documentary with Paul Fung as an Americanized Japanese who returns to Japan to become a spy. Neither film’s a classic, either. Both films: *½

CLOSE RANGE (XLRator Media): Scott Adkins wages war against a drug cartel in this standard-issue shoot-’em-up with spaghetti-Western pretentions. *

CONSPIRACY (Alpha Home Entertainment): Amateur criminologist and full-tilt curmudgeon Ned Sparks taps Bessie Love to act as his stenographer as he investigates a murder — unaware that she killed the victim in self-defense. Hollywood workhorse Christy Cabanne directed this dull 1930 comedy/mystery (based on a play) in which Sparks’ banter with stereotypical black maid Gertrude Howard includes calling her “a saber-toothed chimpanzee” – thereby dating it beyond any pale of political correctness. *

FALLING STAR (IndiePix Films): Writer/producer/director Luis Minarro’s award-winning, surrealist, Spanish-language historical melodrama (originally titled Stella cadente) details the tumultuous reign of King Amadeo (Alex Brendemul) in 19th-century Spain, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).

GOODBYE TO ALL THAT (IFC Films): Winston-Salem’s own Angus MacLachlan wrote and makes his directorial debut with this award-winning, well-played romantic comedy with fellow UNCSA graduate Paul Schneider ideally cast as an everyman blind-sided by wife Melanie Lynskey’s decision to divorce him. Heather Graham, Ashley Hinshaw, Anna Camp, Amy Sedaris and Celia Weston round out the cast. Filmed on location in Winston-Salem. Rated R. ***

THE LAST HOUSE (Wild Eye Releasing): Tacky, talky, off-putting shocker with Lauren Walsh as a hooker named “Love” terrorized by a sadistic Satanist named “Hate” (associate producer Ezra Buzzington). Even the gratuitous gore and sex grow tiresome. Jason Mewes plays Walsh’s boyfriend (none too well) and Sleepaway Camp scream queen makes a (very) brief cameo as an ill-fated realtor. ½

LOVE TAKES FLIGHT (Alpha Home Entertainment): Hot-shot pilot Bruce Cabot is torn between fellow aviatrix Beatrice Roberts and Hollywood starlet Astrid Allwyn in this lightweight 1937 comedy, the only film directed by actor Conrad Nagel. **

“THE NANNY”: SEASON FIVE (Shout! Factory): Fran Drescher’s back in the DVD collection ($34.99 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1997-’98 season of the award-winning CBS sitcom.

“NCIS”: THE BEST OF ABBY (CBS DVD/Paramount): The title tells all in this DVD collection ($24.99 retail) of 12 fan-favorite episodes from the long-running (2003-’15), award-winning CBS crime series — each one a showcase for Pauley Perrette’s dishy forensic scientist Abby Sciuto, featuring introductions, audio commentaries and interviews.

NUDES IN COLOR (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD compilation ($7.98 retail) of vintage “Nudie Cuties” shorts from the 1950s and ’60s, which seem almost quaint and tame in retrospect – and would easily qualify as “soft-core” today.

“PEEKARAMA” (Vinegar Syndrome/CAV Distributing): For fans of vintage smut, a pair of digitally-restored (!), special-edition (!!) double features from the era of “porno chic”: Lust Inferno and Marathon, both directed by Carlos Tobalina in 1982 under the pseudonym “Troy Benny”; The Sensually Liberated Female and He and She, a pair of 1970 sex “documentaries” directed by Matt Cimber. Each DVD double-feature retails for $19.98.

“PULP NOIR DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of vintage programmers, both Chinatown-set: The Secrets of Wu Shin (1932) sees Lois Wilson and Grant Withers trailing an illegal immigration ring in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite such archaic racist terms as “chinks” and “coolies,” at least actual Asians were cast — including Tetsu Komai in the title role. The same doesn’t apply to the co-feature, 1931’s Law of the Tong, about New York’s Chinatown underworld, with Jason Robards Sr. as Charley Wong (!). Secrets of Wu Shin: **/Law of the Tong: *.

THE SAND (Monarch Home Entertainment): Brooke Butler, Cynthia Murell and Megan Holder are among the bikini-clad cuties preyed upon by a subterranean creature in this campy creature feature reminiscent of Blood Beach (1981). Jamie Kennedy, who survived the recent Tremors 5, fares less well in a guest appearance as a beach patrolman. **

SLEEPAWAY CAMP COLLECTOR’S EDITIONS” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A pair of self-explanatory Blu-rays: Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) and Sleepaway Camp III: Teenage Wasteland (1989), both starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s little sister) as the ax-wielding Angela. Each retails for $29.93 and boasts special features including audio commentaries, documentaries and retrospective interviews.

SOUL PLANE (Olive Films): Snoop Dogg’s the weed-toking pilot in this dull, dopey 2004 farce that squanders a comedy-friendly cast including Kevin Hart, Tom Arnold, Method Man, D.L. Hughley, Sofia Vergara, John Witherspoon, Mo’Nique and UNCSA grad Missi Pyle. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition). *

THE STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY (Olive Films): Middle-aged bachelor George Sanders finds romance with fashion designer Ella Raines – much to the consternation of Geraldine Fitzgerald as his obsessive sister – in Robert Siodmak’s noir-ish 1946 adaptation of Thomas Job’s play Uncle Harry. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.

STRANGER AT MY DOOR (Olive Films): William Witney directed this 1956 Western starring Skip Homeier as a gunfighter who hides out in the home of frontier minister Macdonald Carey’s family, leading inevitably to further trouble. Never before available on home-video, the DVD retails for $24.95 and the Blu-ray for $29.95.

“SUSPENSE DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory DVD twin bill ($7.98 retail) of vintage thrillers, both with Nick Stuart in heroic mode: Secrets of Chinatown (1934) and Trapped (1931).

TERMINATOR: GENISYS (Paramount): Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his signature role as the unstoppable cyborg in the fifth (and worst) of the big-screen sci-fi franchise, with Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, Jason Clarke as John Connor, Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, and J.K. Simmons (all-too-briefly) as a sympathetic cop. The special effects are first-rate, but the time-travel gimmick is repeatedly used as an excuse to erase or alter what has transpired before. The DVD retails for $29.99, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $39.99, the 3-D combo for $52.99. Rated PG-13. **

TOUGH BEING LOVED BY JERKS (Kino Lorber): Daniel Leconte’s 2008 French-language documentary (originally titled C’est dur d’etre aime par des cons and also released as It’s Hard Being Loved by Jerks) examines the 2006 firestorm when cartoon caricatures of Muhammad were published by the Charlie Hebdo satirical journal, much to the dismay of Muslims. The events covered here predate last year’s tragic massacre. The DVD retails for $29.95.

TRACK THE MAN DOWN (Olive Films): Veteran Western director RG Springsteen helmed this trim, noir-ish 1955 thriller about the aftermath of a dog-track robbery, with the loot up for grabs. Token American star Kent Taylor (as a reporter) heads an ensemble British cast including George Rose (as the heavy), Petula Clark, Renee Houston, Ursula Howells and Kenneth Griffith (billed as “Griffiths”). The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **½

THE WEAPON (Olive Films): Good location work distinguishes director Val Guest’s 1956 London-set thriller, with youngster Jon Whiteley is on the run after accidentally shooting a playmate with a gun found in bombed-out rubble, which had been previously used in an unsolved murder. Steve Cochran, Lizabeth Scott, Herbert Marshall, George Cole and Laurence Naismith round out the cast. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **½

WHITE SHADOW (IndiePix Films): Not to be confused with the ’70s TV series, writer/producer/cinematographer/director Noaz Deshe’s award-winning feature debut dramatizes the shocking practice in Tanzania of murdering albinos for their body parts, with newcomer Hamisi Bazili as a young albino on the run. Ryan Gosling was an executive producer. In Swahili with English subtitles, available on DVD ($14.95 retail).

WILD ORCHID (Olive Films): Mickey Rourke and Carre Otis strike sparks in Zalman King’s stylish but empty-headed 1990 softcore romp about the steamy relationship between a mysterious millionaire and a young lawyer. Rumors abound that Rourke and Otis (who later married) actually did the deed onscreen, but that’s not enough to warrant a recommendation. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. *

THE WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (Olive Films): A rogues’ gallery of Old West notables – Charles Quantrill (Brian Donlevy), Frank and Jesse James (James Brown and Ben Cooper), and Cole Younger (Jim Davis) – are assembled in director Allan Dwan’s highly watchable 1953 horse opera co-starring Nina Varela (as a tough female mayor), Joan Leslie, Audrey Totter, Nina Varela, Virginia Christine, Ellen Corby and Minerva Urecal. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. ***

WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): For those who’ve been waiting – and you know who you are — the Blu-ray bow ($26.99 retail) of Bruno Mattei’s 1983 exploitation shocker (originally titled Blade Violent – I violenti), with Laura Gemser (reprising her “Emanuelle” role) as a reporter subjected to all sorts of indignities when imprisoned.

WORLDLY GOODS (Alpha Home Entertainment): B-movie workhorse Phil Rosen directed this creaky but watchable 1930 melodrama about a blind World War I veteran (Ferdinand Schumann-Heink) who vows revenge against the aeronautics tycoon (James Kirkwood) he blames for his condition, only to have the tycoon become his anonymous benefactor — and then learn the tycoon married his old sweetheart (Myrna Kennedy). Whew! **½

WRECKER (XLRator Media): Director/screenwriter Michael Bafaro’s rancid road-rage thriller is Duel redux with Anna Hitchison and Drea Whitburn relentlessly pursued by the titular truck. ½

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:marksburger@yahoo.com”marksburger@yahoo.com

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