by Mark Burger



CHILDREN SHOULDN’T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS (VCI Entertainment): Director Bob Clark (who later helmed Black Christmas, Porky’s and A Christmas Story) made his director debut as “Benjamin” Clark with this low-budget 1972 cult favorite that marked one of the first contemporary zombie films made in the wake of George Romero’s 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. It’s not as good, but it’s a quirky surprise.

The members of an avant-garde, to say nothing of amateur, theater group sail to an island off the Florida coast for an evening of pranks and merriment, all of it guided by the obnoxious, manipulative, vaguely “Manson-esque” director Alan (Alan Ormsby, who wrote the screenplay with Clark).

During the hi-jinks, an incantation to raise the dead is read aloud (never a good idea), and it’s not long before the inhabitants of the (conveniently) nearby cemetery rouse themselves to prey on their desecrators – at which point the film takes a sharp turn from cheesy camp to straight horror.

With its unforgettable title, Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things played in drive-ins and grindhouses throughout the ’70s before haunting the late-night airwaves in the ’80s, where many fans first discovered it – including yours truly.

The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, tribute videos and more. **½


“ANGRY BIRDS TOONS” (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The Finnish-produced animated series based on the popular Rovio video game takes flight with “Angry Birds Toons: Season Two – Volume Two,” which includes the final 13 episodes from the 2014-’15 season; “Angry Birds Stella: Season Two” includes all 13 episodes from the 2015-’16 season; “Piggy Tales: Season Two – Pigs at Work” includes all 26 episodes from the 2015 season. Each DVD retails for $14.99 and includes bonus features.

CHRISTMAS EVE (Olive Films): George Raft, Randolph Scott and George Brent play foster brothers reunited to save their aunt (Ann Harding) from financial ruin in this 1947 yuletide comedy, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

CRIMINAL ACTIVITIES (RLJ Entertainment): Jackie Earle Haley co-stars and makes his directorial debut with this watchable, Tarantino-esque thriller about four friends in Cleveland who try to make amends with crime boss John Travolta (also a producer) by kidnapping rival thug (and scene-stealer) Edi Gathegi – only to find themselves in even deeper trouble. Reminiscent of 1997’s Suicide Kings, replete with plot twists and tough-guy talk. **

“DIGIMON FUSION SEASON 2” (Cinedigm): The title tells all in this five-DVD collection ($34.93 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 2015 season of the popular, animated fantasy series that marks the latest incarnation of the ongoing anime franchise, broadcast by Nickelodeon in the US, in which three youngsters are thrust into the Digital World to battle the forces of evil.

“DRUNK HISTORY: SEASON 3” (Comedy Central Home Entertainment/Paramount): Host Derek Waters again delves into American history, featuring star-studded re-enactments while the narrators get progressively more sloshed, in all 13 episodes from the 2015 season of the Comedy Central series based on the Funny or Die web series created by Waters and Jeremy Konner. Guest stars include executive producer Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Johnny Knoxville, Maya Rudolph, Michael Cera and others. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series and winner for Outstanding Costumes for a Variety Program or Special. The DVD ($21.99 retail) includes bonus features.

FOXY BROWN (Olive Films): One of Pam Grier’s best-remembered vehicles, writer/director Jack Hill’s brutal 1974 “blaxploitation” cult classic sees her infiltrate a sex-trafficking ring as a prostitute to avenge her boyfriend’s murder, with Antonio Fargas, Terry Carter, Peter Brown and Hill regular Sid Haig rounding out the cast, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). Rated R. **½

LA GRANDE BOUFFE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Marco Ferreri’s highly controversial, award-winning, French-language 1973 social satire (originally rated X in the US) boasts a star-studded cast – Marcello Mastroianni, Philippe Noiret, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli and Andrea Ferreol – gathered together at a country estate to indulge in food, sex, scatology, and more. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray, which includes bonus features, retails for $39.95.

GREASE LIVE! (Paramount): Broadcast live on Fox (to ecstatic reviews), this version of the Jim Jacobs/Warren Casey Broadway musical and subsequent 1978 feature revisits the student body of Rydell High School as they rock ‘n’ roll through the ’50s, with Julianne Hough, Aaron Tveit, Vanessa Hudgens, Keke Palmer and Carly Rae Jepsen, available on DVD ($21.99 retail).

“HOGAN’S HEROES”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory DVD boxed set ($79.99 retail) of all 168 episodes from the 1965-’71 run of the CBS comedy series set in Stalag 13 during World War II, where Col. Bob Hogan (Bob Crane) and his fellow POWs run rings around Col. Klink (two-time Emmy winner Werner Klemperer) and Sgt. Schultz (John Banner).

“THE IRISH R.M.”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A self-explanatory, six-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) of all 18 episodes from the entire 1983-’85 run of the popular comedy series based on the Somerville and Ross stories and broadcast on “Masterpiece Theatre” in the US, starring Peter Bowles in the title role of Sinclair Yeates, a retired British army officer tapped to be the resident magistrate in a quirky Irish village at the turn of the 20th century, with Bryan Murray, Anna Manahan, Niall Toibin, Brendan Conroy, Sarah Badel and Beryl Reid in support.

I SMILE BACK (Broad Green Pictures): Sarah Silverman’s ferocious, award-winning performance as a suburban housewife with a self-destructive streak dominates this uneven but well-acted adaptation of Amy Koppelman’s book, with Josh Charles matching Silverman as her distraught, eventually angry, husband. Rated R. **½

THE JOKESTERS (Random Media/Cinedigm): Director/editor AJ Wedding’s so-so found-footage shocker sees the internet team “Prankmasters” trying to top themselves by pranking their leader’s honeymoon getaway – with dire results. A sequel’s in development. **

LET THERE BE LIGHT: JOHN HUSTON’S WARTIME DOCUMENTARIES” (Olive Films): A self-explanatory collection of four World War II documentaries directed by future Oscar winner John Huston during his stint in the US Army: 1942’s Winning Your Wings (Oscar nominee for Best Documentary); 1943’s Report from the Aleutians (Oscar nominee for Best Documentary); 1945’s The Battle of San Pietro; and 1946’s Let There Be Light, which was suppressed by the government for over 30 years. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.

NARCOPOLIS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Justin Trefgarne’s sci-fi thriller is set in the near future where drugs have been legalized, but not without a price – as detective and recovering addict Elliot Cowan discovers. James Callis, Elodie Young, Nicky Henson and Jonathan Pryce co-star, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.97 retail).

NIGHT GAME (Olive Films): Director Peter Masterson’s disappointing 1989 thriller casts Roy Scheider as a Galveston detective trailing a serial killer who strikes in conjunction with specific wins by the Houston Astros. Potentially interesting storyline cluttered with needless subplots, despite a solid cast including Paul Gleason, Lane Smith, Karen Young, Richard Bradford, Rex Linn and Masterson’s wife Carlin Glynn. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **

“NIKKATSU DIAMOND GUYS, VOL. 1” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray triple-feature combo ($49.95 retail) of three Japanese thrillers produced by Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest film studio: Seijun Suzuki’s Voice Without a Shadow (1958), Toshio Masuda’s Red Pier (also ’58), and Buichi Saito’s The Rambling Guitarist (1959).

SHE’S BEAUTIFUL WHEN SHE’S ANGRY (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Mary Dore’s feature documentary examines the rise of the women’s liberation movement in the 1960s and its lasting impact on American society today, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).

VICTORIA (Adopt Films/Kino Lorber): Sebastian Schipper’s award-winning German-language thriller depicts a bank robbery in real time and one continuous take (with much of the dialogue improvised), starring Laia Costa in the title role of a woman drawn into the crime by a chance encounter with one of the thieves (Frederick Lau). The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95.

WHEN BETTE MET MAE (Indie Rights/MVD Entertainment Group): Wes Wheadon’s weird but interesting documentary (of sorts) is taken from a recording he made in 1973 of the very first meeting between Hollywood legends Bette Davis and Mae West, played in re-enactments by Karen Teliha and Victoria Mills, respectively. Nostalgia buffs will enjoy it more than mainstream documentary devotees, but it’s certainly a different approach. **½

“WHEN CALLS THE HEART: IT BEGINS WITH THE HEART(Shout! Factory): Series regulars Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Jack Wagner and Lori Loughlin star in this Hallmark Channel adaptation of Janette Oke’s best-selling series, set in the rustic coal-mining burg of Hope Valley and originally broadcast as A New Year’s Wish. The DVD retails for $14.93.

“YU-GI-OH! GX SEASON 3” (Cinedigm): The title tells all in this six-DVD collection ($44.99 retail) of all 51 episodes from the 2007 season of the animated fantasy series, spun off from the trading-card series recognized by the Guinness World Records as the best-selling trading-card game ever, set at Duel Academy, where students put their special powers into practice – both in and out of the classroom.

ZOMBIE HIGH (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail) of theater director Ron Link’s one and only feature, a bizarre 1987 horror spoof (?) about a tony academy where the students act like emotionless automatons. An eclectic cast includes the ever-dishy Virginia Madsen, Richard Cox, Sherilyn Fenn, James Wilder, Scott Coffey and future filmmaker Paul Feig (in his screen debut). Rated R. *½

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