MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BEES (Vinegar Syndrome): The killer-bee craze of the 1970s spawned TV movies (including The Savage Bees, Terror Out of the Sky and, naturally, Killer Bees), and the pinnacle was to have been Irwin Allen’s big-budget, all-star feature The Swarm (1978), which despite massive hype proved a critical and financial catastrophe.
In an attempt to steal some of Allen’s thunder, Mexican moviemaker Alfredo Zacharias wrote, produced and directed this low-rent 1978 shlock shocker that ranks right down there with The Swarm â€“ although not without a bounty of unintentional laughs. The Bees isn’t a B movie, it’s a Z movie!
John Saxon (dignity intact) plays heroic scientist John Norman, spearheading the attempt to prevent Brazilian killer bees from invading America. He’s aided by Sandra Miller (Angel Tompkins), whose husband (Claudio Brook) was one of the first victims â€“ which doesn’t prevent her from jumping into John’s arms shortly thereafter. (Their first passionate kiss is behind a car windshield crawling with bees.)
There’s John Carradine, sporting a mind-boggling German accent, as fellow scientist and Sandra’s “Uncle Ziggy” Hummel, a glaringly inappropriate score by Richard Gillis, an environmental treatise, and a subplot involving a murderous corporate conspiracy. (Hey, Watergate was still fresh on everyone’s minds.)
Add to that cheesy special effects, plenty of stock footage (including former President Gerald Ford at the Tournament of Roses parade!), unspeakably bad performances by most of the supporting cast (one character mistakenly calls Saxon’s character “Dr. Nolan”), and a hilarious moment where Jimmy Carter lookalike Walter Hanna, as the President, calls to congratulate Saxon from what must be the smallest office in the White House. Incredibly, the film won an award for its special effects at the Sitges-Catalonian International Film Festival!
The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($27.99 retail) includes theatrical trailer and a retrospective interview with Zacharias. Rated PG. *
“BANSHEE”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (HBO): Ex-con Antony Starr’s ruse, posing as the sheriff of the titular Amish town in Pennsylvania, continues in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning HBO crime series co-starring Ivana Milicevic, Ulrich Thomsen, Geno Segers, Frankie Faison, and UNCSA School of Drama graduate Trieste Kelly Dunn, now available on DVD ($26.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.98 retail), both replete with special features for fans of the series, affectionately called “Fanshees.”
“BLUE UNDERGROUND BLU-RAY DOUBLE FEATURE” (Blue Underground): A Blu-ray twin bill ($29.98 retail) of international espionage thrillers, both early productions of Harry Alan Towers and scripted by Peter Yeldman from original stories by Towers (under his usual pseudonym Peter Welbeck): Lex Barker stars in 1964’s Code 7 — Victim 5 (AKA Victim Five) and Mozambique (also ’64) stars Steve Cochran (in his final film) and Hildegard Knef.
CENSORED VOICES (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Mor Loushy’s award-winning documentary feature focuses on Israel’s triumphant “Six Days War” in 1967, as well as soldiers whose audio interviews were censored at the time, as well as their current reflections on those eventful days and its impact both emotionally and historically. In Hebrew with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $29.95.
“CPO SHARKEY”: THE BEST OF SEASON TWO (Time Life): A self-explanatory DVD selection ($12.95 retail) of six episodes from the 1977-’78 (and final) season of the NBC sitcom starring Don Rickles (himself a Navy veteran) in the title role of irascible chief petty officer Otto Sharkey and his military misadventures.
“DEATH VALLEY DAYS”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Shout! Factory): A three-DVD collection ($24.97 retail) of all 18 episodes from the inaugural 1952-’53 season of the long-running, syndicated Western anthology series â€“ spun off from a popular radio series â€“ hosted by Stanley Andrews as “The Old Ranger.” Guest stars include Phyllis Coates, Guy Wilkerson, Hank Patterson, Myron Healey, Arthur Space and Lyle Talbot.
DISTURBING BEHAVIOR (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): In the wake of Scream (1996) came a slew of teen horror films, including this uneven 1998 shocker in which the students of Cradle Bay High School (including Katie Holmes, James Marsden and Nick Stahl) are endangered by their emotionless “Blue Ribbon” classmates. William Sadler, Steve Railsback and Bruce Greenwood represent the grown-up contingent. The special-edition Blu-ray ($26.99 retail) includes audio commentary by director David Nutter, deleted scenes (of which there were reportedly many), alternate ending and more. Rated R. **
“EPISODES”: THE FOURTH SEASON (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/Paramount): Matt LeBlanc returns as a luckless sitcom lead named “Matt LeBlanc,” still plugging away alongside husband-and-wife writing team Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig, in all nine episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning Showtime comedy series. Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (LeBlanc) and Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series. The two-DVD collection retails for $29.99.
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM (Kino Lorber): After directing several short films, acclaimed avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin returns to features with this surreal, ethereal, award-winning anthology (co-directed by Evan Johnson) of vignettes including how to take a bath, brain surgery, musical interludes and much, much more. Wildly self-indulgent, which will undoubtedly endear it to Maddin mavens. A star-studded cast includes Charlotte Rampling, Geraldine Chaplin, Mathieu Amalric, Maria de Medeiros, Roy Dupuis, Elina Lowensohn, Caroline Dhavernas and Udo Kier â€“ many playing multiple roles. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95. ***
FORSAKEN (Momentum Pictures): Kiefer Sutherland and real-life dad Donald saddle up for this R-rated Western in which an infamous gunslinger’s attempts to reconcile with his estranged preacher father are complicated by railroad enforcers terrorizing ranchers who refuse to sell their land. Demi Moore, Brian Cox, Michael Wincott and Aaron Poole also star. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $32.98.
THE HALLOW (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director/screenwriter Corin Hardy’s impressive, award-winning debut feature (originally titled The Woods) stars Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic as a young couple who encounter supernatural forces when they move to a remote corner of the Irish countryside with their baby son. Familiar elements blend nicely in this spooky, atmospheric concoction. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $22.97 â€“ both replete with special features. ***
THE HOARDER (RLJ Entertainment): Writer/director Matt Winn’s inauspicious debut feature is an appropriately claustrophobic but otherwise routine low-budget shocker in which a group of people (including Mischa Barton, jumpy cop Robert Knepper, and junkie Valene Kane) fall prey to a maniacal killer stalking them in a storage unit. *
#HORROR (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Actress/designer/producer/executive producer Tara Subkoff makes her feature writing/directorial debut with this cyber-shocker (“inspired by true events”) about a group of teenaged girls whose obsession with an on-line game has dire consequences. A star-studded cast includes Chloe Sevigny, Timothy Hutton, Taryn Manning, Balthazar Getty and Natasha Lyonne, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).
MUTUAL FRIENDS (Mutual Friends/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Matthew Watts’ debut feature is an ensemble comedy/drama about a surprise birthday party that brings together a group of friends and execs in New York City. The likable cast includes Caitlin FitzGerald, Michael Chernus, Vanessa Ray, Christina Cole, Peter Scanavino, Michael Stahl-David, Cheyenne Jackson, Annika Peterson and screenwriter Ross Partridge. **Â½
MY LIFE OVER THE TOP (Indie Rights/MVD Entertainment Group): This feature documentary offers an up close and personal look at West Coast pimp Ray Virgil Fairley (also a producer) â€“ although he prefers “mack” or “player.” Fairley oozes charisma but the film grows repetitious. **
“THE ODD COUPLE”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): Thomas Lennon and executive producer Matthew Perry are the latest incarnations of mismatched Manhattan roommates Felix Unger and Oscar Madison, in all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the CBS sitcom originally based on Neil Simon’s hit Broadway play. The DVD retails for $39.99.
“A PLACE TO CALL HOME”: SEASON 3 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A three-DVD collection ($59.99 retail) of all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the award-winning series created by Bevan Lee, dramatizing life in post-World War II Australia as seen though the eyes of a young nurse (Marta Dusseldorp). The ensemble cast includes Craig Hall, Brett Climo, Abby Earl, Noni Hazlehurst and Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood.
SHE LOVES ME NOT (Monarch Home Entertainment): Producer/editor Brian Jun and co-producer Jack Sanderson (his feature debut) wrote and directed this nicely acted comedy/drama â€“ divided into three chapters — starring Cary Elwes as a reclusive, hard-drinking novelist contending with various women in his life (including Joey Lauren Adams, Lisa Edelstein, gorgeous Briana Evigan, and the late Karen Black, in one of her last roles). Dedicated to line producer Matthew Romano, who died shortly after the film’s 2013 completion. **Â½
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org