MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE STUFF (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Larry Cohen (It’s Alive, Q, God Told Me To) strikes again with this 1985 sci-fi shocker that resonates with his keen observations and distinctive dark humor. It’s not perfect, but at its best The Stuff offers food for thought.
That’s just what The Stuff is â€“ a delectable dairy treat that has taken the nation by storm. The problem is that it has a nasty tendency to control the minds of those who consume it, to say nothing of consuming them itself. (This food eats you.)
There are jabs at consumerism, big business, contemporary paranoia and media manipulation â€“ served up in the guise of a high-profile B-movie with an enthusiastic cast: Michael Moriarty (industrial spy), Andrea Marcovicci (commercial director), Garrett Morris (cookie mogul a la “Famous Amos”), Scott Bloom (heroic kid), Danny Aiello (corporate hack), Patrick O’Neal and Alexander Scourby (tycoon-types), and Paul Sorvino (a heroic, believe it or not, right-wing nutjob). The special effects are cartoonish but grisly enough to have earned this an R rating.
And remember: “Can’t get enough — of The Stuff!”
The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes retrospective documentary, collector’s booklet, original trailer and more. Rated R. ***
THE DEADLY BEES (Olive Films): H.F. Heard’s A Taste for Honey formed the basis for this 1966 shocker about a series of fatal bee attacks on a remote island, duly investigated by vacationing pop singer Suzanna Leigh. Despite director Freddie Francis, screenwriter Robert Bloch, and cast members Frank Finlay and Guy Doleman, this is barely passable. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **
“EDGAR ALLAN POE’S BLACK CATS” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray double-feature ($69.95 retail) of two chillers based (however loosely) on Poe’s classic tale The Black Cat: Sergio Martino’s memorably titled Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), starring Italian scream queen Edwige Fenech and Anita Strindberg, and Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat (1980), starring Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer and David Warbeck. Both films are fully restored and bonus features are bountiful.
EVERLASTING LOVE (TLA Releasing): Marcal Flores’ award-winning Spanish-language thriller (originally titled Amor Eterno) stars Joan Bentalle as a middle-aged teacher whose illicit relationship with student Aimar Vega has dire consequences, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“HAPPYISH”: SEASON ONE (Showtime Entertainment/CBS DVD/Paramount): Steve Coogan contends with a mid-life crisis, in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2015 season of the Showtime comedy series created by Shalom Auslander, co-starring Kathryn Hahn and Bradley Whitford, and guest stars Ellen Barkin, Andre Royo and Rob Reiner. Coogan’s role was originally intended for the late Philip Seymour Hoffman. The two-DVD collection retails for $42.99.
HAWAIIAN RAINBOW & KUMU HULA: KEEPERS OF A CULTURE (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): A DVD double-feature ($19.95 retail) of filmmaker Robert Mugge’s 1987 and 1989 documentaries about the music and dance culture of Hawaii.
HELL’S FIVE HOURS (Olive Films): This noir-ish 1958 melodrama, writer/producer/director Jack L. Copeland’s only film, pits Southern psycho Vic Morrow against Stephen McNally after kidnapping the latter’s wife and son (Coleen Gray and Ray Ferrell) with plans to blow up the rocket-fuel plant he was fired from. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
IT HAPPENED HERE (Cinedigm): Five survivors of college sexual assaults share their experiences in director Lisa F. Jackson’s topical documentary that explores how widespread the issue, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE (Olive Films): A rescue mission to Mars goes awry when a monster (Ray “Crash” Corrigan) stows away about the ship and preys on the crew in this low-budget but fast-moving 1958 sci-fi “B” movie that prefigured Alien by two decades. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **Â½
“LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE”: SEASON 9 (LionsGate): A deluxe, remastered DVD collection ($21.98 retail) of all 21 episodes from the 1982-’83 (and final) season of the long-running, award-winning NBC drama series based on Laura Ingalls Wilder’s best-selling books, with Melissa Gilbert (as Wilder), executive producer/frequent director/sometime-writer Michael Landon, Karen Grassle, Melissa Sue Anderson, Dean Butler, Lindsay and Sydney Greenbush, and Victor French (as Mr. Edwards). The five-DVD collection also includes the 1984 “Little House” TV movie Bless All the Dear Children, directed by French.
LOVE OR WHATEVER (Canteen Outlaws/TLA Releasing): Director Rosser Goodman’s gay-themed romantic comedy stars Tyler Poelle as a neurotic analyst whose own love life is a shambles. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95.
MERU (Music Box Films Entertainment): This award-winning, R-rated documentary follows climbers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin (who co-directed with Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi) as they attempt to scale Mt. Meru in the Himayalans in 2011, having tried (and failed) once before in 2005. The DVD retails for $29.95, the Blu-ray for $34.95.
SALAD DAYS (MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Scott Crawford’s award-winning documentary is explained by its subtitle “A Decade of Punk in Washington, DC (1980-’90), showcasing the rise of such bands as Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Government Issue, Scream, Rites of Spring, Fugazi and others. The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $19.95.
THE SINGING DETECTIVE (Olive Films): Keith Gordon’s award-winning 2003 big-screen adaptation of Dennis Potter’s 1986 TV mini-series stars Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, as a writer suffering from a rare skin condition who imagines he’s a detective. A star-studded cast includes Robin Wright, Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody, Jeremy Northam, Alfre Woodard, Carla Gugino, Jon Polito, Saul Rubinek and producer Mel Gibson (very funny as a wacky doctor). A noble attempt that falls short, despite points of interest throughout. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **
“SISTERS” (Shout! Factory): Swoosie Kurtz, Julianne Phillips, Sela Ward and Patricia Kalember play the titular sisters in the award-winning NBC drama series. “Season Three” ($39.93 retail) includes all 24 episodes from the 1992-’93 season, where it earned five Emmy nominations including Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Kurtz); “Season Four” ($39.93 retail) includes all 22 episodes from the ’92-’93 season, in which Ward won the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series and Kurtz a nomination in the same category.
SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE (Paramount): Jason Sudeikis and gorgeous Alison Brie bring an appealing chemistry to writer/director Leslye Headland’s saucy romantic comedy as perpetual singles who reunite 12 years after a college one-night stand. Amanda Peet, Adam Brody, Adam Scott, Marc Blucas, Anna Margaret Hollyman and Natasha Lyonne round out a pleasing cast. Rated R. ***
SUNSET EDGE (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Daniel Peddle’s intruiging feature debut examines the daily existence of disaffected youths who congregate in a rundown trailer park. Filmed in and around Winston-Salem, this is more concerned with evocative imagery than narrative cohesion, but Peddle is a talent to watch. **Â½
THAT UNCERTAIN FEELING (Alpha Home Entertainment): Ernst Lubitsch’s chipper 1941 adaptation of the 1880 French farce Divorcons details the marital strife of Park Avenue couple Melvyn Douglas and Merle Oberon and was a critical and financial letdown, but spotty Lubitsch is better than none at all. Rife with sly innuendo and featuring a fine supporting cast (Eve Arden, Alan Mowbray, Sig Rumann and especially Burgess Meredith as a quirky pianist), this earned an Oscar nomination for Best Score. ***
“WHEN CALLS THE HEART: TROUBLED HEARTS” (Shout! Factory): Series regulars Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Jack Wagner and Lori Loughlin return to Hope Valley in the award-winning Hallmark Channel drama series based on Janette Oke’s beloved novel, available on DVD $14.93 retail).
THE WHISPERING SHADOW (Alpha Home Entertainment): Bela Lugosi is (naturally) suspected of being the titular terror in this feature-length version of the 1933 serial, which (naturally) focuses on action more than character or plot. Familiar faces Henry B.Walthall and Karl Dane (in his final film) also turn up. **
WOLF WARRIOR (Well Go USA Entertainment): Wu Jing directs and stars in this action thriller, playing a disgraced marksman recruited by mysterious mercenaries known as “the Wolf Warriors.” In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
YELLOWBEARD (Olive Films): “Monty Python” graduate Graham Chapman (in his last feature) wrote and plays the title role in this sloppy but occasionally amusing 1983 pirate-movie box-office flop, with a fabulous all-star cast: John Cleese, Peter Boyle, screenwriter Peter Cook), Marty Feldman (who died during production), James Mason, Madeline Kahn, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, Eric Idle, Michael Hordern, Stacey Nelkin, Martin Hewitt, Susannah York, Beryl Reid, Kenneth Mars, Spike Milligan (in his last feature) and Peter Bull (his last, too) â€“ and look fast for David Bowie. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. **
“ZYDECO BLU-RAYS” (Mug-Shot Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): A pair of Blu-ray documentaries (each $19.95 retail) in which acclaimed filmmaker Robert Mugge continues his exploration and celebration of the roots of American music: The Kingdom of Zydeco (1994) examines Southwest Louisiana’s Creole music community; and his latest feature, Zydeco Crossroads: A Tale of Two Cities focuses on the talents who have emerged from the Zydeco movement, including CJ Chenier, Rosie Ledet, Soul Creole, Vasti Jackson, and many others.
(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