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[VIDEO VAULT]

by Mark Burger

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

MANHUNTER (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Before entering the uppermost echelon of pop-culture fame with The Silence of the Lambs (1991) – and beyond – Hannibal Lecter made his first screen appearance in the person of Brian Cox, in writer/director Michael Mann’s 1986 adaptation of Thomas Harris’ best-seller Red Dragon.

The good doctor, here billed as “Lecktor,” is approached by Will Graham (William Petersen), the FBI agent who captured him, to assist in his pursuit of an elusive serial killer called “the Tooth Fairy.” Needless to say, “quid pro quo” is required, and behind bars or not, Hannibal is still a force to be reckoned with.

Coming off his success with “Miami Vice,” Mann often emphasizes style over substance, and Manhunter is not without its sleek, seductive self-indulgences, but a good cast pushes it across. Tom Noonan is terrifying as Graham’s quarry, one Francis Dollarhyde, and Joan Allen is terrific as Reba, the blind girl who falls for Francis — which, not surprisingly, puts her very much in harm’s way. Kim Greist (Will’s worried wife), Dennis Farina (Will’s pressured boss) and Stephen Lang (first-rate as sleazy tabloid journalist Freddie Lounds) round out the cast.

A box-office flop upon its release, the film found its audience on home-video and cable – and received a further boost when Silence of the Lambs struck gold, which inspired Manhunter‘s executive producer, the inimitable Dino De Laurentiis, to return to the well with Hannibal (2001), the Manhunter remake Red Dragon (2002), Hannibal Rising (2007) and the recent “Hannibal” NBC-TV series, with De Laurentiis’ widow Martha Schumacher one of the producers.

The two-disc Manhunter collector’s edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes both the theatrical and director’s cuts, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R. ***

ALSO AVAILABLE

ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE (Wild Eye Releasing): Satanic panic on the highway in this lowbrow, intentionally cheesy low-budget shocker about Satan-worhsipping bikers who prey on honeymooners Sarah Kobel Marquette and newcomer Nick Forrest, the latter killed often but still coming back for more abuse. Producer/director Jeremy Garner’s feature debut, penned by “The Vocabularist” (first-timer Jacy Morris), has amusing CGI gore and goofy dubbing — although it grows repetitious. Still, a definite cult contender. **

BAD INFLUENCE (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($26.99 retail) of director Curtis Hanson’s slick but ultimately silly 1990 psychological thriller echoing Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951), with James Spader as a bespectacled Yuppie who falls under the sway of charismatic stranger Rob Lowe. Look for early turns by Marcia Cross and David Duchovny. Rated R. **

“CAROL + 2: THE ORIGINAL QUEENS OF COMEDY” (Time Life): This DVD ($12.95 retail) celebrates the comedic legacy of Carol Burnett: A 1966 CBS-TV special teaming her with legends Lucille Ball and Zero Mostel, plus the 1972 TV version of Once Upon a Mattress, in which she reprised her 1959 Tony-nominated Broadway debut as “Princess Winifred the Woebegone,” with Jack Gilford (also reprising his stage role), Bernadette Peters and Ken Berry.

CURSE OF THE PUPPET MASTER (Full Moon Features): A DVD re-release ($9.95 retail) of producer Charles Band’s sixth installment (released in 1998) of the long-running, low-budget Puppet Master franchise – in which most scenes of the puppets in action were culled from earlier installments. Even die-hard devotees will likely be disappointed, although rumors abound that a Puppet Master remake/reboot is in the offing — *

DEMENTIA (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Cinematographer/story writer Mike Testin’s impressive directorial debut pits ailing Vietnam veteran Gene Jones (superb) against a nurse (Kristina Klebe) with a hidden, violent agenda. Good support from Hassie Harrison, Peter Cilella and Richard Riehle, with plenty of twists along the way. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $29.99. ***

DIRTY GRANDPA (LionsGate): Robert De Niro (in the title role) and grandson Zac Efron embark on a raunchy romp to spring break in Florida in this weak comedy that further wastes the talents of Aubrey Plaza (who fares best), Julianne Hough, Danny Glover, Zoey Deutch and Dermot Mulroney, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail). Rated R (also available in an unrated version). *

“THE FACTS OF LIFE”: THE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): A three-DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of all 24 episodes from the 1987-’88 season of the long-running NBC sitcom spun off from “Diff’rent Strokes” sees the graduates of Eastland Academy (Nancy McKeon, Lisa Whelchel, Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn) all grown up and ready to make their way in the world.

THE HAUNTING OF ALICE D (RLJ Entertainment): Scares are scarce in screenwriter/co-star Jessica Sonneborn’s boring but inexplicably award-winning shocker (originally titled simply Alice D) wherein party-goers (including Juan Reidinger, Aaron Massey, Megan Hensley and producer Kristina Page) raise hell in a haunted whorehouse – but don’t live very long to regret it. Nice atmosphere and the presence of genre icon Kane Hodder (seen in flashbacks as the overseer) offer meager compensation. ½

“HAVEN”: THE FINAL SEASON (Entertainment One): Events come to a head in all 13 episodes from the 2015 season of the popular Syfy series based on the Stephen King novella The Colorado Kid, starring Emily Rose as ex-FBI agent Audrey Parker, still contending with spooky doings in the titular Maine town. Lucas Bryant, Adam Copeland and Eric Balfour round out the regular cast. Available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.98 retail), both replete with bonus features for “Haven” mavens.

THE HORROR NETWORK (Wild Eye Releasing): Horror fans should enjoy this anthology of six spooky shorts directed by Brian Dorton, Douglas Conner, Joseph Graham, Manuel Marin, Lee Matthews and Igancio Martin Lerma, billed as the “first volume” in a planned series. ***

HOW TO BE SINGLE (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Rebel Wilson and Leslie Mann are among the ladies looking for love in New York City in this R-rated romantic comedy available on DVD ($28.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

JACK’S BACK (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail) of writer/director Rowdy Herrington’s stylish 1988 feature debut, with James Spader terrific as twins with a psychic link to a serial killer in Los Angeles bent on imitating the century-old slayings of Jack the Ripper. The plot’s a little fuzzy, but the cast helps: Cynthia Gibb, Chris Mulkey, Jim Haynie and especially Robert Picardo as a quirky hypnotherapist. Special features include retrospective interviews and audio commentary. Rated R. **½

MANSON’S LOST GIRLS (LionsGate): An interesting Lifetime dramatization of the Manson Family as seen through the eyes of MacKenzie Mauzy’s Linda Kasabian, culminating in the Tate/LaBianca murders in the summer of 1969. Jeff Ward is merely serviceable as Charles Manson, but Eden Brolin (Josh’s daughter) is scary good as Susan Atkins. **½

MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE/THE DUNWICH HORROR (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray double feature ($26.99 retail) of two shockers produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson at American International Pictures: 1971’s PG-rated Edgar Allan Poe adaptation Murders in the Rue Morgue starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom, Christine Kaufmann, Adolfo Celi and Lilli Palmer; and 1970’s R-rated, modern-day H.P. Lovecraft adaptation The Dunwich Horror starring Sandra Dee, Dean Stockwell, Ed Begley, Sam Jaffe, Lloyd Bochner and Talia Shire (then “Talia Coppola”). Neither film is perfect, but they have points of interest. Both films: **½

REBEL SCUM (Wild Eye Releasing/MVD Entertainment Group): Director/editor Video Rahim’s debut documentary feature offers an up-close, personal, and very raw portrait of the Knoxville-based “white-trash” punk band Rebel Scum and its self-destructive frontman Christopher Scum as they establish a lasting legacy of punk expression and rebellion. ***

REGRESSION (Dimension Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment): In 1990, Minnesota cop Ethan Hawke is spooked when he investigates the case of Emma Watson, who claims to have been sexually abused by father David Dencik. Reliable David Thewlis is on hand as a psychologist and possible red herring. Excellent Daniel Aranyo cinematography, but this foggy, convoluted thriller ranks as a major disappointment from writer/producer/director Alejandro Amenabar. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $26.99. Rated R. *½

SHARKANSAS WOMEN’S PRISON MASSACRE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): With that title, a cast headed by Dominique Swain and Traci Lords, and cult director Jim Wynorski at the helm, you can safely assume that this B-movie camp-fest concerns prehistoric sharks preying on babes in the bayou. The DVD retails for $14.98, the Blu-ray for $19.97.

SUBMERGED (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Jonathan Bennett headlines this watery thriller as a bodyguard trying to save his charge (Talulah Riley) and her friends after their car is plunged into a lake, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).

SUPERNATURAL (TLA Releasing): Thunska Pansittivorakul’s gay-themed sci-fi allegory is set in futuristic Thailand, where citizens are expected to conform and sexual intimacy of any kind is prohibited. In Thai with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).

VAMPIRES (Film Chest Media Group): Len Anthony’s final feature to date, this choppy and cheap 1986 shocker stars Orly Benyar as a young student at a prestigious New England art school where strange, but boring, things start happening. Pretty dismal, despite original Night of the Living Dead lead Duane Jones (in one of his last roles) adding a touch of class as a mysterious professor. This was later re-edited as part of the two-part 1989 anthology Terror House — but was less any better? Incidentally, this is a vampire movie in name only. The DVD retails for $17.98. ½

WHAT WE HAVE (TLA Releasing): Writer/co-producer/director Maxime Desmons’ award-winning drama stars Desmons as a gay actor and teacher trying to find his bearings in a small Ontario town. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).

WHERE TO INVADE NEXT (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Michael Moore’s award-winning (and frequently overstated) documentary sees the filmmaker comparing and contrasting government and social programs from other countries with those in the United States, as he embarks on a worldwide tour of “invasion.” The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99. Rated R. **½

THE WINTER (IndiePix Films): Director/co-writer Konstantinos Koutsoliotas’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled O heimonas) stars newcomer Theo Albanis as a dissipated writer who returns to his family’s ancestral home in the mountains of Greece and begins seeing from hallucinations and suffering fits of madness. In English and Greek with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).

(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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