MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
I SAW WHAT YOU DID (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): While Alfred Hitchcock embarked on such big-budget (and flawed) fare as Torn Curtain (1966) and Topaz (1969), his B-movie “counterpart” William Castle was still churning out low-budget — but tirelessly promoted — fare such as this modest but effective 1965 thriller, based on Ursula Curtis’ 1964 novel Out of the Dark and now available on Blu-ray ($29.99 retail).
Screen newcomers Sarah Lane and Andi Garrett play bored teenaged girls who delight in making random prank phone calls in which they say: “I saw what you did, and I know who you are.”
Unfortunately, one of these calls is made to Steve Marak (John Ireland), who has just murdered his wife (Joyce Meadows). Pestered by a lovelorn neighbor (Joan Crawford) and consumed by paranoia, Steve engages in a game of cat and mouse with his unassuming tormenters, who are conveniently home alone with Garrett’s bratty little sister (Sharyl Locke).
Top-billed Crawford, as was common in the post-Baby Jane stage of her career, chews the scenery with abandon, but the perennially-underrated Ireland in top form, and Castle coaxes credible performances from the youngsters. All told, a nice little diversion for those in a spooky mood. ***
45 YEARS (Paramount): Andrew Haigh’s modest but effective character study offers a tour-de-force for both Tom Courtenay and Charlotte Rampling (Oscar nominee for Best Actress), as a couple whose impending 45th wedding anniversary is complicated when the body of his former lover is discovered in a crevasse some 50 years later. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $39.99. Rated R. ***
“ALASKAN BUSH PEOPLE” SEASONS 1 & 2 (LionsGate): A self-explanatory DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of all five episodes from the 2014 and all 17 from the 2014-’15 seasons of the top-rated Discovery Channel documentary series following the day-to-day lives of naturalist Bill Brown and his family (“the Wolfpack”) who have made the wilds of Alaska their home for 30 years, inspired by Brown’s 2009 best-seller One Wave at a Time.
“AUTOMAN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Fabulous Films/Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($26.99 retail) of all 13 episodes from the 1983-’84 (and only) season of the ABC superhero series starring Desi Arnaz Jr. as a brilliant scientist who creates a super-powered computer hologram (played by Chuck Wagner) to battle crime.
“BIRDS OF A FEATHER”: SET 1 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): After a 15-year (!) hiatus, Pauline Quirke and Linda Robson return as sisters Sharon and Tracey, still living together while their husbands are imprisoned, in all eight episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning comedy series, originated on BBC One and now produced by ITV. Lesley Joseph also returns as their lusty neighbor Dorien. The DVD retails for $34.99.
BLOOD BATH (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($49.95 retail) of the 1965 (or thereabouts) Roger Corman production that began as Operation: Titian, a Yugoslavian spy thriller deemed unreleasable, necessitating a complete overhaul as Portrait in Terror, then again re-worked (by Jack Hill, then Stephanie Rothman) as Blood Bath, and finally the further re-edited television version, Track of the Vampire. Special features include archival and retrospective interviews, plus all four versions of the film. (Whew!)
BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray debut ($19.97 retail) of Teddy Chen’s award-winning 2009 martial-arts epic (originally titled Shi yue wei cheng ), starring Donnie Yen as a fearless warrior battling the corrupt Qing dynasty in early 20th-century Hong Kong. In English, Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles.
THE BRAVE ONE (VCI Entertainment): Under the pseudonym “Robert Rich,” blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo won the Oscar for Best Story (a category that no longer exists) for this heartfelt 1956 fable starring Michel Rey as a Mexican youngster determined to save his beloved pet bull from being killed in the ring. Additional Oscar nominations for Best Editing and Best Sound. The new Blu-ray retails for $19.99. ***
A DATE WITH MISS FORTUNE (Vision Films): A terminally cutesy romantic comedy starring the husband-and-wife duo of first-time screenwriter/producers Ryan K. Scott and Jeanette Sousa as, respectively, a TV writer and his superstitious girlfriend â€“ who meet and discuss various avenues their relationship could take. A few perky moments and a nice turn by Joaquim de Almeida (exhibiting solid comedy chops as Sousa’s disapproving father) aren’t enough. *Â½
FRENCH POSTCARDS (Olive Films): The husband-and-wife screenwriting duo of producer Gloria Katz and director Willard Huyck cooked up this pleasant 1979 souffle about American exchange students at large in Paris, with an attractive ensemble cast including Debra Winger, Marie-France Pisier, Miles Chapin, Mandy Patinkin, Blanche Baker, David Marshall Grant, Jean Rochefort, Lynn Carlin, George Coe and gorgeous Valerie Quennessen (who, sadly, died in a 1989 car crash). The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated PG. **Â½
“GAME OF THRONES”: THE COMPLETE FIFTH SEASON (HBO): The battle between good and evil rages on in all 10 episodes from the 2015 season of the blockbuster HBO fantasy series based on George R.R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels, boasting an ensemble cast (many of whom have become stars as a result) including Peter Dinklage, Kit Harrington, Aidan Gillen, Emilia Clarke, Natalie Dormer, Maisie Williams, Lena Headey, Iain Glen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Julian Glover and Liam Cunningham. Winner of a record-breaking 12 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Dinklage), Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, with an additional 12 nominations including Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Clarke and Headey) and Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Diana Rigg). Both the DVD ($59.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($79.98 retail) include special features. HBO has also released the “Steelbook” collector’s-edition Blu-rays of Seasons Three and Four (each $79.98 retail).
A GIRL LIKE HER (Cinedigm): Writer/producer/director Amy S. Weber’s variation on the “found-footage” format stars Lexi Ainsworth as a high-school student who uses a hand-held camera to document her bullying by classmate Hunter King. Well-meaning and well-acted, but obvious and overly soapy. Rated PG-13. **
IPHIGENIA (Olive Films): Irene Papas, Kostas Kazakos, Kostas Karras and newcomer Tatiana Papamoschou (in the title role) headline Michael Cacoyannis’ 1977 adaptation of the classic tragedy by Euripides, which earned an Oscar nomination as Best Foreign Language Film. In Greek with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
THE KING AND FOUR QUEENS (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of Raoul Walsh’s light-hearted 1956 Western stars Clark Gable (he’s the “King”) as a crafty con man/cowboy who woos four young widows (Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Barbara Nichols and Sara Shane) â€“ and tangles with their mother-in-law (Jo Van Fleet) â€“ in order to locate hidden treasure on their ranch.
LONDON HAS FALLEN (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Secret Service agent Gerard Butler and US President Aaron Eckhart are again thrown into harm’s way when swept up in a massive terrorist attack (guess where?) in this dumb sequel to 2013’s equally dumb but superior Olympus Has Fallen, although it certainly doesn’t skimp on the action. Other holdovers include Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Robert Forster, Melissa Leo and Radha Mitchell. The DVD retails for $29.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98. Rated R. **
LOUDER THAN LOVE: THE GRANDE BALLROOM STORY (Louder Than Love/MVD Entertainment Group): Director/producer/cinematographer Tony D’Annunzio’s rock-documentary debut feature is fast-moving celebration of Detroit’s Grande Ballroom featuring a star-studded lineup of those who lived it, those loved it, and those who rocked it â€“ including Roger Daltrey, Alice Cooper, Don Was, Ted Nugent, Henry Rollins, Slash, and the late B.B. King and Lemmy Kilmister. A must for rock devotees. ***
SOBRE ELLA (Kino Lorber): Kino Lorber’s new “Sol y Luna” label of acclaimed Spanish-language features includes writer/director Mauricio T. Valle’s comedy/drama set in Mexico City, where a botched hold-up involving a young couple (Patricia Garza and Ricardo Palacio) has severe repercussions for them and their friends. The DVD retails for $19.95.
SORCERESS (Synapse Films): An uncensored, director-approved edition of Jim Wynorski’s 1995 supernatural shocker (also known as Temptress), as Julie Strain casts quite a spell playing a modern-day wicked witch, with Linda Blair, Edward Albert, Michael Parks, William Marshall, filmmaker Fred Olen Ray, executive producer Toni Naples, and Wynorski himself on hand. The DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) both include audio commentaries.
SPECIES II (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of the uncut version of director Peter Medak’s unnecessary, dreary 1998 sequel to the surprise 1995 sci-fi hit (not good itself), with Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger and Natasha Henstridge back and battling Justin Lazard’s astronaut who returns from Mars an alien fiend. James Cromwell, George Dzundza, Richard Belzer (as the President!) and an unbilled Peter Boyle also appear. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. Scream Factory/Shout! Factory is also releasing a Blu-ray double-feature ($29.99 retail) of the made-for-cable sequels Species III (2004)/Species: The Awakening (2007). *
“SUSPECTS”: SERIES 1 & 2 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): A three-DVD collection ($49.99 retail) of all nine episodes from the inaugural 2014 season of the unscripted British crime series starring Damien Molony, Fay Ripley and Clare-Hope Ashitey as a trio of detectives teamed together to solve unusual cases.
YALOM’S CURE (First Run Features): Writer/director Sabine Gisiger’s documentary feature delves into the life and philosophy of best-selling author and renowned psycho-therapist Irving D. Yalom, available on DVD ($24.95 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:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org