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marksburger@yahoo.com DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:

FLESH AND BLOOD: THE HAMMER HERITAGE OF HORROR

(Hammer Films/Act 3 Productions/Heidelberg Films)

Ted Newsom’s 1994 documentary about Great Britain’s famous studio was terrific in its original form, but even better in this extended “director’s cut” that also brings the studio’s history up to date.

Narrated by Hammer superstars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing – their final pairing and Cushing’s final project – Flesh and Blood provides the first word, last word, and pretty much every word in-between, regarding Hammer’s illustrious history, which began in the 1930s, skyrocketed in the ‘50s and ‘60s (thanks to a series of Gothic chillers), then collapsed in the ‘70s as more contemporary and more expensive films began to dominate the genre landscape.

Hammer Films were distinguished by sexuality and gore (hence Flesh and Blood), considered scandalous at the time but quite tame by today’s standards. Newsom corralled many Hammer veterans (some long gone), including Raquel Welch, Jimmy Sangster, Michael Carreras, Hazel Court, Anthony Hinds, Ray Harryhausen, Caroline Munro and Freddie Francis, as well as Hammer fans Martin Scorsese and Joe Dante. There’s also a splendid selection of clips from films good, bad, and inbetween (Curse of Frankenstein, Horror of Dracula, Quatermass and the Pit, Twins of Evil, Dracula A.D. 1972, etc.)

Whereas the original version of Flesh and Blood provided a first-rate introduction to Hammer, this one is more comprehensive, more enjoyable (especially for Hammer fans), and provides perfect closure with Hammer’s (appropriate) resurrection in the 21 st century, which has included Let Me In (2010), The Woman in Black (2012) and The Quiet Ones (2014).

Flesh and Blood is available for $20 through the official website: http://act- 3prods.com/.

ALTERED MINDS (Entertainment One): Producer/screenwriter/director Michael Z. Wechsler’s award-winning psychological thriller (originally titled The Red Robin) in which the family of an esteemed and ailing psychiatrist (Judd Hirsch) reunites one last time – at which point adopted son Ryan O’Nan makes the case that he might have conducted experiments on he and his siblings. Tricky and well-acted, but anti-climactic.

BAD MOON (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray special edition ($27.97 retail) of screenwriter/director Eric Red’s misfired 1996 adaptation of Wayne Smith’s werewolf novel Thor, with Michael Pare as a photo-journalist who recuperates from a violent attack near sister Mariel Hemingway and her son Mason Gamble … unaware that he’s been cursed with lycanthropy. Special features include audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R.

“BITTEN”: THE FINAL SEASON (Entertainment One): Full moon madness comes to an end for Elena Michaels (Laura Vandervoort), the world’s only female werewolf, in all 10 episodes from the 2016 season of the award-winning Syfy horror series based on Kelley Armstrong’s bestselling Otherworld novels, available on DVD ($39.98 retail) – replete with special features for “Bitten” buffs.

COMIX: BEYOND THE COMIC BOOK PAGES (Kino Lorber): A two-DVD collector’s edition ($29.95 retail) of writer/ producer/director Michael Valentine’s self-explanatory, award-winning documentary feature debut, which examines the ongoing impact of comic books and graphic novels on contemporary filmmaking and pop cultutre, featuring interviews with Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Neal Adams, Mark Waid and others.

CRIMES OF PASSION (Arrow Video/ MVD Entertainment Group): A specialedition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of Ken Russell’s provocative and controversial 1984 thriller starring Kathleen Turner as a frigid fashion designer moonlighting as a Hollywood hooker and becoming the object of obsession for deranged street preacher Anthony Perkins (who else?) and unhappily married man John Laughlin. Turner is terrific and Perkins is certainly lively (if typecast), but dreadful Laughlin nearly sinks it. Also on hand: Annie Potts, Bruce Davison, Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Norman Burton, Louise Sorel and Peggy Feury. Special features include retrospective interviews and a vintage audio commentary with Russell and screenwriter/producer Barry Sandler – during which Russell suddenly disappears (!). Rated R.

HELL HUNTERS (Film Chest Media Group): The HD-restored (why?) DVD debut ($17.98 retail) of producer/director Ernst R. von Theumer’s hackneyed 1986 action thriller starring Stewart Granger as a Nazi war criminal hiding in Paraguay whose plot to brainwash the world is hampered by Candice Daly, the vengeful daughter of murdered Nazi-hunter Maud Adams. William Berger and one-time James Bond George Lazenby also appear. The name actors must have wanted to visit Rio de Janeiro. Gratuitous nudity and stilted performances nudge this into “so-bad-it’s-good” territory – only it’s not good.

KILL ZONE 2 (Well Go USA Entertainment): Tony Jaa and Zhang Jin are back in action in this award-winning follow-up (originally titled SPL 2: A Time for Consequences) to the 2005 action thriller about an undercover cop trapped in a corrupt Thai prison, with We Jing and Simon Yam also back – but in different roles. In Cantonese, Mandarin and Thai with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

MY GOLDEN DAYS (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Some 20 years after My Sex Life … or How I Got Into an Argument, filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin and leading man Mathieu Amalric reunite for this award-winning follow-up (originally titled Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse) that revisits the character of Paul Dedalus, as he reflects back upon his youth and his first – and most important – love. Newcomers Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet play the young Paul and his Esther. A bit long in places, but bittersweet and wellacted. In French, Hebrew and Russian with English subtitles. Rated R.

‘NEATH THE ARIZONA SKIES (Olive Films): A pre-Stagecoach John Wayne headlines this low-budget 1934 B-Western programmer as guardian and protector of a half-Indian girl (Shirley Jane Rickert of Our Gang fame). Long available on public-domain labels, this is the official DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) release.

NO STOPPING THE STOVER (Alpha New Cinema): Writer/producer/director/editor Jeff Herberger’s affectionate and friendly documentary feature traces the career and life (including a near-fatal 2012 shooting) of Baltimore-based character actor George Stover, who made his screen debut in John Waters’ Female Trouble (1974) and has since appeared in countless low-budget cult movies. Lots of fun clips and interviews, an absolute must for Stover devotees.

RAY HARRYHAUSEN: SPECIAL EFFECTS TITAN (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): The Blu-ray bow ($19.95 retail) of Gilles Penso’s 2011 selfexplanatory feature documentary debut, which explores and celebrates the career of legendary special-effects maestro Ray Harryhausen (1920-2013), featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, James Cameron, Terry Gilliam, Rick Baker, Peter Jackson and many others, plus a variety of special features.

SPRING & ARNAUD (First Run Features): Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight’s documentary examines the careers and relationship of noted photographer Arnaud Maggs and acclaimed artist Spring Hurlbut as Maggs confronts his mortality (he died in 2012), now available on DVD ($24.95 retail).

STRESSED TO KILL (Indie Rights/ MVD Entertainment Group): The DVD cover makes this look like an action film, but it’s actually a snappy black comedy that offers character actor Bill Oberst Jr. a welcome lead role as a heart-attack survivor who eliminates sources of stress in his life by killing those who annoy him, drawing the attention of deranged detective Armand Assante. A surefire cult contender, and Oberst is first-rate.

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