DVD PICK OF THE WEEK:
WILD IN THE STREETS
The social upheaval, youth rebellion, and counter-culture movement of the ‘60s formed the basis for director Barry Shear’s innovative, irreverent exploitation satire – released, not surprisingly, by exploitation kings, Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson at American International Pictures.
Narrated by a bombastic Paul Frees, this is the story of Max Frost (Christopher Jones), a charismatic rock star whose political aspirations are awakened when asked by Senate candidate Johnny Fergus (ever-reliable Hal Holbrook) to support his campaign.
Backed by his bandmates, including former child star/ current “acid-head” Sally LeRoy (Diane Varsi) and militant drummer Stanley X (Richard Pryor), Max sets out to lower the voting age to 14 and then, after dosing Congress with LSD, be elected President – at which point he imprisons anyone over 30 and turns the entire nation into a free-loving, free-wheeling bacchanal. Wild in the Streets is never subtle, but it sends up the era’s zeitgeist in outrageous and sometimes sharp fashion – and even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Editing.
The enigmatic Jones, once was touted as a ‘60s answer to James Dean, adds a bit of Jim Morrison to his role, which in retrospect was probably his best (he died in 2014, having not acted since the early ‘70s), Ed Begley bellows on behalf of the Establishment as a blustery senator, and amid the general craziness, Shelley Winters goes above and (way, way) beyond as Max’s monstrous mother.
The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R.
THE ADVENTURES OF BUCKAROO BANZAI ACROSS THE 8TH DIMENSION (Shout! Factory): tor W.D. Richter’s wild and woolly 1984 Producer/direc- feature debut stars Peter Weller in the title role of a brilliant adventurer/scientist/rock ‘n’ roller who tangles with alien beings, all named “John” and led by John Lithow (in a show-stopping turn). Movies that intentionally aspire to cult status usually fall flat, but this one doesn’t – although it was a box-office flop, thereby scuttling a potential series. A fun cast includes Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Christopher Lloyd, Lewis Smith, Vincent Schiavelli, Carl Lumbly, Pepe Serna, Rosalind Cash, Matt Clark, Clancy Brown, Dan Hedaya, Bill Henderson, and Ronald Lacey (as the President). The special-edition “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective documentary, deleted scenes and more. Rated PG.
AMERICAN NINJA 1-4 (Olive Films): During the ‘80s Cannon Films churned out a series of R-rated martial-arts melodramas, still popular with fans: American Ninja (1985) and American Ninja 2: The Confrontation (1987) starred Michael Dudikoff and Steve James, directed by Sam Firstenberg; American Ninja 3: Blood Hunt (1989) paired James with David Bradley; American Ninja 4: The Annihilation (1990) paired Dudikoff with Bradley. Each film is rated R. Each DVD retails for $19.95, each Blu-ray for $29.95 – and all have bonus features.
BASKET CASE 2/BASKET CASE 3: THE PROGENY (Synapse Films): Frank Henenlotter followed up his 1982 cult classic with a pair of follow-ups reuniting Kevin Van Hentenryck with his beastly brother Belial: Basket Case 2 (1990) and Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1992) deliver the gory goods with a generous helping of black comedy. Each film is rated R (for obvious reasons) and each Blu-ray retails for $19.95.
Both films: THE BINDING (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): The Biblical story of Abraham formed the basis for wri ter/ producer Gus Krieger’s feature directorial debut, with Amy Gumenick as the worried wife of a minister (Josh Heisler) who claims to see visions of an impending apocalypse, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail) – both with special features.
BITE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory):
Elma Begovic stars as a nervous bride-tobe who suffers very unusual side effects after an insect bite in producer/director/ story writer Chad Archibald’s awardwinning shocker, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
THE BLOODSTAINED BUTTERFLY (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Duccio Tessari’s 1971 giallo thriller (originally titled Una farfalla con le ali insanguinate) focuses on a series of brutal murders (what else?), with Helmut Berger, Evelyn Stewart (AKA Ida Galli), Wolfgang Preiss, and Carol Andre (as the first victim) on hand. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, English and Italian language tracks, limited-edition collectible booklet, and more.
EQUALS (LionsGate): Director/story writer Drake Doremus’ award-winning, PG-13-rated science-fiction drama stars Kristen Stewart and Nicholas Hoult as coworkers who find romance in a prohibitive, dystopian future society, with Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver and David Selby in support, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Bluray ($24.99 retail).
HARD TARGET 2 (Universal 1440 Entertainment/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): More than 20 years since the John Woo/Jean-Claude Van Damme action thriller, it’s Scott Adkins who’s the human target in this R-rated follow-up featuring Rhona Mitra, Temuera Morrison and Robert Knepper, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($22.98 retail)
HIGH-RISE (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Director Ben Wheatley’s raffish, savage adaptation of JG Ballard’s 1975 novel stars Tom Hiddleston as a doctor who moves into an exclusive, luxury residential development where the class struggle takes on bizarre, destructive dimensions. Definitely not for all tastes and occasionally overstated, but intelligent and stimulating – a real one of a kind, with a stellar cast including Jeremy Irons (especially good as the architect), Sienna Miller, Elisabeth Moss, Luke Evans, Keeley Hawes, James Purefoy and Sienna Guillory. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated R.
LIEBMANN (TLA Releasing): Writer/ producer/editor/director Jules Herrmann’s German-language drama stars Godehard Giese in the title role of a disgraced teacher trying to start his life anew when he moves to France, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“LUCIFER”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment):
There’s the Devil to pay as Tom Ellis portrays the title role in all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of the FOX fantasy series based on DC Entertainment’s Vertigo comic franchise, co-starring Lauren German, Lesley-Ann Brandt, DB Woodside and Rachael Harris, with Jerry Bruckheimer and Len Wiseman among the executive producers, available on DVD ($39.99 retail) – replete with bonus features for “Lucifer” lovers.
SAVED! (Olive Films): Writer/director Brian Dannelly’s award-winning, R-rated 2004 debut feature combines teen-comedy elements with religious satire, featuring Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, Macaulay Culkin, Patrick Fugit, Heather Matarazzo, Martin Donovan, Eva Amurri and UNCSA School of Drama graduate Mary-Louise Parker, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) – both with audio commentaries.
“THE VAMPIRE DIARIES”: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON
(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Nina Dobrev’s in a deep sleep, but bloodsucking brothers Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder’s are back in action in all 22 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the award-winning CW horror series based on the best-selling novels by LJ Smith, available on DVD ($49.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($54.97 retail) – both with special features.
VIRAL (Radius-TWC/Dimension Films/ Anchor Bay Entertainment): Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s wellmade paranoid thriller stars Sofia Black- D’Elia and Analeigh Tipton as sisters battling a mysterious parasitic virus that has ravaged their community. Gruesome at times but better than expected, with good support from Travis Tope as a helpful neighbor. Rated R.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2016, Mark Burger.