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by Mark Burger

 marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE VAMPIRE LOVERS

(Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic 1872 Gothic novel Carmilla gets the Hammer Films treatment in this stylish, sensual 1970 screen version newly released on Blu-ray ($19.97 retail).The lesbian overtones of the Le Fanu’s tale are unleashed in this version, considered quite racy in its day and still possessing a palpable erotic charge, due in large part to Ingrid Pitt’s passionate performance as the bloodthirsty Carmilla, who tends to favor comely young damsels (including Madeline Smith, Pippa Steel and Kate O’Mara) as her victims.Director Roy Ward Baker doesn’t skimp on the Gothic (or gory) elements of the story, and a polished cast includes George Cole, Dawn Addams, Jon Finch, Douglas Wilmer, Ferdy Mayne, James Robertson Justice and the great Peter Cushing. This may be a bit of a guilty pleasure, but it’s a pleasure nonetheless.Special features include an audio commentary with Pitt and Baker (both since deceased) and screenwriter Tudor Gates, Pitt reading excerpts from Carmilla, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R.

“BOSS”: SEASON TWO (LionsGate): Executive producer Kelsey Grammer calls the shots as Chicago’s mayor in all 10 episodes from the 2012 (and final) season of the award-winning Starz political drama, also starring Connie Nielsen, Kathleen Robertson, Troy Garrity, Hannah Ware and Sanaa Lathan. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.97, the Blu-ray boxed set for $39.98.

“BRUCE LEE DOUBLE FEATURES” (Shout! Factory): To commemorate the 40th (!) anniversary of Bruce Lee’s death, this pair of DVD twin-bills showcases (arguably) the greatest martial artist in motion-picture history: 1971’s The Big Boss and 1972’s Fist of Fury; and 1972’s Way of the Dragon (AKA Return of the Dragon) and 1978’s Game of Death, the latter an unsuccessful “salvage” of what would have been Lee’s next film, using (none too convincingly) a double in many scenes. Game of Death also marked the final appearance of veteran actor and Oscar winner Gig Young. Each DVD retails for $14.97 and all four films are rated R (guess why).

CHEECH & CHONG’S ANIMATED MOVIE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Move aside, Disney — here come “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong in their first animated comedy, recapping some of their favorite stand-up routines in cartoon format. The DVD retails for $22.98, the Blu-ray for $29.99, and the film is definitely rated R!

“COUNTING CARS”: SEASON 1 (LionsGate): This two-DVD collection ($24.98 retail) includes all 12 episodes from the inaugural 2012 season of the History Channel’s popular reality series, spun off from “Pawn Stars,” focusing on Las Vegas’ own Danny “The Count” Koker, renowned for his expertise and speed in restoring and customizing automobiles.

“FRIENDS” (Warner Home Video): The Blu-ray bow of the top-rated, awardwinning NBC sitcom that catapulted Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt Leblanc, Matthew Perry and David Schwimmer to stardom: The first season contains all 24 episodes from the inaugural 1994-’95 season (when it earned nine Emmy nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series); the second season all 24 episodes from the 1995-’96 season (when it earned three nominations including Outstanding Comedy Series and won for directing). Each Blu-ray retails for $25.98.

FROM BEYOND (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A DVD/Blu-ray combo “collector’s edition” re-release ($29.93 retail) of the unrated version of Stuart Gordon’s wild, freakish 1986 “adaptation” (more or less) of HP Lovecraft’s classic novel about the discovery of a passage to an alternate, and highly hostile, universe. Provocative, erotic and campy — a lethally entertaining combination! The cast includes Re-Animator veterans Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree and Gordon’s wife, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon. Special features include an audio commentary, retrospective documentaries and interviews, and more. Not for all tastes but a cult favorite in any universe.

THE GUILT TRIP (Paramount Home Entertainment): The considerable talents of Barbra Streisand and Seth Rogen are wasted in this predictable, one-note comedy about a mother and son who embark on a crosscountry road trip. Rated PG-13.

“THE HARDY BOYS”: SEASON THREE (Shout! Factory): Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson are back on the case as Joe and Frank Hardy, in all 10 episodes from the 1978- ’79 (and final) season of the ABC mystery series originally paired with “The Nancy Drew Mysteries” and based on the characters created by Edward Stratemeyer. The three-DVD boxed set retails for $24.97.

HAYWIRE (LionsGate): Steven Soderbergh’s slick, chronologically unbalanced action thriller with Gina Carano (in her starring debut) as a government assassin bent on revenge after being double-crossed. Soderbergh and screenwriter Lem Dobbs did better with The Limey (1999) but this is not without its snappy attributes, including a ’70s-retro score by David Holmes and an all-star cast including Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas and Michael Douglas. Carano carries herself with confidence and finesse. Rated R.

HOMEWORK (VCI Entertainment): Horny teen Michael Morgan is determined to lose his virginity in this tacky, cheap 1982 sex comedy in the Private Lessons vein, with a pre-”Dynasty” Joan Collins (and her body double) on hand to do the honors. This marked the first and last directorial effort from James Beshears, who went back to doing sound effects for movies. A wasted cast includes Carrie Snodgress, Lee Purcell, Wings Hauser, Betty Thomas, Beverly Todd and Mel Welles. Collins later sued over the doctored use of her image on the poster. Rated R.

JACKIE ROBINSON: MY STORY (Shout! Factory): On the heels of the big-screen 42, this award-winning pseudo-documentary ($14.93 retail) traces the life and career of the big-league superstar who broke baseball’s color barrier. Historic footage is interspersed with scenes featuring actor Stephen Hill as Jackie Robinson.

“MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANG- ERS”: SEASON ONE, VOLUME TWO (Saban Brands/Shout! Factory): A three-DVD collection ($19.93) of the final 30 episodes from the 1993-’94 season of the original fantasy/action series about five teenagers with super powers.

MOTORWAY (LionsGate): The Fast and the Furious goes to Hong Kong in this awardwinning, R-rated crime thriller pitting an elite police unit against underground drag racers. Originally titled Che Sau, the cast includes Anthony Wong, Shawn Yue and Lam Ka Tung (all veterans of the award-winning Internal Affairs). In Cantonese with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $26.98.

“ROUTE 66”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Shout! Factory): The end of the road for Martin Milner and Glenn Corbett, in all 23 episodes from the 1963-’64 (and final) season of the acclaimed, award-winning CBS drama series. Guest stars include William Shatner, Joan Crawford, Sessue Hayakawa, Jack Warden, Robert Loggia, Patrick O’Neal, Barbara Eden, Chill Wills and Soupy Sales.

TITANIC: BLOOD & STEEL (LionsGate): Neve Campbell, Chris Noth, Kevin Zegers, Liam Cunnungham and the always welcome Derek Jacobi star in this mini-series, originally broadcast on Starz, detailing the three-year construction of the infamous luxury liner. Of course, this story has a happy ending because the ship was built, but what happened next … The DVD retails for $29.97, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

VIETNAM: THE TEN THOUSAND DAY WAR (StarVista Entertainment): The title tells all in his 1981 TV documentary that chronicles the history of the Vietnam War. Narrated by Richard Basehart, the four-DVD boxed set retails for $39.95.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2013, Mark Burger.

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