Video Vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: The Dukes (e1 entertainment)

Actor Robert Davi makes a credible debut as co-screenwriter (with James Andronica), producer and director with this affectionate, awardwinning comedy about a luckless group of lost souls trying to put their lives back together again.

Back in the 1960s, the Dukes were a popular doo-wop group. But times and tastes change, and Danny DePasquale (Davi) and George Zucco (Chazz Palminteri, also a co-producer) are now scrambling for any gig. It’s an uphill battle, despite the best (and equally desperate) efforts of their long-time and long-suffering manager, lou Fiola (Peter Bogdanovich).

After all these years, Danny and George are still tight with bandmate Murph (elya Baskin), despite his fondness for the ganja, and Armond (the late Frank D’Amico), the former stand-up comic who used to open for the Dukes but is now confined to a wheelchair. They may be a motley crew, but they stick together.

In desperation, and in Damon Runyon-esque tradition (as well as the classic 1958 Italian comedy Big Deal on Madonna Street), the boys turn to robbery to make ends meet. With the help of a former safecracker (Bruce Weitz), they intend to rob a dental laboratory of its gold. Needless to say, the heist goes completely awry (in more ways than one).

The narrative meanders a bit and the overall film is pretty lightweight, but The Dukes offers a pleasing and friendly diversion. It’s a little sleeper. Rated PG-13.

(For an exclusive interview with co-star Peter Bogdanovich, click HERE)

Also on DVD

AMERICAN BANDITS (e1 entertainment):

Fred Olen Ray directed this Western focusing on outlaw brothers Jesse (George stults) and Frank James (Tim Abell) in the days following the Civil War. This kills time easily enough, although topbilled stults and second-billed Peter Fonda (in essentially a cameo role as a federal marshal) are onscreen far less than Abell. Jeffrey Combs has fun as the heavy. Rated PG.

“THE A-TEAM”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Universal studios Home entertainment): George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight schultz and the inimitable Mr. T play renegade Vietnam veterans who right wrongs across the UsA, in this limitededition boxed set ($149.98 retail) that contains all 98 episodes from the emmy-nominated, primetime NBC-TV action series that ran from 1983-’87 and spawned the current big-screen adaptation.

DARK RISING (e1 entertainment): Writer/ director Andrew Cymek’s feature debut is a goofy, uneven, sexy sci-fi spoof about a bunch of friends whose weekend camping trip goes haywire when they encounter supernatural phenomena. something of a guilty pleasure, but not without its attributes, like an enthusiastic cast including landy Cannon, Vanessa James, Julia schneider, gorgeous Haley shannon, Brigitte kingsley and pro wrestler Jason “Christian Cage” Reso (in his screen debut).

EDGE OF DARKNESS (Warner Home Video): Martin Campbell’s sleek, overlong thriller stars Mel Gibson as a Boston police detective whose investigation of his daughter’s (Bojana Novakovic) murder leads him into a web of corporate malfeasance and government cover-up.

Well made and effective, but not as much as the original 1985 BBC-TV mini-series that Campbell directed. Danny Huston is typecast as an oily villain, and Ray Winstone (who replaced Robert De Niro) has fun as a mysterious government hatchet man who knows all. Rated R.

IS EVERYBODY HAPPY BUT ME? (VCI entertainment): Roscoe lee Browne narrates this meandering self-help documentary about people’s search for happiness, originally broadcast on television in 1981. The incessant theme song gets annoying quickly.

“OMNIBUS: KING LEAR” (e1 entertainment): The original broadcast (Oct. 18, 1953) of director Peter Brook’s acclaimed stage version of William shakespeare’s classic, which marked Orson Welles’ television debut and was presented by the prime-time CBs-TV anthology series hosted by Alistair Cooke, which won the emmy that year as Best Variety Program. The cast also included Alan Badel, Bramwell Fletcher, Arnold Moss and future Oscar winner Beatrice straight. This specialedition DVD, which includes bonus footage, retails for $29.98.

“SHOW ME YOURS”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (e1 entertainment): This two-DVD boxed set ($24.98 retail) includes all 16 episodes from the Canadian comedy/drama series about love and other mistakes. The series which ran 2004-’06 and was broadcast in the Us on the Oxygen Network, features Rachael Crawford, Adam Harrington, Rachel Wilson, Jeff seymour and Alberta Watson.

SILVER LODE (VCI entertainment): There are unmistakable parallels to the Hollywood Blacklist in director Allan Dwan’s 1954 Technicolor Western, starring John Payne as an upstanding citizen of the title town, whose reputation and life come under fire when ruthless Dan Duryea and his posse seek to arrest him — on the Fourth of July and Payne’s wedding day, no less! — for the murder of Duryea’s brother and

theft of his fortune years before. The obligatory, standard-issue gunplay tends to distract from the subtle ironies of karen DeWolf’s screenplay (her last feature credit). Nice cinematography by John Alton, too — but overall it just misses. Many familiar faces on hand, including lizabeth scott, Harry Carey Jr., stuart Whitman, Dolores Moran and Alan Hale Jr.

SUPERSONIC MAN/WAR OF THE ROBOTS (VCI entertainment): A twin-bill of primo lowrent foreign cheese for bad-movie mavens: In the wake of Star Wars and Superman comes the riotous 1980 adventure Supersonic Man (*’), in which Antonio Cantafora (AkA Michael Coby) plays an intergalactic superhero (his motto: “May the Great Force of the Galaxies be with me!”) who battles chain-smoking megalomaniac Cameron Mitchell (who is dubbed but still able to ham it up) while flying across a rear-projection Manhattan skyline; and the 1979 “spaghetti” sci-fi adventure War of the Robots (*), in which earthlings (led by Antonio sabato) battle humanoid aliens in silver bodysuits and blonde pageboy wigs. One character is even named “General Gonad”! In the right (or wrong) frame of mind, these offer endless campy pleasure.

“TALES OF THE GOLD MONKEY”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (shout! Factory): All 20 episodes from the 1982-’83 (and only) season of the prime-time ABC-TV series — clearly inspired by Raiders of the Lost Ark — with stephen Collins as Jake Cutter, a dauntless American flier who finds adventure (and misadventure) on a weekly basis in the Philippines in the days before World War II. The regular cast also included Caitlin O’Heaney, Jeff Mackay, leo the Dog (as Jake’s one-eyed canine, Jack) and the much-missed Roddy McDowall as saloonkeeper “Bon Chance” louie (a role played by Ron Moody in the pilot).

Although the series didn’t last, it earned four emmy nominations, with a win for Outstanding Art Direction for a series (for the pilot episode). This six-DVD boxed set, which includes audio commentaries and a retrospective documentary, retails for $49.97.

UNDISPUTED III: REDEMPTION (Warner Home Video): Undisputed II veterans scott Adkins and director Isaac Florentine are back for another round, as the toughest prisoners from around the world gather in Russia for an illicit martial-arts tournament arranged by a powerful international gambling syndicate. Florentine displays some flair depicting the obligatory head-bashing, knuckle-busting and macho posturing. Adkins, the villain in Undisputed II, is the hero here. Decent work from Mykel shannon Jenkins as an American prisoner and character actor Robert Costanzo, whom I met at a film festival in Palm Beach years ago (he is one funny guy), as a prototypical “ugly American” — in this case, a foul-mouthed, money-hungry Chicago crime boss. Rated R.

WAKE (e1 entertainment): Bijou Phillips plays a dishy eccentric whose hobby is attending strangers’ funerals — then she falls fall a nice guy (Ian somerhalder) who’s just buried his fianc’e. Jane seymour, Marguerite Moreau and Danny Masterson (Phillips’ off-screen beau) also appear in this unremarkable romantic comedy, which mostly ignores its black-comedy aspects. Rated R.

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

Copyright 2010, Mark Burger