Video Vault

by Mark Burger


Dario Argento’s career has had its ups and downs (far too many of the latter in recent years), but the 1980 follow-up to his 1977 classic Suspiria is one of the filmmaker’s best films, even if not as well known as its predecessor.

A series of bizarre events convinces young Rose Elliot (Irene Miracle) that her New York apartment building is a haven for witches. Rose’s brother Mark (Leigh McCloskey), who has experienced some strangeness himself (including the murder of his girlfriend), comes to New York from Rome and picks up where Rose left off, only to be swept up in a maelstrom of supernatural mayhem.

The story unfolds in surreal, dream-like fashion, accentuated by Romano Albani’s sensational cinematography and a pounding score by Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame).

It doesn’t always make sense, but this is a textbook example of Argento’s trademark style triumphing over substance. Some of the imagery is breathtakingly beautiful, but much of it is shockingly graphic. This is not a film for the squeamish (and it’s the unrated version).

Twentieth Century Fox, which released Suspiria, underwent management changes during this film’s production and barely released it in the US. Soon enough, however, the Argento fan base found and embraced it as a cult classic. Special features include interviews with Argento and assistant director Lamberto Bava, and actors Miracle and McCloskey. The DVD retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.


CHAIN LETTER (Image Entertainment): Agatha Christie meets Saw in this shocker, as teenagers in the rainiest town in recent memory start receiving threatening text messages that come murderously true. Predictable but reasonably well made — until a stupid ending spoils the party. A decent cast includes lovely Nikki Reed, Keith David, Brad Dourif and Betsy Russell. Rated R (also available in an unrated edition).

“THE CHAINSAW SALLY SHOW”: SEASON ONE (Troma Entertainment): All 11 episodes from the inaugural 2010 season of the syndicated horror/comedy series, based on the 2004 cult film, with April Monique Burril reprising her title role as the librarian who leads a double life as a chainsaw-wielding, cannibalistic serial killer. To repeat, this is a comedy… but it’s (obviously) not for everybody! Burril is married to writer/director/creator Jimmyo Burril. Herschell Gordon Lewis (“the Godfather of Gore” himself) served as executive producer. This two-DVD boxed set, which includes special features, retails for $19.95.

“COLIN MOCHRIE & BRAD SHERWOOD: TWO MAN GROUP” (Image Entertainment): The title twosome present an evening of improvisation in this stand-up comedy special, which retails for $14.98.

COYOTE COUNTY LOSER (Monarch Home Video): Nikki Boyer and Beau Clark play smalltown disc jockeys whose on- and off-air squabbling masks a romantic attraction in this mild, soft-hearted romantic comedy that benefits from a friendly cast. Rated PG.

FERNANDO DI LEO COLLECTION (RaroVideo): A four-DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) showcasing the gangster films made by Italian director Fernando Di Leo (1932-2003): 1972’s Caliber 9 (Milano Calibro 9) stars Gastone Moschin, Mario Adorf, Barbara Bouchet and Lionel Stander; 1972’s The Italian Connection (La mala ordina) stars Adorf, Henry Silva, Woody Strode, Luciana Paluzzi and Cyril Cusack; Silva stars with Richard Conte in 1973’s The Boss (Il Boss); and Jack Palance headlines 1976’s Rulers of the City (Padroni della citta), which was released in the US as Mr. Scarface. Di Leo’s films were noted for their frenetic action, slick style, and judicious use of veteran American actors.

GAME OF DEATH (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Wesley Snipes plays a CIA assassin (yes, again) whose unit goes bad, and on the rampage, in this sub-par shoot-’em-up. Robert Davi, Aunjanue Ellis, Zoe Bell, Gary Daniels and Ernie Hudson are also in the line of fire. If nothing else, and there is nothing else, Snipes still has the martial-arts moves. Rated R.

THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (Music Box Films): The final chapter in original screen franchise of Stieg Larsson’s internationally best-selling “Millennium” trilogy brings the series to a satisfying wrap-up, as Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist reprise their respective roles as Lisbeth Salander (“The Girl” of the title) and journalist Mikael Blomqvist. The earlier films can stand alone, but this one demands having seen those two. The upcoming American film series will have much to live up to. Music Box Films is also releasing “Stieg Larsson’s Dragon Tattoo Trilogy,” which includes all three films ($59.95 DVD retail, $79.95 Blu-ray retail). In Swedish with English subtitles.

HEREAFTER (Warner Home Video): Matt Damon and Cecile de France head the cast of director Clint Eastwood’s contemplative, well-made but ultimately unfulfilling dramatic exploration of the possibility of an afterlife. An interesting failure. Rated PG-13.

LIFETIME ORIGINAL MOVIES (A&E Home Entertainment): A selection of made-for-TV romantic comedies: Shannon Elizabeth stars in Confessions of an American Bride (2005); Katie Sackoff stars in How I Married My High- School Sweetheart (2007); Denise Richards and Dean Cain star in 2004’s I Do (But I Don’t); Erica Durance stars in I Me Wed (’07); and Christina Cox teams up with Cain in Making Mr. Right (2008). Each DVD retails for $14.95.

“NFL SUPER BOWL XLV CHAMPIONS: GREEN BAY PACKERS” (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): What it says is what it is, a recap of the Packers’ season and climactic 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, plus bonus features. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $34.99.

RED HILL (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ryan Kwanten plays a rookie cop whose first day on the job proves memorable, as an escaped convict seeks revenge on those who wronged him years before. Set in the high country of Australia, this stylish and gritty action thriller unfolds like a modern-day Western. A few lapses in momentum, but still a noteworthy feature debut for writer/producer/ director Patrick Hughes. Rated R.

THE RED RIDING TRILOGY (IFC Films/MPI Media Group): The true saga of crime, corruption, murder and cover-up in the West Riding region of Yorkshire, England is dramatized in this critically acclaimed trilogy of feature-length films, set in three different years by three different directors: 1974 (Julian Jarrold), 1980 (James Marsh) and 1983 (Anand Tucker). The sprawling ensemble cast includes Paddy Considine, Andrew Garfield, Mark Addy, Jim Carter, David Morrissey, Rebecca Hall, Eddie Marsan and Sean Bean. The DVD boxed set retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $34.98.

“RICH MAN, POOR MAN”: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION (A&E Home Entertainment): All 34 episodes from the awardwinning ABC miniseries’ based on Irwin Shaw’s best-selling novel. The sprawling cast was headed by Peter Strauss and Nick Nolte: “Rich Man, Poor Man” (1976) won four Emmy Awards, including acting trophies for Edward Asner and Fionnula Flanagan; the follow-up, which aired 1976-’77 earned only two Emmy nominations but was also a big ratings-grabber. This nine- DVD boxed set retails for $79.95.

“THE TOP 10: NFL GREATEST PLAYERS” (NFL Films/Warner Home Video): This selfexplanatory sports documentary ($24.98 retail) explores the careers of such top athletes as Jim Brown, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Johnny Unitas and more, as selected by current and former NFL coaches, players, writers, executives and scouts. The Philadelphia Eagles are represented by the late, great Reggie White, who left the team and this world much too soon.

UNSTOPPABLE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Denzel Washington and Chris Pine attempt to stop a runaway train before it trashes Pennsylvania in this well-made but hokey melodrama, inspired by true events. The fifth teaming of Washington and director Tony Scott. Rated PG-13.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger