Aug. 25, 2010 12:00

video vault


DVD Pick of the week: Machine gun Mccain (Blue Underground)

The actors make the movie in screenwriter/director Guiliano Montaldo’s funky, cold-blooded 1969 “spaghetti gangster” saga.

There’s John Cassavetes, hot off an Oscar nomination for The Dirty Dozen (1967) and the smash success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), in the title role of Hank McCain, newly sprung from san Quentin for the express purpose of robbing a las Vegas casino.

Said purpose is the edict of Charlie Adamo (Peter Falk), an ambitious West Coast godfather determined to make his mark in Vegas — at least until his own superiors (headed by Gabriele Ferzetti) get wind of the plan and decide otherwise.

McCain walks away from the heist with nearly $2 million, setting into motion a series of set-ups and double-crosses. There’s a palpable, noir-ish sense of doom as the net closes in on McCain and the bodies start to fall. (Ocean’s Eleven this is not.)

Cassavetes gives a nervy, unpredictable performance as the hard-bitten McCain, while Falk tears into his role with juicy bravado. Britt ekland provides a touch of glamour as the cocktail waitress McCain hooks up with, and Cassavetes’ real-life wife, Gena Rowlands, has a great cameo appearance as McCain’s ex, who still carries a torch for him — even if it gets her burned. ennio Morricone (who else?) contributes a jazzy score that includes the ditty “The Ballad of Hank McCain.” How it didn’t become a hit I’ll never know.

“ALDO VS. FABER” (Image entertainment): The World extreme Cagefighting featherweight championship match between Jose Aldo and Uriah “The California kid” Faber, which took place this past April in sacramento, Cal. is showcased on this special-edition DVD ($14.98 retail) and Bluray ($19.98 retail), which also includes the world lightweight championship rematch between Ben Henderson and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.

DON McKAY (Image entertainment): Writer/ director Jake Goldberger’s misguided feature debut stars Thomas Haden Church (also an executive producer) as a small-town janitor who returns home to reunite with his high school sweetheart (elisabeth shue), only to soon find himself enmeshed in deception and murder. Despite a good, if over-the-top, cast (including Melissa leo, keith David, James Rebhorn, Pruitt Taylor Vince and the always-welcome M emmet Walsh) and some moments of black comedy, this plays like bad theater, with the actors seemingly in on some sort of private joke. Rated R.

“FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS”: THE FOURTH SEASON (Universal studios Home entertainment): The day-to-day lives of a smalltown high-school football team — parents, teachers, players, cheerleaders, et al —] are dramatized in all 13 episodes from the 2009- ’10 season of the award-winning, prime-time NBC-TV drama series, based on the 2004 feature film. The ensemble cast includes Connie Britton, Taylor kitsch, kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons. Four emmy nominations including Chandler as Outstanding lead Actor in a Drama series and Britton as Outstanding lead Actress in a Drama series. This boxed set retails for $29.98.

GREENBERG (Universal studios Home entertainment): Ben stiller’s in top form in the title role of screenwriter/director Noah Baumbach’s customarily brittle, cynical, grownup romantic comedy about a failed musicianturned- malcontent who, while staying at his brother’s los Angeles home, instigates an off-and-on romance with his brother’s personal assistant (Greta Gerwig). A little on the long side but worthwhile nevertheless, with good support from Rhys Ifans and Baumbach’s real-life wife, Jennifer Jason leigh (also a producer and story writer). Rated R.

HAMLET (Warner Home Video): kenneth Branagh adapted, directed and stars in this title role of this epic, unexpurgated 1996 version of the shakespeare classic, newly released on Blu-ray ($34.99 retail). A star-studded cast includes kate Winslet (as Ophelia), Julie Christie (as Gertrude), Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, Charlton Heston, Jack lemmon, Billy Crystal, Robin Williams and many others. Four Academy Award nominations: Best Adapted screenplay, Best score, Best Art Direction/set Decoration and Best Costume Design. Impressive, to be sure, but at four hours, one gets the feeling is that even shakespeare could do with a little editing. Rated PG-13.

MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (Image entertainment): eva Amurri and her real-life mother susan sarandon play mother and daughter in director John stockwell’s comingof- age comedy/drama that doesn’t quite add up but has some nice moments along the way… and some contrived ones. Attractive performances all around (especially Amurri’s), including Willa Holland, Anton Yelchin and Justin Chatwin. Rated R.

MISTER ANTONIO (Alpha Home entertainment): leo Carrillo plays the title role in this pleasant 1929 comedy based on Booth Tarkington’s play, as an Italian immigrant who encounters hypocrisy in a small Pennsylvania town. Corny and dated, but Carrillo brings an amusing dignity to the role and at least the stereotyped characters aren’t portrayed in a meanspirited manner.

NOTORIOUS BUT NIcE (Alpha Home entertainment): Richard Thorpe directed this entertaining pre-Code 1933 melodrama (officially condemned by the Catholic Church, no less!), following Marian Marsh as she goes from innocent girl to accused murderess by forces beyond her control. Good performances all around, including those of Betty Compson, Donald Dillaway, John st Polis, Rochelle Hudson, Henry kolker, Robert ellis and particularly J. Carrol Naish, as a shady club owner who comes to a bad end.

THE PROWLER (Blue Underground): The Bluray debut ($29.98 retail) of the uncut version of director Joseph Zito’s gory 1981 mystery (also known as Rosemary’s Killer) in which a masked madman commits a rash of sadistic murders in Cape May, NJ. The cast includes Farley Granger and lawrence Tierney, but this is best remembered for Tom savini’s grisly makeup effects..

THE RAcING STRAIN (Alpha Home entertainment): This pre-Code 1932 melodrama stars Wallace Reid Jr. as an ambitious young auto racer who battles the bottle as much he battles the curves. Hokey at times, but auto enthusiasts will enjoy the vintage cars.

SONG OF ARIZONA (Alpha Home entertainment): In this 1946 Western from Republic Pictures, Roy Rogers (as himself, of course) lends a hand at a dude ranch run by his old sidekick, George “Gabby” Hayes (playing a character named “Gabby,” of course). Also on hand: Dale evans (of course), Roy’s horse Trigger (who gets second billing!), Bob Nolan and the sons of the Pioneers, and lyle Talbot as the bad guy. The Halloween number “When Mr. spook steps Out” is a treat, although some of the humor (like a minstrel gag) has seriously dated. still, this is one of Roy’s better, faster-paced outings, and is the full 67-minute version.

SONG OF THE TRAIL (Alpha Home entertainment): kermit Maynard headlines this 1936 Western quickie as a rodeo trick-rider who gallops into action to help an old flame (evelyn Brent) whose father (George Hayes, forgoing “Gabby” for once) loses the family mine in a crooked poker game. Joining Maynard are his trusty horse, Rocky, and his trusty sidekick, Pudge (Fuzzy knight).

“TRAUMA”: SEASON 1 (Universal studios Home entertainment): A four-DVD boxed set ($39.98 retail) containing every episode from the 2009-’10 (and only) season of the primetime NBC-TV drama series focusing on the daily rigors of paramedics in san Francisco. The ensemble cast includes Cliff Curtis, Derek luke, Aimee Garcia and Jamey sheridan.

“UFC 114: RAMPAGE VS. EVANS” (Anchor Bay entertainment): The latest two-DVD release ($19.97 retail) from the Ultimate Fighting Championship showcases the grudge match between Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (recently seen in the big-screen A-Team) and “suga” Rashad evans. Other featured bouts include Jensen vs. Forbes, Bisping vs. Miller, and more.

“WAREHOUSE 13”: SEASON 1 (Universal studios Home entertainment): The title enclave houses strange and mysterious artifacts, which are duly investigated by a pair of secret service agents (eddie McClintock and Joanne kelly) in all 13 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the syfy Channel series, which earned an emmy nomination for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music. The three-DVD boxed set, which includes bonus features, retails for $49.98.

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