Oct. 7, 2009 12:00

video vault


KARLOFF & LUGOSI HORROR CLASSICS (Warner Home Video): What would Halloween be without Boris Karloff (1887-1969) and Bela Lugosi (1882-1956), two of the undisputed kings of screen horror? A lot less entertaining and a lot more boring, I daresay. This four-film boxed set ($26.98 retail) includes four feature films never before released on DVD. That alone makes it a must for fans. The true gem of the collection is The Walking Dead (1936), a Warner Bros. crime melodrama with an unique horror bent starring Karloff as an innocent man executed for a crime he didn’t commit. When he is brought back from the dead by a brilliant scientist (future Oscar winner Edmund Gwenn), he relentlessly exacts revenge upon the gangsters who framed him. Tight and taut, and directed with shrewd expediency by Michael Curtiz (himself a future Oscar winner). Karloff and Lugosi are joined by Peter Lorre for the light-hearted olddark- house mystery You’ll Find Out (1940), which is mainly a showcase for bandleader Kay Kyser and his band, the Kollege of Musical Knowledge. (Believe it or not, they were really big once.) It even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song (“I’d Know You Anywhere”). The comedy duo of Wally Brown and Alan Carney (remember them?) encounter mad scientist Lugosi in the low-budget 1945 comedy Zombies on Broadway. Finally, Karloff returns to familiar territory, playing Baron Frankenstein (himself a rather mad scientist) in the 1958 sci-fi shocker Frankenstein 1970.


EASY VIRTUE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Director Stephan Elliott’s most agreeable adaptation of Noel Coward’s play about family machinations, with Ben Barnes as a young man of wealth who brings his new American wife (Jessica Biel) home to meet his parents (Kristin Scott Thomas and Colin Firth) — with surprising consequences, once all of their secrets start tumbling out of the closet. Biel fits very comfortably within the ensemble cast, but it’s no surprise that Scott Thomas and Firth dominate the proceedings. Rated PG-13. ***

“FRIDAY THE 13TH — THE SERIES:” THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Series stalwarts Robey (AKA Louise Robey) and Chris Wiggins are joined by Steve Monarque as they track down cursed items purchased from the Curious Goods antique shop, in all 19 episodes from the 1989-’90 (and last) season of the award-winning, syndicated horror series inspired by (but not related to) the popular film franchise. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Special Visual Effects (for the episode “13 o’clock”). This boxed set retails for $49.99.

LAID TO REST (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Executive producer/ writer/director Robert Hall’s savage shocker stars his real-life wife, Bobbi Sue Luther (also a producer), as an amnesiac pursued by a malevolent, metal-masked thrill-killer known as “ChromeSkull” (Nick Principe). Plenty gory but one-dimensional, although Hall keeps things moving at a steady clip, with Kevin Gage, Jonathan Schaech, Richard Lynch and Lena Headey also in harm’s way. **

LOOSE CHANGE 9/11: AN AMERICAN COUP (Microcinema International): Daniel Sunjata narrates the fourth in filmmaker Dylan Avery’s documentary series examining the events surrounding Sept. 11, 2001, featuring rare footage and audio feeds. Highly speculative in some instances but also fascinating and thought-provoking (which is, after all, the point). Given the many remarkable coincidences pointed out here, this is a feast for conspiracy theorists. Also available directly from the distributor: www. loosechange911.com. ***

MARTINI MOVIES: WAVE 3 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): A selection of big-screen rarities from the 1960s and ‘70s, each making its DVD debut: Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimee star in Jacques Demy’s 1969 drama Model Shop; Leigh Taylor-Young, Hywel Bennett and Jane Asher star in the 1970 adaptation of The Buttercup Chain (rated R); David Susskind produced and Robert Mulligan directed the 1970 adaptation of The Pursuit of Happiness (rated PG), with Michael Sarrazin, Barbara Hershey, Arthur Hill, EG Marshall, Robert Klein, William Devane, Barnard Hughes, Ralph Waite and Ruth White (in her final film); Michael Douglas stars with Jack Warden and Brenda Vaccaro in the 1971 adaptation of the off-Broadway drama Summertree (rated R), produced by Kirk Douglas and directed by Anthony Newley; and Maggie Smith and Timothy Bottoms star in producer/director Alan J. Pakula’s 1973 romantic comedy Love and Pain and the Whole Damn Thing (rated R). Each film retails for $19.94.

OBSERVE AND REPORT (Warner Home Video): UNCSA School of Filmmaking alumnus Jody Hill wrote and directed this edgy, outrageous comedy with Seth Rogen as a deranged mall security guard whose life-long ambition is to become a real police officer… so he can carry a gun. The great supporting cast includes Anna Faris, Ray Liotta, Michael Pena and quite a few folk with ties to the region: Celia Weston, Ben Best, Eddie Rouse, Danny McBride and Randy Gambill. This deserved a better box-office fate, but cult status is probable. Rated R. ***

“ONE STEP BEYOND”: OFFICIAL FIRST SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): The official “50th anniversary special edition” of the prime-time ABC-TV anthology series that focused on the strange and the supernatural, directed and hosted by John Newland. Long available on public-domain labels of varying quality, this marks the first time that these episodes (all 22 from the 1959-’60 season) have been restored and remastered. First-season guest stars include Robert Webber, Patrick Macnee, Mike Connors, Cloris Leachman, Julie Adams, Pernell Roberts, Warren Stevens, Patrick O’Neal, Jocelyn Brando, Charles Aidman and many more. This three- DVD boxed set retails for $49.99.

PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER (Paramount Home Entertainment): Director Tom Tykwer’s visually opulent but ponderously paced adaptation of Patrick Suskind’s 1985 best-seller stars Ben Whishaw as a perfumer whose preternatural sense of smell compels him to attempt to capture and bottle the natural fragrance of woman — which compels him to commit murder (repeatedly) in order to obtain it. Appropriately weird but also cold and uninvolving, despite a supporting cast that includes Dustin Hoffman, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood and John Hurt (as the narrator). Simply put, an interesting failure. A box-office hit in Europe, with some international awards to show for it, but a flop in the US. Tykwer also collaborated on the screenplay and the score. Rated R. **

RAILS & TIES (Warner Home Video): Clint’s daughter Alison Eastwood makes her directorial debut with this tearjerker starring Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden as a couple whose attempts to come to terms with her fatal illness take on a new dimension when they take in a young boy (Miles Henzer) whose mother was killed in an accident that Bacon’s character was involved in. Superior performances make this worth watching, but the studio dumped it anyway. Alison’s brother Kyle collaborated on the score. Rated PG-13. **½

SCOOBY-DOO! THE MYSTERY BEGINS (Warner Home Video): This unnecessary live-action prequel to the animated Hanna-Barbera series of the ‘60s (later a screen franchise) purports to portray how the characters of Fred (Robbie Amell), Daphne (Kate Melton), Velma (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shaggy (Nick Palatas) first teamed with the cowardly, crime-solving pooch (voiced by Frank Welker) to solve a mystery in their high school. Scooby doesn’t have all that much to do here, although Palatas, in particular, gives this more than it deserves. Rated PG. *½

THE SCORNED (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Reality-TV fans might get a few laughs out of this low-budget shocker, in which the cast of a reality- TV series (played by actual veterans of reality-TV series’) are systematically slaughtered by a supernatural killer. Gratuitous nudity and gore aren’t enough, although Tonya Cooley and Jenna Lewis are cuties. *½ SIX:

THE MARK UNLEASHED (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Kevin Downes produced, directed and stars in this faith-based melodrama set in an oppressive, Orwellian future where practicing Christianity is an crime against the state. A potentially intriguing storyline is felled by a snail’s pace and heavy-handedness. Made in 2004, this is probably being released now due to co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s current popularity. Stephen Baldwin and Eric Roberts also appear, the latter in just one scene, to no discernible effect. *

SPRING BREAK (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Producer/director Sean S. Cunningham followed up Friday the 13th with this bubble-headed 1983 comedy about four guys (David Knell, Perry Lang, Steve Bassett and Paul Land) at large in Fort Lauderdale. This flimsy combination of beers, babes, bikinis and belly-flops was a surprise box-office hit and then a late-night cable-TV staple for years afterward. The unmemorable theme song is by Cheap Trick. Rated R. *½ To comment on this story, send your e-mail to: marksburger@yahoo.com Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !

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