video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEKKARLOFF & LUGOSIHORROR CLASSICS (Warner HomeVideo): What would Halloween bewithout Boris Karloff (1887-1969) andBela Lugosi (1882-1956), two of theundisputed kings of screen horror? A lotless entertaining and a lot more boring,I daresay.This four-film boxed set ($26.98retail) includes four feature films neverbefore released on DVD. That alonemakes it a must for fans.The true gem of the collection is TheWalking Dead (1936), a Warner Bros.crime melodrama with an unique horrorbent starring Karloff as an innocent manexecuted for a crime he didn’t commit.When he is brought back from the deadby a brilliant scientist (future Oscarwinner Edmund Gwenn), he relentlesslyexacts revenge upon the gangsters whoframed him. Tight and taut, and directedwith shrewd expediency by MichaelCurtiz (himself a future Oscar winner).Karloff and Lugosi are joined byPeter Lorre for the light-hearted olddark-house mystery You’ll Find Out(1940), which is mainly a showcase forbandleader Kay Kyser and his band, theKollege of Musical Knowledge. (Believeit or not, they were really big once.) Iteven earned an Oscar nomination forBest Song (“I’d Know You Anywhere”).The comedy duo of Wally Brown andAlan Carney (remember them?) encountermad scientist Lugosi in the low-budget1945 comedy Zombies on Broadway.Finally, Karloff returns to familiar territory,playing Baron Frankenstein (himselfa rather mad scientist) in the 1958sci-fi shocker Frankenstein 1970.ALSO ON DVDEASY VIRTUE (Sony PicturesHome Entertainment): DirectorStephan Elliott’s most agreeable adaptationof Noel Coward’s play aboutfamily machinations, with Ben Barnesas a young man of wealth who bringshis new American wife (Jessica Biel)home to meet his parents (Kristin ScottThomas and Colin Firth) — with surprisingconsequences, once all of theirsecrets start tumbling out of the closet.Biel fits very comfortably within theensemble cast, but it’s no surprise thatScott Thomas and Firth dominate theproceedings. Rated PG-13. ***“FRIDAY THE 13TH — THESERIES:” THE FINAL SEASON (CBSDVD/Paramount Home Entertainment):Series stalwarts Robey (AKA LouiseRobey) and Chris Wiggins are joinedby Steve Monarque as they trackdown cursed items purchased from theCurious Goods antique shop, in all 19episodes from the 1989-’90 (and last)season of the award-winning, syndicatedhorror series inspired by (but notrelated to) the popular film franchise.Emmy nomination for OutstandingAchievement in Special Visual Effects(for the episode “13 o’clock”). Thisboxed set retails for $49.99.LAID TO REST (Anchor BayEntertainment): Executive producer/writer/director Robert Hall’s savageshocker stars his real-life wife, BobbiSue Luther (also a producer), as anamnesiac pursued by a malevolent,metal-masked thrill-killer known as“ChromeSkull” (Nick Principe). Plentygory but one-dimensional, although Hallkeeps things moving at a steady clip,with Kevin Gage, Jonathan Schaech,Richard Lynch and Lena Headey also inharm’s way. **LOOSE CHANGE 9/11: ANAMERICAN COUP (MicrocinemaInternational): Daniel Sunjata narratesthe fourth in filmmaker Dylan Avery’sdocumentary series examining the eventssurrounding Sept. 11, 2001, featuring rarefootage and audio feeds. Highly speculativein some instances but also fascinatingand thought-provoking (which is, after all,the point). Given the many remarkablecoincidences pointed out here, this is afeast for conspiracy theorists. Also availabledirectly from the distributor: ***MARTINI MOVIES: WAVE 3 (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): A selectionof big-screen rarities from the 1960sand ‘70s, each making its DVD debut:Gary Lockwood and Anouk Aimee starin Jacques Demy’s 1969 drama ModelShop; Leigh Taylor-Young, HywelBennett and Jane Asher star in the 1970adaptation of The Buttercup Chain(rated R); David Susskind produced andRobert Mulligan directed the 1970 adaptationof The Pursuit of Happiness (ratedPG), with Michael Sarrazin, BarbaraHershey, Arthur Hill, EG Marshall,Robert Klein, William Devane, BarnardHughes, Ralph Waite and Ruth White(in her final film); Michael Douglasstars with Jack Warden and BrendaVaccaro in the 1971 adaptation of theoff-Broadway drama Summertree(rated R), produced by Kirk Douglasand directed by Anthony Newley; andMaggie Smith and Timothy Bottomsstar in producer/director Alan J. Pakula’s1973 romantic comedy Love and Painand the Whole Damn Thing (rated R).Each film retails for $19.94.OBSERVE AND REPORT (WarnerHome Video): UNCSA School ofFilmmaking alumnus Jody Hill wroteand directed this edgy, outrageous comedywith Seth Rogen as a deranged mallsecurity guard whose life-long ambitionis to become a real police officer… so hecan carry a gun. The great supportingcast includes Anna Faris, Ray Liotta,Michael Pena and quite a few folk withties to the region: Celia Weston, BenBest, Eddie Rouse, Danny McBride andRandy Gambill. This deserved a betterbox-office fate, but cult status is probable.Rated R. ***“ONE STEP BEYOND”: OFFICIALFIRST SEASON (CBS DVD/ParamountHome Entertainment): The official“50th anniversary special edition” ofthe prime-time ABC-TV anthologyseries that focused on the strange andthe supernatural, directed and hostedby John Newland. Long available onpublic-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 RobertWebber, Patrick Macnee, Mike Connors,Cloris Leachman, Julie Adams, PernellRoberts, Warren Stevens, PatrickO’Neal, Jocelyn Brando, CharlesAidman and many more. This three-DVD boxed set retails for $49.99.PERFUME: THE STORY OF AMURDERER (Paramount HomeEntertainment): Director Tom Tykwer’svisually opulent but ponderously pacedadaptation of Patrick Suskind’s 1985best-seller stars Ben Whishaw as aperfumer whose preternatural senseof smell compels him to attempt tocapture and bottle the natural fragranceof woman — which compels him tocommit murder (repeatedly) in order toobtain it. Appropriately weird but alsocold and uninvolving, despite a supportingcast that includes Dustin Hoffman,Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood andJohn Hurt (as the narrator). Simply put,an interesting failure. A box-office hit inEurope, with some international awardsto show for it, but a flop in the US.Tykwer also collaborated on the screenplayand the score. Rated R. **RAILS & TIES (Warner Home Video):Clint’s daughter Alison Eastwoodmakes her directorial debut with thistearjerker starring Kevin Bacon andMarcia Gay Harden as a couple whoseattempts to come to terms with her fatalillness take on a new dimension whenthey take in a young boy (Miles Henzer)whose mother was killed in an accidentthat Bacon’s character was involved in.Superior performances make this worthwatching, but the studio dumped it anyway.Alison’s brother Kyle collaboratedon the score. Rated PG-13. **’½SCOOBY-DOO! THE MYSTERYBEGINS (Warner Home Video): Thisunnecessary live-action prequel to theanimated Hanna-Barbera series of the‘60s (later a screen franchise) purportsto portray how the characters of Fred(Robbie Amell), Daphne (Kate Melton),Velma (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shaggy(Nick Palatas) first teamed with thecowardly, crime-solving pooch (voicedby Frank Welker) to solve a mysteryin their high school. Scooby doesn’thave all that much to do here, althoughPalatas, in particular, gives this morethan it deserves. Rated PG. *’½THE SCORNED (Anchor BayEntertainment): Reality-TV fans mightget a few laughs out of this low-budgetshocker, in which the cast of a reality-TV series (played by actual veteransof reality-TV series’) are systematicallyslaughtered by a supernaturalkiller. Gratuitous nudity and gore aren’tenough, although Tonya Cooley andJenna Lewis are cuties. *’½SIX: THE MARK UNLEASHED (SonyPictures Home Entertainment): KevinDownes produced, directed and starsin this faith-based melodrama set inan oppressive, Orwellian future wherepracticing Christianity is an crimeagainst the state. A potentially intriguingstoryline is felled by a snail’s paceand heavy-handedness. Made in 2004,this is probably being released now dueto co-star Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s currentpopularity. Stephen Baldwin and EricRoberts also appear, the latter in justone scene, to no discernible effect. *SPRING BREAK (Anchor BayEntertainment): Producer/director Sean S.Cunningham followed up Friday the 13thwith this bubble-headed 1983 comedyabout four guys (David Knell, Perry Lang,Steve Bassett and Paul Land) at large inFort Lauderdale. This flimsy combinationof beers, babes, bikinis and belly-flopswas a surprise box-office hit and then alate-night cable-TV staple for years afterward.The unmemorable theme song is byCheap Trick. Rated R. *’½To comment on this story, sendyour e-mail to:marksburger@yahoo.comMark Burger can be heardFriday mornings on the “TwoGuys Named Chris” radio show onRock-92.Copyright 2009, Mark Burger !