video vault

by Mark Burger

video vault


(VCI Entertainment): Having made one of the definitive films about World War I (the Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930), producer/director Lewis Milestone bid fair to do likewise with World War II in this 1945 adaptation of Harry Brown’s best-selling novel — and succeeded handily.

Adapted by Robert Rossen, this mature and thoughtful film takes a realistic approach to war and the men who wage it. The soldiers of the Texas Infantry aren’t chest-thumping, flagwaving he-men, but determined and often frightened Everymen whom fate has thrown together, doing their best to stay alive against the odds. Punctuated by some extremely suspenseful battle scenes, the film tends to hold up more persuasively than other films of its era, and like all great war movies, it also offers an effective (and still-relevant) anti-war sentiment.

Dana Andrews plays Sgt. Tyne, the de facto platoon leader when the lieutenant is killed and the senior sergeant (Herbert Rudley) suffers a breakdown, and a fine ensemble cast includes John Ireland, Richard Conte, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Norman Lloyd, Steve Brodie and Huntz Hall, while an unbilled Burgess Meredith provides the narration.

A Walk in the Sun has long been available on a variety of public-domain labels (most of dubious quality), but this marks the first time that the film is being presented uncut and restored, and the special features include an interview with actor Lloyd (who recently turned 95). ***’½


ANGELS & DEMONS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard reunite for this follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, basedon Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, with Hanks’ Prof. Robert Langdononce again caught up in Vatican intrigue that could have devastatingrepercussions throughout the world. Although better paced than itspredecessor, and therefore superior (a rarity among sequels), there’san unmistakably mechanical posture to the proceedings — and it does goon a bit long. That didn’t prevent it from being a hit (although not asbig as the first film), with another installment due in 2012. Availableas a single-disc theatrical DVD ($28.96 retail), a two- Mark Burger can be heard Friday disc extended DVD ($36.95 retail), a mornings on the “Two Guys Named two-disc Blu-ray ($39.95) or a UMD Chris” radio show on Rock-92.

BRUNO (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Sacha Baron Cohen strikes again in this outrageous comedy about a flamboyantly gay, flamboyantly Austrian “fashionista” bent on achieving worldwide celebrity status. This he does, in ways that could not be described in a family newspaper. Cohen was also a coscreenwriter and producer. Rated R. ***’½

BUCK ROGERS (VCI Entertainment): A 70 th -anniversary special edition of the 12-chapter 1939 serial based on the popular comic strip by Dick Calkins and Phil Nolan. Buster Crabbe, fresh from playing Flash Gordon, stars as the fearless hero revived in the year 2440 after being frozen in suspended animation for 500 years, and pitted against the dastardly doings of “Killer” Kane (Anthony Warde). This double-disc boxed set retails for $29.99.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): After myriad sequels, Donald P. Borchers, the producer of the original 1984 film based on Stephen King’s short story, celebrates its 25 th anniversary by producing and directing the remake, which stars David Anders and Kandyse McClure as a bickering couple who wind up in the strange town of Gatlin, Neb,. where the children are gripped by a murderous religious fervor. Set in the 1970s, this is more faithful to the original story (Borchers and King himself share screenwriting credit), but by now the novelty of the premise has worn off. **

CHRYSALIS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Sleek visuals overwhelm a convoluted storyline in writer/director Julien Leclercq’s debut feature, set in 2025 Paris and starring Albert Dupontel and Marie Guillard as cops on the trail of a killer, which leads them to a medical clinic (run by the ageless Marthe Keller) where strange experiments involving memory implants are taking place. **

DARN GOOD WESTERNS: VOLUME 2 (VCI Entertainment): A six-pack of Westerns are included in this two-DVD collection ($29.99 retail): Sterling Hayden, Yvonne DeCarlo and Zachary Scott are armed and dangerous in Shotgun (1955), which was co-written by actor Rory Calhoun (his only official credit as a screenwriter); Dane Clark and James Craig saddle up in Massacre (1956); Preston Foster and Jim Davis are two of the Three Desperate Men (1951); Outlaw Women (1952) stars Marie Windsor; Jon Hall wears the badge in Deputy Marshal (1949); and Four Fast Guns (1960) stars James Craig, Martha Vickers and Brett Halsey.

THE DEVIL’S FILMMAKER: BOHICA (Alpha New Cinema): Writer/producer/ director Andrew Montlack’s low-budget feature debut is an occasionally zippy mock documentary focusing on an aspiring with ascot and beret — who slowly cracks up while making his first film and winds up accused of murdering four people. ** THE DEVIL’S CHAIR (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): It’s never a good idea to trip on acid with your girlfriend in an abandoned (and supposedly haunted) asylum, and an even worse idea to return four years later with a research team after being incarcerated for said girlfriend’s apparent murder. Director/co-screenwriter/ co-editor Adam Mason’s gore-soaked British shocker is also drenched in atmosphere and provides a few tricks along its trashy way. **

“GET SMART”: SEASON 4 (HBO Home Entertainment): Would you believe… all 26 episodes from the 1968-’69 season of the classic prime-time NBC-TV situation comedy starring Don Adams as bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart, Agent 86? The series, which was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, moved to CBS-TV for its final season before finding sustained popularity in syndication. Emmy winner for Outstanding Comedy Series and Adams for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series, with Barbara Feldon (“Agent 99”) earning a nomination for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series. This boxed set retails for $24.98.

IMURDERS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Members of an internet chat room are being killed off one by one in this meandering, overwritten mystery that boasts (and squanders) a star-studded cast of red herrings: Gabrielle Anwar, William Forsythe, Billy Dee Williams, Charles Durning, Tony Todd, Margaret Colin and her reallife husband Justin Deas, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Miranda Kwok, Terri Colombino, Frank Grillo, Joanne Baron, et al. If you can’t guess whodunit in executive producer/coscreenwriter Robbie King’s award-winning(!) directorial debut, you haven’t seen enough movies. A real disappointment, especially when you consider most of it was filmed in New Jersey — where death is a way of life. *

LARRY BUCHANAN DOUBLE FEATURE (Alpha Home Entertainment): A DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of lowrent sci-fi clunkers made by Texas-based filmmaker Larry Buchnanan (1923-2004): John Agar stars in Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1966) and Paul Petersen (of TV’s “The Donna Reed Show”) toplines In the Year 2889 (1967). Buchanan regular Bill Thurman co-stars in both films, which were commissioned by American International Pictures for television consumption and based on previous AIP films from the 1950s: It Conquered the World and The Day the World Ended, respectively.

LEE POWELL COLLECTION (Alpha Home Entertainment): Before his death during World War II (not in combat, but due to an alcohol-related “misadventure”), Lee Powell (1908-1944) was a fixture of grade-B Westerns and the first actor to play the Lone Ranger onscreen. This DVD double-feature ($7.98 retail) includes Trigger Pals (1939) and Texas Man Hunt (1942), both directed by Sam Newfield, and a bonus chapter from the 1938 serial The Lone Ranger, which co-stars Chief Thundercloud (born Victor Daniels) as Tonto.

THE LOST AND FOUND FAMILY (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ellen Bry stars as a widow who inherits a house in Georgia — unaware that it’s been sublet to a foster family, into whose lives she comes. Although sincerely acted, this is obvious, heavy-handed and hampered by draggy pacing. Rated PG. *’½

THIS SPACE BETWEEN US (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Jeremy Sisto’s in good form as a young filmmaker still grieving for his late wife (Vanessa Marcil) who returns home to San Francisco to reconnect with old friends and restart his life. Writer/producer/ editor/director Matthew Leutwyler’s award-winning, bittersweet comedy was completed in 1999 and played a few festivals, but never found wide distribution. A little on the long side, but well-acted and worth a look. The supporting cast includes Poppy Montgomery, Erik Palladino, Alex Kingston, Vincent Ventresca, Clara Bellar, Taylor Negron and Garry Marshall (as a studio executive). **’½

UFC: ULTIMATE 100 GREAT FIGHTS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): This self-explanatory compilation boasts an unprecedented selection of the most popular (and hardest-hitting) matches in the 16-year history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, featuring such luminaries as Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Georges St.-Pierre, Tito Ortiz and others. The DVD boxed set retails for $99.97, the Blu-ray boxed set for $197.97.

WE WERE STRANGERS (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): John Huston directed this interesting 1949 melodrama with John Garfield and Jennifer Jones as revolutionaries who find romance amid political unrest in 1930s’ Cuba. Also on hand: Pedro Armendariz (suitably despicable as the heavy), Gilbert Roland, Morris Ankrum and silent-era matinee idol Ramon Novarro. Look fast for Huston, too. Producer “SP Eagle” is actually Sam Spiegel, and Marilyn Monroe was reportedly considered for Jones’ role. The wrap-up’s a little too neat, however. **’½