DVD Pick of the week: CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (Blue Underground)
Released in the Us as The Gates of Hell three years after it was made, lucio Fulci’s 1980 Italian-made shocker comes to DVD and Blu-ray in an all-new special edition. For those who can take it — and that’s not said lightly — it’s a cause for celebration among the Fulci faithful.
Token American star christopher George plays cigar-chomping New York newspaperman Peter Bell, who accompanies psychic mary Woodhouse (catriona maccoll) to the southern town of Dunwich after saving her from being buried alive. He smells a story. she smells disaster.
Ever since the local priest hanged himself, the citizens of Dunwich have been falling victim to a series of increasingly violent (and increasingly outlandish) deaths. some vomit their intestines
After bleeding profusely from the eyes. others have the back of their skulls ripped out by zombies, and poor Bob (Giovanni lombardo Radice, AkA John morghen), the town geek, has his skull pierced with a power drill.
Mind you, all of this gory debauchery is shown in all its full, lipsmacking, stomach-churning glory — with absolutely nothing left to the imagination. little wonder that the film was released with a self-imposed X rating. (Hint: It’s not for sex or profanity.)
This is a nasty piece of work, definitely not for the squeamish.
Yet, at its best — as with the best of Fulci’s work — the film achieves a truly nightmarish ambience. You may be grossed out, but you won’t be bored… but what’s with that loony freeze-frame ending?
ALSO ON DVD
“ACCORDING TO JIM”: SEASON TWO (ABc studios/lionsGate Home entertainment): executive producer James Belushi plays an all-American suburban father, dealing with wife (courtney Thorne-smith) and kids, in all 28 episodes from the 2002-’03 season of the long (and still-)running, prime-time ABc-TV sitcom. Belushi also composed the theme music and directed episodes. This four- DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.
THE ALCOVE (severin Films): euro-trash decadence from 1984, with laura Gemser as an Abyssinian princess who winds up being the sex slave of a writer and would-be pornographer (Al cliver) in post-World War II Italy. Plentiful nudity and a few laughs, but it’s not enough. Bonus features include an on-camera interview with director Joe D’Amato (AkA Aristide massaccessi), who died in 1999.
“ANCIENTS BEHAVING BADLY”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&e Home entertainment): Alexander the Great, Genghis khan, Attila the Hun, caligula and Julius caesar are among the historical “miscreants” whose exploits — some of which still affect modern society — are chronicled in all eight episodes from the 2009 season of the History channel documentary series, narrated by Tom mccamus. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $24.95.
CAPTURING REALITY (First Run Features): Writer/director Pepita Ferrari’s enjoyable documentary, subtitled (appropriately enough) “The Art of Documentary,” examines the methodology of the documentary filmmaker, as related by 38 of them — including Werner Herzog, Albert maysles, errol morris, Nick Broomfield, molly Dineen and others. An informative primer for documentary fans, although the end dedication is a bit flowery.
“DIRT”: SEASON TWO (ABc studios/lionsGate Home entertainment): courteney cox dishes it tabloid, in all seven episodes from the 2008 (and final) season of the prime-time FX series. cox and her real-life husband David Arquette were among the executive producers. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.
INVICTUS (Warner Home Video): Producer/ director clint eastwood brings his customary professionalism to this well-rendered, award-winning, fact-based sports saga, based on John carlin’s book, depicting the events leading up to the 1995 World cup rugby finals, in which newly-elected south African president (executive producer morgan Freeman) attempted to rally the post-apartheid nation behind its national team, the springboks, as captained by Francois Pienaar (matt Damon). Academy Award nominations for Best Actor (Freeman) and Best supporting Actor (Damon). Rated PG-13.
KABUL 24 (sound enterprises): Jim caviezel narrates this feature documentary ($16.95 retail) about a group of christian aid workers who were held hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the summer of 2001.
“LUCY CALLS THE PRESIDENT” (mPI Home Video): lucille Ball stars as an Indiana housewife who invites the President to her home in this 1977 prime-time special that features long-time lucy favorites Gale Gordon, Vivian Vance (in her final pairing with Ball) and mary Jane croft (in her final appearance), as well as ed mcmahon, mary Wickes, steve Allen (as himself) and footage of Jimmy carter’s mother, lillian. even the most die-hard fan’s affection may be tempered by this strained farce, which has remained unseen since its original broadcast. A “lost gem” it’s not.
“MARKED”: SEASON ONE (A&e Home entertainment): A two-DVD boxed set ($19.95 retail) featuring all six episodes from the 2009 season of the History channel reality series exploring the history of, and the meanings behind, the art of tattooing.
“MY WIFE AND KIDS”: SEASON TWO (ABc studios/lionsGate Home entertainment): executive producer Damon Wayans is Dad, Tisha campbellmartin is mom, and George o. Gore II, Parker mckenna Posey and Jennifer Freeman are the kids, in all 28 episodes from the 2001-’02 season of the award-winning, prime-time ABc-TV situation comedy. This four-DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.
NEOWOLF (lionsGate Home entertainment): members of the title rock group turn out to be werewolves in this boring horror film, credited to the eponymous and pseudonymous “Alan smythe” (better known as Allen smithee). less fullmoon madness than a full-on mess. only a shotgun-toting Veronica cartwright gives a performance of any note. Rated R.
NO SWEAT (IndiePix): Producer/director Amie Williams’ documentary feature probes the los Angeles garment industry, specifically two companies (sweatX and American Apparel) that vowed to create “sweat-free” work environments for its employees, rather than rely on the traditional sweatshops.
PREACHER’S KID (Warner Home Video): Grammy Award winner leToya luckett (of Destiny’s child fame) toplines writer/director stan Foster’s inspirational musical drama as the daughter of a hard-nosed minister (Gregory Alan Williams) who embarks on a romance with a handsome gospel singer (Durrell “Tank” Babba). Available as a singledisc DVD ($27.95 retail) or as a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack ($35.99 retail). Rated PG-13.
“RAISING THE BAR”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (ABc studios/lionsGate Home entertainment): executive producer and writer steven Bochco revisited “lA law” territory with this TNT drama series whose ensemble cast included melissa sagemiller, mark-Paul Gosselaar, Jane kaczmarek and John michael Higgins. This four- DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) includes all 15 episodes from the 2009 (and final) season.
“RITA ROCKS”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&e Home entertainment): Nicole sullivan plays the title role, that of an all-American mom who dreams of recapturing her youth as the lead singer of a Bangles cover band, in all 20 episodes from the premiere 2008-’09 season of the lifetime Television situation comedy. This three- DVD boxed set retails for $24.95.
“SHERRI”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&e Home entertainment): sherri shepherd portrays a recent divorcee who balances the rigors of motherhood with aspirations to become a stand-up comedienne, in all 13 episodes from the 2009 season of the lifetime comedy series. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $19.95.
THE WRAITH (lionsGate Home entertainment): A special-edition re-release of writer/director mike marvin’s 1986 motorized thriller, in which a mysterious hot-rodder from beyond seeks revenge against the street racers who killed him. The cast includes a pre-Platoon charlie sheen, sherilyn Fenn, Nick cassavetes, clint Howard and Randy Quaid as the cranky cop on the case. Pretty silly stuff, but it does have a cult following. This was the first movie review I ever wrote (for my college newspaper) and I was way too kind, but it kills time painlessly enough. Rated PG-13.
“WW II IN HD” (A&e Home entertainment):
What it is, is what it says: A History channel documentary chronicling the second World War, as seen through the eyes and told through the diaries of 12 American servicemen. Gary sinise narrates, while additional voiceovers are provided by ll cool J, Amy smart, Rob lowe, Ron livingston and steve Zahn. The two-DVD boxed set retails for $29.95, the three-disc Blu-ray boxed set for $39.95.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.