DVD Pick of the week: BREWSTER MccLOUD (Warner Archive)
Robert Altman’s first film after hitting paydirt with M*A*S*H was also released in 1970 but wasn’t nearly as well-received, although it has since become a favorite, particularly among his fans (including yours truly).
This subversive, acidic, absurdist satire stars Bud Cort as the title character, a bespectacled misfit who lives in the Houston Astrodome and dreams of flying. sally kellerman plays his “guardian angel,” who may or may not by aiding Brewster’s cause by murdering anyone who gets in his way. shelley Duvall (in her screen debut) plays the ditzy tour guide who wins Brewster’s heart, only to betray him at the end.
Others of note in the cast include Michael Murphy as San Francisco “super cop” Frank shaft, called in to investigate the murders; stacy keach as Abraham, the third Wright brother; William Windom, Margaret Hamilton, John schuck, Jennifer salt and Rene Auberjonois, the latter as an orinthologist (bird expert) whose classroom lecture is mirrored by Brewster’s antics. Is it any wonder that he begins to turn into a bird as the story progresses?
An oddity among oddities, Brewster McCloud is not for everyone. (As a matter of fact, I hated it the first time I saw it, but and now I think it’s a classic.) This has long been a “holy grail” for Altman aficionados, and its release by Warner Archive is a welcome treat. Rated R.
Available directly from Warner Archive: www.wbshop.com
ALSo oN DVD BLACK & BLUE (Monarch Home Video):
Award-winning Christian music artist Christine evans makes a credible big-screen bow in this hokey but sincere melodrama about homeless teenagers trying to survive on the mean streets of los Angeles. Rated PG-13.
DINAH EAST (VCI entertainment): Jeremy stockwell, in his screen debut, plays a legendary screen siren who hides an incredible secret: she’s a he! This mind-boggling, low-budget slab of high Hollywood camp, released in 1970 but rarely seen since, is in the tradition of Jacqueline susann, Russ Meyer and Myra Breckinridge, as fashioned by writer/producer/director/composer Gene Nash, whose evidently hasn’t directed a feature since. The men in Dinah’s life include Andy Davis, Reid smith, Joe Taylor, Matt Bennett and Ray Foster, and Andy Warhol discovery Ultra Violet turns up in a small role. It’s safe to say that there’s never been a movie quite like it. This would make an interesting double bill with Brewster McCloud, actually! Although hardly pornographic, even by 1970 standards, this was branded with an X rating.
DR. HORRIBLE’S SING-ALONG BLOG (New Video): Joss Whedon’s science-fiction musical spoof, which began as a free internet miniseries, makes its Blu-ray bow ($19.95 retail). The cast includes Nathan Fillion, Neil Patrick Harris and Felicia Day.
EURO-FANTASTICO DOUBLE FEATURE (VCI entertainment): like the title says, this is a twin-bill of low-budget european fodder: The more interesting of the two is 1964’s No Survivors, Please (**) which stars Maria Perschy and Robert Cunningham and depicts an alien invasion, albeit one with very few special effects; and 1965’s The Black Cobra (*’), a routine, slow-moving crime drama about a interesting cast: Adrian Hoven, Ann smyrner (of Reptilicus… err, fame), klaus lowitsch, Wolfgang Preiss and the immortal klaus kinski, here cast as a junkie pianist. For devotees of the obscure.
EXTRACT (Miramax Films/Buena Vista Home entertainment): A flavor-extract factory is the principal setting of this hit-or-miss corporate satire from writer/director Mike Judge. strangely subdued at times, shrill and bitter at others, the mostly squandered cast includes Jason Bateman, Mila kunis (miscast as a slick con artist), kristen Wiig, Jk simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., David koechner, Beth Grant, Gene simmons, Judge himself and Ben Affleck, who steals every scene he’s in (by default) as Bateman’s perennial sounding board. Rated R.
FIREBALL (MTI Home Video): Ian somerhalder and lexa Doig exchange weak banter as they pursue Aleka Paunovic, as a hot-tempered ex-football star with the ability to start fires at will, in this unbalanced thriller that is only good for a (very) few laughs. Rated PG-13.
THE GATLING GUN (Alpha Home entertainment): A Us Cavalry detachment battles rampaging Apaches over possession of the title weapon in this lackluster Western, made in 1971 but not released until ’73. The cast includes Guy stockwell, Robert Fuller, John Carradine, Patrick Wayne, BarBara luna, Phil Harris, Pat Buttram and the inimitable Woody strode, but they’re fighting an uphill battle all the way. The gun itself doesn’t get going until near the end, and the movie doesn’t really get going at all. Rated PG.
“THE GUILD”: SEASON THREE (New Video): Felicia Day created and stars in this hit web comedy series about the misadventures of a group of gaming enthusiasts who tend to take it a little too seriously. This special-edition DVD, which includes all 12 episodes from the 2009 season plus bonus features (audio commentaries, featurettes, etc.), retails for $14.95.
THE LOSERS (Warner Home Video): lame adaptation of the DC Comics series, about a Us special Forces team (led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) that seeks to avenge its betrayal at the hands of a rogue CIA agent (an amusingly hammy Jason Patric). All flash and mostly trash. This is one franchise that won’t be flying again, although the title is apt. Rated PG-13.
MANFISH (Alpha Home entertainment): John Bromfield, lon Chaney (Jr) and Victor Jory vie for sunken treasure in this 1956 melodrama, filmed on location in the Caribbean and loosely based on edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” As a bonus, the DVD also includes the ’56 film Wetbacks (*’), with lloyd Bridges (better than the material) as a sea captain who gets mixed up in the illegal transport of Mexicans to the American coast.
MAU-MAU (Alpha Home entertainment): Chet Huntley narrates this 1955 documentary about the uprising of the title warriors in kenya, who rebelled against British authority in the early 1950s. Rejected for television broadcast and then released to theaters as an exploitation film.
“PSYCH”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Universal studios Home entertainment): James Roday and Dule Hill returns as the detective duo that always seems to land the strangest cases, in all 16 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the light-hearted mystery series. Corbin Bernsen, Timothy Omundson, Maggie lawson and kirsten Nelson round out the regular cast, with fourth-season guest stars including James Brolin, Ally sheedy, Rachael leigh Cook, Cary elwes and ed lauter. This four-DVD boxed set retails for $59.98.
RED BARRY (VCI entertainment): Buster Crabbe plays the title character, a fearless crimefighter, in this 13-chapter 1938 serial ($19.99 retail) based on Will Gould’s comic strip.
THE REICH UNDERGROUND (First Run Features): Writer/director Michael kloft’s detailed documentary examines the history of an extensive (and expensive) system of underground tunnels constructed by the Nazis during World War II. This takes a while to get going, but features some genuinely chilling archival footage.
SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC (Alpha Home entertainment): John Mills plays the title role of Capt. Robert Falcon scott in this stark, effective 1948 dramatization of his fateful expedition to the south Pole in 1911. Produced by ealing studios (best known for its comedies), with a stalwart and sturdy cast that includes kenneth More, James Robertson Justice, Reginald Beckwith, John Gregson and Christopher lee. Mills’ real-life wife, Mary Hayley Bell, is credited with “additional dialogue,” and the cinematography team included future Oscar winners Jack Cardiff and Geoffrey Unsworth.
SNAKE PEOPLE (Alpha Home entertainment): A remote Pacific island is plagued by a voodoo cult in this ponderously paced, low-rent 1968 chiller — one of four Mexican horror films made back to back by Boris karloff at the end of his life. The actor was too ill to travel, so all of his scenes were filmed in Hollywood by director Jack Hill. In some scenes, karloff is doubled and his voice badly dubbed. By the time this showed up in (a few) theaters in 1971, he’d been dead two years. None of karloff’s Mexican films are a fitting tribute to his talents, but this is probably the best-known of them. Originally titled La muerta viviente, and also released as Isle of the Snake People and Cult of the Dead. For die-hard karloff completists only.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2010, Mark Burger hijacking ring, although it does boast the more