video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Machine gun Mccain (Blue Underground)

The actors make the movie in screenwriter/director Guiliano Montaldo’s funky, cold-blooded 1969 “spaghetti gangster” saga.

There’s John Cassavetes, hot off an Oscar nomination for The Dirty Dozen (1967) and the smash success of Rosemary’s Baby (1968), in the title role of Hank McCain, newly sprung from san Quentin for the express purpose of robbing a las Vegas casino.

Said purpose is the edict of Charlie Adamo (Peter Falk), an ambitious West Coast godfather determined to make his mark in Vegas — at least until his own superiors (headed by Gabriele Ferzetti) get wind of the plan and decide otherwise.

McCain walks away from the heist with nearly $2 million, setting into motion a series of set-ups and double-crosses. There’s a palpable, noir-ish sense of doom as the net closes in on McCain and the bodies start to fall. (Ocean’s Eleven this is not.)

Cassavetes gives a nervy, unpredictable performance as the hard-bitten McCain, while Falk tears into his role with juicy bravado. Britt ekland provides a touch of glamour as the cocktail waitress McCain hooks up with, and Cassavetes’ real-life wife, Gena Rowlands, has a great cameo appearance as McCain’s ex, who still carries a torch for him — even if it gets her burned. ennio Morricone (who else?) contributes a jazzy score that includes the ditty “The Ballad of Hank McCain.” How it didn’t become a hit I’ll never know.

“ALDO VS. FABER” (Image entertainment):The World extreme Cagefighting featherweightchampionship match between Jose Aldo andUriah “The California kid” Faber, which took placethis past April in sacramento, Cal. is showcasedon this special-edition DVD ($14.98 retail) and Bluray($19.98 retail), which also includes the worldlightweight championship rematch between BenHenderson and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.DON McKAY (Image entertainment): Writer/director Jake Goldberger’s misguided featuredebut stars Thomas Haden Church (also an executiveproducer) as a small-town janitor who returnshome to reunite with his high school sweetheart(elisabeth shue), only to soon find himselfenmeshed in deception and murder. Despite agood, if over-the-top, cast (including Melissa leo,keith David, James Rebhorn, Pruitt Taylor Vinceand the always-welcome M emmet Walsh) andsome moments of black comedy, this plays likebad theater, with the actors seemingly in on somesort of private joke. Rated R.“FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS”: THEFOURTH SEASON (Universal studios Homeentertainment): The day-to-day lives of a smalltownhigh-school football team — parents,teachers, players, cheerleaders, et al —] aredramatized in all 13 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of the award-winning, prime-timeNBC-TV drama series, based on the 2004 featurefilm. The ensemble cast includes Connie Britton,Taylor kitsch, kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons.Four emmy nominations including Chandler asOutstanding lead Actor in a Drama series andBritton as Outstanding lead Actress in a Dramaseries. This boxed set retails for $29.98.GREENBERG (Universal studios Homeentertainment): Ben stiller’s in top form inthe title role of screenwriter/director NoahBaumbach’s customarily brittle, cynical, grownupromantic comedy about a failed musicianturned-malcontent who, while staying at hisbrother’s los Angeles home, instigates anoff-and-on romance with his brother’s personalassistant (Greta Gerwig). A little on the long sidebut worthwhile nevertheless, with good supportfrom Rhys Ifans and Baumbach’s real-lifewife, Jennifer Jason leigh (also a producer andstory writer). Rated R.HAMLET (Warner Home Video): kennethBranagh adapted, directed and stars in this titlerole of this epic, unexpurgated 1996 version ofthe shakespeare classic, newly released on Blu-ray($34.99 retail). A star-studded cast includes kateWinslet (as Ophelia), Julie Christie (as Gertrude),Richard Attenborough, Judi Dench, CharltonHeston, Jack lemmon, Billy Crystal, Robin Williamsand many others. Four Academy Award nominations:Best Adapted screenplay, Best score, BestArt Direction/set Decoration and Best CostumeDesign. Impressive, to be sure, but at four hours,one gets the feeling is that even shakespearecould do with a little editing. Rated PG-13.MIDDLE OF NOWHERE (Imageentertainment): eva Amurri and her real-lifemother susan sarandon play mother anddaughter in director John stockwell’s comingof-age comedy/drama that doesn’t quite addup but has some nice moments along theway… and some contrived ones. Attractiveperformances all around (especially Amurri’s),including Willa Holland, Anton Yelchin andJustin Chatwin. Rated R.MISTER ANTONIO (Alpha Homeentertainment): leo Carrillo plays the title rolein this pleasant 1929 comedy based on BoothTarkington’s play, as an Italian immigrant whoencounters hypocrisy in a small Pennsylvaniatown. Corny and dated, but Carrillo brings anamusing dignity to the role and at least the stereotypedcharacters aren’t portrayed in a meanspiritedmanner.NOTORIOUS BUT NIcE (Alpha Homeentertainment): Richard Thorpe directed thisentertaining pre-Code 1933 melodrama (officiallycondemned by the Catholic Church, noless!), following Marian Marsh as she goes frominnocent girl to accused murderess by forcesbeyond her control. Good performances allaround, including those of Betty Compson,Donald Dillaway, John st Polis, Rochelle Hudson,Henry kolker, Robert ellis and particularly J.Carrol Naish, as a shady club owner who comesto a bad end.THE PROWLER (Blue Underground): The Bluraydebut ($29.98 retail) of the uncut version of directorJoseph Zito’s gory 1981 mystery (also known asRosemary’s Killer) in which a masked madman commitsa rash of sadistic murders in Cape May, NJ. Thecast includes Farley Granger and lawrence Tierney,but this is best remembered for Tom savini’s grislymakeup effects..THE RAcING STRAIN (Alpha Homeentertainment): This pre-Code 1932 melodramastars Wallace Reid Jr. as an ambitious youngauto racer who battles the bottle as much hebattles the curves. Hokey at times, but autoenthusiasts will enjoy the vintage cars.SONG OF ARIZONA (Alpha Homeentertainment): In this 1946 Western fromRepublic Pictures, Roy Rogers (as himself, ofcourse) lends a hand at a dude ranch run by hisold sidekick, George “Gabby” Hayes (playing acharacter named “Gabby,” of course). Also onhand: Dale evans (of course), Roy’s horse Trigger(who gets second billing!), Bob Nolan and thesons of the Pioneers, and lyle Talbot as the badguy. The Halloween number “When Mr. spooksteps Out” is a treat, although some of thehumor (like a minstrel gag) has seriously dated.still, this is one of Roy’s better, faster-paced outings,and is the full 67-minute version.SONG OF THE TRAIL (Alpha Homeentertainment): kermit Maynard headlines this1936 Western quickie as a rodeo trick-rider whogallops into action to help an old flame (evelynBrent) whose father (George Hayes, forgoing“Gabby” for once) loses the family mine in acrooked poker game. Joining Maynard are histrusty horse, Rocky, and his trusty sidekick,Pudge (Fuzzy knight).“TRAUMA”: SEASON 1 (Universal studiosHome entertainment): A four-DVD boxed set($39.98 retail) containing every episode fromthe 2009-’10 (and only) season of the primetimeNBC-TV drama series focusing on thedaily rigors of paramedics in san Francisco. Theensemble cast includes Cliff Curtis, Derek luke,Aimee Garcia and Jamey sheridan.“UFC 114: RAMPAGE VS. EVANS”(Anchor Bay entertainment): The latest two-DVDrelease ($19.97 retail) from the Ultimate FightingChampionship showcases the grudge matchbetween Quentin “Rampage” Jackson (recentlyseen in the big-screen A-Team) and “suga”Rashad evans. Other featured bouts includeJensen vs. Forbes, Bisping vs. Miller, and more.“WAREHOUSE 13”: SEASON 1 (Universalstudios Home entertainment): The title enclavehouses strange and mysterious artifacts, whichare duly investigated by a pair of secret serviceagents (eddie McClintock and Joanne kelly) inall 13 episodes from the 2009-’10 season of thesyfy Channel series, which earned an emmynomination for Outstanding Original Main TitleTheme Music. The three-DVD boxed set, whichincludes bonus features, retails for $49.98.