video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: the visitor (Code Red DVD)

One of the more mind-boggling monstrosities of its day, this nutty 1979 sci-fi shocker was produced by Ovidio Assonitis, who’d hit box-office pay dirt with 1975’s Beyond the Door (a Rosemary’s Baby/Exorcist rip-off) and 1977’s Tentacles (Jaws, anyone?). This was his “homage” to The Omen and Close Encounters, and is now available in a special-edition DVD. What a way to start the new year.… Newcomer Paige Conner (in her screen debut) is effective as Katy Collins, an 8-year-old girl who’s anything but normal. She’s a spoiled, foul-mouthed brat and, worse, she’s not of this world. She knows it. Her beleaguered mother (Joanne Nail) knows it. And people around her would know it — if they lived long enough.

Opposing Katy is “The Visitor” (John Huston!), an inter-galactic emissary charged with putting a stop to her dire deeds before she brings about the end of the world (or something like that).

In addition to Huston (who also appeared in Tentacles — hey, money’s money), the jaw-dropping assemblage of all-star talent includes Glenn Ford, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Lance Henriksen, Sam Peckinpah and an unbilled Franco Nero (as Jesus Christ?). Everyone looks very confused, as well they might. Audiences were, too.

The American release of the film, which was much edited, made an incomprehensible story even more so. Yet there’s something to these hallucinatory, supernatural shenanigans that has made The Visitor a long-standing favorite of those with a strong tolerance (and unvarnished affection) for vintage schlock. Yours truly is guilty as charged. Rated R.

ALSO Available

ADDICTED TO HER LOVE (E1 Entertainment):

A young misfit (John Patrick Amedori) falls in with the wrong crowd — arrogant rich kids who indulge in drugs, sex and other vices — when he moves to Southern California. Daryl Hannah, with a horrendous hairstyle, plays his mother (!) in this off-putting, wannabe Bret Easton Ellis knock-off, originally titled Love is the Drug and as shallow and unlikable as the characters it depicts. Rated R.

THE AMERICAN (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): George Clooney produced and stars in this brooding, atmospheric thriller based on Martin Booth’s novel A Very Private Gentleman, portraying a burned-out hit-man who agrees to take one last job… which, as cinema history indicates, never goes according to plan. More suspense than action, but worth a look. Rated R.

“BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR” (A&E Home Entertainment): Pests beware, as exterminator expert Billy Breatherton takes action in the popular A&E reality-TV series. “The Complete Season One” includes all 13 episodes from the inaugural 2009 season, “The Complete Season Two” includes all 21 episodes from the 2010 season. Each DVD boxed set retails for $19.95.

“BOY MEETS WORLD”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Ben Savage is the all-American adolescent contending with the ups and downs of high school, boy in all 22 episodes from the 1996-’97 season of the award-winning, primetime ABC-TV situation comedy. Rider Strong, Will Friedle, Danielle Fishel and the alwayswelcome William Daniels round out the regular cast. This DVD boxed set retails for $29.98.

“BRATZ PAMPERED PETZ” (LionsGate Home Entertainment): To commemorate the 10 th anniversary of the popular “Bratz” toy franchise, which spawned video games, albums, an animated series, a (dreadful) live-action feature film, and now this CGI-animated feature ($14.98 DVD retail) in which the Bratz do their part to find homes for animals.

DAYBREAKERS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Some interesting new wrinkles in this futuristic shocker in which a devastating plague has turned most of the world’s population into vampires. Slick visuals tend to overwhelm the political and social allegory of the story, and the first half is a little clunky, but the second half rebounds. The cast includes Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill (one actor who always should’ve played a vampire). Isn’t it odd that the vampires cast no reflection in mirrors but can be broadcast on TV? Rated R.

“GENE SIMMONS FAMILY JEWELS” (A&E Home Entertainment): This popular A&E reality follows the day-to-day adventures of rock star Gene Simmons (also an executive producer) and his partner, Playboy model and B-movie actress Shannon Tweed, and their kids Nick and Sophie. The “Complete Season 4” includes all 18 episodes from the 2009 season and “The Complete Season 5,” all 17 episodes from the 2010 season. Each DVD retails for $19.95.

“IN TREATMENT”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (HBO Home Entertainment): The doctor is in. Gabriel Byrne stars as a divorced psychologist who needs therapy as much as he needs giving it, in all 35 episodes (sessions?) from the 2009 season of the awardwinning HBO series, which earned Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Series, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Series (for both Dianne Wiest and Hope Davis). This seven- DVD boxed set retails for $59.99.

“LIFETIME ORIGINAL MOVIES” (A&E Home Entertainment): If you think the Lifetime Network only makes domestic dramas, here’s a selection of small-screen scare fare that hints otherwise, all made in 2007: Peter Gallagher, Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Peter Fonda assemble for “The Gathering,” which was originally broadcast as a two-part mini-series; Leighton Meester encounters college craziness in “The Haunting of Sorority Row”; Alexz Johnson and Magda Apanowicz open “The Devil’s Diary”; Victoria Pratt stars in “Hush, Little Baby”; and “Still Small Voices” stars Catherine Bell, Mimi Kuzyk, Lawrence Dane and Charles Martin Smith. Each DVD retails for $14.95.

LOCKED DOWN (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Yet another cliché-riddled, uninspired prison melodrama focusing on an underground fight tournament. Tony Schiena is the ex-cop hero, top-billed Vinnie Jones clocks in as a cellblock king, and professional fighters Kevin “Kimbo Slice” Ferguson, Rashad “Sugar” Evans and Forrest Griffin rock the ring. Rated R.

“THE SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS: 2010 WORLD SERIES COLLECTOR’S EDITION” (Major League Baseball Productions/A&E Home Entertainment): An eight-DVD boxed set ($79.95 retail) highlighting how the San Francisco Giants won their first World Series in more than 50 years. Included are all five World Series games against the Texas Rangers. A&E Home Entertainment is also releasing the documentary “The Magic Inside: The 2010 Season of the World Champion San Francisco Giants,” which retails for $19.95.

SMALL TOWN SATURDAY NIGHT (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/director Ryan Craig’s debut feature is modest but well-acted small-town soap opera with Chris Prine as a young singer struggling with his ambitions. Also on hand: Bre Blair, Muse Watson, Brent Briscoe, John Hawkes, Shawn Christian, Lin Shaye, Robert Pine and Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister. Rated PG-13.

“SPACE: 1999”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&E Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray debut of the popular series starring Martin Landau and Barbara Bain (then husband and wife) and set in Moonbase Alpha. This seven disc boxed set, which includes all 24 episodes from the 1975-’76 season and a variety of special features, retails for $99.95.

SUICIDE (Troma Team Video): Raoul W Heinreich’s award-winning, low-budget media satire, originally titled, focuses on a couple of internet entrepreneurs who film people killing themselves. Conveyed entirely through the lens of their video camera and played totally straight, this is sometimes quite somber but surprisingly accessible, although definitely not for all tastes. (In German with English subtitles)

WHY DID I GET MARRIED TOO? (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Malik Yoba, Michael Jai White, Richard T Jones, et al, are reunited for writer/producer/ director Perry’s follow-up to his 2007 box-office hit, based on his touring play about four black couples dealing with life, love and matters of the heart. With its combination of broad, sometimes shrill comedy and soap opera, this follows the patented Perry formula. Likewise, it also seems to go on forever — but (surprise, surprise) everything seems resolved by the end. The ensemble cast tries hard … some very hard. Available as a DVD ($29.95 retail) or Blu-ray ($39.99 retail). LionsGate is also releasing Tyler Perry’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family” (The Play), which retails for $19.98 (DVD) and $24.99 (Blu-ray). Rated PG-13.

“WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Marvel Animation/ LionsGate Home Entertainment): All 26 episodes from the animated series (broadcast on Nicktoons) based on the popular Marvel Comics characters. The DVD retails for $29.98, the Blu-ray for $44.99. Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger