video vault

by Mark Burger

DVD Pick of the week: Lucky Lady (Shout! Factory)

Big stars. Big director. Big studio. A hot script. How could it miss? Yet this light-hearted, and light-headed, 1975 romp directed by Stanley Donen was a misfire, compounded by production delays, script rewrites and, most famously, an entirely new ending filmed long after test audiences disliked the original one. At its best, this overblown and overproduced farce is a jolly mess.

Set in 1930s California, this comedic saga of Prohibition-era rum-runners is not lacking for screen talent. Gene Hackman, Liza Minnelli and Burt Reynolds are the star trio who find their fortune in transporting illegal liquor, forming a romantic triangle along the way.

Although hardly unwatchable, there’s a curious lethargy to the proceedings, made even more glaring by the immense (and unnecessary) scope of the film. Minnelli tends to overplay her role. Hackman, for all his gifts, proves that light comedy is not his forte. By default, Reynolds looks the most comfortable in these surroundings.

Also on board are John Hillerman, Michael Hordern, Geoffrey Lewis, Robby Benson, John McLiam and Val Avery, yet there’s not much for them — or the three stars, really — to do. Yet like a lot of big-budget bad movies from that era, it’s hard not to have some affection for it. At least they tried. Rated PG.

ALSO Available

11 HARROWHOUSE (Shout! Factory): Charles Grodin and Candice Bergen set their sights on stealing a fortune in gems from the title diamond exchange in London, in this quirky 1974 caper comedy adapted from Gerald W. Browne’s novel by Grodin (who provides wry, dry narration). Bergen has little more to do than look glamorous, but you can’t beat the supporting cast: James Mason, Trevor Howard and real-life wife Helen Cherry and John Gielgud at his officious best as the exchange manager. Rated PG.

“ARMY WIVES”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Kim Delaney, Wendy Davis and Catherine Bell head the ensemble cast of this popular, award-winning Lifetime drama series, all 18 episodes from the 2010 season of which are included on this DVD boxed set ($39.99 retail), which includes deleted scenes and outtakes.

BAMBI (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): A special “Diamond Edition” of the 1942 Disney classic, undoubtedly one of the studio’s most beloved animated features, about a young deer destined to be “Prince of the Forest.” Three Academy Award nominations: Best Original Score, Best Sound Recording and Best Song (“Love is a Song”). Plenty of bonus features (documentaries, games and more) for the Disney devotee. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $39.99; the two-disc DVD (released April 19) retails for $29.99. Rated G.

BEST WORST MOVIE (Docurama Films):

Michael Paul Stephenson’s affectionate, awardwinning documentary examines the cinematic “legacy” of the 1990 schlock horror film Troll 2 (in which Stephenson played the lead role), which has become revered by lovers of bad movies the

world over. This fresh, funny look at the cult culture screened at last year’s RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHA 2 (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): George Lopez reprises his voiceover role as Papi in this followup to the inexplicably popular 2008 comedy about talking dogs. It’s official: They’ll make a sequel to anything. The DVD retails for $29.99, a Blu-ray/DVD combo for $39.99. Rated G.

“HANNAH MONTANA FOREVER”: THE FINAL SEASON (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Miley Cyrus bids farewell to her signature character, in all 13 episodes from the 2010-’11 season of the popular, award-winning Disney Channel comedy series that launched Cyrus to super-stardom. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Children’s Program. This DVD boxed set, which retails for $29.99, includes documentaries and other bonus features.

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (Warner Home Video):

When their best friends die, Katherine Heigl (also an executive producer) and Josh Duhamel decide to raise their orphaned baby daughter. Guess what happens next? An extremely dubious concept for a romantic comedy yields a sugary soap opera suffering from a terminal case of the cutes. Rated PG-13.

THE LIGHTKEEPERS (Image Entertainment):

Set in 1912, this corny, overripe comedy stars Richard Dreyfuss (also an executive producer) as a curmudgeonly lighthouse keeper and Tom Wisdom as the young man who washes ashore and becomes his assistant. Picturesque but genteel to the point of arthritic, despite a cast that includes Blythe Danner, Bruce Dern, Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) and Ben Dreyfuss (Richard’s son). Writer/director Daniel

Adams’ follow-up, of sorts, to his 2008 film The Golden Boys (which didn’t need a follow-up), which also featured Dern, albeit in a different role. This plays like bad theater. Rated PG.

“MANNIX”: THE FOURTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): Mike Connors is back in action as hard-driving, two-fisted LA private eye Joe Mannix, in all 24 episodes from the 1970-’71 season of the prime-time CBS crime drama. Three Emmy nominations including Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Connors) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Gail Fisher). This six-DVD boxed set retails for $54.99.

MULTIPLE SARCASMS (Image Entertainment): Neurotic playwright Timothy Hutton uses his own life as the basis for his latest play, at which point things get really out of hand. A fun idea yields scattered results, as parts of the film are greater than the whole. This needs more sarcasm and faster pacing, but the cast is good: Dana Delany, Mira Sorvino, Stockard Channing, Mario Van Peebles, Laila Robins and, for about three seconds, Chris Sarandon. Rated R.

THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Old-school hand-drawn animation highlights this engaging Disney feature that gives the tale of “The Frog Prince” a light-hearted, jazzy spin, set in New Orleans. Having predominantly black characters is a nice (and probably overdue) change of pace. The vocal talent includes Anika Noni Rose, Keith David, Terrence Howard, Oprah Winfrey, Jenifer Lewis, Bruno Campos, Jim Cummings and John Goodman. Three Academy Award nominations: Best Animated Feature and Best Song (“Almost There” and “Down in New Orleans”). Available as a single-disc DVD ($29.99

retail), a single-disc Blu-ray ($39.99 retail), or a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($44.99). Rated G.

THE SINISTER EYES OF DR. ORLOFF (Intervision): The diabolical doctor (William Berger this time around) hatches another sinister scheme, as director Jess Franco revisits his signature character in this trashy 1973 potboiler featuring Edmund Purdom, Lina Romay (Mrs. Franco), and even Franco himself in a brief cameo. In Spanish with English subtitles (which don’t help much). For fervent Franco-philes only.

“THE WALKING DEAD”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The dead just won’t stay dead, in all six episodes from the inaugural 2010 season of the popular AMC cable series about a post-apocalyptic world overrun by zombies, created by Frank Darabont and based on Robert Kirkman’s series of graphic novels. The ensemble cast includes Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Laurie Holden and Darabont favorite Jeffrey DeMunn. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.98 and the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.98. Each include bonus features and interviews.

“WEBSTER”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Shout! Factory): Real-life husband and wife Alex Karras and Susan Clark star as a couple who welcome the orphaned son (Emmanuel Lewis) of an old friend into their home, in all 22 episodes from the debut 1983- ’84 season of the award-winning, prime-time ABC situation comedy. This three-DVD boxed set retails for $29.93.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger