DVD Pick of the week: Deep Red (Blue Underground)
Dario Argento solidified his reputation as an heir apparent to Hitchcock with this award-winning 1975 classic, which was heavily edited when released in the US (sometimes under the title The Hatchet Murders).
David Hemmings, in a nod to his role in Antonioni’s Blow Up (1966), stars as Marcus Daly, an English pianist in Rome who witnesses the brutal murder of psychic Helga Ulmann (Macha Meril), then plays amateur sleuth trying to ferret out the killer, joined by saucy reporter Gianni Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Needless to say, more violent murders follow, as Marcus draws closer to the killer… and the killer to him.
Like Argento’s best films (Suspiria, Inferno), Deep Red trumps substance with style, tinged with wicked black comedy and bolstered immeasurably by Luigi Kuveiller’s smashing cinematography and a pounding score by Giorgio Gaslini and Goblin.
The much-missed Hemmings is in top form, matched by Nicolodi in perhaps her best performance. Argento liked her too, as the two were romantically involved for many years afterward (Asia Argento is their daughter).
The DVD, which contains the uncensored English version of the film, retails for $14.98; the Blu-ray, which contains both that version and the Italian director’s cut, retails for $29.98. Deep Red isn’t flawless, but it’s a great movie. What the hell:
“ACCORDING TO JIM”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A four-DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) of all 29 episodes from the 2003-’04 season of the long-running prime-time ABC sitcom, starring Jim Belushi and Courtney Thorne- Smith as an all-American couple contending with raising three precocious kids.
ACTION/ADVENTURE DOUBLE FEATURE (Shout! Factory): It sure is, with Tom Berenger and William Katt headlining 1979’s PG-rated prequel Butch and Sundance: The Early Days , and the rugged, much-underrated teaming of Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin in 1981’s fact-based, R-rated Death Hunt
This DVD twin-bill retails for $14.93.
DEMENTIA 13 (Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics/Virgil Films & Entertainment): A digitally restorted version of the 1963 shocker, which marked the mainstream debut of a young writer/ director named Francis Ford Coppola, produced by Roger Corman. A B-movie through and through, but certainly watchable — although its main distinction remains being Coppola’s bow. The cast includes William Campbell (who died in April), Luana Anders and Patrick Magee. The DVD/ Blu-ray combo retails for $15.99.
DIANA DORS COMEDY DOUBLE FEATURE (VCI Entertainment): The buxom British bombshell, born Diana Fluck (1931-’84) and touted as Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe, sashays through this DVD twin-bill ($19.99 retail): Director J Lee Thompson’s 1955 adaptation of Charles Terrot’s novel An Alligator Named Daisy (1955) with Donald Sinden, Margaret Rutherford, James Robertson Justice, Stephen Boyd and Stanley Holloway; and director Ken Annakin’s adaptation of Derrick Boothroyd’s novel Value for Money (also ’55) with John Gregson and Donald Pleasence.
I LOVE YOU PHILLIP MORRIS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Jim Carrey is at his outrageous best in this fact-based(!) saga about an incorrigible con artist who just can’t stay out of trouble. Bold and unpredictable, this awardwinning comedy never found its audience but was one of 2010’s best films and a noteworthy debut for writer/directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra. Carrey’s love interest is Ewan McGregor (as Phillip Morris), and the two are actually a fun screen couple! Not for all tastes but a true American original. Rated R.
THE KILLING JAR (Image Entertainment):
Customers at an all-night diner encounter trouble when shotgun-toting psycho Michael Madsen comes strolling in. Writer/editor/director Mark Young’s talky melodrama boasts some good moments but too often feels like a stage play, albeit a violent and profane one. Amber Benson, Harold Perrineau, Jake Busey and Danny Trejo are also on hand. Madsen and Perrineau were also executive producers. Filmed in Charlotte.
“THE PJ’S”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A two-DVD boxed set ($19.98 retail) of all 14 episodes from the premier 1999 season of the prime-time Fox Network stop-motion animation sitcom about a bickering family trying to survive in a Detroit housing project. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer served as executive producers, and the voiceover cast includes series co-creator Eddie Murphy, Loretta Devine and Ja’Net Dubois, who won the Emmy for Outstanding Voice- Over Performance. Additional nominations for Outstanding Animated Program and Outstanding Main Title Theme Music.
THE RITE (Warner Home Video): There’s Satanic panic in Rome, as neophyte priest (an inauspicious screen debut for Colin O’Donoghue) learns the tricks of the trade from veteran exorcist Anthony Hopkins (who alternates between hammy histrionics and boredom). “Inspired” by actual incidents, but otherwise dismally uninspired. If you can accept the idea that the Vatican is training teams of exorcists to go forth in the world, maybe this movie is for you. Others beware. Ciaran Hinds, Toby Jones and Rutger Hauer skulk around in support. Rated PG-13.
THE SINS OF MADAME BOVARY (One 7 Movies/CAV Distributing): Edwige Fenech plays the lusty, busty title role in this 1969 softcore adaptation of Flaubert’s classic, released simply as Madame Bovary in the US. Fenech is easy on the eyes and the story’s told in straightforward fasion, but by today’s standards the nudity is fairly mild. In Italian with English subtitles.
“STAN LEE’S SUPERHEROES”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&E Home Entertainment): A two-DVD boxed set ($19.95 retail) of all eight episodes from the inaugural 2010 season of the History Channel reality series in which Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee and contortionist Daniel Browning Smith profile people from around the world with amazing, seemingly superhuman abilities.
STUCK! (Ariztical Entertainment): Steve Balderson’s affectionate black-and-white take on ’50s-era women-behind-bars potboilers features Starina Johnson as a woman unjustly imprisoned for murder. An enthusiastic cast includes Karen Black, Jane Wiedlin, Mink Stole, Susan Traylor and Pleasant Gehmann, but what begins as a send-up begins taking itself far too seriously in the latter stages. Rob Kleiner’s jazzy score is a highlight.
TERRY-THOMAS COMEDY DOUBLE FEATURE (VCI Entertainment): The gaptoothed British funnyman, born Thomas Terry Hoar Stevens (1918-’90) dominates this DVD double feature ($19.99 retail): Too Many Crooks (1959) co-stars George Cole and Sid James and Make Mine Mink (1960) co-stars Athene Seyler and Billie Whitelaw.
THE TERROR (Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics/Virgil Films & Entertainment): Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson (in his first screen lead) topline Roger Corman’s oddball 1963 chiller in which a young soldier encounters mystery and madness in the castle of a mysterious baron. Corman filmed this on leftover sets from other movies, and some scenes were reportedly directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Monte Hellman, Jack Hill and even Nicholson himself. The cast also includes Sandra Knight (then married to Nicholson) and the alwayswelcome Dick Miller. It doesn’t always make sense, but it has a (probably unintentional) strange, dreamlike ambience. Long available on various public-domain labels, this version has been digitally restored and is available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($15.99 retail).
THOR: TALES OF ASGARD (Marvel Animation/LionsGate Home Entertainment): In conjunction with the release of the live-action Thor, this animated feature ($19.98 retail DVD, $29.99 retail Blu-ray) sees the Marvel Comics superhero embarking on a perilous journey to retrieve a legendary sword.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger