video vault

by Mark Burger


A quintessential stiff-upper-lip British World War II thriller, this 1943 outing is put across in clear, concise fashion by director Anthony Asquith.

For the crew of the HMS Sea Tiger, a long-overdue leave is canceled when orders are issued to intercept a German battleship in the Baltic Sea — immediately. Their timing’s a little off, so the decision is made to pursue the ship into enemy waters, where the Sea Tiger stands alone against numerous German warships and steadily steepening odds.

John Mills, somewhat the quintessential English actor himself, is ideally cast as the young captain Lt. Taylor, whose expressed desire to see more action comes a bit truer than expected, and the stalwart cast includes such familiar faces as Eric Portman and Niall MacGinnis.

There are some nice character moments, which enhance the film’s mounting tension without interrupting it, and the climax, in which the Sea Tiger is forced to refuel off the occupied Danish coast in the dead of night, is a textbook example of building suspense.

Given the era in which the film was made, there’s a patriotic message that through teamwork, effort and courage, heroes are born and battles can be won. No one can do it alone. A laudable sentiment, indeed.


AND SOON THE DARKNESS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Tourists Amber Heard and Odette Yustman find trouble in Argentina in this picturesque, if predictable, remake of a 1971 Hammer thriller. The build-up’s not bad, but too much is given away too soon. Karl Urban and Adriana Barraza (once an Oscar nominee) costar. Rated R.

BEN BAILEY: ROAD RAGE AND ACCIDENTIAL ORNITHOLOGY (Entertainment One): Emmy winner Ben Bailey, of Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab” and “Cash Cab After Dark,” takes the stage in this stand-up comedy special ($19.98 retail), originally broadcast on Comedy Central.

THE DORM THAT DRIPPED BLOOD (Synapse Films): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) of the low-budget 1981 slasher film about college co-eds being slaughtered as they clean out an abandoned dormitory over the Christmas holidays. Pretty standard stuff, but competently made by first-time filmmakers Stephen Carpenter and Jeffrey Obrow, who were UCLA film students at the time. Released in 1982, it was originally titled Death Dorm and was also known as Pranks. This was composer Christopher Young’s first major score, and also marked Daphne Zuniga’s screen debut as an early victim. This marks the first time that the full, uncut version has been released. With a title like that, you certainly know what you’re in for!

“THE DREADFUL HALLOWGREEN SPECIAL” (Alpha New Cinema): Nashville TV horror host Dr. Gangrene (Larry Underwood) teams up with New England TV horror hostess Penny Dreadful (Danielle Gelehrter) to save Halloween in this enjoyably campy TV special, narrated by Washington DC horror host Count Gore de Vol (Richard Dyszel) and originally broadcast last year on Oct. 31. Remember: “Messing with Halloween isn’t cool.”

THE EDGE OF LOVE (Image Entertainment): In World War II England, Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys) spends his time drinking, smoking and talking with both his wife (Sienna Miller) and a former love (Keira Knightley), but the latter’s traumatized husband (Cillian Murphy) causes problems for everyone. This ambitious but starched soap opera, penned by Knightley’s mother Sharman Macdonald, never connects despite sincere intentions.

HYPNOTIZED (Alpha Home Entertainment): George Moran and Charles Mack, the “Two Black Crows,” play circus workers mixed up in shipboard shenanigans searching a winning lottery ticket in this 1932 comedy, which (incredibly) marked Mack Sennett’s final feature. The minstrel-show level of Moran & Mack’s comedy is embarrassingly outdated, but in the film’s latter stages (in which their characters are incidental to the point of being unnecessary), Sennett trots out a few tried-and-true slapstick setpieces. Wallace Ford and Maria Alba play the romantic leads and Ernest Torrence the resident hypnotist (hence the title).

I AM NUMBER FOUR (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): The popular novel by Pittacus Lore comes to the big screen, with Alex Pettyfer as an all-American teenager who’s actually an alien on the lam. Available as a DVD ($29.99 retail), a Blu-ray ($39.99 retail), or a combo pack ($44.99 retail). Rated PG-13.

THE INCREDIBLES (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): Disney and Pixar hit critical and financial paydirt (again) with writer/ director Brad Bird’s irresistible 2004 animated comedy about a family of superheroes. A starstudded voice lineup includes Holly Hunter, Craig T. Nelson, Wallace Shawn, Pixar perennial John Ratzenberger, and Samuel L. Jackson. Oscar wins for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Editing, with additional nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Sound Mixing. Newly available in a four-disc DVD/Bluray combo ($45.99 retail). Rated PG.

THE MECHANIC (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Ace assassin Jason Statham teaches eager Ben Foster the violent tricks of the trade in this agreeably weird remake of the 1972 thriller, which stands as one of the better remakes in recent memory… at least until the standard-issue pyrotechnics take precedence in the third act. Still, this is one of director Simon West’s best outings, well served by the eversteely Statham and a disarmingly creepy Foster. Rated R.

NAVY SECRETS (Alpha Home Entertainment): Fay Wray and Grant Withers try to crack an enemy spy ring in this zippy 1939 thriller, replete with comedy interludes.

THE POINTING FINGER (Alpha Home Entertainment): The title portrait portends doom — or does it? — for the House of Edensdore in this creaky 1934 programmer featuring John Stuart, Viola Keats, and a twist ending.

“ROOKIE BLUE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Entertainment One): Five rookie cops lay down the law in all 13 episodes from the premiere season of the primetime ABC crime drama. The ensemble cast includes Missy Peregrym, Gregory Smith, Travis Milne, Eric Johnson, Charlotte Sullivan and Enuka Okuma. The DVD boxed set retails for $44.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $49.98.

THE ROOMMATE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Leighton Meester acts up a storm (to no avail) as a crazed college co-ed who becomes obsessed with new roommate Minka Kelly. Fill in the blanks. A woefully obvious and unconvincing latter-day riff on Single White Female and Fatal Attraction, although good for unintentional laughs. Movies this bad shouldn’t make money, but this one did. An embarrassment. Rated PG-13. No stars

“SWAMP PEOPLE”: THE COMPLETE SEASON ONE (A&E Home Entertainment): A three-DVD boxed set ($29.95 retail) of all 19 episodes from the premiere 2010-’11 season of the History Channel reality series, narrated Pat Duke, that explores the customs and lifestyles of the Cajun folk who call Louisiana’s Atchafalaya Swamp home.

UFC: ULTIMATE ROYCE GRACIE (Anchor Bay Entertainment): The title tells all in this twodisc documentary ($24.98 retail DVD, $34.99 retail Blu-ray) highlighting the career of the Ultimate Fighting Championship superstar, who helped pave the way to bring mixed martialarts into the mainstream.

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