DVD Pick of the week: HERSCHELL GORDON LEWiS: THE GODFATHER OF GORE (Something Weird/Image Entertainment)
Frank Henenlotter and Jimmy Maslon’s documentary is an affectionate look at the one-of-a-kind career of cult filmmaker Herschell Gordon Lewis, a pioneer in cinematic blood and guts.
Having begun his career in “nudie cutie” films, Lewis’ scored with gore in Blood Feast (1963), Two Thousand Maniacs (‘64), The Wizard of Gore (1970) and others. Trashed by critics and condemned in some communities, they were cheap, cheesy and immensely profitable. In retrospect Lewis’ films are often laughably campy, yet this is part of their charm… so to speak.
Lewis is good humored and ingratiating, and among those weighing in on his cinematic legacy are Henenlotter,
John Waters, cinematographer Steven Poster, the late David Friedman (Lewis’ long-time producer) ,and film critics Joe Bob Briggs (AKA John Bloom) and my pal Kevin Thomas, whose withering review of Blood Feast in the LA Times had the desired effect: Audiences came in droves.
Image Entertainment is also releasing “The Blood Trilogy” Blu-ray ($17.97 retail) that includes Blood Feast, Two Thousand Manics and Color Me Blood Red (1965) with extensive bonus features.
“AAAHH!!! REAL MONSTERS”: SEASON ONE (Shout! Factory): The animated, awardwinning Nickelodeon children’s series about three young monsters makes its debut in this two-DVD collection ($19.93 retail) featuring all 13 episodes from the premiere 1994 season — just in time for Halloween. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Animation.
ANGELS MEMORIES: THE GREATEST MOMENTS IN ANGELS BASEBALL HISTORY (Major League Baseball Productions/A&E Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this documentary tracing the 50-year history of the Anaheim Angels (formerly the California Angels), whose star players included Nolan Ryan, Rod Carew, Don Sutton, Fred Lynn and Reggie Jackson. This DVD retails for $19.95. MLB/A&E is also releasing the self-explanatory “Anaheim Angels 2002 World Series Collector’s Edition,” a DVD boxed set ($69.95 retail) featuring full broadcasts of the seven-game triumph over the San Francisco Giants.
BENEATH THE DARK (IFC Midnight/MPI Media Group): Writer/director Chad Feehan’s moody but ponderously paced feature debut stars Jamie- Lynn Sigler and Josh Stewart as a couple who check into a roadside motel where strange things happen. Originally titled Wake, the “big” plot twist here is fairly obvious from the outset.
THE CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST COLLECTION (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($29.93 retail) of all 81 cartoon shorts produced from 1945-’63 — 55 theatrical shorts and 26 from the TV series “New Casper Cartoon Show,” as well as myriad bonus features.
CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (Image Entertainment): Director/co-screenwriter/editor/executive producer Robert Hall’s sequel to his 2009 shocker sees the metal-masked maniac (Nick Principe again) resurrected and up to his old tricks: scalping, flaying, disemboweling and otherwise abusing those he encounters. Thomas Dekker and Jonathan Schaech (in a different role) return from this first film, joined by Brian Austin Green, Danielle Harris, Gail O’Grady and Angelina Armani (in her mainstream film debut). Well-made, with touches of black comedy, but excessive and depressing. Perhaps this series ought to be laid to rest. Rated R (also available in an unrated version).
“DANNY PHANTOM”: SEASON ONE (Shout! Factory): A four-DVD boxed set ($29.93 retail) containing all 20 episodes from the premiere 2004-’05 season of the award-winning animated Nickelodeon series about a 14-year-old boy (voiced by David Kaufman) who becomes halfghost and embarks on a series of misadventures in the spirit world.
FALL CLASSIC AT FENWAY PARK (A&E Home Entertainment): The Boston Red Sox finally broke its dubious streak by winning the World Series in 2004 and again in ‘07, highlights of which are included in this special-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) or Blu-ray ($24.95). As Red Sox fans are undoubtedly, painfully aware, this season ended much differently.
FAST FIVE (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Like the title says, Vin Diesel (also a producer), Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster are back for their fifth spin of the high-octane, low-IQ franchise, distinguished (as it were) by screeching tires, gleaming chrome and perennial posing, as well as the escalating destruction of cars and property. This time, Rio gets rocked by a high-decibel heist, with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in pursuit as a hot shot federal agent. These seem to be getting longer and louder, but not any better. A sixth installment is on the assembly line. Rated PG-13 (also available in an extended edition).
FOX WORLD CINEMA (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): International cinema is celebrated with this inaugural trio of acclaimed, award-winning films: Kim Rossi Stuart stars as real-life Milanese gangster Renato Vallanzasca in Michele Placido’s R-rated Angel of Evil (Vallanzasca: Gli angeli del male); Chinese filmmaker Wuershan makes his feature debut with the PG-13-rated martial-arts fantasy The Butcher, the Chef and the Swordsman (Dao Jian Xiao); and Rohan Sippy’s R-rated “Bollywood” crime thriller Dum Maaro Dum. Each film is presented in its native language (Italian, Mandarin and Hindi, respectively) with English subtitles, and each DVD retails for $29.98.
HORRIBLE BOSSES (Warner Home Video):
Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston and Colin Farrell steal the show as the title characters in this amusing comedy about three friends (Jason Bateman, Charlie Day and Jason Sudeikis) who scheme to kill their antagonistic employers with the help of an ex-con (Jamie Foxx) they meet in a bar. Rated R (also available in a “Totally Inappropriate Edition”)
“KOJAK”: SEASON TWO (Shout! Factory):
“Who loves ya, baby?” Telly Savalas, that’s who, scoring an Emmy nomination as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, in his signature role as New York cop Theo Kojak, in all 25 episodes from the 1974-’75 season of the popular CBS crime series. Guest stars include Martin Balsam, Ruth Gordon, Robert Loggia, Leslie Nielsen, Paul Anka, F. Murray Abraham, Kathleen Quinlan, John Randolph, Norman Lloyd, John Glover, Abe Vigoda and Zohra Lampert, who wio the Emmy for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Comedy or Drama Series. Four additional Emmy nominations including Outstanding Drama Series and two for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series (including one for Savalas). The DVD boxed set retails for $44.99.
THE PUPPET MONSTER MASSACRE (MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in Dustin Mills’ award-winning horror spoof, with puppets swearing, having sex and getting slaughtered in an old mansion on a dark and stormy night. Silly — no surprise there — but inspired and amusing, with in-jokes aplenty. Definitely not not for the kiddies!
SAVAGE (MTI Home Video): Bigfoot goes on a bloody rampage in in a national park in this pedestrian creature feature starring Martin Kove and Lisa Wilcox.
SCREAM 4 (Dimension Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director Wes Craven, screenwriter Kevin Williamson and “surviving” cast members Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette reunite for this enjoyable, if belated, installment to the popular horror franchise. Also in peril: Emma Roberts, Hayden Panettiere, Rory Culkin, Melissa George, Mary McDonnell and Anthony Anderson, with cameos by Anna Paquin and Kristen Bell. Roger L. Jackson also reprises his voiceover role as “Ghostface.” This was a box-office disappointment, but nicely brings the series full circle. Rated R.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘ 2011, Mark Burger