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by Mark Burger

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MARCUS-NELSON MURDERS

(Shout! Factory)

When you think Telly Savalas, you inevitably think Kojak. It was the perfect synthesis of actor and character.

This acclaimed 1973 TV movie, which dramatized the case that paved the way for the passage of the Miranda Act, in which suspects are informed of their rights before being questioned, also served as the introduction to Lt. Theo Kojak.

Two young women have been brutally slain in New York City, and a massive manhunt yields but one suspect: Lewis Humes (Gene Woodbury), a black teenager whose “confession” was clearly the result of police coercion. An open and shut case? Kojak knows better, and puts his career in jeopardy to both prove Lewis’ innocence and track down the actual killer.

Savalas may not have been the most subtle actor, but he had great presence and charisma, and in the right role could truly be a force to be reckoned with.

Kojak was that role, as the success of the subsequent TV series proved. An excellent supporting cast includes Ned Beatty, Jose Ferrer, Allen Garfield and Marjoe Gortner.

Joseph Sargent and Abby Mann won respective Emmys for direction and teleplay, with additional nominations for Savalas (Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role), Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography, and Outstanding Single Program.

The Marcus–Nelson Murders is being released in the DVD boxed set Kojak:

The Complete Movie Collection ($29.98 retail), which includes the subsequent TV films The Belarus File (1985), The Price of Justice (1987), Ariana (1989), Fatal Flaw (1989), None So Blind (1990), It’s Always Something (1990) and Flowers for Matty (1990).

“BILLY THE EXTERMINATOR”: THE COMPLETE SEASON FOUR (A&E Networks): Louisiana exterminator Billy Bretherton continues his pest quest in all 12 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular A&E reality series. The two-DVD boxed set retails for $19.95.

“BOB’S BURGERS”: SEASON 1 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD boxed set ($29.98 retail) of all 13 episodes from the premiere 2011 season of the animated Fox Network comedy series about a fast-food restaurant business owned and operated by a devotedly dysfunctional family.

CHASING MADOFF (Cohen Media Group): Director/screenwriter Jeff Prosserman’s documentary, based on Harry Markopolous’ bestselling book, chronicles security analyst Markopolous’ tumultuous 10-year investigation of Bernie Madoff’s illegal financial schemes. The DVD retails for $24.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98.

ENTER NOWHERE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Producer Jack Heller makes his directorial debut with this fair “Twilight Zone”-type chiller starring Katherine Waterston (Sam’s daughter), Scott Eastwood (Clint’s son) and Sara Paxton as strangers stranded in that old horror standby: a remote cabin in the woods where strange things start happening … Rated R.

FIX: THE MINISTRY MOVIE (CAV Distributing): The history of the hard-rocking, hard-partying Chicago-based heavy metal band is chronicled in director Doug Friel’s rock documentary. The DVD retails for $29.95 and contains a bonus CD.

“ICE ROAD TRUCKERS”: THE COMPLETE SEASON FIVE (A&E Networks): Hang on tight for all 16 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular History Channel reality series, which follows the travels and travails of truckdrivers traversing treacherous roads (and less) to get the job done. The four-DVD boxed set retails for $29.95.

IMAX: BORN TO BE WILD (Warner Home Video): Morgan Freeman (of course!) narrates this G-rated nature documentary about the efforts of scientists and animal lovers to protect endangered species around the globe, originally shown in IMAX theaters. Available as a single DVD ($28.98 retail), a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($35.99 retail) or a 3-D DVD/Blu-ray combo ($44.95 retail).

THE INNKEEPERS (Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group): Sara Paxton and Pat Healy star in writer/ producer/director/editor Ti West’s atmospheric chiller about the last weekend in business for a supposedly haunted Connecticut hotel. West clearly knows his stuff, but the payoff is slightly lacking. Kelly McGillis (in her best role in years), George Riddle and an unrecognizable Nicholle Tom add to the spooky vibes. Rated R.

KILLER’S MOON (Redemption Films/ Kino Lorber): Alan Birkinshaw’s low-budget 1978 shocker sees a group of stranded schoolgirls terrorized by four escaped lunatics. Notoriously labeled a “video nasty” in its native England, but really quite dull. A few scattered laughs, some unintentional.

“KOJAK”: SEASON FOUR (Shout! Factory): The inimitable Telly Savalas (see above) is back as New York cop Theo Kojak in all 25 episodes from the 1976-’77 season of the award-winning CBS crime drama, now available in a DVD boxed set ($44.99 retail). Savalas also directed an episode that season (“Kiss It All Goodbye”) and guest stars included Christopher Walken, Geraldine Page, William Hurt, Richard Gere, Hector Elizondo, Carol Lynley, Sharon Gless and many more.

MARVEL ANIMATED FEATURES 3-MOVIE COLLECTION (LionsGate Home Entertainment): With The Avengers predicted to be one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, this self-explanatory triple bill boasts three full-length animated features based on classic Marvel Comics characters: The Invincible Iron Man (2007), Doctor Strange (2007) and Planet Hulk (2009). The DVD collection retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $19.99. Rated PG-13.

MERCENARIES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Soldiers try to thwart a military coup in Serbia while commanding officer Billy Zane barks out orders on the radio. A generic title for a generic movie. Even the CGI gunfire looks cheap. Rated R.

THE MUPPETS (Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment): With Amy Adams and executive producer/co-screenwriter Jason Segel leading the human contingent, Jim Henson’s beloved Muppet characters make a spectacular comeback in this fun-filled comedy in which the gang reunites to save its old studio from greedy mogul Chris Cooper (whose rap number is a highlight). Cameos by the likes of Jack Black (as himself), Alan Arkin, Zach Galifianakis, Jim Parsons, Sarah Silverman, Mickey Rooney, Judd Hirsch, Whoopi Goldberg, Judd Hirsch, Selena Gomez, Bill Cobbs, Emily Blunt and real-life husband John Krasinski, and others add to the high spirits. Oscar winner for Best Song (“Man or Muppet”). Available as a singledisc DVD ($29.99 retail), a DVD with CD soundtrack ($34.99 retail), a two-disc Blu-ray ($39.99 retail), or a three-disc Blu-ray with CD soundtrack ($49.99 retail). Rated PG.

THE SYLVIAN EXPERIMENTS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Writer/director Hiroshi Takahashi’s shocker (originally titled Kyofu) involves experimental brain surgery that — surprise, surprise — has dire, unforeseen consequences. The DVD retails for $19.98. In Japanese with English subtitles. Rated R.

“THE TRIBE”: SERIES 1, PART 1 (Shout! Factory): A four-DVD boxed set ($29.93 retail) containing all 26 episodes from the premiere 1999 season of the New Zealand-based sci-fi series set in a post-apocalyptic future where adults have perished and children are in charge. Caleb Ross, Meryl Cassle, Antonia Prebble and Victoria Spence head the regular cast.

ULTIMATE AVENGERS MOVIE COLLECTION 3-MOVIE SET (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A self-explanatory triple feature of full-length animated films based on popular Marvel Comics characters: Ultimate Avengers: The Movie (2005), Ultimate Avengers 2 (2005) and Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow (2008). The DVD collection retails for $19.98, the Blu-ray for $19.99. Rated PG-13.

“THE UNIVERSE”: THE COMPLETE SEASON SIX (A&E Networks): All 14 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the popular, selfexplanatory History Channel science series that explores our planet’s solar system and beyond. The DVD boxed set retails for $39.95, the Blu-ray boxed set for $44.95.

“THE WILD THORNBERRYS”: SEASON 2, PART 2 (Shout! Factory): The adventures continue for the title clan in the final eight episodes from the 1999-2000 season of the award-winning, animated Nickelodeon children’s series, featuring the voices of Lacey Chabert and Tim Curry. This two-DVD boxed set retails for $19.93.

WIZARDS (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The Blu-ray/book release ($19.99 retail) of Ralph Bakshi’s animated 1977 sci-fi fantasy set on a post-apocalyptic Earth. The voice cast includes Mark Hamill, Richard Romanus and an unbilled Susan Tyrrell (as the narrator). Not perfect, but it’s got its die-hard devotees. Rated PG.

Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger

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