Video Vault – Apr 5, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE VALLEY OF GWANGI (Warner Archive): Ray Harryhausen’s legendary “Dynamation” stop-motion animation effects highlight this entertainingly cartoonish 1969 fantasy about the discovery of a prehistoric Allosaurus in a remote corner of early 20th-century Mexico.
The human contingent includes strapping James Franciscus (resident hero) and sultry Gila Golan (resident heroine) as performers in a Wild West show run by Richard Carlson, Laurence Naismith as a doddering scientist, and newcomer Curtis Arden as the resident cute orphan.
Of course, the real star of the show is “Gwangi,” to say nothing of Harryhausen’s other creature creations. Although the budgetary seams occasionally show, the monster scenes deliver in full. And, in the end, when Gwangi is trapped in a blazing church, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for the big guy. He wasn’t asking for trouble, it came looking for him.
The new Blu-ray ($21.99 retail) is available exclusively through https://www.warnerarchive.com/. Rated G. ***
BLAST-OFF! (Olive Films): Burl Ives plays legendary showman P.T. Barnum in director Don Sharp’s juvenile but entertaining 1967 sci-fi spoof (also known as Rocket to the Moon and Those Fantastic Flying Fools) in which he bankrolls an expedition into outer space, (very) loosely adapted from Jules Verne by story writer Peter Welbeck (AKA producer Harry Alan Towers), with an international all-star cast including Troy Donahue, Dahlia Lavi, Gert Frobe, Hermione Gingold, Lionel Jeffries, Dennis Price, Graham Stark, the immortal Terry-Thomas, and Maurice Denham supplying narration. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **½
THE CARDINAL (Olive Films): Director Sinclair Hill’s 1936 historical melodrama, set in 16th-century Rome, stars Matheson Hill in the title role of a powerful clergyman whose loyalties are torn when his brother (Eric Portman) is accused of murder, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
“THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW: THE BEST OF TIM CONWAY” (Time Life): The title tells all in this DVD compilation ($12.95 retail) of four episodes from the long-running, award-winning CBS comedy/variety show showcases Tim Conway, alongside series regulars Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner.
THE DELINQUENTS (Olive Films): Robert Altman made his feature debut as writer/producer/director of this low-budget 1957 programmer, which also marked the screen debut of Tom Laughlin (the future Billy Jack) as a troubled teen who gets mixed up with a gang of toughs. A derivative B-movie, to be sure, but reasonably engrossing, with good use of Kansas City locations. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. **½
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Producer/screenwriter J.K. Rowling expands the Harry Potter universe with this colorful, overblown, effects-laden fantasy, in which the magical forces of good and evil are pitted against one another in 1920s New York City. As the bumbling but heroic Newt Scamander, Eddie Redmayne heads an all-star cast including Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Samantha Morton, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Carmen Ejogo and an unbilled Johnny Depp. Rest assured – a new franchise is born, even if much of this seems pretty familiar. Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design, with an additional nomination for Best Production Design. The two-disc DVD retails for $28.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $35.99, the 3-D Blu-ray combo for $44.95, and the 4K Ultra HD for $44.95. Rated PG-13. **½
THE GOSPEL OF MARK (LionsGate): Selva Rasalingham plays Jesus in this word-for-word dramatization of the second book of the New Testament, available on DVD ($14.98 retail).
HEIDI (Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement): Anuk Steffen makes her big-screen bow as the title character in this award-winning adaptation of Johanna Spyri’s classic novel, filmed on location in the Swiss Alps with veteran Bruno Ganz as her goat-herding grandpa. In German with English subtitles (or you can watch it dubbed in English), available on DVD ($34.95 retail).
ICE AGE: THE GREAT EGG-SCAPADE (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Keke Palmer, Seann William Scott, Josh Peck and Queen Latifah reprise their voice-over roles in this animated, Easter-themed comedy spun off from the lucrative, long-running Ice Age screen franchise, available on DVD ($6.98 retail).
IT AIN’T PRETTY (Candy Factory Films): Director/cinematographer/co-writer/executive producer Dayla Soul makes her debut feature with this award-winning, ultimately upbeat documentary about professional female surfers (including Bianca Valenti, Monique Kitamura, Savannah Shaughnessy and Keala Kennelly) as they make inroads into contending with sexism in a traditionally male-dominated field. **½
LONG WAY NORTH (Shout! Kids Factory): This winsome, award-winning animated feature (originally titled Tout en haut de monde) follows a tenacious young girl in late 18th-century Russia who is determined to discover the whereabouts of her grandfather, a famous explorer who disappeared while on a scientific investigation into the Great North. In French with English subtitles (or you can watch it dubbed), available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($22.97 retail). Rated PG. ***
THE MISSING INGREDIENT (Virgil Films): Filmmaker Michael Sparaga’s entertaining documentary feature (subtitled What is the Recipe for Success?) follows the unexpected controversy when New York restaurateur Charles Devigne stirs up when he adopts the iconic zebra wallpaper (made famous by the long-closed Geno’s) for his own eatery, Pescatore. This played at the 2016 RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem. ***
“PAW PATROL: PUPS SAVE THE BUNNIES” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): Getting a head start on Easter, this DVD selection ($14.99 retail) of seven episodes from the popular, award-winning Nickelodeon animated series sees the rescue pups helping their hopping friends.
THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (Universal Studios Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this award-winning animated feature detailing what pets do when their owners are away, with a star-studded voice-over cast including Kevin Hart, Louis C.K., Albert Brooks, Steve Coogan, Ellie Kemper, Jenny Slate, Eric Stonestreet, Bobby Moynihan, Lake Bell, Dana Carvey, Hannibal Buress and director Chris Renaud. Splashy and colorful, but the story isn’t exactly deep. A box-office blockbuster nonetheless, with a sequel on the drawing board (no pun intended). The DVD retails for $19.96, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $34.98, 3-D Blu-ray combo for $44.98, and 4K Ultra HD for $44.98. Rated PG. **½
THE SOLDIER AND THE LADY (The Sprocket Vault): Anton Walbrook stars in the title role of this 1937 melodrama based on Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff, as a heroic military courier trying to pass vital information to the Russian government during war against the Tartars in Siberia. Also released as The Bandit and the Lady and The Adventures of Michael Strogoff (the onscreen title here), this newly restored version looks better than ever. Elizabeth Allan (she’s “the Lady”), Fay Bainter, Eric Blore, Ward Bond and Akim Tamiroff (chewing the scenery as a Tartar villain) co-star. Sprocket Vault DVDs are sold exclusively through Amazon, or check out the official website: HYPERLINK “http://thesprocketvault.com/”http://thesprocketvault.com/. **½
THE SWAN PRINCESS: ROYALLY UNDERCOVER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The latest, G-rated, feature-length installment of the popular animated franchise sees Princess Alise embarking on a secret spy adventure, featuring Macy Kate’s rendition of the theme song and available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
“TALES OF THE TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES SUPER SHREDDER” (Nickelodeon/Paramount): The title tells all in this two-DVD, 11-episode collection ($16.99 retail) from the popular, long-running, award-winning Nickelodeon animated fantasy/adventure series pitting those “Heroes in a Half-Shell” against their fearsome new foe, “Super Shredder.”
“WHEN CALLS THE HEART: THE HEART OF FAITH” (Shout! Factory): Erin Krakow, Daniel Lissing, Lori Loughlin and Jack Wagner are on hand for this feature-length episode (originally broadcast as The Heart of Christmas) from the award-winning Hallmark Channel series based on Janette Oke’s 1983 novel, set in an early 20th-century Canadian mining town. The DVD retails for $14.93.
WON TON TON: THE DOG WHO SAVED HOLLYWOOD (Olive Films): Michael Winner’s colorful but failed 1976 send-up of silent-era Hollywood follows the cinematic misadventures of the titular pooch, with the human contingent represented by Madeline Kahn, Bruce Dern, Teri Garr, Ron Leibman, and Art Carney and Phil Silvers – the latter pair as rival sibling studio heads. An astonishing array of cameo appearances includes Broderick Crawford, Dorothy Lamour, Virginia Mayo, Rhonda Fleming, Ethel Merman, Joan Blondell, Rory Calhoun, Tab Hunter, Dean Stockwell, Victor Mature, Edgar Bergen, Yvonne de Carlo, Aldo Ray and many others, available on DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail). Rated PG. **
WORLD WITHOUT END (Warner Archive): The Blu-ray bow ($21.99 retail) of director Edward Bernds’ low-budget but entertaining 1956 sci-fi adventure in which a group of astronauts (including Hugh Marlowe and young Rod Taylor) are hurtled by time warp to a post-apocalyptic future Earth. Available exclusively through https://www.warnerarchive.com. **½
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com”firstname.lastname@example.org