The Arts

Video Vault – Dec 14, 2016

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

product_images_modal_bxmas-br-cover-72dpiBLACK CHRISTMAS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Almost a decade before making the yuletide classic A Christmas Story, filmmaker Bob Clark made a very different kind of holiday perennial with this 1974 shocker – one widely regarded as the forerunner of the slasher genre.

Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Lynne Griffin and a pre-”SCTV” Andrea Martin play sorority sisters whose holiday break is interrupted by a series of threatening obscene phone calls, but worse is the presence of a maniac in the sorority house attic, who begins preying on them.

Despite a talky script and some broad humor, Black Christmas remains tightly wound and suspenseful, with memorable characters and an ironic juxtaposition of Christmas trappings with the danger at hand – as well as a truly chilling fade-out.

Hussey and especially Kidder stand out in the ensemble cast, with Keir Dullea (as Hussey’s troubled boyfriend), Art Hindle, Marian Waldman, and reliable John Saxon (a last-minute replacement for ailing Hollywood veteran Edmond O’Brien) as the cop on the case.

Also released as Silent Night, Evil Night and Stranger in the House, Black Christmas is a deserved cult classic, and miles ahead of the 2006 remake (in which Martin appeared, this time as the house mother).

The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews, featurettes, original trailers and TV spots, and four (!) audio commentaries. Rated R. ***

ALSO AVAILABLE

“THE 2016 WORLD SERIES” (MLB Productions/Shout! Factory): The title tells all in the official Major League Baseball documentary film detailing the Chicago Cubs’ seven-game victory over the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 Fall Classic, ending over a century of futility, narrated by Cubs fan Vince Vaughn, available on DVD ($26.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail). MLB/Shout! Factory has also released “The 2016 World Series Collector’s Edition: Chicago Cubs,” an eight-disc collection containing all seven complete games and a bonus disc, available on DVD ($59.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($79.97 retail).

CALL OF HEROES (Well Go USA Entertainment): As the Quin Dynasty falls in the early 20th century, a group of villagers band together to battle a vicious warlord in Benny Chan’s historical action drama (also known as The Deadly Reclaim), boasting action direction by Sammo Hung and a cast including Sean Lau, Louis Koo, Eddie Peng, Yuan Quan and Wu Jing. In Cantonese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

CARRINGTON (Olive Films): Screenwriter Christopher Hampton made his feature directorial debut with this award-winning 1995 adaptation of  Michael Holroyd’s biography Lytton Strachey, dramatizing the long friendship between artist Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson) and writer Strachey (Jonathan Pryce, who won Best Actor at Cannes). Well-mounted, mature and well-acted – the cast includes Steven Waddington, Samuel West, Rufus Sewell, Janet McTeer, Penelope Wilton, Jeremy Northam and Alex Kingston – yet sometimes lugubrious. The DVD retails for $24.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. **½

CHRISTMAS ALL OVER AGAIN (LionsGate): Co-star Christy Carlson Romano makes her feature debut as producer/director of this PG-rated holiday comedy starring Sean Ryan Fox as a materialistic teen who must learn the true meaning of Christmas lest he re-live (Groundhog Day-style) the same Christmas morning without presents, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).

DEAD RISING: ENDGAME (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Jesse Metcalfe returns in this follow-up to 2015’s Dead Rising: Watchtower as a reporter trying to uncover a government conspiracy that has yielded an ever-increasing army of the the living dead, based on the popular Capcom video game and available on DVD ($13.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).

DON’T BREATHE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Fede Alvarez’s effective exercise in terror pits three thieves (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) against blind combat veteran Stephen Lang, who’s got some dark secrets of his own. Originally titled A Man in the Dark, this summer sleeper is available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail), both replete with special features. Rated R. ***

DREAMSCAPE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) of director Joseph Ruben’s enjoyably pulpy 1984 fantasy/thriller, starring Dennis Quaid as a psychic who is able to infiltrate dreams – which comes in handy when he stumbles across a plot to assassinate the President (Eddie Albert). Similar in some respects to A Nightmare on Elm Street (released the same year), but not nearly as violent. A solid cast includes Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Kate Capshaw, George Wendt, Peter Jason, Chris Mulkey and David Patrick Kelly, the latter particularly good as a psychotic psychic. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. One of the first movies rated PG-13. ***

HANNIE CAULDER (Olive Films): Director Burt Kennedy’s uneven but entertaining 1971 Western stars Raquel Welch in the title role of a young widow bent on avenging her rape and husband’s murder by sadistic siblings Ernest Borgnine, Strother Martin and Jack Elam – with a little help from Robert Culp. Produced by Welch’s then-husband Patrick Curtis, with Christopher Lee, Diana Dors and an unbilled Stephen Boyd rounding out a sturdy cast. The “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary and more. Rated R. **½

THE INITIATION (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Sorority sisters break into a shopping mall as part of an initiation rite and are stalked by a killer in this routine but well-made 1984 slasher melodrama, boosted by an above-average cast: Vera Miles, Clu Gulager, Daphne Zuniga, James Read and Hunter Tylo (billed as Deborah Moreheart). The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more. Rated R. **

THE KILLING OF AMERICA (Severin Films): Writer/producer/director Sheldon Renan’s highly controversial debut feature was this 1982 documentary about violence in America, deemed so inflammatory that it was never released to theaters, television or home-video – until now, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).

NEVER OPEN THE DOOR (Maltauro Entertainment): Writer/director Vito Trabucco’s black-and-white shocker concerns three couples enjoying Thanksgiving weekend in a remote cabin in the woods … and let’s just say things go downhill after that! The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $24.95, each with interviews and behind-the-scenes footage

THE NIGHT OF THE GRIZZLY (Olive Films): Clint Walker headlines director Joseph Pevney’s final film, a 1966 Western in which he plays an ex-lawman who inherits a ranch but is soon confronted by enemies from his past and, as the title implies, a rampaging grizzly bear.  The “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, interviews and more.

RABID DOGS (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A bank robbery goes violently awry in producer/screenwriter/director Eric Hannezo’s French-language thriller (originally titled Enrages), based on Michael J. Carroll’s short story Man and Boy and previously made in the 1970s by Mario Bava, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail), replete with special features.

SMART: SPECIALIZED MOBILE ANIMAL RESCUE TEAM (Cinema Libre Studio): This self-explanatory, fast-paced, award-winning feature documentary explores the history and personnel of the nation’s first rescue unit (based in Los Angeles) devoted to rescuing animals in perilous situations. ***

THE UNSPOKEN (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Screenwriter/director Sheldon Wilson’s well-made but otherwise routine shocker stars Jodelle Ferland as a small-town teen hired by Chanelle Peloso, the single mother who’s moved into a notorious house where a family vanished 20 years before, with newcomer Sunny Suljic as her withdrawn son. Neal McDonough is wasted as the local cop. *½

WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE (First Run Features): The ongoing clash between the Peruvian government and the indigenous tribes over the preservation of untouched Amazonian land is the focus of Heidi Brandenberg and Mathew Orzel’s topical and award-winning documentary feature. In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).

WILD OATS (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Jessica Lange and Shirley MacLaine bring some sparkle to this picturesque but flimsy farce as two friends who embark on a wild trip to the Canary Islands after the latter mistakenly receives $5 million from her late husband’s insurance policy. Billy Connolly, Howard Hesseman, Matt Walsh and Demi Moore (as MacLaine’s daughter) round out a friendly cast. Rated PG-13. **

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:marksburger@yahoo.com”marksburger@yahoo.com

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