The Arts

Video Vault – Mar 8, 2017

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

wsi-imageoptim-web-front-the-klansmanTHE KLANSMAN (Olive Films): What could – and should – have been a powerful portrayal of racial hatred is totally botched in this jaw-dropping 1974 adaptation of William Bradford Huie’s acclaimed novel, which has never been released to (legitimate) home-video until now.

Racial tensions escalate in a small Southern town when Nancy Poteet (Linda Evans) is raped – evidently by a black man. This spurs the Ku Klux Klan into violent action, which escalates when several black residents – including the gun-toting firebrand Garth (screen newcomer O.J. Simpson!) – retaliate.

Trying to keep the peace are weary sheriff Track Bascomb (Lee Marvin) and local landowner Breck Stancill (a wildly miscast Richard Burton), whose tolerance extends to allowing blacks to live on his land, which – no surprise – infuriates the Klan even further. It all ends in a big, bloody shoot-out that basically solves nothing.

Screenwriter Samuel Fuller was originally tapped to direct, but replaced by Terence Young (embarking on a slow, downward end-of-career slide). The characters, black and white, are all stereotypes, wasting such actors as Cameron Mitchell, Lola Falana, Luciana Paluzzi and David Huddleston in cardboard roles.

It was widely reported that Marvin and Burton drank heavily during production. Marvin appears able to hold his liquor, but Burton is another story. He looks jaundiced, slurs his dialogue, and in some scenes was apparently so inebriated he had to be filmed sitting or laying down. As for his Southern accent or his judo scenes (!), the less said the better.

The Klansman is a cinematic catastrophe on all counts, setting back race relations and filmmaking in equal measure. Needless to say, it has a cult following. The DVD retails for $14.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. *

ALSO AVAILABLE

ALLIED (Paramount): Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard headline Robert Zemeckis’ R-rated World War II thriller, as undercover spies whose subsequent marriage is jeopardized by accusations that she collaborated with the Nazis. Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design, available on DVD ($19.99 retail), 4K Ultra HD ($29.99 retail), and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail).

BAD SANTA 2 (Miramax/Broad Green Pictures): Billy Bob Thornton (in the title role), Tony Cox and Brett Kelly reprise their roles from the 2003 hit comedy in this belated and inferior follow-up, with Kathy Bates, Christina Hendricks and an unbilled Octavia Spencer along for the ride, available on 4K Ultra HD ($27.99 retail), DVD ($32.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($38.99 retail). Rated R (also available in an unrated version). *½

“THE BLACK SOCIETY TRILOGY” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A  special-edition Blu-ray triple feature ($49.95 retail) of early features directed by the controversial, award-winning Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike: 1995’s Shinjuku Triad Society (Shinjuku kuroshakai: Chaina mafia senso), 1997’s Rainy Dog (Gokudo kuroshakai) and 1999’s Ley Lines (Nihon kuroshakai) – all transferred in high-definition digital, replete with retrospective interviews and audio commentaries. 

“THE COFFIN JOE TRILOGY” (Synapse Films/CAV Distributing): A DVD triple-feature ($39.95 retail) of cult horror classics with filmmaker Jose Mojica Marins playing his diabolical, black-clad, grave-digger alter-ego “Coffin Joe”: 1964’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul (A Meia-Noite Levarei Sua Alma) was the very first Brazilian horror film, followed by 1967’s This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse (Esta Noite Encarnarei no Teu Cadaver), and the long-awaited 2008 follow-up Embodiment of Evil (Encarnacao do Demonio). At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and This Night I’ll Possess Your Corpse are also available individually on DVD (each $19.95 retail). In Portuguese with English subtitles, each DVD boasts a bevy of special features.

COLORS (Shout Select/Shout! Factory): A special-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) of director Dennis Hopper’s overrated 1988 police drama detailing the ongoing struggle between the police and street gangs in Los Angeles. The urban flavor and hip-hop soundtrack were fresh at the time, but the relationship between rookie Sean Penn and veteran Robert Duvall is strictly old-hat. Lots of familiar faces on hand: Maria Conchita Alonso, Don Cheadle, Damon Wayans, Sy Richardson, Glenn Plummer, Seymour Cassel, R.D. Call, Tony Todd, Jack Nance and Trinidad Silva. Special features include retrospective interviews. Rated R. *½

CONTRACT TO KILL (LionsGate): The latest R-rated Steven Seagal shoot-’em-up casts the producer/star as a CIA agent battling international terrorists, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and  Blu-ray ($19.99 retail).

CREEPY (Icarus Films): Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s award-winning adaptation of Yutaka Maekawa’s novel (originally titled Kuripi: Itsuwari no rinjin) stars Hidetoshi Nishijima as an ex-cop called back to investigate a strange case that points to his new neighbor (Teruyuki Kagawa). In Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.99 retail).

DEADTIME STORIES (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail) of writer Jeffrey Delman’s 1986 feature debut as producer/director/actor, a so-so three-part horror anthology featuring Scott Valentine (then popular on TV’s “Family Ties”) and future Oscar winner Melissa Leo. This found its audience via home-video and countless cable broadcasts. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, deleted scenes and more. Rated R. **

DEEP WATER (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Noah Taylor and Yael Stone headline this four-part 2016 Australian mini-series as homicide detectives whose investigation of a gay man’s murder is tied to a spate of hate crimes, disappearances and mysterious deaths dating back to the ’80s and ’90s. Despite a rushed climax, this is engrossing, topical and well-acted mystery fare, inspired by a true story. William McInnes, Ben Oxenbould, Craig McLachlan and Jeremy Lindsay Taylor round out a solid cast. The two-disc DVD and two-disc Blu-ray each retail for $39.99. ***

FATAL INSTINCT (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Luciano Saber’s standard-issue cop thriller stars Richard Burgi and Ivan Sergei as Los Angeles detectives investigating a series of murders that seem to implicate the latter’s ex-con brother (Drew Fuller). Strictly small-screen fare, despite attempts by Burgi and Sergei to liven things up and a twist ending. The mostly-squandered supporting cast includes Peter Dobson, Krista Allen, Masiela Lusha, executive producer Adrian Tudor, and Dominique Swain in a nothing role. *½

GRACE AND FRANKIE”: SEASON TWO (Skydance Television/LionsGate): In the title roles, executive producers Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin (Emmy nominee for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) play a bickering duo whose lives are turned upside-down when their respective husbands (Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston) leave them — for each other — in all 13 episodes from the 2016 season of the award-winning Netflix comedy series, available on DVD ($29.98 retail).

“GRAVES”: SEASON ONE (LionsGate): Nick Nolte plays former US President Richard Graves, desperately trying to rescue his historical legacy by belatedly righting the wrongs of his administration, in all 10 episodes from the inaugural 2016 season of EPIX’s first original comedy series, co-starring Sela Ward (as the former First Lady), Skylar Astin, Helene Yorke, Chris Lowell, Callie Hernandez, Nia Vardalos, Roger Bart and reliable Ernie Hudson, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).

THE LESSON (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/director Ruth Platt’s debut feature stars Evan Bendall and Rory Coltart (in his screen debut) as mischievous teenagers who push their unstable English teacher (Robert Hands) too far, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).

POLICE (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of Maurice Pialat’s award-winning, French-language 1985 thriller, his first collaboration with Gerard Depardieu, as a jaded detective whose pursuit of a drug ring is complicated by his growing obsession with a dealer’s girlfriend (Sophie Marceau).

PSYCHOMANIA (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) of director Don Sharp’s laughably ludicrous 1973 shocker (also released as The Death Wheelers) about a motorcycle gang called “the Living Dead,” led by Nicky Henson, who really are the living dead – thanks to the Satan-worshipping shenanigans of Henson’s mother Beryl Reid and her butler George Sanders (in his final screen role). Special features include retrospective and archival interviews, theatrical trailer and more. Rated PG. *½

THE SURVIVOR (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): David Hemmings directed this intriguing 1981 adaptation of James Herbert’s best-seller, starring Robert Powell in the title role of an airline pilot who alone survives a cataclysmic crash, after which he begins experiencing strange visions, compelling him to consult both a psychic (the ever-lovely Jenny Agutter) and a priest (Joseph Cotten in his final screen role). Spooky and suggestive, but never quite hits the target – although well worth a look and Powell is excellent. At the time, this was the most expensive movie made in Australia ($1 million!). Both the special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail) include retrospective and archival interviews, and more. **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:marksburger@yahoo.com”marksburger@yahoo.com

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