The Arts

Video Vault – May 3, 2017

MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK

the-vampire-bat-420x600THE VAMPIRE BAT (The Film Detective/UCLA Film & Television Archive): Hot on the heels of Universal’s back-to-back 1931 blockbusters Dracula and Frankenstein, low-budget Majestic Pictures jumped on the bandwagon with this 1933 chiller – which was actually shot on sets left over from Frankenstein and The Old Dark House (1932).

A series of murders has rocked the the bucolic European burg of Kleinschloss – where most of the inhabitants speak with American accents – giving rise to superstitious panic that a vampire is at large.

The resident hero is Melvyn Douglas, blithely playing the skeptical police inspector. Fay Wray, soon to appear in King Kong, solidifies her “Scream Queen” credentials as the heroine. Lionel Atwill, who played his fair share of mad scientists, plays the local medico, and Dwight Frye – fondly remembered as Fritz in Frankenstein and Renfield in Dracula, is cast to type as the local oddball and prime suspect.

Although not a classic, The Vampire Bat is entertaining and fast-paced. It’s as much a whodunit as a horror film … although it’s not hard to sniff out the culprit.

Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) have been digitally mastered and include audio commentary and retrospective featurette. **½

ALSO AVAILABLE

THE ASSASSIN (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of writer/director Elio Petri’s award-winning, Kafka-esque, Italian-language 1961 debut feature (originally titled L’Assassino and also released as The Ladykiller of Rome) stars Marcello Mastroianni as a dandified antiques dealer accused of murdering wealthy older lover Micheline Presle.

“BOB HOPE SALUTES THE TROOPS” (Time Life): The title tells all in this three-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) of TV specials highlighting Bob Hope’s USO tours, featuring guest stars Bing Crosby, Ann-Margret, Jill St. John, Merlin Olsen, Redd Foxx, Lola Falana, Ann Jillian, Rosey Grier, Marie Osmond, Jerry Colonna, astronaut Alan Shepard, and Bob wife Frances, to name a few.

CALTIKI – THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) of the patchy but entertaining 1959 sci-fi shocker (originally titled Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale and also known as The Immortal Monster)  co-directed by Riccardo Freda and cinematographer Mario Bava (making his feature directorial debut) in which explorers discover a blob-like beast in the caves of Mexico that threatens to consume the world. A (very) slow first half is somewhat redeemed by a more expedient second half, but this remains a cult favorite among ’50s monster movie devotees. Special features include audio commentaries, archival and retrospective interviews, and more. **

DARK WATERS (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Mariano Baino’s award-winning 1994 debut feature (originally titled Temnye vodi) stars Louise Salter (in her screen debut) as a woman who uncovers corruption and depravity at a remote island convent. Inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s stories, this R-rated “nunsploitation” shocker boasts audio commentary, retrospective featurettes, deleted scenes and more, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.95 retail).

DETOUR (Magnet Label/Magnolia Home Entertainment): Writer/director Christopher Smith’s award-winning, modern-day film noir stars Tye Sheridan as a law student whose suspicions that stepfather Stephen Moyer caused the car crash that put his mother into a coma leads him to a diabolical deal with hair-trigger tough Emory Cohen and his stripper girlfriend Bel Powley. Crafty, cool and confident, with sleek cinematography by Christopher Ross. The DVD retails for $26.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Both contain interviews, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. ***

DJANGO, PREPARE A COFFIN (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Future Trinity star Terence Hill (AKA Mario Girotti) dons the holsters of the titular gunslinger in director Ferdinando Baldi’s 1968 spaghetti Western (originally titled Preparati la bara and also released as Prepare the Coffin and Viva Django), available as a special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail).

DONNIE DARKO (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($49.95 retail) of writer/director Richard Kelly’s award-winning, cult-classic 2001 debut feature, starring Jake Gyllenhaal in the title role of a troubled teen plagued by visions of an impending apocalypse – and a six-foot rabbit named Frank (played by James Duval). Definitely not for all tastes, and people seem to either love it or hate it … with yours truly smack in the middle. The star-studded cast includes executive producer Drew Barrymore, Jake’s sister Maggie Gyllenhaal, Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle, Mary McDonnell, Katharine Ross, Jena Malone, Daveigh Chase, Patience Cleveland (in her final film), Seth Rogen (in his screen debut), and Ashley Tisdale (in her live-action screen debut). This includes both the director’s cut and theatrical-release versions of the film, as well as archival featurettes and interviews, alternate and deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. **½

THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): “The worms are waiting!” A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) of Emilio Maraglia’s memorably monikered 1971 giallo guilty pleasure (originally titled La notte che Evelyn usci dalla tomba) starring Anthony Steffen as a deranged English lord who murders prostitutes and strippers who remind him of his adulterous late wife (that would be “Evelyn”). Trashy but entertaining, with a bevy of special features including audio commentary, archival and retrospective interviews, original Italian trailer and more. Rated R. **

OPHELIA (Olive Films): Claude Chabrol’s 1963 drama is a modern-day interpretation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with Andre Joslyn as privileged youth obsessed with the notion that his mother (Alida Valli) and uncle (Claude Cerval) murdered his father. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

THE QUIET HOUR (Monarch Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Stephanie Joalland’s award-winning feature debut takes place in an English countryside ravaged by an alien invasion, with Dakota Blue Richards as teenager trying to protect her blind brother (Jake McMullen) from a clan of (human) marauders with the help of a wounded soldier (Karl Davies). Brooding and well-acted, but the narrative tends to go around in circles. Still, worth a look for sci-fi buffs. **

THE RED QUEEN KILLS SEVEN TIMES (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Barbara Bouchet and Marina Malfatti star in writer/director Emilio Miraglia’s PG-rated 1972 giallo thriller (originally titled La dama rossa uccide sette volte) as sisters whose inheritance of their family’s ancestral castle is followed by a spate of brutal murders. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective and archival interviews, original trailers and more.

THE SALESMAN (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Asghar Faradi’s PG-13-rated drama (originally titled Forusande) stars Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti as married actors (appearing in a Tehran stage version of Death of a Salesman) whose relationship is rocked when she is assaulted and he becomes obsessed with finding her assailant. Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. In Persian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($30.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.99 retail).

“VEGA$”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): Robert Urich revs up his red 1957 Ford Thunderbird as Sin City private eye Dan Tanna in all 67 episodes from the entire 1978-’81 run of the ABC crime series created by Michael Mann, with Phyllis Davis, Bart Braverman, Judy Landers and Greg Morris in support, with Tony Curtis appearing from time to time as hotel mogul Philip Roth. The 18-DVD collection retails for $59.98.

“THE WALERIAN BOROWCZYK SHORT FILMS COLLECTION” (Olive Films): A self-explanatory selection of live-action and animated French-language short films made by the award-winning, Polish-born filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk (1923-2006), available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).

WHEN COMEDY WAS KING (The Sprocket Vault): Robert Youngson’s feature-length  compilation of classic comedy scenes from the silent era was a surprise box-office smash in 1960 and helped spark the silent-film nostalgia boom that followed, with a star-studded line-up of legendary talent including Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Gloria Swanson, Wallace Beery, Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, Fatty Arbuckle, Mabel Normand and the Keystone Kops, to name a few. Totally irresistible, with historian Richard M. Roberts’ informative commentary a major asset. Sprocket Vault DVDs are sold exclusively through Amazon, or check out the official website: HYPERLINK “http://thesprocketvault.com/”http://thesprocketvault.com/. ***½

(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2017, Mark Burger) marksburger@yahoo.com

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