Video Vault – Nov 29, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE MIRACLE WORKER (Olive Films): Playwright/producer William Gibson and director Arthur Penn successfully adapted their Tony-winning 1959 play (which Gibson had originally penned for TV’s “Playhouse 90”) to the big screen in this impassioned dramatization of Helen Keller’s autobiography The Story of My Life.
Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke reprise their roles as teacher Annie Sullivan and her charge, the young and undisciplined Helen Keller, who is blind and deaf. Annie herself suffers from near-blindess, lending her a unique insight into Helen’s rebelliousness. Their relationship forms the backbone of the story, as Annie’s “tough-love” approach initially alarms Helen’s parents (Victor Jory and Inga Swenson) and brother (Andrew Prine).
The film doesn’t entirely escape its theatrical roots, but that doesn’t dilute the sheer power that Bancroft and Duke bring to their roles, with Bancroft winning the Oscar for Best Actress and Duke the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Penn (Best Director), Gibson (Best Adapted Screenplay) and Ruth Morley (Best Costume Design, Black & White) also earned nominations.
The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $24.95. ***½
BESIDE BOWIE: THE MICK RONSON STORY (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director Jon Brewer’s self-explanatory feature documentary traces the life and career of glam-rock legend Mick Ronson (1946-’93), the lead guitarist for David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars, narrated by Bowie himself and available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail).
“CSI: MIAMI” – THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): David Caruso leads his “Crime Scene Investigation” team in this self-explanatory 65-DVD collection ($111.99 retail) of all 232 episodes from the entire 2002-’12 run of the Emmy-winning CBS mystery series, the first spun off from “CSI,” replete with a bevy of bonus features.
DEATHDREAM (Blue Underground/CAV Distributing): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) of producer/director Bob Clark’s brooding 1972 chiller, starring John Marley and Lynn Carlin (reunited from Cassavetes’ Faces) as the increasingly alarmed parents of a returning soldier (Richard Backus, in a memorable screen debut) who begins to display disturbing behavior while decaying physically. An uneven but ambitious to combine The Monkey’s Paw with lingering guilt over the Vietnam War, was released to theaters in 1974 in PG-rated form as Dead of Night. This is the complete R-rated version, with special features including audio commentaries, retrospective interviews (including one with makeup maestro Tom Savini, whose first feature this was), alternate opening titles, theatrical trailer and more. **½
THE DEFIANT ONES (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/director Allan Hughes’ four-part HBO documentary mini-series explores the long friendship and professional partnership between actor/hip-hop superstar Dr. Dre and legendary record producer Jimmy Iovine, featuring interviews with David Geffen, Gwen Stefani, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Bono, Eminem, Nas, Trent Rezor, Stevie Nicks, the late Tom Petty, and other music luminaries – available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail).
“DYNASTY”: THE COMPLETE SERIES (CBS DVD/Paramount): The title tells all in this 57-DVD collection ($139.98 retail) of all 217 episodes from the entire 1981-’89 run of the award-winning, prime-time ABC soap opera produced by Aaron Spelling, detailing the loves, lies, and losses of the rich and powerful Carrington clan in Denver, with a star-studded cast including John Forsythe, Linda Evans, Joan Collins and Heather Locklear – plus bonus features for “Dynasty” devotees.
“EIGHT FILMS BY JEAN ROUCH” (Icarus Films Home Video): A self-explanator four-DVD collection ($44.98 retail) of feature-length an short films – both documentary and narrative – made by the renowned, award-winning French filmmaker Jean Rouch (1917-2004), some never released before in the United States: Mammy Water (1953), The Mad Masters (1956), Moi,Un Noir (1959), The Human Pyramid (1961), The Punishment (1964), Jaguar and The Lion Hunters (both 1964), and Little by Little (1971). Bonus features include a booklet of essays and the new documentary Jean Rouch, The Adventurous Filmmaker.
EVEN LOVERS GET THE BLUES (TLA Releasing): Writer/producer/director Laurent Micheli’s award-winning debut feature dramatizes the impact on a group of friends (including Tristan Schotte, Severine Porzio, Gabriel Da Costa, and newcomers Marie Denys and Adriana Da Fonseca) compelled to re-examine their priorities – sexual and otherwise – when their close friend (Gael Maleux) suddenly dies. Explicit, evocative and sometimes overwrought, but Micheli is clearly a talent to watch – even throwing in a surprise musical number (!). In French with English subtitles. **½
FINDING JOSEPH I: THE HR FROM BAD BRAINS DOCUMENTARY (MVD Visual/MVD Entertainment Group): Executive producer/director James Lathos’ award-winning feature debut explores the life and career of punk reggae pioneer Paul “HR” Hudson, whose undeniable energy and talent were compromised by undiagnosed schizophrenia. The vintage performance footage is terrific, and Hudson’s personal “messages to fans” lend considerable sympathy to the subject. ***
GLORY (Film Movement): Directors Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valnachov’s observant, award-winning satire (originally titled Cnaba) stars Stefan Denolyubov as a grizzled railroad worker whose good deed – returning millions of dollars he discovered on the tracks – backfires when he butts heads with self-absorbed public-relations flack Margita Gosheva over the return of a family heirloom. The final, ambiguous scene adds the perfect capper. In Bulgarian with English subtitles. ***
IN HIS OWN HOME (IndiePix Films): Writer/producer/director Malini Johar Schueller’s award-winning documentary examines the police shooting of disabled, emotionally troubled Ghanian graduate student Kofi Adu Brempong in his apartment on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville in 2010. Depressing, but thought-provoking and timely. ***
KILLING GROUND (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/director Damien Power’s debut feature stars Harriet Dyer and Ian Meadows as a couple on a weekend getaway who run afoul of gun-toting psychopaths Aaron Glenane and Aaron Pederson. A suspenseful, efficient B-movie with cult potential – although scarcely an advertisement for the Australian tourist trade! The DVD retails for $16.97, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $22.97. **½
“THE PAUL NASCHY COLLECTION II” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory five-disc Blu-ray selection ($79.97 retail) of horror films starring international cult icon Paul Naschy (1934-2009), who also wrote most of his films under his real name, Javier Molina Alvarez: 1972’s award-winning Hunchback of the Morgue (El Jorobado de la Morgue), 1973’s giallo thriller A Dragonfly for Each Corpse (Una Libelula para cada Muerto), 1974’s The Devil’s Possessed (El Mariscal del Infierno), 1974’s Exorcism (Exorcismo) and 1975’s The Werewolf and the Yeti (originally titled La Maldicion de la Bestia and better-known by its US title Night of the Howling Beast). Many of Naschy’s films were heavily edited for international release; these are the full, digitally restored versions, which can be watched in the original Castilian with English subtitles or dubbed into English.
“THE RED SKELTON HOUR IN COLOR”: DELUXE EDITION (Time Life): The title tells all in this 22-DVD collection ($199.95 retail) of full-length episodes – some not seen since their original broadcast – from the long-running (1951-’71), Emmy-winning comedy/variety series, first aired on NBC, then CBS, then back on NBC — hosted by Red Skelton, featuring guest appearances by Jackie Gleason, John Wayne, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Jackie Cooper, Milton Berle, Johnny Carson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Robert Goulet, Phyllis Diller, Audrey Meadows and many others, plus farewell specials (including Red Skelton’s Christmas Dinner and A Royal Command Performance) and bonus features.
REMEMORY (LionsGate): The invention of a device that can play people’s memories propels the plot of writer/director Mark Palansky’s PG-13-rated science-fiction thriller, boasting a cast including Peter Dinklage, Julia Ormond, Martin Donovan, Henry Ian Cusick, and Anton Yelchin (in his final film), available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($19.99 retail) – both with bonus features.
SLAMMA JAMMA (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Timothy A. Chey’s PG-rated, fact- and faith-based drama stars former Harlem Globetrotter and five-time slam-dunk champ Chris Staples (in his screen debut) as a former basketball player released from prison for a crime he didn’t commit determined to win a $1 million slam-dunk championship, available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
“TEEN WOLF”: SEASON 6, PART 2 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($25.72 retail) of the final 10 episodes from the 2016-’17 (and last) season of the popular, award-winning MTV horror series – very loosely inspired by the ’80s comedy — starring Tyler Posey as an all-American teenager who truly does have a case of full moon fever, after having been bitten by a werewolf and inheriting the curse of lycanthropy.
TIME TO DIE (Film Movement): Arturo Ripstein’s award-winning 1966 debut feature (originally titled Tiempo de morir), adapted from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez story by Carlos Fuentes, stars Jorge Martinez de Hoyos as a former gunslinger whose return home is fraught with danger. In Spanish with English subtitles, both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary and more.
WHO IS LYDIA LOVELESS? (What Were We Thinking Productions/MVD Entertainment Group): Gorman Bechard’s entertaining, in-depth documentary profiles the Ohio-born rock ‘n’ roller (born Lydia Ankrom) told in her own words, from her perspective, and particularly through her music. Well worth a look for music mavens, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) – replete with bonus features including audio commentary, music videos, interviews, and more. ***
“THE WIGGLES: WIGGLY, WIGGLY CHRISTMAS” (Kino Lorber): Anthony Field, Lachy Gillespie, Simon Pryce and Emma Watkins reprise their popular roles as they sing, dance, and ring in the holidays in this yuletide-themed 2000 episode from the popular Australian children’s series, available on DVD ($14.99 retail).
WOODSHOCK (LionsGate): Executive producer Kirsten Dunst stars in sibling writer/directors Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s R-rated debut feature as a woman torn between grief and paranoia after assisting her mother’s suicide, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.98 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)