Video Vault – Oct 25, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
“ALFRED HITCHCOCK: THE MASTERPIECE COLLECTION” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): What Halloween would be complete without some contribution by the Master of Suspense?
This aptly named, limited-edition Blu-ray selection ($129.98 retail) marks a massive contribution, in this or any other season, boasting 15 Alfred Hitchcock favorites: Saboteur (1942), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Rope (1948), Rear Window (1954), The Trouble With Harry (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959), Psycho (1960), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Torn Curtain (1966), Topaz (1969), Frenzy (1972), and his final film Family Plot (1976). Each film comes with special features including audio commentaries, retrospective interviews and documentaries, a collectible 58-page booklet, and more.
The boxed setcollection also includes 10 full episodes from the long-running anthology series’ “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.”
There’s a very simple reason why the films of Alfred Hitchcock (1899-1980) remain popular and widely discussed to this day: He was that great a filmmaker – and some would say the greatest.
APPLE TREE YARD (Kino Lorber): Emily Watson stars in this four-part 2017 mini-series (originally aired on BBC One) based on Louise Doughty’s best-selling novel, as an eminent scientist whose passionate affair with civil servant Ben Chaplin has severe consequences for all concerned, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
THE ATONING (Gravitas Ventures): Michael Williams’ low-key, stiffly rendered but award-winning chiller is something of an existential ghost story, with Michael LaCour (also producer/executive producer), Virginia Newcomb and Cannon Borsage (in his feature debut) playing a family plagued by a tragic past. A nice try that doesn’t work, and not terribly scary, to boot. *
B & B (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Joe Ahearne’s award-winning feature debut stars Tom Bateman and John Teale as a gay couple who have sued a country inn over discrimination and return a year later – only to become enmeshed in a web of deception and murder. Tightly wound but gimmicky thriller benefits from a solid ensemble cast (including Paul McGann, James Tratas and Callum Woodhouse) and brooding atmosphere. **½
BLOOD FEAST (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A collector’s edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ controversial, ground-breaking, low-rent 1963 shocker, starring Mal Arnold (in his starring debut) as a demented Egyptian caterer whose attempts to resurrect an ancient goddess include various forms of blood-letting and torture in and around the Miami area (!). Widely hailed – and condemned – as the first “gore” movie, the special effects are crude but still potent. Needless to say, this became a box-office hit and an enduring cult classic. Special features include archival and retrospective interviews, Lewis’ 1963 feature Scum of the Earth, and more. **
BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A 25th-anniversary Blu-ray ($16.99 retail) of the flimsy, featherweight 1992 horror spoof starring Kristy Swanson in the title role of a bubble-headed cheerleader-turned-vampire hunter, with Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Paul Reubens, Candy Clark, Natasha Gregson Wagner, David Arquette, Thomas Jane, and Hilary Swank (in her feature debut) in support. Screenwriter Joss Whedon was none too pleased by changes made to his script during production, and later created the subsequent (and superior) TV series. This marks director Fran Rubel Kuzui’s last feature to date. Rated PG-13. *½
CULT OF CHUCKY (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Writer/director/executive producer Don Mancini and producer David Kirschner, who inaugurated the Child’s Play franchise nearly 30 years ago, return with this simple-minded black comedy sees Brad Dourif reprising his role as the ill-tempered, kill-crazy “Good Guy” doll, with real-life daughter (encoring from 2013’s Curse of Chucky) back as the imperiled Nica, with series regulars Alex Vincent (from the first two films), Jennifer Tilly and Christine Elise also back. Undeniably gruesome, but this plays like a set-up for yet another sequel, leaving the door wide open for more mayhem. The DVD retails for $19.98, the DVD/Blu-ray combo for $22.98. Universal has also released the self-explanatory “Chucky: Complete 7-Movie Collection” on DVD ($49.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($59.98 retail). Rated R. *½
THE EMOJI MOVIE (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): This PG-rated animated comedy takes place in the realm of Textopolis, the realm where smart-phone emojis hold sway, boasting an all-star voice-over cast including T.J. Miller, Anna Faris, James Corden, Christina Aguilera, Sofia Vergara, Steven Wright, Maya Rudolph, Sean Hayes, Jennifer Coolidge and Patrick Stewart, available on DVD ($30.99 retail), Blu-ray ($34.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD ($45.99 retail).
ESCAPE ROOM (LionsGate): Co-producer/director Will Wernick’s gimmicky but reasonably taut shocker sees a group of friends trapped in the titular enclave, where they must solve puzzles lest they meet a grisly fate – with Evan Williams and Annabelle Stephenson the standouts in the ensemble cast. Rated R. **
GUARDIANS (Shout! Factory): Taking a page (or two) from Hollywood’s current infatuation with superhero blockbusters, producer/director/story writer Sarik Andreasyan’s noisy, Russian-made sci-fi fantasy (originally titled Zashchitniki) pits the titular band of mutants against a mad scientist (Stanislav Shirin) bent on world domination. Rife with clunky CGI effects and replete with end-credit gags, this is clearly designed to jump-start a potential franchise. The DVD retails for $16.97, the Blu-ray for $22.97 – both replete with bonus features. *½
“LOCH NESS” (Acorn TV): It’s not the Loch Ness Monster, but a human serial killer at large in the Scottish coastal town, with Laura Fraser as the small-town detective tackling her first murder case, with Siobhan Finneran and Don Gilet as fellow investigators, in all six episodes from the 2017 ITV mystery series (originally titled The Loch), available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $49.99 retail) – each replete with bonus features.
LYCAN (MVD Entertainment Group): Actor-turned-first-time writer/producer/director Bev Land’s Southern-fried shocker sees a group of college students hiking into the Georgia backwoods to investigate the legend of “the Talbot County Werewolf” … and guess what happens next? Originally titled Talbot County, available on DVD ($16.55 retail) and Blu-ray ($17.99 retail) – both with bonus features.
“MIDSOMER MURDERS”: SERIES 19, PART 2 (Acorn TV): Neil Dudgeon is back on the case as DCI John Barnaby, teamed with new partner Nick Hendrix (as DS Jamie Winter), in the final pair of feature-length episodes from the 2016-’17 season of the long-running, award-winning British crime series (aired by A&E in the US), set in the seemingly peaceful Midsomer County, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $29.99 retail).
THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Sibling filmmakers John Erick and Drew Dowdle’s R-rated 2007 documentary-style chiller sees investigators poring through a collection of videocassettes filmed by a diabolical serial killer in New York City. Leading lady Stacy Chbosky is married to John Erick Dowdle in real life. The financial woes of MGM led to this being shelved – until now. The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews and theatrical trailer.
RED CHRISTMAS (Artsploitation Films): A holiday gathering turns horrific for Dee Wallace and her family in a remote section of the Austrlian Outback in writer/producer/director Craig Anderson’s debut feature, available on DVD ($17.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.99 retail).
“REIGN”: THE FOURTH AND FINAL SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The 16th-century reign of Mary, Queen of Scots (Adelaide Kane) forms the backdrop for the award-winning CW historical drama series, with all 16 episodes from the 2016-’17 season (plus nomus feaures) available available on DVD ($24.98 retail). Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has also released the self-explanatory DVD collection “Reign: The Complete Series” ($89.99 retail).
SUFFER LITTLE CHILDREN (Intervision/CAV Distributing): A special-edition DVD ($19.98 retail) of writer/producer Meg Shanks and director Alan Briggs’ 1983 first (and, to date, only) feature, a low-budget shocker in which a London orphanage is terrorized by a mute girl (Nicola Drana, in her first and only film). Amateurish and incomprehensible, with lapses in continuity and inaudible dialogue (when not drowned out by music), but good for plenty of unintentional laughs. *
SUMMER OF FEAR (Doppelganger Releasing): Wes Craven’s 1978 adaptation of Lois Duncan’s novel, originally broadcast as Stranger in Our House by NBC on Halloween, stars Linda Blair as a teenager who suspects that her orphaned cousin (Lee Purcell) is a witch with designs on her family. Jeremy Slate, Carol Lawrence, Jeff McCracken, Jeff East, Fran Drescher, and Macdonald Carey round out the cast. Fairly routine narrative given a boost by Craven’s directorial touches. The collector’s-edition DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interview with Blair, and more. Rated PG-13. **½
“VERA”: SET 7 (RLJ Entertainment/Acorn): Brenda Blethyn returns in the title role of brash, brilliant detective Vera Stanhope in four feature-length episodes from the 2017 season of the award-winning ITV Studios mystery series based on the best-selling novels by Ann Cleeves, available on DVD ($59.99 retail).
“VIKINGS”: SEASON 4, VOLUME 2 (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The saga of Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) continues in the last 10 episodes from the 2016-’17 season of the award-winning History Channel adventure series, available on DVD ($39.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail) – each replete with special features including audio commentaries, interviews, deleted scenes and more.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)