Video Vault – Oct 4, 2017
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
MESSAGE FROM SPACE (Shout! Factory): In the wake of Star Wars‘ phenomenal success came a slew of knock-offs, few loopier and wackier than this 1978 Japanese import (originally titled Uchu kara no messeji), released in the US by United Artists (!).
When the peaceful planet of Jillucia is threatened by the rampaging Gavanas Empire, it falls to a ragtag bunch of heroes – chosen by mystical seeds – to save the day. The “international” cast includes the legendary Shincihi “Sonny” Chiba as the warrior Hans (hmmm …), frequent Chiba co-star Etsuko (“Sue”) Shiomi, veteran Japanese star Tetsuro Tamba, up-and-coming Americans Philip Casnoff (his feature debut) and Peggy Lee Brennan (her feature debut), and the immortal Vic Morrow, top-billed as the gruff, hard-drinking, heroic Gen. Garuda.
Just for good measure – or whatever – there are outer-space dogfights, laser-sword duels, ham-handed fantasy mysticism, and a cute, talking robot (that would be “Beba-2,” who acts as Garuda’s sidekick). The special effects aren’t bad … unless you compare them to Star Wars.
Still, this is so campy and eager to please that it’s hard to dislike, although easy to dismiss. Then the highest-budgeted film ever made in Japan, Message from Space was DOA stateside but successful enough in its native country to inspire a television series.
Both the DVD ($19.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail) include theatrical trailer and more. Rated PG. **
4 DAYS (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Adolfo Alix Jr.’s drama stars Sebastian Castro and Mikoy Morales (in his feature debut) as college friends coming to terms with their attraction for each other. In Filipino with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
“THE BEST OF THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW” (Time Life): The title tells all in this six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) of 16 full-length episodes from the long-running (1967-’78), award-winning CBS comedy/variety series hosted by Carol Burnett, featuring regulars Tim Conway, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner, plus guest stars James Stewart, Burt Reynolds, Bernadette Peters, Rock Hudson, Jim Nabors, Carl Reiner, Rita Hayworth, Burt Reynolds and many others. Time Life has also released a four-disc collection ($39.95 retail) and a DVD single ($12.95 retail).
THE DEVIL’S CANDY (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Satanic panic ensues in writer/director Sean Byrne’s award-winning shocker about a young couple (Ethan Embry and Shiri Appleby) who move into a house in rural Texas whose previous owner (Pruitt Taylor Vince) went insane, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail) – both replete with special features including audio commentary, music video and more.
DON’T TORTURE A DUCKLING (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Lucio Fulci’s memorably monikered 1972 giallo thriller (originally titled Non si sevizia un paperino) stars Tomas Milian as a relentless reporter embroiled in a series of strange killings in a scandal-riddled town, with Florinda Bolkan, Barbara Bouchet, Marc Porel and Irene Papas in support. The collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, vintage and retrospective interviews, and more.
THE EYES (Parade Deck Films): Director Robbie Bryan’s gimmicky thriller stars Megan West, Vincent Pastore, Ana Isabelle, Steven Hauck, Danny Flaherty and Greg Davis Jr. as strangers held captive in a high-security bunker, where they are forced to decide who among them is to survive, with Nicholas Turturro the mystery man in charge of the “experiment.” Acted with conviction, and a neat end twist gives it a boost. **
FURIOUS DESIRES (TLA Releasing): An anthology of five, gay-themed short filmed directed by Simone Bozzelli, Denisse Quintero, Ricky Mastro, Rodrigo Alvarez Flores and Fabio Leal. In Italian and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
THE GAME CHANGER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Based on the popular TV series “Shanghai Bund,” director Gao Xixi’s ’30s-era gangster saga stars Peter Ho and Huang Zitao as escaped prisoners recruited by the powerful Shanghai crime syndicate known as the Green Gang. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
GERMANS & JEWS (First Run Features): First-time filmmakers Janina Quint and Tal Recanati’s thoughtful, unpretentious documentary feature explores the circumstances of how Germany became home to the fastest-rising Jewish population in Europe, with Germans and Jews of different backgrounds and generations discussing the past, present, and hopes for the future. In English and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS (Shout! Factory): Producer/director Jodie Foster’s star-studded 1995 comedy/drama depicts a dysfunctional family’s (predictably) eventful Thanksgiving reunion. W.D. Richter’s screenplay veers from humor to pathos in sometimes uneven fashion, but the cast is irresistible: Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Dylan McDermott, Claire Danes, Steve Guttenberg, Cynthia Stevenson, David Strathairn, Amy Yasbeck, Austin Pendleton and Geraldine Chaplin. The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated PG-13. **½
HUMAN (Kino Lorber): Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s epic, award-winning, kaleidoscopic documentary conveys stories and imagery from different cultures around the world, offering a vision of humanity at its best … and worst – told in a multitude of languages (with English subtitles). Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) include a making-of featurette.
HYPE! (Shout! Factory): Director Doug Pray’s award-winning 1996 documentary explores the grunge-music phenomenon from its earliest roots in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, featuring early appearances by such future chart-toppers as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Supersuckers, Mudhoney, The Posies, Seaweed, 7 Year Bitch and many others. Both the 20th-anniversary, collector’s-edition DVD ($16.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.98 retail) include retrospective interviews, additional performances, and more.
“LEGEND OF BRUCE LEE: VOLUME THREE” (Well Go USA Entertainment): Danny Chan returns as the legendary martial arts icon in the final 10 episodes from the 2008 mini-series (originally titled Li Xiao Long chuan qi) dramatizing his life and career, with Michelle Lang (as Linda Lee), Ray Park, Mark Dacasacos, Wang Luoyang, Tim Storms, Gary Daniels, and Michael Jai White (as Muhammad Ali). In English and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
THE MODERNS (Shout! Factory): Alan Rudolph’s award-winning 1988 satire stars Keith Carradine as an expatriate American artist at large in 1926 Paris, with a star-studded supporting cast including Linda Fiorentino, Genevieve Bujold, Geraldine Chaplin, John Lone, Kevin J.O’Connor, and a cross-dressing Wallace Shawn (!). Elegant, witty, and not a little self-indulgent – Rudolph devotees have a big head start. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes retrospective interviews. Rated R. **½
STRAY DOG (Bullfrog Films/Icarus Films Home Video): Writer/director Debra Granik’s award-winning documentary feature debut offers an affectionate, intimate, up-close-and-personal portrayal the day-to-day life of Ron “Stray Dog” Hall, a Missouri-based biker and Vietnam veteran, as he interacts with friends, family and loved ones. The DVD retails for $24.95. ***
THE SUSPICIOUS DEATH OF A MINOR (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Sergio Marino’s 1975 giallo thriller (originally titled Morte sospetta di una minorenne and also released as Too Young to Die) stars Claudio Cassinelli as a detective whose investigation of a teenaged prostitute’s murder leads him to discover a sex-trafficking ring that reaches the upper echelons of political power. Mel Ferrer, Massimo Girotti, Lia Tanzi and Barbara Magnolfi also appear. The limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and more.
TEEN WOLF (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Michael J. Fox’s success in Back to the Future propelled director Rod Daniel’s mild 1985 feature debut into a box-office hit, in which he plays a teenager who turns into a werewolf. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes retrospective documentary, original trailer and more. Rated PG. **
TEEN WOLF TOO (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of the unnecessary (and none-too-funny) 1987 sequel to the above, with Jason Bateman (in his feature debut) as the new teenager with full moon madness, while. James Hampton and Mark Holton reprise their roles from the original. Special features include retrospective interviews and more. Rated PG. *
“THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON, THE VAULT SERIES, VOLUMES 1-6” (Time Life): A self-explanatory, six-DVD collection ($59.95 retail) of 12 full-length, unedited episodes from the long-running, award-winning NBC talk show when hosted by Johnny Carson, featuring guest stars Michael Caine and Sean Connery (promoting The Man Who Would Be King in 1975), Orson Welles, Jack Benny, Jerry Lewis, Dom DeLuise, Charlton Heston, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton, Joel Grey, Dean Martin, Burt Reynolds, Buddy Hackett, Paul McCartney and many others – plus bonus features.
A WOMAN’S LIFE (Kino Lorber): Director/screenwriter Stephane Brize’s award-winning adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel Une vie (the film’s original title) stars Judith Chemla as a young aristocrat whose idealism is slowly but surely stripped away in the repressive social environment of 19th-century France. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) – both replete with special features.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2017, Mark Burger)