Video Vault – Oct 5, 2016
By Mark Burger
DVD Pick of the week:
Lady in white (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
This well-rendered, genuinely spooky 1988 ghost story marked the second, and best, film of writer/producer/composer/director Frank LaLoggia, who has since directed only once more (Mother in 1995).
Steeped in atmosphere and early ‘60s nostalgia, there a palpable Stephen King vibe to the proceedings (particularly Stand by Me in its coming-of-age theme) as youngster Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) is locked in the cloakroom of his school by bullies and sees a vision of a young girl being murdered.
With the ghost (Joelle Jacobi) as his spectral guide, Frankie investigates the murders that have rocked the community, comes face to face with the mysterious “lady in white” (Katherine Helmond), and ultimately squares off against the killer, who’s closer than he ever suspected.
LaLoggia, who opens the film as the adult Frankie revisiting his hometown, coaches excellent performances from all concerned, including Alex Rocco as Frankie’s widowed father, Jason Presson as his big brother, and Len Cariou as a family friend. As well as being intense and scary, there’s a sense of lost innocence, not just for Frankie, but his community as well.
The two-disc Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes the original theatrical cut and extended director’s cut, audio commentary, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and more. Rated PG-13.
DEAD-END DRIVE-IN (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) of director Brian Trenchard-Smith’s 1986 cult classic set in post-apocalyptic Australia (gee, like Mad Max!) wherein which vicious street gangs turn an abandoned drive-in into a makeshift prison for their captives. Silly but undeniably action-packed. Special features include audio commentary, theatrical trailer and more.
THE DEAD ROOM (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/director/cinematographer Jason Stutter uses a ‘70s urban legend as the springboard for this shocker in which scientists Jed Brophy and Jeffrey Thomas team up with psychic Laura Petersen to investigate a haunted farmhouse in New Zealand, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
FENDER BENDER (Shout! Factory): “Road rage” takes on a whole new meaning in writer/director Mark Pavia’s shocker with Makenzie Vega as a teenager whose minor auto accident yields terror at the hands of the other driver (Bill Sage), available on DVD ($14.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
THE HORRIBLE DR. HICHCOCK (Olive Films): Director Riccardo Fredo’s 1962 giallo thriller (originally titled L’orribile segreto del Dr. Hichcock) stars Robert Flemyng in the title role of a deranged 19th-century scientist who tries to cure his insane wife (Teresa Fitzgerald, AKA Maria Teresa Vianello) with the blood of his second wife (scream queen Barbara Steele). Long on atmosphere and short on logic – but a cult favorite nonetheless, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
HOWARD LOVECRAFT & THE FROZEN KINGDOM (Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Sean Patrick O’Reilly’s PG-rated animated feature focuses on the young HP Lovecraft (voiced by Kiefer O’Reilly), whose reading of the Necronomicon opens a portal to a frozen netherworld dimension and propels him on the adventure of a lifetime. The star-studded voice-over cast includes Christopher Plummer, Jane Curtin, Ron Perlman, Allison Wandzura and Doug Bradley, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.97 retail).
KINGSGLAIVE: FINAL FANTASY XV (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The mythical kingdom of Lucis wages war against the insidious Niflheim empire in this PG-13-rated animated feature based on the popular video-game series, boasting the voice-over talents of Aaron Paul, Lena Headey and Sean Bean, available on DVD ($25.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail).
“LIMITLESS”: SEASON ONE (CBS DVD/Paramount): Jake McDorman is recruited by FBI agent Jennifer Carpenter to crack tough cases after he ingests a drug that unlocks 100% of his brain capacity in this CBS series spun off from the hit 2011 film, with executive producer Bradley Cooper periodically reprising his screen role. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Hill Harper, Colin Salmon, Ron Rifkin and Blair Brown also appear. All 22 episodes from the 2016 (and only) season are available on DVD ($55.98 retail).
THE NIGHT VISITOR (VCI Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($19.99 retail) of director Laslo Benedek’s atmospheric but gimmicky 1971 thriller starring Max Von Sydow as a convicted murderer who escapes from an asylum to terrorize sister Liv Ullmann and her husband Per Oscarsson, whom he blames for his incarceration. Top-billed Trevor Howard plays the cop on the case, with Andrew Keir and Rupert Davies in support.
“THE ORIGINALS”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Warner Home Video): This prequel to “The Vampire Diaries” chronicles the “first” vampire family and their bloodthirsty doings in the steamy French Quarter of New Orleans, as dramatized in all 22 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the popular CW horror series. The regular cast includes Joseph Morgan (double trouble as a hybrid vampire/werewolf), Daniel Gillies, Phoebe Tonkin, Charles Michael Davis and Riley Voelkel. The DVD boxed set retails for $44.98.
RAISING CAIN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): After the debacle of The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), Brian De Palma returned to the suspense genre with this very Hitchcockian 1992 thriller starring John Lithgow as a very intense child psychologist consumed by jealous rage when wife Lolita Davidovich re-encounters old flame Steven Bauer. Lithgow’s in top form, but the underwhelming Davidovich is a liability, despite supporting work from Gregg Henry, Frances Sternhagen, Tom Bower and Mel Harris. Love that ending, though! The two-disc collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes both the theatrical version and never-before-seen director’s cut, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer and more. Rated R.
THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (Blue Underground): The Blu-ray bow ($29.98 retail) of producer Harry Alan Towers’ laughable, low-budget 1979 version of H.G. Wells’ classic novel, although more inspired – so to speak – by the success of Star Wars (1977), with Jack Palance hamming it up as an inter-galactic megalomaniac while Carol Lynley, Barry Morse, John Ireland, Nicholas Campbell and Eddie Benton manage not to look (too) embarrassed. Rated PG. *½
“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): The Brothers Winchester (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) continue their battle against the forces of evil – of which there are plenty, given the show’s run! – in all 23 episodes from the 2015-’16 season of the creator Eric Kripke’s award-winning CW series, the longest-running scripted series on the network, available on DVD ($49.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($54.97 retail) – both replete with special features.
TALE OF TALES (Sundance Selects/Shout! Factory): Matteo Garone’s award-winning, R-rated fantasy (originally titled Il racconto dei racconti) is based on the stories of 17th-century author Giambattista Basile and stars Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly and Shirley Henderson, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.97 retail).
“VAMPIRE BABES DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha New Cinema): A DVD two-fer ($7.98 retail) of low-budget shockers: Writer/producer/director/co-star Henrique Couto’s zealously campy 2006 spoof The Vampire Bitches (**) – actual title: Marty Jenkins and the Vampire Bitches – stars co-writer/co-producer Shawn A. Green III (in his screen debut) as a geeky video-store clerk battling bloodsucking babes in Dayton, Ohio (!); writer/producer/director Pete Trudgeon’s dreadful 2009 feature debut After the Blood Rush (½) sees John Anton hunting vampires in Michigan.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92.
© 2016, Mark Burger.