THE BROADWAY MELODY (Warner Home Video): This 1929 chestnut was only the second film to win the Academy Award as best picture as well as being the first musical and the first sound film so honored. Its success at the box-office ushered in a long era of movie musicals, including a series of Broadway Melody follow-ups. Bessie Love (who earned an Oscar nomination as best actress) and Anita Page play Hank and Queenie Mahoney, two sisters who come to Broadway to find their fortune as dancers. They’re paired with song-and-dance man Eddie Kearns (Charles King), but complications arise when Eddie finds himself torn between them.
Will they become stars of the stage, or will this be the end of the Mahoney Sisters act? This being only a few months removed from the silent era, the film is sometimes creaky — and there’s hardly a show-biz clichÃ© that isn’t included — but for those in a nostalgic mood for a bygone era, The Broadway Melody is a pleasant enough diversion, with attractive performances by both Love and Page (who died last year at the age of 98). Director Harry Beaumont also earned an Oscar nomination. **’½
ALSO ON DVD
BANGKOK DANGEROUS (LionsGate Home Entertainment): The Pang brothers remake their own 1999 action film — none too well — with Nicolas Cage (also a producer) playing a laconic hit-man on assignment in the title town. Overlong, over-stylized, pretentious and predictable. Other than that, it’s fine. Available in a single-disc edition ($29.95 retail), a two-disc special edition ($34.98 retail), or a Blu-ray two-disc edition ($39.99 retail). Rated R. *’½
BIKINI ROYALE (Retromedia Entertainment/Infinity Entertainment Group): An enjoyable bit of softcore silliness from director Nicholas Medina (AKA Fred Olen Ray), with a bevy of bodacious beauties (including Beverly Lynn, Monique Parent and Charlie Laine) engaging in sexy, slapstick spyjinks. Filmmaker, film historian and my friend Ted Newsom has a good time hamming it up as an eccentric, “Q”-like inventor called Newton. **
BLACK SWARM (RHI Entertainment/Genius Products): Wasps go wild — and so do the residents — in a burg gone buggy in upstate New York. Robert Englund plays the resident mad scientist, and this occasionally light-hearted creature feature kills time easily enough. **
COLLEGE (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A predictable but sometimes amusing teen comedy with Drake Bell, Kevin Covais and Andrew Caldwell as nerdy buddies who party hard when they attend college orientation. You may hate yourself in the morning, but this does deliver some raunchy laughs. Rated R. **’½
“DARK DREAMERS” — VOLUME ONE (Smash Vision): A four-DVD boxed set ($24.99) of selected episodes from the 2000-’01 (and beyond) season of the syndicated series in which award-winning author and historian Stanley Wiater interviews a variety of filmmakers and authors who specialize in horror, science-fiction and fantasy — including John Saxon, William Lustig, Clive Barker, Harlan Ellison, Peter Straub, Stan Winston, Richard Matheson, Julie Strain, Larry Cohen, Wes Craven, Charles Band, John Landis, Forrest J Ackerman and others. Wiater’s approach is extremely low-key, but there’s no question that he allows his subjects to elaborate extensively and, in essence, tell their own stories — and there’s nothing wrong with that.
FILM CREW/WET HEAT (Splatter Rampage/Tempe Video): A double-feature of low-budget horror spoofs from writer/producer/director Chris Seaver: Film Crew (**’½), filmed in beautiful Rochester, NY, sees the randy staff of a multiplex theater murdered one-by-one during a Troma film festival, and ranks as one of Seaver’s more engaging efforts, with a particularly good score; Wet Heat (**) is Seaver’s low-rent rendition of Escape from New York, which Casey Bowker reprising his signature role as the lascivious “Teen Ape.” If this twin bill ($14.99 retail) isn’t enough, Splatter Rampage/Tempe Video is also releasing the five-film collection “Bone Jack’s Splatter Platters” ($19.99 retail), which includes Film Crew, Wet Heat, Destruction Kings, Mulva 2: Kill Teen Ape! and Quest for the Egg Salad.
FORBIDDEN ZONE (Legend Films): Writer/producer/director Richard Elfman’s 1980 feature debut is a musical mess set in — and around, and evidently below — the Sixth Dimension, which is ruled over by the diminutive despot King Fausto (Herve Villechaize). Inspired by Elfman’s work with the Mystic Knights of the Oingo-Boingo (later shortened to “Oingo Boingo”), with Elfman’s younger brother and bandmate Danny in his screen debut as the Devil. This marks the first time that this weird, wildly uneven film has been available on DVD — and in color, no less. It’s got a cult following, but I’m not a member… although I do like Oingo Boingo. Rated R. *’½
IGOR (MGM Home Entertainment/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): John Cusack provides the voice for the title character of this enjoyable, if lightweight, animated feature that spoofs black-and-white horror movies and focuses on the character of a hunchbacked lab assistant with aspirations toward becoming a mad scientist in his own right. Molly Shannon, John Cleese and Steve Buscemi are among the other luminaries who lend their vocal talents. Rated PG. **’½
INSIDE MOVES (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Richard Donner’s 1980 drama stars John Savage as a failed suicide who falls in, and finds his place with, the (mostly) handicapped clientele of a neighborhood bar in San Francisco. Adapted from Todd Walton’s novel by Barry Levinson and Valerie Curtin, this is very much a sentimental journey — but a well-acted one, and it does have it fans. Also on hand: Diana Scarwid (who picked up an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress), David Morse (in his screen debut), Harold Russell, Bert Remsen, Amy Wright, Harold Sylvester, Bill Henderson and Tony Burton. Rated PG. **’½
MY SASSY GIRL (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Elisha Cuthbert and Jesse Bradford headline this flaky comedy/drama depicting the star-crossed romance between a college student and the free spirit he encounters in New York City. This is the “Americanized” version of a popular Korean comic series (inspired by the author’s own relationship with his girlfriend), which has since become a phenomenon there — spawning a best-selling novel, a top-grossing feature film, and now a top-rated TV series. Some things may have been lost in the translation, but Cuthbert and Bradford acquit themselves well. Rated PG-13. **’½
“NCAA MARCH MADNESS: THE GREATEST MOMENTS OF THE NCAA TOURNAMENT” (Genius Products): The title tells all in this feature documentary ($19.95 retail), narrated by CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz. Highlights include footage of such future NBA superstars as Michael Jordan, Bill Walton, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Bird, Dwyane Wade and Magic Johnson. If this doesn’t quench your thirst for college hoops, keep reading….
ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (Republic Pictures/LionsGate Home Entertainment): Flimsy whimsy from Hollywood’s good old days — 1948, to be exact — stars Robert Walker as a department-store window-dresser who brings to life the statue of Venus, the Goddess of Love (played by Ava Gardner, truly a goddess). Based on a hit Broadway musical, the film version was not a hit, and Walker’s forte was never slapstick comedy. Good supporting cast includes Dick Haymes, Eve Arden, Tom Conway and Olga San Juan (who died in January). **
PAURA: LUCIO FULCI REMEMBERED — VOLUME 1 (Paura Productions/Tempe Video): The first in a proposed, epic documentary tracing the life and career of cult filmmaker Lucio Fulci (1927-’96), boasting almost 90 interviews with various veterans of Fulci’s films, including actors, writers, producers and fellow directors. Filmmaker Mike Baronas clearly has a special place in his heart for Fulci (don’t we all?), and this is an indispensable addition to any Fulci fan’s DVD library… although those unfamiliar with Fulci’s work may wonder what all the fuss is about. Baronas is currently working on a second volume, which will take more of an overview of the filmmaker’s career. This limited-edition DVD retails for $19.95. Also available directly from the distributor: www.PauraProd.com ***
PICTURING THE PRESIDENTS (Infinity Entertainment Group): This Smithsonian Channel documentary ($14.98 retail) explores the history behind the portraits of US presidents housed in the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.
“RIVALRY SERIES: DUKE BEATS NORTH CAROLINA/ NORTH CAROLINA BEATS DUKE” (Genius Products): With NCAA “March Madness” right around the corner, here are two special-edition DVD boxed sets (each one retailing for $29.95) featuring three games that highlight the ever-intense and ongoing rivalry between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels. The titles indicate which team won which.
THE SAM ELLIOTT WESTERN COLLECTION (Warner Home Video): A triple-bill of Western adventures, all originally broadcast on TNT and all starring Sam Elliott, an actor who’s right at home in the saddle: starring with Linda Fiorentino and Craig Sheffer in the awardwinning Desperate Trail (1995); opposite Tom Berenger (as Theodore Roosevelt), George Hamilton (as William Randolph Hearst) and Brian Keith (in his final film) in writer/director John Milius’ Rough Riders (1997), which earned an Emmy Award for outstanding sound editing for a miniseries, movie or special; and playing real-life Western lawman-turnedfilmmaker Bill Tilghman in writer/director John Kent Harrison’s fact-based, award-winning You Know My Name (1999), on which he also served as executive producer. This boxed set retails for $19.97.
SWEET SIXTEEN (Code Red DVD): Producer/director Jim Sotos’ 1983 slasher whodunit, with reliable Bo Hopkins cast to type as a small-town sheriff investigating a series of murders that seem to revolve around a tempestuous teenager (gorgeous Aleisha Shirley, in her film debut) who’s new in town. Nothing spectacular but quite watchable, with a great supporting cast: Patrick Macnee, Susan Strasberg, Don Stroud, Larry Storch, Sharon Farrell, Michael Pataki, Don Shanks, Dana Kimmell and Henry Wilcoxon (in his final film). This special-edition DVD includes both the director’s cut and the theatrical cut, but the audio commentary on the latter is often unintelligible. (Someone must’ve crossed the wrong wires.) Rated R. **
“TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE” — THE FIRST SEASON (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): All 24 episodes from the 1984-’85 season of the syndicated supernatural anthology series, on which George A. Romero served as executive producer. The show was uneven at times, but maintained a fervent following (including yours truly) over the years. Guest stars include Danny Aiello, Keenan Wynn, Stuart Whitman, Barnard Hughes, Bruce Davison, Dick Shawn, Christian Slater, Farley Granger, Lou Jacobi, Carol Kane, Justine Bateman, Jessica Harper, Tippi Hedren, Eddie Bracken, Fritz Weaver, Jean Marsh, Eric Bogosian, Vince Edwards, Bud Cort and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with Paul Sparer providing the memorable narration. This boxed set retails for $36.98.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2009, Mark Burger