DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: SHOCKER (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory)
While the Elm Street sequels rolled without him, Wes Craven (who died Aug. 30) attempted to fashion another horror franchise in this aptly-named 1989 outing, with a pre-“X Files” Mitch Pileggi as serial-killer boogeyman Horace Pinker.
After his execution, Pinker’s evil spirit is able to travel via electrical current – hence the film’s title – and he’s hell-bent on exacting revenge upon dogged detective Michael Murphy (always reliable) and Murphy’s son Peter Berg (now a director). Needless to say, anyone who gets in Pinker’s way is duly dispatched, in suitably grisly fashion.
Audiences expecting straightforward shocks (no pun intended) were surprised by the film’s satirical, even goofy self-mockery, and it was released amidst a slew of films about an electrocuted killer back from the dead (The Horror Show, The Chair, Prison). Thus, there was only one Shocker. It’s neither Craven’s best film, nor his worst – but it’s well-made, earns its laughs, and is a must for Craven completists.
The special-edition Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) includes audio commentaries, interviews and more. Rated R.
ALIEN OUTPOST (IFC Midnight/ Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A film crew follows a military platoon into battle against an alien menace in this sci-fi blow-out, available on DVD ($14.93 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.97 retail).
BLACK & WHITE: THE DAWN OF ASSAULT (Shout! Factory): Maverick cop Mark Chao and hard-boiled gangster Huang Bo are allied in a common quest for stolen diamonds in Yueh-Hsun Tsai’s action extravaganza, originally titled Pi zi ying xiong shou bu qu: Quan mian kai zhan and spun off from a popular Tawainese TV series. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($16.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.97 retail).
DARK SUMMER (IFC Midnight/ Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Teenager Keir Gilchrist’s house arrest proves complicated when his house turns out to be haunted. The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $24.97.
EJECTA (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director/producer/ editor Matt Wiele and Chad Archibald’s confused, disjointed alien-abduction/ government-conspiracy sci-fi thriller stars Julian Richings as an everyman tormented by fragmented memories of extra-terrestrial encounters and Adam Seybold the documentary filmmaker who interviews him. The DVD/Blu-ray combo retails for $26.99.
“GENE AUTRY MOVIE COLLEC- TION 11” (Timeless Media Group): The latest DVD “quadruple feature” ($16.97 retail) of vintage Westerns starring the beloved singing cowboy: 1936’s The Singing Cowboy and Guns and Guitars, and 1937’s Round-up Time in Texas and Springtime in the Rockies.
GHOSTHOUSE/WITCHERY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A Blu-ray double feature ($24.97 retail) of two R-rated 1988 chillers, both from the Italian-made La Casa series): Ghosthouse stars Lara Wendel and Gregg Scott, and the comparatively star-studded Witchery stars Linda Blair, David Hasselhoff and then-wife Catherine Hickland, and Hildegard Knef.
THE HARVEST (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director John McNaughton’s award-winning thriller stars Natasha Calis as an orphan who befriends sickly neighbor Charlie Tahan – much to the ire of his overprotective parents (Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon). The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $24.97.
“HILL STREET BLUES”: SEASON SIX (Shout! Factory): A DVD collection ($34.93 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1985-’86 season of the acclaimed NBC police series, with Daniel J. Travanti heading an ensemble cast including Veronica Hamel, James B. Sikking, Charles Haid, Michael Warren, Joe Spano, Rene Enriquez, Betty Thomas, Ed Marinaro, Bruce Weitz, Robert Prosky, Dennis Franz, Joe Spano, Taurean Blacque, Kiel Martin, Mimi Kuzyk and Barbara Bosson (then married to creator/executive producer Steven Bochco). Nominated for seven Emmy awards including Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series, Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Weitz) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Thomas).
I, MADMAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A special-edition Blu-ray ($24.97 retail) of director Tibor Takacs’ atmospheric, award-winning 1989 chiller in which the murderer from a pulp paperback comes to life – much to the dismay of bookstore clerk Jenny Wright and cop boyfriend Clayton Rohner. A nice try that doesn’t quite work, but not without interest. Rated R.
“THE JEFFERSONS”: SEASON EIGHT (Shout! Factory): Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford are “movin’ on up” in all 25 episodes from the 1981- ’82 season of the long-running CBS sitcom spun off from “All in the Family,” earning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Video Tape Editing for a Series and nominations for Sanford (Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) and Marla Gibbs (Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series), now available in a three-DVD collection ($24.97 retail).
“MAUDE”: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON (Shout! Factory): Beatrice Arthur (Emmy nominee as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series) returns in the title role of Tuckahoe, N.Y.’s favorite feminist, in all 24 episodes from the 1973-’74 season of the acclaimed (and sometimes controversial) CBS situation comedy spun off from “All in the Family,” now available on DVD ($24.97 retail).
“OUT OF THE VAULT: HALLOW- EEN COLLECTION” (Shout! Factory): Getting the jump on the spooky season, this DVD collection ($9.99 retail) includes 10 Halloween-themed episodes from such popular Nicktoons cartoon series’ as “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” “Angry Beavers,” “CatDog,” “Hey Arnold!” and “Rocko’s Modern Life.”
THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Wes Craven’s ambitious but disappointing 1991 urban allegory, with youngster Brandon Adams (in his screen debut) terrorized by a couple (“Twin Peaks” veterans Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) whose home is a house of horrors, now available as a specialedition Blu-ray ($29.93 retail) replete with special features. Rated R.
“SGT. BILKO/THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW”: SEASON THREE (Shout! Factory): Phil Silvers reprises his signature role as the ever-scheming Master Sgt. Ernest G. Bilko in all 37 episodes from the 1957-’58 season of the CBS sitcom created by Nat Hiken, now available in a five-DVD collection ($34.93 retail). That season, the series won Emmy Awards as Best Comedy Series and for Best Comedy Writing, with nominations for Silvers (Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series) and Paul Ford (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series).
“THUNDERBIRDS”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (Timeless Media Group): A collection of all 32 episodes from the entire 1965-’66 run of Gerry Anderson’s “Supermarionette” sci-fi series set in 2065, as heroic Jeff Tracy (voiced by Peter Dyneley) and his sons embark on various adventures – both on and off the Earth – from their top-secret International Rescue base. The DVD collection retails for $49.97, the Blu-ray collection for $69.97, both with special features.
TOOLBOX MURDERS 2 (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/producer/director Dean C. Jones’ follow-up to the 2004 remake of the 1978 drive-in cult classic was originally titled Coffin Baby and sees Chris Doyle reprising his role as a sadistic serial killer at large in Hollywood, backed by Bruce Dern (!), Clifton Powell, Chauntal Lewis and Brian Krause. The DVD retails for $14.93, the Blu-ray for $19.97.
“WELCO ME BACK, KOTTER”: THE FINAL SEASON (Shout! Factory): School’s in – one last time – for Gabe Kaplan and his Sweathogs (Robert Hegyes, Ron Palillo, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Stephen Shortridge and sometimes John Travolta), in all 23 episodes from the 1978-’79 season of the popular ABC comedy series, now available on DVD ($29.93 retail). !
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2015, Mark Burger.