Video Vault – Apr 25, 2015
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
DEEP RED (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Along with the subsequent Suspiria (1977), this relentless 1975 whodunit (originally titled Profondo Rosso and released in the US under the subtle moniker The Hatchet Murders) marked the pinnacle of Dario Argento’s career, a one-two punch that he’s never managed to replicate, although not for lack of trying.
Eschewing the supernatural trappings of Suspiria, Deep Red is much more in the Hitchcock tradition, with Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966) a likely inspiration for casting David Hemmings as Marcus Daly, a British pianist in Rome who witnesses the savage murder of psychic Helga Ullmann (Macha Meril) in a upstairs hotel room.
Joining forces with feisty photo-journalist Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi, Argento’s then-girlfriend), Marcus becomes obsessed with finding the killer … only to discover that the killer is equally determined to find him, and anyone close to Marcus is on the hit list, too.
Luigi Kuveiller’s stunning cinematography allows Argento to orchestrate his onscreen mayhem in highly stylized, gory flourish, augmented by a Goblin score that rivals their score for Suspiria in terms of sheer grandeur, to say nothing of decibels. In addition, Hemmings and Nicolodi evince a delightful, flirtatious banter that stops just short of potential romance – which would have distracted from the business at hand, which is to scare and shock. This Deep Red does, in inimitable Argento fashion. It’s the quintessential giallo thriller.
The limited-edition, two-disc Blu-ray ($49.95 retail) includes both original and international versions of the film, audio commentary, retrospective interviews, collectible booklet, poster and lobby card reproductions, theatrical trailer, and more. ****
CYBORG (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) of Albert Pyun’s grimy, grisly 1989 futuristic schlock, with Jean-Claude Van Damme as a nomadic hero trying to protect the titular cyborg (Dayle Haddon) on a quest to save humanity. Plenty of action but not much else, although this was a late-inning hit for ailing Cannon Films and does boast a cult following – for what it’s worth. Special features include audio commentary, retrospective documentaries, and more. Rated R. *
DEAD MAN (The Criterion Collection): Jim Jarmusch’s award-winning, self-described 1995 “psychedelic Western” stars Johnny Depp (as one “William Blake”), a timid accountant who unaccountably finds himself a fugitive in the American frontier. Strange, surreal and beautifully shot in monochrome by Robby Muller, with an evocative score by Neil Young – plus a star-studded cast including Gary Farmer, Gabriel Byrne, John Hurt, Lance Henriksen, Michael Wincott, Mili Avatal, Iggy Pop, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Jared Harris, Crispin Glover, and Robert Mitchum (in his final feature). Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boast a wealth of bonus features, including audio commentary, retrospective interviews, readings of the actual William Blake’s poetry, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. **½
DEN OF THIEVES (STXfilms/Universal Studios Home Entertainment): Screenwriter Christian Gudegast makes his feature debut as executive producer/director of this action-packed shoot-’em-up pitting an elite group of Los Angeles cops (led by producer Gerard Butler) against a group of thieves (led by Pablo Schreiber) bent on robbing the Federal Reserve Bank, with Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Evan Jones, and Eric Braeden (Gudegast’s real-life father) caught in the crossfire, available on DVD ($22.99 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), both replete with special features including audio commentary, alternate ending, featurettes, outtakes and deleted scenes, and both the R-rated theatrical and unrated director’s cut.
DIGIMON ADVENTURE TRI. – LOSS (Toei Animation/Shout! Factory): The popular anime franchise resumes with this award-winning anime feature (originally titled Digimon Adventure tri. Saikai) pitting the DigiDestined group and their Digimon against new threats to their world, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.97 retail), each containing both English and Japanese audio tracks and bonus features for Digimon devotees.
DOCTOR DETROIT (Shout! Factory): Straight-laced college professor Dan Aykroyd adopts the titular alter-ego of a flamboyant pimp in this dreadful 1983 comedy, which ranks as perhaps the worst movie he ever made – although he did meet future wife Donna Dixon making it. The hapless cast includes Howard Hesseman (in a role reportedly originally offered to John Belushi), Fran Drescher, Lynn Whitfield (her feature debut), T.K. Carter, George Furth, Glenne Headly, Kate Murtagh, Andrew Duggan, and James Brown (as himself). The “Shout Select” Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, theatrical trailers and more. Rated R. Zero stars
THE FENCER (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Director Klaus Haro’s award-winning, fact-based drama (originally titled Miekkailija) stars Mart Avandi as real-life fencing champ Endel Nelis, who returned to Leningrad after World War II to become a coach, risking his safety in the process. In Estonian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
HENRY MILLER ASLEEP & AWAKE (IndiePix Films): Tom Schiller’s engaging 1973 documentary short follows author Henry Miller as he discusses the artwork adorning the bathroom of his New York apartment at age 81, as wistful and witty as ever in his dotage. The DVD ($19.95 retail) includes an interview with Schiller, fondly remembered for his long stint with “Saturday Night Live.” ***
PADDINGTON 2 (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The beloved bear (again voiced by Ben Whishaw) returns in writer/director Paul King’s award-winning, PG-rated follow-up to the 2014 box-office hit based on Michael Bond’s best-selling series of children’s books, with Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Peter Capaldi and Imelda Staunton also encoring, joined this time out by Hugh Grant and Brendan Gleeson. A third installment is currently in the works. Both the DVD ($28.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) include bonus features.
“A PISTOL FOR RINGO & THE RETURN OF RINGO: TWO FILMS BY DUCCIO TESSARI” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A self-explanatory Blu-ray double feature ($39.95 retail) of vintage spaghetti Westerns, both starring Giuliano Gemma (AKA “Montgomery Wood”) as the pistol-packing hero: The original Una pistola per Ringo (1965) and its immediate follow-up, Il ritorno di Ringo, boasting such special features as audio commentaries, archival interviews, original English and Italian soundtracks, and more.
RAVE PARTY MASSACRE (Breaking Glass Pictures): The title tells all in producer/director/story writer Jason Winn’s slash-happy shocker (originally titled DeadThirsty), in which party-goers at an abandoned hospital are stalked and slain. Despite some pretentious political overtones (seemingly a nod to The Purge), most of this low-rent schlock’s running time sees its irritating characters wandering hallways, arguing, and screaming. An unimpressive ensemble cast includes Sarah Bess, Evan Taylor Williams, and newcomers Melissa Kunnap, Jared Sullivan, and Pedro Ferreira. ½
RUSSIAN DOLL (Wolfe Video): Writer/director Ed Gaffney’s leaden thriller, more soft-headed than hard-boiled, stars daughter Melanie Brockmann Gaffney (in her feature debut) as a lonely lesbian detective investigating a kidnapping tied to a local production of the title play. Both contrived and convoluted, this is strictly small-scale, small-screen fare, with Gaffney’s unnecessary narration mere padding – and the culprits are never caught! The LGBTQ angle is mostly relegated to erotic dreams Gaffney has of potential new girlfriend Marem Hassler. Gaffney’s mother Suzanne Brockman and co-star/brother Jason T. Gaffney served as executive producers. *
STRINGS (Monarch Home Entertainment): Singer/songwriter (and associate producer) Jason Michael Carroll makes his feature debut as an aspiring country singer in this music melodrama that marks the feature debut of co-directors Patrick Dunnagan and co-star/editor/producer Robert Wagner, available on DVD ($19.95 retail).
UP IN SMOKE (Paramount): Richard “Cheech” Marin and Tommy Chong made their big-screen bow in producer Lou Adler’s 1978 directorial debut, an enjoyably knockabout farce that sees Cheech & Chong as would-be musicians who unwittingly smuggle Mexican marijuana to the United States, all the while pursued by hard-nosed narc Stacy Keach. The duo’s appealing chemistry is evident from the get-go, with Tom Skerritt, Edie Adams, Strother Martin, Mills Watson, and Zane Buzby also on hand. The 40th-anniversary DVD ($9.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($13.99 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective interviews and featurettes, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)