Video Vault – Jan 9, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE INCUBUS (Vinegar Syndrome): No one seemed to like this 1982 adaptation of Ray Russell’s novel, directed by John Hough and starring no less than John Cassavetes, who often took acting roles to finance his own films – yet even after all these years The Incubus (or simply Incubus, according to the credits) holds a dark fascination. In no way perfect, or even cohesive, it nonetheless boasts a broodingly nightmarish tone throughout.
Set in the bucolic Wisconsin (or is it New England?) burg of Galen – but filmed near Guelph, Ontario – the story concerns a series of brutal rapes and murders that rocks the community, although it transpires that similar events occurred years before.
Delving into these dire doings are Sam Cordell (Cassavetes), a newcomer to Galen and an embittered surgeon; Laura Kincaid (Kerrie Keane in her feature debut), also a Galen newcomer and editor of the local newspaper; and Hank Walden (John Ireland), the local police chief, who’s got a few secrets of his own.
Cordell’s daughter Jenny (Erin Flannery) is dating Tim Galen (Duncan McIntosh in his feature debut), the adopted grandson of town matriarch Agatha Galen (Helen Hughes), and has been suffering bizarre nightmares that coincide with the crimes, prompting Sam to dig further into the town’s past to ascertain precisely who – or what – is to blame. (An oft-quoted Cassavetes line: “Every time this kid has a dream, somebody in this town dies!”)
Cassavetes reportedly reworked Sandor Stern’s screenplay – according to Hough, as much as 80 percent! – so the pseudonymous “George Franklin” receives credit, and delivers a performance of occasionally explosive, bleary-eyed conviction. Despite its exploitation trappings, there is no humor whatsoever. The characters are riddled with guilt or remorse or shame, and the film’s overall tone is bleak and unforgiving. The Incubus isn’t a slasher film; its horrors are rooted in the supernatural and, surprisingly, the characters’ tainted memories. Even the film’s most fervent fans – and yours truly counts himself among them – tend to wish the film had been better, yet even in its present form it lingers, hauntingly and vividly, in the memory … and isn’t that what a cult classic is supposed to do?
The collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray ($32.98 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, TV spots, and more. Rated R. **½
12 DAYS (Icarus Films Home Video): Raymond Depardon’s award-winning documentary feature (originally titled 12 jours) examines the French system of law by which anyone placed under psychiatric care without their consent are entitled to a legal hearing 12 days later to determine whether they should be released or not. In French with English subtitles, available in a three-DVD collection ($22.99 retail) that also includes Depardon’s 2012 documentary Journal de France (which he co-wrote and co-directed with Claudine Nougaret) and the 2016 documentary France (Les Habitants).
AN AFGHAN LOVE STORY (Film Movement): Writer/director Barmak Akram’s award-winning 2013 drama (originally titled Wajma) stars newcomers Wajma Bahar (as “Wajma”) and Mustafa Abdulsatar (as “Mustafa”) as a young law student and waiter, respectively, whose clandestine romance is threatened by the highly conservative cultural structure, represented by her traditional father (Haji Gul Aser). In Persian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
DEATH SHIP (Scorpion Releasing): George Kennedy and Richard Crenna bring their trademark professionalism to director Alvin Rakoff’s 1980 shocker about a haunted Nazi interrogation ship that continues to prowl the seas in search of victims. Silly and occasionally tasteless, with lapses in logic and continuity, but oddly watchable and a cult favorite, with Nick Mancuso, Sally Ann Howes, Kate Reid, Saul Rubinek and Victoria Burgoyne also aboard. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective documentary and interviews, trailers, and more. Rated R. **½
“THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: AND THAT’S THE WAY IT IS” (S’more Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): Subtitled “Great Newscasters of the 20th Century,” this two-DVD collection ($19.95 retail) sees the two-time Emmy Award-winning talk show host interviewing such renowned reporters as Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Mike Wallace, Barbara Walters, and Diane Sawyer.
“THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: INSIDE THE MINDS OF …” – VOL. 1 (S’more Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): A DVD compilation ($14.95 retail) featuring the two-time Emmy Award-winning talk show host interviewing such renowned comedians as Robin Williams, Bobcat Goldthwait, Richard Lewis, and Gilbert Gottfried.
FORTY GUNS (The Criterion Collection): Samuel Fuller’s tight 1957 Western (originally titled Woman with a Whip) stars Barbara Stanwyck as an imperious rancher torn between stalwart lawman Barry Sullivan and her wayward brother John Ericson in 1880s’ Tombstone. Fuller’s offbeat touches aren’t quite enough to make this rise above formula but add interest, as does a cast including Dean Jagger, Gene Barry and Robert Dix. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boast bonus features including retrospective interviews and the 2013 documentary A Fuller Life, directed by the filmmaker’s daughter Samantha Fuller. **½
GAMECHANGERS: DREAMS OF BLIZZCON (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director John Keating’s feature documentary examines the phenomenon of professional eSports, focusing on contestants participating in the 2014 StarCraft II world championship, available on Blu-ray ($24.95 retail).
THE GREAT BATTLE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Kim Kwang-Sik’s award-winning historical epic dramatizes the seventh-century Siege of Ansi pitting the Goguryeo army against an invasion force of Tang soldiers. In Korean and Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail), each boasting bonus features.
“JANE FONDA WORKOUTS” (Lightyear Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The two-time Oscar-winning actress became an even bigger star thanks to her series of best-selling workout videos, now being released to DVD for the first time: Jane Fonda’s Lean Routine (1990) and Jane Fonda’s Lower Back Solution are each available for $14.95.
THE MANGLER (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Set in Maine (but shot mostly in South Africa!), director/screenwriter Tobe Hooper’s clumsy, grungy 1995 adaptation of a Stephen King short story stars Robert Englund (in an award-winning performance) as the diabolical owner of an industrial laundromat where dark doings transpire, while cynical cop Ted Levine investigates. Pure B-grade hackwork, courtesy producer Harry Alan Towers (who contributed to the screenplay under his usual pseudonym “Peter Welbeck”), yet successful enough to spawn a couple of even worse spin-offs over the years. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. *
MILE 22 (STXfilms/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): The latest – and least – collaboration between producer/director Peter Berg and producer/star Mark Wahlberg is a topical but tepid espionage thriller about a covert CIA unit (headed by Wahlberg) attempting to transport industrial spy Iko Uwais (also the film’s stunt coordinator) out of Indonesia, with John Malkovich, Lauren Cohan, Ronda Rousey and Carlo Alban also in the line of fire. The characters are so obnoxious that there’s no one to root for or care about, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), each boasting bonus features. Rated R. *½
THE MIRACLE WORKER (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The Blu-ray bow ($24.95 retail) of the 1979 NBC-TV version of William Gibson’s fact-based, Tony-winning play (scripted by the author), dramatizing the relationship between the willful teacher Annie Sullivan (Patty Duke) and the young Helen Keller (Melissa Gilbert). Duke, who won a Tony and then an Oscar for the 1962 film version (as Keller), settles nicely into the Sullivan role – winning the Emmy as Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Special, besting Gilbert (nominated in the same category), and the film also won for Outstanding Drama or Comedy Special and Outstanding Achievement in Hairstyling, with a nomination for Outstanding Cinematography. Although respectful, this lacks the sheer fire of the film, and Paul Aaron’s direction is static. Dedicated to Fred Coe, who produced the play, the film, and this version – but died before it aired. **½
THE PREDATOR (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Shane Black, who co-starred in the original Predator (1987), returns as director/co-writer of the latest attempt to revamp and revive the science-fiction franchise, in which the alien hunters lay siege to Earth – much as the story lays waste to logic. Unquestionably the most elaborate of the series, with slick special effects and plenty of gory mayhem, but soulless and populated by one-dimensional, highly expendable human characters played by the likes of Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Trevante Rhodes, Keegan-Michael Key, Thomas Jane, Jacob Tremblay, Alfie Allen, and Jake Busey (as the son of the character played by his father Gary in Predator 2), with Sterling K. Brown a standout (relatively speaking) as a sinister government operative, available on DVD ($29.98 retail), DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail) and 4K Ultra HD combo ($39.99 retail) – each boasting bonus features. Rated R. **
“THE RETRO AFRIKA COLLECTION” (IndiePix Films): During the apartheid era in South Africa, numerous low-budget feature films were produced exclusively for black audiences, and this ongoing series offers these films as originally made, often made by the same filmmakers and featuring the same actors: Umbango (1986), the first Zulu Western; the knockabout caper comedy Fishy Stones (1990); the political thriller Gone Crazy (so obscure the year of actual production is unknown); the 1984 detective thriller Charlie Steel (starring Sol Rachilo in the title role); director Conie Dippenaar’s aptly-titled 1985 Western Revenge; and the caper comedy/fantasy The Comedians. Each film is in Zulu with English subtitles, and each DVD retails for $24.95.
TIME REGAINED (Icarus Films Home Video): Also released as Marcel Proust’s Time Regained, filmmaker Raul Ruiz’s epic, award-winning 1999 adaptation (originally titled Les Temps retrouve) of the final volume of Proust’s autobiographical In Search of Lost Time (also known as Remembrance of Things Past) sees the noted author (portrayed by Marcello Mazzarella) reflecting on his life from his deathbed, with a star-studded cast on hand: Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich, Emmanuelle Beart, Marie-France Pisier, Pascal Greggory, Arielle Dombasle, Chiara Mastroianni (Deneuve’s real-life daughter), Mathilde Seigner, Elsa Zylberstein and Alain Robbe-Grillet. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)