Video Vault – Jul 17, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
PUTNEY SWOPE (Vinegar Syndrome): Writer/producer/director Robert Downey (Sr.) made a big splash with this award-winning 1969 satire that marked the screen debut of Arnold Johnson as the title character, the only black executive at a high-powered Madison Avenue advertising firm.
Following the death of the chairman of the board, Putney is accidentally selected as his replacement – and immediately makes waves by renaming the company “Truth and Soul, Incorporated,” replacing all the white executives with black militants, and refusing to advertise such products as alcohol and tobacco. Before too long, the company is considered a threat to national security by the government, which only brings it more notoriety.
Downey sends up racial and social stereotypes with gleeful, sometimes crass, abandon, and although steeped in ’60s trappings, much of the satire remains perceptive and relevant. A number of familiar faces turn up, including Allen Garfield, Allan Arbus, Antonio Fargas, Peter Maloney, and even Mel Brooks (as “Mr. Forget It”).
The special-edition Blu-ray ($32.98 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, original trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (MVD Entertainment Group): Director Michael Winterbottom’s flashy, entertaining, award-winning 2002 biographical drama stars Steve Coogan (in top form) as the legendary music impresario and record producer Tony Wilson, who discovered and unleashed such Manchester-based bands as Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays upon the world. A stellar supporting cast includes Lennie James, Paddy Considine, Shirley Henderson, Andy Serkis, Sean Harris, Simon Pegg, Christopher Eccleston, and Rob Brydon (later Coogan’s co-star in the Trip movies). The “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. ***
THE AFTERMATH (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Set in post-World War II Hamburg, this earnest adaptation of screenwriter Rhidian Brook’s novel stars Keira Knightley as English officer Jason Clarke’s wife, who embarks on an illicit relationship with widowed German architect Alexander Skarsgard, whose palatial home they’ve requisitioned during the Allied occupation. Attractive period detail highlights this well-made but unsurprising melodrama, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.99 retail), each replete with bonus features. Rated R. **½
BOOGIE BOY (MVD Entertainment Group): Writer/director Craig R. Hamman’s 1998 feature debut stars Mark Dacascos as an ex-con called “Lucky Boy” (the film’s original title) who returns to Los Angeles and is immediately drawn into a dubious drug deal by ex-cellmate Jaimz Woolvett. This latter-day film noir is appropriately gritty, but also draggy and aimless, despite a high-profile cast including Emily Lloyd, Traci Lords, Joan Jett, John Hawkes, Michael Pena, Linnea Quigley, and a terrific Frederic Forrest. The “MVD Marquee Collection” DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.95 retail) includes feature-length documentary, collectible mini-poster, trailer, and more. Rated R. *½
THE BRINK (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Producer/director/cinematographer Alison Klayman’s insightful documentary features offers an informative and even-handed profile of the charismatic, perennially controversial political propagandist and strategist Steve Bannon during the 2018 mid-term elections. The DVD ($26.98 retail) includes additional interviews and scenes, and theatrical trailer. ***
CHASING THE WIN (Indie Rights): In their feature debuts, Laura Sheehy (writer/executive producer) and Chris Ghelfi (editor/cinematographer) co-directed this informative 2016 documentary detailing the trials, tribulations, and (occasional) triumphs of professional horse-racing, following in detail the efforts of rookie trainer Carl O’Callaghan to make a champion of Kinsale King. Sheehy certainly had inside access, as her father Patrick owned Kinsale King and employed O’Calloghan. The DVD retails for $12.99, the Blu-ray for $14.99. ***
THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON (MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director D.J. Webster’s first (and, to date, only) feature is a low-budget, low-impact 1990 feature debut is a typical sci-fi shocker in which the crew of a damaged spaceship is preyed upon by a demonic presence. The hapless ensemble cast includes Robert Sampson, John Diehl, Camilla More, Alan Blumenfeld, Will Bledsoe, Wendy MacDonald, and reliable Joe Turkel (in his final film to date). The “MVD Unearthed Classics” special-edition and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) both include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. *
DEATH FEUD/SAVAGE HARBOR (Vinegar Syndrome): A limited-edition, special-edition Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) of writer/producer/director/co-star Carl Monson’s final feature (released under both titles), a low-budget 1987 shoot-’em-up starring Frank Stallone and Christopher Mitchum as merchant seamen pitted against a violent crime syndicate while on leave in Los Angeles, with Karen Mayo-Chandler, Greta Blackburn, Anthony Caruso, Nicholas Worth, Charles Dierkop, and Lisa Loring (erstwhile “Wednesday” from The Addams Family, all grown up) caught in the line of fire. Special features include retrospective interviews and more.
“DICK CAVETT SHOW: BASEBALL’S GREATEST HITS – THE PITCHERS” (S’more Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in this three-DVD ($29.95 retail) collection of six episodes from The Dick Cavett Show in which the Emmy-winning host interviews such baseball luminaries as Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean, Whitey Ford, Vida Blue, Bob Feller, Denny McLain, and Tommy John.
KANARIE (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Christiaan Olwagen’s coming-of-age South African musical drama (also released as Canary) stars Schalk Bezuidenhout (in his feature debut) as a military recruit who comes to terms with his sexuality when he joins the Defense Force Church Choir during the era of apartheid. In English and Afrikaans with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail).
THE LUMBER BARON (Indican Pictures): Barry Andersson directed this R-rated saga starring Joseph Bezenek as a medical student who returns home to save his family’s lumber business from financial ruin, with Christina Baldwin (in her screen debut), Anna Stranz, Charles Hubbell, Henry Sollberger (in his screen debut), and Scout Taylor-Compton in support, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
MIA AND THE WHITE LION (Shout! Studios/Shout! Factory): This PG-rated, family-friendly adventure (originally titled Mia et le lion blanc) stars Daniah De Villiers in the title role of a headstrong girl who befriends a white lion and sets out on an African adventure to find him a safe haven. In English and French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($14.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($19.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
MIDNIGHT LACE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the glossy, Hitchcockian 1960 thriller, based on Janet Green’s play Matilda Shouted Fire, starring Doris Day as a newlywed heiress in London whose sanity is called into question when she claims she’s being terrorized by an unseen stalker, with a star-studded line-up of red herrings including Rex Harrison (as Day’s banker husband), John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowall, Herbert Marshall, John Williams, Hermione Baddeley, and Doris Lloyd. Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design. Special features include audio commentary and theatrical trailer. **½
MOYNIHAN (First Run Features): Writer Joseph Dorman and Toby Perl Freilich co-produced and co-directed this enlightening, thoroughly entertaining documentary feature tracing the life and career of four-term New York senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (1927-2003), narrated with charismatic bravado by Jeffrey Wright. An absolute must for political junkies, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***½
LE PROFESSIONEL (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Hell hath no fury like Jean-Paul Belmondo (also a producer), at his steely, relentless best as a French spy who seeks retribution after being double-crossed by his superiors, in director/co-screenwriter Georges Lautner’s sleek, award-winning 1981 espionage thriller (also released as The Professional), based on Patrick Alexander’s debut 1976 novel Death of a Thin-Skinned Animal, featuring a customarily intense score by Ennio Morricone. In French with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each featuring audio commentary and theatrical trailer. Rated R. ***
THE SEDUCTION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Los Angeles TV newcaster Morgan Fairchild is stalked by obsessed fan Andrew Stevens in writer/director David Schmoeller’s slick but predictable 1982 thriller that boasts the era’s requisite slasher-movie trappings while prefiguring the subsequent celebrity-stalker motif – within an exploitation framework, of course. Fairchild, in her feature debut, makes for victim/heroine who is both drop-dead gorgeous but also resilient and resourceful, with Michael Sarrazin, Vince Edwards, Kevin Brophy, Joanne Linville, and Colleen Camp in support. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews and featurettes, and more. Rated R. **
STYX (Film Movement): Director/co-writer Wolfgang Fischer’s absorbing, award-winning sea-faring drama stars Susanne Wolff as a surgeon whose arduous solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean is interrupted when she comes across a damaged boat manned by African refugees. In English and German with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail), which includes audio commentary and the 2018 short film Ashmina. ***
T-34 (Well Go USA Entertainment): Screenwriter/director Alexey Sidorov’s predictable but action-packed and highly stylized World War II saga sees a group of Russian prisoners (led by Alexander Petrov) who escape a POW camp in a Soviet T-34 tank, relentlessly pursued by the camp commandant (Vinzenz Kiefer). Both the DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) include both the original Russian and English-language audio options. **
THE UNITY OF HEROES (Well Go USA Entertainment): Vincent Zhou reprises his role as the 19th-century martial-arts master he portrayed in the Once Upon a Time in China sequels, here pitted against a corrupt pharmaceutical company selling dangerous drugs to the masses. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail).
WINTER PASSING (MVD Entertainment Group): Playwright Adam Rapp made his feature debut as writer/director of this R-rated 2005 comedy/drama starring Zooey Deschanel as a depressed actress who warily reconnects with eccentric author father Ed Harris so she can sell the correspondence between him and her late mother, with Will Ferrell, Amelia Warner, Rachel Dratch, Michael Chernus, Sam Bottoms, Dallas Roberts, Rapp’s real-life brother Anthony, and Harris’s real-life wife Amy Madigan on hand. The “MVD Marquee Collection” Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes original trailer and behind-the-scenes featurette.
WOMAN AT WAR (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Writer/director Bendikt Erlingsson’s award-winning comedy/drama (originally titled Kona fer i strio) stars Halldora Geirharosdotti in a dual role as a firebrand environmental activist and her disapproving twin sister. In English, Icelandic, Spanish, and Ukranian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)