Video Vault – Jul 3, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/director Fred Dekker notched an outstanding feature debut with this award-winning 1986 sci-fi shocker – an instant cult classic that both riffs and respects its genre.
In 1959, an alien experiment gone wrong crashes to Earth. Nearly three decades later, college freshmen Jason Lively and Steve Marshall (in his screen debut) accidentally unleash the extra-terrestrial menace as part of a fraternity pledge hazing. Before too long, slithering alien parasites are everywhere – turning their victims into mindless zombies. College was never like this … or was it?
Taking a page (or two) from Cold War-era monsters movies and more contemporary teen comedies, with an endless supply of in-jokes, Dekker achieves a delightfully entertaining balance between horror and humor. The young leads, including Jill Whitlow as Lively’s love interest, are appealing and likable, and even better is veteran Tom Atkins as Detective Cameron (“Thrill me!”), whose checkered past comes into play during the current crisis.
Originally titled Night of the Kreeps and released in some markets as Homecoming Night, the film enjoyed only modest theatrical success but earned some (deservedly) solid reviews. On VHS and cable, however, Night of the Creeps found its audience – and has been rediscovered by fans ever since.
The two-disc collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes both the theatrical version and director’s cut, audio commentaries, five-part documentary, retrospective interviews and featurettes, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. ***½
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (Paramount Home Media Distribution): Michael Bay’s fact-based, R-rated 2016 dramatization of six former soldiers recruited to the protect the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, during the terrorist strikes of Sept. 11, 2012, based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s best-seller 13 Hours, with John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman and Max Martini, available on 4K Ultra HD combo ($25.99 retail), featuring bonus content.
DEADSIGHT (RLJE Films): Pregnant small-town deputy Liv Collins (who also co-wrote the script) forms an uneasy alliance with Adam Seybold, a temporarily blind man who awakens handcuffed to an ambulance gurney, during a viral outbreak. Efficiently directed by Jesse Thomas Cook, this is familiar fare boosted by competence on every level. **½
FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The great Peter Cushing makes his fourth appearance as Baron Frankenstein in director Terence Fisher’s effective, well-paced 1967 Hammer Films chiller, in which his experiments with soul transference hit a snag when his latest creation (Playboy Playmate Susan Denberg) goes on a murderous rampage to avenge the death of her unjustly-executed beloved (Robert Morris, in his screen debut), whose soul now possesses her. Ironically, Frankenstein is portrayed as something of a hero here, one trying to advance science … or at least science-fiction! Some scenes remain pretty shocking, too. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailers, and more. ***
“I AM THE NIGHT” (TNT/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This fact-based, six-part TNT mini-series, based on Fauna Hodel’s best-selling memoir One Day She’ll Darken: The Mysterious Beginnings of Fauna Hodel, stars India Eisley as Hodel, a teenager given up for adoption at birth who teams with disgraced reporter Chris Pine to ascertain her ties to a prominent Los Angeles physician (Jefferson Mays), once a principal suspect in the infamous, still-unsolved “Black Dahlia” murder case. Connie Nielsen, Leland Orser, Yul Vazquez, Dylan Smith, Golden Brooks, and Justin Cornwell also appear. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) boast bonus features.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): Writer/producer/director Barry Jenkins follows his 2016 triumph Moonlight with this adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel, following the travails of a pregnant girl (newcomer Kiki Layne) as she desperately tries prove the innocence of lover Stephan James, unjustly accused of raping a white woman. Well-acted and well-rendered, but Jenkins’s occasionally arty attempts to evoke mood and emotion – not unlike his direction of Moonlight – sometimes disrupt the narrative’s momentum. Regina King won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress playing James’s mother, with additional nominations for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay. The fine ensemble cast also includes Colman Domingo, Brian Tyree Henry, Teyonah Paris, Michael Beach, Aunjanue Ellis, Finn Wittrock, Ed Skrein, Diego Luna, and Dave Franco. Both the DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary, deleted scenes, and more. Rated R. ***
“LOST IN SPACE”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The “space family” Robinson returns in this new Netflix sci-fi series based on Irwin Allen’s popular ’60s series, with Toby Stephens, Molly Parker, Maxwell Jenkins, Taylor Russell, Mina Sundwall, Ignacio Serricchio, Brian Steele (as the Robot), and Parker Posey as the mysterious and duplicitous “Dr. Smith.” Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. All 10 episodes from the inaugural 2018 season – plus bonus features – are available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($49.99 retail).
“MANHUNT” (Acorn TV): Martin Clunes headlines this critically acclaimed, fact-based, three-part ITV mystery series as a beleaguered police inspector trailing a serial killer at large in London, with Katie Lyons, Claudie Blakley, Steven Wight, Steve Furst, Jay Taylor, and Celyn Jones in support. Both the DVD and Blu-ray (each $34.99 retail) boast bonus features.
MAY IT LAST: A PORTRAIT OF THE AVETT BROTHERS (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio teamed up as producer/directors of this award-winning documentary feature follows the career of Grammy-nominated brothers Scott and Seth Avett, the North Carolina-based musicians and their rise to international acclaim, available on DVD ($27.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.99 retail), each replete with bonus features.
NAZI JUNKIES (Omnibus Entertainment): Subtitled The Hidden History of Drugs in the Third Reich, this self-explanatory, two-part documentary (narrated by David Coburn) offers persuasive if repetitive evidence that Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany were dependent on controlled substances before and during World War II. **½
“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 marks the latest volume of this ongoing series, which offers the films as originally made, in Zulu with English subtitles: The ’80s sports drama Lola, starring Constance Shangase in the title role, and the 1984 action thriller One More Shot, written and directed by Ronnie Isaacs. Each DVD retails for $19.95.
SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS (Synapse Films): James Glickenhaus wrote and directed this 1993 thriller starring Scott Glenn as an FBI agent whose pursuit of a serial killer is aided by his brilliant young son (Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, the filmmaker’s son). One of the seemingly endless spate of serial-killer thrillers that followed in the wake of Silence of the Lambs (1991) – which also starred Glenn – this is a routine but well-made time-killer, featuring Sheila Tousey, Darlanne Fluegel, Kevin Sorbo, Armin Shimerman, Tim Colceri, and Aaron Eckhart (in his screen debut). The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes audio commentary, archival and retrospective interviews, deleted scenes, theatrical trailers, and more. Rated R. **
STRAWBERRY FLAVORED PLASTIC (Breaking Glass Pictures): Producer Colin Bemis makes his feature debut as writer/director of this interesting mock documentary in which aspiring filmmakers Nicholas Urdo and Andres Montejo (both in their screen debuts) turn their cameras on a clean-cut, all-American serial killer (well played by Aidan Bristow) as he recounts his life. Sometimes surprisingly thoughtful but often too talky, this backs itself into a corner at the end, resulting in an unsatisfying denouement, but cult status is likely. The DVD ($19.99 retail) includes audio commentary, deleted scenes, and more. **½
SUPERSTITION (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) of the nasty, downbeat supernatural shocker, in which the vengeful spirit of a 17th century witch returns to wreak havoc on the descendants of those who put her to death. The expendable cast includes Albert Salmi, James Houghton, Lynn Carlin, Larry Pennell, Jacquelyn Hyde, Heidi Bohay, and Stacy Keach Sr. (who suffers the grisliest fate). Filmed in 1981 but not released until 1985, it was unrated due to its violent content. Special features include retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. *½
SWING TIME (The Criterion Collection): Smooth-talking gambler Fred Astaire and ambitious dance instructor take New York City by storm in director George Stevens’s delightful 1936 musical/comedy, considered by many the best of the Astaire/Rogers series, with Eric Blore, Victor Moore, Betty Furness, and Helen Broderick (mother of Broderick Crawford) on hand – and look for Landers Stevens (father of George) as Judge Watson. Oscar winner for Best Song (“The Way You Look Tonight”), with a nomination for Hermes Pan’s Dance Direction. They sure don’t make ’em like this anymore. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective and vintage interviews, and more. ***½
TARGET: ST. LOUIS (IndiePix Films): Writer/producer/director Sean Slater’s talky documentary details the U.S. Army’s experiments with aerosol radiation in segregated neighborhoods of St. Louis during the Cold War. Potentially explosive, yet lacking the expected outrage. Nevertheless, there are powerful moments, and this is a worthy issue to examine. **½
WRESTLE (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Producer Suzannah Herbert’s feature documentary debut as writer/director is an absorbing, relevant, award-winning chronicle, co-directed by writer/producer Lauren Belfer (also making her feature debut as writer/director), of the high-school wrestling program at J.O. Johnson High School in Hunstsville, AL, its coach Chris Scribner (a recovering alcoholic) and four students on his team, and how they deal with internal and external obstacles as they try to qualify for the state championship. The DVD ($27.99 retail) includes interviews, deleted scenes, trailer, and more. ***
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)