Video Vault – Jul 31, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Originally a ’50s British television serial, Hammer Films reunited with Quatermass creator Nigel Kneale to bring one of the studio’s very best science-fiction movies to the big screen in 1967. (In the United States, Twentieth Century Fox retitled it Five Million Years to Earth.)
Based on the 1958 BBC serial, the story begins with the discovery of prehistoric remains and a strange metal cylinder during a subway excavation in London’s Hobbs End region. Initially thought to be an unexploded bomb left over from World War II, its origins prove far more fantastic – at least according to Prof. Bernard Quatermass (Andrew Keir) of the British Rocket Group.
Despite efforts by the government and military to suppress his findings, Quatermass believes that the discovery is actually an ancient Martian spaceship. What transpires is best left unrevealed, all the better to preserve the film’s surprising twists and turns, including a wrinkle on human evolution that would make Darwin’s head spin.
Directed with consummate professionalism by Roy Ward Baker and scripted with refreshing intelligence by Kneale, the cast is first-rate, with Keir a standout as the best Quatermass ever, James Donald as a studious paleontologist, Barbara Shelley as Donald’s adoring assistant, and Julian Glover as the hard-nosed (but not inhuman) military commander.
The special-edition Blu-ray ($27.99 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailers, TV spots, alternate U.S. credits, and more. ***½
“BOJACK HORSEMAN”: SEASONS ONE & TWO (The Tormante Company/Shout! Factory): A self-explanatory Blu-ray collection ($65.99 retail) of all 24 episodes from the inaugural 2014 and subsequent 2015 seasons of the animated, Emmy-nominated Netflix comedy series following the misadventures of the half-man/half-horse title character (voiced by executive producer Will Arnett) in an alternate-reality Los Angeles, also featuring the voice-over talents of Aaron Paul (also an executive producer), Amy Sedaris, Alison Brie, and Paul F. Tompkins. Special features include 25 audio commentaries, character and background art galleries, music video, and more.
“BUTTERBEAN’S CAFE” (Nickelodeon/Paramount Home Entertainment): A DVD selection ($10.99 retail) of seven episodes from the inaugural 2018-’19 season of the animated Nickelodeon children’s series created by Jonny Bolt and Robert Scull, detailing the adventures of the titular fairy (voiced by Margaret Ying Drake) who opens a neighborhood bakery.
THE CHOSEN (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Also known as Holocaust 2000 and Rain of Fire, director/screenwriter Alberto De Martino’s silly 1977 supernatural shocker is an entertainingly goofy Omen rip-offs, starring Kirk Douglas as an industrialist whose plan to build a nuclear plant in the Middle East hits a big (even huge) snag when he comes to realize that son Simon Ward is the Antichrist, bent on global annihilation. Utter nonsense, replete with “accidental” fatalities, gratuitous nudity (mostly Douglas!), a blaring but effective Ennio Morricone score, and a high-profile, poker-faced cast including Agostina Belli, Anthony Quayle, Alexander Knox, Virginia McKenna, Adolfo Celi, Romolo Valli, Spiros Focas, Massimo Foschi, Geoffrey Keen, and Ivo Garrani. The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) includes both the domestic and international theatrical versions and original trailer. Rated R. **
ELEVEN (Monarch Home Entertainment): Editor/cinematographer/co-star Sean Cronin and first-time writer Rock Salt co-directed this episodic World War I melodrama, subtitled The Story of the Last Day of the First World War, is an earnest, cliched, flat treatise on the futility of war, set on Nov. 11, 1918, crammed with flashbacks that repeatedly interrupt the story’s momentum. *½
HAIL MARY! (MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director Ziad H. Hamzah’s award-winning (!) football farce stars Eddie Mekka (erstwhile “Carmine” from Laverne and Shirley) as the hapless coach who recruits sumo wrestlers from Japan in a last-ditch effort to turn his team around. Originally and more aptly titled Sushi Tushi, or How Asia Broke Into American Pro Football, this is flimsy and forgettable, and grafting animation onto live action is a lame gimmick evidently designed to cover budget deficiencies. The DVD ($14.95 retail) includes original trailer, Sushi Tushi comic-book trailer, and more. *
HOT DOUG’S: THE MOVIE (Markos Films/Random Media): Christopher Markos makes his feature debut as producer, cinematographer, and director of this cheerful, friendly 2016 documentary tracing the 13-year history of the titular Chicago-based “sausage superstore” and its founder, Doug Sohn, who opted to close the eatery at the height of its popularity. ***
JEFFERSON IN PARIS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): A rare but major misfire from the Merchant Ivory team (producer Ismail Merchant, director James Ivory, screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala), this 1995 historical melodrama stars Nick Nolte as American statesman Thomas Jefferson during his tenure as the ambassador to France, prior to his presidency. Exquisite period detail is all but negated by ponderous pacing and pontificating. The first-rate but squandered supporting cast includes Thandie Newton (as Jefferson’s mistress Sally Hemings), Gwyneth Paltrow (as daughter Patsy Jefferson), Greta Scacchi, James Earl Jones, Michael Lonsdale, Simon Callow, Nancy Marchand, Lambert Wilson, and Jean-Pierre Aumont. Both the DVD ($14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary and original trailer. Rated PG-13. *
“MANIFEST”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): A four-DVD collection ($29.98 retail) of all 16 episodes from the inaugural 2018-’19 season of the prime-time NBC-TV science-fiction series detailing what transpires when a trans-oceanic flight that vanished five years ago suddenly, inexplicably reappears in the present day, featuring an ensemble cast including Melissa Roxburgh, Josh Dallas, Athena Karkanis, J.R. Ramirez, Jack Messina, Parveen Kaud, and Luna Blaise.
THE MILKY WAY (Kino Classics): Luis Bunuel’s award-winning, PG-rated 1969 surrealist fantasy (originally titled La voie lactee) follows drifters Laurent Terzieff and Paul Frankeur on religious pilgrimage from France to Spain, where they encounter religious phenomena and a wide variety of characters (including those played by Alain Cuny, Michel Piccoli,and Delphine Seyrig) from different historical eras. In French, Italian, Latin, and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail), each boasting such bonus features as audio commentary, booklet essay, trailers, and more.
MOJIN: THE WORM VALLEY (Well Go USA Entertainment): Originally titled Yun non chang gu, this follow-up to the award-winning 2015 blockbuster Mojin: The Last Legend follows adventurer Cai Heng and his crack team as they brave countless perils in their quest for the fabled Tomb of Emperor Xian. In Mandarin with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
“MURDOCH MYSTERIES”: SEASON 12 (Acorn TV): Yannick Bisson is back on the case as early 20th-century Toronto detective William Murdoch in all 18 episodes from the 2019 season of the award-winning Canadian mystery series (also known as The Artful Detective), based on the best-selling novels by Maureen Jenning, co-starring Helene Joy (as Murdoch’s wife), Jonny Harris, Lachlan Murdoch, and Thomas Craig, with guest appearances by Peter Keleghan, Sophie McShera, Colin Mochrie, and Sebastian Pigott, available on DVD and Blu-ray (each $59.99 retail) – both boasting bonus features.
MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): B-movie auteur Joseph H. Lewis scored with this trim 1945 adaptation of Anthony Gilbert’s novel The Woman in Red, starring Nina Foch as a young woman forced to impersonate the titular heiress after being abducted by Dame May Whitty and George Macready. Entertaining and engaging, with fine cinematography by Burnett Guffey and a veteran cast of scene-stealers including Roland Varno, Queenie Leonard, Reginald Sheffield, and Doris Lloyd — although there’s no stealing from Whitty and Macready, both delightfully wicked. This was remade as Dead of Winter (1987). The special-edition Blu-ray includes audio commentary and more. ***
NAPLES IN VEILS (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Ferzan Ozpetek’s award-winning thriller (originally titled Napoli velata) stars Giovanna Mezzogiorno as a woman drawn into a web of betrayal and deception after her one-night stand (Alessandro Borghi) myteriously turns up dead. In Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($19.99 retail), replete with bonus features.
PLAY DEAD (Vinegar Syndrome): Yvonne De Carlo goes the “Baby Jane” route in director Peter Wittman’s low-budget feature debut (also released as Satan’s Dog), as a wickedly wealthy spinster (and Satanist) who casts a spell upon her Rottweiler “Greta” to systematically eliminate her enemies. Filmed in 1981 but not released until 1985-’86, this boasts its share of unintentional laughs, with Stephanie Dunnam as De Carlo’s unsuspecting niece and Glenn Kezer as a nosy detective – although Greta’s the real star of the show. De Carlo seems to be reprising her role from Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) and this seems a remake of the 1978 TV movie Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, but it’s never looked better than in this DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail), which includes retrospective interviews and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *½
THE PRETENDERS – WITH FRIENDS (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in this DVD/Blu-ray/CD combo ($29.95 retail) featuring Grammy Award-winners The Pretenders (led by Chrissie Hynde) as they perform live at the Decades Rock Arena in Atlantic City, joined by such luminaries as Shirley Manson, Iggy Pop, Incubus, and Kings of Leon as they perform such chart-topping hits as “Back on the Chain Gang,” “Brass in Pocket,” Day After Day,” “Candy,” “Precious,” “Middle of the Road,” and many more.
TRANSIT (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): Screenwriter/director Christian Petzold’s award-winning adaptation of the 1942 Anna Seghers novel stars Franz Rogowski as a Jewish refugee who escapes to Marseilles during World War II and assumes the identity of a dead writer, only to encounter the man’s wife (Paula Beer). In French and German with English subtitles, available on Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), replete with bonus features.
TURBO: A POWER RANGERS MOVIE (Shout! Factory): The Blu-ray bow ($19.99 retail) of the PG-rated 2007 feature film spun off from TV’s popular Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, in which the titular heroes square off against the evil alien Divatox (Hilary Shepard Turner). Special features include retrospective and vintage featurettes, and theatrical trailer.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)