Video Vault – May 22, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE BIG CLOCK (Arrow Academy/MVD Entertainment Group): Based on Kenneth Fearing’s 1946 novel, director John Farrow’s 1948 screen adaptation is cool, crisp film noir with a generous helping of Hitchcockian trappings – and it works beautifully.
Ray Milland plays George Stroud, the editor of Crimeways magazine, newly fired by his tyrannical publisher, Earl Janoth (Charles Laughton). Drowning his sorrows at a local bar, Stroud encounters Pauline York (Rita Johnson), who happens to be Janoth’s mistress.
Stroud escorts Pauline home to her apartment, but beats a hasty retreat when he sees Janoth arriving. Having glimpsed Stroud briefly in the shadows, the enraged Janoth accuses Pauline of cheating on him and kills her in a rage. Desperate to cover up his guilt, Janoth’s sycophantic assistant Steve Hagen (George Macready) urges him to rehire Stroud to spearhead the magazine’s investigation into Pauline’s death. In a sense, Stroud is leading a manhunt to capture himself (!).
If the story seems familiar, it was remade in France as Police Python 357 (1976) and more notably as the political thriller No Way Out in 1987. The title of this film refers to the enormous clock that dominates the Janoth Publishing building, where Stroud is later forced to hide.
Maureen O’Sullivan (Farrow’s real-life wife) has a relatively thankless role as Stroud’s wife, while Elsa Lanchester (Laughton’s spouse) a showier role as an eccentric artist. Milland, as always, is a capable and compelling hero, while Laughton, Johnson, and especially Macready are in top form.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective featurettes, original trailer, 1948 radio broadcast of The Big Clock (with Milland), collectible booklet, and more. ***½
ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK (Severin Films/CAV Distributing): Director Sergio Martino’s 1972 giallo thriller (originally titled Tutti I colori del buio) is truly one of the more demented examples of the genre – which is not meant as criticism! – a hallucinatory psycho-sexual shocker (echoing Polanski’s Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby) starring genre favorite Edwige Fenech as a grief-stricken woman who becomes involved with a cult of Satanists, while doctor boyfriend George Hilton (no stranger to the genre himself) worries on the sidelines. Released by Independent-International in the United States as They’re Coming to Get You! (in “Chill-o-Rama,” no less) in 1975 and as Day of the Maniac, this special edition also includes that version. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail) also include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, Bruno Nicolai’s score on CD, theatrical trailers, and more. Rated R. **½
ANOTHER SHOT (Well Go USA Entertainment): Writer/editor/director Larry Yang’s fact-based, award-winning docu-drama (originally titled My Other Home) is subtitled The Fall and Rise of Stephon Marbury, with the NBA superstar making his screen debut as himself – and choreographing the basketball moves – as the film details his quest for a championship in China, playing for the Beijing Ducks, after his 13-year NBA career ended. A bit on the sentimental side, but sincere and fast-paced, with nice work from Chun Wu as Marbury’s agent and Bing He as the Ducks’ coach. Frankie Faison and Loretta Devine play Marbury’s parents, his real-life children Stephon X. Marbury II and Xaviera Marbury play themselves, and NBA greats Allen Iverson (as himself) and Baron Davis also appear. In English and Mandarin with English subtitles. **½
BACHMAN (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): The special-edition Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) of writer/director John Barnard’s rock documentary, which chronicles the life and career of award-winning music legend Randy Bachman, including his days with The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, featuring such chart-topping hits as “American Woman,” “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” “Takin’ Care of Business,” “No Time” and many others, as well as interviews with such luminaries as Neil Young, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Paul Shaffer, Peter Frampton, and Terry David Mulligan. Special features include theatrical trailer and additional footage.
BEER LEAGUE (MVD Entertainment Group): Comedian Artie Lange made an unsuccessful bid for leading-man status in this predictable 2006 comedy (also known as Artie Lange’s Beer League) in which he plays an unemployed, beer-swilling bozo who’ll go to any lengths – whether fair or foul – to keep his softball team in the league. Laurie Metcalf (as Lange’s mother), Ralph Macchio, Cara Buono, Jim Breuer, Maddie Corman, Tina Fey, and Seymour Cassel also appear. Lange also produced and co-wrote the screenplay with first-time director Frank Sebastiano (who has directed a feature). Try as it might, The Bad News Bears this isn’t. The “MVD Rewind” Blu-ray ($24.95 retail) includes featurettes, interviews, original trailer, and more. Rated R. *
BIG BROTHER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Executive producer/action director Donnie Yen headlines this action romp (originally titled Dai si hing) as a former soldier-turned-teacher who not only inspires his delinquent students at a Hong Kong high school but also battles a greedy developer with designs on the region. In English and Cantonese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.98 retail).
“BONANZA”: THE OFFICIAL NINTH SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount): Life on the Ponderosa continues, as Lorne Greene returns as rancher Ben Cartwright, alongside Dan Blocker and Michael Landon as his sons Hoss and Little Joe, in all 34 episodes from the 1967-’68 season of the long-running, award-winning NBC Western series created by David Dortort, featuring guest stars Bruce Dern, Kim Darby, Wally Cox, James B. Sikking, Iron Eyes Cody, Leo Gordon, Joe Turkel, George Gaynes, and others. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievements in Cinematography. “Volume One” ($45.98 retail) includes the first 17 episodes, “Volume Two” ($45.98 retail) the remaining 17.
BOSCH: THE GARDEN OF DREAMS (Film Movement): Jose Luis Lopez-Linares directed this nimble, award-winning 2016 feature documentary (originally titled El Bosco: El jardin de los suenos) that explores the mysteries surrounding the life and work of the legendary artist Hieronymous Bosch (1450-1516), particularly the titular painting. Colorful and fast moving, this never feels like an art lecture but instead a journey of discovery. In English, French and Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail). ***
GUIGO OFF LINE (Dekkoo Films/TLA Releasing): Rene Guerra’s modest, low-key drama (originally made for television) stars Antonio Haddad Aguerre in the title role of a lonely boy who accompanies his father (Alexandre Cioletti) and his father’s new boyfriend (Roberto Rezende in his screen debut) on a camping trip. Well-intentioned but bland. In Portuguese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail). **
JOE LOUIS WALKER – VIVA LAS VEGAS LIVE (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The title tells all in this DVD/CD combo ($19.95 retail) showcasing Grammy-nominated and Blues Hall of Fame legend Joe Louis Walker (“JLW”) as he and his band perform live in concert at the Boulder Station Casino in Las Vegas.
LIFE LIKE (LionsGate): Existential and psycho-sexual overtones abound in writer/director Josh Janowicz’s feature debut (originally titled Love Thy Keepers) starring Addison Timlin and Drew Van Acker as a wealthy couple whose needs are tended to by android Steven Strait, created by resident mad scientist James D’Arcy. Some interesting twists and some good performances – Timlin’s pointedly not among them – make this watchable, if not compelling, fare. Both the DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) include behind-the-scenes featurette. Rated R. **
NEMESIS (MVD Entertainment Group): Albert Pyun’s derivative but action-packed 1992 sci-fi blow-out, which echoes any number of films (including Blade Runner and The Terminator), takes place in Los Angeles 2027, with Olivier Gruner as a cyborg assassin pitted against former lover (and fellow cyborg!) Marjorie Monaghan, only to uncover widespread political corruption that threatens not only him but humanity as a whole. A cult-friendly cast includes Tim Thomerson, Brion James, Deborah Shelton, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Thom Mathews, Jackie Earle Haley, Thomas Jane (billed as “Tom Janes”), Vincent Klyn, and Nicholas Guest. The collector’s-edition “MVD Rewind” two-disc Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective featurettes, the extended Japanese cut, trailers, TV spots, collectible mini-poster, and more. Rated R. **
RITUAL – A PSYCHOMAGIC STORY (Omnibus Entertainment): The 2013 feature debut of producer/co-writer/co-directors Giulia Brazzale and Luca Immesi (originally titled Ritual – Una storia psicomagica) follows Desiree Giorgetti as she struggles against depression and despair when she visits her aunt (Anna Bonasso) at her 18th-century villa, where she spent summers as a child. Filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky appears as Giorgetti’s dead uncle. In Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.95 retail).
SEEDS (TLA Releasing): Writer/director Alejandro Andrade’s award-winning debut feature (originally titled Cuernavaca) is a coming-of-age drama starring Emilio Puente (in his feature debut) as a youngster, traumatized by the violent death of his mother, who is sent to live with stern grandmother Carmen Maura and winds up befriending handsome young gardener Diego Alvarez Garcia (in his feature debut). In Spanish with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.99 retail).
SEX MADNESS REVEALED (Kino Classics): Writer/director Tim Kirk puts a comedic spin on the 1938 sex hygiene “documentary” Sex Madness (also known as Human Wreckage) by having podcast host Patton Oswalt interview the filmmaker’s purported grandson (Rob Zabrecky) while they watch and discuss the film. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, the original version of Sex Madness, and more.
SHOWDOWN (MVD Entertainment Group): Harassed high-school student Kenn Scott turns to school janitor and ex-cop Billy Blanks to help him train to defend himself against sadistic bully Ken McLeod in this low-budget, PG-13-rated action melodrama (originally titled Full Contact) featuring Brion James, Christine Taylor, Patrick Kilpatrick, and James Lew in support. The “MVD Rewind” special-edition Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes retrospective documentary and featurettes, original trailer, collectible mini-poster, photo gallery, and more.
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)