Video Vault – Oct 19 2016
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE THING (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of the 1951 sci-fi shocker The Thing from Another World is that rare remake to surpass the original (itself an acknowledged classic), and is arguably Carpenter’s masterpiece.
Adhering more closely to the original John W. Campbell novella Who Goes There?, the setting is a remote research base in Antarctica, where an alien being has made its presence known – possessing the unique ability to imitate whatever living thing it contaminates. (Many perceived an AIDS allegory but Carpenter has refuted this.)
Who’s human and who isn’t? Who can be trusted? Paranoia quickly turns to panic.
Kurt Russell heads a top ensemble cast: Donald Moffat, Richard Dysart, (A.) Wilford Brimley, David Clennon, Richard Masur, Charles Hallahan, Thomas Waites, T.K. Carter, Peter Maloney, Joel Polis and Keith David (the latter two in their first film), with major contributions from composer Ennio Morricone, cinematographer Dean Cundey, and Rob Bottin’s overwhelming (pre-CGI) special effects.
Critically roasted upon release, much to Carpenter’s dismay, The Thing has deservedly gained both a cult following and an overwhelmingly positive re-assessment in the ensuing years.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes audio commentaries, vintage featurettes, the (ridiculous) network TV broadcast of the film, theatrical trailer and more. Rated R. ****
CARRIE (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Brian De Palma scored his biggest box-office hit (up till then) with his showy 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s best-seller starring Sissy Spacek (Oscar nominee as Best Actress) in the title role of a timid teenager with telekinetic abilities who exacts revenge upon her high-school tormentors during the senior prom. The first King novel to be adapted into a film – and still superior to subsequent film, TV and stage versions – with Piper Laurie (Oscar nominee as Best Supporting Actress) a standout as Carrie’s Bible-thumping mom, and a colorful cast of up-and-coming talent, including John Travolta, Amy Irving (in her screen debut), Nancy Allen (the first Mrs. De Palma), William Katt, PJ Soles, and Betty Buckley (in her screen debut). The two-disc collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) includes retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, TV and radio spots, and more. Rated R. ***
CHILD’S PLAY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A two-disc Blu-ray collector’s edition ($29.99 retail) of director Tom Holland’s popular, award-winning 1988 chiller starring Alex Vincent (in his screen debut) as a youngster whose gift of a “Good Guy” doll named “Chucky” comes with a major snag: the doll is possessed by the evil spirit of serial killer Brad Dourif. Catherine Hicks plays Vincent’s mother and Chris Sarandon the resident cop on the case. This spawned an entire film franchise and a cult following, yet this reviewer always found it incredibly stupid. Special features include audio commentaries, retrospective documentaries, vintage featurettes, and more. Scream Factory/Shout! Factory has also released a limited-edition collector’s edition ($59.99 retail) that also includes a commemorative poster and Chucky action figure. Rated R. *
DR. MABUSE: THE GAMBLER (Kino Classics): A fully restored special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) of the 1922 silent classic (originally titled Dr. Mabuse, Der Spieler), the first in filmmaker Fritz Lang’s series of thrillers depicting the dark adventures of the title character (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a criminal mastermind at large, based on Norbert Jacques’ best-selling thriller novels. Originally divided into two installments (Der grosse Spieler: Ein Bild der Zeit and Inferno: En Spiel von Menscen unserer Zeit), in German with English subtitles.
EDGE OF WINTER (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Intense performances boost director/co-writer (and Winston-Salem native) Rob Connolly’s feature debut, a moody psychological thriller starring Joel Kinnaman as a divorced, disillusioned father whose sanity crumbles when he and sons Tom Holland and Percy Hynes White are stranded in the woods. Rated R. **
GAS-S-S-S-S (Olive Films): Despite being edited by American International Pictures, producer/director Roger Corman’s free-wheeling 1970 satire (originally titled Gas! – Or – It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It) imagines a post-apocalyptic future where chemical warfare has wiped out everyone over the age of 25, and boasts a fresh-faced, appealing cast including Robert Corff, Elaine Giftos, Cindy Williams, Ben Vereen, Bud Cort and Talia Shire (then Tally Coppola) – all at the beginning of their careers, while Country Joe & the Fish provide a few tunes. The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. Rated R. ***
THE HILLS HAVE EYES (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited collector’s-edition of Wes Craven’s award-winning 1977 shocker pitting an all-American family on a trip through the desert who are preyed upon by irradiated mutants. Crude but effective, and an instant cult classic that scored big on the drive-in circuit – for years, then spawned a sequel and a remake (and a remake of the sequel!). Special features include audio commentary, retrospective interviews, alternate ending, trailers and TV spots, and more. **½
A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME (DeInstitutionalized/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/director Christopher Ray’s award-winning shocker sees a family moving into a house with a haunted history. That the family is black and the evil preys on their dysfunctions are novel, but it’s not enough to overcome cheap special effects or the sheer familiarity of the endeavor, although Eddie Steeples is fun as a voodoo priest and veteran Bill Cobbs enjoys a rare villainous role. Lead actor Gerald Webb also produced, and Richard Grieco (also a co-producer) appears – both alive and undead. *½
THE MONSTER OF PIEDRAS BLANCAS (Olive Films): A prehistoric reptile preys on the denizens of a sleepy coastal town in director Irv Berwick’s 1959 feature debut, starring sci-fi perennial Les Tremayne as the scientist on the creature’s trail, available on DVD ($24.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail).
RAZORS (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/producer/directors Ian Powell and first-timer Karl Ward’s slasher opus (subtitled The Return of Jack the Ripper) stars Kelby Keenan as a writer who attends a screenwriting seminar in an old Victorian mansion where a series of murders takes place. Talky, stagey and gory, but a bloody bore. *
SPECIAL EFFECTS (Olive Films): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of Larry Cohen’s Hitchcockian 1984 thriller, starring Eric Bogosian (in his first lead) as an egotistical underground filmmaker who commits a murder, then finds a lookalike actress (Zoe Tamerlis) to make a movie about the crime. Some sharp in-jokes and Cohen’s customarily snappy dialogue shine through, although this doesn’t quite connect. Still, worth a look – especially for Cohen buffs. Rated R. **½
“TWIN PEAKS: THE ORIGINAL SERIES, FIRE WALK WITH ME & THE MISSING PIECES” (CBS DVD/Paramount): A self-explanatory Blu-ray collection ($72.99 retail) of all 30 episodes from the 1990-’91 ABC network run of the award-winning, avant-garde mystery series created by David Lynch and Mark Frost, Lynch’s 1992 feature film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, four-part documentary, and a host of special features – all in expectation for the upcoming Showtime series.
WHAT WE BECOME (IFC Midnight/Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer/editor/director Bo Mikkelson makes his feature debut with this shocker about a family in Denmark desperately trying to avoid contamination when their sleepy suburban town Sorgenfri (the film’s original title) is quarantined following the outbreak of a virulent virus. In Danish with English subtitles, available in a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.99 retail).
(Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92, 92.3 FM. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com