Video Vault – Oct 2, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
ALICE, SWEET ALICE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer/co-writer/director Alfred Sole’s still-potent 1976 shocker (originally titled Communion) remains an effective, cold-blooded Hitchcockian whodunit steeped in despair and Catholic guilt.
In her very first film, Brooke Shields plays Karen Spages, a young girl who is brutally murdered during her first communion. Suspicion immediately falls on her older sister, the titular and clearly disturbed Alice (Paula Sheppard, in a strong screen debut), who delighted in tormenting Karen and is emotionally wounded by the divorce of their parents (Linda Miller and Niles McMaster), for which she blames herself.
As it turns out, there are plenty of suspects to choose from … at least initially, until the masked killer begins preying on them, too. Everyone, it seems, is hiding something, and dark secrets are hinted at without being spelled out, letting the viewer ponder the nastiest possibilities. The violence comes in shocking bursts as the story leads to a tragic yet inevitable (and chillingly ambiguous) denouement.
Despite awards and mostly positive reviews, the film suffered spotty distribution by Allied Artists, then reappeared in theaters in 1981, after that studio went bust, under the title Holy Terror, heavily touting Shields in the ad campaign. Under any title, Alice, Sweet Alice is a vivid, visceral, even uncomfortable, experience.
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, television version, original screenplay, trailer, and more. Rated R. ***
THE BLACK STRING (LionsGate): Producer/co-writer/director Brian Hanson’s debut feature offers a distinct change of pace for Frankie Muniz, cast as a loner whose one-night stand results in an inexplicable rash, hallucinations, and worse. Vaguely reminiscent of Stephen King’s Thinner and H.P. Lovecraft’s work, this is appropriately surreal but ultimately insubstantial, despite Muniz’s full-tilt turn. The DVD ($19.98 retail) includes audio commentary, featurette, and more. Rated R. *½
DINOSAURUS! (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Producer Jack H. Harris and director/co-producer Irwin S. Yeaworthy Jr. reunited after The Blob (1958) and 4-D Man (1959) for this silly but entertaining 1960 sci-fi fantasy in which a Brontosaurus and a Tyrannosaurus Rex are discovered frozen in suspended animation on a Caribbean island, promptly revived by lightning, and immediately resume their beastly ways. The human characters, including a thawed-out caveman (Gregg Martell), pale in comparison to the stop-motion monsters. Both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, retrospective documentary, and theatrical trailer. **
DOGTOOTH (Kino Lorber): Writer/producer/director Yorgos Lanthimos’s provocative 2009 allegorical parable (originally titled Kynodontas) stars Christos Stergioglou and Michele Valley as overprotective parents whose efforts to keep their three children isolated from the outside world ultimately has devastating consequences. In Greek with Englush subtitles, both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($34.95 retail) boast bonus features including audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more.
DOUBLE FACE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Riccardo Freda’s 1969 giallo thriller (originally titled A doppia faccia) stars Klaus Kinski as a millionaire so troubled by the discovery that wife Margaret Lee is having an affair with another woman (Annabella Incontrero) that he begins to lose all touch with reality. The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, English and Italian (with English subtitles) audio options, retrospective featurettes and interviews, trailers, and more.
“FLCL: PROGRESSIVE” (Cartoon Network/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This long-awaited follow-up to the popular 2000 anime fantasy series (originally titled Furi Kuri and also known as Fooly Cooly) detailing the growing pains of a teenaged girl (voiced by Xanthe Huynh) in a hi-tech future populated by alien beings both good and bad. All six episodes from the 2018 season – plus bonus features – are available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
FURIE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Former gang leader Veronica Ngo goes on the rampage when her young daughter (Mai Cat Vi) is kidnapped by an international organ-trafficking ring in this action thriller (originally titled Hai Phuong, named for Ngo’s character). In Vietnamese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
THE IGUANA WITH THE TONGUE OF FIRE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): This 1971 giallo thriller (originally titled L’iguana dalla lingua di fuoca) stars Luigi Pistilli as a hard-bitten ex-cop on the trail of a diabolical serial killer in Dublin, with Anton Diffring, Dagmar Lassander, and Valentina Cortesa among the possible suspects and victims. Filmmaker Riccardo Freda was reportedly unhappy with the end result, and opted for the pseudonym “Willy Pareto.” The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective featurettes and interviews, English and Italian (with English subtitles) audio options, trailers, and more.
MANSON FAMILY MOVIES (Cult Epics/CAV Distributing): Filmmaker John Aes-Nihil (who also appears as Charles “Tex” Watson) spent five years (1974-’79) re-enacting the Manson Murders in the exact locations where they took place in August 1969, ultimately released in 1984 in time for the 15th anniversary. A crude, expressionistic exploitation artifact that holds interest despite its low budget, technical glitches, lapses in continuity, and misspellings, featuring actual songs performed by the Family. The limited-edition two-DVD collection ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, outtakes, Manson’s last interview, and the bonus disc Sharon Tate Home Movies. **
PERCEPTION (Gravitas Ventures): Wes Ramsey’s committed performance isn’t enough to save writer/producer/director Ilana Rein’s debut feature, a potentially interesting but talky and slow-moving thriller in which he plays a young widower who attempts to contact his dead wife with the assistance of single mother and strip-mall psychic Meera Rohit Kumbhani, available on DVD ($14.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($16.99 retail). *½
A SCORE TO SETTLE (RLJE Films): The title tells all in executive producer/director Shawn Ku’s crime drama, starring Nicolas Cage (also an executive producer) as an ailing ex-con suffering from “fatal sporadic insomnia” who attempts to reconcile with his son (Noah Le Gros) while exacting revenge upon the criminal cronies who set him up. Some nice character moments amid the mayhem, but otherwise standard fare, available on DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail), each boasting bonus features. **
STELLA (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Single mother Bette Midler sacrifices her own ambitions for daughter Trini Alvarado’s sake in this maudlin 1990 tearjerker based on Olive Higgins Prouty’s best-selling 1923 novel, previously filmed as Stella Dallas (1937) with Barbara Stanwyck. Midler, clearly dreaming of an Oscar, gives an overblown performance that basically buries the supporting cast: John Goodman, Stephen Collins, Marsha Mason, Eileen Brennan, William McNamara, and Ben Stiller. The DVD retails for $11.95, the Blu-ray for $14.95. Rated PG-13. *
“THIS IS US”: THE COMPLETE THIRD SEASON (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A five-DVD collection ($39.98 retail) of all 18 episodes – plus bonus features — from the 2018-’19 season of the critically acclaimed NBC comedy/drama series created by Dan Fogelman, following the history of a family in the past and present, with onscreen parents Mandy Moore and Milo Ventimiglia heading an ensemble cast including Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz, Justin Hartley, Susan Kelechi Watson, and Chris Sullivan. Nominated for nine Emmy Awards: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series (both Ventimiglia and Brown), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Moore), Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Sullivan), Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Michael Angarano and Ron Cephas Jones, Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series (Phylicia Rashad), and Outstanding Music Composition for a Drama Series (Original Dramatic Score).
THE TRACKER (LionsGate): Dolph Lundgren goes on the warpath to avenge the deaths of his wife and daughter 15 years ago in screenwriter/producer/director Giorgio Serafini’s R-rated shoot-’em-up, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($21.99 retail).
THE TRACKERS (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Rancher Ernest Borgnine forms an uneasy alliance with lawman Sammy Davis Jr. as they pursue the baddies who killed Borgnine’s son (William Katt) and kidnapped his daughter (Playboy Playmate Connie Kreski) in this 1971 ABC-TV Western produced by Aaron Spelling and Davis, possibly as a series pilot. Standard fare enlivened by the prickly chemistry between Davis and Borgnine. **½
TRAPPED ALIVE (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Writer Leszek Burzynski’s low-budget feature directorial debut sees escaped convicts and female hikers trapped in an underground mine in Wisconsin where they are stalked by a cannibalistic mutant. Originally titled Forever Mine, this was filmed in 1988 but languished on the shelf until a 1993 VHS release. The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective featurettes and interviews, and more.
X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The 12th in the big-screen X-Men franchise (rated PG-13), based on the popular Marvel Comics characters, marks the feature directorial debut of writer/producer Simon Kinberg, and focuses on the transformation of Phoenix (Sophie Turner) when her superpowers become uncontrollable after an inter-stellar mishap, with James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Evan Peters reprising their roles, and Jessica Chastain providing opposition as the villainous Vuk. Touted as being the last X-Men movie (don’t you believe it), it’s available on DVD ($29.98 retail), Blu-ray ($37.99 retail), and 4K Ultra HD combo ($29.96 retail), each boasting bonus features.
ZEN FOR NOTHING (Zeitgeist Films/Kino Lorber): Werner Penzel’s 2016 documentary feature follows Sabine Timoteo, a novice from Switzerland as she adapts to and learns the ways life in a Japanese Zen monastery over three seasons. In English, German, and Japanese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($29.95 retail).
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)