Video Vault – Oct 26, 2016
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
DVD PICK OF THE WEEK
THE RETURN OF DRACULA (Olive Films): Although overshadowed by Hammer Films’ Horror of Dracula in 1958, this nifty combination of Bram Stoker’s immortal vampire and Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (1943) remains a mini-classic among fright fans.
Francis Lederer is first-rate as the Count, posing as artist Bellac Gordal as he visits cousin Cora (Greta Grandstedt) in her bucolic California burg and takes an instant interest in her inquisitive teen-aged daughter Rachel (Norma Eberhardt).
Cousin Bellac’s a little strange – he dislikes mirrors, avoids the local minister (Gage Clarke), and never seems to be around in the daytime – but his courtly Continental charm and suave manner keep the curious at bay … at least for a time.
Director Paul Landres maintains a fast, efficient pace (the film runs under 80 minutes), and despite the low budget – which includes day-for-night shooting and a lot of dry ice (!) – the juxtaposition of small-town Americana with horror is an inspired one. There’s even a latent Cold War metaphor: Dracula hails from an Iron Curtain country, is welcomed in America, then feeds on the residents – turning his victims into vampires like himself. In an unintentionally timely twist, he is eventually tracked down by immigration officials!
The DVD retails for $19.95, the Blu-ray for $29.95. ***
“AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, VOLUME 1” (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($99.95 retail) of three low-budget ’70s horror favorites: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973), the first and only feature directed by Christopher Speeth; Matt Cimber’s R-rated The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976) starring Millie Perkins and written by her then-husband, Robert Thom; and writer/producer/director Robert Allen Schnitzer’s PG-rated The Premonition (also ’76) starring Sharon Farrell, Richard Lynch, Jeff Corey and Danielle Brisbois (in her screen debut). Special features include audio commentary, retrospective documentaries, short films, production stills, trailers, TV spots and more.
“ANCIENT ALIENS: SEASON 9” (LionsGate): A four-DVD collection ($19.98 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 2014-’15 season of the popular History Channel documentary series that examines science and mythology, narrated by Robert Clotworthy.
BACK IN TIME (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Director/producer/cinematographer Jason Aron makes his feature debut with this engaging, good-natured documentary tracing the 30-year history of Back to the Future (1985), featuring interviews with cast (Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson), crew (director Robert Zemeckis, writer/producer Bob Gale, executive producer Steven Spielberg), and fans. Mention is made of Eric Stoltz’s departure in mid-production, but not co-star Crispin Glover’s lawsuit over the sequels. ***
CLOWN (Dimension Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Director/co-writer Jon Watts (the upcoming Spider-Man: Homecoming) expands his 2010 short his feature debut, a gruesome black comedy starring Andy Powers as a father who dresses up as a clown for his son’s birthday but can’t get the makeup off and mutates into an inhuman psychopath – much to the consternation of wife Laura Allen. Peter Stormare and Chuck Shamata round out the cast of this sure-fire cult contender, available on DVD ($22.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($26.99 retail). Rated R. ***
DARK WATER (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): A special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.95 retail) of Hideo Nakata’s award-winning 2002 chiller (originally titled Honogurai mizu no soko kara) starring Hitomi Kuroki as a single mother who moves into a haunted apartment building continually flooded with water. This inspired the 2005 Jennifer Connelly version. In Japanese with English subtitles; special features include retrospective interviews, vintage documentary and more.
ELSTREE 1976 (FilmRise/MVD Entertainment Group): Editor/writer/director Jon Spira’s highly enjoyable, endlessly informative documentary feature traces the unexpected and sustained impact of Star Wars (1977) on those who worked on the film, including actors David Prowse, Jeremy Bulloch and Angus MacInnes. An absolute must for fans. ***½
GIRL IN WOODS (Candy Factory Films): Writer/director/executive producer Jeremy Benson’s well-made, albeit repetitious psycho-thriller stars Juliet Reeves as an emotionally troubled young woman whose grip on reality disintegrates when she becomes lost in the Appalachian Mountains following a tragic mishap that killed her fiancee (Reeves’ real-life husband Jeremy London). Charisma Carpenter and Lee Perkins are seen in flashbacks as Reeves’ parents, as is the late John Still (in his final feature) as her grandfather. **
LIGHTS OUT (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): Director David F. Sandberg makes his feature debut by expanding his 2013 short, as Teresa Palmer contends not only with a delusional mother (Maria Bello), but must also acknowledge and battle a nocturnal demon with nefarious designs on her little brother (Gabriel Bateman). Sandberg eschews gore for good, old-fashioned atmosphere, aided by a likable cast (including Alexander DiPersia and, briefly, Billy Burke) and a trim, 81-minute running time. The DVD retails for $28.98, the Blu-ray for $29.98. Rated PG-13. **½
MANHATTAN BABY (Blue Underground): One of Lucio Fulci’s weirdest movies (originally titled L’Occhio del Male and released in the US as Eye of the Evil Dead – thereby ripping off Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead), this 1982 chiller – seemingly inspired by The Awakening (1980) – stars token American expatriate Christopher Connelly as an archaeologist whose young daughter (Brigitta Boccoli, in her screen debut) is possessed by an ancient spirit he unearthed in Egypt. Evocative visuals tower over a rickety storyline, but Fulci fans won’t be disappointed – and the film has never looked better. The limited-edition, three-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) includes retrospective interviews, bonus CD of Fabio Frizzi’s score, and more. **
THE MIDNIGHT SWIM (Candy Factory Films): Writer Sarah Adina Smith makes her feature editing/directing debut in this award-winning psycho-drama with Lindsay Burdge, Aleksa Palladino and associate producer Jennifer Lafleur as sisters who reunite at their childhood home on the banks of Spirit Lake, where their mother recently vanished. Occasionally incoherent and frequently indulgent but always interesting – especially an unexpected musical interlude (!). **½
THE MIND’S EYE (RLJ Entertainment): Writer/producer/cinematographer/director Joe Begos’ award-winning shocker is much in the tradition of Scanners (1980), with Grahm Skipper and Lauren Ashley Carter as patients with amazing telekinetic powers who battle an evil doctor (John Speredakos) who possesses the same powers. Originally titled Eye of Madness, this is better directed than scripted, with (well-done) special effects coming to the fore. **
PHANTOM OF THE THEATRE (Well Go USA Entertainment): Raymond Yip’s colorful chiller is set in 1930s Shanghai, with Yo Yang as an ambitious filmmaker whose determination to film in a haunted theater is complicated by his growing attraction to alluring leading lady Ruby Lin (also a producer), the vengeful spirits of those who perished in a tragic fire years before, and the title character (Jing Gang). Told with elegance and wit, with gloriously realized period detail – which overcomes a convoluted storyline. In Mandarin with English subtitles. ***
SHE WHO MUST BURN (Midnight Releasing): Director/screenwriter Larry Kert’s award-winning thriller pits small-town healthcare worker Sarah Smyth against the devout (and diabolical) followers of local evangelist (and co-screenwriter) Shane Twerdun (in a frightening turn) and his sister Missy Cross in a small mining town bracing for an impending storm – in more ways than one. Creepy, credible and intense, with a finale that’s hard to shake. First-time feature producer Andrew Dunbar also appears as Cross’ timid spouse. ***
– (Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2016, Mark Burger) HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org”email@example.com