Video Vault – Oct 31, 2018
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (Olive Films): The 1956 adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers, directed by Don Siegel, is 80 minutes of perfection – as potent and powerful today as when first released.
Something strange is taking place in the bucolic California burg of Santa Mira, as is noticed by physician Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy, in a stellar turn that made him a genre icon). People are convinced that friends and family members have somehow changed.
As Miles rekindles a relationship with ex-flame Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter), they discover the reason for this inexplicable paranoia is well-founded: People are being duplicated by alien pods while they sleep, becoming emotionless beings. Their goal? World takeover, of course.
Released at the height of the Cold War and the Hollywood Blacklist, the political and social undercurrents of the story have been widely debated over the years, yet even putting those observations aside, Invasion of the Body Snatchers remains an ingenious allegory about humanity (and the lack thereof), seamlessly interwoven within a science-fiction framework. The film is intense, intelligent, and utterly gripping, one of the absolute landmarks of its genre.
The “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentaries, retrospective and vintage interviews, original trailer, and more. ****
BELIEVER (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director/co-screenwriter Lee Hae-Young’s remake of the 2012 Johnnie To blockbuster stars Cho Jin-woong as an obsessed detective who pairs with ex-gangster Ryu Jun-yeol to topple a drug empire. In Korean with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): One of the first Italian giallo thrillers – and the first to achieve international success (including in the U.S.) – Mario Bava’s award-winning 1964 whodunit (originally titled 6 donne per l’assassino) sees a top fashion house in Rome rocked by corruption, deception and, inevitably, a series of brutal murders, with Cameron Mitchell and Eva Bartok among the suspects (and potential victims), and Thomas Reiner the dogged detective on the case. Wildly stylized, as befits the genre, and not altogether cohesive (ditto), but great fun for genre addicts. The DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.95 retail) includes both the edited American and uncut Italian versions of the film, audio commentaries, retrospective interviews, photo gallery, bonus trailers, and more. **½
“CHARMED”: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount): To commemorate its 20th anniversary, the Blu-ray bow ($55.98 retail) of all 22 episodes from the 1998-’99 season of the award-winning WB fantasy series created by Constance M. Burge, detailing the supernatural adventures of the Halliwell sisters (Shannen Doherty, Holly Marie Combs and Alyssa Milano), modern-day siblings descended from witches.
A DANGEROUS IDEA (Passion River Films): Neil Harvey narrates writer/producer/director Stephanie Welch’s feature documentary (subtitled Eugenics, Genetics and the American Dream), which offers a thoughtful, thought-provoking, and even chilling examination on the history and current status on the theories that one observer labels “biologically-determined politics.” ***
GOOD FAVOUR (Breaking Glass Pictures): Writer/director Rebecca Daly’s contemplative latter-day parable stars Vincent Romeo as a young man who (literally) emerges from the wilderness and has a profound, perhaps preordained, impact on a small Christian community in Central Europe. Not so much a faith-based film as a low-key, sometimes slow-moving meditation on the nature of religious faith – although a particular (and peculiar) suspense builds in the third act. Worth a look, with Romeo’s effectively subdued performance totally in keeping with the character and the narrative. **½
MANDY (RLJE Films): Panos Cosmatos (son of the late George P. Cosmatos) co-wrote and directed this award-winning meditation on vengeance, with Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough (she’s “Mandy”) as a couple whose idyllic solitude in the mid-’80s Pacific Northwest is torn asunder when they are abducted by cult leader Linus Roache and his evil (and in some cases inhuman) minions. Surreal, visceral, vicious, wildly stylized, overlong, and not for all tastes — but a surefire cult contender, with the story providing considerable motivation for Cage to go completely berserk. Both the DVD ($29.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.97 retail) include behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted and extended scenes.
PATIENT ZERO (Vertical Entertainment/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): The planet’s been ravaged by a virulent strain of rabies that turns its victims into senseless killers in this half-baked, sketchy sci-fi thriller that plays like a bad Resident Evil knock-off, stranding a cast including Natalie Dormer, Matt Smith, Agyness Deyn and Clive Standen, although Stanley Tucci is a standout as a lucid plague victim. Originally titled Patient Z but a disappointment by any name, available on DVD ($19.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($25.99 retail). Rated R. *
“PEPPA PIG: STARS” (Entertainment One/Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): A DVD collection ($14.98 retail) of 12 astronomy-themed episodes from the long-running, award-winning, animated children’s series (aired on Nick Jr.) following the misadventures of the title character (voiced by Lily Snowden-Fine).
PHANTASM III: LORD OF THE DEAD (Well Go USA Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($29.98 retail) of Don Coscarelli’s award-winning 1994 installment of his much-beloved horror franchise, with A. Michael Baldwin and Reggi Bannister again joining forces to defeat the demonic minions of the Tall Man (Angus Scrimm). Familiar fare, but imaginatively and energetically rendered. Special features include audio commentary, featurette, original trailer, and more. Rated R. **½
PHANTASM IV: OBLIVION (Well Go USA Entertainment): The Blu-ray bow ($29.98 retail) of Don Coscarelli’s 1998 follow-up, with A. Michael Baldwin and Reggie Bannister again pitted against Angus Scrimm’s otherworldly Tall Man. Still entertaining for franchise fans, but the seams are beginning to show and repetition has settled in – although those lethal silver spheres still pack a punch. Special features include audio commentary, featurette, and original trailer. Rated R. **
PREHYSTERIA! (Full Moon Features/MVD Entertainment Group): Producer Charles Band (who co-directed with dad Albert Band) jumped aboard the Jurassic Park bandwagon with this PG-rated, family-friendly 1993 sci-fi comedy starring Brett Cullen as a single father whose children (Austin O’Brien and Samantha Mills) discover dinosaur eggs in the rainforest. Guess what happens next … or, more to the point, guess what hatches next? The special-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.95 retail) includes audio commentary and more.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN (The Criterion Collection): Playwright Lorraine Hansbury’s heartfelt, award-winning 1961 screen adaptation of her Tony Award-winning play dramatizes the hardscrabble life of a poor black family in New York City desperate to improve their financial situation, with original cast members Sidney Poitier, Claudia McNeil, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Ivan Dixon, John Fiedler, and Louis Gossett Jr. (in his screen debut) reprising their roles. Highly theatrical and occasionally dated, but beautifully acted and still a landmark in African-American storytelling. Both the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) include retrospective and vintage interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. ***½
“THE (REC) COLLECTION” (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): A four-disc Blu-ray collection ($59.97 retail) of Spanish filmmakers Jaime Balaguero and Paco Plaza’s award-winning found-footage horror quartet about a devastating virus run rampant: 2007’s (REC), 2009’s (REC 2), 2012’s (REC 3: Genesis), and 2014’s (REC 4: Apocalypse). In Spanish with English subtitles, bonus features include audio commentary, deleted and extended scenes, interviews, featurettes, trailers, and more.
SNAKE OUTTA COMPTON (LionsGate): The gags come fast and thick in Hank Braxtan’s silly but fast-moving send-up of hip-hop and horror, as a struggling rap group (led by the appealing Ricky Flowers Jr.) does battle with a giant, mutated snake on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Easy to make fun of but hard to dislike, with a slew of pop-culture references tossed into the mix. Besides, any film boasting a rap song referencing “Rikki Tikki Tavi” can’t be all bad. Rated R. **
TORSO (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Sergio Martino’s 1973 giallo thriller (also released as Carnal Violence and originally titled I corpi presentano tracce di violenza carnale) pits a group of comely female art students (including Suzy Kendall and Tina Aumont) stalked by a masked killer. Appropriately brutal and stylish, this was produced by Carlo Ponti (!) and is as well-remembered for its attention-getting trailer (“Torso!”) and television spots as the movie itself. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) that includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, English and Italian trailers, and more. Rated R. **
TRICK ‘R TREAT (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Writer Michael Dougherty’s award-winning 2007 feature debut as executive producer/director is a colorful horror anthology offers five tales of Halloween fright. Some vignettes are better than others, but enjoyable nonetheless, with a zesty cast including Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Dylan Baker, Rochelle Aytes, Leslie Bibb, and Lauren Lee Smith, available in a collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($34.93 retail) that boasts audio commentary, retrospective interviews, deleted and alternate scenes, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. **½
TWELVE MONKEYS (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Terry Gilliam’s typically surreal 1995 sci-fi thriller stars Bruce Willis as a hard-bitten convict sent back in time to discover the origin of the plague that decimated civilization. The first half of the film ranks with Gilliam’s best work – intelligent, witty, and provocative – but the second half descends into self-indulgence and unnecessarily convoluted plot twists. Still, this has its admirers, and earned Oscar nominations for Brad Pitt (as Best Supporting Actor) as a twitchy, wild-eyed anarchist and (more deservedly) for Best Costume Design. Madeleine Stowe, David Morse, Frank Gorshin, Jon Seda, Christopher Meloni, and the always welcome Christopher Plummer are along for the ride. The special-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, feature-length documentary The Hamster Factor and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, and more. Rated R. **
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2018, Mark Burger)