Video Vault – Oct 9, 2019
MARK BURGER’S VIDEO VAULT
PICK OF THE WEEK
THE STAND (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Since its 1978 publication, Stephen King’s epic, apocalyptic novel seemed unfilmable. After several false starts, The Stand came to ABC-TV as a mini-series in 1994 under the direction of long-time King collaborator Mick Garris (who subsequently helmed the ABC mini-series version of The Shining three years later).
Following a worldwide plague that wipes out 99% of the world’s population, the survivors inexorably are drawn to two camps – some to Mother Abagail (Ruby Dee), a benevolent seer, and others to Randall Flagg (Jamey Sheridan, terrifically cast against type), who is anything but benevolent. A final conflict is inevitable, one which threatens what remains of the world.
Garris does an admirable job combining the disparate characters and story threads while maintaining the forward momentum of the narrative, and there’s a first-rate ensemble cast on hand: Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, Rob Lowe, Ossie Davis (Dee’s real-life husband), Ray Walston, Laura San Giacomo, Matt Frewer, Miguel Ferrer, Adam Storke, Shawnee Smith, Corin Nemec, and Bill Fagerbakke – plus a slew of cameos including Ed Harris, Kathy Bates, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, filmmakers John Landis, Sam Raimi and Tom Holland, and King himself.
The mini-series earned five Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Mini-Series, and won for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Mini-Series or Special and Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Drama Series or Special, and additional nominations for Outstanding
The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.99 retail) includes bonus features including audio commentary. ***
AWAKE (Cinedigm): Alexander Cher (Aleksandr Chernyaev) and cinematographer Fedor Lyass co-directed this murky, muddled, latter-day film noir (originally titled Wake Up) starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers as an amnesiac who may be a serial killer, aided by nurse Francesca Eastwood and pursued by FBI agent Malik Yoba and sheriff William Forsythe. Memento it’s not. The DVD retails for $14.99, the Blu-ray for $19.97. *½
BEYOND EVIL (Vinegar Sydrome): Architect John Saxon and new bride Lynda Day George move into a haunted house – and soon wish they hadn’t – in writer/producer/director Herb Freed’s Filipino-shot 1980 shocker. Poorly written, with laughable special effects, this wastes the talents of Saxon, George, Michael Dante, and David Opatoshu, to say nothing of composer Pino Donaggio. Still, like so many low-budget horror movies of its era, it has a cult following. The limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.98 retail) includes retrospective interviews and theatrical trailer. Rated R. *
A BUCKET OF BLOOD (Olive Films): Character actor extraordinaire Dick Miller introduced his signature character of Walter Paisley in Roger Corman’s low-budget 1959 cult classic, with Walter a bumbling busboy-turned-artist hailed for his unique sculptures – which happen to be dead bodies. This legendary “Corman quickie” (shot in five days!) boasts screenwriter Charles B. Griffith’s delightful send-up of the Beatnik movement and a “hep-cat” cast including Barboura Morris, Antony Carbone, Mel Welles, Ed Nelson, and Bert Convy. The limited-edition “Olive Signature” Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, trailers, and more. ***
“CHARMED”: SEASON ONE (CBS Home Entertainment/Paramount Home Entertainment): Melonie Diaz, Sarah Jeffery, and Madeleine Mantock play the sibling witches who weave their spells as the “Power of Three,” charged with saving the world from the forces of evil, in all 20 episodes – plus bonus features — from the inaugural 2018-’19 season of the CW fantasy series, an updated remake of the popular 1998-2006 series, available on DVD ($49.98 retail).
THE DEAD DON’T DIE (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch puts his own inimitable stamp on the zombie genre with this R-rated horror comedy boasting an all-star cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Chloe Sevigny, Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Caleb Landry Jones, Sara Driver, RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, Tom Waits, Larry Fessenden, Austin Butler, and Danny Glover. Both the DVD ($17.96 retail) and Blu-ray ($24.99 retail) include bonus features.
DOGMAN (Magnolia Home Entertainment): Matteo Garone’s award-winning thriller stars Marcello Fonte in the title role of a timid dog groomer who deals drugs on the side to make ends meet and finds himself on a collision course with the sadistic ex-boxer (Edoardo Pesce) who holds their town in a grip of fear. In Italian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($26.98 retail).
THE ENTITY (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Director Sidney J. Furie’s award-winning, purportedly fact-based 1982 adaptation of Frank De Felitta’s best-seller (scripted by the author) stars Barbara Hershey as a woman sexually assaulted by a malevolent spirit. Admirably serious-minded but overlong and overly talky, although Hershey’s award-winning performance makes it worth a look. The collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($29.99 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. **
GWEN (Shudder/RLJE Films): Writer/director William McGregor’s award-winning feature debut is a brooding, atmospheric period piece set in an impoverished Welsh mining village, with Eleanor Worthington-Cox (first-rate) in the title role of a young girl contending with both the increasingly bizarre behavior of her mother (Maxine Peake, also terrific) and the diabolical machinations of their neighbors, who covet their farm. Adam Etherington’s evocative cinematography is a major asset, but the story never quite peaks. Both the DVD ($27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($28.97 retail) include bonus interviews. **½
HELL COMES TO FROGTOWN (Vinegar Syndrome): Producer/sreenwriter Donald G. Jackson and R.J. Kizer co-directed this intentionally loopy, knockabout 1988 sci-fi send-up detailing the misadventures of titular wanderer Sam Hell (the inimitable Roddy Piper) in a post-apocalyptic world, with Sandahl Bergman, William Smith, Rory Calhoun, and Nicholas Worth along for the ride. Uneven at times, an enjoyably goofy cult classic. The collector’s-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($39.98 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interviews, and more. Rated R. **½
THE HILLS HAVE EYES PART 2 (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Michael Berryman, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, and Janus Blythe reprise their roles in Wes Craven’s appalling 1984 follow-up to his 1977 cult classic, in which those perky desert mutants again prey on unwary travelers – some survivors of the earlier rampage. The production ran out of funds, so Craven had to cobble the finished product from existing footage and flashbacks from the first film, then (wisely) disowned the end result. The limited-edition Blu-ray ($49.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective documentary, theatrical trailer, and more. Rated R. ½
LAST DANCE (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Death Row inmate Sharon Stone’s cause is taken up by idealistic attorney Rob Morrow in director Bruce Beresford’s well-intentioned but hackneyed 1996 legal melodrama, clearly designed to showcase Stone in a dramatic, unglamorous role, but paling in comparison to Dead Man Walking (1995). Randy Quaid, Peter Gallagher, Skeet Ulrich, and Jack Thompson also appear, available on DVD ($11.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($14.95 retail). Rated R. *½
LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD (Kino Classics): Director Alain Resnais and first-time screenwriter Alain Robbe-Grille’s evocative, fascinating 1961 fantasy (originally titled L’Annee derniere a Marienbad) stars Delphine Seyrig as an unnamed woman and Giorgio Albertazzi as an unnamed man who meet at an isolated resort in the title town and may have shared an illicit romance there the year before … or did they? A stylish exercise in ambiguity, beautifully shot by cinematographer Sacha Vierny, and a landmark in the French New Wave cinema movement. Robbe-Grille earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. In French with English subtitles, both the DVD ($19.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) include audio commentary, booklet and video essay, the 1957 Renais short film Toute la memoire du monde, and more. ***½
LIGHT OF MY LIFE (Paramount Home Entertainment): Casey Affleck wrote, produced, directed, and stars in this R-rated science-fiction parable set in a post-apocalyptic future where a plague has decimated most of the world’s female population, with Affleck a desperate father who disguises his young daughter (Anna Pniowsky) as a boy in order to protect her, available on DVD ($19.98 retail) and Blu-ray ($22.98 retail).
THE LINGERING (Well Go USA Entertainment): The debut feature (originally titled Ku zak) of co-directors Ho Pong Mak and Derrick Taoby involves a ghostly presence the lingers long after a traumatic New Year’s Eve. In Cantonese with English subtitles, available on DVD ($24.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail).
LOST CITY OF THE JUNGLE (VCI Entertainment/MVD Entertainment Group): The Blu-ray bow ($29.95 retail) of the 13-chapter 1946 serial co-directed by Ray Taylor and Lewis D. Collins, starring Lionel Atwill (in his final role) as a megalomaniac bent on starting World War III, with Russell Hayden, Jane Adams, Keye Luke, John Mylong, Dick Curtis, and Arthur Space along for the ride.
TERRA FORMARS (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): Takashi Miike’s 2016 sci-fi blow-out, based on the popular manga by Yu Sasuga and Kenichi Tachibana, sees a group of 21st astronauts attempting to colonize Mars, only to encounter a highly-intelligent, very unfriendly species of mutant cockroaches. In Japanese with English subtitles, the collector’s-edition Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) boasts such bonus features as feature-length documentary, extended cast interviews, outtakes, theatrical and teaser trailers, and more.
“THE TRUTH WILL OUT” (Acorn TV): Robert Gustaffson headlines this award-winning, fact-based Swedish crime series (originally titled Det som goms i sno) as a veteran homicide inspector who returns to duty after a nervous breakdown and is tasked with forming an investigative team to delve into unsolved murders. Ia Langhammer, Louise Peterhoff, Christopher Wagelin, Tyra Olin, and Maria Sundbom. In Swedish with English subtitles, all eight episodes from the inaugural 2018 season are available in a two-DVD collection ($39.99 retail).
THE VINEYARD (Vinegar Syndrome): Character actor James Hong co-scripted, co-directed, and stars in this nonsensical 1989 shocker as a lusty sorcerer and winemaker who drains blood from his victims for his life-giving elixir, while his previous victims are either chained in the cellar or turn into zombies. Sheer camp silliness, with gratuitous gore, gratuitous nudity, gratuitous kung-fu, gratuitous spiders, and dreadful acting. Often unintentionally hilarious, this is a must for bad-movie buffs, and Hong’s dance number (!) must be seen to be believed. The limited-edition DVD/Blu-ray combo ($34.98 retail) includes retrospective interviews and original trailer. Rated R. *
See Mark Burger’s reviews of current movies on Burgervideo.com. (Copyright 2019, Mark Burger)