Video News and Releases for July 3 (Mania.com)
Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2001
GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE would seem to be the latest theatrical hit spawning a Direct-To-Video franchise. After failing to land star Brendan Fraser for a theatrical sequel, Disney is said to be considering a new actor to play the klutzy ape-man in a made-for-video follow-up. The studio has already found considerable success with DTV sequels for THE LITTLE MERMAID and THE LION KING. Universal will also be mining the DTV sequel vein later this year with the release of TREMORS 3: BACK TO PERFECTION, while Columbia/Tristar will do the same with VAMPIRES: LOS MUERTOS sometime this winter. Disney's distribution arm, Buena Vista, will make its first move in the DTV sequel fray later this month with MIMIC 2.
WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is scheduled for a Warner 30th Anniversary Release, according to "Video Business" magazine. Due on August 8, 2001, the DVD will feature a documentary, "Pure Imagination," on the film's making, which explains (among other tidbits) that the main reasons the film was made were Quaker Oats' desire for a big launch of their new Wonka candy bar and the director's daughter's love for Roald Dahl's book. The candy bar flopped, but the movie became a classic, arguably the best family fantasy film since THE WIZARD OF OZ.
GLADIATOR was the big-budget epic that re-started the genre, but low-budget impresarios were quick to cash in. First was GLADIATOR EROTICUS, soon to be followed by Full Moon's DEMONICUS and then Roger Corman's, THE ARENA, a remake of his 1973 production of the same name. Back then, Corman offered Pam Grier as one of a pair of female ring-warriors, but the new version makes its intentions clear in the casting of a pair of Playboy Playmates (which I suppose is really two pairs) as the leads.
THIS WEEK'S RELEASES
THE BODY was originally intended to receive wide theatrical distribution; instead, it got a minimal platform release in a few cities before becoming, essentially, a Columbia/Tristar DTV title. Although the film is badly flawed, its fate was probably more a result of marketing concerns, rather than artistic ones. The storyline a priest (Antonia Banderas) and an archaeologist investigating what may be the skeletal remains of Jesus was certain to draw controversy, and Banderas is hardly enough of a box office name to draw throngs of theater patrons. Still, this sometimes uneasy mix of action, suspense, and socio-political commentary is not without its merits and might be worth a rental.
[IMG2R]DRACULA 2000, on the other hand, is a theatrical release that might have fared better as a DTV title. While arguably not as bad as other Wes Craven produced fare (MINDRIPER, NIGHTMARE CAFE), this attempt at a sexy, modern day, teen-oriented Dracula tries too hard to satisfy everyone, while ultimately satisfying no one. Frequent Craven cinematographer Patrick Lussier manages a bit of decent imagery, but is otherwise clueless as to what to do. The metal heavy soundtrack isn't bad, so buy the CD and skip the movie.
GORMENGHAST is a Warner release that, rather oddly, hits video stores one week after running on many PBS stations across the country. Wherever you happen to see it, this is a delightful adaptation of Mervyn Peake's classic fantasy novels, which take place in a fairytale-esque medieval world and a castle whose human occupants may be stranger than the many non-human ones who reside there. All this, and Christopher Lee, too who could resist?
THE HORROR OF HAMMER is an enjoyable movie trailer compilation from Image and All Day Entertainment. Since trailers were (until recently) not copyrighted, these are all culled from various collectors, and the quality is highly variable. But where else can you see previews of B&W goodies like ENEMY FROM SPACE, cinematic gems like THESE ARE THE DAMNED, and wild-ass trash like PREHISTORIC WOMEN? Also featured are promotional shorts for WHEN DINOSAURS RULED THE EARTH and DRACULA A.D. 1972, as well as a knowledgeable commentary track from Hammer fanatics Ted Newsom, Gary H. Smith and Stuart Galbraith IV. An almost certain blast for Hammer-philes.
HOWLING 3: THE MARSUPIALS: Special Edition was listed here several weeks ago, but was delayed for reasons unannounced by distributor Elite Entertainment. As mentioned previously, this is one of the better HOWLING sequels (though the competition is less than fierce) and a fairly entertaining film in its own right, mostly due to its tongue-in-cheek (rather than fangs-in-neck) attitude. And, Aussie Imogene Annesley is one sexy bitch. That is what a female werewolf would be called, isn't it?
I, VAMPIRI is a historic release from Imagemarking, as it does, the first legitimate U.S. distribution of a truly seminal work in the history of European horror. This is the film that began the Euro-horror cycle, in the gloom of which so many of us still bask. Director Ricardo Freda rejected the realist films that dominated post-war Europe in favor of dark fantasies filtered through the oeuvre of American filmmakers like Howard Hawks. This version of the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, a noblewoman who believed bathing in the blood of young virgins would keep her eternally young, is updated to present day (well, 1956 anyway) France. This cinematic vampire tale also helped launch the directorial career of no-less than Mario Bava, when he assumed the reins after Freda walked off the film two days before the end of production. Previously available from Sinister Cinema under its U.S. title THE DEVIL'S COMMANDMENT, as well as from other public domain, mail-order distributors.
THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD is an enjoyable fantasy, from Columbia/Tristar, about a boy whose toy Indian comes to life thanks to a magic cupboard. This should have become a classic family film, but instead became largely forgotten. Litefoot and David Keith are great as the tiny Native American and his cowboy counterpart, and the film beautifully captures child-like wonder on the cusp of a more adult sensibility. Directed by Frank Oz and highly recommended for you and yours.
TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN is another trailer compilation from Image, albeit greatly bolstered by some non-movie preview add-ons. There are more than two-dozen Frankenstein-oriented trailers, ranging from the Universal originals to Hammer's remakes, and a few indie and TV renditions as well. In addition, there's a rare opportunity to see Hammer's 1959 TV pilot, TALES OF FRANKENSTEIN; clips of appearances by Lon Chaney and Glen Strange (both had played the monster) on the old Abbott and Costello TV show; and Chaney's sad, late-in-life turn as the monster in a live version on the "Tales of Tomorrow" TV anthology. As if that weren't enough, Image also offers interviews with Hammer producer Michael Carreras, Glen Strange, and the one-and-only, Peter Cushing. This one should be irresistible to film history buffs.
T-REX: BACK TO THE CRETACEOUS is the latest Warner release of an Imax theatrical feature. Like most of the others, this one loses most of its grandeur in the translation to home video, and those CGI dinosaurs are starting to seem a little familiar. Parents will likely be bored with the less than original plot, and smaller kids may well be frightened by the beasties, but 8-12 year olds might well enjoy this one. For me, its most attractive feature is that it kept director Brett Leonard (LAWNMOWER MAN, HIDEAWAY, VIRTUOSITY) out of the theatrical film business for a couple of years.
[IMG3L]V: THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES: Special Edition: Warner brings us this tale of alien invaders, giant saucers perching over mankind's cities, and human resistance to the otherworldly invaders. It stars Jeff Goldblum and Bill Pullman as the Presid... Oops. Sorry, that's INDEPENDENCE DAY, which clearly found its inspiration in this 1983 TV miniseries that starred such lesser lights as Marc Singer and Jane Badler. This was the most expensive mini-series ever when it premiered, and it was a big hit, even spawning a short-lived TV series. The DVD features a half-hour "making-of" documentary and a commentary by creator Kenneth Johnson (ALIEN NATION). In fairness to ID4's creators, both films are really a rip-off of EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS, which established a formula that will probably be recycled every 10 years until the apocalypse.
ELF PRINCESS RANE, from Media Blasters, offers the adventures of one Go Tarakada, an adventurous high school lad who meets the title princess and joins her in an attempt to find a long secret treasure.
GEO-ARMOR:KISHIN CORPS, from Pioneer, somehow manages to combine that anime standby, giant robots, with Nazis circa 1941. I knew my history teacher was hiding something from me.
EASTER EGG HUNT
ARMY OF DARKNESS features a great hidden treat, which the DVD Angle website first announced. It seems that if you start out by playing the commentary track, instead of normal audio, and then turn on the subtitle function, you actually get scene-by-scene storyboards in the lower right hand corner, allowing you to see the storyboards and the scene they helped plan, all at the same time.
[IMG4R]DINOSAUR offers another fun secret goodie, this one uncovered by the DVD Shrine site. On disk 2, in the "Development" section, pressing left on your remote will highlight a window in the dinosaur skull. Hit enter and you'll be treated to a 1955 Walt Disney clip and then Windsor McKay's "Gertie The Dinosaur," the animated short that inspired all that followed in dinosaur recreation.
Next week, an amazingly bad movie about an amazing medical procedure; more Dario Argento than you could shake a blood-spattered, razor-sharp, glistening steel knife at, and the best movie ever made about six-foot tall frogs.
Vidiocy is our weekly column devoted to Home Video and DVD.