DVD News & Release Info for July 31 (Mania.com)

By:JOHN THONEN
Date: Tuesday, July 31, 2001

VIDEO NEWS


·        SUSPIRIA is a milestone of horror filmmaking, which finds its director, Dario Argento, operating at the top of his form. After some years out of release due to legal entanglements, Anchor Bay will bring this masterpiece of Italian horror back to fans in September with two DVD editions. The first is a standard issue release, which none-the-less, will reportedly feature some nice extras. The second packaging will be a limited release special edition containing 3 discs, one of which will offer a new documentary on the film featuring new interviews with much of the cast. The third disc contains the film's nerve-wracking soundtrack, a masterpiece in itself, from frequent Argento collaborators Goblin, along with trailers, stills, bios and a music video.


·        THE SIMPSONS is one of the great achievements in the history of television. Nearly a dozen years after its debut, this animated series still appeals to an audience ranging from 8 to 80 and has lost none of its edge as satire or goofball comedy. Fox Home Entertainment will remind us all of the genius of the show with their late September release of THE SIMPSONS: THE FIRST SEASON, a 3 DVD set containing 13 episodes, as well as commentary tracks for each episode, outtakes from an un-aired version of an episodes, episode animatics, a "making of" documentary, and the first Simpsons short from the old TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW.


·         CIRCUITRYMAN: DOUBLE PACK is an unexpected goodie from Columbia/Tristar, offering the original CIRCUITRYMAN and its lesser sequel. The original film is an imaginative, stylish tongue-in-cheek bit of sci-fi with winning performances all around, particularly from Vernon Wells' villain, Plughead, and from Dana Wheeler-Nicholson, as a too-sexy bounty hunter. Trailers and production info are provided, as is a commentary track featuring director/co-writer Steven Lovy and his co-writer brother Robert, and star Wells. The second film brings back much of the cast, but is largely a misfire. Still, at a $24.95 suggested retail price, you should be able to pick up one good film and one so-so sequel for under 20 bucks. Not bad.


This Week's Releases


·         ATTACK OF THE 60 FOOT CENTERFOLD is such a great title for a sexploitation movie that it's amazing no one thought of it before. To no great surprise, this is a dumb, frequently cheesy bit of titillation; but it's also good-natured, frequently amusing and, yes, fairly titillating, all thanks to prolific director Fred Olen Ray. Jay Richardson is a hoot as the Hugh Hefner inspired publisher of a skin magazine and lovely J.J. North is the would-be centerfold who overdoses on an experimental drug and ends up the title femme. Toss in John Lazar, Michelle Bauer, Nikki Fritz, Russ Tamblyn, Ross Hagen and even Tommy Kirk, and you've got a B-movie lover's dream.


·         CYBERCITY (a.k.a. Shepard) is another low budget bit of sci-fi junk from the Roger Corman film factory. C. Thomas (where'd my career go?) Howell top-lines, and bottoms-out, as a troubled Clint Eastwood clone in the future, out to stop a crazed religious leader portrayed by wrestler "Rowdy" Roddy Piper. The pace is lethargic and the action lifeless or recycled from other films as are the effects, story, characters, etc. Pretty much the pits.


·         MARQUIS DE SADE: INTIMATE TALES OF THE DARK PRINCE is one heck of a long title, but the movie itself is a surprisingly solid and well thought out bit of fiction about the real life man for whom the word "sadism" was coined. The cast is solid, particularly Nick Mancuso as the dark prince himself, and the film itself sides with De Sade, depicting him as a revolutionary in a repressed society. This is a pretty good movie which also features a good deal of skin and mild Sadean sequences. A genuine surprise.


·         MY SWEET KILLER is also a pleasant and unanticipated surprise where the lead character is possibly more insane than DeSade. Kirk Harris (who also co-wrote) gives a stand out performance as a mental patient whose calm exterior masks true madness.


·         POPCORN was a highly hyped major theatrical release back in 1991, and its makers obviously hoped to launch a Freddy Kruger styled franchise. Instead, it tanked and helped bankrupt its production company after only two completed features. All of which is kind of strange, since it's really a pretty entertaining film. Most of the fun comes from a series of fake William Castle "gimmick" styled films being screened by a film class, the students of which are being stalked by a killer. A good cast, plenty of humor and even a few thrills make this one a forgotten goodie.


·         SPACE: 1999 is a largely forgotten TV series from the mid-70s which developed something of a cult following thanks to the fine miniature work a hallmark of the series' producer, Gerry Anderson. Martin Landau and then wife Barbara Bain top-lined the series, but their performances were so stiff and the plots so silly that the show only lasted two seasons, in spite of being the most expensive series ever produced at that time and having been syndicated to nearly every TV station in the world. A&E Home Video is selling the DVDs in two-volume sets, with each volume featuring 3 episodes each. Sets 3 & 4 become available this week, but only diehard fans are likely to have any more interest than just minor curiosity.


·         THE TOMORROW MAN hits video courtesy of indie-video supplier MTI. Which is kind of shame, since their titles rarely penetrate the racks of the major chains and this isn't a half-bad little sci-fi tale. The premise is that criminals from our day travel back in time and kidnap a young boy. The boy's father teams up with a tough, female time cop to rescue the boy and hopefully alter the events that will lead to the child becoming a notorious future criminal. The cast is uneven, but Beth Kennedy stands out as the time traveling cop, and the story holds one's interest, even if the production values often fail to do the same.


·         UFOS AND ALIENS contains 3 episodes of an unsold TV series concept that was to offer VOYAGER hottie Jeri Ryan as the host of a collection of alien abductees and UFO witnesses, as well as special effect recreations of their dubious stories. Some of you may feel this doesn't belong in this column, as it's potentially science fact, but if this isn't fiction I don't know what is. With apologies to the true believers.


ANIME & ANIMATION


·         CERES: CELESTIAL LEGEND #1 - DESTINY features three episodes of this series about young Aya Mikage and her time and world spanning journey to find the truth behind her existence.


·         CREST OF THE STARS 3: WAYWARD SOLDIERS features two episode of the series chronicling the adventures of Jinto and Lafiel aboard the Gosroth as they try to keep the Baron from capturing Lafiel.


·         FELIX THE CAT: COLLECTOR'S EDITION is a welcome collection of episodes from the fondly remembered 50s animated series. This release also features interviews with the original series' creators and clips from Felix cartoons originating from the 1920s.


·         POKEMON #43: FLYING ACE & POKEMON #44: FIRE POWER each features two volumes from the poorly animated, inexplicably popular series about Pikachu, Ash and whatever.


·         RUROUNI KENSHIN 9: HEART OF THE SWORD features three episodes of this dark and dramatic series about the feudal intrigues that face Kenshin, Shishio and Soujon in their battles with each other.


·         SORCERER HUNTERS 2: MAGICAL DESIRES details the trials and tribulation of the people of Spurna as they suffer under the yoke of the evil sorcerers and pray for the help of the sorcerer hunters, their only hope for freedom.


·         THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN is a sweet and gentle story that has something to say to all of us who encounter people with handicaps that challenge their lives. The film is the story of a young, mute swan whose desire to communicate leads to his learning the trumpet and becoming a famous musician.


·         THE UNDERDOG CHRONICLES is a collection of episodes from the superhero spoof that was one of the earlier animated series to successfully reach both young and adult audiences.


Easter Egg Hunt


·         ALIEN 3 features an interesting hidden item according to the DVD ANGLE website. If you choose the "Making Of" option on the "Special Features" menu and watch the documentary to the end you will be rewarded with a different trailer for the film which features some footage that is not in the film itself.


·         BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS offers a reward for a perfect score on its trivia game, according to the DVD ANGLE website. The prize is a collection of stills from the movie which spotlight the film's fun cast as well as the crew, among whom can be found a young James Cameron, hard at work on one of his earliest film industry jobs.


Coming Soon


Next week will find Halloween arriving earlier and lasting longer, an assault of Hammer horror stars and synchronized, marching, Martian robots. All of this and more, right here, brought to you by the Vidiot.




Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.