DVD This Week: September 18th (Mania.com)

By:John Thonen
Date: Tuesday, September 18, 2001

My last column appeared on a day that may set the tone for a century we have barely begun. Looking back, I can imagine nothing more insignificant that day than my lighthearted look at the world of home video. Today, a week later, I still find it difficult to view completing a new column as being a task of any particular value. Almost everything seems insignificant in comparison to the events of last Tuesday. But, trying to maintain the lives we all had before this tragedy is just one small way we can strike back against the barbarians responsible. I'm proud to be an American and I can only hope that the events of the coming months, perhaps years, will cause that pride to grow for all of us.

VIDEO NEWS


It's been quite awhile since there's been a major new horror film compilation video, but Universal will soon correct that oversight with their release of BOOGEYMEN, which offers fright film clips which run the gamut from the sublime Norman Bates, Candyman to the ridiculous Leprechaun and The Dentist. The hour-long release features 17 sections devoted to a wide assortment of cinematic monsters; but the real pleasures of the video are found in the extras. There's a POP-UP VIDEO type feature to provide trivia and humor to the on screen proceedings along with Freddy himself, Robert Englund, offering comments on an alternate soundtrack. In addition, there's the "Name That Frame" game, which offers detailed textual info on each homicidal nutcase, and a decent selection of theatrical trailers. All in all, this one's a perfect Halloween Party video.


It's not exactly news that STAR WARS: EPISODE ONE - THE PHANTOM MENANCE is being released to home video later this year. However, little by little, the details of that release are being offered as a bit of teasing for already salivating fans. The rumor is that some four million dollars has been spent on the 2-disc set, much of it expended on seven new scenes which had been part of the original script, but were cut before production actually began. The DVD will not only offer fans a chance to see these new sequences, but will also feature a version of the film which incorporates several of them into the movie. No word yet on whether Lucas will take the ultimate step in improving the film: cutting out all the Jar Jar Binks scenes.


WWW.HORRORDVDS.COM reports that the Chiodo Brothers, who have handled effects on numerous films in addition to creating the cult favorite KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, are offering free autographs to fans who send them an "unopened" copy of that film's recent DVD. The idea is that fans will have to buy two copies to take advantage of the offer one to watch and an autographed one to save which will drive up sales and help get the brothers' plans for a sequel off the ground. The brothers themselves mention the offer in a great net-chat, posted on the site. As mentioned here a few weeks ago, this movie is a lot of fun and the DVD features a host of cool extras. Add in that you can find it on the net, and at some major retailers, for a mere $10, and this is a pretty good deal. So get out there and pick up an extra copy and send it to: CHIODO BROTHERS PRODUCTIONS INC., 110 W PROVIDENCIA AVE, BURBANK, CA 91502, and be sure to include a prepaid mailer for the disc's return.


NEW RELEASES


AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON stands with ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN as one of the best horror/comedy films ever [IMG2R]made. Unlike A&C's 1948 gem, John Landis' 1981 film is genuinely scary and decidedly dark in nature, in spite of some often hilarious moments - many of which are provided by Griffin Dunne as the lead character's undead best friend. Rick Baker's effects hold up surprisingly well and, at their best, are superior to any CGI transformation I've yet to see. The DVD also contains a commentary track with stars David Naughton and Dunne and interviews with Rick Baker and John Landis, as well as some shorter, but worthy, goodies.


BELA LUGOSI MEETS A BROOKLY GORILLA quickly takes us 180 degrees from the pleasure of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. In spite of the "in the title billing" the real stars of this 1952 stinker are Duke Mitchell and Sammy Petrillo, a very second rate rip-off of the then popular Martin and Lewis duo. These two losers end up on a jungle island with mad scientist Lugosi and a bunch of "comedy" sequences which are even more stale and moth-eaten than the gorilla costume featured within.


CAPE FEAR: SPECIAL EDITION is Martin Scorsese's 1991 remake, which is being released concurrently with a "Special Edition" of the 1962 original. While decidedly suspenseful, the original doesn't really belong in a column devoted to films of a fantastic nature. But, for reasons unknown, Scorsese chose to push his film into horror territory. The storylines of the two versions remain similar a family pursued by a killer but the characters are much different in the more recent film. This one offers Scorsese's undeniable gifts as a filmmaker along with a great cast (Robert DeNiro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange) and cameos from the stars of the original film (Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck). There's lots of knee-jerk scares, but it all seems determined to be unpleasant and trashy, and succeeds all to well.


HALLOWEEN is a film that, for better or worse, changed the face of horror filmmaking. Evidence of the more negative changes it wrought can be found in its sequel, HALLOWEEN 2, which is re-released this week. While John Carpenter, Debra Hill, Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasance all returned for this follow-up - which picks up at the moment its predecessor ended - the results can only be praised as being better than any of the myriad sequels which followed. Pointless, derivative, needlessly bloody and cruel, this one's for Michael Myers fans only.


ROUGHNECKS 2: THE STARSHIP TROOPERS CHRONICLES is a compilation of episodes of the oddly popular CGI animated STARSHIP TROOPERS TV series. The series is pretty good story-wise and is probably closer to Robert Heinlein's book than Paul Verhoeven's film version was, but the animation is unimpressive and the vocal artists providing the voices are weak as well.


SPY KIDS was [IMG3L]one of the most pleasant surprises of the past year. This is a delightful and imaginative family film almost certain to please any audience from 5 years old on up. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are retired spies whose children see their parents as dull. Then, a super villain threatens the world and Mom and Dad are captured. The kids learn the truth about their parents' past and set out to rescue them with a host of spy gadgets that every kid would love to have. Who would have guessed that Robert Rodriguez, the admittedly immature mind behind the violence of DESPERADO and the gore and nudity of FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, had this kind of childlike sense of wonder within him? He even makes Danny Trejo charming, and that does take a touch of magic.


THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE: SPECIAL EDITION is the re-release of Rolfe Kanefsky's slasher spoof from the 80s. While decidedly uneven, there's some funny stuff here that should work as well in these post-SCREAM days as it did in its original post-FRIDAY THE 13TH release. There's even a horror movie fan who knows all the "rules" of horror movies on board, nearly a decade before Jamie Kennedy played that role in SCREAM. There're some extras tossed in to earn that Special Edition tag, including audition tapes, deleted scenes, bloopers, and storyboards, but no commentary - which would have been nice on a low budget effort like this one.


TOTAL RECALL is one of those films whose reputation is, in my opinion anyway, better than the reality. It's a good enough picture, with some nice effects and that vicious edge that director Paul Verhoeven does so well, but it never really came together for me when I saw it in theaters, and this repeat visit only reminded me of what a weak lead Schwarzenegger really is. Sharon Stone's still great in it though, and damn if that woman wasn't hot.


EASTER EGG HUNT


SUSPIRIA had barely hit the DVD new release shelves when the DVD REVIEW website posted info of an odd little goodie hidden in the main menu. It seems that if you select the "Special Features" and then press the "Right" arrow on your remote it will highlight one of the feathers on the on-screen peacock. This gives you access to an under-a-minute outtake of Udo Kier irritating the soundman by scraping his nails over a Styrofoam cup. Don't ask me why this feature has been added. I just report them.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Next week we'll have she-devils, axe-murderers, vampires and Christian super-heroes coming at 'ya, and hopefully a few words from the one and only Brian Yuzna, director of the recently released FAUST.



Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.