· Double-Feature Deluge: Relative newcomer DVD label Marengo Films will be distributing a number of double-feature discs previously released to VHS under the Englewood Films banner. These include some public domain titles as well as a number of exclusives from the Wade Williams Collection who, among others, controls the rights to most of Ed Wood's films as well as popular "classic age" films such as Kronos, Rocketship X-M and Teenagers From Outer Space. Start watching for the first releases later this summer.
· Maniac exploitation director William Lustig has long been one of the guiding hands behind Anchor Bay's impressive video releases, so it's about time that the most notorious film of his - or just about anyone else's career hit video in a manner befitting its infamy. Arriving 8/21/01 will be the pinnacle, or nadir depending on your view, of the 1980s gore flick mania - Lustig's Maniac, a film unrepentantly overdosed in violence, gore and perversion, all wrapped in a patina of unrelenting misogyny. The late character actor Joe Spinell gives a career defining performance of scenery chewing intensity as a serial killer given to scalping his female victims and to romancing gorgeous Caroline Munro. This Special Edition features a documentary on Spinell, audio interviews with Lustig, Spinell and Munro, a still photo gallery, trailers and TV spots, and a commentary track featuring Lustig and make-up effects wizard Tom Savini, as well as the film's editor and Spinell's friend and assistant, Luke Walter. There will also be a limited (5000) edition tin that features a CD of the film's score.
· Schlock's late August release may gain some extra attention as an early "monkeying around" effort of effects master Rick Baker (whose work will soon grace the new Planet of the Apes). John (Animal House) Landis directed and wore the ape-man suite for this goofy tale of a runaway missing link known as the Schlockthropus. It's all sophomorically funny and also includes a commentary from Landis and Baker on the DVD.
· The Wicker Man is an end-of-summer release that should excite genre fans who like their horror understated, intelligent and all too plausible. The film itself is an almost legendary, and too little seen, tale of a staid British policeman investigating strange goings-ons taking place on an isolated Scottish island where some old-time traditions are still being taken all too seriously. Directed by Robin Hard and written by Anthony (Sleuth) Shaffer, this is a film that more than deserves its reputation. The DVD Special Edition will include interviews with stars Christopher Lee, Edward Woodward, Ingrid Pitt, as well as Shaffer, the film's assistant director, and a number of others. A two-disc limited edition set will also be available in a special wooden box and will offer the U.S. cut of the film and the longer European version.
· Lord of the Rings will hit video in mid-September. No, not Peter Jackson's eagerly anticipated telling of the classic tales, but the animated version of it and author Tolkien's The Hobbit. Neither are successful renditions of Tolkien's venerated books, but neither are they total failures either. Often controversial director Ralph Bakshi has recently acknowledged that he fell short of the mark in his animated versions, but has also stated that Jackson will do the same as he now feels that the novels are un-filmable by anyone, no matter who or what the cast, technology or production cost. As much as I look forward to Jackson's films, I can't deny that I fear Bakshi is right.
THIS WEEK'S RELEASES
· Basket Case is the kind of seriously twisted cult film that is hard to imagine would even get released today. Instead, it became a hit and spawned two lesser sequels. The dark, demented and slightly daffy tale involves a pair of twins, the normal looking Duane and his deformed Siamese twin brother. Little more than a head and arms, Belial was removed at birth and discarded, but he survived, and is now out for revenge. Alternately humorous and horrific, the film works on a number of levels, some of which probably weren't even intended. This is also a Special Edition with a commentary track from the director and several of the cast, along with outtakes, behind the scenes footage, trailers, a photo gallery and several other extras.
· The Caveman's Valentine is an impressive and original achievement whose only real antecedent would be Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King. Lead character Romulus is a homeless schizophrenic living in a cave in a New York City park. His delusions make him believe in an evil mastermind projecting mind-control rays over the city, but his witnessing of a real-life murder begins to blur the lines between his fantasy and the reality he has largely forgotten. Samuel L. Jackson is spectacular in the title role and the film boasts some dazzling effects to depict Romulus' hallucinations. This is a different and not easily embraced film, but the effort is well worth it.
· The Family Man is almost a textbook example of all that is wrong in present day Hollywood. It is yet another ill advised remake this time of It's A Wonderful Life - and purports to be about average people and their most heartfelt emotions, yet has been made by people who clearly have no understanding of either. There's also a Special Edition DVD which offers deleted scenes and outtakes, a music video, one of those lame "spotlight" behind the scenes programs, and a separate music score featuring a commentary from composer Danny Elfman.
· The Gift will likely make a fascinating companion to director Sam Raimi's upcoming Spider-man in that the former is a subdued, actor-driven tale of the supernatural which Raimi likely chose to prove his chops beyond the cartoon-like chaos of the films that had built his reputation, while the latter is a return to those very roots. Cate Blanchett excels here as a very average Southern woman with psychic gifts, but the real surprise is Keanu Reeves as a brutish redneck. Deliberately paced and far too solemn, the film is not without its rewards, but is more misfire than bull's-eye.
· The Hypnotist is one of the films, along with Ring that have helped launch a new wave of Japanese horror films. This one is gory and gruesome, but also seems to be saying something about the effects of the popular entertainments we all welcome into our lives (and which this site celebrates) but which may have their negative aspects. The film deals with a series of murders which one detective begins to suspect may be caused by a popular TV hypnotist. ADV is to be thanked for venturing past their usual anime releases to bring us this live-action, subtitled title.
· Meet Joe Black is yet another example of pointless remakes that lack a basic understanding of the human situation, and somehow, 80 million dollars was spent to make this one. Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins top line this soulless retread of Death Takes A Holiday which wasn't so hot to start with. Billed as "The Ultimate Edition," the DVD offers two discs, including the original film, deleted scenes, a photo gallery, a "spotlight" production short and a few of the standard extras.
· Mimic 2 is a capable, if less-than-special, direct-to-video follow up to Guillermo del Toro's effective original about mutated, highly intelligent bugs accidentally created through gene experimentation. Alix Koromzay, who played a supporting role in the original, takes the lead this time, and proves more than worthy. The effects depicting the bugs, while considerably less in number, are quite effective and the film should satisfy fans of the original. This is planned as the start of a video franchise and, while the concept itself doesn't seem to merit it, should do just that.
· Once Upon A Time In China 3 completes Columbia's release of Jet Li's star making trilogy about legendary Chinese martial arts master, Wong Fei-hung. Fans of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon should enjoy the often fanciful fighting and fans of Li's current Kiss of the Dragon will enjoy seeing more of Li's undeniable charisma. This is also available in a 3-pack featuring the previously released first two films.
· Rick Wakeman: Journey To The Center of the Earth is a music video of a live performance of keyboard master Wakeman who recorded several thematic albums in the 60s and 70s which featured lyrics and music to relate stories known to most through books and film adaptations.
· Tiger Claws 3 wasn't available for preview, but features several direct-to-video, martial arts stars, including Cynthia Rothrock, Jalal Merhi and Loren Avedon, as well as Hong Kong star Carter Wong. This has been on the shelf for two years, but may still provide some cheap thrills for martial arts fanatics.
In case my comments give you the impression I might actually know what I'm talking about, anime title comments are informational only and not critical comments from a guy who rarely watches this stuff.
· Magic Users Club #2: Magic Is So Easy is a delayed release already mentioned here a couple of weeks ago. The storyline pits the members of a magic club against alien invaders.
· Gatchaman Collection is a three-volume mini-series that continues the story of an earlier, like-named hit TV series. This one involves alien Galactors in pursuit of "The Red Specter" which is being protected by The Gatchaman Group. There are plasma beams, undersea bases, warriors and more involved, but no mention of the usually requisite giant robot.
· Getter Robo #1: Armageddon does have large, battling robots, as well as alien invaders. Saved in the past by the robots, mankind came to distrust their saviors and tried to destroy them. Now a new threat is on the horizon and humankind can only pray for the return of the Getter Robos.
· Gundam Wing: Operation #8 features episodes 36-40 of the popular space opera series revolving around the Gundam pilots.
· Gundam Wing: Operation #9 features episodes 41-45 as the Gundam pilots face off with the battle OZ forces in the ongoing war.
· Metal Fighter Miku posits a future where the world's most popular sport is female wrestling and the girls of the TWP go up against champions, Team Sapphire.
· Rurouni Kenshin 7: Shadow of the Wolf features episodes 28-31 of the ongoing fight between Kenshin and his former friend.
· Vampire Princess Miyu: vOl. 2 features two episodes of this excellent series. In these stories, Miyu attempts to gain the help of her adversary, Himiko, in order to defeat Shinma.
EASTER EGG HUNT
· The Fifth Element DVD features a minor goodie if you select "gallery" from the main menu and then select the "four elements" from the menu. The first page is about the development of the film's story, but on the second page the phrase "It Must Be Found" features an "S" that looks an awful lot like a "5." Use the up arrow to highlight "Must" and hit your enter button. The "S" will change color and if you hit enter 4 more times you get an interview with the film's co-star, and Besson's short-term wife, Milla Jovovich.
Next Week: More trips to Hell - including the latest teen slasher - big lizards, little budgets and TV fare that beats most genre films. And remember, just because you're a vidiot, it doesn't mean you're dumb. Doesn't mean you aren't either, but keep a happy thought!
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.