DVD This Week: May 28 - Mania.com



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DVD This Week: May 28

Columbus gets lost, the king is back but nobody wants him and Sherlock Holmes sleuths-out his double

By John Thonen     May 28, 2002

VIDEO NEWS


MGM will make the small army of John Carpenter fans happy this summer when they finally bring J.C's semi-classic ghost tale THE FOG to DVD. Jamie Lee Curtis, Adrienne Barbeau and Tom Atkins will be onboard with Rob Bottin's waterlogged ghosts. THE FOG is a minor gem of mood, atmosphere and subtle horror as the sins of the fathers pay a visit to Antonio Bay as the town is about to celebrate its centennial anniversary. The disc will offer a commentary from Carpenter and producer Debra Hill, a making-of featurette, outtakes, trailers and TV spots.


In August, Paramount will bring horror fans a nice variety of terror titles spanning some four decades in all. RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE is an OK vampire/werewolf tale from 1943, perhaps most memorable as one of the last quality productions Bela Lugosi would be involved in before his long slide from cinematic grace began. THE REVENGE OF FRANKENSTEIN offers the incomparable Peter Cushing in the second of his turns as Baron Frankenstein. Many consider this 1958 sequel the best of Hammer Studio's Frankenstein film series. THE BROTHERHOOD OF SATAN is a nearly forgotten little gem from 1971 which was created by character actor L.Q. Jones, Strother Martin and Alvy Moore. Highly imaginative and often chilling, this should be a welcome addition to the horror section of anyone's DVD library. Last, and probably least, is the more justly forgotten 976-EVIL, a minor 1989 offering that is probably most notable as the directorial debut of actor Robert (Freddy) Englund, then riding a career high after the NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET films.


THIS WEEK'S NOTABLE NEW RELEASES


THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is a five-disc, box set of all thirteen episodes of the acclaimed British series starring the late Jeremy Brett as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless master detective. The shows effectively achieve their period setting, in spite of limited budgets, and the stories have rarely been told better, but it's Brett's dazzling turn as Holmes that make these shows memorable. In spite of the formidable competition of Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and even Roger Moore, Brett may always be the finest Holmes ever brought to the screen. The first four volumes of this set have been previously released individually, and the fifth volume is being individually released this week as well.


ALONE is [IMG2R]a nice surprise from MTI, who often offer bottom-of-the-barrel, direct-to-video (DTV) fare. Serial killer movies are starting to wear out their welcome and like too many, this one is heavily influenced by David Fincher's SEVEN; still, ALONE delivers real suspense and a directorial style all its own. The story involves a killer who immobilizes women with a drug in order to enjoy a romantic interlude in the pleasure of their company - before killing them of course. There's a couple of cops on his tail and a less-than-satisfying ending, but this one just might mark a promising new talent in director Phillip Claydon.


BURIAL GROUND is a delayed release we've covered before. Suffice it to say that this is an Italian zombie tale from the latter days of that country's reign as the homeland of cinematic gore. Cheaply produced, poorly directed and acted and featuring uneven effects work, this nonetheless has a bit of a following thanks to the overall depravity of some of the acts depicted therein.


CRYPTZ is the latest double feature DVD from Full Moon, this time offering two entries from their urban-themed "Big City" label the second title being the previously released RAGDOLL. CRYPTZ is unseen by yours truly at this moment, but it was directed by Danny Draven, who did a surprisingly OK job with HORRORVISION. RAGDOLL is a pretty decent offering from director Ted Nicolaou, though it's much more effective in its music sequences than it is in those involving the title's tiny terror. This double feature package is potentially a decent value for "B" movie fans who realize that the "B" means "Budget."


DARK SHADOWS VOL. 1 is the first of a likely long line of DVD releases of the fondly remembered daytime horror-oriented soap opera serial. This set includes forty black and white episodes of the show on four discs, as well as interviews with cast and creative team members. Early episodes of the show are jettisoned here, as the collection begins with the introduction of Jonathan Frid's Barnabas Collins, the vampiric character whose arrival propelled the gothic toned series into full blown horror and enormous cult popularity which has hardly lessened over the span of more than thirty years.




HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE is one of the most successful films of all time, and it certainly has its supporters. I do not count myself among them. The special effects are fine and, excepting bland young Daniel Radcliffe in the title role, the cast is quite excellent. However, the film moves at an incredibly slow pace and rarely really captures the sense of magic found in J.K. Rowling's enormously popular Harry Potter books, choosing instead to overwhelm the viewer with digital effects. This is far from being unwatchable, but it is a major disappointment.


HOLLOW MAN finds director Paul Verhoeven's largely vilified invisible man tale receiving a rather unwarranted two-disc, Deluxe Super-Bit release. The "claimed" higher visual quality of the Super-Bit discs may be desirable during the amazing special effects dominated portions of the film. But the rest of the time, you'll probably wish there were no visuals, rather than sharper ones, as this wallow in Verhoeven's misanthropic, misogynistic mind features terrible dialogue, a stupid plot, bad acting galore and an ending that would require sedating an entire audience to get them to believe it. The dual disc set does include three deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette and an HBO "Making Of" documentary.


KISS OF THE TARANTULA is the kind of movie that helped make the drive-in theatre such a popular spot for young people from the '50s-'70s. It's a film so bad that even a virginal, Catholic nun-in-training could get so bored that she'd climb in the back seat of your car to allow you to unleash your little monster. What's more, terrible as this WILLARD inspired tale is, it does have a couple of effective scare scenes to get her holding you tight, while you take a cheap, sneak peek down her blouse. In spite of the title, the spiders are a fairly minor presence here, and the rest of the film holds zero entertainment value. But I bet there's a couple thousand forty-something guys who made like an eight-armed creature with their dates while this snorefest was playing in 1972, and I'd guess they'd fondly salute it. Though probably not with the same appendage they did then.


PHANTOM SHIP is a 1935 telling of one of the most famous of maritime tales, one which has provided the inspiration for more than a few ocean-set horror films: the mystery of the Marie Celeste. In 1872 the vessel was found totally abandoned, showing no signs of violence, disaster or any other explanation for where its crew had gone. This rather creaky film has managed to hold on to some audience interest solely due to the presence of Bela Lugosi as a one-armed seaman, but it's otherwise slow-going.


SILVER BULLET is another low-watermark in the not-all-that-exalted pantheon of Stephen King derived films, though it must be credited with being several notches better than GRAVEYARD SHIFT. Produced by Dino (I wouldn't know a good movie if it bit me on the ass) De Laurentiis, it's the only theatrical feature from director Daniel Attias (though, to be fair, he's had a fine career on TV, directing for BUFFY, ALIAS, THE SOPRANOS and others) who must have had as bad a time making this film as most people do watching it. The only real saving grace of this clumsy werewolf tale is its cast, which is largely comprised of character actors. Everett McGill, Terry O'Quinn, Bill Smitrovich and Gary Busey all turn in solid work, and young Corey Haim reminds us that he really had talent before the Hollywood "Star" lifestyle destroyed him.


STARSHIP TROOPERS is a 2-disc release of Paul Verhoeven's other major misfire (see HOLLOW MAN above) which pretty well erased the goodwill he engendered with his earlier films, notably ROBOCOP. While largely reviled by fans and critics alike when released to theaters thanks to bad acting, dreadful dialogue and an over-reliance on effects and gore the film plays far better on the small screen and might be due for some moderate reconsideration. Verhoeven set out to make an anti-fascist film wherein all the characters are basically fascists. He doesn't want us to like or admire them, but to instead see that they have lost their humanity - to recognize that they are being guided more by government propaganda than by a justifiably fervent desire for revenge against the over-sized alien bugs whose sneak attack on Earth slaughtered millions of innocents. Commenting on a society whose members are empty and soulless by presenting those exact type characters in a film has been done before, notably by Stanley Kubrick in 2001: A SPACE ODDYSEY and, less successfully, by John Carpenter in PRINCE OF DARKNESS. The problem is that, unless you've got something else to mesmerize your audience with visceral horror, transcendent science fiction having characters your audience doesn't care for, or about, makes for tough going for a film. Still, give this one another look and see if you can't recognize that, however unsuccessfully, Verhoeven had more on his mind than just an action-packed, jingoistic special effects showcase. Disc one features the film along with a commentary track from Verhoeven and some of his cast, and another with Verhoeven and producer Ed Neumeier, as well as an isolated film score. Disc two offers deleted scenes, a making of documentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, screen tests, scene "deconstructions" and more.


WATCH ME [IMG5L]WHEN I KILL is the trashy U.S. title of 1977's THE CAT WITH JADE EYES, an Italian produced knock-off of Dario Argento's classic DEEP RED, which had been an international hit a couple of years earlier. Unlike most such creatively uninspired films, this is a better-than-average entry in the unique horror sub-genre the Italians created; which feature unseen killers and elaborate murder sequences with sexually fetishistic motivations. Fans of Argento's work will find that some of this film too closely mirrors his, but director Antonio Bido shows himself to have his own strengths as well. As with most giallos, the plot won't even hold up to a cursory scrutiny, and the acting is even weaker. But that's not what these films are about. They're about style, violence and perversity, and this one delivers better than most.


EASTER EGG HUNT


The recent BBC Home Video release of the British series THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY offers a couple of fun hidden goodies. On the first disc, wait for the main menu and do nothing for a couple of minutes and you'll soon find the disc is under the control of the "Infinite Improbability Drive," a silly and fun little feature much in keeping with the show's sense of humor. Go back to the "Main Menu" and then select "Set Up" and then press your "left" control and you'll encounter a screen asking for a four-digit code. The code is 1146, taken from the time of Earth's destruction in the series, 11:46 AM. This entry will treat you to some additional footage of our home world's destruction as well as some nonsense information on the "Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster." Now, move on to disc two and from the first menu select "Communicate" and press your "Left" control and enjoy the complete credit sequence. As is so often the case, we want to credit DVDREVIEW.COM for the above information. We appreciate them saving us the effort of hunting out this junk.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Next week: a reminder of the days when Dennis Hopper was a great actor, a hint that Richard Gere might be a great actor, a comedy ghost movie with one great actor and Steve Guttenberg, and a movie with Weird Al Yankovic, who isn't really a great anything, but he is less annoying than Carrot Top.


Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.


Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at feedback@cinescape.com.

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