BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER fans - of which, I am told, there are a few recently saw their fave femme make a triumphant return to TV after a move to the eternally struggling UPN network. Those same fans can likely expect another victory as the pert creature killer finally comes to DVD. On January 15th, 20th Century Fox will unveil a box set of the first season episodes. The three-disc set will feature four episodes per disc along with a commentary, interviews and scripts. Damn near as irresistible a little package as Sarah Michelle herself.
VIDEO BUSINESS magazine, the leading trade publication for video store owners, recently announced the nominees for their first annual "Video Premiere Awards," and the dominance the fantastic film genres have on home video has seldom been more apparent. The "Best Live Action Video Premiere" category featured the upcoming REPLICANT and THE TOMORROW MAN, "Best Director" nominations went to Doug Campbell for THE TOMORROW MAN and Brian Yuzna for FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED. "Best Actor" kudos went out to Adam Baldwin for DR JEKYLL & MR. HYDE, Michael Gross for the just released TREMORS 3 and Christopher Lloyd for the kid-oriented horror film, WHEN GOOD GHOULS GO BAD. Best commentary gave noms to the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE I, and TOTAL RECALL and STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE. THE TOMORROW MAN also earned a nod for "Best Screenplay" as did FAUST: LOVE OF THE DAMNED, WISHMASTER 3: BEYOND THE GATES OF HELL, TREMORS 3: BACK TO PERFECTION, BATTLE QUEEN 2020, and MIMIC 2. I've been covering the direct-to-video (DTV) beat, in various magazines and websites, for over a decade and I, for one, think it's great to see some attention being given to the importance fantasy, sci-fi and horror films play in the continued growth of this area of the business, particularly in the several nominations for the low budget, indie distributed THE TOMORROW MAN.
THIS WEEK'S NEW RELEASES
THE GODFATHER DVD COLLECTION marks the debut on [IMG2R]DVD of one of the best-loved film series ever. Francis Ford Coppola's classic first two films, and his mediocre third, are being released in one complete package along with an extra disc replete with additional features. Plus, Coppola himself provides audio commentaries for each picture. A must-have.
CHILDREN OF THE LIVING DEAD is yet another attempt to build a franchise off of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, rather than somebody just funding George Romero to make another entry in the original series. Blame this one on John Russo, part of the creative team behind the original film, who most recently destroyed any reputation he might have had by creating the abysmal NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 30TH ANNIVERSARY version of the film by inserting new footage and music. This latest effort from Russo is somewhat of a sequel to the 30TH ANNIVERSARY, but it's hardly an improvement. Makeup master/stunt-man/actor Tom Savini puts in a brief and effective appearance, but the rest of the cast is strictly high school level, as is much of the production itself with camera shadows and crew reflections abounding. This might be good for a laugh, but little more.
CIRCUS OF HORRORS is an effective bit of sadistic British horror from the late '50s featuring the imperious Anton Diffiring. Most often cast as a Nazi officer, Diffiring here plays a crazed plastic surgeon who runs a cheesy circus which he staffs with once beautiful women who were the victims of his botched makeovers. This is pretty demented stuff for the era and Diffiring is perfectly cast. Well worth a look.
DARIO ARGENTO: AN EYE FOR HORROR is the first of several horror director documentaries Image Entertainment is releasing. While unavailable for preview, advance word has this one as a must-have for any fan of Argento, perhaps the finest visual artist ever to step behind the camera, and one seriously sick Italian filmmaker to boot. In addition to behind-the-scenes footage from Argento masterpieces such as DEEP RED and SUSPIRIA, this also features interviews with John Carpenter, actresses Jessica Harper and Piper Laurie, and musicians Alice Cooper and Keith Emerson.
HALLOWEEN 4 is a re-release of one of those sequels that feature that guy who isn't Jason and isn't quite Freddy, but he kind of looks like William Shatner and he kills people for some damn reason or another. Jeez, I'm sorry. I just can't recall which one of the FREAKING, INSULTING AND IDIOTIC, NOT TO MENTION TOTALLY UNECESSARY AND INCREDIBLY MIND NUMBING HORROR FRANCHISE SEQUELS THIS IS, BUT THERE'S SOME STUNTMAN IN A MASK KILLING PEOPLE. TRUST ME ON THIS. I KNOW THESE THINGS.
MARIO BAVA: MAESTRO OF THE MACABRE is another documentary from Image, this one on the truly seminal figure of Mario Bava, a man, without whom, Euro-horror might well have never existed. I also have not seen this one, but I'm intrigued to see what its makers have managed to assemble. Bava didn't earn the critical respect Argento did, at least not while he was living, and never had access to the budgets, acting talents, and technical gadgetry that Argento utilized in his work. None of which stopped him from making amazing films that served as a foundation for everyone from Carpenter to Craven and on to Fincher.
THEATRE OF DEATH should not be confused with Vincent Price's marvelous THEATRE OF BLOOD, as this Christopher Lee starrer takes itself pretty seriously. The story involves the owner/operator, and chief suspect, of a Grand Guignol style theatre where people seem to be getting killed by a vampire. While certainly not a forgotten gem, this is a solid little bit of '60s Euro-horror with just a nasty enough edge to keep one's interest.
TIMERIDER:THE ADVENTURES OF LYLE SWAN is one of several ventures into filmmaking the wonderful REPO MAN was another - that former Monkee Mike Nesmith made after inheriting a fortune from his mother (who invented Liquid Paper). While decidedly lightweight, and light-headed, this is pretty fun exercise in the "what-if" school of sci-fi. The question posed here is what if a motorcycle racer passed through a time warp and ended up in the Old West. Yeah, it's a goofy idea, but a great cast, including Fred Ward, Peter Coyote, Tracy Walter, Richard Masur and L.Q. Jones, not to mention the beautiful Belinda Bauer, manage to make it work better than it has any right to. There's a nice rock score from Nesmith, who also wrote the film's script.
WHEN A STRANGER CALLS is the cinematic [IMG3L]version of that popular urban legend where the babysitter learns that the increasingly threatening prank calls she's receiving are actually coming from, inside her house. Dah, dah dahhhhh! Actually, this is a pretty decent suspense tale, which became a theatrical hit and spawned a made-for-TV sequel some years later. Carol Kane soon to be typecast as a ditz for the rest of her career is very effective as the babysitter, as is Charles Durning as a cop. The middle of the film strays from the story's strengths, but the opening and ending still pack some punch.
Superbit isn't some tiny superhero. It's a new DVD concept being tried out by Columbia TriStar. The idea is to offer discs where, instead of utilizing some of the digital storage space for extra features, every little 0 and 1 is put to the service of the film's picture and sound quality. Having not yet had the chance to do a side-by-side comparison, I can't vouch for whether there is a noticeable improvement between standard DVD and Superbit DVD. However, considering the already superb quality of a well-authored standard DVD, I suspect this "improvement" won't catch on with anyone beyond a select cadre of techno-purists. Among the initial Superbit releases are CROUGHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, THE FIFTH ELEMENT and DESPERADO.
EASTER EGG HUNT
The altogether essential DVD REVIEW website reports that MGM's recent Special Edition release of THE TERMINATOR features several hidden goodies, in addition to the plethora of bonus features advertised on the disc. From the main menu on the movie disc go to "Special Features" and highlight "Resume Film." Now, press the "Down" arrow on your remote to highlight a small block at the top of the screen and then press "Enter." This will randomly select one of four interview featurettes. In addition, if you select "Francais" from the "Languages" submenu and then press the "Right" arrow, you will highlight a small block which will give you access to five more randomly selected interviews. But wait, there's more. If you select chapter stop 13-16 from "Scene Selections" and then highlight the "Main Menu" at the bottom of the screen and then press the "Down" button on the remote, you get access to yet another five randomly selected interviews. That's an amazing FOURTEEN hidden interviews on a DVD package already brimming with extra features.
Next week, it's "Thumbs Up" for an incredibly entertaining and imaginative story of outer space heroics. And we'll also take a look at the release of STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE on disc. Be there or be Jar Jar.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.