DVD & VHS This Week: April 23 - Mania.com



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DVD & VHS This Week: April 23

BEHIND ENEMY LINES, the real-life DRACULA, and the SOUTH PARK boys' ORGAZMO head up this week's releases

By John Thonen     April 23, 2002


DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE
© 2002 Artisan Home Entertainment

VIDEO NEWS


Buena Vista recently announced that they would be releasing Tim Burton's wonderful ED WOOD on DVD this summer on August 13. Burton's film is in glorious black and white and boasts a pair of top of the line performances from Johnny Depp as talent-less but committed no-budget filmmaker Wood and Martin Landau as a foul-talking, drug addled Bela Lugosi. No word yet on disc extras for the release, which will probably be slim. Still, one would hope that after all the DVD extras provided for Burton's dreadful PLANET OF THE APES remake, that ED WOOD would at least get a commentary or something. We'll let you know.


The upcoming, and highly anticipated, SPIDER-MAN movie will undoubtedly serve to increase the already sizable legend (and ego) of Stan Lee, founder and long-time head honcho of Spider-Man's home, Marvel Comics, making this summer the perfect time to release MUTANTS, MONSTERS AND MARVELS, writer/director and comic book fanatic Kevin (DOGMA) Smith's spent time documentary feature on Lee's long career, with an emphasis on his years at Marvel and the hugely popular characters they brought to the company. A DVD of Smith's film will hit your favorite store sometime this summer. The disc will also feature a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with Lee's wife, Lee home movies and a featurette on the never released FANTASTIC FOUR feature film which was produced on a shoestring by Roger Corman and then shelved.


Horrordvds.com is reporting that MGM may be doing wrong by fans of Dan O'Bannon's highly enjoyable RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD. O'Bannon has recorded a commentary track for the fan favorite's DVD release and had recently completed supervising a re-mastered new print of the film for the DVD to use. Now, O'Bannon is saying that MGM may not use the new print, instead relying on an older and hardly pristine print. O'Bannon is leaking word of this unpalatable situation to the fan press in the hope that fan pressure may make the studio change its mind. The Vidiot is glad to lend his considerable weight (in actual pounds, not influence) to the cause as well. Horrordvds.com is urging everyone to be polite and respectful and to contact MGM at 4you@MGM.com, or homeentertainment@mgm.com or to call their customer service line at 1-877-646-4968 or to even petition by snail mail to MGM c/o Marketing Dept. 2500 Broadway Santa Monica, CA 90404. Stand up and be counted film geeks, let MGM know how you feel.


THIS WEEK'S NOTEWORTHY NEW RELEASES


ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD is a Disney-fied remake of a minor gem from 1951. It's a little overwhelmed by the special effects depicting angels helping a losing major league ball club (the original had no effects at all) but it's not without its charms. Christopher Lloyd overacts shamelessly as the head angel and Danny Glover's bark is, expectedly, far worse than his bite as the embattled team manager. If you've got pre-teen kids, this one ought to fill the bill as a family night movie.


THE BRIDES WORE BLOOD is a 1972, Florida-lensed obscurity chock-full of bad acting, a terrible script and cheesy production values. Luckily, it's all compensated for by... well, nothing really. If this one had remained in cinematic limbo land it would have been no loss, but bad movie fans just might get a kick out of it. The film is relentlessly serious and somber as it spins its tale of a woman raped by a vampire and then held prisoner in the legendary DeLorca mansion in hopes that the child that results from her rape will finally free the DeLorca family from a vampiric curse.


BEHIND ENEMY

DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE

LINES is a competent but uninspired action tale that hit it lucky at the box office when, in the wake of September 11, audiences embraced its tale of a downed American trying to make it across a war torn land to a rescue rendezvous. The production values are impressive and the action dazzling, but the film, and the audience, benefit most from the cast. Gene Hackman is the gruff but caring officer, Owen Wilson is a likeable outlaw soldier and David Keith is Hackman's loyal, but honest, first officer. Director John Moore tries too hard to emulate Michael Bay, but the film works in spite of the often overwhelming quick cuts. The DVD offers a commentary from the film's director and editor, as well as another from the producers. Also included are a "behind the scenes" featurette and a handful of deleted scenes.


THE CASSANDRA CROSSING comes from the days in the 1970s when all-star disaster movies were all the rage. This one offers Richard Harris, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Burt Lancaster and O.J. (The Killer) Simpson himself in a story about a train whose passengers may be contaminated by a virus stolen from a military research center. Campy dialogue, overblown theatrics and some genuine excitement abound as the train rolls across Europe towards the title location where the military plans to blow up the bridge in order to avoid possible contamination by the virus. It's all very silly, but the cast is game and director George P. (RAMBO, TOMBSTONE) Cosmatos is a bit of a master at this kind of nonsense.


DRACULA: THE DARK PRINCE purports to be the "true" story of Vlad "Dracul" Tepes, the man widely regarded to have been the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker's DRACULA. The film, which premiered on cable's USA Network TV last year, is a surprisingly dark, romantic tragedy enlivened by some swashbuckling action sequences and strong performances from such unlikely candidates as Peter Weller, Roger Daltry, sexy Jane March and, in particular, Rudolph Martin. Martin essays the title nobleman, who saved his homeland from invasion by the Turks by displaying a level of brutality that made the attacking hordes afraid to incur his wrath. Director Joe Chappelle, who has rarely given indication that he was more than a hack, seems to have used his horror roots (HALLOWEEN 6, HELLRAISER 4, PHANTOMS) to effectively color a story which really has nothing to do with conventional screen horror, but which needed that element to maintain the connection between Vlad and his literary offspring. It's not great, but it's worth a look.


GARDEN OF THE DEAD is another obscurity from Fred Olen Ray's Retromedia. This one, from 1972, involves convicts who have taken to sniffing formaldehyde for kicks. When they get bumped off during an escape attempt, it turns out the formaldehyde has preserved them and they soon rise from their graves for revenge. Shot on a shoestring (the "prison" seems to consist of some chicken wire and a couple of shacks) this fifty-nine minute "feature" manages to be a little eerie at times and its fast-moving zombies are a pleasant change from the shambling hulks of most horror films. Retromedia has a surprisingly good print of this little known item, as well as the film's original trailer, but I can really only recommend this one to zombie movie completists.


THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION is unlikely to be anyone's idea of a good film, but many will likely find it a good time. Several Hollywood has-beens - Alan (GILLIGAN'S ISLAND) Hale, Barbara (PERRY MASON) Hale and Leslie (LIL' ABNER) Parrish - team up with Hollywood never was'es Robert Easton and Steve Brodie to battle a big parade float spider mounted on a VW bug. It all has something to do with black holes and some of it is way too similar to the Stephen King starring "Jordy Verrill" segment of CREEPSHOW, which was made seven years later. Retromedia's DVD of the film features a mini-poster, cast and crew interviews and a still gallery. Be sure and check out Cinescape's interview with the film's director, Bill Rebane, elsewhere on this site in the coming days.


KONG ISLAND

The superhero porn spoof ORGAZMO

aka King Of Kong Island and filmed as EVE: THE WILD WOMAN is a 1968 Spanish bore-fest with former sword and sandal star Brad Harris and a story about a scientist who is controlling gorillas with a remote device. This was released in the early days of video and consisted of a lot of badly acted dialogue, fake sets and lousy gorilla costumes. Retromedia's DVD release is the uncut, European version of the film which, while still containing the above faults, reportedly livens the proceedings a bit with nudity and gore.


ORGAZMO is the first live action feature from Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of SOUTH PARK infamy, since their poorly received, and sadly underrated BASEKETBALL. In comparison to the inspired lunacy of their SOUTH PARK film and TV work, ORGAZMO has to be counted as a misfire. However,

Owen Wilson charges into action against a relentless and deadly tracker in BEHIND ENEMY LINES

there are more than enough laughs and groans, in this tale of a devout Mormon who ends up playing a superhero in a series of porn films, to satisfy their legions of fans. Several real-life porn performers appear and Parker himself tackles the lead role. Part of the film's problem is that it's actually too tasteful and not nearly as outrageous as you'd expect, and co-directors Parker and Stone have little sense of pace, so the film sometimes drags. The DVD includes deleted footage and a commentary track.


THINNER / CUJO is Artisan's delayed, 2-DVD set of two of the better films based on the works of Stephen King, faint praise though that may be. The former suffers from a lack of a likable protagonist, but this tale of an overweight lawyer cursed by gypsies to begin losing weight, forever, is well acted and has some honestly chilling moments. CUJO, which involves a rabid St. Bernard, a young boy and his mother, is also very well acted, as well as being slickly directed and well paced. Available all over the net for under twenty bucks, this one is a pretty decent deal.


VOODOO NIGHTMARE

KONG ISLAND

is yet another seriously obscure offering this week, this one about a California girl searching the jungles of Malaysia for her missing mother and finding her expedition threatened by a Pontianak, a female demon. I have to admit I haven't seen this one, or even heard of it before its release was announced, but I hope to check it out soon and report my findings as soon as possible.


IT CAME FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF


SEVERED hit video a few weeks ago as an unknown and unseen title. As is often the case, I find, after viewing it, that the film was better left unseen. This shot-on-video exercise in tedium is fairly well-produced and offers a nifty little decapitation in the movie's opening minutes, but beyond these few merits, there is little else to recommend it. The acting is atrocious, the plot involving a voodoo spirit-possessed man head-chopping his way through a city is way too familiar and the "shock" ending wouldn't surprise Helen Keller. Pretty dreadful stuff.


EASTER EGG HUNT


Again, this week, the Vidiot's usual, frantic, last minute search for new DVD Easter egg information came up empty-handed. However, I did come across a slightly older hidden goodie I hope you'll enjoy. It seems that in the TWIN PEAKS: FIRST SEASON DVD package there are several camouflaged treats for fans without a life to drool over. On Episode 1, choose "Episode Features" and press "Up" to reveal a flame icon in the upper left corner. Now, press "Enter" and watch part of an interview with PEAKS director Duwayne Dunham. Do the same thing for Episode 2 for an interview with director of photography Frank Byers. The same pattern on Episode 4 will offer an outtake of an interview with director Tina Rathborne. This pattern continues on other episodes with comments from director Tim Hunter and writer Robert Engels, director Lesli Linka Glatter, director Caleb Deschanel, and production designer Richard Hoover.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


There's SCREAMING in the DARKNESS as VAMPIRES and ZOMBIES meet the RE-ANIMATOR and DR. LAMB here in Vidiocy Land. And it's only a mere seven days away.




Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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