Everybody has to start somewhere and Steven Spielberg first grabbed the attention of critics and audiences with the 1971 TV movie DUEL. On May 21st, Universal will bring the film to DVD in a special edition package featuring a Spielberg interview, a making of featurette, production stills and some DVD-ROM goodies. That same day, Universal will also unveil a special edition DVD of 1953's IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. This classic, '50s sci-fi tale was penned by no less than Ray Bradbury and the disc will offer stills, a featurette and a commentary track by genre historian Tom Weaver, easily one of the most knowledgeable men to ever write about fantastic cinema. Last, but far from least, the 21st will also see Universal offering us 1971's SILENT RUNNING, one of only two feature films directed by special effects wizard Douglas (2001, STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE) Trumbull. Fine effects work, actor Bruce Dern's finest work, robots who were clearly the inspiration for R2-D2, and a storyline that actually wants to say something (remember those days?) all are attributes of the film itself, while the DVD will offer a featurette, stills, a making of documentary and most enticing of all a commentary track from Trumbull and his star Dern. Everybody better start saving now, because you're going to want all three of these.
Meanwhile, Warner Home Video has announced their plans to release a pair of horror classics from Hammer Studios. 1958's HORROR OF DRACULA may well be the best overall version of Bram Stoker's fondly remembered tale, and the film created horror stars out of the little known Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, the latter of whom has seen a recent career resurgence in LORD OF THE RINGS and the upcoming STAR WARS: EPISODE II ATTACK OF THE CLONES. While not quite the masterpiece the previous film is, 1957's THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN, Hammer's first major success in the horror genre, also features Cushing and Lee. No word yet on any extras on the DVDs, but one can certainly hope there will be.
THIS WEEK'S NOTEWORTHY NEW RELEASES
THE BACKLOT [IMG4L]MURDERS is an, as yet, unseen-by-yours-truly slasher spoof featuring a spectacular "has-been" cast comprised of Corey (LOST BOYS) Haim, Priscilla (THREE'S COMPANY) Barnes and Charles (voice of ROGER RABBIT) Fleischer. According to blurbs on the website of the production company behind it, this one supposedly satirizes the greed and petty egomania of the film industry, while still delivering the goods as a stalk-and-slash. Not content to just send-up the film business, the movie also takes shots at the music industry since the main targets of the film's psycho killer is the members of a rock band who are shooting their music video on a studio backlot. It's a workable enough premise I suppose, but considering that the people behind it are those responsible for the abysmal post-apocalyptic, martial arts film GANGLAND, I'll believe it when I see it. Which, sadly, I probably will do.
DEMONS IN MY HEAD is a British tale of a guy who is obsessed with a particular female, who finds a meteor in his yard which contains a pair of headphones which make the wearer's thoughts materialize. The problem is, the more you wear them, the closer you are becoming part of some sort of PHANTASM-like, demon populated, alternate universe. That's really it. There's little more plot than that, even less in the way of special effects and even less in the way of characters you want to care about, or even want to spend ninety minutes with. While competently made, this one is really a waste of the precious remaining moments of your life.
MULHOLLAND DRIVE is the latest offering from one of the great filmmaking eccentrics of all time, David Lynch. I'll be the first to admit that I had thought Lynch was washed up. The debacle of FIRE WALK WITH ME, the fun but sloppy LOST HIGHWAY and the very mainstream oriented THE STRAIGHT STORY seemed to point to a unique talent who had used up what he had to offer and was now abandoning the very personal artistry of his early works. Boy was I wrong. For Lynch fans, MULHOLLAND DRIVE is likely to become the new standard by which his films are judged, surpassing even BLUE VELVET as an artistic high watermark. The film is about - well, truthfully, you'll probably never really know what it's about an amnesia victim who is befriended by a wannabe actress and their attempts to learn who the one woman is. But don't worry about those plot details. This is the film VANILLA SKY wanted to be and which EYES WIDE SHUT was, but so few knew it. This is an examination of the loss of self, dream states, the madness of the subconscious and the dishonesty of the conscious. This is as good a piece of art as has emerged from cinema in the past twenty years. Oh yeah, and I liked it.
THE MUMMY Collection is
SPY GAME was the second of Robert Redford's attempts to re-stake a claim to superstar status. While his first shot, THE LAST CASTLE, fell short of the actor's goals, SPY GAME was a solid hit and, while hardly special, is a solid piece of entertainment. Redford stars with Brad Pitt (who, like Redford, is a fine actor often under-respected due to his good looks) as a pair of CIA agents. The film opens with an exciting sequence where Pit is captured inside China on a non-sanctioned rescue mission. Redford's character finds himself, on his last day with the agency, being grilled by his superiors about Pitt, whom Redford first brought into the CIA. In so doing, he recalls their entire relationship. While the film's happy ending stretches credulity, it is clever and satisfying, as is the overall flashback structure of the film and all of the performances. This is Hollywood, mainstream filmmaking at its best.
FROM THE BOTTOM SHELF
SEVERED hit video a few weeks ago as that rare title unseen by the Vidiot, who wishes he'd been smart enough to keep it that way. This shot-on-video tale involves a bounty hunter brought in by the police to help them catch a prolific serial killer who has now begun to claim one human head a night. Technically, outside of some just OK sound work, this is a fairly accomplished production, with moody lighting, chase sequences, some decent stunts and one or two nifty decapitations. However, the acting ranges from amateur to almost tolerable with the lead falling solidly in the former category. The movie's plot is strictly by the numbers, as is the directing, which has no discernable pace and looks to have been planned after a quick read-through of a Directing 101 textbook.
EASTER EGG HUNT
One of the most enjoyable thrillers of recent years, Bryan Singer's THE USUAL SUSPECTS, becomes even more fun thanks to DVDREVEW.COM's recent announcement of the following hidden goodie on the film's recently released special edition DVD. From the "Main Menu" on the "Special Features" side of the disc press your "Up" key until the "Usual Suspects" logo is selected. Now press "Enter" which will allow you to access a hidden menu screen. Here's the tricky part: in order to find the disc's Easter eggs, you have to select a series of items in the following order: "Bulletin Board," "Guatemala," "Lady," and "Broken Kobayashi Cup." This gives you the option of watching outtakes from several interviews with production personnel, or a longer interview with the film's composer/editor John Ottman.
Next week: Bad stepfathers, bad dates, bad help and an eternal bad ass and a few bad movies. So be good for goodness sakes.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.