While many video companies are scaling back on the release of extras laden classic film DVD special editions, Warner Home Video recently announced five new ones coming this September. The announcement includes three Academy Award Winners: AMADEUS: Director's Cut, ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and UNFORGIVEN: 10th Anniversary Edition, along with the eternally popular SINGIN' IN THE RAIN: 50th Anniversary Edition and the cult favorite TRUE ROMANCE: Unrated Director's Cut.
All five films are digitally remastered and will be double-disc packages with a list price of $26.99. AMADEUS will feature twenty additional minutes of footage, a behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary track with director Milos Forman and its writer. CUCKOO'S NEST will feature additional scenes, a making-of documentary and commentary from Milos Forman and producers Michael Douglas and Saul Zaentz. Clint Eastwood's UNFORGIVEN will feature a commentary track from TIME magazine critic Richard Schickel, a behind-the-scenes documentary, a featurette hosted by co-star Morgan Freeman, interviews with stars Eastwood, Freeman, Gene Hackman, and Richard Harris and an episode of the old MAVERICK TV series where Eastwood plays a very similar character. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN will feature commentary from MOULIN ROUGE director Baz Luhrmann, a deleted musical number, a documentary on the film and a commentary track hosted by star Debbie Reynolds which features comments from the likes of star Donald O'Connor, dancer Cyd Charisse, actresses Kathleen Freeman and Rita Moreno, writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and director Stanley Donen, plus a feature length documentary on songwriter Arthur Freed. TRUE ROMANCE is a bit out-of-place with the above classics, but it's no less feature-packed, offering three separate commentaries director Tony Scott, star Christian Slater with star Patricia Arquette and another with writer Quentin Tarantino - plus deleted and extended scenes (with optional commentaries from Scott or Tarantino), and shorter selective scene commentaries from co-stars Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt and Michael Rapaport.
ANDROMEDA: Season One, VOL. ONE is all the proof we need that the recent popularity of releasing TV series on DVD may not be as great as it seemed when X-FILES and ST:TNG spearheaded the concept. Now we've got the embarrassment of this hunk of video game level in terms of both special effects and intellectual content dreck occupying a shelf at the local Best Buy. For God's sake, they could put copies of ERNEST GETS EMBALMED there and make better use of the space. A special note to any genuine fans of ANDROMEDA... Oh, what's the point, I doubt any of them know how to read.
CARNIVAL OF SOULS is yet another DVD re-release of the classic, but public domain, black and white chiller from 1962. Last year's two-disc feature-packed director's cut release, from Criterion, of this spooky little item is really the best way to see this film. But this re-release from Rhino does carry a list price of just $9.95, meaning you might find it as cheap as half that amount, and at that price, you owe it to yourself to buy it if you've never seen it.
COLLATERAL DAMAGE is [IMG2R]the kind of film which should have gone direct-to-video and then quickly to cable TV. In these venues, its action sequences could be enjoyed while talking on the phone and slurping a Snapple, and the stupidity of the rest of it could be avoided by trips to the bathroom or judicious speed searching. However, this was big Arnie's big return to big action and to, the producers hoped, big box office. This tale of a fireman out for revenge for the deaths of his wife and child in a terrorist bombing is exactly the kind of film S spoofed in THE LAST ACTION HERO. Face it Arnold, your time has come and gone.
CORPSE GRINDERS II is [IMG3L]a shot-on-video sequel to director T.V. Mikel's incomprehensibly popular cult snore-fest from 1972. While I didn't care for the original, or most of Mikel's other no-budget efforts, this new offering has a fun, tongue-in-cheek quality his past films which were often played woefully straight lacked. The first half of the film is a virtual remake of the first, except that it involves the descendants of the original owners of the Lotus Cat Food company, who are following family tradition by putting humans in their pet chow. The last half of the film pulls out all the stops as it drags in warring cat and dog people aliens.
CRYPT OF THE LIVING DEAD (a.k.a. YOUNG HANNAH, QUEEN OF VAMPIRES) is [IMG4R]a 1972 Turkish dud which distributors tried to spice up a little by adding some additional footage shot in the U.S. It didn't help. There's witchery, bloodsucking and bad acting on display, but the film moves at a pace only slightly faster than the average corpse. For die-hard, Euro-horror completists only.
DANCE OF DEATH is one of several films the great Boris Karloff made near the end of his life. The majority of the films were shot on the cheap in Mexico, with Karloff's scenes (the actor was seriously ill at this point in his life) shot in the U.S. by exploitation director Jack (SPIDER BABY) Hill. Like the others, this is a dreadful film and a sad way to bid a cinematic goodbye to one of the true greats of horror.
DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is a seldom seen, 1968 TV adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale about the beast that lies within each of us. While lacking quite a bit in production values it was shot on early video equipment, features threadbare sets and stock music from producer Dan Curtis' DARK SHADOWS TV series this is an intelligent adaptation with excellent performances, particularly by Jack Palance in the dual title roles. This is another Rhino budget-priced DVD and certainly merits a look.
DRAGONFLY is the latest box office nail in the coffin for Kevin Costner's career. Does anybody recall why this guy was ever a star? Anyway, this dud involves a bland actor in his late 40s pretending to be married to a lovely actress in her 20s. That's not the plot, it's just behind-the-scenes info. Anyway, the guy's wife dies but bugs communicate with him in her stead from beyond the grave. Admit it, it sounds like a bad Argento film. It's not, it's just bad. The advertising on this tried to link it with recent ghost hits like THE SIXTH SENSE and THE OTHERS, but this isn't a thinking man's horror film. It's more of a bad romance novel with a little supernatural twist. How did a studio ever decide to make this, why make it with Costner, and why have the guy who directed LIAR, LIAR and ACE VENTURA make it? Some questions in life simply have no answers.
MAN BEAST is another of Rhino's no frills, but quite affordable horror DVDs, but unlike those above, this one is best avoided. Most of producer Jerry Warren's films were foreign duds he spice up with some new footage, but this abominable Abominable Snowman story was totally his production. See: bad actors climb the Himalayas in flimsy windbreakers! See: some guy in a furry suit wave his arms in the air! See: your eyelids droop with disinterest and mental stupefaction! Then sleep, perchance to dream, and dream of a world where this movie doesn't exist.
RESIDENT EVIL is probably the best video-game-turned-into-a-movie ever made. Mind you, I'm not saying it's a good movie, just that it's a pretty great video game and I don't have to worry about remembering what all those buttons on the controller do. This game does it by itself. In short: no plot, no characters and no intelligence. But damn, it moves fast, it looks good and I had a good time watching it. I can't really recall anything about it, excepting Milla Jovovich's legs, and I'm sure watching it killed several million brain cells. But if you need to see a truly mindless film for no other reason than because it's truly mindless, this is about as good as it gets.
SPEED is a re-release of one of the genuine classics of 1980s action cinema, this time as part of Fox's "Five Star" DVD series. This is a two disc set featuring the exciting film detailing a member of the bomb squad (Keanu Reeves) trying to stop a vengeful bomber who has rigged a city bus to explode if its speed falls below 55 miles an hour. In addition to the movie, the discs also offer director's commentary and another from the film's writer and producer, extended scenes, an Easter egg, screenplay, featurettes, still galleries, storyboards, trailers, a music video and an HBO making of special.
THAT LITTLE MONSTER is unseen by yours truly, but there's a pretty decent buzz surrounding this film about a babysitter who ends up watching a "little monster" who really is a little monster. Forry Ackerman and Reggie (PHANTASM) Bannister make cameos in this award winning title being released to the general public for the first time. The DVD also features a commentary track from director Paul Bunnell, another film of his, THE VISITANT, and some interview footage with Bunnell.
TWO ORPHAN VAMPIRES is [IMG7L]a fairly recent (1997) effort from the unique Jean Rollin, who has been making moody, artistic and erotic horror themed films in France for over thirty years. I haven't seen this one, and didn't even know it existed until it showed up as an upcoming release on the Mediablast/Shrike-Show label. I do know Rollin wrote a popular book of the same name and that the film's story, about two apparently blind young girls who become vampires at night, is very much in keeping with his common themes of youthful beauty, corruption and vampirism. Rollin's films aren't really horror - they couldn't care less about being scary or thrilling - but they are often beautiful and erotic, so here's hoping those elements remain a presence in this film.
UFO: Set 1 is [IMG8R]the first release of Gerry (SPACE: 1999) Anderson's 1970 series about a secret agency battling alien invaders in what was then the near future. The series only lasted one year and was generally badly acted and poorly written (like most of Anderson's work) but featured incredibly detailed and ambitious miniature work to depict the numerous land, sky and space vessels of the aliens and SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization) as well as the latter's various control bases, the main one of which was hidden beneath a movie studio! This four disc set features 13 of the 26 episodes of the series and offers a commentary track from Anderson himself for the premiere episode, along with some behind-the-scenes footage and stills.
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? is another entry in the once hugely popular European sub-genre known as giallos. Typical for these films, this one involves an unknown killer, beautiful young female victims, sex and perversity; it's basically a killer at a girl's school tale. Unlike many giallos, most of which were simply exploitation, this is a very well made thriller. Director Massimo Dellamano exhibits considerable influence from giallo master Dario Argento and is on a par with some of that filmmaker's best efforts. The film also features a superb score from the wonderful Ennio Morricone.
EASTER EGG HUNT
I've already raved in the past about the pleasures of the wacky TOP SECRET and now, thanks to the DVD Review website, I can add the enticement of a hidden DVD goodie to the disc's allure. If you select "Storyboards" from the "Main Menu" and then highlight "Special Features" and press "Right" you'll highlight a magnifying glass. Now, press "Enter" and watch the brilliant Swedish Bookstore scene, with Peter Cushing, but not played backwards, as it is in the actual film.
Titans clash, aliens battle, Khan gets pissed, James Whitmore gets ants in his pants, and a trip back in time to when Malcolm McDowell made good movies. All this and more, next week in another Vidiocy.
Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.Questions? Comments? Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.