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Lewd, rude, and screamingly funny comedies dominate this week's video releases.

By John Thonen     December 05, 2000

It's comedy week here at 'Vidiocy,' as two recent hits and a largely forgotten item from the early '60s lead us into a week of mirth and madness. Up first, Buena Vista Home Entertainment's release one of the year's biggest surprise hits, Scary Movie. Raunchy, tasteless, crude, sexist, sophomoric, and blisteringly funny, this spoof of teen-slasher films (specifically Scream) is a love letter to the 12 year-old class clown in all of us. Director Keenan Ivory Wayans puts no stops on his approach, and it's a miracle this film managed to get by with an 'R' rating.

I'm sure you already know that the title of this film was the original title of Kevin Williamson's script for Scream , and Wayans and his brothers Shawn and Marlonwho worked on the screenplay in addition to appearing in the filmfollow the structure of the Wes Craven-directed film pretty closely. There are a few diversions into I Know What You Did Last Summer territory, as well as some brief comic jabs at The Sixth Sense, Blair Witch, and The Matrix. Given their stereotypical characters, the cast is surprisingly charming and likable, which helps give a good-natured feel to even the film's grossest moments, and several are gross indeed. This isn't a film to watch with your little sister or your grandmother, but otherwise, it shouldn't be missed.

While Scary Movie probably deserved an NC-17 rating, the designation it received made it clear that it was not some Disney film. The Nutty Professor 2: The Klumps, which Universal releases today, is nearly as raunchy, but somehow received a PG-13 classification and has been promoted as a 'family film.' I'm anything but a proponent of censorship, but anal bestiality and a host of 'dick' jokes just aren't what I want to expose my children to.

None of which is meant to say this film is unfunny or unentertaining. There are a number of hysterically funny scenes and more than a few laugh-out-loud moments, and in a just world star Eddie Murphy would be an Oscar cinch for his incredible work in 8 separate roles. While the film features some fine effects work and a likable cast, Murphy is sole reason to check the film out, and he doesn't disappoint.

The third comedy of the week is far more gentile than either of the above, well befitting The Mouse on the Moon's 1963 release date. This MGM Home Entertainment release is a sequel to the delightful Mouse That Roared (not currently in release), but it fell somewhat short of its predecessor. Like the original, this film is based on one of Leonard Wibberly's novels about The Duchy of Grand Fenwickthe smallest country in the worldand how they inadvertently make the major powers of the world look like fools. This time the plot is a spoof of the space race.

The original featured Peter Sellers in 3 roles and succeeded as both slapstick comedy and political satire. The sequel offers several top drawer British comic actors, including Terry Thomas and Ron Moody, and was directed by the brilliant Richard Lester, but the laughs and wit are dispersed with a more miserly hand this time around.

We move on from films that were meant to be funny to a film whose sole entertainment value may lie in a few unintended laughs it earns thanks to its own ineptness and lack of originality. The St. Francisville Experiment is yet another film inspired by The Blair Witch Project, and was originally intended for theatrical release by Trimark. When they found no interest, they quietly shuffled it into stores as a DTV (direct-to-video) release.

Like BWP, this one purports to be a documentary record of a true story of a group of people who journey into a haunted area, this time an antediluvian mansion in New Orleans where a wealthy woman reportedly tortured and murdered dozens of slaves for her own amusement. There's a website promoting the 'LaLaurie Legend' with reams of made up stuff about the terror that the unwelcome visitors encountered, but I can't imagine anyone falling for this kind of cinematic scam again. Unlike BWP, the cast of this offering look and act like what they are: actors, reading lines. Some atmosphere is generated by the locale, but you can get more scares on any episode of Buffyor The Rosie O'Donnel Show for that matter.

Universal continues its annual tradition of releasing a new entry in their long running Land Beyond Time DTV series, offering a tale about baby dinosaurs entitled The Stone of Cold Fire. This one was unavailable for preview, but previous entries were great fare for the small fry and pretty tolerable for older viewers as well. TV-style animation, cute songs, and even cuter characters are the standard here, and I wouldn't expect any change this time around.

Rounding out the week's releases is a trio of above average Hong Kong titles from Tai Seng Video Marketing. Black Cat is the kind or rip-off item that only Hong Kong could make. It's an almost carbon copy of the French La Femme Nikita, yet somehow stands quite nicely on its own. Tai Seng is releasing this in a dubbed version, so even the illiterate and/or lazy among you no longer have an excuse not to check out this tale of a gorgeous, sexy and amoral assassin brought back from the dead and programmed to kill.

Tai Seng also releases today a seminal film in Hong Kong movie history, Mr. Vampire. This film launched Hong Kong's unique 'hopping' vampire films, and is itself a fun blend of horror and rather silly comedy. You've got to have a pretty open mind to accept Mr. Vampire and the films it inspired, but you'll have a good time if you do.

Last, and least, of this week's Chinese trio is Erotic Ghost Story. With Tsui Hark's Chinese Ghost Story having been a huge hit, it was a natural move for someone to copy it, adding copious amounts of bare breasts and buns as the sole original ingredient. Still, the productionwhich features witches, ghosts and monstersis well-mounted and marked the debut of starlet Amy Yip, an unusually chesty Asian beauty who gained quite a bit of fame following this film's release.

Ones That (Almost) Got Away

As sometimes occurs, a title slips by my video radar. This week it's another City Heat Productions title, the in-house label for Blockbuster. Fatal Conflict is yet another patchwork production from North American Releasing, whom I recently slammed for the similarly named, Fatal Target. While this one offers a few 'names' via the presence of sexy Anaconda co-star, and former MTV VJ, Kari Wuhrer, perennial bad guy Leo Rossi and former Nightmare On Elm Street 3 cutie Jennifer Rubin, this is just another collection of stock footage from other N.A.R. films with a fragmentary plot woven around it. The story line is very similar to that of Fatal Target and even has the identical ending, utilizing the same stock footage from Timerunner. One character is even the same and is played by the same actor. Wuhrer is still sexy, Rossi still a scenery chewing joy and Rubin's still attractive, but you can see them all in less dreadful movies.
Another title that slipped by a couple weeks ago was MTI's release of their latest entry in their 'Fangoria Presents' line. This one is called School's Out and would seem to be a Dutch or Swedish rip-off of the Scream films. It's all very predictable until near the end when it ventures into giallo territory and pulls off an unexpected, if rather unlikely, twist on the killer's identity. If you love teen slasher fare, it should be said that this is well produced, the teens are attractive and... well that's about it. It's better than Urban Legend 2: Final Cut, faint praise though that may be.

On the News Front

*Video spending DVD in particular continues to be hot item for consumers. Fox's release of the X-Men has claimed a whopping 63.5 million in sales ore rentals (nearly half of that in DVD) since its release last week.

*Anchor Bay has announced the release of Manhunter, director Michael Mann's 1986 adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel, 'Red Dragon,' and the cinematic introduction of Hannibal Lecter. This will be the director's cut and will also offer cast interviews and a featurette on its cinematographer, Dante Spinotti. If you missed this in theaters, and most people did, be sure to catch it this time around.

*Blockbusterwhich recently unveiled a DVD rental guarantee program that supplies you with a free rental if you don't like your DVD rental movie (hey, you can rent Fatal Conflict and then get a freebie out of the deal)has announced another program aimed at the DVD market. Big Blue, as the company is known to its competitors, will be offering a $19.99 'DVD Pass' which will let you rent up to 30 discs within a 30 day period. At typical Big Blue rental rates, if you were to watch one DVD a day (and I know some of you out there could do it) the value of the pass would be nearly $120.00.

Coming Up

That's it for another week. Next time around I'll be presenting a special Christmas time column, featuring a killer snowman and a killer Santa is this a great time of year or what? Until then, don't forget that Christmas is a time of giving. And if you can convince others that you really feel that way, they'll buy you some cool stuff. And you can always return what you don't like and spend the money at the Fandom Shop.

Next Week's Releases

Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker Warner Home Video
Christmas Evil Troma
Gundam Wing: Operation #4 Pioneer Entertainment
Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman
Phantom Lover Tai Seng
The Road to El Dorado
Twilight Zone, Volumes #38 and #39


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