CHOICE OF THE WEEK
BLOOD THEATER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): What would Halloween be without Vincent Price (1911-’93)? Much less fun, to be sure – and this 1973-inspired shock was one of the actor’s personal favorites, for a number of reasons.
The first is that he plays Edward Lionheart, a larger-than-life Shakespearean theater actor, giving him the opportunity to play a variety of scenes from the Bard’s works. The second is that he methodically exterminates the critics (swallowing!) Who denied him the award for best actor – his crimes inspired by Shakespeare’s bloodiest scenes. Finally, he met his third wife, Coral Browne, during production.
Combining dark comedy with genuinely ghoulish moments, Shakespearean references are swift and thick – and the star-studded cast is the cream of British talent: Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Robert Morley, Arthur Lowe, Harry Andrews, Michael Hordern (whose character perishes on the Ides of March!), Dennis Price, Milo O’Shea, Eric Sykes, Joan Hickson, Diana Dors and Jack Hawkins and Robert Coote (each in his latest feature film).
Without a few continuity errors and a limited budget, Blood theater will be perfect. Instead, it’s simply a classic, with Price presiding over the proceedings in a grand manner – and the sequence in which he’s dressed up as a hip barber named “Butch” (filled with Afro and sunglasses) is a scream. .
Kino Lorber Studio Classics has also released several Vincent Price vehicles on Blu-ray: Master of the world (1961), The crow (1963), The comedy of terrors (1964), The last man on earth (also ’64), and Ligeia’s tomb (1965), each priced at $ 24.95 and each loaded with bonus features.
The special edition Blood theater Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail) includes audio commentary, a theatrical trailer, and more. Classified R. *** ½
ALTO (Film movement): subtitled “An architect of emotionsWriter / Producer / Director Yurpi Suutari’s feature-length documentary explores the life and career of famed Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto (1898-1976) and how his legacy continues to this day. In English, Finnish, French, German, Italian and Russian with English subtitles, available on DVD ($ 24.95 retail).
EMILY @ THE ART OF CHAOS (Kino Lorber): Writer / philosopher Emily Levine presents her onscreen one-woman show in this humorous documentary in which she exposes science, physics, metaphysics and her life, with appearances by John Lithgow, Richard Lewis, Lily Tomlin, Paul Dooley, Matt Groening, Bruce Vilanch, Rick Overton and the late Leonard Nimoy. Not uninteresting, but Levine’s followers have a big head start, and it’s weird to watch a standing concert movie in which audiences don’t laugh that much. The film is dedicated to producer / director Wendy Apple, who passed away in 2017, and Levine herself passed away in 2019. The DVD ($ 19.95 retail) includes a trailer. **
BARRY FRIED (Shudder / RLJE Films): Actor-turned-writer / executive producer / director Ryan Kruger’s award-winning feature debut, based on his 2017 short, stars Gary Green in the title role, a self-destructive drug addict degenerate who is kidnapped and possessed by alien beings who force him to embark on a rampage through contemporary Cape Town, available on DVD ($ 27.97 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 28.96 retail), each offering bonus features including audio commentary, behind-the-scenes functionality, deleted and expanded scenes, and more.
GUIANA: WORSHIP OF THE DAMNED (Code Red / Kino Lorber): Exploiting the Andean plane crash in the surprise box office hit To survive! (1976), filmmaker Rene Cardona Jr. struck again with this brutal 1980 melodrama based on the mass suicide of People’s Temple supporters in Guyana in 1978, with Stuart Whitman as “Rev. James Johnson ”(as opposed to Jim Jones) and Gene Barry as“ Congressman Lee O’Brien ”(as opposed to Leo Ryan), Joseph Cotten, John Ireland, Bradford Dillman, Yvonne De Carlo, Jennifer Ashley and Robert DoWho. The cast, especially Whitman, are doing what they can with questionable material, and it’s remarkable in retrospect that Universal Pictures picked him up for theatrical distribution. Both DVD ($ 14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail) include a movie trailer. Classified R. * ½
ED SUPERIOR (Lightyear Entertainment / MVD Entertainment Group): Jean-Claude LaMarre’s first harmless feature film in 2001 stars Pras Michel (also executive producer) as a drug dealer turned college student trying to change his life. Leila Arcieri, Hill Harper, Aries Spears, Ernest Thomas, and Timothy Bottoms round out a sympathetic cast in this one-note prank, available on DVD ($ 14.95 retail). * ½
MIDNIGHT (Severin Films / MVD Entertainment Group): A “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray ($ 34.95 retail) of writer / executive producer / director John Russo’s adaptation of his cool, low-budget novel in which the troubled teenager Melanie Verlin (in her screen debut) fleeing drunken stepfather Lawrence Tierney – only to fall into the clutches of a satanic cult. Crude but intermittently effective, though Tierney’s culminating transformation into a hero seems arbitrary. Filmed in 1980 but not released until 1982, and a remake (also written by Russo) was released last year. Bonuses include retrospective interviews and a theatrical trailer. To classify. **
THE RETURN OF THE MARSH THING (Lightyear Entertainment / MVD Entertainment Group): Director Jim Wynorski’s 1989 sequel to Wes Craven’s 1982 adaptation of the DC Comics superhero franchise sees Dick Durock reprise his lead role, again pitted against infamous scientist Louis Jourdan (obviously recovered from her disappearance in the first film), with Heather Locklear offering glamor as Jourdan’s comely stepdaughter. A silly but fast-paced adventure for comic book fans, with plenty of jokes and comedic relief provided by young RonReaco Lee and Daniel Taylor (in their on-screen debut). The “collector’s-edition” DVD ($ 19.95 retail) features audio commentary, retrospective interviews, a trailer, Greenpeace PSAs (!) And more. Classified PG-13. **
CRIER, PRETTY PEGGY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Taking a page – or two – of Hitchcock’s 1960 classic psychopath, Gordon Hessler (who worked on Alfred Hitchcock presents) directed this average and obvious cooler from 1973 ABC-TV with Sian Barbara Allen in the title role, a college student hired by lone artist Ted Bessell as a housekeeper for him and his domineering mother (“special guest star”) Bette Davis) – but with strict orders never to enter the locked room where Bessell’s mad sister resides. Allen yells well (appropriately), Bessell cheeks it nervously, and Davis is all in on great lady mode, but it is not enough. The DVD ($ 14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail), each filled with audio commentary and TV spot. **
SILO (Oscilloscope Laboratories): Inspired by true stories, executive producer / writer / director Marshall Burnette’s debut feature depicts the efforts of a small farming community to save a teenage boy (Jack DiFalco) trapped in a corn silo. Well-intentioned and reasonably captivating, to say nothing well-paced (it lasts less than 80 minutes), but too often it falls prey to soap-opera melodrama. Jim Parrack and Jeremy Holm are appealingly sincerely as two of the potential Rescuers, available on DVD ($ 27.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 32.99 retail), each loaded with bonus features including a behind-the-scenes feature and a theatrical trailer. **
SKULLDUGGERY (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Gordon Douglas directed this disastrous 1970 adaptation of Jean Bruller’s bestselling novel Animals denature depicting the discovery of a tribe of monkey-like beings in the New Guinea wilderness. An uncomfortable mix of Planet of the Apes (1968) and the evolutionary debate, culminating – ridiculously enough – in a murder trial. The hapless cast includes Burt Reynolds (as hero), Susan Clark (as sexy scientist), Roger C. Carmel, Chips Rafferty, Paul Hubschmid, Alexander Knox, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Edward Fox, William Marshall and producer Saul David, available on DVD ($ 14.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($ 24.95 retail), both featuring audio commentary and a theatrical trailer. Classified PG, *
THRESHOLD (Arrow Video / MVD Entertainment Group): Filmed on iPhone and largely improvised, cinematographer Powell Robinson and writer Patrick R. Young co-directed this award-winning psychological thriller starring Madison West as a tormented young woman who convinces her brother (newcomer Joey Millin) to accompany him on a trip across the country to purge herself of the curse she is convinced she is under, available on DVD ($ 19.95 at retail) and Special Edition Blu-ray ($ 39.95 retail), the latter offering a host of bonus features including audio commentary, feature documentaries, and more.
TRICK OR TREAT (Code Red / Kino Lorber): A special Blu-ray edition ($ 29.95 retail) of 1982 director Gary Graver’s pseudo-black / slasher comedy, with young babysitter Jackelyn Giroux on duty to keep an eye on the bratty Chris Graver (director his son, in his feature debut) on Halloween – the very night his father (Peter Jason) escaped from the asylum he was wrongly held in. This heavy and slow riff on Halloween (1978) cost $ 55,000 (!). Graver’s mentor, Orson Welles, receives credit as a “magic consultant,” but there isn’t a lot of magic here. Bonus features include audio commentary, a retrospective interview with Railsback, trailers, and more. To classify. *
TWO BAD EYES (Blue Underground / MVD Entertainment Group): Horror titans George A. Romero and Dario Argento have joined forces for this overly long but entertaining two-part anthology from 1990 based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe, though in a contemporary setting (Pittsburgh, in fact!): the Romero segment, The case of Mr. Valdemar, plays like a bloodier episode of his Tales from the dark side series, but the adaptation of Argento The black Cat, featuring a stellar turn by Harvey Keitel as crazed crime photographer Rod Usher, is one of Argento’s best work. Poe references (obviously) and jokes abound, and a solid cast includes Adrienne Barbeau, EG Marshall, Martin Balsam, Kim Hunter, John Amos, Sally Kirkland, Ramy Zada, Madeleine Potter, Tom Atkins, Bingo O’Malley and Special. -the effects maestro Tom Savini. The 4K Ultra HD two-disc combo ($ 49.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospectives and interviews, a movie trailer, and more. To classify. ***
(Copyright 2021, Mark Burger)