Tuesday, October 18, 2005

New on DVD (10/18/05)

Two great Jabootu classics are out today.

The Jazz Singer is the long-awaited release (the old disc came out in small numbers years ago and immediately sold out and become impossible to get, don’t ask me why). It’s the Neil Diamond version, and it’s hilarious, featuring perhaps Laurence Olivier’s worst performance ever, which is saying something.

Meanwhile, the Spaghetti Western fan will drool over the Sabata Trilogy Collection. The second film in the set, Return of Sabata, stars Lee Van Cleef in the title role and is insane, and was featured in the Medved Brothers’ original 50 Worst Films of All Time. It also sports one of the funniest bad theme songs ever. Hilariously, although only two Sabata movies were made, they did well enough that American distributors took an unconnected Yul Brynner movie and changed his character’s name to Sabata when they dubbed it. You’ve got to love that sort of con.

The TV set of the week is the Twilight Zone The Definitive Season 4 set. This series have been a knock-out, and there’s no reason to believe that this fourth volume won’t live up to the same high standards as the earlier collections. However, the fourth season was the one where the series went to an hour-long format, and is generally not considered the program at its best. Caveat Emptor.

Other TV shows out this week CSI: New York S1, Dark Shadows: Revival Series (the one with Ben Cross as Barnabas), He-Man and the Masters of the Universe S1, and a disc featuring four episodes of The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a goofy but beloved monster-themed kids show that ran in Canada for 25 years (!), and featured intros and extros starring Vincent Price reciting macabre verse. I remember watching this as a kid. If you want good Halloween programming for youngsters, you could definitely do worse.

This is a huge week for fans of superhero movies and TV shows.

The first, black & white and best season of George Reeves' television show The Adventures of Superman hit shelves today. The preceding theatrical flick Superman vs. the Mole Men is included as an extra. $30

All four of the Burton and Schumacher Batman movies; Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin and Batman Forever, are being released today in spiffy two-disc special editions. For what it’s worth, I still think Batman Returns is the second best superhero movie ever, after Spider-Man 2. Entertainment Weekly, meanwhile, reports that Schumacher does a surprisingly candid commentary for Batman & Robin, in which he apologizes for how awful the film is (!), and details what went wrong. Each separate film is available for under $20, while a box set of all four sets is available for around $50.

Tying in, Batman Begins also comes out today, available in its own double disc set for under $20.

Meanwhile, the first Batman serial is available in Batman: 1943 Serial Collection, which retails for around $15. It features all 15 chapters, and was followed six years later by a very campy sequel serial, Batman and Robin, which was released a couple of years ago. I reviewed that one here. This first serial was probably held up because it was shot during WWII, and features a very politically incorrect Japanese villain. So if that’s the sort of thing that gets your undies in a bunch, you may want to give it a miss.

The oddest selection of the week is The Batman vs. Dracula Animated Movie (!), available for under $20. I believe it follows the version of the Batman found in the present (and underwhelming) WB series The Batman, rather than the brilliant Batman: The Animated Series.

Meanwhile, what comic book fan hasn’t spent the last year pining for the Elektra Director’s Cut Unrated DVD? Well, OK, all of them. That ‘unrated’ designation is a dodge, by the way, and if you want to see Jennifer Garner’s boobies or displays of ultra-violence, look elsewhere. Under $20

This week also see another batch of horror flicks for you Halloween perusal.

13 Curses is a Spanish horror flick, and thus possibly a bit more atmospheric than many of ours. Under $15.

Blood of Beasts sounds like the pitch was “It’s Lord of the Rings meets Beowulf!” Stars former sexpot Jane March. Under $20

Dark Harvest 2: The Maize. Sounds corny, although I’m sure there are many ear-y scenes of people being stalked. Horror purists will be relieved to know the film is being released in the widescreen format. Hilariously, it doesn’t really have any connection with the obscure slasher film from which it purports to be a sequel. Under $20

Day Of The Dead 2: Contagium A non-Romero approved sequel/prequel to Day of the Dead. $10

Fergully: The Last Rainforest. A two-disc special edition of a film for parents who have can no longer convince their children to watch Captain Planet and are desperate for more facile environmental agitprop to brainwash their kids with. $15.

The Hollow features the present day descendant of I. Crane and his traditional family nemesis. Apparently this has played on TV as a family film, but this version features enough (although apparently still light) sex and violence to garner a ‘R’ rating. (!) Costars Stacy Keach, Judge Reinhold and a former Backstreet Boy—so I guess it is a horror movie. (!!) $17

House of Voices is a foreign (South American? Spanish?) horror flick that I think is set in a haunted asylum. $20

Jacqueline Hyde. (Ha! Get it? You do? Then you better take something for you headache you just got.) $14

Land of the Dead. Romero’s latest and sadly most hamfisted zombie movie, out in various editions including the inevitable unrated one. $16-22

Season of the Witch is an early Romero flick about suburban housewives involved in witchcraft and other dark things. I can see the awesome social subtext from here! About $10

Slaughter of the Vampires Typical ‘60s Italian horror with the usual hilarious dubbing. $10


The American Movie Musicals set collects Guys & Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story, all for around $21.

Classic Cops & Robbers features five nifty noir crime flicks, including some Anthony Mann, for under $20. Such a deal.

Alfred Hitchcock went through a period where he made films as experiments. Lifeboat: Special Edition features a WWII-era film shot almost entirely in the confines of the titular craft, as survivors of a ship torpedoed by the Nazis come to suspect that one of their number is a Hun spy. $15

Man with the Golden Arm features Frank Sinatra playing a heroin addict, in one of the first films about drug addiction. The Chairman was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for this one, and the Saul Bass credit sequence is a revered classic. $15

Cult movies

The Big Lebowski in various versions, $13-35. The Achiever’s Edition Gift Set includes The Big Lebowski Bowling Shammy Towel, Coasters that include photos and quotable lines from the movie and Photo Cards from Jeff Bridges’ personal collection.

Chained Heat 2 is a Women in Prison flick starring Brigitte Nielsen—which is probably enough to get some interested—although naturally it has no real connection with the original cult classic Chained Heat.


At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, Indio Black, aka Adios Sabata, was made right after the first one, and its title changed to the latter to cash in on Sabata's success. Return was made THIRD (check imdb.com if you don't believe me), and why the Medveds list it in their bottom fifty when van Cleef made at least three westerns worse than it, in the same decade and one (God's Gun) with the same director, I do not know.

Personally, I have trouble seeing why people single the third one out for badness: all three are pretty much the same kind of cartoony, deliberately-ridiculous action-adventure, with the first one more overtly gothic and the Brynner one larger in scale.

At 6:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sabaa-ta! Sabaaa-ta! He's the fastest gun in the west! The Fastest gun in the! Five fingered man! Four Barrel Dillinger!


I love that theme song, dammit. I don't care who knows it.

Sir Al

At 7:02 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Wow, and you got the 'dillinger' part right. That always killed me, that whoever was involved in producing the American version of the theme song didn't know what a 'derringer' was.

Adios Sabata (aka Indio Black) might have been the third movie made, but I think it was the third film released here. And again, it wasn't a Sabata film, they just redubbed it that way. The characters played by Brynner and Van Cleef are clearly not the same.

At 7:39 AM, Blogger BeckoningChasm said...

Personally, I thought Land of the Dead was far, far less of a filmed tract than Day of the Dead. Opinions and varying mileage and all that, I guess.

At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Prankster said...

Whooooo! Batman Returns! I agree! Well, actually, not being a particularly huge fan of Spiderman 2, I guess I don't exactly agree. But it's a great movie! While I have to technically give the edge to Mask of the Phantasm and Batman Begins for more solid depictions of Batman, "Returns" has such a fun, berzerk spirit that it'll always be a sentimental fave for me.

At 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Adventures of Superman is one of the best superhero television series ever produced. Superman is actually intelligent and the plots, while not exactly complex, are at least compelling.


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