CHOICE OF THE WEEK
TENTACLES (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): For Yours truly, whose abode is adorned with a framed theatrical poster, this 1977 Jaws the rip-off is a first-rate – and possibly worst – guilty pleasure featuring a star-studded cast of veterans who probably wish they had done something else.
After scoring a big box office with his Rosemary’s Baby / The Exorcist counterfeit beyond the door (1975) – resisting a lawsuit from Warner Bros. along the way – producer Ovidio Assonitis, also ‘Oliver Hellman’ director, has tried to make another splash in the monster market, as illegal radio frequencies incur the wrath of a giant octopus that goes during a murderous rampage off the California coast.
John Huston plays a local journalist, Shelley Winters his cheeky sister, Henry Fonda the industrialist whose underling (Cesare Danova) may be to blame for the disastrous dealings, Claude Akins the local lawman and Bo Hopkins the oceanographer who saves the day with the help of two orcs (orca being otherwise engaged).
Stelvio Cipriani’s score is memorable in its own way, the underwater photography is pretty good, the special effects are hot and cold, and little else Tentacles contains a valuable exchange as Huston and Akins ponder the cause of the aquatic deaths: “Maybe, maybe, maybe…,” Akins grumbles. “Maybe this and maybe that. All we have is a bunch of maybes. Such is Tentacles.
The Blu-ray ($29.95 retail) includes theatrical trailers and a radio spot. Rated PG. **
CYRANO (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): Avoiding an enlarged trunk, Peter Dinklage occupies the title role of Edmund Rostand’s heroic and romantic 18andswordsman of the century in director Joe Wright’s well-mounted but oddly still adaptation of the 2018 off-Broadway musical adapted and directed by executive producer Erica Schmidt (Dinklage’s real-life wife). Haley Bennett is an ethereal but bubbly Roxanne and Kelvin Harrison Jr. a handsome but rather inattentive Christian. A must-have for Dinklage enthusiasts, this earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design, available on DVD ($29.98 retail) and DVD/Blu-ray Combo ($34.98 retail), each filled with behind-the-scenes featurette. Rated PG-13. **
FOR ALL HUMANITY (The Criterion Collection): Producer/director Al Reinart’s award-winning 1989 feature-length documentary debut explores the history of NASA Apollo space program, which reached its peak in 1969 when man walked on the moon. Entertaining, illuminating and inspiring, enhanced by stunning visuals and Brian Eno’s powerful score. A worthy celebration of the space program and its achievements, it earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature, and the 4K Ultra HD combo ($49.95 retail) includes both the original version and the theatrical cut, the audio commentary, the documentary An Accidental Gift: The Making of “For All Mankind,” and more. ***½
F/X and F/X 2 (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): An Explicit Blu-ray Double Feature ($29.95 retail) of Director Robert Mandel’s R-rated 1986 Sleeper F/X, starring Bryan Brown as a special effects expert embroiled in gangsters and Brian Dennehy as a badass cop on the case; and director Richard Franklin’s PG-13-rated follow-up in 1991, with Brown again embroiled in trouble and Dennehy (now an ex-cop) lending his aid to bail him out. The first movie is (expected) superior, but both are great fun. Bonuses include theatrical trailers and vintage featurettes.
“THE BIG”: SEASON TWO (Paramount Home Entertainment): Executive producer Tony McNamara created this award-winning, fact-based Hulu historical series that puts a satirical spin on the rise to power of Catherine the Great (executive producer Elle Fanning), who would become Russia’s longest-serving reigning. female monarch, with Nicholas Hoult (also executive producer) as Emperor Peter and Gillian Anderson as Catherine’s ambitious mother, with Phoebe Fox, Douglas Hodge, Sacha Dhawan and Belinda Bromilow (the real-life wife of McNamara) in support. All 10 episodes of the 2021 season are available on DVD ($25.99 retail), packed with bonus features.
HARD ROCK ZOMBIES AND SLAUGHTER ROCK (Vinegar Syndrome): a limited and special edition Blu-ray double feature ($44.98 retail) featuring a pair of low-budget rock and roll horror films: writer/producer/director Krishna Shah’s Hard Rock Zombies (1985) with EJ Cursio (in his feature debut) and Gena Andrews; and 1988 slaughterhouse rock, directed by screenwriter Dimitri Logothetis, starring Toni Basil, Nicholas Celozzi and Tom Reilly. Both movies are R-rated, and each features bonus features including retrospective interviews and more.
FRANKENSTEIN BY MARY SHELLEY (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): The 4K UHD ($49.95 retail) debut of Kenneth Branagh’s big-budget 1994 adaptation of the classic Mary Shelley tale, in which he plays Henry Frankenstein and Robert De Niro his creation. Executive producer Francis Coppola had scored a big hit with Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), but it was a big miss and a big disappointment (and probably Branagh’s worst film), despite an Oscar nomination for Best Makeup and a stellar cast including Helena Bonham Carter, John Cleese, Ian Holm, Aidan Quinn and Tom Hulce. A host of bonus features includes the silent 1910 short film produced by Charles Edison, audio commentary, collectible booklet, retrospective documentary and interviews, and more. To note. *
MY SWEET MONSTER (LionsGate): Haylie Duff, Jon Heder and Pauly Shore lend the power of voiceover to this family-friendly, PG-rated animated feature in which a diverse group of misfits band together to save their kingdom from falling into the clutches of the an evil (!) postman plotting to steal his magical resources, available on DVD ($19.98 retail).
NOW AND FOREVER (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Gary Cooper headlines director Henry Hathaway’s 1934 adaptation of the Jack Kirkland/Melvin Baker story Bright Honor as a gleefully irresponsible con man who decides to leave straight away after meeting his estranged daughter Shirley Temple and at the behest of his new wife Carole Lombard, starring Sir Guy Standing, Charlotte Granville, Gilbert Emery and Henry Kolker, available on Blu -ray ($24.95 retail), packed with audio commentary and a theatrical trailer.
THE OLIVE TREES OF JUSTICE (Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray arc ($29.95 retail) of director/screenwriter James Blue’s first narrative feature in 1962 (originally titled The olive trees of justice), adapted from the novel by Jean Pelegri, with the screenwriter Pelegri in the role of a sick patriarch who symbolizes the end of the French occupation of Algeria, and Pierre Prothon (in his only feature film) in the role of his son, who reflects on the country’s history. In French with English subtitles, the 1960 short documentary by James Blue Amal is also included.
REFORM SCHOOL GIRLS (Vinegar Syndrome): A limited-edition Blu-ray ($39.98 retail) of writer/director Tom DeSimone’s campy 1986 comedy, a send-up of ’70s ‘women in prison’ exploitation films , detailing the wacky happenings at a juvenile facility for teenage girls, with an eclectic cast including pink icon Wendy O. Williams (in her feature debut), Pat Ast, Linda Carol, Darcy DeMoss and Sybil Danning (chewing the scenery in as guardian). A few scattered laughs, but it’s not as entertaining as the movies it makes fun of. A host of bonus features include audio commentary, retrospective documentaries and interviews, trailers, and more. Rated R. *½
SCHIZOID AND X-RAYS (Vinegar Syndrome): A limited-edition 4K Ultra HD combo ($59.98 retail) of a wacky double-draw from early ’80s, R-rated slasher films produced by the inimitable Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus little time after taking over Cannon Films, both clearly designed for a quick office time-saver: 1980 by writer/director David Paulsen Schizoid (also published as Murder by mail), featuring an eclectic, star-studded cast including Klaus Kinski, Mariana Hill, Craig Wasson, Christopher Lloyd, Donna Wilkes, Joe Regalbuto and Richard Herd; and 1982 X-ray (also published as Massacre at the hospital), directed by Boaz Davidson and starring the beautiful Barbi Benton (in her feature debut). Bonus features include a retrospective documentary and interviews, an original trailer, and more.
TWELVE MONKEYS (Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment Group): The 4K Ultra HD ($49.95 retail) debut of Terry Gilliam’s quintessentially surreal 1995 sci-fi thriller, starring Bruce Willis as a fired tough convict to our time to discover the origin of the fatal plague decimating civilization. The first half ranks among Gilliam’s best work – clever, witty and provocative – but the second half descends into self-indulgence and unnecessarily convoluted twists. Still, it has major audiences and earned Oscar nominations for Brad Pitt (as Best Supporting Actor) as the unhinged but mannered anarchist and (more deservedly) for Best Costume Design. Madeleine Stowe, David Morse, Frank Gorshin, Jon Seda, Christopher Meloni and the always welcome Christopher Plummer are on hand. Bonus features include audio commentary, a full-length documentary The Hamster Postman and Other Tales of Twelve Monkeys, theatrical trailer, and more. To classify. **
“TWO FILMS BY MIKLOS JANCSO” (Kino Classics): An explicit Blu-ray double feature ($34.95 retail) of two acclaimed feature films by Hungarian-born filmmaker Miklos Jancso (1921-2014): The Political and Historical Dramas of the 1966s Roundup (Szegenyledgenyek) and awarded in 1967 Red and white (Csillagosok, katonak). In Hungarian with English subtitles, bonus features including audio commentary and short films by Jancso.
ZOOT COSTUME (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Writer/director Luis Valdez debuts with this award-winning 1981 adaptation of his acclaimed, factual musical stage production from 1979, which dramatizes the circumstances of the Sleepy Lagoon murder trial and “Zoot Suit “. “The riots that rocked Los Angeles in the early 1980s, with Edward James Olmos, Charles Aidman, Tony Plana and Valdez’s brother Daniel (who composed the score) reprising their roles on stage, joined by Tyne Daly, John Anderson, Lupe Ontiveros, and Kurtwood Smith. Well-meaning and still relevant, but the idea of essentially filming the play (in front of an audience) is distracting, and Universal Pictures had no idea how to promote the film. Blu-ray special ($29.95 retail) includes audio commentary, retrospective interview with Luis Valdez, and theatrical trailer.Rated R.**½
(Copyright 2022, Mark Burger)