DVD Pick of the week: THE LAST LOVECRAFT: RELIC OF CTHULHU (Dark Sky Films/MPI Media Group)
The works of horror writer HP Lovecraft receive due screen credit as inspiration for this spoof that sends up Lovecraft but in an affectionate and respectful way, courtesy director/screenwriter Henry Saine and screenwriter/producer/co-editor Devin McGinn, the latter also starring as one of the film’s unlikely heroes.
Jeff (Kyle Davis) is a typical Everyman who learns in quick succession that he’s the last remaining descendant of HP Lovecraft, and that unless he protects an ancient artifact from falling into the wrong hands, the evil of Cthulhu will engulf the Earth. Jeff’s skepticism wears off quickly, right around the time that bloodthirsty creatures start attacking.
With best bud Charlie (McGinn) and Lovecraft “expert” Paul (Barak Hardley) in tow, Jeff embarks on a giddy, goofy and sometimes gory journey into the heart of darkness, and in the end, it’s quite clear that it will not be the meek, but the geek, who will inherit the Earth… or at least save it. The Last Lovecraft is good fun, and a sure bet for cult status.
THE 13TH MAN (Alpha Home Entertainment): Weldon Heyburn stars as radio crime reporter “Swifty” Taylor (“who gives you the high-up on low-downs”), on the trail of a murderer in this snappy 1937 whodunit. Inez Courtney plays Swifty’s adoring secretary and Milburn Stone (years before “Gunsmoke”) an ill-fated fellow reporter.
ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY BLU-RAYS (ABKCO Films/Anchor Bay Entertainment): Two of the award-winning, Chilean-born filmmaker’s most popular films make their Blu-ray bows (each retailing for $34.99), replete with audio commentaries and other special features: El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), both of which he also starred in and both rated R.
ALL-STAR SUPERMAN (DC Entertainment/ Warner Home Video): The Man of Steel (voiced by James Denton) must confront his own mortality in this dynamic, fast-moving animated feature based on the classic DC Comics superhero and Grant Morrison’s award-winning story. A must for Superman fans, featuring the voices of Anthony LaPaglia as arch-nemesis Lex Luthor, Christina Hendricks as Lois Lane and Edward Asner as Daily Planet editor Perry White. Available as a single-disc DVD ($19.98 retail) or a DVD/Blu-ray combo ($24.98 retail). Rated PG.
BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (VCI Entertainment): Dale Messick’s comic-strip heroine comes to the big screen in the form of Joan Woodbury, in this 13-chapter 1945 serial ($19.99 retail), in which the intrepid newshound investigates a $250,000 payroll robbery.
“DRAGNET 1970”: SEASON FOUR (Shout! Factory): Series creator and star Jack Webb’s LA cop Joe Friday retired Badge 714, but not before he and partner Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) tackled 26 final cases, in the 1969- ’70 season of the prime-time NBC police series, which Webb originally created for radio 20 years before. The DVD boxed set retails for $34.93.
GREAT WHITE: LIVE AND RAW (MVD Visual): A deluxe edition of the rock ‘n’ roll concert DVD ($14.95 retail), featuring Great White in two California concerts, plus a bonus CD.
THE GREEN HORNET (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment): Aiming for a new big-screen franchise, the ’40s comic-book hero (later adapted into movie serials and a campy ’60s TV series) burst onto the screen — in 3-D, no less — with executive producer and co-screenwriter Seth Rogen in the title role, a wealthy playboy whose alter-ego is a nocturnal crime-fighter, joined by Jay Chou (as Cato), Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson and Edward James Olmos. Too loose and too long, but enjoyable nonetheless. The 3-D, by the way, adds nothing. Available as a single-disc DVD ($28.95 retail), a Blu-ray ($34.95 retail), or a 3-D Blu-ray ($49.95 retail). Rated PG-13.
HUSK (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Typical kids encounter untold horror when they start horsing around in an abandoned cornfield. Not badly made, but we’ve been here before. Rated R.
IMAGE IMAX (Image Entertainment): A trio of big-screen IMAX films: Donald Sutherland narrates the 2007 documentary Dinosaurs: Giants of Pantagonia; Christopher Lee narrates Mummies: Secrets of the Pharoahs (also ’07); and Ultimate G’s: Zac’s Flying Dream (2000) features Michael Cera in his screen debut. Each film is available on DVD ($19.98 retail) or 3-DBlu-ray ($24.98 retail).
IP MAN 2: LEGEND OF THE GRANDMASTER (Well Go USA): Donnie Yen reteams with director Wilson Yip for this acclaimed,award-winning follow-up to the 2008 martial-arts blockbuster, based on the life of the legendary grandmaster who served as Bruce Lee’s mentor. Available as a singledisc DVD ($24.98 retail), a single-disc Blu-ray ($26.98 retail), a two-DVD collector’s edition ($29.98 retail) or a two-disc Blu-ray collector’s edition ($32.98 retail). The original Ip Man is also available from Well Go USA as a DVD ($19.98 retail), a Blu-ray ($26.98 retail), a collector’s-edition DVD ($24.98 retail) or a Blu-ray collector’s edition ($32.98 retail). In Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles. Rated R.
KANSAS CITY CONFIDENTIAL (Film Chest/HD Cinema Classics/Virgil Films & Entertainment): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($15.99 retail) of director Phil Karlson’s much-admired 1952 film noir, with John Payne as an ex-con wrongly accused of a $1 million robbery who then tracks down the culprits in a Mexican fishing resort. Tough and trim, with plenty of double-crosses and a solid cast including Lee Van Cleef, Neville Brand, Jack Elam, Preston Foster and Coleen Gray.
MAN OF THE FOREST (Alpha Home Entertainment): This 1933 Zane Grey Western marked an early lead for Randolph Scott, cast as a rugged trapper trying to save the timberland from bad guys. Director Henry Hathaway and the supporting cast (Harry Carey, Noah Beery, Buster Crabbe, Barton MacLane and Verna Hillie) add some punch, but the lions steal the show.
NIGHT BEAT (Alpha Home Entertainment): Big-city DA Walter McGrail taps old war buddy Jack Mulhall to take on the city’s mafia in this fast-moving, bullet-riddled 1932 potboiler. Leading lady Patsy Ruth Miller (best known for The Hunchback of Notre Dame with Lon Chaney) essentially retired from films after this, except for a couple of brief roles years later.
PROWL (LionsGate Home Entertainment):
Thrill-seeking teens (uh-oh!) get more than they bargained for when they hitch a ride with a trucker and wind up at the mercy of a vampire cult. Flashy and violent, but also typical and repetitious. Rated R.
TEDDY PENDERGRASS: LIVE IN ’82 (Shout! Factory): It’s an evening of passion and soul ($15.98 retail) as the Philadelphia-born singer (1950-2010) performs such hits as “Where Did All the Loving Go?” “Turn Off the Lights,” Love TKO,” “Only You” and others at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1982, mere weeks before a tragic auto accident left him paraplegic. Teddy’s tunes were de rigueur for dating in the ‘80s, take it from someone who was there.
“UPSTAIRS DOWNSTAIRS” (BBC Worldwide): Nearly four decades latter, the BBC produced this sequel to the muchacclaimed, award-winning mini-series, set in an affluent London townhouse (165 Eaton Place) in the last days before World War II. Original series stars and creators Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins reprise their roles, joined this time around by Keeley Hawes, Claire Foy, Ellie Kendrick and Art Malik. This DVD boxed set retails for $34.98.
Mark Burger can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. Copyright 2011, Mark Burger