If it's crap ... We'll tell you
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: XXII (DVD)
It's pretty much a done deal; each time Shout! Factory puts out one of their MST3K box sets, it's gonna end up in my Big Three of the week. That's right. I'm a fan. Still got my laminated membership card in the official fan club from back in the day stowed in my wallet. Just in case. And holy crap, this is Volume 22 (a somewhat confusing numbering system continuing on from where previous distributor Rhino left off...don't ask too many questions), and there's a lot of awesome to be had. One of my all time fave episodes, a really horrible Japanese rip-off of "Planet of the Apes" called "Time of the Apes" does....well...pretty much what you'd expect it to do. It's almost too easy to tear it a new one. "Mighty Jack" is a movie cheaply mashed together from two episodes of a Japanese TV show about a super-heroic spy team and their mecha-submarine. It's so crazy that it's one of the only films the MST team has done twice (originally back in their public access days). Is it cheating to do a movie that Ed Wood wrote? Of course not, as fair is fair and "The Violent Years", a story about a gang of ne'er do well hot chicks who go around raping dudes, would be a must-see even without robots sitting in front of it. That episode also comes with a short (!) called "Young Man's Fancy", a seriously archived piece of weirdness about a family getting all 'gee whiz' about electrical appliances. Last up is "The Brute Man" (with an introduction by former LEOG guest and MST3K performer Mary Jo Pehl!) starring Rondo Hatten, the facially deformed actor who was a staple of so many z-grade films. This was one of the last of the Universal Horror pictures and it started a new policy in their department: no more b-movies. After seeing "The Brute Man", it's clear why. As per usual, Shout! Factory has loaded this sucka' up with bonus features as well. Along with the four original art-flyers for each movie thrown into the box, there's a Sci-Fi Channel 'making-of' documentary on the show, a special about the awesome menu screens they make for each of these, interviews with various folks involved with the original films (including interviews with two of Ed Wood's former gals), and much more. A bargain at any price.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY MST3K: Volume XXII
POINT BLANK (Blu-Ray and DVD)
Sometimes a film is exactly as long as it needs to be. Rarely, but it happens. Such is the case with the French 2011 thriller "Point Blank" which runs at a brisk 84 minutes...but boy, does it RUN them. I was about as out of breath as actor Gilles Lellouche, who plays the central character, Samuel, finds himself stuck trying to protect a injured gangster (Roschdy Zem) whose compatriots have abducted Sam's very pregnant wife (the unforgettably gorgeous Elena Anaya). They want Sam, a male nurse at the hospital that the gangster is being treated at, to sneak him out of the hospital and to a specific location...or else. Of course, everybody wants the gangster dead, including a whole gang of REALLY corrupt cops, and Sam is bustin' his ass all over town, doing WHATEVER it takes, to keep him and his wife alive. "Point Blank" cuts out all the fat and gets right to the action, and yet, we're told exactly as much as we need to know about poor, harried, Sam, to be on the edge of our seats watching him GO GO GO in order to do what has to be done. Great performances from the cast all around, to be sure, but it's the breakneck style that's the unmistakable attraction here; writer/director Fred Cavayé injects a sense of velocity not seen since Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run". Sure, there's not much of a subtext here...this is stylish action taken to its logical extreme and you're not gonna hear me complaining. This blu-ray edition looks and sounds great and comes with a fifty minute (!) making-of documentary that you'll probably want to see, as, like me, I can't imagine you won't have questions about how they did some of the dangerous stunts.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY Point Blank (Blu-Ray)
THE LADY VANISHES (Blu-Ray)
In the no-brainer event of the week, an Alfred Hitchcock title from Criterion has popped up in the Big Three. Sure, this isn't one of the Hitch films I'd seen before, and in fact is one of about three of his films I'd even seen from his work in the 30's. Silly me. Quickly rocketing up to the top ten of my favorite films from the master, "The Lady Vanishes" is sublime. Much more light hearted and comedic than we usually expect from Big Al, the film follows Iris (Margaret Lockwood), a well-to-do young lady who has gotten bored of just aimlessly travelling the globe and yearns for some real excitement. Lucky for her, after getting on a trans-European train, an older woman she befriended (May Whitty) mysteriously disappears while Iris naps, and everyone around her acts as if the old biddy was never there at all. Determined (and more than just a bit sexy about it), Iris ends up reluctantly accepting the help of an amused musicologist named Gilbert (Michael Redgrave) in order to prove to everyone, and herself, that she's not gone loopy...Miss Froy DID exist. The train's other passengers largely want to stay uninvolved, each for their own reasons, even lying about having seen the woman just to stay out of it, although as the mystery deepens, it becomes less clear who is only disinterested, and who might be part of a conspiracy of silence. Somehow "The Lady Vanishes", for all its age, feels as fresh as ever, being at points laugh-out-loud funny, which is at least partially due to the Cricket-obsessed duo, Charters and Caldicott (Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford) who went on to play the popular characters in a sort-of sequel and numerous other BBC productions. But it's also a thrilling mystery with some damn decent action sequences and a more than satisfying payoff. Naturally Criterion has done a stunning job with the video and audio transfer, and there's also, along with an illustrated booklet, a really nice collection of bonus features including: "Crook's Tour", 1941 movie also featuring the Charters and Caldicott characters; 11 minutes from Francois Truffaut's interview with Hitchcock; a commentary track from a Hitchcock film historian, and more. This may actually be one of my favorite Criterionreleases this year and should be mandatory viewing AT LEAST for anyone who considers themselves a serious film fan.
--CLICK HERE TO BUY The Lady Vanishes (Blu-Ray)