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BY MARK BURGER
marksburger@yahoo.com

DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: HORROR EXPRESS (Severin Films)

The 1972 sci-fi cult favorite has never looked better than in this DVD/Blu-ray combo ($29.98 retail) that includes a wealth of special features including interviews with producer Bernard Gordon, director Eugenio Martin, a vintage audio interview with Peter Cushing (circa 1973) and more.
This movie’s got it all: Cushing and Christopher Lee — the greatest one-two combo in horror history — as rival anthropologists, the latter having discovered a missing link that is actually possessed by an alien being capable of draining intelligence. When the fossil awakens aboard the Trans-Siberian Express (it’s Manchuria, 1906), everyone aboard is in jeopardy.
This one’s got it all: suspense, mystery, horror, humor, the evolution debate, zombies, a classic John Cacavas score, Cushing and Lee at their bantering best and a bonus appearance by Telly Savalas as a crazed Cossack captain who causes more trouble. Hustling along at under 90 minutes, there’s barely time to catch one’s breath, much less look too closely at the story’s logic. Just sit back and enjoy… and turn the lights up.
CAV Distributing is also releasing almost 50 Severin Films titles (including Jodorowsky’s
Santa Sangre, Castellari’s Inglorious Bastards, Nicole Kidman in BMX Bandits , Paul WS Anderson’s debut Shopping, Richard Rush’s The Stunt Man, Richard Stanley’s Hardware, Birdemic, Psychomania, Crucible of Terror and many more). For more information, see www.cavd.com. For a complete list of titles and retail prices, download: www.cavd.com/sl/SeverinFilms_08_14_2012.xls Rated R.

CHILLERS (Troma Entertainment): Strangers stranded at a bus station tell scary stories in this low-budget 1987 horror anthology from first-time writer/producer/ director/actor Daniel Boyd. The no-name cast has remained so 25 years on. Bargainbasement cheese with a few laughs.

THE COMPLETE HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR (Synapse Films): A five-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of all 13 hour-long episodes from the 1980 (and only) season of the horror anthology series produced by Britain’s redoubtable Hammer Films — one of the studio’s last gasps before its recent revival three decades later. Guest stars included Denholm Elliott, Jon Finch, Sian Phillips, Simon MacCorkindale, Brian Cox, Diana Dors, Christopher Cazenove, a young Pierce Brosnan and legendary Hammer stalwart Peter Cushing.

“CSI: MIAMI”: THE FINAL SEASON (CBS DVD/Paramount Home Entertainment): The end of the road for David Caruso’s Horatio Caine and his crack criminology team, in all 19 episodes from the 2011-’12, 10th and final season of the award-winning CBS crime drama. Emily Procter, Adam Rodriguez, Eva La Rue, Omar Benson Miller and Rex Linn round out the regular cast. Emmy nomination for Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series. The DVD boxed set retails for $64.99.

DARK SHADOWS (Warner Home Video):Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas Collins, resident vampire of Collinsport, in Tim Burton’s colorful, campy big-screen rendition of the popular ’60s soap opera, backed by a star-studded cast including Michelle Pfeiffer, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jonny Lee Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, gorgeous Eva Green and cameos by Christopher Lee,Alice Cooper (as himself) and members of the original cast, including Jonathan Frid (the original Barnabas) in his final appearance. Much looser than advertised and uneven as a result, although not for lacking of trying — or talent. Rated PG-13.

FEMALE TEACHER: DIRTY AFTERNOON (Impulse Pictures): Yet another nonsensical softcore sex romp from Nikkatsu Studios, with Yuki Kazamatsuri in the lusty title role. English-language songs add a few laughs. In Japanese with English subtitles.

“FRINGE”: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): The FBI’s Fringe Division continues to investigate the strange and unexplained, in all 22 episodes from the 2011-’12 (and penultimate) season of the award-winning Fox Network sci-fi series starring Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick and Blair Brown. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97. Both boast special features for the “Fringe” faithful.

“GHOST HUNTERS”: SEASON 7, PART 1 (Image Entertainment): There’s paranormal activity afoot — or is there? — in the first 12 episodes from the 2011 season of the popular, award-winning SyFy documentary series following members of the The Atlantic Paranormal Association (TAPS) as they investigate reported hauntings from around the country. The DVD boxed set retails for $24.98.

MAD MONSTER PARTY? (LionsGate Home Entertainment): A DVD/Blu-ray combo ($14.99 re-release) of the stopmotion animated 1967 Rankin/Bass comedy in which the great monsters of the world gather at the castle of Baron Von Frankenstein (voiced, appropriately enough, by Boris Karloff) when he announces his retirement as the head of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters. A long-time perennial of kiddie matinees and TV holiday viewing, this is geared toward smaller children but not without its nostalgic charms, including an enthusiastic voiceover cast that includes Allen Swift, Gale Garnett and Phyllis Diller (as the Monster’s Mate!).

THE MAN FROM BEIJING (Music Box Films Home Entertainment): The gruesome discovery of almost two dozen bodies in a small Swedish town compels judge Suzanna von Borsody to uncover an international conspiracy in this adaptation of bestselling author Henning Mankell’s best-selling novel Der Chinese (the film’s original title). Originally made for European television, with Michael Nyqvist (of the original Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series) as von Borsody’s helpful husband. In German with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.95.

NYMPHO DIVER: G-STRING FESTIVAL (Impulse Pictures): A fishing village hires four nubile young women to entice tourists in this 1981 softcore sex opus from Japan’s Nikkatsu Studios, which is celebrating its centennial. The girls are cute but, rest assured, this is as tacky and tasteless as the title implies. In Japanese with English subtitles.

“SONS OF ANARCHY”: SEASON FOUR (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): On and off the road, life is rocky for the members of a modern-day motorcycle club in all 13 episodes from the 2011 season of the award-winning FX Network series, starring Katey Sagal, Ron Perlman, Charlie Hunnam, Kim Coates and Mark Boone Junior. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.99.

“SUPERNATURAL”: THE COMPLETE SEVENTH SEASON (Warner Home Video): Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles return as the Winchester brothers, battling the forces of evil in all 23 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of the award-winning CW Network fantasy series. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.97.

VILE (Inception Media Group): A group of strangers (played by a no-name cast) are subjected to a mysterious scientific experiment by which they torture each other to determine their respective thresholds of pain. This Saw knock-off is aptly titled, if nothing else… and there isn’t much else.

“THE WALKING DEAD”: THE COM- PLETE SECOND SEASON (Anchor Bay Entertainment): Zombies continue the conquest of mainstream media in the acclaimed, award-winning AMC series based on Robert Kirkman’s popular comic-book series, all 13 episodes from the 2011-’12 season of which are included here. The ensemble cast includes Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Norman Reedus and Jeffrey DeMunn. Three Emmy nominations including Outstanding Special Visual Effects. The DVD boxed set retails for $59.98, the Blu-ray boxed set for $69.99, and a limited-edition “zombie head case” Blu-ray set for $99.99.

MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.