DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (VCI Entertainment)
Eighty years and countless imitations later, the original 1932 screen adaptation of Richard Connell’s classic short story is still the best — and still packs a punch.
Shipwreck survivors unlucky enough to wash ashore on the remote island of Count Zaroff (Leslie Banks, in a full-tilt screen debut) are treated to his elegant hospitality, which culminates in a visit to his trophy room. The Count is a hunter, and his obsession is in hunting “the most dangerous game” — man. People come to his island, but end up in the trophy room.
Joel McCrea (suitably rugged) and Fay Wray (appropriately attractive) are his latest targets, but McCrea is too a hunter and determined to turn the tables on their deranged pursuer. Running a tight, taut 62 minutes, the suspense rarely flags.
In some ways, the film was a warm-up for King Kong, released the next year and sharing some of the same cast (including Robert Armstrong, Noble Johnson and Wray) and crew (including co-director Ernest B Schoedsack, composer Max Steiner, executive producer David O Selznick and associate producer Merian C Cooper).
This is among the inaugural titles in VCI’s “Nostalgia Film Factory” line, which include the feature film, bonus cartoon, vintage newsreel and a serial chapter. Other titles include William Wellman’s Oscar-winning 1937 version of A Star is Born, Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street (1945), Bob Hope in My Favorite Brunette (1947), Danny Kaye in The Inspector General (1949) and Claudette Colbert in Three Came Home (1950). Each DVD retails for $9.99.
CHERNOBYL DIARIES (Warner Home Video): Dumb American tourists ignore armed guards and warning signs to visit the site of Russia’s worst nuclear disaster and, predictably, soon wish they hadn’t. Better-made and acted than expected films, but doomed by dopey characters and a dumb story. Rated R.
DARK TIDE (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Halle Berry and real-life beau Olivier Martinez play a couple who embark on a dangerous shark dive in this dreadfully slow would-be thriller marking yet another oceanic offering from hack director John Stockwell (following Into the Blue and Blue Crush). The photography is extremely good and the story extremely bad. Too much idle chitchat and not enough sharks. Don’t be surprised if you start rooting for them, too. Rated PG-13.
“FAMILY GUY”: VOLUME TEN (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment): The latest DVD collection ($39.98 retail), this one of 14 episodes, from the longrunning, award-winning Fox Network animated series created by Seth MacFarlane, about a (highly) dysfunctional family’s misadventures in Rhode Island.
HALLOWEEN II (Scream Factory/ Shout! Factory): Much-maligned at the time, the initial 1981 follow-up to John Carpenter’s 1978 classic is still the best of the sequels, with Donald Pleasence back as dogged Dr Loomis and Jamie Lee Curtis as the endangered Laurie Strode, with Dick Warlock playing Michael Myers. In many ways better-made than the original, although repetition and more violence are unavoidable. Good supporting cast: Charles Cyphers (encoring briefly as Chief Brackett), Lance Guest, Ana Alicia, Tawny Moyer, Leo Rossi, Jeffrey Kramer (of Jaws fame), Hunter Von Leer, Ford Rainey and gorgeous Pamela Susan Shoop. Carpenter and Alan Howarth’s electronic variation on the original score is a knockout. This new, two-disc, 30th-anniversary special edition contains plenty of special features. The DVD retails for $24.97, the Blu-ray for $29.93. Rated R.
HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH (Scream Factory/Shout! Factory): Producers John Carpenter and Debra Hill decided to forgo Michael Myers with this 1982 installment in the horror series, opting instead — and some say unwisely — for an entirely new narrative about the insidious plan of a diabolical toymaker (the terrific Dan O’Herlihy) to sabotage Halloween with cursed masks — unless heroes Tom Atkins and Stacey Nelkin can stop him. The directorial debut of long-time Carpenter associate Tommy Lee Wallace owes more than a bit to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and was not a hit, thereby scuttling the idea to make a new Halloween movies with new stories on a recurring basis. It doesn’t really work but everybody tries. The 30th-anniversary special-edition DVD retails for $24.97, the Blu-ray for $29.93. Rated R.
THE LUCKY ONE (Warner Home Video): Director Scott Hicks is a long way from Shine (1996) with this typically overwrought Nicholas Sparks adaptation with Zac Efron as a young veteran who seeks out Taylor Schilling, whose photograph he found during his military service in Iraq. Sun-dappled cinematography and song montages grind the maudlin atmosphere into the ground but, hey, it won some Teen Choice Awards. Rated PG-13.
“THE RED HAND GANG”: THE COM- PLETE SERIES (VCI Entertainment): A DVD collection ($19. 99 retail) of all 12 episodes from the 1977 (and only) season of the Saturday-morning, live-action series about five kids who solve crimes in their neighborhood.
SCREAM THEATER DOUBLE FEA- TURES (VCI Entertainment): Just in time for Halloween, a collection of DVD twinbills (each retailing for $9.99): Volume 1 includes 1978’s Sisters of Death (rated PG) and 1973’s Scream Bloody Murder (rated R); Volume 2 includes 1986’s Terror at Tenkiller and 1988’s The Last Slumber Party; Volume 3 includes SF Brownrigg’s 1979 Don’t Open the Door (rated PG) and 1973’s Don’t Look in the Basement (rated R); Volume 4 includes the 1969 documentary Legend of the Witches and the 1960 Christopher Lee chiller The City of the Dead (AKA Horror Hotel); Volume 5 includes Christopher Lewis’ 1985 Blood Cult (rated R) and its 1986 sequel Revenge (rated R), the latter with Patrick Wayne and John Carradine; Volume 6 includes the 1972 cult classic Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (rated PG), which marked director Bob Clark’s big-screen bow, and 1987’s Forever Evil; Volume 7 includes 1974’s Swamp of the Ravens and Del Tenney’s 1964 Zombie (AKA I Eat Your Skin); and Volume 8 includes Curtis Harrington’s 1977 Ruby (rated R) starring Piper Laurie and Stuart Whitman, and 1975’s Kiss of the Tarantula (rated PG).
SURVIVING PROGRESS (First Run Features): Martin Scorsese executiveproduced Mathieu Roy and Harold Crooks’ thought-provoking documentary, inspired by Ronald Wright’s best-seller A History of Progress, about the benefits and drawbacks of industrial and technological progress.
THUNDER SOUL (LionsGate Home Entertainment): Jamie Foxx presented this award-winning documentary ($19.98 retail) about the alumni of a Houston high school who reunite to celebrate the life of their band leader and inspiration, “Prof.” Conrad Johnson. Rated PG.
THE WORLD SERIES: HISTORY OF THE FALL CLASSIC (MLB Productions/A&E Networks Home Entertainment): The title tells all in this documentary commemorating the upcoming 100th anniversary of baseball’s World Series, hosted by Bob Costas. My team, the Phillies, have won a grand total of two championships – and they’ve been around since 1883! The two-DVD boxed set retails for $24.95, the limited-edition four-DVD boxed set for $39.95.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. © 2012, Mark Burger.