Movies Till Dawn: Thrills and Chills

Double Dragon (Special Collector’s Edition)” (1994, MVD Rewind Collection) In a post-apocalyptic, partially submerged Los Angeles, brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee (future Iron Chef America Chairman Mark Dascascos and Scott Wolf) must keep one half of a magical medallion out of the hands of crime lord Robert Patrick. Screen adaptation of the then-wildly popular video game is at least ten different kinds of candy-colored, spandex-wearing nonsense, but has enough self-depreciating humor to leaven the cartoonish fights and faux mysticism. Those that remember “Double Dragon” with fondness will be bowled over by MVD’s Collectors’ Edition Blu-ray/DVD, which bundles a new, hour-long documentary featuring several of the primary players, including producer Don Murphy (the “Transformers” franchise) and co-scripter Peter Gould (“Breaking Bad”) with vintage making-of featurettes, stills, storyboards and promo materials, and the pilot for an animated series pilot.

Waterworld” (1995, Arrow Video) Taking the fate of the world proposed in “Double Dragon” to its most extreme conclusion, “Waterworld” dunks the entire globe under water after the polar ice caps melt (ahem) and leaves the fate of its survivors to gilled loner the Mariner (Kevin Costner). Long regarded as a textbook example of Hollywood ego and bloat, Kevin Reynolds‘ expensive sci-fi/fantasy epic isn’t as bad as you’ve heard – the visual effects and action set-pieces are impressive – but it’s also draggy and self-satisfied, and Costner (a good actor) is a deadly dull hero, which leaves Dennis Hopper‘s chain-smoking villain to keep things lively. Arrow Video’s Limited Edition Blu-ray set matches the film’s scope by offering three versions – the theatrical release, the TV edit, which adds 40 minutes of extended scenes, and the storied “Ulysses” edit, a fan-made cut which restored all the footage removed from the TV take – as well as new and vintage interviews with Reynolds and other primary crew, making-of featurettes, trailers and more.

Next of Kin” (1982, Severin Films) Rarely seen Australian thriller about a rash of grisly murders at a retirement home that target the residents, and then the new proprietor (Jacki Kerin) whose mother was the former owner. New Zealand director Tony Williams imbues the material with arthouse polish and technique which smoothes over the clunky plot machinery; though not intended as a slasher picture (at least, by Williams), the murder set pieces are decidedly nasty, and Klaus Schulze (Tangerine Dream, Ash Ra Tempel) provides an unnerving electronic score. Severin’s Blu-ray is loaded with extras, including two commentary tracks (one with Williams, the other with Kerin and co-star John Jarrett of “Wolf Creek” fame), trailers and deleted scenes, and a location visit by Kier La-Janisse.

Audition” (1999, Arrow Video) What happens to widowed TV producer Ryo Ishibashi when he visits the curiously empty apartment of Eihi Shiina – a woman he’s chosen to date via faux movie auditions – can be described as either the nastiest of surprises or pure nightmare fodder, depending on your tolerance for paralyzing drugs, saws and lots and lots of needles. Director Takashi Miike cemented his gonzo reputation with this film (along with “Ichi the Killer” and “Dead or Alive”) though it’s is a more somber and contemplative effort than those freakouts: Ishibashi’s emotional state is afforded as much screen time as the eventual mayhem, which makes the descent into that ugliness all the more unsettling. Arrow’s Blu-ray offers two commentaries – a conversational track with Miike and screenwriter Daisuke Tengan, and a more fact-driven track by Miike biographer Tom Mes – as well as interviews with the director and his cast, English and Japanese trailers (spoiler alert on the latter) and an appreciation of Miike’s work by Tony Rayns.

The Appaloosa” (1966, Kino Lorber) The title horse is stolen by maniacal bandit John Saxon from grimy cowpoke Marlon Brando, who endures beatings and torture by Saxon’s men, as well as a bite from a scorpion used as incentive in an arm-wrestling match, to retrieve it. Violent Western drama that turns increasingly eccentric under Sidney J. Furie‘s mannered direction, which seems composed entirely of off-kilter framing and endless sweaty, Leone-esque close-ups by Russell Metty (who also makes excellent use of the California locations, which include Lancaster, the Antelope Valley, and Wrightwood); Brando mutters at length, but the scenes that pit his Method cool against Saxon’s Golden Globe-nominated boiling-point performance have a bite that’s lacking in the rest of the film. Kino’s Special Edition Blu-ray includes commentary by Retro Magazine publisher Lee Pfeiffer and historian Paul Scrabo.

And: a brace of bad behavior in black and white from the Warner Archives Collection. “Danger Signal” (1945) features Zachary Scott as a lonelyhearts murderer who meets his match in sisters Faye Emerson and Mona Freeman. Sordid B noir anchored by Scott in full heel mode, directed by the prolific Robert Florey with photography by James Wong Howe. “Full Confession” (1939) is more melodrama than noir, but comes packed with a heavy dose of shadows, anxious voice-overs and Catholic guilt courtesy of priest Joseph Calleia, who tries to convince burly Victor McLaglen to confess to a murder and save Barry Fitzgerald from the chair. Directed by John Farrow, who shot scenes at Brent’s Crags in Malibu. And “Kind Lady” (1935) stars Basil Rathbone as a con man who takes over the home of wealthy Aline MacMahon. Worth seeing for Rathbone, ever the elegant dastard; the WAC disc includes the 1951 remake with Maurice Evans and Ethel Barrymore as predator and prey, respectively, and inveterate scene-stealers Angela Lansbury and Keenan Wynn as Evans’ accomplices.

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About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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