Movies Till Dawn: TV Party 2021

Kevin Can Go F**k Himself: Season 1” (2021, RLJ Films) Coal-dark comedy-drama series posits a novel premise – what if the shenanigans of TV man-children like Homer, Raymond, Kevin, etc., drove their wives to murder them? – and wields it, scalpel-like, to dissect the sitcom perspective on male-female relationships? Getting Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”) to handle the TV wife role was a shrewd move, as she handles both the sitcom and dramatic sides of her character with skill ; depicting the husband’s perspective as a multi-camera sitcom and Murphy’s slow descent into rage as a brooding single camera drama was another. The result feels fresh and deeply unhinged (in the best possible way) and laden with potential (a second season is en route). RLJ’s Blu-ray offers introductory featurettes on the premise, characters, and production.

Night Gallery: Season 1” (1970-1971, Kino Lorber) Small screen horror fans and ’70s TV enthusiasts remember Rod Serling’s second anthology series with bittersweet nostalgia: the series was created, hosted, and frequently written by but not produced by Serling, who lacked the same creative control he enjoyed with “The Twilight Zone.” As a result, he took the brickbats when stories hewed towards leaden humor or implausible premises, which ultimately led to its demise in its third season. However, like many TV anthology series, “Night Gallery,” and especially its first season, has enough laudable episodes to balance out the chaff: included in this two-disc set is the terrific 1969 pilot, which features an episode directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Joan Crawford as a vain blind woman who pays a gruesome price for bullying her way back to sight. Also among the six multi-segment Season 1 episodes is the Serling-penned “Certain Shadows on the Wall,” a creepy treatise on lingering family issues, and “The Doll,” which should unnerve those with a phobia for old and ugly toys. Kino’s set is a 2K scan from the original camera negatives and includes commentary on every episode by TV/horror experts like Kim Newman, Tim Lucas, and “Night Gallery” historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton. A terrific featurette on the series’ syndication troubles and excellent liner notes round out the set.

The Ultimate Richard Pryor Collection: Uncensored” (2021, TimeLife) Staggering, 13-disc tribute to the comic, actor, and filmmaker for whom superlatives like “genius” can’t quite do justice. Pryor’s best showcase, the stand-up stage, is the primary focus of the set, which bundles his four incredible concert films – the rarely seen “Live and Smoking,” “Live in Concert,” “Live on the Sunset Strip,” and the confessional “Here and Now – with a wealth of extras, many unavailable for years. The concert films are the best way to glimpse Pryor’s extraordinary mind; the extra material, which includes his 1977 TV special and the ill-fated, four-episode sketch/variety series that followed (and which featured, among others, Paul Mooney, John Witherspoon, and Edie McClurg), illustrate how Pryor’s comedy clashed with mainstream media sensibilities. Two documentaries about Pryor are included, as are numerous talk show appearances, and the ambitious, Pryor-directed biographical drama “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life is Calling,” but the real rarity of the set is footage from “Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales,” a 1968 satire produced and edited by Penelope Spheeris, who retained and reassembled the footage after Pryor destroyed the negative. Required viewing for Pryor devotees, comic historians, and those who only know the legend (for better or worse) and not his work

Creepshow: The Co”mplete Second Season” (2020-2021, RLJE Films) Sophomore season of the horror anthology series is, like its predecessor, a mixed bag, though the high points in this five-episode run show that the series can deliver the right mix of morbid humor and gore that defined its 1982 source material (written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero). The season’s highlight is unquestionably “Public Television of the Dead,” for which series showrunner and makeup effects legend Greg Nicotero folds a host of beloved PBS programming into the manic world of Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead.” The hour-long segment “Night of the Living Late Show,” also directed by Nicotero (and written by Dana Gould), also succeeds with story concerning a machine that allows users to step into and interact with their favorite movies. The remaining episodes – directed by, among others, Joe Lynch (“Hatchet”), Rusty Cundieff, and longtime Romero collaborator John Harrison – rise and fall on the strength of their stories, which can stray into underdeveloped or overcomplicated territories, but at least have exceptional (or gross) effects to fall back on. RLJE’s Blu-ray set is well-stocked with extras, including the 2020 Holiday and Christmas specials – both animated efforts, and the former distinguished by an adaptation of one of King’s most disgusting stories, “Survivor Type” – as well as behind-the-scenes featurettes, an interview with Nicotero, and well-appointed liner notes tricked out in eye-popping comic book form.

Code 3: LA Sheriff’s Case Files – The Complete Series” (1957, MPI) Syndicated black-and-white anthology series from 1957 features then-Los Angeles County sheriff Eugene W. Biscailuz (who gave us the California Highway Patrol), who lends authenticity to episodes reportedly drawn from his office’s case files. The LAPD tackles a surprising number of psychopathic killers and juvenile delinquents in the series’ 39 episodes – all featured on MPI’s set – though other cases range from the mundane (illegal betting) to the outré (kids make off with explosives), and a couple of episodes even focus on bad cops. The show’s directors (which include Don Siegel and Ted Post, both future helmers for the Dirty Harry franchise) do what they can to wring suspense, pacing, and atmosphere from a limited budget – location filming helps in that regard – and the cast, built largely from old-timers (lots of ’30s-era Hollywood players like Robert Armstrong and Mae Clark) and familiar faces (DeForest Kelley, Russell Johnson), gamely go through their good guy/bad guy paces. For vintage TV fans, “Code 3” is pure ham sandwich entertainment: uncomplicated but satisfying.

The Victim” (1972, Kino Lorber) Elizabeth Montgomery anchors this ABC TV-movie with a strong performance that overcomes a somewhat underfed premise. In director Herschel Daugherty’s film, Montgomery – fresh from her starmaking run on “Bewitched” – visits her sister’s Old Dark House-style home (cue location footage from Monterey and San Francisco and Universal backlot sets) but finds it empty save for her maid (Eileen Heckart). As a colossal storm brews outside, Montgomery digs into her sister’s past and finds multiple suspects with motives for making her disappear, including one who may still be on the premises. TV vet Merwin Gerard’s script reveals a major plot point within the first act, which undoes much of the suspense, but Montgomery carries the remaining weight. Kino’s Blu-ray is a 2K remaster that includes commentary by TV terror historian Amanda Reyes that’s heavy on production and genre details.

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 Merry Jane, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for from 1998 to 2014. He has also interviewed countless entertainment figures, 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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