View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD.
Rod Serling in promo art for Night Gallery: Season Two (Photo: Kino)
By Matt Brunson
(View From The Couch is a weekly column that reviews what’s new on Blu-ray, 4K and DVD. Ratings are on a four-star scale.)
ADVENTURES OF DON JUAN (1948). It’s not as excellent as 1935’s Captain Blood or as immortal as 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, but Adventures of Don Juan allowed an older Errol Flynn to swash with buckler in hand one final time for Warner Bros. Flynn plays Spaniard Don Juan de Maraña, whose womanizing ways are temporarily put on hold once he falls for his country’s Queen Margaret (Viveca Lindfors, Aunt Bedelia in the 1982 Romero-King collaboration Creepshow). She disapproves of his past scandalous behavior but changes her attitude toward him as he fights to save her crown from the treasonous Duke de Lorca (Robert Douglas). Flynn’s health was already in decline — he would die 11 years later, at the age of 50 — although you wouldn’t know it from his dashing turn in this rousing period romp that paired him with Alan Hale (cast, as always, as his sidekick) for the 13th and final time. This earned the Best Color Costume Design Oscar, with an additional nomination for Best Color Art Direction-Set Decoration.
Blu-ray extras include archival audio commentary by director Vincent Sherman and film historian Rudy Behlmer; two 1948 Best Short Subject Oscar nominees, So You Want to Be on the Radio and Calgary Stampede; and the 1948 Bugs Bunny cartoon Hare Splitter.
DUAL (2022). Writer-director Riley Stearns, whose The Art of Self-Defense landed on my 10 Best list for 2019, returns with another picture that adds dark humor to disturbing scenarios. In the near future, people who are expected to die can purchase a clone to take their place, so friends and family don’t need to experience any loss. Sarah (Karen Gillan) is one such individual, opting for the clone after she’s told her illness is terminal. But it’s only after Sarah’s Double (also Gillan) has settled into Sarah’s place as daughter and girlfriend that Sarah learns she’s not going to die after all — since the law dictates that an original and a clone cannot coexist, they must fight a duel to the death. Stearns’ decision to have all the actors speak in robotic tones is an odd one but ultimately makes sense in a story about the loss of identity, and the scenes in which a combat instructor (Aaron Paul) helps Sarah prepare for her duel are particularly strong. But the movie falls apart during its final stretch, as a heretofore smart character suddenly turns into a moron, setting up a denouement that’s painfully predictable — it doesn’t help that an early scene involving eyes clumsily signals how this will all end.
Blu-ray extras consist of audio commentary by Stearns and a making-of featurette.
GOD TOLD ME TO (1976). With such efforts as Q — The Winged Serpent and It’s Alive on his resume, it’s saying something to note that God Told Me To might be the most bizarre of all films from writer-director Larry Cohen. Tony Lo Bianco stars as Peter Nicholas, an NYPD detective who’s baffled by a series of incidents in which seemingly normal citizens suddenly turn homicidal, declaring “God told me to” after systematically slaughtering innocent people. A devout Catholic, Peter investigates the murders and discovers that they lead back to a Christ-like figure (Richard Lynch), a pair of virgin births, and even a UFO. As with many Cohen efforts, the presentation is often ragged, but the shock sequences are effective and the story is thought-provoking. Sylvia Sidney, whose 69-year career dated back to the silent-film era (credits include Fritz Lang’s Fury, Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage, and Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice), appears in a key supporting role, while Andy Kaufman makes his film debut as a possessed cop.
Extras in the 4K + Blu-ray edition include archival audio commentary by Cohen; film historian audio commentary; a pair of Q&A sessions with Cohen; an interview with Lo Bianco; and promo material for the film under its alternate re-release title of Demon.
GOOD BURGER (1997). It’s easy to see why Good Burger garnered negative reviews (including mine) upon its original release and why it’s a hallowed Gen Y fave today. Based on a sketch from the Nickelodeon kids’ show All That, it stars Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell (aka Kenan & Kel) as Dexter and Ed, two employees at the fast food establishment Good Burger. When it looks as if Mondo Burger, the ritzy new hamburger joint across the street, will put Good Burger out of business, it’s up to the enterprising Dexter and the dim-witted Ed to come up with a plan to save the eatery. This one is almost exclusively for the Millennials who grew up with the show (as well as their own kids), although Gen Xers and Baby Boomers might be curious about the participation of former Barney Miller co-star Abe Vigoda as an elderly employee who issues declarative statements such as “I think I broke my ass!” Thompson and Mitchell are both charismatic performers and do well in their roles, although a little of Ed’s imbecility goes a long way and his more juvenile antics (such as French fries in the nostrils) quickly grow tiresome.
Good Burger is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a Limited Edition Blu-ray Steelbook. The only extra is the original “Good Burger” skit from All That.
HELL HIGH (1989). Hell High is known as one of the approximately 5,862 slasher flicks released in that most slasher-friendly of decades, but in the final analysis, it isn’t even a slasher pic as much as it’s a revenge yarn. And while production values are mostly on the amateurish side, there’s enough that’s different about it to place it a (machete) cut above other similar films. After an opening in which a little girl inadvertently causes the deaths of a biker couple, the film moves forward 18 years and reveals that the moppet is now biology teacher Brooke Storm (Maureen Mooney). Brooke has spent her life haunted by that gruesome incident, so when she gets pranked at her home by a cruel student named Dickens (Christopher Stryker) and his buddies — conflicted Jon-Jon (Christopher Cousins), trampy Queenie (Millie Prezioso), and portly Smiler (Jason Brill) — she finally snaps. Hell High (aka Raging Fury) is poorly paced and suffers from some limp dialogue, but credit writer-director Douglas Grossman for at least throwing in a couple of curveballs.
Blu-ray extras include audio commentary by Grossman and cinematographer Steven Fierberg; archival audio commentary by horror host and alt-right hero Joe Bob Briggs; interviews with Mooney, Cousins, and co-writer Leo Evans; and a deleted scene.
MARTY (1955). With television proving to be a serious threat to cinema in the 1950s, Hollywood studios did everything they could to lure viewers out of the home, from the introduction of CinemaScope to the rediscovery of 3-D to the production of countless large-scale epics. Therefore, there’s some irony in the fact that one of the era’s most notable hits was a low-budget black-and-white film adapted from a teleplay that had aired two years earlier. Ernest Borgnine landed the role of a lifetime with Marty Piletti, a beefy Bronx butcher who has spent his entire life being rejected by women. But that changes once he meets Clara (Betsy Blair), a plain schoolteacher cruelly dumped by her date. The pair seem to hit it off, but Marty has doubts once he learns that neither his equally lonely best friend (Joe Mantell) nor his clingy mother (Esther Minciotti) care for her. Paddy Chayefsky (adapting his own teleplay) set out to make a sweet and simple love story, and he succeeded. Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Supporting Actor (Mantell) and Best Supporting Actress (Blair), this won four major statues: Best Picture (at 91 minutes, still the shortest of all 94 winners to date), Actor, Director (Delbert Mann), and Screenplay.
Blu-ray extras consist of entertainment journalist audio commentary and the theatrical trailer.
NIGHT GALLERY: SEASON TWO (1971-1972). Following the highly successful run of The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) on CBS, Rod Serling’s next tangle with the unknown was Night Gallery, which ran for three seasons (1970-1973) on NBC. Because the first season of this anthology series focusing on the supernatural was one of a rotating quartet of shows collectively known as Four in One, there were only six episodes, released on Blu-ray last year. The second season, however, offered a full slate of shows, and that one has now also been released on Blu. There are 22 episodes containing 62 vignettes, and while the series doesn’t match the quality of either The Twilight Zone or ABC’s The Outer Limits, there’s still much enjoyment to be had. Among those appearing in various episodes are Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, Geraldine Page, Sandra Dee, Bill Bixby, Adam West, Leslie Nielsen, Sondra Locke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and, in a tiny part, Mark Hamill five years before Star Wars.
Blu-ray extras include 32 audio commentaries (participants include filmmaker and fan Guillermo del Toro, WarGames / Bird on a Wire director John Badham, who helmed several vignettes, and numerous film historians); a look at the show’s syndication woes (continuing a piece from the Season One release); and TV spots.
SALT & PEPPER (1968) / ONE MORE TIME (1970). Although Peter Lawford had been kicked out of the Rat Pack by Frank Sinatra in 1962 and was no longer part of the Kennedy clan after divorcing JFK and Bobby’s sister Patricia in 1966, his personal travails didn’t affect his acting career. He continued to appear in numerous motion pictures (and, later, TV shows), and one of them turned out to be enough of a hit that it prompted a sequel. His co-star in both features? Sammy Davis Jr., a member of, yup, the Rat Pack.
In Salt & Pepper, Davis plays Charlie Salt while Lawford portrays Chris Pepper (and, yes, there’s a gag about Salt being black and Pepper being white). The owners of a hip nightclub in London, they inadvertently get mixed up in espionage after a couple of dead bodies are found in their club. Davis overplays while Lawford underplays, which results in a nice chemistry between their characters. There are some amusing moments (particularly in the early going), but ultimately there aren’t enough laughs to sustain what’s supposed to be a rollicking comedy.
Salt & Pepper marked only the second big-screen credit for Richard Donner, who would go on to direct such blockbusters as The Omen and Superman. He didn’t helm the Salt & Pepper sequel, One More Time — that would actually be Jerry Lewis, overseeing this in the same year he directed the WWII comedy Which Way to the Front? and two years before his infamous WWII drama The Day the Clown Cried. It’s a botched assignment all the way around, as Pepper takes the place of his snobbish twin brother after the latter is assassinated but doesn’t bother to tell Salt about the switch. Davis was broad in Salt & Pepper, but that performance looks positively comatose next to the embarrassing one he delivers here. One More Time is desperate and unfunny, and even the cameos by horror greats Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing (as Dracula and Dr. Frankenstein) are awkwardly handled.
The two films have been released as a Double Feature Blu-ray. The only extras are the theatrical trailers.
Salt & Pepper: ★★½
One More Time: ★½
SEAQUEST DSV: THE COMPLETE SERIES (1993-1996). With Steven Spielberg on board as an executive producer, Jaws star Roy Scheider heading the cast, and plenty of NBC’s loot spent on sets and special effects, it’s no surprise SeaQuest DSV was heavily hyped and launched to great fanfare. But pitted against ratings giant Murder, She Wrote for its first two seasons did it no favors, and its viewership free fall combined with behind-the-scenes squabbles led to its cancellation midway through its third season. Nevertheless, the show has had its fans over the decades and, for them, Mill Creek has released a set that contains all 57 episodes on 10 discs. Set in 2018, the first two seasons star Scheider as Captain Nathan Bridger, who commands a high-tech submarine as it travels the oceans to explore strange new worlds like a watery Enterprise. Scheider became disgusted with the show’s quality, so the third season (with a new title, SeaQuest 2032) finds Michael Ironside as the vessel’s new captain. The unique setting is the show’s greatest asset, as the storylines are fairly conventional.
Blu-ray extras include new interviews with various behind-the-scenes personnel (including series creator Rockne S. O’Bannon) and deleted scenes.
Review links for movies referenced in this column:
The Art of Self-Defense
Best & Worst Films of 2019
Bird on a Wire
The Curse of Frankenstein
Horror of Dracula
It’s Alive Trilogy
Man on the Moon
The Outer Limits: Season One
The Outer Limits: Season Two
Q — The Winged Serpent