This week, we begin in Transylvania:
Dario Argento’s Dracula
Not rated, 110 minutes.
Available Tuesday on DVD and Blu-ray and in various download formats.
Unlike some unnamed egomaniacs, Dario Argento is one of the few directors qualified enough to have his name in the title, as least on a horror film. In this 2012 release (variously called Argento’s Dracula, Dario Argento’s Dracula and even Argento’s Dracula 3D) the horror-meister renders a fairly straightforward interpretation of Bram Stoker’s original novel.
But of course, being Argento, he must include bright colors with an emphasis on blood redness, sharp photography, female nudity (shamelessly including his daughter, Asia), and minimal special effects (although the giant mantis is a bit much).
Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde) arrives at the castle of Count Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann) to work. But before disposing of Harker, the Count sets his eyes on Harker’s new bride, Mina (Marta Gastini). The usual bloodsucking confrontations play out before Van Helsing (Rutger Hauer) arrives to save the day. A garishly entertaining guilty pleasure.
The disc includes a comprehensive 64-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, along with a music video.
April Fools (2 stars), Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? (2 stars) and The War Between Men and Women (3 stars) CBS Home Entertainment brings to DVD three movie-only titles from the Paramount library, all showcasing major talent from the late 1960s into the 1970s.
The trio also presents some of the worst and best from films of this era. The good: Marvin Hamlisch’s music in Fools and War, Shel Silverstein’s music and lyrics in Harry Kellerman, character actress Barbara Harris in Harry Kellerman and War, and a young Catherine Deneuve in Fools.
The downsides in the films are, of course, the hideous fashions and hairstyles that accentuate much of the dated and often highly pretentious dialogue that tries to be clever but ends up being embarrassing: “Shakespeare’s a winner, man.”
Ever-twitching Jack Lemmon stars in April Fools (1969) as a Wall Street executive who, over the course of one night, falls in love with the wife (Deneuve) of his boss (Peter Lawford, the most outdated of them all).
The two travel around New York City together throughout the evening and have various romantic interludes. As morning nears, he is ready to abandon his job, wife (Sally Kellerman) and child and move to Paris with his new paramour.
Despite being a showcase for Lemmon and Deneuve, the film ends up being as awkward and maudlin as it is unbelievable. And somewhat sad. Rated PG, 94 minutes.
Dustin Hoffman stars in Harry Kellerman (1971) as Georgie Soloway, a New York composer and musician. In a depressive haze, he struggles through several days, mostly wandering around town and visiting his psychiatrist, played by Jack Warden, who appears in several of Georgie’s dreams, hallucinations and fantasies.
While Georgie gradually becomes unraveled, a stranger named Harry Kellerman calls his many girlfriends (including Barbara Harris, who scored an Oscar nomination) and warns them off while doing the same to Georgie’s business connections. In the process, much of Georgie’s past is revealed by director Ulu Grosbard — a former stage director who never seems able to grasp the rhythms or intricacies of film narrative. Rated R, 107 minutes.
Jack Lemmon, again, stars in The War Between Men and Women (1972), the best of these three and “suggested” by the writings and illustrations of James Thurber.
Lemmon plays Peter, a misanthropic Thurber-like writer-cartoonist losing his vision. He meets and falls for Terri (Harris) and immediately inherits all that he has despised: a family of three children, a dog and domesticity. But once he’s almost settled in, his situation is threatened by the reappearance of Terri’s former husband (Jason Robards).
Director Melville Shavelson deftly mixes live action with Thurber drawings. Light enough entertainment mixed with some serious situations. Rated PG, 104 minutes.
Orpheus Descending (3 stars) and Heart of Darkness (2.5 stars) The Warner Archive Collection releases two made-for-TV movies, originally shown on TNT and both based on noteworthy literary works.
In Tennessee Williams’ gloomy Orpheus Descending (1990), Kevin Anderson plays Val Xavier, a newcomer to a small Southern town. He immediately turns heads, particularly among the women, as he lands a job working in a general store for Lady Torrance, played with an awkward Italian accent by an energetic Vanessa Redgrave.
Meanwhile, her husband lies above the store bedridden with cancer. As the sexual tension builds between Val and Lady, various local dramas play out, giving Williams room to paint sordid pictures of his favorite rustic types. Peter Hall (father of Rebecca) directed, allowing his cast free rein to deliver Williams’ dialogue in thick, overdone Southern accents. Not rated, 117 minutes.
In the 1993 adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novella Heart of Darkness, Tim Roth plays Marlow, who narrates in flashback about his journey into the Belgian Congo and the darkest heart of Africa.
His mission lies in relieving a rogue agent, Kurtz (John Malkovich), of his duties to the company that sent him. Marlow follows Conrad’s (and before him, Dante’s) descent into oblivion, accentuated with colorful and dangerous encounters, none more sinister than Kurtz. Not rated, 100 minutes.
A side note: Marlon Brando played the protagonist in earlier film versions of both of these stories — The Fugitive Kind, which was a 1960 version of Orpheus, and Apocalypse Now, based on Heart of Darkness.
Stonados (2 stars) As if it weren’t bad enough to have sharks raining down on us in the form of tornadoes, now stones want in on the act.
This cheesy sci-fi thriller, originally made for the Syfy channel, features an intrepid team. A Boston police officer (Thea Gill), a TV weatherman (Sebastian Spence), and a storm chaser turned high school science teacher (Paul Johansson) look extremely concerned when tornado-like funnels form and disappear in the waters near Boston.
Before long, these mysterious formations start chunking huge boulders into the city. Someone must act. Now. Thankfully the fearless trio figures out that the phenomenon is caused by volcanoes, or something like that, and that they know how to stop it. But first they must convince those governmental dummies who stand in their way.
Decent yet sparse special effects, scenic locations (even if the Boston locales looks suspiciously Canadian), and an earnest cast make this yet another guilty pleasure entertainment. Not rated, 88 minutes.
And, finally, for kids this week:
Barney: Story Time With Barney Among several valuable lessons, Barney teaches kids it’s fun to read and to use your imagination. Three episodes use classic fairy tales to tell their stories and to emphasize important values. The disc also holds a “Short Stories with Barney” featurette. Not rated, 53 minutes.
Angelina Ballerina: On With the Show In five episodes, dancing mouse Angelina uses music to communicate with teacher Ms. Mimi and friends AZ, Gracie and Polly. The disc also holds a game and a music video. Not rated, 61 minutes.
Also available on DVD: Concussion, Dark Touch, Vikingdom.