Italy has brought us so many wonderful things: Fellini; lasagna; Silvio Berlusconi (that last is debatable). But among the many marvels borne of those shores, truly the most wondrous has to be the knock-off film, a genre that took groundbreaking, innovative American titles and replicated them with a low-budget zeal and enough questionable technical prowess to make them their own classics. Loved JAWS? Wait’ll you see TENTACLES, the Italian version that features a giant octopus (plus the all-star quadrifecta of John Huston, Henry Fonda, Shelley Winters, and Claude Akins!). Got nightmares from THE EXORCIST? You should check out THE RETURN OFTHE EXORCIST, which, despite the title, has neither Jason Miller nor Max von Sydow in the lead, but does offer Richard Conte in his final performance.
And if you just couldn’t get enough of STAR WARS, then the ever-inventive Italian filmmakers were willing to feed your hunger with STARCRASH, a faithful replication of CHAPTER IV: A NEW HOPE — if by “faithful” one means cheesy special effects, hammy acting and a storyline so muddled that audiences couldn’t help but proclaim, “Y’know, THE PHANTOM MENACE wasn’t that bad.” Forsaking their Jedi code, Temple of Bad residents Andrea Lipinski, Kevin Lauderdale, and I allow ourselves a flirtation with the Dark Side, one that here also claimed the souls of Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, Christopher Plummer and (swoon) David Hasselhoff. In this episode, we unburden ourselves of an experience so devastating that even Lord Darth Vader would have cried, “Padme! Noooooooo!!!” Oh, wait, he did. Never mind. La Forza può salvarti da film scadente!
Also on Home Video this week: THE BLACK CAULDRON, STARCRASH, RIFFTRAX, RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, LORD OF THE RINGS, CARRIE, JACOB’S LADDER
A wide variety of horror, fantasy, and science fiction titles arrive in stores on Tuesday, September 14: something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blu… (ray, that is). Walt Disney Video offers PRINCE OF PERSIA: THE SANDS OF TIME in three formats: DVD, Blu-ray, and a 3-disc combo back with both formats, plus a digital copy. The bonus features are parceled out in a way that makes the latter the only complete edition: the DVD includes the behind-the-scenes featurette “An Unseen World: Making Prince of Persia”; the Blu-ray contains the featurette and a deleted scene, “The Banquet: Garsiv Presents Heads”; and the combo pack includes all of the DVD and Blu-ray features, plus “CineEsplore: The Sands of Time,” interactive feature that allows you to “take control of the dagger and use it to unlock secrets behind your favorite scenes! Turn back time and uncover over 40 spellbinding segments – including ‘Walking Up Walls,’ ‘Filming in Morocco,’ and ‘Ostrich Jockey Tryouts’.'” The only other new title arriving this week is FRINGE: THE COMPLETE SECOND SEASON, which shows up on DVD and Blu-ray. Bonus features include: four audio commentaries; The Mythology of Fringe; sidebar analysis on six episodes; In the Lab with John Noble and Rob Smith; a gag reel; unaired scenes; and “The Unearthed Episode,” starring Kirk Acevedo as Charlie. On the 50th anniversary of its first appearance on network airwaves, Rod Serling’s classic television show gets the Blu-ray treatment with THE TWILIGHT ZONE: SEASON ONE. The multi-disc set will be packed with extras: audio commentaries from surviving cast members (Earl Holliman, Martin Landau, Rod Taylor, Kevin McCarthy, etc); vintage audio recollections with Burgess Meredtih, Anne Francis, Richard Matheson, and more; the unaired pilot version of “Where is Everybody?” Billed as new for this edition are audio commentaries with film historians and filmmakers (Marc Scott Zicree, Gary Gerani, director Ted Post, etc); a never-before released pilot “The Tiem Element,” in high-def; a TALES OF TOMORROW episode titled “What You Need” (which was also a TWILIGHT ZONE episode); a vintage audio interview with director of photograph George T. Clemens; 13 radio dramas; and 34 isolated music scores by Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, and others. Other oldies coming out on Blu-ray and/or special edition DVDs include the following:
Walt Disney’s THE BLACK CAULDRON gets a 25 Anniversary Special Edition DVD release. Only two new extras have been added that were not on the previous DVD: an deleted scene and a game.
CARRIE, the 1976 horror hit directed by Brian DePalma and based on Stephen King’s first novel, arrives in a new DVD-Blu-ray combo pack.
JACOB’S LADDER gets another DVD re-issue.
THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS and THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING re-appear on Blu-ray
THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985) is resurrected in a Collector’s Edition. There is a two-disc DVD and a two-disc combo pack with Blu-ray and DVD.
STARCRASH, the Italian, 1979 STAR WARS rip-off starring Caroline Munro and Marjoe Gortner, arrives on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Roger Corman Cult Classics line.
And if you’re looking for laughs, RiffTrax offers two DVD collections of short subjects: RIFFTRAX: SHORTS-A-POPPIN’ and RIFFTRAX: PLAYS WITH THEIR SHORTS.