September 1, 2010

The Evil Dead

The Evil Dead (Anchor Bay) You bought the VHS back in the day. You sprung for at least one of those 50-odd DVDs released over the past decade (and get bonus points for scoring the primo Book of the Dead edition). But our state-of-the-art times call for yet another incarnation of the foremost reissued home video, as Sam Raimi’s 1981 lo-fi feature debut comes out in hi-def. Next to its sillier and arguably superior sequel, Evil Dead 2: Dead by Dawn, this inaugural entry is one of the most balls-out crazy horror/comedies ever conceived. It’s also a pure testament to what can be achieved with zero budget and infinite imagination. Aside from the finest presentation it’s ever seen, Anchor Bay provides the option to view the film in widescreen (booo!) or in its originally projected full-frame aspect ratio (yay!). Extras are just as pretty: we get a fresh commentary with Raimi, Bruce Campbell and producer Robert Tapert and, included on a separate disc for a limited time, a lengthy doc, featurettes, hours of deleted footage and interviews. 

Also Available

Orlando (Sony) Based on the 1928 semi-autobiographical novel by Virginia Woolf, Sally Potter’s inventive adaptation was released 64 years later. The year is 1600 and Tilda Swinton stars as the titular Orlando, a young man (that’s right) and lover to the much older Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp). Orlando vows upon Elizabeth’s death to never wither with age, and thus we are taken through four centuries of sex, politics, sexual politics and gender reversal. Potter cut her teeth making avant-garde shorts (1979’s Thriller is particularly wonderful) before moving on to features, and Orlando is proof that her art-house tendencies never waned. Outlandish art direction makes for a stunning backdrop for Swinton at her most androgynous. This special edition is stacked with extras, including select scene commentary, mini docs, vintage press footage and a swell interview with Potter.   

Babies (Alliance) If you love babies, you will love Babies. If you find them boring to watch after a while, you will feel the same way about this doc. Or you could fall somewhere in between. Even with a brisk 80-minute running time, Babies can feel sluggish. Sans voice-over, the camera follows four subjects from Namibia, Mongolia (cutest baby alert!), Tokyo and San Francisco. Innocuous, if less exotic than marching penguins or shark week, Babies makes for adorable filler. Extras: three-years-later look at the kids, cutest babies contest winners. 

Deep Blue Sea (Warner) The best anti-smoking moment of all time goes something like this: a scientist whips out a cigarette and coolly bends down next to a shark, which then chomps off his arm the instant he lights up. Such is the subtle elegance of Renny Harlin’s so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi horror flick. Yep, this is a science fiction film; and those are not ordinary sharks, but genetically enhanced genius sharks. Not only does Deep Blue Sea(now available on deep Blu-ray) have super sharks, it also has Samuel L. Jackson and LL Cool J (who owns a parrot named Bird). Tasty extras include commentary with Harlin and Jackson (who hilariously jumps ship after a key plot point), featurettes and deleted scenes. But seriously, where’s LL’s shit-tastic tie-in music video?

Survival of the Dead (eOne) There was a time when Day of the Dead ranked as the stenchiest link in George A. Romero’s groundbreaking “something”-of-the-Dead franchise. Then came Land…. After that it was Diary…. Now there’s a new stinker, Survival…, an utterly brain-dead exercise that beats (then eats) a very dead allegorical horse. But hey, at least the extras have bite: we get a Romero intro, Romero and crew commentary, featurettes galore and a fistful of shorts.