Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
The word of the day is fun! After far too long an absence, beloved dweeb Pee-Wee Herman is back and announcing it loudly, taking over Broadway with The Pee-Wee Herman Show. An updating of his original 1981 show mixed with the Playhouse mythos, all of your favorites from Cowboy Curtis and Chairy to King of Cartoons and Conky are back as the Playhouse gets wired for the Internet, much to the pained chagrin of Pee-Wee’s pals. While this brings the memories flooding back, there is a slight dirtiness to the whole thing, with a few adult jokes making their way to the surface. It’s funny, mind you, but pretty unnerving to see the eternally childlike Pee-Wee talking about his abstinence ring and Jaambi making masturbation innuendo. It takes a lot of the innocence away. Hopefully this is going to lead to that new Pee-Wee movie that Paul Reubens has been promising for years.
We truly live in a world where everyone gets 15 minutes of fame for absolutely nothing. Take a look at Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson — these two got famous not for posing for Playboy, but for sexually satisfying an octogenarian pornographer. Apparently America fell in love with this idea because it led to a long-running reality show called The Girls Next Door. When Hef kicked the girls to the curb however, they needed a new job, and having no marketable skills whatsoever, they just continued doing what they do best: setting the women’s movement back decades by priding themselves on their stupidity while the cameras roll on. On Holly’s World, Holly tries to conquer Vegas with her quirky pals via catfights and photo shoots. Meanwhile, Kendra focuses on her life as someone’s mom, but the baby is pushed to the side as Kendra deals with her post-baby body insecurities and trying to write a book, which is especially hard given her comically limited education.
If you’re a horror fan in the slightest, Herschell Gordon Lewis should be your true cinema idol. With his 1963 drive-in flick Blood Feast, he accidentally created the gore genre, putting blood and guts, in graphic detail, right there on the screen in the brightest reds available. Between this and his early “nudie-cutie” movies, Lewis changed exploitation film, as well as the boundaries of the obscenity laws, with low-budget grindhouse fare. This exhaustive documentary is a gore-hound’s wet dream, going over every film in the director’s oeuvre, with the kindly old grandfather-like Lewis sitting there, telling one charming anecdote after another. In addition to this documentary, Image Entertainment has also released a triple-feature Blu-Ray featuring three of Lewis’s best: the aforementioned Blood Feast, the Southern-tinged Two Thousand Maniacs and the art-world slaughtering Color Me Blood Red. These are three utterly seminal pieces of low-budget horror history on a disc that just may fit your own low budget.
The first Laid to Rest, which introduced us to the brutal slasher known as Chromeskull, was a fun, if derivative, lark, one that I never expected to hear from again. So I was extremely surprised and generally cautious when the sequel appeared in my P.O. box. Wisely, director Robert Hall didn’t redo and retread the same ground, opting to go for a new tone and plot that, while it didn’t always work or make sense, gets the guy points for trying. At the end of the original, Chromeskull had his face bashed in and was presumed dead. The sequel starts moments later, as a shadowy organization shows up and retrieves the body, resuscitating and reconstructing it. Why is never explained, and it is a maddening flaw throughout the movie. The organization captures some new victims for the killer, storing them in a warehouse for his evil pleasures. Once again, to what purpose, who knows? A Part Three is hinted at to answer these burning questions, but I doubt it will.
While the “lost” 1989 shot-on-Super 8 horror flick The Basement may not be the best thing in the world, the package the movie comes in probably is. Appealing to those ’80s movie geeks who remember the days of cult flicks packaged in oversized VHS boxes, Camp Motion Pictures — one of the few companies dedicated to preserving the culture of backyard video-store masterpieces from their heyday — has gone all out on this one. First off, the outside packaging beautifully mimics those large VHS cases, and with good reason: In addition to three DVDs filled with bonus movies (Captives, Video Violence 1, Video Violence 2 and Cannibal Campout), an old-school VHS copy of The Basement is included for good measure. The extreme care and thoughtfulness Camp has put into this release automatically makes it a must-purchase for every mom-n-pop video store fetishist out there. Just remember to be kind, rewind. You don’t want to be charged that extra dollar.