#002

The Count of Monte Cristo
Touchstone DVD

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Alexander Dumas' classic revenge tale has been filmed 13 times since the silent era, in English, Spanish, French and Russian. As stories go, it has everything, and there was every reason to expect that a new version with Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce might even hold up to Robert Donat's 1934 version, but Kevin Reynolds' modern take somehow falls flat, despite being juiced up with sword fights and sumptuous period scenery.

It seemed at first that Reynolds - whose resume includes groaners like Waterworld and Rapa Nui - might have been the culprit, until a perusal of the added features on the disc led to an interview with screenwriter Jay Wolpert. In tones glowing with self-regard, he details the changes he made to Dumas story - improvements, to his mind - which effectively drained the tale of profound emotions like guilt and squared off Dumas' remarkable characterizations to make room for, well, more swordfights. For once, and a bit ironically, a bit of studio promo padding to a DVD package ends up being truly illuminating.

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Super Troopers
20th C. Fox DVD

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An aimless but thankfully not entirely brainless little comedy about a group of misfit state troopers who treat their 50 miles of interstate as a place to play headgames on motorists and each other. A direct lineal descendant of Animal House, it's hardly gripping stuff, but intermittently funny when Broken Lizard - the group of writers and actors responsible for the film - digress into childish, arcane or obscene gag scenes. Highlights include St. Anky beer, and lines like "Who wants a moustache ride?" and "It's Afghanistanimation!"

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Curse of the Demon/
Night of the Demon
Columbia Tristar DVD

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What promises to be a corny, badly-aged bit of 50s horror turns out to be unusually creepy and effective. This tale about a murderous demon invoked by an evil satanist (that sounds a bit redundant, doesn't it?) has become a horror classic thanks to direction by Jacques Tourneur, a once-underrated b-film director whose ability to evoke dread-filled moods still works today. Even the demon, a rubber-suited horned goblin which looks utterly ridiculous in still photos on the tawdry packaging, ends up being suprisingly frightening when he appears. The disc includes both the shorter US release of the film (called Curse of the Demon) and the longer British release (released as Night of the Demon).

©2002 rick mcginnis all rights reserved.