Eye sore

The Best of Match Game

Rarely has a game show been so fueled by alcohol as the Match Game. With a recurring cast of smarmy celebrities and a madman at the helm in the form of host Gene Rayburn, this program ruled TV between '73 and '82 — and lives on thanks to the Game Show Network and, now, this DVD set, The Best of Match Game! The premise, you'll recall, is simple — two contestants (usually with bad teeth) have to match corny fill-in-the-blank questions with a panel of booze-fueled guests. From smooth-ass — if not gin-soaked — Richard Dawson to the fabulous duo of Brett Somers and Charles Nelson Reilly, the celebs are priceless, as is the show's inescapable feeling of mass chaos.

With such a high train-wreck factor, it's best not to feel left out, so mix a cocktail before joining the party and you'll do fine. —Jeremy Wheeler

Devil's Highway
Image Entertainment

We're All Beelzebubs on this bus! Sure, who doesn't get a little homicidal on long road trips? These passengers go from Greyhound to hellhounds in three uneasy rest stops, without the aid of bad food, bumpy terrain, plague-infested restrooms and metal seat backings digging into your knees. Part Dante's Inferno and part Murder on the Orient Express, the riders all have their own dark secrets buried in their past and, one by one, they get picked off by the gathering evil; from the traveling priest (now, simmer down, kids) to the father searching for his lost daughter to the three crazy young adults who decide the one thing a truly creepy bus trip through the scorching desert could really use — dropping some acid! Every secret will be revealed by journey's end, and it's no spoiler to note that Shane Brolly gamely plays the only ticket-holder with no redeeming value at both ends of the sojourn. Word of caution: When the devil tells you, "It's my way or the highway," uhh, it's really the same way. —Serene Dominic


The Gathering
The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment

Former indie-queen Christina Ricci is Cassie, an American backpacker who gets mowed down in the English countryside by a distracted driver named Marion. Cassie gets short-term memory loss, but Marion — who must be thankful Cassie can't remember the name of her personal injury lawyer — gives her a place to stay. Home is a mansion that was once a foster center for children run by the local church. We see Cassie making breakfast for Marion's kids and taking them to school, hoping she might recognize someone or something. But before you can chirp, "Wait, I've seen this before," Cassie begins having premonitions of people's deaths including Marion's son David. Could the buried church that Marion's hubby is studying have anything to with this? Hell, yeah! Churches from the first century don't bury themselves, especially when they're devoted to those who gathered to watch Jesus' crucifixion "not in reverence, but in lust." In other words, don't gawk the next time you pass by an accident. Organized religion is great fodder for conspiracy theories and has fueled half a century of horror films, but The Gathering probably wouldn't be limping onto store shelves this week if not for The Da Vinci Code. The only truly creative moment rises from the relief sculptures depicted in the church — a scenic montage sees a priest connecting those faces to specific people at horrific events like the Kennedy assassination, a lynching, and an atom bomb test. The Gathering tries to expand on its initial premise, a group damned for all eternity only to witness further inhumanity — boy, things haven't changed much! Too bad a routine revenge subplot involving the foster home bogs things down. As for Cassie and her memory, it's but a red-herring that'll leave you feeling like you just watched an episode of Touched By An Angel. —Paul Knoll


Warner Home Video

It's a shame that it took Dreamgirls to get this 1976 soul musical onto DVD. The packaging — see the faux-Supremes pics and sticker proclaiming "Before there was Dreamgirls, there was Sparkle" — wants to make damn sure you make the connection. Unfortunately, the similarities between the two are superficial. Sparkle has a richer and more engaging story, and the music-biz darkness that Dreamgirls only hints at is fully — if melodramatically — engaged. Philip Michael Thomas and Irene Cara are decent actors, sure, but the corny dialogue plainly reveals their shortcomings. Sparkle ultimately aims to be gritty and realistic, not simply a musically strong bit of nostalgia. The tight focus is on Harlem singer Sparkle Williams and her rise in the '50s from being a wide-eyed teenager in a group with her sisters to being a star. Well, not really a star; the film climaxes on her career pinnacle — a gig supporting Ray Charles. Yet that small success, after a series of personal disasters and an injection of mob-money — is enough to validate her journey here. The Curtis Mayfield music still stands up (duh), and this "deluxe" DVD presentation includes a mini-soundtrack CD of the film's songs lunged out by Aretha Franklin (actors sing the versions in the movie), including the knee-weakening No. 1 single "Something He Can Feel." —Jason Ferguson



I'll never forget my first time seeing Mouchette, during my sophomore year of college. Impulsively checking out a crummy VHS transfer from the UCF library — the film's director, Robert Bresson, was cited as a major influence on my favorite filmmaker at the time, Hal Hartley — I had one of those life-changing epiphanies you only hear about other people having with movies. To this day, this devastating portrait of an ostracized young girl's bleak emancipation from the society of predators that surrounds her remains one of the most exciting and continually rewarding films I've ever seen, and it receives a predictably superb treatment from Criterion. This disc is worth a look for the supplements alone. Au Hasard Bresson is a 30-minute documentary featuring rare footage of the master at work on Mouchette, revealing a level of spontaneity to his notoriously exacting style. The short "Travelling," from the French TV magazine Cinema, includes candid and curt remarks from the nonprofessional actors with whom Bresson worked, and a commentary track and poetic essay dig deeper into this profound cinematic experience. —John Thomason


The Dollman/Demonic Toys Box Set
Full Moon Entertainment

Tiny movie fans everywhere rejoice — low-budget schlock-master Charles Band has finally brought the saga of Brick Bardo, aka The Dollman, to DVD shelves everywhere. Starring B-movie great Tim Thomerson, 1991's Dollman focused on a hard-as-balls cop in another galaxy who speeds through space in pursuit of his nemesis — an ugly talking severed head that floats — on a journey that lands them on Earth, where Brick discovers that he's only 6 inches tall and severely outgunned in the gang-infested South Bronx. If this isn't tiny enough for you, the set also includes the same year's Demonic Toys, as well as 1993's straight-to-video crossover extravaganza — Dollman Vs. Demonic Toys! Admittedly, you're not signing up for solid-gold viewing here, though it does offer the chance to throw a Tiny Dinner Movie Party — which in this reviewer's opinion, makes the set inherently more entertaining, never mind delicious. —Jeremy Wheeler


The Films of Kenneth Anger: Volume One, 1947-1954

When Kenneth Anger was a strapping lad of 19 or so, his parents went away for the weekend. Anger cleared out the living room, created a makeshift movie set, and invited his sailor friends over for some beefcake business. After the fake blood had been washed off, this child of Hollywood transformed into an enfant terrible of cinema. Anger created the scandalous Fireworks, an odd little film filled with said sailors dishing out dream violence on Anger, who starred in his own film. It had all the calling cards of Anger's art: the fetishization of silent Hollywood, the stylized choreography, the occult rituals. A couple of totemic boners and an infamous Roman candle cock appeared too. For Anger, whose complete extant works could comfortably fit on two DVDs, Fireworks is his earliest masterpiece, and a milestone of underground cinema, gay or otherwise. There's an engaging, intimately delivered commentary track by Anger that reveals such tidbits as who in his casts really was a 16-year-old junior bodybuilding champ, who was the mistress of Mexico's president, and what exactly was being poured on Anger in slow motion in Fireworks (um, that would be milk).

This sets the stage for Anger's sensually choreographed ejaculation meditation, Eaux D'artifice. No milk in this one — only a number of water fountains filmed on the grounds of an Italian villa. Size queens will appreciate Anger's casting of a midget as the only human figure, which makes the spurting geysers appear even more majestic. And serious students of film art (wink) ought to admire the way Anger orchestrates this abstract ballet.

Garish colors and tranced-out superimpositions permeate Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, a psychedelic phantasmagoria populated by mad gods and red-hot goddesses engaging in magic-with-a-k ritual. The Kabuki doo-wop commedia dell'arte Rabbit's Moon and the colorful Hollywood wardrobe fantasy fragment Puce Moment round out this essential document of underground film art, restored to a remarkable vividness and finally available on DVD. Anger comes alive! —Greg Baise

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