by Louis Fowler
Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Beetlejuice … Beetlejuice … Beetlejuice! Sure, the 1988 Tim Burton movie is a lot of fun, but it definitely has a devious streak to it that, while comical, is probably too edgy for kids. Still, the cut-rate exorcist Beetlejuice was forever endeared to Saturday-morning proto-Goths all over America with a popular animated translation that ran for three years on ABC. This DVD collection features all 94 episodes and all of them hold up so well, proving just as funny and entertaining as they were when they first ran in the early ’90s. Perhaps even more surprising is just how devilish and macabre the story lines actually are, going to some very dark places that remain very true to the spirit of the movie. Beetlejuice is morphed into more of a magical prankster, with former foe Lydia now his best friend, and tags along on various adventures into the world of the undead and beyond. So say the name three times and pop in all three volumes before you need an exorcist yourself.
Ask any comedian who inspired — or continues to inspire — them, and they’ll more often than not say Richard Pryor. Shout! Factory’s exhaustive box-set No Pryor Restraint is the complete history of his stand-up acts, and will leave even the most jaded comedy fans walking away agreeing he was the best. The box-set includes 7 CDs full of Pryor’s best bits, as well as some deep cuts and hidden gems, but the true piece de résistance of the set is the inclusion of Pryor’s three concert films on DVD, including 1979’s Live in Concert, 1982’s Live on the Sunset Strip, and the movie that turned me into a fan when it was played constantly on HBO when I was a kid, 1983’s Here and Now. Watching these films again is such a revelation, because the viewer begins to see how much of his style and format is copied and imitated even today. Show no Restraint whatsoever and pick up this box set immediately.
As a dog-obsessive, when the original commercial for the FX series Wilfred came on, I think I was expecting a more light-hearted take on canine-human interactions, with the title dog, Wilfred (played by comedian Jason Gann, in a dog suit) lobbing hilarious one-liners about the life of a dog in relation to his human counterpart (a sleepy Elijah Wood). Instead, I got a third-rate, live-action variation of a crude Family Guy gag. The series was based on a far-more funny, far-more satirical Australian series, which Shout! Factory has finally released on DVD. It’s a marked improvement over the American version, far more exciting and inventive mostly because it just all seems so much fresher. Gann still portrays the dog-suited Wilfred, who only his next-door neighbor can see is a man, and the gags are still down and dirty, but they are also actually funny this time, mostly because they have the balls to go a bit further with the jokes. The Australian version is far superior, and far more what I was looking for the first time around the block. Good boy!
The early 1970s was one of the most fertile eras of American film, spurred on by the counter-cultural revolution of Easy Rider. It was a time in film when blind patriotism, total authority and the gray area between good and bad was not only questioned, but demolished in an effort to achieve full cinematic expression. Best described as the anti-Easy Rider, the underrated, mostly forgotten masterpiece Electra Glide in Blue stars future alleged murderer Robert Blake as an Arizona desert motorcycle cop with a Napoleon complex who wants nothing more than to ditch the bike and get promoted to a homicide detective. While investigating a possible suicide, he gets his chance, swapping out his leather duds for a redneck Stetson and suit combo, finding only how much corruption he can take before he calls it quits. Electra Glide is a complicated morality tale that features a beautifully devastating ending, as nihilistic as it is honest.