The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Commentaries are only reason to buy some DVDs

September 16, 2004
By Franklin Harris

One of the great things about DVDs is the advent of the commentary track. Now, not only can you watch a movie, but with the push of a button, you also can hear filmmakers talk about how the movie was made. This can sometimes be an enlightening experience.

With commentary tracks providing so much entertainment value on their own, it was only a matter of time before they became the main selling point for some DVDs.

Media Blasters has released six DVDs containing introductions and "comedy commentaries" by Joe Bob Briggs, drive-in movie critic of Grapevine, Texas, and former host of TNT's "Monstervision" and The Movie Channel's "Joe Bob's Drive-In Theater."

I take a back seat to no one in my admiration for Briggs, whose syndicated newspaper column, "Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In," was one of my inspirations when I began this column back in 1998. Which is why some of the Media Blasters' DVDs are so disappointing.

Despite its title, "Warlock Moon" isn't about warlocks and doesn't have a single shot of the moon. As Briggs asks, how much trouble would it have been to include at least one stock shot of a full moon?

This 1975 movie is an incoherent mishmash of witches, ghosts and cannibals. It stars Joe Spano ("Hill Street Blues") and Laurie Walters ("Eight Is Enough") as college students who come upon a dilapidated spa and its crazy old caretaker, played by Edna MacAfee, whose only other screen credit is a bit part in the 1974 Peter Fonda kidnapping flick, "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry."

"Warlock Moon" director William Herbert is something of a mystery, leading Briggs to conclude that Herbert is a pseudonym for Spano's pal Gregory Hoblit ("Hart's War"), who for obvious reasons probably didn't want his real name in the credits.

Briggs points out the film's many absurdities while dropping entertaining bits of trivia. For example, Walters was 30 years old by the time she played Dick Van Patten's daughter on "Eight Is Enough," which means she was slightly older than her TV stepmother, played by Betty Buckley.

Unfortunately, the Media Blasters release of "Warlock Moon" is missing at least one scene, and it's obvious that when he recorded his commentary, Briggs was watching the longer cut, because he makes references to the scene we never see.

This is sloppy behavior on Media Blasters' part, and it is repeated on the "Hell High" DVD, with Briggs again talking about scenes not on the disc.

However, Media Blasters does avoid such screw-ups with "The Hell's Angels 69," an awful 1969 motorcycle flick in which two brothers (Tom Stern and Jeremy Slate, who also wrote the screenplay) set up the Oakland chapter of the Hell's Angels (played by the real Oakland Hell's Angels) as part of a scheme to rob a Las Vegas casino.

The Hell's Angels, led by Sonny Barger and Terry the Tramp, mumble their lines, but they make for entertaining stories, which Briggs imparts during tedious scenes of the Hell's Angels riding through the desert on their Harleys.

Meanwhile, Mike Nelson, who made his name by talking during bad movies on "Mystery Science Theater 3000," is back to his old tricks with a commentary for the new release of George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead." Unlike the movies Nelson usually skewers, however, "Night of the Living Dead" is good, which leaves Nelson with little in the way of comedic material.

For its DVD release, 20th Century Fox has colorized Romero's classic, which makes as much sense as colorizing the first 10 minutes of "The Wizard of Oz" and greatly diminishes the film's creepiness. The original black-and-white version of the film is included as an extra, but without Nelson's commentary.

The Media Blasters releases retail for between $14 and $19. The colorized "Night of the Living Dead" retails for about $15.

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