D: William Lustig; with Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro, Gail Lawrence,
Elite Entertainment Generally reviled by horror fans and critics, Maniac may seem an unusual choice for a special edition laserdisc, but Elite Entertainment has gone ahead and done their usual excellent job of bringing it to home video. Maniac, starring the late Joe Spinell as an abused child turned serial killer, deserves its infamous reputation, but it's an undeniably gripping viewing experience, even if reprehensibly so. Elite's letterboxed transfer is a little on the grainy side, but they have thoughtfully included trailers, a deleted scene, and an endlessly entertaining (and even thoughtful) commentary track. It's worth a look if you can stomach it. -- Joey O'Bryan
Son of the Shark
(Le Fils du Requin)
D: Agnes Merlet; with Ludovic Vandendaele, Erik Da Silva, Sandrine Blancke, Maxime Levoux.
Orion Home Video Merlet bases this remarkable film (in French with English subtitles) on the true story of two brothers who plague their town with sprees of vandalism, abandonment of rules, and side-stepping of authority. With media sensationalism of late (OJ), it's refreshing to see a candid, probing account of social ills and the existential reality of humans. A simple, fascinating story unwinds as the brothers survive moment to moment, taking and demolishing as their needs arise. The elegant cinematography presents one stark image after another set in blustery Lignan, France. No Macaulay Culkins, these actors grip you with icy stares and "fight-or-flight" postures shifting from bully-pranksters to frightened adolescents brimming with turbulent emotion. -- Stephany Baskin
Murder in the First
D: Marc Rocco; with Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon, Gary Oldman, Embeth Davidtz, William H. Macy.
Warner Brothers Based on a true story, this courtroom drama stars Kevin Bacon as an Alcatraz inmate who spends three years in solitary following an escape attempt. A petty criminal at the outset, he commits a murder his first day out and an inexperienced attorney (Slater) must prove inhumane treatment drove him to violence. Bacon's performance as the psychologically and physically beaten man is disturbing to say the least, and Gary Oldman is sharp as the sadistic warden. Although the plot leaves more than a few questions unanswered, the film provides a horrific glance into the downfall of one of the most famous prisons of all time. -- Jennifer Scoville
The Road Warrior
D: George Miller; with Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Vernon Wells, Mike Preston, Virgina Hey, Emil Minty, Kjell Nilsson.
Warner Home Video Whoa. Not having seen George Miller's seminal crash-and-burn epic in years, I found that I'd forgotten just how good The Road Warrior (aka Mad Max 2) really is, but luckily, this exquisitely letterboxed laserdisc release helped remind me. An efficiently constructed, beautifully realized action film, Miller's picture has influenced everything from James Cameron's Terminator 2: Judgment Day and the recent Waterworld, but none of these have come close to matching the impact of Miller's original. Warner's disc looks and sounds terrific, effectively rendering their old VHS cassette, as in the tradition of any good laserdisc, obsolete.
-- Joey O'Bryan
The Day the Earth Stood Still: Collector's Edition
D: Robert Wise; with Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe.
Foxvideo This science-fiction classic has been remastered and repackaged for hardcore laserdisc aficionados. The result is a stunningly pristine presentation of The Day the Earth Stood Still that makes the previous laserdisc release (which was pretty good) suffer considerably by comparison. Extras include a separate audio track with discussion of the film by Robert Wise and Nicholas Meyer, and an additional disc that has interviews with the cast and crew, reproductions of movie posters, stills, pressbooks, and more. -- Bud Simons
CD-ROM for Windows or Mac*
Virgin/GTE Buried deep in the swamps lies the Stones' Voodoo Lounge. Mick beckons you into the two-story house where the party rages and you wander about, checking the action and schmoozing. Upstairs, you can make small talk with Keith, Ron, and Charlie at the bar, or chill by the video wall with footage from the last tour. Downstairs is where the action's at since the tour rages on the patio -- though the johns really are the place to be (typical). The VIP lounge features Keith and Ronnie doing an acoustic number on the veranda, while the library's got pool and a gallery exhibit of blues greats. Here, the party never ends.
-- Raoul Hernandez