Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
WAKE WITH FRIGHT (Eureka). Australian classic nihilistic thriller (1971) set in the arid Outback amongst the hard-drinking, hard-gambling locals with their aggressive camaraderie. A middle-class schoolteacher (Gary Bond) loses all his money and is drawn more and more into their violent macho world and quickly becomes as brutalised as they all are.
Ted Kotcheff’s disturbing realism makes for uncomfortable viewing. The killing of kangaroos is particularly upsetting. This shocking sequence was deliberately kept in the film so as to alert the public to what went on during a professional and legal cull.
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE (Network). 40 million didn’t in the USA. If only the government had acted sooner… David France’s vivid and compelling documentary, featuring archive footage, news, interviews, conferences and demonstrations, covers the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s and 1990’s.
The activists, facing indifference and homophobia, get their act together, teach themselves science, and fight back. One of the most memorable images is the throwing the ashes of dead loved-ones over the fences and on to the White House lawn. The rhetoric is exciting and Peter Stanley and Bob Rafsky are superb orators.
LE MANI SULLA CITTA (Eureka). Hands Over The City. Civic corruption in post-war Naples: Francesco Rossi’s gripping docudrama handles rowdy political meetings and rowdy confrontations in the streets in a convincing fashion. Morality is on the losing side when financial greed is on the agenda. So much for democracy! Half the councillors should be in jail. What good will any enquiries into malpractice do?
Rod Steiger is the ruthless property dealer who is more interested in profit than safety and doesn’t care if buildings collapse and people die. Can Carl Fermariello, the good guy on the committee, played by a real politician, not an actor, maintain the high ground and nail him?
DOM HEMINGWAY (Lionsgate). A crazy, cocksure safecracker, so very cocksure, comes out of prison after 12 years in prison to threaten the most dangerous man in Europe, get the fortune he is owed and to open a safe without losing a vital organ.
It’s a good showy role for Jude Law (who relishes director/screenwriter Richard Shephard’s high-flown, ornate, crude language) but the film isn’t good.
THE MACHINE (Anchor Bay). Director Caradog W James sets his screenplay in the future during a Cold War with China. Brain-damaged soldiers are turned into killing machines. It is difficult to have a human relationship with a robot (Caity Cotz) but this is what a scientist (Toby Stephens) tries to do.
I think many people will have been programmed to give this poor, low-budget Science Fiction film a miss.