Screens Armchair cinephile

Pulp fiction

As promised a few months ago when the plain-Jane version came out, Robert Rodriguez and crew have just dropped the other shoe with Sin City: Recut / Extended / Unrated (Dimension), which not only contains a new cut of the film, but has all the bonus features fans associate with an RR disc. (My favorite: the director’s “10-minute cooking school.”) Though it’s hard to imagine there were Frank Miller purists sitting around who resented the film’s mix-and-match approach to the cartoonist’s novellas, this new version straightens it out, adding some unused footage to each of four self-contained hard-boiled tales.

The disc also features a straight 14 minutes of Quentin Tarantino’s “guest director” scene—and the obvious debt Sin City owes to Pulp Fiction has me seeing the earlier film’s cousins everywhere I look. Especially in what’s being called Fox in a Box (MGM), a four-disc set devoted to QT fave Pam Grier. The (cheap!) set rounds up three previously available titles (Foxy Brown, Coffy, and Sheba, Baby) and tosses in a not-quite-essential disc on which contemporary stars sing Pam’s praises.

Also not quite essential is the “Unrated Director’s Cut” of the Nick Cage version of Gone in 60 Seconds (Touchstone), but there it is. Happily, the original is also easily available now from BCI. There’s a totally cheesy package available that tosses in even more high-speed-chase and crash-up footage, packaged in a little license-plate frame that might look good on some hellraising kid’s go-kart.

Gone has high-speed competition this month from Death Race 2000, the David Carradine/Sly Stone flick that highlights Buena Vista’s new Roger Corman Collection. Some of these, such as the famous Rock ’N’ Roll High School, have been available for a while, but BV’s new line-up (some of which arrives later this month) includes a dozen or so hard-to-find titles like Caged Heat, Jonathan Demme’s first film.

Getting back to the original connotation of “pulp” literature, we have gumshoe drama in the straightforwardly titled Detective Story (Paramount). The 1951 William Wyler film is an early vehicle for Kirk Douglas, but isn’t the whodunnit you might assume from the title, having as much to do with Douglas’ marriage as with his career. Douglas, a dame (in this case the smoldering Barbara Stanwyck), and a murder are also at the heart of The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers (Paramount), which marked the actor’s feature debut, but this time he’s a district attorney instead of a lowly investigator.

The mystery-solving title to beat this month, though, is a cult TV show with some accidental seasonal resonance: Darren McGavin, the cantankerous dad in A Christmas Story, plays the title role in Kolchak: The Night Stalker (Universal). A friend of mine literally wore out his VHS tapes of this 1974-75 show—which, with its tales of vampires, aliens, and assorted bump-in-the-night phenomena, is now viewed as an ancestor of The X-Files.

Plenty of bumps in the night, too, but less mystery in The Frighteners (Universal), in which Michael J. Fox plays a ghostbuster who starts the problems he gets paid to solve. The effects-heavy 1996 movie would probably be forgotten by now, if not for the fact that its director was Peter Jackson; after the Rings trilogy and King Kong, it’s no surprise that Universal invited the filmmaker to undo their edits and fashion this new Director’s Cut.

That’s not possible, alas, with The Brothers Grimm (Dimension), the Terry Gilliam fairy tale that has hustled with record speed from theater to tube: Studio intervention meant that many of the filmmaker’s ideas were never shot at all, never mind the cutting-room floor.

One more thing about The Frighteners. Customers who pick it up only to decide it doesn’t live up to the standard Peter Jackson set in the Tolkien films have a second chance at satisfaction: The discs I’ve seen for sale come with a free ticket inside to a certain movie about a big gorilla with a soft spot for blondes.

By John DeFore

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