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Stick to fascism,
One and the same if you asked me,
“The Man Who Walked Between The Towers” (Scholastic)
I admit, I’m a sucker for these Scholastic video collections, mostly because they remind me of “Reading Rainbow” and LeVar Burton. Oh, Levar…. Anyway, this collection of four children’s book tales begins with “The Man Who Walked Between The Towers.” Based on the true story of French street performer Philippe Petit, this story might ring a bell because the documentary about Petit, “Man On Wire,” recently won an Oscar. In August of 1974, Petit snuck into the World Trade Center and rigged a tightrope between the two buildings, eventually walking back and forth between the North and South Tower for over an hour. Because Petit’s actions were clearly illegal, I feared that the children’s version of this story might get watered down. But the entire story is surprisingly here, including his arrest after the event. And, as if that weren’t cool enough, the whole thing is narrated by Donnie Darko! Perfect for kids! The disc also features “The Pot That Juan Built” and “Miss Rumphius,” but my favorite out of the whole batch is “Snowflake Bentley” which tells the true story of Willie Bentley, a photographer who was the first to master the art of photographing snowflakes. The story mixes animation with live action clips which was a bit distracting at first, but the fact that they included some of Bentley’s actual photographs made up for it. The other stories feature narrations from Mikey Walsh, Juliet, and the crazy guy who kept throwing firecrackers at Marky Mark in “Boogie Nights.” And if you get all of those references, you’re the man, dog!
“The Restless Conscience: Resistance to Hitler in Nazi Germany” (Docurama)
A little over a year ago, some friends and I visited Auschwitz in Poland. Ever since then, I’ve had this desire to learn as much as I can about World War II and the events that led up to it. So a documentary about German citizens who rebelled against the power of the Nazi Regime definitely had my attention from the get-go. Originally released in 1992, this film collects rare footage of German court trials in 1944 for average citizens who conspired to have Adolf Hitler killed. Of course, the outcome is what you’d expect, but just the fact that these types of people existed in a country that had so blindly followed Hitler is amazing. It’s a feature-length documentary, coming in at just under two hours, and it held my interest from beginning to end. The only problem I have with it is that it appears to be a direct transfer from a VHS tape with little or no clean-up consideration. It’s not a big deal, and yes, I know we’re spoiled with our HDTVs and iPhones and toaster-ovens and whatnot, but there was a tiny part of me that kept thinking, “This looks so nineties.” And we all remember how terrifying that was, right?
“Two Evil Eyes” (Blue Underground)
Two hour-long horror shorts inspired by the tales of Edgar Allan Poe, written and directed by two huge names in the horror genre: George Romero and Dario Argento. Surprisingly, at least to me, Romero’s “The Facts In The Case Of Mr. Valdemar” is the weaker of the two stories, telling the tale of a smelly pirate hooker named Jessica Valdemar (as played by Adrienne Barbeau) who tries to swindle her dying husband out of a fortune. It’s okay, but Barbeau is just laughable. Argento’s “The Black Cat,” on the other hand, stars Harvey Keitel who is scary as shit even in his most normal state. Keitel plays Roderick Usher, a crime scene photographer who is driven to murder by his girlfriend’s pet cat. Yes, you read that correctly. The special effects were handled by Tom Savini, and the extras on the disc include a behind-the-scenes featurette on his make-up and effects. Also, this is a Blu-ray release, so all of the blood and gore that was filmed nearly two decades ago now is bright and crystal clear. Just the way I like my horror!