Michael Bergeron
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When Bad Influence (Shout! Factory, 5/24) came out in 1990 Rob Lowe and James Spader were far removed from the personalities they are today.

bad-influenceLowe, most notoriously, was known for a sex tape with two women, one that was under age, recorded in Atlanta during the 1988 Democratic Presidential Convention. In retrospect, that incident may have been the highlight of the Dukakis and Bush election cycle.

Spader, who had scored big in the indie hit Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), was on the way to being type cast as a milquetoast and as such Bad Influence was right down his alley.

Lowe is a spoiled bad boy who recruits hard working financial advisor Spader on a round of nefarious activities that start out with mere drinking and partying to mutual sex with a common companion to outright armed robbery. When Spader discovers the femme dead in his apartment he realized he’s being set up. By this point he’s so far in over his head in a new decadent lifestyle he has no choice to but to follow the lead.

Bad Influence, directed by Curtis Hanson early in his career, was a suggestion of what he had to offer. Hanson would go on to helm such masterpieces as L.A. Confidential and The Wonder Boys. The script was also an early effort by David Koepp, who had previously penned Apartment Zero, and who would go on to write some of the biggest hits of the 1990s, including Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible. The Blu-ray transfer is sharp and colorful.

Koepp would make his directorial debut with The Trigger Effect, a tale of what happens when all the electricity goes out and society breaks down. Perhaps not oddly, the latter film, while not a financial success, opened on the same weekend (Labor Day weekend 1996) as a multi-state electrical outage.

chicken-of-tomorow-chartNot only is Bad Influence a keeper with plenty of verve, a lengthy extra has Koepp breaking down the script in a detailed manner.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume Two sees the cult parody show on its second go-round of releases. (This edition originally came out in 1999.) Of particular interest are a series of industrial shorts that includes ‘50s-style home economics, care and grooming for young lads and laddesses, as well as the must-see industrial short Chicken of Tomorrow.

The Damned – Don’t You Wish That We Were Dead chronicles the first actual punk group to play gigs, cut wax and play in America at CBGBs. The Sex Pistols weren’t far behind but they historically were second. There have been as many incarnations of The Damned as any rock group that has existed for over a couple of generations.

damned_film_stillAt one point in the doc, a couple of the members from different eras bump into each other while getting cancer treatment for identical maladies. The extras are superb and include an outtake where Captain Sensible and Fred Armisen busk on the streets of Los Angeles. Smash it up baby.

Carol Burnett has no shortage of archives to release and Carol + 2: The Original Queens of Comedy (Time Life, 5/17) is one of her best. Burnett made her name playing the lead in the adaptation of the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, which was titled Once Upon a Mattress and premiered on Broadway in 1960. Actor Jack Gilford (known to later audiences for his Cracker Jack commercials) was in the original cast. Burnett would play the part of the Princess in two CBS productions.tumblr_m5ljmk1lLJ1rqlmkso1_1280

The 1972 TV-movie Once Upon A Mattress, which includes Gifford, Bernadette Peters, Wally Cox, and Lyle Waggoner among others, starts this set off with a bang. This musical actually has a couple of great songs, not unlike Cabaret, which propel the rest of the narrative.

Carol +2 also offers up a rare 1966 special that precedes The Carol Burnett Show (which premiered in 1967) that stars Lucille Ball (handing off the femme comedy torch to Burnett) and Zero Mostel, himself a force of comic nature. Not only that, the last selection is the original appearance of “the cleaning lady” character doing a silent striptease from a 1963 CBS special that featured Burnett and Robert Preston. Burnett could give Marcel Marceau a run for the money.

­— Michael Bergeron