Yellowjackets: Season One (Showtime/CBS, 4 DVDs, NR, 9 hours 35 min.). Two outstanding female ensembles anchor this Showtime series about a championship high school girls soccer team whose private plane crashes in a remote wilderness area in 1996. There is the story of the crash survivors, who include only three males, including the only adult, and their efforts to stay alive. The other half of the story takes place 25 year later, when the past keeps cropping up and never in pleasant ways.

The core adult survivors are Nat (Juliette Lewis, “Natural Born Killers”), Shauna (Melanie Lynskey), Taissa (Tawny Cypress) and Misty (Christina Ricci, “The Addams Family”). Their younger selves are respectively played by Sophie Thatcher, Sophie Nelisse, Jasmine Savoy Brown and Samantha Hanratty. In the present, Nat is just out of therapy for drug use; Shauna is not-so-happily married to her former best friend’s boyfriend (Warren Cole as Jeff) and the mother of a teenage girl; Taissa is running for the state senate, has a wife and a young son; and Misty participates in an online detective group that works on cold cases.

The series plays up the mystery of how the group managed to survive. We are told it took 19 months for them to be rescued. Also, we see early glimpses of figures, revealed to be some of the girls at least, dressed in seemingly animal-like costumes and masks, possibly performing rituals and eating human flesh. The crash occurred near a lake and the survivors find an abandoned cabin, but while there already is a paucity of food, we have yet to see winter arrive.

In the present, Taissa’s political opponent is using attack ads with imagery of cannibalism. Nat is determined to find her former beau Travis (Kevin Alvis as a teen), but that only leads to a deeper, darker mystery. There also is a $50,000 blackmail demand. Misty, whose little medical knowledge helped in the past, seems a bit of a loose cannon in the present and she is highly suspicious of Jessica Roberts (Rekha Sharma), who claims to be a journalist. Also possibly under false pretenses is Adam (Peter Gadiot), whom Shauna falls into an affair with, after rear-ending his car.

Other key characters in the past are survivors Jackie (Ella Purnell), the team captain and Jeff’s girlfriend; the head coach’s sons Travis and Javi (Luciano Leroux); assistant coach Ben Scott (Steven Krueger, “The Originals”); and religious-minded Laura Lee (Jane Widdop). In the present, Nat’s former best friend Kevyn (Alex Wyndham) has become a policeman and Taissa is married to Simone (Rukiya Bernard).

Once one gets used to the back-and-forth time shifts, the stories are easy to follow, although some episodes open with even earlier flashbacks that fill in character details. The show offers some gruesome details – especially in the first two episodes – but through eight of the 10 episodes, the mysteries of the present are more compelling than what the survivors have been through, although some fantasy elements start to be added. Thankfully, the show has been renewed for a second season. Grade: season 3.5 stars
Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

That Dirty Black Bag (AMC+/RLJE, 2 Blu-rays or DVDs, NR, 7 hours). The dark, bleak western series stars Dominic Cooper as Sheriff Arthur McCoy and Douglas Booth as the ruthless bounty hunter known as Red Bill, who just takes the heads of his victims as they “weigh less than the body.” When Red Bill steals McCoy’s horse, it sets off a manhunt, with McCoy eventually rescuing Red Bill from a recluse cannibal (Aidan Gillen, “Game of Thrones”). It seems too quick an end for a very interesting, disturbing character.

McCoy is not the paragon of virtue we are initially led to believe. Coming across the robbery of a federal stagecoach, he and a deputy decide to stash away the $200,000 they find. That leads to future trouble with some ruthless killers employed by Bronson (Guido Caprino), who, in turns out, had past interactions with both McCoy and Red Bill.

Everything happens around the town of Greenvale, once a hub of the gold rush, but now suffering through five years of drought. McCoy and Eve (Niv Sultan), who operates The Red Lantern brothel, co-run the town, with Eve in charge of importing water. Eve used to be the girlfriend of farmer Steve (Christian Cooke), who is now married and has a mute son. He is the lone holdout who won’t sell his land to Thompson (Patterson Joseph), who is convinced there is more gold. It was Thompson diverting a river that caused the mines to flood, killing 200, and shutting off the town’s water supply.

The show often has gruesome violence, much of it associated with Red Bill, including flashbacks to when his mother was killed and the whole cannibal affair. More than one character does not last the season. While there is no word yet on a second season, the original plans called for three seasons.

What the show does best is its cinematography, taking full advantage of its remote, yet beautiful locations in Morocco, Spain, and Italy, inspired by the 1960s spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. Grade: season 3 stars

Giallo Essentials: Black Edition (Italy, 1972-74, Arrow Video, 3 Blu-rays, NR, 289 min.). Speaking of Italy, giallo, named after a series of popular cheap, yellow-covered novels, was the name given to a style of mystery fiction and thriller films. Often, as with the three films in this set, they included nudity and a lurid plot. I would hesitate to call any of the three films essential, but at least one is entertaining, while the other two rely on twist endings.

“Smile Before Death” (1972, 88 min.) is presented in both Italian and English versions. It opens with a woman’s death and then the women’s daughter (Jenny Tamburi as Nancy) returns home from boarding school. She eventually comes to believe her stepfather (Silvano Tranquilli as Marco) may have had something to do with mother’s death, which was ruled a suicide. Photographer Gianna (Rosalba Neri) stays at the estate and, despite being Marco’s lover, soon makes moves on Nancy, who has become fascinated with her photography and pleas to become her model. At one point, Nancy almost drowns, but Marco does nothing to save her. The film actually has a double twist ending, neither of which is guessable.

Extras include audio commentary by Tony Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson; a new video interview with director Silvio Amadio’s son Stephane (23:25; in Italian with no subtitles!); an imaged gallery; and extended nude scenes (3:15). Grade: film 2.5 stars; extras 2 stars

“The Weapon, The Hour, The Motive” (1972, 103 min.). This film actually falls into the subgenre of nunsploitation, which peaked in Europe during the 1970s, but also included Ken Russell’s “The Devils” (1971). Most of the action takes place at a convent and includes a shower scene and nuns self-flagellating in honor of a murdered priest who did the same. The priest (Maurizio Bonuglia as Don Georgio) certainly had something to be penitent for, as he was sleeping with at least two of the parishioners. The investigation falls to Chief Inspector Boito (Renzo Montagnani), who ends up having an affair with one of the priest’s lovers (Bedy Moratti as Orchidea). The film includes a very strange restaurant, where Orchidea entertained her lovers. A young boy who lives at the convent is a key to solving the mystery. The film was directed and co-written by Francesco Mazzei.

Extras include audio commentary by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new interview with actor Salvatore Puntillo, who played Boito’s assistant Moriconi (13:32, with subtitles); an image gallery; and English front end titles. Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.5 stars

“The Killer Reserved Nine Seats” (1974, 103 min.). The title is an obvious nod to Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians,” which co-screenwriter Biagio Proietti acknowledges in his accompanying 2013 interview (28:38). In the film, which concludes with a paranormal twist, Patrick (Chris Avram), the owner of a theater that has been closed for 100 years, invites a group of friends and family to it, only to be locked inside by a killer, who starts reducing the guest list. Most of the guests are narcissistic and there is a lot of soap opera elements, much more than thrills, although a couple of the deaths are gruesome. After three deaths, Lynn (Paola Senatore, whom Proietti says had a great body but was not that good an actress) decides to do a nude dance. Whatever.

Other extras are audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, a 2013 interview with actor Howard Ross (8:23; he played Russell) and an image gallery. Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.75 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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