The Loneliest Boy in the World (United Kingdom, Well Go USA, Blu-ray or DVD, R, 90 min.). Socially awkward young man Oliver (Max Harwood of “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”) lost his mother to a backyard accident a year ago and he has spent the subsequent year in a psychiatric hospital. Now he is being evaluated by psychiatrist Julius (Evan Ross) and social worker Margot (Ashley Benson) to see whether he can successfully live on his own. Margot suggests that to get a positive report, Oliver should make new friends within the next week or risk being sent back to the asylum.

Oliver first tries with Chloe (Tallulah Haddon), whom he meets on a bench, but she turns dismissive when learning how his mother died (we see a flashback). So, Oliver, who hangs out in the cemetery a lot, recapping episodes of his mother’s favorite soap opera and “ALF” – the film makes repeated references to 1987 – at his mother’s grave, decides to dig up recently departed college student Mitch (Hero Fiennes Tiffin) and take him home to be his new friend. This moves the film into “Weekend at Bernie’s” territory, except then it goes beyond, as Oliver decides he needs a replacement family too, which consists of Susanne (Susan Wokoma), Frank (Ben Miller), child Mel (Zenobia Williams) and a dog, three of whom died in a plane crash and whom he also digs up from the cemetery.

Oliver props their dead bodies on his couch, moves them around to take Polaroids of the “family.” It makes him very happy; however, when he wakes up the next morning, he is shocked to find his four visitors walking around, having breakfast and assuming the roles of a family he never had, despite the fact that Mel was annoying Susanne on the plane. They are only slightly worse for wear, except for Mitch’s emaciated body and Frank having to keep on stapling his fallen-off body parts. Frank also has a hard job eating pizza.

The film never explains how or why the dead become zombies. One might think it is all in Oliver’s imagination, except that they seem to interact with Julius and certainly go to dinner at the restaurant.

The film has a very good production look. Most of the humor comes from the incongruity of the zombies sharing family dinners, having father-son chats and so-thin-as-to-be-almost-skeletal Mitch becoming the cool older brother, advising Oliver on how to talk to girls. They also help Oliver deal with the trio of neighborhood young thugs who constantly pick on him. The sole extra is a behind-the-scenes look (5:07). Grade: film 2.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

The Night of the Iguana (1964, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 118 min.). This Oscar-winning film – Dorothea Deakins for costume design – is based on the stage play by Tennessee Williams and was directed by John Huston, who co-wrote the script with Anthony Veiller (the pair also wrote Huston’s “Moulin Rouge’). The 10th highest-grossing film of 1964, it stars Richard Burton, who brought his soon-to-be wife Elizabeth Taylor to the set during the 72-day production in Mexico, as Dr. T. Lawrence Shannon, a defrocked Episcopal clergyman, locked out of his church for inappropriate behavior, including a sexual liaison with a young Sunday school teacher. Shannon now slums it as a bus tour guide, with his current load being a group of Baptist schoolteachers on a trip to Puerto Vallarta.

Among the passengers is flirty 17-year-old Charlotte (Sue Lyon of “Lolita”) and her acidic chaperone Miss Fellowes (Oscar nominee Grayson Hall), who constantly is fighting with Shannon. While Shannon initially resists Charlotte’s temptation, events come to the point where Fellowes tries to get him fired. Thus, Shannon wrests control of the bus from driver Hank (James Ward) and drives past the town to a remote seaside hotel, run by Maxine Faulk (Ava Gardner) alone, now that his friend Fred recently died. Maxine is constantly surrounded by two shirtless cabana boys shaking marimbas, who apparently fulfill her romantic desires.

Adding to the “crate of wet hens,” as Shannon calls his tour group, is the arrival of penniless sketch artist Hannah Jelkes (Deborah Kerr) and her Nonno (Cyril Delevanti), a 97-year-old poet. Hannah takes an instant liking to Shannon.

The most impressive scene is the opening, when Rev. Shannon is delivering a sermon that goes off the rails, as he calls God a “cruel senile delinquent” and then literally drives the parishioners out of the church as he berates them for being interested in his affair with the Sunday school teacher. Much later though, he talks of man’s inhumanity to God.

The acting by the five leads is superb and Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography justifiably earned an Oscar nomination. The other Oscar nomination was for best art or set decoration. The extras include a 2006 featurette on Huston’s “gamble” in making the film where he did and with the potentially explosive cast (9:54) and a vintage promotional reel which has interviews with Huston, Burton, Kerr and Figueroa, and discusses how they had to build the hotel set as well as temporary housing for the 125 crew workers in the remote area (13:40). Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 2.5 stars

Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman (1958, Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, NR, 66 min.). This is a very average Fifties science fiction movie until the title character (Allison Hayes as Nancy Archer) finally becomes a giant in the film’s final 10 minutes. She then creates some destruction while escaping her house through the roof and next trying to get at her philandering husband (William Hudson as Harry Archer), who is carrying on as usual with Honey Parker (Yvette Vickers, Playboy’s Miss July 1959) at the town bar. Even worse, Honey is urging Harry to kill Nancy so he can inherit her fortune.

Days earlier outside of town, Nancy had encountered a satellite – actually a spaceship – with a giant man inside. Everyone thinks she is crazy, so she forces Harry to drive her in a search for the ship, which they find. However, the large man touches Nancy’s neck, imparting radiation that causes her immense growth.
Oddities include the spaceship door being only regular human size – Harry and Sheriff Dubbitt (George Douglas) go inside before his police car gets tossed by the giant – and the news reporter whose report about Nancy’s encounter turns anything but objective as it becomes a personal attack.

Extras include amiable audio commentary by science paction film historian Tom Weaver and actress Vickers. Grade: film and extra 2.5 stars

Hinterland (Austria-Luxembourg, Film Movement, DVD, NR, 99 min.). In this dark noir thriller, director-co-writer Stefan Ruzowitzky (“The Counterfeiters”) brilliantly uses blue-screen technology to add backgrounds and environments that are endlessly off-kilter to create the film’s surreal world. At times, it recalls the look of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.”

The time is 1920 and Peter Perg (Murathan Muslu) has returned from the Great War as an exhausted soldier and former prisoner of war of two-plus years in Russia, to find Vienna is no longer the city he remembers. He left a city under royal reign and returned to one filled with tension and anger in a newly formed socialist nation. The Austro-Hungarian empire is gone, replaced by a fascist state where everyone is ostensibly equal. A former police detective, Perg is brought back to help find a serial killer who has begun murdering returning soldiers in horrific ways. For example, one has 19 body parts frozen in separate pieces of ice. Emotionally, Perg is a broken man; when he tries to visit his wife and young daughter in the countryside where they relocated, he loses his nerve.

This scene from “Hinterland” shows how blue-screen-added backdrops create off-kilter environments, adding to the film’s effectiveness. Courtesy of Film Movement.

 

While investigating the serial killer case – and Perg knows the victims as they were fellow prisoners of war – he reconnects with pathologist Dr. Theresa Körner (Liv Lisa Fries), whose life he had previously saved from another killer. There actually is a spark of romantic interest there. An old colleague (Marc Limpach as Victor Renner) is now superintendent and heading the investigation, but Perg learns Renner may have gotten too close to his wife while Perg was imprisoned.

Extras include audio commentary by Ruzowitzky; three short VFX featurettes that show scenes before and after the blue-screen environments were added; and the French film “Haute Cuisine” (24 min.), in which a restaurant cook (Josephine Japy) accidentally discovers a secret ingredient that wins her praise from the chef. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 3 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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