Video Event of the Week: Is it Andrzej Wajda's Katyn [Koch Lober], a riveting examination of the mass murder of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet Army? Might John Boorman's The Tiger's Tail [MGM], an experimental allegory of an Irish businessman (Brendan Gleason) haunted by his homeless double possibly make the cut? Or against all the odds, could Troma Entertainment's double-disc edition of Combat Shock, the bizarre 1986 exploitation flick about a Rambo-esque ex-POW living in astounding squalor in Staten Island, conceivably be The One?
All worthy, to be sure, and if I can snag a copy of the Boorman I'm definitely gonna have something to say about it down the line. But for my money it's absolutely, positively got to be the CBS DVD four disc edition of Dexter: The Third Season.
Okay, I realize that Dexter is a TV show and thus somewhat far afield from our usual mission statement, but I figure since star Michael C. Hall has a blockbuster action flick coming out in the fall (Gamer, with Gerard Butler, and so what if it looks like another steroidal piece of crap like Death Race?) you'll cut me some slack. In any case, one of the reasons that Dexter is worth talking about is that -- like a number of current episodic TV series I could mention -- it's vastly better written than all but a handful of the movies I've endured since I started this column. This is, in fact, the dirty little secret that has haunted Hollywood for quite a while now -- that despite the bigger budgets and stars, it is ineluctable fact that more quality work shows up on a regular basis on the small screen than in the nation's Hell Octaplexes.
As for Dexter itself, the show's premise is particularly delicious. The titular character is a compulsive serial killer, but with a twist; in his own weird way, he's a moralist who only offs people -- heinous criminals -- who genuinely deserve execution, even if the system hasn't quite gotten to them yet. Oh, and have I mentioned that he plies his trade in secret while working at his day job -- as a forensic pathologist for the Miami police department?
In any case, Dexter: The Third Season begins where season two left off -- with our hero having managed to elude both the FBI (who'd discovered his undersea burial ground) and the threat of exposure by his British psycho girl friend from hell. Alas, to describe the rest of the twelve episodes in this beautifully transferred set would be the very definition of a spoiler (especialy since season four will be premiering soon) so I won't, except to say that things get even twistier, scarier and funnier than previously, and that Hall, once again, is absolutely brilliant in the part. Nobody, but nobody, does normal-on-the-surface-but-with-a-hidden-dark-side better, and I should also add that the fact that he's married in real life to the actress who plays his sister on the show adds another dollop of irony to a series that's already raised it to a whole other dimension.
Here's the season trailer to give you a brief taste of what I'm talking about.
The box set, which as I mentioned features absolutely first-rate transfers (you can practically feel the Miami sunlight on your neck), has all sorts of bonuses, including an interesting interview with Hall, plus two episodes each of Showtime's The United States of Tara (with Toni Collette, for you multiple personality fans) and The Tudors (with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, ditto for you Henry VIII enthusiasts); I'm not as nuts about either show as I am about Dexter, but both of them provide further evidence for my big versus small screen argument above.
In any case, you can -- and absolutely positively should -- pre-order Dexter: The Third Season here.
Which leads us, since things will be relatively quiet around here for a while, inexorably to another fun and obviously relevant little project:
Most Memorable Big Screen Killer(s), Likeable or Otherwise!!!
And my totally top of my head Top Five is ---
5. Josephine Hull and Jean Adair in Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra, 1944)
Thirty-five or however many bodies in the basement, and yet you watch Hull and Adair and think "Aren't they just the sweetest things?"
4. Kevin Spacey in Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)
Spacey at his all-time creepiest, I think, and along with his shambling cripple in the The Usual Suspects, probably the part he'll most be remembered for. Gwynneth in a box!!!
3. John Carradine in Bluebeard (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1944)
Carradine is great as the suave Parisian fiend who paints the ladies' portraits by day and slices them by night. His favorite part, or so he always said. In any case, one of Ulmer's most stylish low-budget epics.
2. Peter Lorre in M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
"I can't help myself -- who knows what it's like to be me?" An amazing performance, obviously, but all the more so given that after Lorre finished each day's filming, he immediately went to a Berlin theater to play the lead in some fluffy comedy.
And the numero uno killer inside you and me, it's not even a contest so just give me a break already, obviously is...
1. Dick Miller in Bucket of Blood (Roger Corman, 1959)
A nebbish busboy at a beatnik cafe (Miller, hilarious and touching) accidentally kills his cat, covers it in clay, and and is hailed as an artistic genius, thus enabling him to get the girl of his dreams. You'll never guess how he produces more masterpieces (heh heh). The funniest of the three Corman/Charles B. Griffith collaborations; why Little Shop of Horrors became a hit musical instead of this one is beyond me.
Alrighty, then -- and what would YOUR choices be?