By G. Michael Dobbs
Three very different new DVDs are in this week's column.
FOX Attacks! Special Edition of Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War in Journalism
Well, I can hear the sighs now from conservative readers, but this documentary from 2004 is a revealing look at advocacy media. I hesitate to call what FOX News does as "journalism" as the most popular of its programs are the talking head shows such as Bill O'Reilly's program, which has more to do with punditry than covering various sides of a story.
Director Robert Greenwald has assembled a series of interviews with former FOX News personnel, as well as presenting clips and internal memos that show his own point of view: that Fox News is less about news and more about pushing a conservative political agenda.
For people interested in free speech, this is a thought-provoking film. Considering that for years in this country newspapers took partisan stances there were labor papers, Republican papers, Democratic papers what FOX News is doing is nothing novel. What is different is their sales job to viewers that they are watching "fair and balanced" reporting.
To update this 2004 film, Greenwald has included his "Fox Attacks!" short films designed for the Internet that focus on issues that Fox News has covered. These too are eye-openers.
The problem is that the people one would like to reach conservative voters are the folks least likely to give this film a chance.
I wonder what Thomas Jefferson would say today about an outfit like FOX News. He maintained the American people should be exposed to a variety of opinions in the press and they would be naturally attracted to the "truth." The problem is these days, the "truth" seems to shift depending upon how it is presented.
It's difficult for young horror film fans today to conceive of a time when real actors starred in such productions. Today much too much emphasis is placed on a film's concept, special effects and its monster, but not enough on presenting performances that mean something.
Yes, I was raised in the era of seeing Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing on screen I am proud to have interviewed Price and met Cushing, two remarkable gentlemen and these guys were classically trained actors who could bring something interesting to even some pretty weak scripts.
"The Skull" is a film that is a cut above some of the fare Lee and Cushing found themselves in, although it is certainly among their best films. Based on a short story by Robert Bloch, "The Skull" tells the story of two collectors of supernatural artifacts and what happened when the skull of the Marquis DeSade enter their lives.
Directed by two-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Freddie Francis, the film presents the story more through visuals than dialogue at times.
I liked the film a lot as it still packs a creepy punch, although it maintains the horror film convention of the hero being told not to do something and yet he persists. Let's face it, many horror films would end at the 15-minute mark if the hero simply were sensible!
There are no extras other than the film's trailer.
Comedy Central's TV Funhouse
Oh what a nasty piece of work this is. A parody of sorts of an old fashioned kids shows in which a live action host would interact with puppets and introduce cartoons and short films, "TV Funhouse" enters regions of bad taste that Paul Reubens never did with his "Pee Wee Playhouse" back in the 1980s.
Undoubtedly that is because Peewee Herman was a parody aimed at kids. This show is aimed at adults and adults only. The puppets are venal characters involved with prostitutes, drugs, tapping the spinal fluid of the host, over-eating, gambling and generally abusing themselves and others.
Some of the material is funny in a very dark way, while most of it is shocking to the point of numbing you.
Extras include commentary by the show's puppets and the actual human creators and "dirty outtakes." Yikes!
This may be for many an expedition in comic unknown territory.
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