Welcome to Stoner Cinema, MERRY JANE's new weekly guide to just-released and reissued movies on home video (yes, we know it's 2017 and that many of you don't have DVD players anymore). These flicks were chosen based on how they can enhance your combined consumption of cannabis and entertainment. So power up your Blu-ray player, Roku, or whatever it is you use to watch movies and fire up your most film-friendly strains of bud, and let's go straight — but not "straight" — to the movies!
Batman vs. Two-Face (2017)
Director: Rick Morales
Cast: Adam West, Burt Ward, William Shatner
Special Features: Salute to Adam West; documentaries; interviews; trailers
Studio: Warner Bros.
Holy Eye-Popping, Gut-Busting, High Camp Hilarity, Batman! Batman vs. Two-Face is the flashy, splashy feature-length cartoon sequel to last year's Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders, an animated romp based in the brilliantly ironic universe of the 1960s Batman TV series.
In addition to the old show's psychedelic aesthetics and deadpan drollery, these new adventures reunite original stars Adam West and Burt Ward to voice as "The Bright Knight" and "Robin, the Boy Wonder," respectively. Better still, this time, is that split-kissered villain Two-Face is voiced by that other modern master of self-aware send-ups, William Shatner.
Both Batman and Star Trek debuted in 1966, just as society was tipping — and tripping — into drug-elevated cosmic revolution. As such, they're likely first television series to which an entire generation intentionally turned on. Batman vs. Two-Face is a fresh, colorful blast, then, of OG 420 TV for 21st century hemp heroes.
The Devil's Rain (1975)
Director: Robert Fuest
Cast: Ernest Borgnine, William Shatner, John Travolta
Special Features: Director commentary; new and archive cast and crew interviews; photos; TV and radio spots; trailers; reversible sleeve and slip-case
Studio: Severin Films
Everything wrong about The Devil's Rain is what makes it so, so right — especially when watched while you're higher than hell itself.
Deep in the psilocybin-baked heart of the New Mexico desert, Satan-praising occult cleric Corbis (tough-guy Ernest Borgnine) and his diabolical disciples battle clueless lawman Sheriff Preston (William Shatner —yes, again!) and "psychic researcher" Dr. Sam Richards (Eddie Albert of Green Acres fame) over a book of evil spells. Don't worry; the bad guys do get their cloven hooves on the ancient pages.
Like the best trips often associated with sand-and-cactus locales, The Devil's Rain only gets more hysterical and hallucinogenic as it goes along. In time, Corbis transforms into a goat monster and, except for the horns, Borgnine's make-up isn't so far removed from his famously pug-like mug.
The storm of the title pours pours down from Heaven above during the climax and causes each member of the Corbis cult to "melt" on camera — it's like what happens at the end of Raiders when they open the Ark of the Covenant, only to dozens of scrambling extras in goofy robes.
Among those disintegrating deviants is John Travolta making his 30-second, but still unmistakable, big-screen debut. He yells, "Blasphemers!" as he bubbles into glop. By the time the movie hit theaters, he'd hit it big as Barbarino on Welcome Back, Kotter, so ads touted the film as "John Travolta Starring in The Devil's Rain!"
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Also look out for Church of Satan Founder Anton LaVey — the movie's "technical consultant" — as he really stretches his thespian chops by playing the High Priest of a church that worships Satan. In other words, he didn't even have to go full method actor to nail this bit part.
J.D.'s Revenge (1976)
Director: Arthur Marks
Cast: Glynn Turman, Louis Gosset Jr., Joan Pringle
Special Features: New interviews with director, cast, and crew; documentary, trailers; reversible sleeve
Studio: Arrow Films
The grindhouse classic J.D.'s Revenge is a searing, alternately chilling and thrilling hybrid of Exorcist-esque horror and vintage blaxploitation badassitude.
The great Glynn Turman stars as Ike, a likable, cab-driving college student in bicentennial-era New Orleans whose body gets possessed by the displaced spirit of J.D. Walker (David McKnight), a 1940s gangster with bullet-blasting business to attend to before he can finally cross over.
Gunfights, beat-downs, and killer swagger abound, smokingly held together by Turman's entirely magnetic performance as both Ike trying to make sense of what's happening and the modern incarnation of one of the most lethally-suave mobsters to ever go hard (way hard) in the Big Easy.
Joint-passing, popcorn-tossing audiences connected with J.D.'s Revenge immediately when it came out, and the movie continued to play in action-oriented urban theaters all the way into the early '90s. As such, it's a cult item among African-American audiences akin to the pimpsterpiece The Mack (1973) and the crackpot movie canon of Chitlin Circuit funnyman Rudy Ray Moore.
Like those other milestones, J.D.'s Revenge has also left a distinct mark on hip-hop, being sampled on numerous occasions and rhapsodized with an entire track named for the flick in 1997 by Diamond D.
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L7: Pretend We're Dead (2017)
Director: Sarah Price
Cast: Suzi Gardner, Donita Sparks, Jennifer Finch, Gail Greenwood
Special Features: Bonus scenes with members of Nirvana, Faith No More, Fugazi, Helmet; music videos; 1997 documentary L7: The Beauty Process directed by Krist Novoselic; 12-page booklet
Studio: MVD Entertainment
Emerging from Los Angeles at the same time Seattle was starting to hog all the glory for grunge, the punk-metal foursome L7 proved to be every bit as bruising, grooving, and musically mighty as those flannel-flanked sludge-slingers up north — in fact, even more so than most and, no, not because every member of the band is female.
As they stormed forth from underground clubs to MTV and Top 40 radio, L7 pummeled a path alongside the likes of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, et al, into hard rock history on the force of talent, gumption, and raw power that transcends gender. Of course, the ladies also partied perilously and paid the usual consequences along the way because, hey, that's what rock stars do.
L7: Pretend We're Dead is director Sarah Price's unflinching profile of the group, tracing their rise, fall, and resurgence, while not shying away from either the dangerous aspect of drugs in their story or the power that pot, pills, and other intoxicants also played in positively putting the band over the top.
Three O'Clock High (1987)
Director: Phil Joanou
Cast: Casey Siezmasko,
Special Features: Director commentary; new cast and crew interviews; stills and trailers
Studio: Shout! Factory
Although it bombed upon first hitting theaters, music-video director Phil Joanou's visually wild, tripped-out teen comedy Three O'Clock High subsequently caught on huge as a go-to title for wayward youths passing bongs around and howling to it during nonstop cable airings and repeated VHS viewings.
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Casey Siemaszko stars as Jerry, a mild-mannered high school newspaper reporter who accidentally annoys the new thug in town — the grunting, hulking, knuckle-popping, skull-busting Buddy Revell (Richard Tyson). After Jerry taps Buddy on the shoulder, the hotheaded hooligan's irritation skyrockets to psychotic outrage. Buddy then announces that Jerry will have to "fight" him in the parking lot at 3 o'clock.
The movie takes furious flight from there, as Jerry frantically strategizes a survival scheme while the clock counts down unnervingly toward zero hour. Joanou's hyperactive camerawork coupled with a dope synth score by prog gods Tangerine Dream repeatedly results in acid-tinged ecstatic glory.
On top of Three O'Clock High's pot-ready pleasures, Richard Tyson's Buddy Revell is at once the funniest and most fearsome bully in movie history. Numerous punk and metal songs have referenced Revell's titter-inducing terror, and a Massachusetts stoner rock band of note is named, simply, Buddy Revell.
The high-school haunting ruffian also made the crossover to the mainstream this year via Fist Fight, a Three O'Clock High remake set among teachers, with Charlie Day subbing for dorkish Jerry and, in the Buddy Revell role, Ice Cube.
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