MOD, or manufacturing on demand, means studios and labels don’t have to press the DVD until you order it. MGM’s Limited Edition Collection and the Warner Archive Collection are the two big names in the MOD game right now, and each month they make dozens of titles available on DVD for the very first time. And The MOD Quad will take a look at as many of them as we can handle on a semi-irregular basis.

Which will probably average out to some number divisible by four.

Highlights this installment include Hickey & Boggs, The Incredible Melting Man, A Quiet Place in the Country, and the very timely student protest flick, The Revolutionary.

* The discs are manufactured using the best source materials available and they’re strictly no-frills affairs, so the quality varies between releases. But remember, in many cases this may be the only opportunity to own these titles on DVD.

Hickey & Boggs (1972, MGM)
Directed by Robert Culp; stars Bill Cosby, Robert Culp

Two private eyes take on a case involving a missing woman and soon find themselves knee deep in mercenaries, money, and murder. Walter Hill scripted the film, and he’s filled it with dialogue fitting of the genre like “I gotta get a bigger gun. I can’t hit nothin’.” In addition to the I-Spy reunion the film also features other recognizable faces including James Woods, Michael Moriarty, Vincent Gardenia, Roger Mosely and more.

“We gotta find that bitch.” – Cosby and Culp both play much darker roles here than viewers are used to, and they’re fantastic. Both men carry heavy guilt around with them for completely different reasons (Hickey has ex-wife issues, and Boggs’ sexuality is in question), and watching it eat at them throughout the investigation adds to the overall tone of darkness. The story is a bit convoluted at times and starts slow, but it builds in satisfying ways. Culp’s direction also deserves praise especially for the action scenes including gunfights where just about every bullet is accounted for onscreen chewing up cars, walls, pavement, and people.

The Incredible Melting Man (1977, MGM)
Directed by William Sachs; stars Alex Rebar, Michael Allredge

NASA’s latest mission sends astronauts near the rings of Saturn, but something goes wrong and all but one of the men die during their return to Earth. Alex Rebar is the only survivor, but he didn’t come out unscathed… he’s melting! Oh, and he’s craving human flesh! Now it’s up to Dr. Ted Nelson, yes the Dr. Ted Nelson, to stop the messy madman and save the day. Too bad he’s an incompetent boob.

“Did you get some crackers? I told you yesterday that we needed some crackers.” – Generally speaking, this is a pretty bad movie. A ridiculous script combined with some amateurish acting make for the stupidest of this week’s MGM releases. But… it’s still pretty damn entertaining. The movie wastes no time getting right into the melting, gory action as we’re given zero back story. It just opens with Rebar waking up, seeing his nasty disfiguration, and immediately chowing down on a chubby nurse. The gore effects come courtesy of Rick Baker, and along with the unintentionally funny dialogue they help make this worth a watch.

A Quiet Place in the Country (1970, MGM)
Directed by Elio Petri; stars Vanessa Redgrave, Franco Nero

Leonardo (Franco Nero) is a slightly nutty artist who moves to a remote mansion outside of Milan to focus on his paintings, but his madness follows him when he discovers the possible ghost of a teenage girl who died decades before. His lover/agent (Vanessa Redgrave) is along for the ride, but she finds the large home far less welcoming. As Leonardo’s obsession with the truth grows so do his dreams and visions of a sexual and violent reality.

“The city’s full of beautiful surprises. I found an underwater television, for scuba diving. An electric toothbrush, a transistor refrigerator, an electric knife sharpener, an erotic electromagnet.” – Ennio Morricone’s score makes it clear almost immediately that this is going to be a disjointed, odd, and madness-filled experience as the music clamors its way across the opening credits. And that’s even before the twisted, S&M-themed dream sequence introducing the two leads… Nero in a diaper and tied to a chair while Redgrave surrounds him with electrical appliances before stabbing him in the bath. There’s a definite Polanski feel to the film, Repulsion in particular, as viewers are constantly kept on edge and unaware as to what’s real and what’s imaginary. That imbalance actually makes the film’s first half rather inaccessible though, and it’s only when the ghost story begins to take hold that a solid and engaging narrative appears.

The Revolutionary (1970, MGM)
Directed by Paul Williams; stars Jon Voight, Robert Duvall, Seymour Cassel

A college student (Jon Voight) works to make change on campus and in his community, but he quickly grows disillusioned when the typical non-violent protests fail to make any real progress. He begins to distance himself from the group and instead takes up with a more radical organization. His involvement deepens and soon he’s faced with the question of how far he’s willing to go to find for a cause he believes in so strongly.

“I don’t think at all it’ll make me happy. My happiness is not my object in life, but of course I am happy realizing that.” – This feels like a fairly timely film for 2011 as we witness not only civilian unrest across the Middle East but the Occupy movement sweeping cities and college campuses throughout the US as well. It’s heart and brain are in the right place, but it suffers from the same fate as Santiago Mitre’s (Carancho) recent film, The Student. The script gets so bogged down in the details that it often forgets to craete an engaging narrative alongside of it. Still, the film poses some interesting questions and ends on a high note.

Catch up with The MOD Quad here.


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