‘Stand By Me’ Gets Its Marching Orders (March 19); Is ‘Howard the Duck’ the Best of the Bad?

Times Staff Writer

Director Rob Reiner’s “Stand By Me,” which makes its home video debut March 19 on RCA/Columbia, was one of the surprise hits of 1986.

Based on Stephen King’s book, “The Body,” it uses a story about four youngsters on a hunt for a missing body as the device for some deft probing into character. Critics hailed it as a first-rate example of ensemble acting by River Phoenix, Cory Feldman, Wil Wheaton and Jerry O’Connell. The title song is an oldie by Ben E. King; on rerelease, the 1961 hit become a Top 10 single again.

“Shanghai Surprise,” a box-office bomb, temporarily crippled the budding film career of singer Madonna, undoing all the progress she’d made in “Desperately Seeking Susan.” Her husband Sean Penn’s career was also severely damaged by “Surprise,” an adventure set in China in the 1930s. Vestron, hoping the name value of the stars will lure renters, is releasing it in March.


NEW RELEASES: If “Howard the Duck,” a theatrical flop, does well on home video (it’s due out on MCA next week), it won’t be because people like the movie. Most of those who rent it will probably be fans of bad movies because, reportedly, it’s one of the best so-bad-it’s-funny movies in years.

Horton Foote is a master at writing about small-town life. His stories, like “On Valentine’s Day,” which Karl-Lorimar is releasing next week, are low on plot but rich in characterization. His daughter, Hallie Foote, stars in this somber love story about a woman cast aside by her family for marrying--on Valentine’s Day--a guy they consider substandard. This movie, which isn’t terribly commercial, didn’t get much attention. It’s surprising that Karl-Lorimar didn’t wait and put it out on Valentine’s Day.

Critics said that innocent-looking Anthony Michael Hall looked out of place in “Out of Bounds,” a thriller about a young man who stumbles into the violent world of drug-dealing. It turned out that Hall’s teen-age fans didn’t want to see him in this kind of movie. The consensus was that this thriller--out next week on RCA/Columbia--wasn’t so thrilling.

RCA/Columbia is also releasing “A Fine Mess,” starring Ted Danson and Howie Mandel, who didn’t emerge as a great comic duo in this movie about the madcap misadventures of minor-league hoods. Writer-director Blake Edwards didn’t get much praise for this effort.

“Back to School,” the smash Rodney Dangerfield comedy, heads the releases during the week of Jan. 18. “Extremities,” “Fool for Love,” “Ginger and Fred” and “Seize the Day” also make their home video debuts that week.

“The Karate Kid, Part II” is due out Jan. 29. That will be the dominant newcomer until “Aliens” comes along on Feb. 26.

HORROR/ACTION: Fans of the pioneering splatter movie, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974), will probably like the equally lurid sequel, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Part 2,” due Jan. 29 from Media. It’s about a retired Texas Ranger (Dennis Hopper) who has a vendetta against the killers who sliced up his nephew. The director of the slick sequel is Tobe Hooper, who also directed the gory original.

The sequel release will take advantage of the sudden interest in Hopper, who had a big year in respectable movies. Either of his supporting roles, in “Blue Velvet” or “Hoosiers,” could earn him a nomination, according to Oscar forecasters.

“Vendetta,” a recent Vestron release, is a revenge story about a woman avenging the prison murder of her sister. It’s a passable action B-movie with more than a touch of sleaze. Heading the no-name cast is Karen Chase, who plays the avenger.

OLD MOVIES: On Jan. 22, Media is releasing two fairly obscure but noteworthy old films, for $19.95. One is “They Won’t Believe Me” (1947), with Robert Young playing the bad guy, a woman-chasing rogue who ends up in jail. Most of us recall Young from his TV series--as the saintly dad on “Father Knows Best” and the noble medic on “Marcus Welby, M.D.” But he’s adept at playing rascals too, and this is one of his best bad-guy performances. His co-star is Susan Hayward--before she became a major star.

If you’ve seen and enjoyed all of William Powell’s “Thin Man” movies and are itching for more, you may like Media’s “The Ex-Mrs. Bradford” (1936), a comedy thriller that has the same glib, urbane quality associated with the “Thin Man” series. The suave Powell plays a surgeon trying to clear himself of murder charges. Jean Arthur, portraying the wacky ex-wife, is as charming as Myrna Loy, Powell’s “Thin Man” partner.

A staple of the ‘50s were Western soap operas like “Jubal” (1956), out next week on RCA/Columbia. Glenn Ford, Ernest Borgnine, Rod Steiger (this Method actor never seems at home on the range), Valerie French and Felicia Farr are entangled in this overheated melodrama reportedly based on Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Somehow director Delmer Daves makes it all fairly engrossing.

CLOSED CAPTIONED MOVIES: According to the National Closed Captioning Institute, the following movies have been added to the list of closed captioned videocassettes:

“Cobra,” “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” “Legend,” “Lucas,” “The Money Pit,” “Under the Cherry Moon,” “The Gods Must Be Crazy,” “Vamp,” “Short Circuit,” “Singing in the Rain,” “Police Academy III,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” “Poltergeist II” and “Violets Are Blue.”


(Compiled by Billboard magazine) TOP VIDEOCASSETTES, RENTALS

1--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (Paramount).

2--"Cobra” (Warner Video).

3--"Short Circuit” (CBS-Fox).

4--"Raw Deal” (HBO/Cannon).

5--"Poltergeist II: The Other Side” (MGM/UA).

6--"The Money Pit” (MCA).

7--"Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (Touchstone).

8--"SpaceCamp” (Vestron).

9--"The Gods Must Be Crazy” (Playhouse).

10--"9 1/2 Weeks” (MGM/UA).


1--"Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” (Paramount).

2--"Sleeping Beauty” (Disney).

3--"Jane Fonda’s Low Impact Aerobic Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

4--"White Christmas” (Paramount).

5--"Jane Fonda’s New Workout” (Karl-Lorimar).

6--"Raiders of the Lost Ark” (Paramount).

7--"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” (Paramount).

8--"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (Paramount).

9--"The Sound of Music” (CBS-Fox).

10--"Star Trek: The Motion Picture” (Paramount).