David Brenner and I have something in common: He hates to work out and I hate to watch workout tapes. Video exercise is, quite plainly, boring, no matter which side of the camera you're on.
With this major critical prejudice out in the open, it's only fair to note that "David Brenner's I Hate to Work Out Workout" from Academy Entertainment ($19.95, 55 minutes) is unlike others in this overcrowded genre. Video workouts are now so well-established and formularized that it's possible to make fun of them, and this Brenner does with his usual flair. Yet the tape is true to its purpose of providing a sensible exercise routine.Brenner performs as host and subject, opening with a little monologue about his distaste for exercise, then offering encouraging and comical words about it never being too late to tone up.
There's a good number of fat jokes along the lines of "You know you're out of shape when you're walking down the street and you think someone's coming around to pass you - and it's you." Then there's his recommendation for a good cardiovascular workout: "Tape a $100 bill to your forehead and take a walk through a bad neighborhood."
Brenner is his own best proof that no matter how out of shape you are, exercise will have a positive effect. Here's a comedian who had a chronically underfed look during his "Tonight Show" years, but on this tape he looks surprisingly firm and fit. He may joke about exercise, but it's clearly paying off for him.
As with most workouts, a warm-up and stretching segment is followed by more intense routines, then a gradual cool-down. Most of it is performed in a living room setting under the guidance of Brenner's personal trainer, Lancelot Bacchus, a man of intimidating bulk but diffident manner.
While his celebrity patron grunts and grimaces and fires off one-liners about the Inquisition, Bacchus makes certain Brenner puts some real effort into the workout. The trainer also deserves extra credit for smiling gamely at the weaker jokes.
In an exercise tape, however, even a weak joke is a welcome intrusion. One of the running gags has Brenner's devilish side (garbed in satanic costume) appear in a special-effects inset and harangue the entertainer about how silly it all is. Another bit of video magic shows two David Brenners: One splits away from the laboring figure on the floor and advances on the oblivious Bacchus, threatening to throttle his tormentor.
Kidding aside, the program has many valid points to make. Unlike most aerobics tapes, Brenner's workout involves dumbbells, and there is extremely good advice on how to handle them to prevent accidental strain or injury. The dumbbell workout applies to women as well as men, and the point is driven home every so often with a picture-within-picture effect showing a female exerciser using lighter weights for the same routines.
An unusual angle to this tape (which, oddly enough, isn't touted on the package) is the special information for back-pain sufferers who would like to exercise at home. Brenner says he has a "bad back" (we're never sure just what that means) and so takes certain precautions: He does his prone routines on a padded board instead of a sofa, and he wears a weightlifter's belt for extra support in some standing routines. He also demonstrates little tricks for sitting up that don't aggravate back pain.
Q: Can I use a hi-fi VCR as a home audio recorder for vinyl, CD, radio recording, etc.? The remote control and ability to put lots of music continuously on one tape would be great.
A: The audio-only application of hi-fi VCRs is an attractive yet underappreciated benefit. I've used mine in just the way you describe, with fine results. You can even use the timer function to record a radio broadcast while you're away (don't forget to leave the radio on). - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)
Q: Some time ago, you had an item about the Rabbit, which could connect a TV and a VCR in different rooms. An alternative you mentioned was to use a long TV antenna wire. How would that work?
A: "By antenna wire," I mean standard coaxial cable that has RF (radio frequency) connectors at each end, not the old-fashioned twin-lead wire. Use the coaxial cable to connect the VCR's RF output to the TV's RF input. This is a standard hookup. The distance between your VCR and TV is limited only by the length of the cable. - Andy Wickstrom (Knight-Ridder)
MY MOM'S A WEREWOLF - Imagine a melding of an ABC Afterschool Special and an episode of "Twilight Zone." The result would be a lot like "My Mom's a Werewolf." Susan Blakely stars as the hairy matron of the title in this lively, if rather odd production, which finds a housewife bitten by more than the love bug when she encounters local pet shop owner John Saxon. It falls to teenage daughter Katrina Caspary to help Mom undo this spell, while John Schuck as the easygoing man-of-the-family stands on the sidelines in a state of extreme confusion. Except for a heated 10-minute seduction scene during which Saxon puts the bite on Blakely, "My Mom's A Werewolf" is a rather tame video suitable for the entire family. So what if it doesn't make much sense. It's tough to find a decent family-oriented horror flick that celebrates grins over gore, and this one just succeeds. 90 minutes. Prism. - By Mike Pearson (Scripps Howard)
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS - When creepy Angela and high school friends crash an abandoned mortuary to stage a Halloween party, everything that can go wrong does. Seems some demons are living in the crematorium downstairs, where lie the remains of the family maid who went berserk and hacked up her employers. While the acting is uniformly awful - the result of a cast of unknowns - the special effects almost even the score. The question is, do you want to wade through an anemic plot for the visual payoff? 87 minutes. Republic Video. Rated R. $89.95 - Mike Pearson (Scripps Howard)
GRAVEYARD SHIFT II - If you really want to be disappointed, then rent this turkey. The plot finds a real vampire stalking the set of a low-budget film about - what else? - vampires. One by one he drains the souls out of the female leads and director, but no one ever seems to question why he can't work by day. Vampire Silvio Oliviero is dull, and director/writer Gerard Ciccoritti seems to mistake smoke and eerie lighting for credible plotting. Take my advice and bury this one. 88 minutes. Virgin Vision. $79.95. - Mike Pearson (Knight Ridder)