Volcano High Kim Tae-Kyun

Leaving well enough alone is hard enough for American distributors of weirdo foreign films, but even Miramax wouldn't have the guts to denature a film the way MTV did with Volcano High. The 2001 Korean original is a berserk fusion of John Hughes and The Matrix set in a high-school dystopia ruled by despotic vice-principals and policed by crazed extra-curricular sports groups. Lest this sound too much like actual high school, be advised that the students have magical powers and engage in baroque martial arts mayhem. The plot, involving a super-powered student trying to keep his destructive skills under wraps, is fairly impenetrable, but its real attraction is its burlesque version of teenage life as a series of groups beating each other senseless while being lorded over by callous authority figures. Genius it's not, but it's so devoid of mawkishness and so completely over the top that you'll wear a stupid grin through even its weaker bits. Enter American cable, which never met a tiger it couldn't tame: the MTV version yanks 41 minutes out of the running time, simplifies the narrative, slathers on acres of maudlin narration and invents subplots all in the name of forcing the damned thing to make sense. Sense, of course, is the last thing you want from Volcano High, so this desecration ranks with the "Love Conquers All" version of Brazil in terms of thick-headed executive decisions. Hip-hop fans may be sated by the dubbed dialogue from rappers like Andre 3000, Big Boi, Snoop Dogg, Method Man and others, but if you've seen the original you're guaranteed to be outraged. Thankfully, Fox consented to include both versions on a flipper disc, offering an object lesson on what not to do with cult favorites. The only extra is a "making of" featurette featuring the voice talents incoherently explaining their characters. (Fox)