APES ON FILM: It Never Pours, But It RAINS!

Posted on: Nov 29th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

BATTLE OF THE WORLDS (Il Pianeta Degli Uomini Spenti) – 1961
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Claude Rains , Bill Carter , Umberto Orsini , Maya Brent
Director: Antonio Margheriti (as Anthony Dawson)
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A
BRD Release Date: August 9, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC (29.28 Mbps)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Antonio Margheriti worked as a model maker and special effects artist while making the transition to Director, and his talent for creating dynamic space battles is on display in BATTLE OF THE WORLDS. In his second outing in the big chair, Margheriti delivers a film high on concept but low on coherent storytelling; his directing skills were still being honed, and it shows. With a penchant for working with maquette and models, his lack of experience with actors is obvious – especially in relation to his star, Claude Rains.

Rains had recently starred as Prof. Challenger in Irwin Allen‘s production of  THE LOST WORLD, but was nearing the end of his career. An over-the-top personality, Rains was set loose on a cast of Italian actors and English-speaking bit players and literally chews them up and spits them out all over the screen. It’s like watching a lawnmower approaching a litter of puppies in some scenes. Both director and actor had brighter days ahead; Rains was yet to appear in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA and THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD, and Margheriti had better fish to fry in films like THE WILD, WILD PLANET, TAKE A HARD RIDE, and WEB OF THE SPIDER, just to name a few.

The “Outsider,” an interstellar satellite on a collision course with Earth, proves to be a planetoid-sized mothership filled with hostile flying saucers bent on destroying our defense forces so that the alien controllers can colonize our planet. Dr. Benson (Rains) has plans to stop them, but will only share them if he is given complete control of the task force charged with combatting the invasion. It’s all highly melodramatic and the conclusion is a bit disappointing to all involved, but there are definitely entertaining moments in the film. The art direction by Umberta Cesarano —on a shoestring budget— is colorful and appealing, as might be expected in an Italian sci-fi film of the era. Music by Mario Migliardi  is atonal and unsettling, which works some of the time and annoys just as often.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a definite improvement in terms of picture and sound quality than previous releases, but is problematic on other fronts. Approximately nine minutes that was included in a previous DVD release from Reel Vault seems to be missing and, to be honest, this Blu-ray is rife with jump cuts throughout. Though created from a new 4K scan of the source material, the source was a 35mm print that itself needed restoration, though provided the best quality elements that could be found. Though the packaging claims it is “newly restored”, there are numerous analog artifacts present from the original source. I suspect that The Film Detective did in fact do some audio restoration to smooth the dialog during the jump cuts, and possibly ran the new master through several A.I. filters for stabilization purposes.

While I do understand their dilemma regarding a full restoration- which should include new color timing to correct a visible red shift due to the source print’s Eastman-color film stock, as well as a total audio remix – is there enough of an audience for this film to make the cost of restoration commercially viable? It’s hard to say. Should the film be preserved? Absolutely. But as a less than classic offering in the genre, does it warrant a stem-to-stern restoration? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The disc also includes a new featurette from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “A Cinematic Outsider: The Fantastical Worlds of Antonio Margheriti” (HD; 30:38) with historian and critic Tim Lucas discussing the director’s oeuvre, as well as a new feature length commentary from author Justin Humphreys. Both are well put together and informative, and worth viewing.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

 

 Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Apes On Film: 2022 Gift Giving Guide

Posted on: Nov 29th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

If you have a retro cinema and television buff in your life, consider yourself lucky! Finding gifts for them just got a whole lot easier thanks to our handy Gift Giving Guide. Below are our deep dive (and shallow end) choices for the greatest gifts released in 2022 for lovers of physical media. All titles are in Blu-Ray or 4K format unless otherwise noted.

Get the popcorn ready and Happy Holidays!

 

MULTI-DISC/TITLE SETS

Dr. Phibes Double Feature [THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES/DR. PHIBES RISES AGAIN] – Kino Lorber: It’s impossible not to love the kitschy fun of director Robert Fuest’s Phibes movies. Vincent Price chews scenery like bubble gum, and the Art Deco styling is gorgeous. It’s hard to hate a film whose tagline was “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly.” Both films come on a single disc, so it’s not stuffed with extra features, but definitely bargain-priced.

The Incredibly Strange Films Of Ray Dennis Steckler Collector’s Set – Severin: Twenty – COUNT ‘EM! – Twenty films by the master of cheap ass, WTF? cinema, Ray Dennis Steckler! Most well-known for THE INCREDIBLY STRANGE CREATURES WHO STOPPED LIVING AND BECAME MIXED-UP ZOMBIES!!?, Steckler’s films were always startlingly tapped into the contextual zeitgeist of the times. Absurd, yes – consequential, no doubt; he created some of the best cinema to make out to at drive-in screenings. Severin’s box set is fantastically featured, with new HD scans of the films, hours of bonus features and a book about the filmmaker. Get it!

Night Gallery (Season 3) – Kino Lorber: Return to the landscape of darkness with Rod Serling! Kino’s Season 3 Blu-ray set is filled to the top with classic episodes like “The Girl With The Hungry Eyes,” “Fright Night,” and “Something In The Woodwork,” as well as those amazing commentaries by the team that did the first two season sets and other supplements. Go all-in with this final offering of the early 1970’s television terror!

The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Series – Amazon Exclusive Collector’s Edition – Shout! Factory: They rebuilt him… in BLU-RAY! Thirty-three (that’s NOT a typo!) discs of all the bionic goodness you remember form the classic 1970’s television series! All the episodes plus the three TV movies that launched the series and the reunion movies, The Bionic Woman crossover episodes, as well as hours of bonus content and behind the scenes featurettes. A full ninety-two hours of Steve Austin and friends! It’s honestly a mind-blowing package of amazing high-definition entertainment, and I can’t believe there’s anyone on the planet over the age of 35 that wouldn’t be thrilled to get this in their stocking!

 

SINGLE TITLE/DISC GIFTS

 ARMY OF DARKNESS [Limited Edition Steelbook] – Shout! Factory: “This is my BOOMSTICK!” Another fun title that should be in every media Library. Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell can do no wrong in this third installment of the EVIL DEAD franchise, and arguably the funniest. This four-disc set has every cut of the film imaginable (including a brand new 4K scan of the theatrical cut) as well as a full slate of supplementary features, all wrapped up in an attractive steelbook case. Just accept that if your special film fan doesn’t have this package, they need it.

THE GREAT ESCAPE 4K UHD – Kino Lorber: The classic. Director John Sturges’ WWII P.O.W. odyssey features possibly the greatest cast in the history of war movies (THE LONGEST DAY excepted) and just about every line of dialog is quotable. Steve McQueen is the coolest as the Cooler King, and performs the most memorable motorcycle jump in cinema history. This 2-disc set includes the film on 4K, a well as a bonus Blu-ray disc of extras and featurettes. Essential.

STAR TREK I: The Motion Picture 4K UHD – The Director’s Edition Complete Adventure – Paramount: Excuse me while I hyperventilate a bit… WOW! What a set for the all-too-often- maligned first Star Trek film! The director’s cut, the theatrical cut, a bonus disc jam packed with new and legacy special features, poster, photos, stickers, booklet, and more. It’s enough to make one gambol about like a Muppet. STAR TREK: TMP is a better film than most remember, and totally worth all the hoopla associated with the brand new remaster in this package. Boldly go get it now!

HIGHLANDER (Collector’s Edition) – Studio Canal: There can be ONLY ONE! The 80’s classic fantasy to end all fantasies, director Russell Mulcahy and writer Gregory Widen created an entirely new immortal breed to populate a franchise that included multiple films and television series, and an upcoming remake starring Henry Cavill, so yeah… maybe more than one. Studio Canal’s set includes a poster, a comic book, buttons, photos, and two discs full of immortals dueling with swords to the amazing music of Queen. How can you go wrong?

 

I could go on for pages and pages. We’re living in a jet stream of great releases and film fans should be very happy about that. Check out our previous and future columns for more recommendations and HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM APE CITY!

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, Retro Fan, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

 

 Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Tis the Season To Be... | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Aliens, Vampires, and Italians – Oh, My!

Posted on: Oct 18th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES – 1965
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Barry Sullivan, Norma Bengell, Ángel Aranda , Evi Marandi
Director: Mario Bava
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (locked)
BRD Release Date: July 26, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 88 minutes
5 Disc Set
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Mario Bava is high in the pantheon of admired and revered film directors among film lovers, with good reason. He never failed to create an eminently watchable film, many of which were then copied incessantly by admirers and detractors alike. Starting his career as a cinematographer, Bava applied his unique vision as a colorist and scenarist to the kind of story material that appealed to him, most of which consisted of horror, science fiction, or fantasy. The list of directors and writers that he inspired is long and varied, but for the sake of this review, let’s confine that list to Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett, and Ridley Scott, the men behind ALIEN (1979).

The trio were heavily influenced by Bava’s PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES in which; a spaceship (or two) responds to a distress signal from an uninhabited planet, descends to the surface to find an abandoned alien craft with giant skeletons (an idea Shusett admitted stealing from Bava) and crew members begin to die one by one. Scott denied ever seeing it at the time of ALIEN’s release, and O’Bannon admitted to only seeing part of it many years before writing his screenplay. Somehow, the film seeped into their collective groundwater, as did Edward L. Cahn‘s IT! THE TERROR BEYOND SPACE (1958), in which a malevolent alien stalks the inhabitants of a rocket in space, and several other sources including Clifford Simak’s story Junkyard,” published in the May 1953 edition of GALAXY Magazine.

Bava’s film is seminal and stylish, truly worth the watch whether you’ve seen it before or not. While Scott’s movie provides more character definition and development, Bava achieved incredible visuals without the use of a single optical process shot. All of the special effects were achieved in-camera, and the planetary landscapes and vast interior shots of the ships were achieved with the Schufftan process. The art direction and production design would go on to influence many movies and television programs, especially as U.S. broadcasting moved into the “…IN COLOR!” era. The film’s costumes, sets, and props show a consistence of style that was only equaled by directors like Hitchcock or John Ford at the time.

Kino Lorber’s presentation of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is sourced from an exclusive new 2K master. Color saturation is gratuitous – as it should be here – and picture sharpness is only slightly softer than would be my preference having seen the film on 35mm several times. The single audio track is perfectly adequate and recreates the eerie atmospheric sounds and music of Gino Marinuzzi Jr. (of which I wish there was more) well. Supplemental materials include an exclusive new audio commentary by writers Kim Newman and Barry Forshaw; an archival audio commentary by critic and Bava biographer Tim Lucas; episodes of Trailers From Hell with Joe Dante and Josh Olson; the original trailer for the film and more.

Planet of the Vampires should be an old favorite for just about anyone with an interest in science fiction, horror, or Italian movies. Bava’s resume is filled with fantastic films that should be on every cineaste’s list; this one is near the top of the heap for me, superseded by both earlier and later works. Add this disc to your collection without hesitation.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and many more.

 Ape caricature art by Richard Smith.

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Art For Art’s Sake

Posted on: Sep 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems, and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

Night Gallery Season 2 – 1971-’72
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Rod Serling, Leslie Nielsen, Vincent Price, Laurence Harvey, Patty Duke, Elsa Lanchester, Stuart Whitman, Jill Ireland, Bill Bixby, Richard Thomas, Lana Wood
Directors: John Badham, Jeannot Szwarc, Jeff Corey , Jack Laird, John Astin
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (locked)
BRD Release Date: July 26, 2022
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 1164 minutes
5 Disc Set
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Silent Snow

Sigmund Freud famously said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” but then again sometimes it’s not. Sometimes a painting is just a pretty way to ornament one’s walls, but sometimes, as Rod Serling might say, “Each one captures on a canvas, suspended in time and space, a frozen moment of a nightmare.” This was the premise of Serling’s second television series, Night Gallery.

The series began as a rotating segment in a wheel anthology series called FOUR IN ONE, with series mates McCloud, The Psychiatrist, and SFX (San Francisco International Airport). Only McCloud and Night Gallery made it to a second season, and Night Gallery became a weekly series under the supervision of producer Jack Laird and Serling. But in the case of this series, Laird was the creative show runner and Serling merely a staff writer and on-air host. As such, he had little control over the path the series took, and some of Laird’s choices didn’t sit well with the multiple Emmy winner.

Caterpillar

More a horror anthology than The Twilight Zone, which had been comprised of mainly science fiction tales, Serling was very concerned with providing a continuity of viewer experience throughout each episode that was usually comprised of two or three stories. Laird, on the other hand found the format a suitable showcase for his own personal sense of humor and inserted a series of short “black-out” sketches as time fillers between stories. Only occasionally were these humorous sketches actually funny, unfortunately, and it did certainly break the tension between the horror-based stories in each episode.

Kino Lorber has released the second season of Night Gallery with an embarrassment of riches on the supplemental features department. Suffice it to say that the team who provided commentaries for the first season volume is back with guns blazing. Many special features from the earlier DVD release of the series are included as well, the full list is included below.

You Can’t Get Help

Though the set contains some very memorable episodes – Green Fingers, Class of ’99, Silent Snow, Secret Snow, Sins of The Father, The Caterpillar, and You Just Can’t Get Help Like That Anymore to name but a few – the real reason to buy this set is all of the amazing extras contained within. They do a lot of heavy lifting to fill in gaps in behind-the-scenes and production information and give context to many moments that might otherwise leave some people scratching their heads. As a snapshot of early 1970’s television horror, Night Gallery Season 2 is unsurpassed.

Blu-ray Extras:

– BRAND NEW 2K MASTERS
LOST TALES FROM SEASON 2 (DIE NOW, PAY LATER/ROOM FOR ONE LESS/WITCHES’ FEAST/LITTLE GIRL LOST)
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE BOY WHO PREDICTED EARTHQUAKES/MISS LOVECRAFT SENT ME/THE HAND OF BORGUS WEEMS/PHANTOM OF WHAT OPERA? by Film Historian Craig Beam
– NEW Audio Commentary for DEATH IN THE FAMILY/THE MERCIFUL/CLASS OF ’99/SATISFACTION GUARANTEED by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson
– NEW Audio Commentary for A DEATH IN THE FAMILY/THE MERCIFUL/CLASS OF ’99/SATISFACTION GUARANTEED by Television Music Historian Dr. Reba Wissner
– NEW Audio Commentary for SINCE AUNT ADA CAME TO STAY/WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. HYDE/THE FLIP-SIDE OF SATAN by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for SINCE AUNT ADA CAME TO STAY/WITH APOLOGIES TO MR. HYDE/THE FLIP-SIDE OF SATAN by Television Music Historian Dr. Reba Wissner
– Audio Commentary for A FEAR OF SPIDERS/JUNIOR/MARMALADE WINE/THE ACADEMY by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE PHANTOM FARMHOUSE/SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– Audio Commentary for THE PHANTOM FARMHOUSE/SILENT SNOW, SECRET SNOW by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– NEW Audio Commentary for A QUESTION OF FEAR/THE DEVIL IS NOT MOCKED by Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Editor Stephen Jones
– NEW Audio Commentary for MIDNIGHT NEVER ENDS/BRENDA by Night Gallery Author/Historian Jim Benson and Actress Laurie Prange (Star of BRENDA)
– NEW Audio Commentary for MIDNIGHT NEVER ENDS/BRENDA by Author/Historian Amanda Reyes
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DIARY/A MATTER OF SEMANTICS/BIG SURPRISE/PROFESSOR PEABODY’S LAST LECTURE by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for HOUSE—WITH GHOST/A MIDNIGHT VISIT TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD BLOOD BANK/DR. STRINGFELLOW’S REJUVENATOR/HELL’S BELLS by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DARK BOY/KEEP IN TOUCH – WE’LL THINK OF SOMETHING by Author/Historian Amanda Reyes
– NEW Audio Commentary for PICKMAN’S MODEL/THE DEAR DEPARTED/AN ACT OF CHIVALRY by Actress Louise Sorel (Star of PICKMAN’S MODEL) and Night Gallery Authors/Historians Scott Skelton and Jim Benson
– NEW Audio Commentary for PICKMAN’S MODEL/THE DEAR DEPARTED/AN ACT OF CHIVALRY by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– NEW Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Author Mark Dawidziak, Director John Badham and Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– NEW Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Novelist/Critic Kim Newman and Writer/Editor Stephen Jones
– Audio Commentary for COOL AIR/CAMERA OBSCURA/QUOTH THE RAVEN by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– Audio Commentary for THE MESSIAH ON MOTT STREET/THE PAINTED MIRROR by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE DIFFERENT ONES/TELL DAVID…/LOGODA’S HEADS by Film Historian Craig Beam
– NEW Audio Commentary for GREEN FINGERS/THE FUNERAL/THE TUNE IN DAN’S CAFE by Director John Badham and Night Gallery Author/Historian Scott Skelton
– UPDATED Audio Commentary for LINDEMANN’S CATCH/THE LATE MR. PEDDINGTON/A FEAST OF BLOOD by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE MIRACLE AT CAMAFEO/THE GHOST OF SORWORTH PLACE by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE WAITING ROOM/LAST RITES FOR A DEAD DRUID by Author/Historian David J. Schow
– NEW Audio Commentary for DELIVERIES IN THE REAR/STOP KILLING ME/DEAD WEIGHT by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for I’LL NEVER LEAVE YOU – EVER/THERE AREN’T ANY MORE MACBANES by Author/Historian David J. Schow
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE SINS OF THE FATHERS/YOU CAN’T GET HELP LIKE THAT ANYMORE by Night Gallery Author/Historian Scott Skelton
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE SINS OF THE FATHERS/YOU CAN’T GET HELP LIKE THAT ANYMORE by Novelist and Critic Tim Lucas
– NEW Audio Commentary for THE CATERPILLAR/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Screenwriter/Historian Gary Gerani
– Audio Commentary for THE CATERPILLAR/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Legendary Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro
– Audio Commentary for LOST TALES FROM SEASON 2: DIE NOW, PAY LATER/ROOM FOR ONE LESS/WITCHES’ FEAST/LITTLE GIRL LOST by Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton
Revisiting the Gallery: A Look Back – Featurette with Actors Lindsay Wagner, Pat Boone, Joseph Campanella, Laurie Prange, James Metropole; Directors John Badham, Jeannot Szwarc, William Hale; Composer Gil Mellé; Make-Up Artist Leonard Engelman; Artist Tom Wright; and Night Gallery Authors/Historians Jim Benson and Scott Skelton (29:55)
THE SYNDICATION CONUNDRUM PART 2: A Look at the Show’s Troubled Second Life in Reruns – A Featurette by Film Historian Craig Beam
– Art Gallery: The Paintings – Featurette with Artist Tom Wright (3:28)
– 19 TV Spots (Newly Mastered in HD)
– NBC TV Promos (12:51) – From the 2008 DVD Release
– DVD Easter Eggs
– Optional English Subtitles

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Keep Watching the Skies!

Posted on: Jul 15th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

THE UFO INCIDENT – 1975
4.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: James Earl Jones, Estelle Parsons , Barnard Hughes
Director: Richard A. Colla
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: June 14th, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 92 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

In the 1990s and early 2000s, you just weren’t anybody unless you’d been abducted and intimately probed by aliens. Everybody from Harvard professors to carpetbagging novelists published “true” accounts of abduction, creating a culture in which the truly chic were all part of the ET-erati, and if you hadn’t taken the probe you weren’t relevant. It’s easy to laugh at the proliferation of accounts that all read exactly the same from story to story, but what is the genesis of this phenomena? It all started in New Hampshire in 1962, with an account that’s a little harder to shake your head at; the tale of Betty and Barney Hill.

The Hills experienced a lost time episode one night while driving home from Montreal. They saw a UFO coming towards them, got out and watched it until it got a bit too close for comfort, then got back in the car and tried to outrun it. Two hours later, they realized they were almost home and had no memory of how they had gotten there. Unsettling dreams and memories began to surface, and eventually they sought help from Psychiatrist Benjamin Simon, who regressed them via hypnosis and discovered some very unsettling details of their encounter.

THE UFO INCIDENT is a harrowing account of their experience, and includes a tour de force performance by James Earl Jones (CONAN THE BARBARIAN) as Barney Hill. His recollections under hypnosis are both heartbreaking and terrifying, and Jones pushes limits in creating an uncomfortable environment for the viewer. Equally compelling is the performance of Estelle Parsons (BONNIE AND CLYDE) as his wife, Betty. Barnard Hughes (THE LOST BOYS) tries to make sense of what he’s hearing as Simon, but ultimately decides that true or not, the catharsis the couple experiences is the most important aspect of the treatment.

After this movie aired on television, reports of alien abduction to authorities and aerial phenomena research groups jumped from a trickle to a deluge. Almost all of these accounts reported similar details as the Hills, creating a pattern that was to continue to this day. But they were the first; they had no reason to lie, and every reason to avoid the public eye as an interracial couple in the time period when such marriages had only recently become legal. They were both highly intelligent, well educated, and active in their community, advocates for social justice. Barney was a postman and Betty, a social worker. It’s difficult to fathom why they might have made up their account. Truth or fantasy, it’s hard to conceive of this story as an outright lie. The Hills truly believed they were abducted by beings from another planet.

Overall, picture and sound for this film have never looked or sounded better than on this disc. The transfer is from a new 2K restoration, and supplementary materials include a new (and excellent) audio commentary by film historian/screenwriter Gary Gerani, ROMANTIC MYSTICISM: THE MUSIC OF BILLY GOLDENBERG – a feature length documentary by Gerani, trailers for other films (including FUZZ, directed by Richard Colla), and optional English subtitles. While the supplemental materials are fascinating, it would have been interesting to hear audio from some of the Hills’ original hypnosis sessions as well, and possibly a documentary on their experience.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video WatcH*Dog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Dr. Jekyll, The Original Mad Scientist!

Posted on: Jun 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE – 1941
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Spencer Tracy , Ingrid Bergman , Lana Turner
Director: Victor Fleming
Rated: Unrated
Studio: Warner Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: May 17, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 113 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Robert Louis Stevenson’s treatise on the duality of man, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was born in London in 1886.  Like Dracula eleven years later, the novella has permeated the groundwater of our culture and stands as a landmark of gothic horror literature. The term “Jekyll and Hyde” has punctuated our vernacular and has come to be shorthand for someone who presents a friendly face but harbors private evil. There have been over 120 stage and film adaptations of the story since its publication, and today’s column features the 1941 film version from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. But let’s back up 10 years to set the scene for this movie.

Paramount Pictures made what many consider to be the definitive version of the film in 1931, directed by Rouben Mamoulian and starring Fredric March, who won the Academy Award™ for Best Actor for his performance.  The film was a box office and critical success, and has stood the test of time with classic film fans. Ten years later, MGM created as literal a remake of the Paramount film as they could, with slight changes to Samuel Hoffenstein‘s and Percy Heath‘s 1931 screenplay made to satisfy the Hays Code, enacted in 1934. This code regulated the film industry in matters of “moral decency” in what was presented to the public for exhibition. The result, while quite watchable, is an inferior film.

There was no need to remake a 10 year old film – barring the fact that there was little chance to see the original, as television, home video, and streaming services were still science fiction at the time – but MGM bought the rights to a filmable script, had bankable stars to populate the film, and in order to avoid lackluster comparisons, did everything they could to hide the Mamoulian version away, causing it to become mired in legal restrictions which kept it out of the public eye for many years.

The trio of Tracy, Turner, and Bergman are certainly enticement to see the film, but Fleming’s direction seems uneven and meanders through a story that should be taut, and fast paced. The majority of the heavy lifting acting-wise is handled with aplomb by Bergman, who was originally cast in Turner’s role. She begged Fleming to switch the actresses’ places as she was tired of playing saintly women (as she would in JOAN OF ARC, 1948) and longed to be the bad girl in the film. Tracy acquits himself decently in the title roles, but his appearance as Hyde is not nearly as effective as Fredric March’s in the original. In fact, he winds up looking a bit like George Hamilton after a serious bender in many scenes. Lana Turner does as much as she can with her role, and she and Ingrid Bergman look fabulous throughout…a definite point in the movie’s favor.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation of the film reveals an enormous amount of detail unseen on previous home video releases. The studio’s restoration creates a much-improved viewing experience both in sharpness and accuracy of contrast levels. The sound quality is consistent with a film of this era, and presents Franz Waxman’s original score well. Unfortunately, the only supplementary feature on this disc is the film’s original trailer.

I wish I liked this movie more, but I won’t recommend you skip it. However, Warner Archive is set to release the 1931 version on BRD in October. Don’t miss that disc.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: To Frankenstein… A Daughter!

Posted on: May 4th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER – 1958
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: John Ashley , Sandra Knight , Donald Murphy , Felix Locher
Director: Richard E. Cunha 
Rated: Unrated
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B, C
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono, Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 84 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

There’s a lot to unpack about a movie called FRANKENSTEIN’S DAUGHTER. Made for a measly $60 thousand at the behest of a third-rate distributor who merely supplied a title and a budget of $80 thousand. Director Richard Cunha and producer Marc Frederic hired an anonymous soap opera writer to craft a script and shot the film in six days. They had no illusions that they would be making art, they only cared to make a competent product. What they wound up with met the criteria of Astor Pictures and was released to the public in 1958. The pair pocketed the $20 thousand surplus and moved on to their next project.

So, how’s the film? Calling it a mixed bag would be generous. On the positive side, the cinematography, effects make up, and musical score are pretty good. Several performances are better than the script (which is the real villain here) deserve. John Zaremba as a chatty police lieutenant stands out, and Donald Murphy as the titular descendent of the original Frankenstein is smarmy and competently menacing in most scenes. Sandra Knight makes the most of a poorly developed character, as does Sally Todd .

On to the negatives, mainly the script, which might as well have been called “Frankenstein’s Date Rapes.” The pseudonymous writer H.E. Barrie delivers a stinker of a story that barely makes sense and focuses on Murphy’s Oliver Frank character roofie-ing Knight’s Trudy Morton repeatedly, turning her into a walking fright-wig with googly eyes in an effort to impart everlasting life on a cobbled-together corpse he’s putting together in her uncle’s basement laboratory. Eventually, he murders Todd’s character to supply the monster with a brain who subsequently terrorizes the neighborhood, but politely knocks at front doors rather than simply barging through them. The script endlessly echoes the action on screen, with characters describing what viewers are already seeing. What makes all of this worse is Harold Lloyd’s son, Harold Jr., monkeying about making broad attempts to chew the scenery which he’s clearly not talented enough to digest. Seriously, “cringeworthy” barely begins to cover his sins.

The best part of the whole viewing experience is The Film Detective’s presentation. Sourced from a newly restored 4K print grabbed from the original 35mm film elements, the picture is a vast improvement over the previous DVD release. The audio tracks are also quite improved, and the company put real care into creating this disc, though a few mistakes were made in identifying special features. For example, Larry Blamire does not provide a full commentary track as advertised on the package. Instead, he contributes some characterization to Tom Weaver’s track. Weaver himself is misidentified on the menu as “Jason A. Ney.” Nonetheless, Weaver’s contributions to this disc make the whole thing worth a purchase. Between his commentary and the interview video with Cunha forming the bulk of the bonus features documentary on the director, there’s little doubt that this is the most “special” special edition this film will be getting.

Speaking of bonus features, they include the aforementioned full commentary track with author/ historian Tom Weaver; full color booklet with original essay by Weaver; a new career retrospective from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures featuring an archival interview with director Richard E. Cunha (“Richard E. Cunha: Filmmaker of the Unknown”); and, a new career retrospective featuring film historian C. Courtney Joyner (“John Ashley: Man from the B’s”).

Don’t expect any revelations from the film on this disc, but there are plenty in the bonus features and in the new presentation. Worth a watch on a Sunday afternoon.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Grimm Tales of Cinerama

Posted on: Apr 6th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

.

 

THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM – 1962
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Laurence Harvey, Karlheinz Böhm, Claire Bloom, Walter Slezak, Barbara Eden
Director: Henry Levin, George Pal
Rated: G
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: March 29, 2022
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 2.85:1 – Original aspect ratio: 2.59:1
Run Time: 140 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

The Cinerama process was developed in the 1950s as a way to help draw television viewers back to the movies. Utilizing a process whereby three synchronized camera images are projected onto a large, curved screen made of individual vertical strips of standard perforated screen material, Cinerama delivered an amazing viewing experience in which the viewer could be enveloped by the motion picture. My personal experiences at the (now sadly gone) Columbia Theatre in midtown Atlanta include some of my favorite memories of being at the movies.

Producer/director George Pal, ever a showman, turned to Cinerama to make his 1962 production of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM, an unforgettable experience for moviegoers. Following the success of his production of H.G. WellsTHE TIME MACHINE, Pal wanted to expand his horizons as a filmmaker and deliver the viewing experience of a lifetime. The film was one of only two narrative movies shot in the original Cinerama process (the other being HOW THE WEST WAS WON) before it was replaced by the single strip Super Panavision 70-millimeter process.

Though very little restoration was needed to prepare HOW THE WEST WAS WON for high-definition release, THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF THE BROTHERS GRIMM was a totally different story. The original negatives had deteriorated and suffered major damage from a flooding accident in storage, making an analog restoration too costly to even consider. Digital restoration technology finally rose to the level where such an undertaking was possible, and the results are spectacular indeed. The process is detailed on disc two of Warner Archive Collection’s new special edition of the film in the featurette documentary, “Rescuing a Fantasy Classic.” I highly recommend watching this before viewing the film. A comparison video of before and after restoration is available HERE.

Pal’s movie itself is a relic of its time; the wraparound story about the Brothers Grimm themselves is little more than a feel-good bio with little historical accuracy, made to envelop the fairy tale segments based on the duo’s books. These segments are blustery, color-saturated, over-the-top presentations of the stories The Dancing Princess, The Cobbler and the Elves, and The Singing Bone. While the story is pedestrian, the visuals and music create an unforgettable spectacle as Pal intended, and are absolutely worth the time investment for viewing. Pal even takes the director’s reins himself for some stop-motion sequences.

Warner Archive Collection’s presentation includes two viewing options; the letterbox aspect ratio, and the Smilebox® aspect ratio, which more accurately recreates the original Cinerama viewing experience. I chose the Smilebox® option (so named because the ratio actually resembles an enormous, wide mouthed smile) and was glad – by squeezing the mid screen and flaring the edges outward, the film keeps a more realistic view of the action. The letterboxes flat version seems stretched and optically crazed near the edges in certain shots, at least to me.

This release will most certainly get my vote for Best Restoration of the Year, and you should definitely own it. Warner Archive has again proven that someone there at the studio does still care about classic films and restoring them, as well as releasing them on physical media. Thanks, whoever you are!

 

Special Features
•    Rescuing a Fantasy Classic-Documentary (HD) New
•    The Epic Art of The Brothers Grimm (HD) New
•    The Wonderful Career of George Pal (HD) New
•    Trailers and more

Technical Specs
•    New 2022 1080p HD Masters from the 4K restoration of original Cinerama Camera Negatives
•    Two Disc Deluxe Special Edition
•    2-BD50s
•    Disc 1-Restored Cinerama image letterboxed
•    Disc 2-Restored Cinerama image in SMILEBOX® format, to approximate the curved theater screen experience in the home
•    Disc 1-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89 Letterbox
•    Disc 2-Aspect Ratio 16×9 2.89Smilebox®
•    140 Minutes-Roadshow presentation with Overture, Intermission, Entr’acte, and Exit Music.

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: Get Your Folk Horror Fix with THE EYE OF THE DEVIL!

Posted on: Mar 13th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

EYE OF THE DEVIL – 1966
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Deborah Kerr , David Niven, Donald Pleasence, Edward Mulhare , Sharon Tate , David Hemmings
Director: J. Lee Thompson 
Rated: NR
Studio: Warner Brothers Archive Collection
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 26, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 – Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 96 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

 

Anticipating the wave of folk horror films to come in the early 1970s, producer Martin Ransohoff’s EYE OF THE DEVIL is an entertaining amalgamation of tropes associated with several genres that readers (and viewers of the cinematic adaptations) of James George Frazer, Daphne Du Maurier, Henry James, and Dennis Wheatley will embrace, delivered by a fantastic cast.

David Niven portrays Philippe de Montfaucon, the Marquis de Bellenac, a wealthy French nobleman called back to his ancestral home to remedy the blight on his town’s vineyard. As in THE WICKER MAN, caretaking the wellbeing of the harvest is directly the responsibility of the local lord, and Philippe feels the heavy weight as he returns to shoulder the burden of more than a thousand years of tradition – he must make a sacrifice to ensure the bounty of the community returns. And the price is high.

Deborah Kerr, as Philippe’s wife Catherine, follows him to Bellenac despite his urges to stay in Paris after their son Jacques has a dream in which his father needs him. Packing Jacques and sister Antoinette, they arrive at Chateau de Montfaucon (the exquisite Château de Hautefort in the Dordogne) to find local creepy archer Christian de Caray (David Hemmings) shooting doves out of the sky and his sister Odile (Sharon Tate) turning frogs into doves and hypnotizing the children. This is only a prelude to the weirdness ahead for Catherine, as she slowly peels back the mystery of her husband’s ancestral home and family history, and what’s to become of all of them.

The troubled production – Kim Novak filmed all but a handful of scenes before being injured on set and having her part recast (and re-shot) by Kerr when she was unable to return – features outstanding performances by Tate in her first speaking film role, Hemmings just before he blew up in Michelangelo Antonioni‘s BLOW-UP, and Donald Pleasence perfecting the creepy stare he would put to good use in so many later roles. Niven and Kerr also acquit themselves well, but it’s the supporting cast that does much of the heavy lifting.

Tate was a discovery of Ransohoff’s, who was the producer of THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES. He met Tate when she auditioned for PETTICOAT JUNCTION and he signed her to a seven-year contract on the spot. But he had bigger plans for her than a sitcom, which is clearly seen in in EYE OF THE DEVIL. She gives an amazing performance as Odile, and her commitment to her craft really shines. Hemming also creates a performance that is greater than the sum of its parts, and may be the reason the film was eventually released after Novak’s accident and the reshoots. Stuck in limbo for more than a year, his popularity after the release of BLOW-UP seems to have given the studio a reason to refocus on EYE OF THE DEVIL and complete it, finally releasing the film in 1967 in the U.S. and 1968 in the U.K.

Warner Archive Collection’s Blu-ray presentation of the film is visually stunning, sourced from a new 4K scan of the original film elements. The picture is crisp and secure, and Erwin Hillier ’s monochrome cinematography is a joy to behold. The audio is less effective, but it’s sourced from a half-century old mono track and performs within expectations. The only extra included on the disc is the theatrical trailer.

This film flopped in the U.S. and has stayed under the radar which is a shame. It’s well worth a watch and might just wind up becoming a new favorite. Recommended.

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

APES ON FILM: By The Pricking of My Thumbs…

Posted on: Feb 16th, 2022 By:

by Anthony Taylor
Contributing Writer

 

Welcome to Apes on Film! This column exists to scratch your retro-film-in-high-definition itch. We’ll be reviewing new releases of vintage cinema and television on disc of all genres, finding gems and letting you know the skinny on what to avoid. Here at Apes on Film, our aim is to uncover the best in retro film. As we dig for artifacts, we’ll do our best not to bury our reputation. What will we find out here? Our destiny.

 

 

Apes on Film also appears on Nerd Alert News. Check them out HERE!

 

RAY BRADBURY’S SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES – 1983
3 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Jason Robards, Jonathan Pryce, Diane Ladd , Pam Grier
Director: Jack Clayton 
Rated: PG
Studio: Disney/Buena Vista
Region: Free
BRD Release Date: September 7, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Run Time: 95 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Ray Bradbury is arguably the greatest American writer of all time. He wrote a short story and/or worked on a novel every day of his adult life, leaving a rich legacy of unforgettable narratives that have been adapted, adopted, re-interpreted, and spread throughout the ground water of worldwide culture for more than seventy years. Though Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical memoir is Dandelion Wine, the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes conveys the true essence of the man – his experiences, his beliefs, his philosophies – like no other of his works. It has been strip-mined by no less than the likes of Stephen King repeatedly to good effect in books like Salem’s Lot, Needful Things, and Doctor Sleep, and its influence has never been diminished.

The 1983 film adaptation of the novel by Disney has many positive facets. The casting of Jason Robards and Jonathon Pryce was inspired, the screenplay by Bradbury himself is a wonderful adaptation without being pedantic in honoring the source material, and many of the supporting performances are fine. Ultimately, it fails as good film due to limitations of technology and lack of vision on the part of the studio in post-production, as well as a lackluster job by director Jack Clayton.

Clayton, the director of 1961’s THE INNOCENTS, certainly seemed a good candidate for the job. One would surmise then that he would be a good choice to helm a film based on a beloved classic book about two boys who beat back the coming of a weird, malevolent carnival and its proprietors, saving their hometown and righting the wrongs done by black magic. But he wasn’t. Yes, there are wonderful sequences within the movie – the library showdown between Pryce’s Mr. Dark and Robards’ Charlie Halloway is brilliant – but the bulk of the film falls flat on multiple levels.

Performances by young leads Vidal Peterson  and Shawn Carson are inconsistent. The whole story hinges on viewers believing that the pair are blood brothers in dire circumstances – afraid, but heroes at their core; neither delivers this, unfortunately. Besides Robards and Pryce, other standouts are Pam Grier as the Dust Witch, Royal Dano as Tom Fury, and Bruce M. Fischer  as Mr. Coogar. Angelo Rossitto  has a good moment or two as a demonic barker at the carnival.

Disney’s culpability comes in what I can only assume was a surfeit of oversight. The studio spent a year re-shooting, editing, and generally misunderstanding how to complete the movie. In an era where independent shops like Boss Films or Stan Winston Studios were creating excellent visual effects on reasonable budgets, Disney opted to keep optical effects in-house, resulting in a lot of shaky, underexposed traveling mattes, THAT DARN CAT!level animation overlays, and a lot of film grain bloom from poorly executed optical film printer composite shots. The most egregious wrong done to this film is that the color timing is all over the pace. The lack of a consistent color palette for such a metaphorically rich film is a crime, and it’s hard to figure out where to point the finger of blame – director or producers? The movie comes across as way too much Disney, not enough Bradbury. What it needs is a remake by Guillermo Del Toro, frankly.

Disney Movie Club’s Blu-ray presentation is a bare bones release, and exclusive to members only. No extras of any kind are included, which seems like a missed opportunity. The picture is dusty and spotty, with scratches and pops throughout, most noticeably in the opening scenes. The enhanced definition here also serves to reveal that the film was clearly shot on the backlot and in Burbank sound stages, resulting in an unenhanced visual environment for home viewing. DMC even bumped the original aspect ratio of 1.75.1 up to 1.85.1 – it seems just to thumb their nose at purists. Audio is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.

I wish I could recommend this disc, but truly cannot. It’s not worth the hassle of the Disney Movie Club format (reminiscent of the Columbia House Record Club, you have to opt out of a monthly shipment at a premium price) to get such lackluster presentations for home viewing, especially for films with marginal viewing value.

Let’s hope Guillermo is reading and has an AHA! moment.

An expanded version of this review appears in issue 40 of Screem Magazine.

 

 

 

Anthony Taylor is not only the Minister of Science, but also Defender of the Faith. His reviews and articles have appeared in magazines such as Screem, Fangoria, Famous Monsters of Filmland, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

*Art Credit: Anthony Taylor as Dr. Zaius caricature by Richard Smith

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

© 2022 ATLRetro. All Rights Reserved. This blog is powered by Wordpress