APES ON FILM: Who is THE (Real) VICTIM Here?

Posted on: Nov 22nd, 2021 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 VICTIM – 1972 (TV MOVIE)
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Elizabeth Montgomery, Eileen Heckart, Sue Ane Langdon , George Maharis
Director: Herschel Daugherty
Rated: NR
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A (Locked)
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 73 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE VICTIM opens with Kate (perennial television favorite Elizabeth Montgomery) deciding to check in on her sister Susan (Jess Walton), who has told her she’s about to divorce her husband Ben (Maharis). Unable to reach her by phone, Kate decides to brave an oncoming storm and drive the hour or two to Susan’s house, finding it empty and her sister missing. As we the viewers have seen, Susan was confronted by an “unknown” visitor, and it didn’t seem to end well for her. The problem with this movie is that we all know who the visitor is, what’s happened to Susan, and what will happen when Kate arrives.

The movie is clearly shot on a minimal budget which is apparent early on. For example, pulling into a filling station for gas, Kate’s Rolls Royce is caught in a downpour that only extends about twenty feet into the shot. In the background, the road is dry, and no rain is visible. Also distracting are many shots that barely qualify as “in focus” – apparently the standards for NTSC resolution shooting were pretty slack in the early 70s, as I’ve noticed this in quite a few period TV movies when presented in high definition.

This story could have at least been a taut, but unremarkable, episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents at a half-hour running time. Montgomery is always watchable, and soldiers on as best she can through the additional forty-three redundant minutes of the movie. It’s based on a short story by McNight Malmar, and it must have been a very short story as director Daugherty returns over and over to the same stale, red herring plot points and distractions in order to fill out the running time of THE VICTIM. Even worse, he never actually resolves the story at the climax, figuring that a few obvious clues should do that job – but he also put the clues there to try and lure viewers away from the thin plot and create false suspense. Very frustrating.

Kino Lorber’s presentation on Blu-ray is sourced from a new 2K restoration of the original picture elements and is very watchable, though not as clean as some of their other recent releases of similar material. Grain is visible throughout, and black density varies from shot to shot occasionally. Still quite an improvement from the only available versions until now. Audio is about what I expected for a TV movie from 1972, and Gil Mellé ’s score is good, though not as memorable as say, KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER or FRANKENSTEIN: THE TRUE STORY.

So, who is the real victim here? This film reminds me of the children’s book, The Monster At The End of This Book. Throughout, narrator Grover from Sesame Street begs kids not to turn the pages to find out who the monster is, and on the last page there’s a mirror and young readers find out that THEY are the monster! I fear that in relation to this film—we the viewers are the victim at the end of the movie. Watch at your own peril.

 

 

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

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APES ON FILM: Scream, Pretty Peggy, Scream!

Posted on: Nov 8th, 2021 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!

 

SCREAM, PRETTY PEGGY – 1973
3.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Ted Bessell, Bette Davis, Sian Barbara Allen
Director: Gordon Hessler
Rated: NR
Studio: Kino Lorber
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono (48kHz, 16-bit)
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Run Time: 71 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

One thing that early 1970’s network television seemed to get right more often than not was made-for-TV movies, especially in the horror genre. Kino Lorber has recently released a slate of classics from that era including THE VICTIM, THE SCREAMING WOMAN, (reviews coming soon), and SCREAM, PRETTY PEGGY. An overwrought (but imminently watchable) combination of Hitchcock, Hagsploitation, and histrionics, PEGGY stands out among a cadre of memorable programming.

Allen is a college student in search of an easy gig cleaning the house of her favorite sculptor, Bessell, who lives with his drunk mother, Davis. There’s also Bessell’s missing sister that may or may not be a murderer loitering around the property and skulking about after dark.

Written by Hammer Films stalwart Jimmy Sangster and one-hit-wonder Arthur Hoffe , the film borrows heavily from classics of the big screen like HUSH…HUSH, SWEET CHARLOTTE and PSYCHO. And “borrows” is putting it politely. Though the plot is quite derivative, the film itself doesn’t suffer too badly in comparison to its source materials; the cast and director Hessler (who would go straight from this film to THE GOLDEN VOYAGE OF SINBAD) make the whole thing a bit of an inside joke. If you’re familiar with the films it’s aping, there are a lot of visual and tonal easter eggs that call back to them. If you’re not familiar, it’s a good amount of Davis chewing scenery, Bessell looking distraught, and Allen trying to figure out what’s going on. Yes, everyone is here for a paycheck, but it’s still a bucket of ugly fun.

The music by Robert Prince  contributes nicely to the mood and atmosphere, and art direction by JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND production designer Joe Alves is outstanding. Bessell’s sculptures are fantastic and terrifying, and the most memorable things in the film from my first viewing on television when I was nine years old.

Kino’s disc presents the film in its original aspect ratio, and looking fabulous from a new 2K restoration. Audio is also very good, and extras include a new commentary by Troy Howarth and Nathaniel Thompson as well as TV spots for the film and other Hessler helmed episodes from the era, including one from Kolchak: “The Night Stalker.”

Surely my enjoyment of this film is partly due to nostalgia from having watched it on its first airing, but I still deem it worth a look for genre fans of all ages. Not a bad way to spend seventy-one minutes on a Saturday 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

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APES ON FILM: NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD: A Far Cry from Romero’s Classic

Posted on: Oct 4th, 2021 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 OF THE ANIMATED DEAD – 2021
1 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Josh Duhamel Dulé Hill Katharine Isabelle Katee Sackhoff  Will Sasso  Nancy Travis
Director: Jason Axinn
Rated: R
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Region: A
BRD Release Date: October 5, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz, 16-bit)
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
German: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Run Time: 71 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

Remember the train wreck sequence in THE FUGITIVE (1993), with Harrison Ford? It was amazing—an unforgettable visual montage of destruction that far surpassed everything that had come before it. I used to think that was the greatest cinematic train wreck in history until I watched NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD.

I honestly sat mouth agape at times while watching this disc. It is the most unnecessary and egregious horror remake that I can think of, and I’ve seen a whole bunch of unnecessary and egregious horror remakes. This is a – wait for it – animated remake of NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), with more gore and a few added sequences. At first I thought it might just be a copyright grab, since George A. Romero’s original film was released sans copyright notice and fell immediately into the public domain. But changing the name from “Living” to “Animated” eliminates any benefit of a new copyright for merchandising or marketing purposes.

The animation here reminds me very much of the Bart Simpson or Tweety Bird statues one might see for sale on the roadside near Tijuana, Mexico; yes, they’re painted yellow, they sort of resemble the characters, but you’re not going to be fooling anybody into thinking they’re quality merchandise. To be honest, I’ve seen animatics (video storyboards) for other films that looked better than NIGHT OF THE ANIMATED DEAD. I’m not exaggerating when I say the animation resembles clip art figures manipulated by the same team that made the Marvel Superhero cartoons of the 1960s.

The film misfires at every turn with almost nothing to recommend about it at all. It lacks the urgency and panache of the original. The voice cast does include some wonderful actors – Dulé Hill, Nancy Travis, Will Sasso, and even Josh Duhamel gives a good performance. It’s unfortunate the talent was wasted on such a bizarre and dreadful project.

The only supplemental material is a “Making Of” featurette. My goodness, the producer and director are certainly proud of their film and express their appreciation of each other and the cast effusively. It does include some interesting side-by-side sequences with the original film, and the cast have some insight into the characters. Thankfully someone did.

Wish I could recommend this for Night of The Living Dead completists, but I just can’t disregard this film highly enough. This is the kind of entertainment that soon-to-be-ousted Warner Media CEO Jason Kilar championed, and all I can say is the future looks brighter in his soon-to-be absence.

Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the DVD I reviewed in this Blog Post. The opinions I share are my own.

 

 

 

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

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APES ON FILM: A Little Sci-Fi, A Little Bourgeois: The Cool Lakes of Mars

Posted on: Sep 14th, 2021 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!

 

FLIGHT TO MARS – 1951
2 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell, Arthur Franz, Virginia Huston
Director: Lesley Selander
Rated: NR
Studio: The Film Detective
Region: A, B
BRD Release Date: July 20th, 2021
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Mono
Video Codec: MPEG-2
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1
Run Time: 72 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

To have produced amazing films such as THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960), WEST SIDE STORY (1961), THE PINK PANTHER (1963), IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967) and FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1971), Walter Mirisch started at the bottom of the film industry, working for one of the lowest of low budget companies on Hollywood’s “Poverty Row” – Monogram. The company subsisted by cranking out sensationalistic crime melodramas, program westerns, and mostly yawn-inducing horror films, with the inherited-from-Fox Charlie Chan series remaining as their claim to fame.

FLIGHT TO MARS is clearly aimed at the grown-up crowd, but would have been better off treated as fodder for Saturday kids’ matinees by the studio. As an adult drama, it’s unbelievably silly and offensively misogynistic, casting women in a variety of stereotypical roles with little to do but look pretty or be bitchy – or both. As science fiction, it’s an insulting blend of self-righteous ignorance of science and an affront to fiction as the screenplay by Barry Conners and Philip Klein never misses a chance to land squarely on the nose of whatever trope they’re appropriating at the moment. The miniature and effects work is poorly rendered when compared to higher budget studio fare of the time, unsurprisingly. Honestly, there’s little to recommend about the movie itself.

The Film Detective’s presentation of the film is a different matter, however. Gleaned from a new 4K scan of the original source materials, the film looks and sounds very good. The color isn’t on par with three strip technicolor, but it’s bright and well-saturated, and the sound is unobtrusively well-mixed. Bonus features include a new audio commentary by author/film historian Justin Humphreys, “Walter Mirisch: From Bomba to Body Snatchers,” a new documentary short from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, “Interstellar Travelogues: Cinema’s First Space Race,” a new documentary short with celebrated science fiction artist/historian Vincent Di Fate also from Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, and a full color insert booklet with an essay by Don Stradley.

I wish I could recommend this film, but I fear it’s for the completist only. If you decide to buy it, enjoy the featurettes, commentary, and booklet–they’re definitely more fun than the movie.

 

 

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH – 1982
4 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Renée Soutendijk, Erik van ‘t Wout, Derek de Lint, Adriaan Olree
Directed By: Nouchka van Brakel
Studio: Cult Epics
BRD Release Date: May 11, 2021
Region: A, B
Rated: Unrated
Audio Formats: TBA
Video Codec: MPEG-4 AVC from 4K Restoration
Resolution: 1080p HD
Aspect Ratio: Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
Run Time: 125 Minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE COOL LAKES OF DEATH contains a tour de force performance by Renée Soutendijk as a woman who goes from insufferably naive to outright insane, and finally arrives at an uneasy peace. Soutendijk is possibly mostly well-known to American filmgoers from her next film, Paul Verhoeven‘s THE 4TH MAN (1983) in which she co-starred with Jeroen Krabbé. Both men became fixtures in American films while Soutendijk continued to add to her impressive resume in Europe and her native Holland, which is shameful – she’s impossible not to watch when onscreen and at least as talented as either one of them.

She plays Hetty, a young lady who misunderstands all that happens to her, skewing her view of the world in ways that her suitor, husband, and lover simply can’t fathom; she’s a code with no key, to herself and to all around her including the viewer. Eventually her naivety gives way to sheer negligence that ends in tragedy, the aftermath of which is truly difficult to watch, a credit to both director and performer. The end credits roll over a shot of Soutendijk glancing sideways at the camera, with a slight smile. Whatever happens to Hetty in the end, this is the only clue director Nouchka van Brakel left for us. All of this takes place inside the lush visuals of cinematographer Theo van de Sande, who has clearly been influenced by John Alcott‘s work on Stanley Kubrick ’s BARRY LYNDON (1975).

Cult Epics’ presentation of the film is a revelation, as the disc is culled from a new restoration and 4K transfer from the original negative. I don’t recall it looking this good in the theater in 1982. Sound is good, and well balanced with no stentorian volume shifts between scenes.  Bonus features include a Polygoon Journal Newsreel (1982, HD), poster and photo gallery, theatrical trailers and Ltd. Edition Packaging featuring original and newly designed art. Audio is in original Dutch (with English interspersed) with English subtitles. 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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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