APES ON FILM: 2021 Gift Giving Guide

Posted on: Dec 6th, 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.

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 2021 for lovers of physical media. All titles are in Blu Ray or 4K format unless otherwise noted. Get the popcorn ready and Happy Holidays!

 

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

 

MULTI-DISC/TITLE SETS

KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (THE COMPLETE SERIES) – Kino Lorber: Yep, the whole Kolchak television series shebang in one beautiful set. Jammed full of great commentaries and special features and sourced from new 2K masters, this premium presentation is on the level of Kino’s OUTER LIMITS sets from 2018, and it should be – it features many of the same commentators. With new cover art by Mark Maddox (check out his ATLRetro Kool Kat interview here), how can you go wrong? Poke around Kino’s website and you’ll also find the original two Kolchak television movies, THE NIGHT STALKER and THE NIGHT STRANGLER. Collect them all!

THE EUROCRYPT OF CHRISTOPHER LEE – Severin Films: Ever wonder what Christopher Lee Was up to between all those Dracula movies he made for Hammer Films? Wonder no longer! Thanks to Severin, this box set collects a smorgasbord of five of these Lee classics – the 1964 gothic shocker CRYPT OF THE VAMPIRE; the 1964 cult hit CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD co-starring an unknown Donald Sutherland; 1962’s celebrated SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE DEADLY NECKLACE; 1967’s lurid favorite THE TORTURE CHAMBER OF DR. SADISM and the rarely-seen 1963 oddity CHALLENGE THE DEVIL – with the 24 surviving episodes of the 1971 Film Polski anthology series THEATRE MACABRE hosted by Lee, all remastered from original negative materials with over 10 hours of trailers, rare promos, audio commentaries & vintage interviews, plus the CASTLE OF THE LIVING DEAD soundtrack and an all-new 88-page book by Lee biographer Jonathan Rigby.

SPACE: 1999 THE COMPLETE SERIES (ULTIMATE EDITION) – Imprint Television: Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s (and Fred Frieberger’s) most popular television series in the United States by far, Space: 1999 is often a love it or hate it proposition for science fiction fans. I’ve always been enamored by its thoughtful, almost poetic ruminations on man’s place in the galaxy during Series 1, and the colorful, action oriented and more humorous pace of Series 2. There are a few clunkers throughout, but the Andersons and cast managed to create quite a few modern classics with this series, and the gorgeous photography and special effects throughout are a major draw. This set collects both series as well as nearly all of the special features from earlier releases, as well as the four completion films released to television in the 1980s! If you’re a fan of the show, this is a must-have set. Though this set is Australian, it is region-free and will play on US Blu-ray players. [Full disclosure: I wrote questions for the Barbara Bain and Nick Tate interviews included, and created commentaries for two episodes on this set.]

THE MONSTER COLLECTION – Doppelgänger Releasing: If your film lover has a curiosity about the making of his or her favorites, this set is a great addition to their menagerie. Featuring two documentaries by filmmakers Gilles Penso and Alexandre PoncetCREATURE DESIGNERS: THE FRANKENSTEIN COMPLEX and PHIL TIPPETT: MAD DREAMS AND MONSTERS this set offers up secrets behind special effects make-up, stop-motion animation and a plethora of other cinematic techniques by masters such as Tippett, Rick Baker, Guillermo del Toro, Greg Nicotero, and many more. Seminal information presented in an entertaining package, and highly recommended.

GAMERA: THE HEISEI ERA – Arrow Video: Go ahead, make fun – but the Gamera movies released from 1995 to 2006 are great! This set collects GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE, GAMERA 2: ATTACK OF THE LEGION, GAMERA 3: REVENGE OF IRIS, and GAMERA THE BRAVE.  Directors Shûsuke Kaneko and Ryuta Tasaki, writer Kazunori Itô and SFX director Shinji Higuchi hit it out of the park with this quadrilogy! If your cinema buff enjoys kaiju from the Showa era, they’ll enjoy these films, guaranteed. Sourced from 4K restorations and featuring a whole slew of turtle-riffic extras, you’re guaranteed to get a smile and a BIG thank you when they open this.

 

SINGLE TITLE/DISC GIFTS

THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY – Kino Lorber: Is this the greatest western ever made? If not, it’s sure up there. Find out for yourself with Kino’s 4KUHD/Blu-ray package, jam packed full of extras. “There are two kinds of people in this world; people with loaded guns, and people who buy this disc. You… buy this disc.”

THE STING – Universal Home Entertainment: Since we’re talking about greatest movies of their genre anyway, why not grab THE STING in 4K UHD and Blu-ray while you’re grabbing? Again, with the plethora of bonus features and even a download code. I think this is one of the best written, directed, and acted movies ever; you know I’m buying this.

BLOOD FOR DRACULA – Severin Films: Paul Morrissey’s take on the classic tale puts Udo Kier in the cape and sets him off to Italy in search of the blood of virgins. Over the top? Sure, but still worth watching in 4K or Blu-ray, one again easy to do since both are included here as well as a soundtrack CD and much, much more.

THE VAMPIRE LOVERS – Shout! Factory: And now on to vampires who couldn’t care less about your sexual history as long as you’re willing! Shout! Factory brings us a new Blu-ray package of Hammer Films’ sexy, fang- filled romps. Sourced from a new 4K scan, this disc is also bursting at the seams with extras. A classic of lesbian vampirism, and Ingrid Pitt is radiant.

 

Folks, 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 my 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, SFX, Video*WatcHDog, and more.

 

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

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APES ON FILM: Terrors Abound: Somnambulists and Conjurors!

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2020 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.

 

 

STEPHEN KING’S SLEEPWALKERS – 1992
2.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Brian Krause, dchen Amick , Alice Krige
Directors: Mick Garris
Rated: R
Studio: Eureka! Entertainment
Region: B
BRD Release Date: October 19, 2020
Audio Formats: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1 and LPCM 2.0 audio options
Video Resolution/Codec: MPEG-4 AVC, 1080p
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Run Time: 89 minutes
CLICK HERE TO ORDER

The 1980s were truly rife with film adaptations of Stephen King’s novels, for better (THE SHINING, STAND BY ME, THE DEAD ZONE) or for worse (CUJO, CAT’S EYE, MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE). The 1990s started strong with MISERY, but as they settled in, his horror-related work took a back seat to adaptations of more mainstream stories such as THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, and THE GREEN MILE, which garnered more attention from critics and audiences. King’s first direct-to-screen story, not based on a previous work, was SLEEPWALKERS (1992).

The film introduces us to the “legend” of the Sleepwalkers – immortal monsters that feed on the life force of virgins, supposedly based on Native American folklore. Luckily, these maiden-sucking vampires have a fatal weakness; cats hate them and can scratch them to death, releasing the fires of hell within their souls. Owing as much to Val Lewton’s CAT PEOPLE (and coming only a decade after Paul Schrader’s stylish remake of it), SLEEPWALKERS trades in the same psycho-sexual horror headspace, focusing on the mother-and-son monster duo of Mary and Charles Brady (Krige and Krause), an incestuous pair that’s just moved into town and set their sights on the lovely life force of movie theater popcorn girl Tanya Robertson (Amick).

King really misses an opportunity to craft a story of substance by making Charles a one-dimensional vampiric douchebag, tossing off one-liners as he kills a teacher, terrorizes the initially smitten Tanya, and tears through town in his Trans Am. Had he been torn between the past and the fate thrust upon him by his evil mother and his true love for Amick’s character, the film could have been much more substantial than a teen monster movie of little consequence, which it eventually becomes.

Eureka’s Blu-ray presentation looks and sounds great, but is Region B encoded, so you’ll need a region-free player to view. If you’re unable to play a Region B disc, Shout! Factory has released the film in the U.S., and the supplemental materials on the Eureka release were all ported from the Shout! Factory discs except for a new audio commentary by director Mick Garris and Lee Gambin. The Eureka release does come with a Limited-Edition O-Card slipcase with silver laminate finish and a Limited-Edition Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann which is included with the first two-thousand copies only.

Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS is cheesy fun but could have been so much more. Recommended for King completists.

 

THE MAGICIAN – 1973 – ‘74
1.5 out of 5 Bananas
Starring: Bill Bixby , Keene Curtis , Julian Christopher , Joseph Sirola
Created By: Bruce Lansbury
Studio: Visual Entertainment Inc
DVD Release Date: August 25, 2017
Audio Formats: Dolby Audio, English Stereo
Video Resolution/Codec: NTSC 1
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (or is it?)
Run Time: 1025 minutes

CLICK HERE TO ORDER

THE MAGICIAN was the third of Bill Bixby’s (MY FAVORITE MARTIAN, THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE’S FATHER, THE INCREDIBLE HULK) network series, and the least successful. It lasted only a season on NBC from 1973-74, and I recall it fondly as helping to ease the sting of the cancellation of SEARCH, a show that my eight-year-old self obsessed over the year before. The series found Bixby playing the world’s greatest illusionist, Anthony Blake – a professional magician and amateur sleuth and “fixer” for friends and acquaintances who needed his special kind of help. Think of him as a cross between Houdini and The Equalizer.

The series was entertaining and the concept interesting enough, but it suffered from network meddling; bad luck (Bixby’s character name was Anthony Dorian in the pilot, and a stage magician named Tony Dorian came forward after it aired which prompted the name change to Anthony Blake); producers trying to wrestle spiraling budgets under control (halfway through the season, Blake’s private live-in jet airliner was discarded in favor of an apartment at Los Angeles’ The Magic Castle); and even a writer’s strike. Regular characters disappeared halfway through the season and new ones added with no explanation. The hook for the series was Bixby’s likable magician, but it wasn’t enough to keep viewers tuned in through all the inexplicable changes and the show folded after just twenty-one episodes.

Visual Entertainment Inc. has released the full series and pilot episode in a four-disc set in DVD format, and I was happy to get them. At first. The company admits in a warning screen at the beginning of the discs that quality is not as high as many other DVD series releases from the time period, so I was forewarned. This is excusable – the show quality is a bit rough here and there, but the fact that it was released at all (and for a reasonable price) was something for which to be thankful. What I can’t abide is that they label the video as appearing in the original NTSC 4:3 aspect ratio, which it does not. The ratio has been stretched to fit modern television screens’ landscape orientation rather than simply allowing the black bars on either side of the picture, as any sane person would have formatted it. The stretching results in loss of picture at the top and bottom of the screens to some degree, but mainly it makes everyone appear wider than normal, which pulls me (and everyone else, I assume) out of my “comfort” zone and makes the whole experience unwatchable. In some scenes it’s hardly noticeable; in the next, it’s grossly exaggerated. Maddening and completely unnecessary.

I can’t recommend purchasing this set, no matter how big a fan you might be. The best we can hope for is a release from a responsible company who respects the viewing experience at some point in the future. Save your money for that day.

 

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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