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DVD This Week: August 28th

Classic Monsters, V'Ger, and Killer Klowns lead the pack in news and releases

By John Thonen     August 28, 2001


STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE
© 1978 Paramount

VIDEO NEWS


·        In addition to the upcoming new STAR TREK TV series, Trekkers will soon get another treat with Paramount's release of STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE THE DIRECTOR'S EDITION on Nov. 6th. As the title suggests, this version was supervised by 89 year old director Robert Wise, who stated in "Video Business" magazine that, "I'm happy with it now. This if the film that I really wanted." The original film was so rushed in post-production that Wise himself had to hand carry the final cut to the premier. Most of the changes involve a reworking of the sound mix and some digital enhancements to the effects shots. In addition to the 136 minute cut of the film, the two-disc set includes two hours of extras, including commentary from Wise, effects men Douglas Trumbull and John Dykstra, composer Jerry Goldsmith, and actor Stephen Collins, as well as 11 deleted scenes (seen previously in TV versions of the film), trims, and outtakes, and a few other goodies.


·        ADV Films has announced that they will begin releasing the second set of Robotech tales, ROBOTECH: THE MACROSS SAGA - FLIGHT 4. The series episodes will be available on separate six-episode discs and as a three-disc collector's edition that includes a bonus disc featuring comic book covers, production sketches and other material.


·        In a surprising move, Dimension Video's Sept. 18th release of the recent hit SPY KIDS will not be the extended version that played theaters recently in re-release. The extended cut features an underwater sequence that director Robert Rodriguez was unable to complete for the film's original release.


NEW RELEASES


·        ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET THE MUMMY was one of a string of

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE

comic, classic monster tales the duo made after A&C MEET FRANKENSTEIN. This was the last of that series, and easily the least amusing.


·        ARENA is yet another remake, by Roger Corman, of an earlier Corman production. Undoubtedly inspired by the success of Ridley Scott's GLADIATOR, this exploitation tale involves female warriors. It's OK for what it is, but the Playboy Playmates who claim the lead roles are no match for the more talented femmes from the original, one of who was Pam Grier.


·        AUDREY ROSE is a somber tale of reincarnation involving the attempts of an overwrought father to prove that the daughter of a young couple is actually the reincarnation of his dead daughter. Features a good cast including Anthony Hopkins and a couple of chills courtesy of director Robert Wise, but this one never really reaches its potential.


·        THE BEAST WITHIN is the kind of utter trash that a major studio would be pretty unlikely to make today. It opens with a young woman being raped by a weird creature and then tells the story of the offspring of that unholy union, a young man who courtesy of a lot of makeup and facial bladders is turning into a giant cicada. Geez, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.


·        BREEDERS is proof that MGM is reaching the bottom of the barrel in their library of films for budget priced horror releases. This outrageous title was originally a Charlie Band production, lensed for about 12 bucks in New York. Abysmal acting and production values are just a few of the problems to be found here, but the film's story, about alien visitors who kidnap women in order to repopulate their now sterile world, is top quality drive-in trash, including a climactic scene which, were I to describe it, would probably get me tossed off this site.


·        BRIDE OF CHUCKY/CHILD'S PLAY 2: CHUCKY'S BACK is an unabashed bid to lure buyers by pairing the best of the Chucky films with one of the worst. Still, the second one is watchable, and BRIDE is an absolute gem.


·        CANDYMAN 2: FAREWELL TO THE FLESH is a budget priced re-release of the first sequel to Bill Condon & Clive Barker's much superior tale of the title presence, an urban legend born of an act of racism years earlier. Still an OK film, but it has none of the depth that made the original standout.


·        CARRIE: SPECIAL EDITION stands

IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE

out among the slew of budget priced videos MGM is releasing this week in preparation for Halloween. In addition to featuring the superb film, the DVD offers several documentaries and featurettes. This is one of the best films ever made from a Stephen King source and also one of the few Brian De Palma films that doesn't seem like a rehash of someone else's movie.


·        CLASSIC MONSTERS: THE DEFINITIVE COLLECTION 3-PACK - SPECIAL EDITION offers three Universal Studios classics from the early days of cinematic horror. This is one hell of a buy for fans of the era, or serious students of horror. Included are DRACULA ('31), FRANKENSTEIN ('31) and THE WOLF MAN ('41). Each of the discs also includes a commentary by genre experts David J. Skal, Rudy Behlmer and Tom Weaver respectively, as well as documentaries from Skal on each of the films. As if that weren't enough, the DRACULA disc also includes the once rarely seen Spanish version of the film, which was shot at the same time (during evenings) with a different cast, but on the same sets. What a buy!


·        COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE is a low budget little horror tale from the 60s which managed to make a ton of money and even earn a sequel. The film holds up surprisingly well today, thanks to a capable cast who are driven by Robert Quarry's over the top performance as the title bloodsucker.


·        DARKMAN/DARKMAN 2: THE RETURN OF DURANT includes the first film, plus the first of two efforts to continue the adventures of director Sam Raimi's comic book styled antihero, Darkman. Unfortunately, without Raimi's visual panache and original star Liam Neeson's talents, the results are nothing special.


·        DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER: SPECIAL EDITION is a two-disc set containing two classic Fritz Lang silent features about his super-villain, Dr. Mabuse Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler and Dr Mabuse: King of Crime. Lang later returned to the character in better known sound features, but this is where it began.


·        DRACULA'S DAUGHTER/SON OF DRACULA were Universal's initial attempts to create a Dracula series without Lugosi. The former is an effective little chiller with an undercurrent of perversity, while the latter suffers from a woefully miscast Lon Chaney Jr.


·        DRESSED TO KILL: SPECIAL EDITION would make a great double bill with CARRIE to show what director Brian De Palma can achieve. CARRIE is a near masterpiece, while this film is basically trash, elevated by its cast and De Palma's technical gifts as a filmmaker. Both are effective and entertaining, but the latter kind of makes you want to wash your hands afterwards.


·        THE DUNWICH HORROR is one of several attempts to bring the works of author H.P. Lovecraft to the screen. Like the others, it is a complete bust. It seems likely that Lovecraft simply can't be translated to film, but saddling him with a terrible cast (including Sandra Dee!) and poor effects is just adding insult to injury.


·        FAUST is the latest effort from one of the most idiosyncratic filmmakers working in the horror genre, Brian Yuzna. It's also the first release from his Film Factory, a production entity he has established in Spain. All of which kind of irritates me as I'm really looking forward to this one, and didn't get a screener! Anyway, it's based on a graphic comic and reportedly lays on the gore and sex pretty heavily, and pretty perversely. Fan favorites Andrew (WISHMASTER) Divoff and Jeffrey (RE-ANIMATOR) Combs support a cast of lesser-knowns.


·        THE FIRST POWER is a remnant of the days when Lou Diamond Philips could headline a theatrical release and Melanie Griffith's half-sister could co-star. This is a competent enough bit of cops versus horror tale, but there's not an original moment to be found within it.


·        FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLFMAN/HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN is a double feature from the waning days of Universal's dominance of the early horror movie market. Both feature solid production values and capable casts, but it's all starting to seem a little forced. The title tells all on the first film which finds Lugosi in the Frankenstein monster outfit he once declined but the latter film is an all-star tale managing (just) to get nearly all the Universal monsters of the era into one story. John Carradine is great as Dracula and Boris Karloff manages to hold together an otherwise hopelessly episodic film.


·        HAUNTED HONEYMOON was one of several films where, after a string of box office hits, actor Gene Wilder had almost total creative control. Unfortunately, Gene proved to be his own worst enemy, as proven by this incredibly unfunny period tale in the OLD DARK HOUSE vein. Dom DeLuise in drag earns what few laughs this comedy received.


·        THE HOWLING launched Joe (GREMLINS) Dante's career, as well as that of makeup effects wiz Rob Bottin. Features a great cast, fine effects, a great sense of humor and Roger Corman scrounging for change. A B-movie classic.


·        INVADERS FROM MARS is Tobe Hooper's big budget, big mistake remake of William Cameron Menzies' 1953 classic. It's got a good cast and Stan Winston does some nice creature work, but it would appear that Hooper missed the whole point of the original film.


·        THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU is one of three cinematic versions of H.G. Wells' venerable classic, and while certainly better than the Marlon Brando/Val Kilmer abortion of recent years, this one still can't match 1933's ISLAND OF LOST SOULS. Still, this one has a good cast, good makeup and fine production values. You could do worse.


·        KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE: SPECIAL EDITION is a personal favorite. The title tells it all here. Watch for my feature review of this low budget gem.


·        MARS NEEDS WOMEN finds former Disney teen star Tommy Kirk and former Batgirl Yvonne Craig under the guidance of no-dollar auteur Larry Buchanan in a film that is so bad, it ought to be fun. Sadly, it isn't.


·        THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD is a pretty typical 50s sci-fi tale about giant bugs, but this one is just a little more suspenseful and a little more action-filled than most, and also benefits from a monster that is so well-realized it could probably still work today. Fun Stuff.


·        The Mummy's Ghost/The Mummy's Curse and The Mummy's Hand/The Mummy's Tomb are well timed re-releases, following close on the already forgotten, big budget Mummy hit of a few months ago. Watch for my feature reviews on both of these.


·        THE NEST is Roger Corman's entry in the killer cockroaches sub-genre, and it's not half-bad. The late veteran actor Robert Lansing heads a cast of nobodies in a tale of an island overrun by mutant bugs.


·        PARADISE LOST 2: REVELATIONS is the sequel to one of the more frightening films you will ever see. Frightening, because it's real. This is the follow-up documentary of the real life murder of three eight-year-old boys by some local teens. Documentarian Joe Berlinger missed the boat when he went Hollywood with BLAIR WITCH 2: Book of Shadows but, as he did in his first documentary on the subject, he delivers the terror intact here.


·        PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES is a near legendary low budget tale from the masterful eye of Italy's Mario Bava. Working with next to nothing, Bava creates a frightening alien world and laid the foundation on which ALIEN was clearly based. A visual feast of atmospheric horror.


·        REPTILICUS is proof that not all foreign made horror films of the past are masterpieces. This Swedish lensed monstrosity is the pits, boasting one of the worst, most inept, giant monsters ever committed to celluloid. And yes, I'm including Dolph Lundgren.


·        SCANNERS is far from one of director David Cronenberg's best films, but it sports such an imaginative premise and such fabulous effects courtesy of the inestimable Dick Smith that you manage to make it through the meandering portion between the explosive opening and the gory climax.


·        SON OF FRANKENSTEIN/GHOST OF FRANKENSTEIN is another classic Universal double feature. The first film offers Boris Karloff's last turn as the monster and a great performance by Bela Lugosi as the evil Igor. Fabulous sets and lighting mark this as the last of the high class Frankenstein productions until Hammer brought the undying beast to life again several decades later.


·        IT! THE TERROR FROM BEYOND SPACE would make a great triple bill [IMG4L]with the earlier mentioned PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES and the better known ALIEN. Put the first two films in a bag along with a few million in production values, shake it up and you've got the third one. Taken on it's own, this film itself an adaptation of A.E. Van Vogt's story The Black Destroyer is fairly watchable, at least until the hilarious looking monster appears.


·        THE TERROR WITHIN was one of the last Roger Corman produced B-movies to see wide theatrical release. Too bad it wasn't a better swan song. This one finds Andrew Stevens and George Kennedy in an underground lab in a post-holocaust future and facing a monster. Followed by a sequel, for no discernable reason.


·        THEATRE OF BLOOD is one of the most enjoyable of all Vincent Price scarefests, in part because of a wonderful cast of eccentric Brits and a witty, literate script. But mostly, the pleasures of the film are due to Price himself and the lovely Diana Rigg as the daughter who helps her ham actor father avenge himself on the critics who failed to recognize his genius.


·        TREMORS: Special Edition/TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCK is a welcome double bill of two of the most enjoyable monster films of the 90s. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward headline the first installment as two none-too-bright handymen helping the residents of a small town fight giant, earth burrowing worms. The direct-to-video sequel found Ward back, this time in Mexico, briefly battling the "Graboids" of the original film before confronting their very different offspring. Both films are expert blends of action, horror and humor which one can only hope is maintained in the soon to come third entry in the series.


·        TWICE TOLD TALES was made to cash in on the success of the Roger Corman/Vincent Price Poe films that were making big bucks at the time. This one stars Price in a trio of tales based on the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne.


·        UNBORN is one of the last genuine sleepers to emerge from the recently demolished Roger Corman production facilities. This story of a young woman whose desire for a child puts her in the care of a doctor's experiments is pretty chilling and almost believable. Brooke Adams is great in the lead, but also watch for a young Lisa Kudrow in the cast.


·        UNDERNEATH/VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED is a strange double-bill featuring one of the least known of hot director Stephen Soderberg's work, and one of the worst of once hot director John Carpenter's work. Neither is really worth your effort, but both for $10.00 might be bearable.


·        WEREWOLF OF LONDON/SHE-WOLF OF LONDON are a largely undistinguished pair from the 30s and 40s, the former notable as the first Hollywood feature on lycanthropy, and the latter as the first to feature a female werewolf.


·        WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: SPECIAL EDITION is the latest re-release of a film that was originally conceived as little more than a feature length promotional tool for a new candy bar, but instead became a minor classic of a family film. Contains a "making-of" featurette as well as sing-along versions of all the film's songs.


ANIME


MARTIAN SUCCESSOR NADESICO #6 offers five more episodes of the space bound series about Akito and his battles with Erina Won and the Jovians.


EASTER EGG HUNT


DVDeasteregg.com tells us that the WIZARD OF OZ DVD has a pair of hidden surprises. In the "characters" section, go to the first page of Glinda's profile, select the glowing orb by her wand and you'll get some extra munchkin info. Do the same on the Wicked Witch's profile, but select the hour glass, and you'll get some extra info on everybody's favorite flying monkeys.


COMING ATTRACTIONS


Next week will find us having gone from feast to famine as the wealth of this week's releases dries up to a mere handful of new titles. But we will be taking a look at a few titles that slipped beneath the Vidiot's movie radar previously, as well as offering the usual goodies and maybe a surprise. Be there!


Vidiocy is our weekly Video & DVD column.

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