DVD Review

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Dare to watch your fave fiends, all collected in one howling package!

By SCOTT COLLURA     October 31, 2001

© 2001 Image Entertainment
Here's a great little program to curl up to on Halloween night, whether you're a tried and true fan of horror films or the most uniformed of neophytes. Originally produced by American Movie Classics in 1997, MONSTER MANIA is an hour-long crash-course in the evolution of the American horror film, stretching from the early silent era all the way to modern fare such as Francis Ford Coppola's BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA.

The show begins with an intro from Ms. Décolletage herself, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. The old Vampira knock-off (and knock-out, I suppose) only serves as a brief bookend host before MONSTER MANIA segues into the show proper. There we meet true host Jack Palance, who's been known to play a monster himself from time to time over the years. From his vantage point in a foggy castle, Palance takes the viewer on a journey through horror film history.

We start off with a rare peek at Thomas Edison's much-discussed but rarely seen original film version of FRANKENSTEIN from 1910 which starred Charles Ogle. The Monster here proves to be a less than frightening thing, though Palance assures us that audiences of the era were terrified and that the film helped create the genre itself. We're then treated to glimpses (and overviews from Palance) of the original NOSFERATU and DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE, as well as a quick Lon Chaney Sr. bio. Scary!

Throughout the program, a variety of clips are utilizedthough their quality varies wildly. Palance exists mostly as a voice-over presence, though even he is given an occasional break when trailer clips are played along with their original narrations.

MONSTER MANIA flies by at breakneck pace, as Palance moves on to the classic Universal monster movies (DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, THE MUMMY, THE WOLF MAN), providing interesting observations on the era along the way. We learn (or are reminded) how after the initial popularity of the Universal monsters, the public appetite for such fare waned when World War II broke out. Of course, it wasn't long before new life was breathed into the form and the Universal monster mashes began.

Palance next brings us to the sc-fi themed monsters of the '50s, as creatures like The Blob, The Thing, and It! terrorized moviegoers. The paranoia of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and its kind is also discussed, as is an entirely different invader of mankindtelevision! The advent of TV brought the classics of horror to a whole new generation of viewers, an audience that embraced the old monsters with as much zeal as ever. Merchandising began to take off, and old symbols of the genre like Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. found new recognition. Meanwhile, a new series of monster movies were being made by a company in England called Hammer...

Color and blood might have come to dominate some horror movies as the genre entered the '60s, but others like Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY and George Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD proved just as effective in black & white.

Palance begins to pick up the pace even more when discussing the more recent decades. The cheesy end-of-the-world hijinks of THE OMEGA MAN, the demonic horror of THE EXORCIST and THE OMEN, the jaws of JAWS, and the rats of WILLARD are quickly covered before moving on to the comedy greatness of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN.

Sci-fi creatures like ALIEN and PREDATOR are mentioned before MONSTER MANIA comes full circle, exploring the modern returns to classic characters, as in Werner Herzog's NOSFERATU, Frank Langella's DRACULA and Kenneth Branagh's FRANKENSTEIN. And of course, familiar chaps like Michael Myers and Freddy simply must be mentioned. The result is a century's worth of Halloween horror jammed into an hour's viewing time. It's fun, it's fast, and if you turn the lights down, it might just prove creepy!


Movie Grade: B+     Disc Grade: C-

Reviewed Format: DVD

Rated: Not Rated

Stars: Elvira, Jack Palance, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, Nosferatu, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Writers: Kevin Burns, Raphael Simon

Director: Kevin Burns

Distributor: Image Entertainment

Original Year of Release: 1997

Suggested Retail Price: $19.99

Extras: Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround


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MinaM 5/20/2009 12:48:24 AM

Monster became part of our childhood memory. But for some this imaginative creature became come true and feared them to death. But after 30 years of my living on Earth, there are so many times that monsters are real (well for them). The most recent was the Montauk monster. The Montauk Monster is starting to make headlines. If you haven't heard about it, don't worry, but the Montauk Monster is a carcass that appeared on the beach of Long Island, New York. It defies classification, as it looks like no animal known to science, and a lot of people would give installment loans to figure out what it is. It washed up not too far away from Plum Island, AKA Anthrax Island, an uninhabited isle home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a known animal testing facility. The corpse is thought to be a hoax, but some insist its real, or Amy Winehouse sunbathing. Still, many would pull out credit cards to unravel the Montauk Monster mystery.




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