In discussion with fearless leader Todd at this year's Fantastic Fest I got the go ahead to try something new with our review roundup. Welcome to The Stack! Every couple of weeks I'll be posting a new video of my thoughts on a variety of mainstream US home entertainment releases. Some installments will be more in-depth offering a complete overview of specific titles. Others will feature me doing basic love it hate it recommendations in a vain attempt to keep up with the mountain slide behind my office door.
Cause any reviewer will tell ya- there's always the stack!
This first installment features me ....talking (and dancing a little). Mainly I wanted this up in time to recommend some truly nifty Halloween viewing. So get classical (and a little silly) with me as I let some newly remastered masterpieces take me back down memory lane.
The next installment looks at newer Halloween titles that may or may not be worthy of your private spooky soirees.
Here's a quick overview of what I thought about the titles covered in Part One of this handy Halloween guide. Scroll down for Episode One of The Stack!
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Classics Collection (BluRay)
This is absolutely magnificent.Worth the upgrade? Absolutely. You not only get all eight of the seminal Universal Monsters titles, plus the Spanish language version of Dracula (shot by a Spanish cast and crew at night during production of the Lugosi version) but the chance to watch Creature from the Black Lagoon in glorious hi-def 3D.
Twins of Evil (BluRay/DVD Combo Pack)
Synapse has outdone themselves here. Besides the stunning audio and video there are numerous featurettes and a full length documentary that details the history of hammer during the seventies. Absolutely indispensable for any Hammer Fan. The combo pack also includes an isolated music and effects track perfect for the background of your party. Don May JR. was coy about future releases of The Vampire Lover's or Lust for a Vampire (which would complete the Karnstein Trilogy) but this is a magnificent companion piece to the Synapse release of Vampire Circus from last year.
Little Shop of Horrors Digibook (1986) The Director's Cut (BluRay)
Another rave here. This is a pristine presentation of one of the great modern American musicals. Feed me? Consider yourself fed. Tons and tons of extras and a restored darker than dark special effects laden ending make this more than worthy of the nifty digibook presentation.
Whatever Happened To Baby Jane: 50th Anniversary Digibook (BluRay)
Great video and audio? Check. Solid extras? Check. Cool diibook packaging? Check. This is no camp classic although it does have camp value. It is one of the great suspense films telling a story that spans the entire lives of two troubled women, one of whom has gone completely and dangerously insane. Joan Crawford and Better Davis each had a massive career resurgence after the success of this film that almost didn't get made because noone was interested in them anymore. Definitely the version to own.
Halloween II (Collector's Edition) (BluRay/DVD)
I saw this at the theater when it first released and it was scary as hell. It still works just fine if you're able to simply roll with it and not examine it too closely. Halloween II was a very violent shocking film for it's time but it lso started the franchise down the long road of developing the mythos behind what animated the unstoppable Michael Myers and just what his relationship was with Laurie Strode.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (Collector's Edition) (BluRay)
Underrated is the best way to describe this fun cheesy gory halloweenie romp. I love Halloween III for all sorts of reasons. A big one is the presence of character actor Dan O'Herlihy who owns the role of the villainous mask maker in the film. But the rest of the cast has a lot of fun as well and the masks themselves (as well as the infamous Silver Shamrock jingle) are simply iconic.
Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (BluRay)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
This film benefits so much from the presence of then child actress Danielle Harris it's hard to over estimate her appeal. She's moved on to even better roles but is still strongly, perhaps most strongly , identified with this one. But also great here (as always) is Donald Pleasence. This is a solid upgrade visually and contains some decent extras.
Halloween 5:The Revenge of Michael Myers (BluRay)
Anchor Bay Entertainemnt
For a lot of purists fans the series basically ends here. I think they are wrong but I also think the franchise certainyl doesn't suffer for having the mythos of Myers expanded further. Danielle Harris gets another chance to shine, which she does. But ultimately Michael Myers is incredibly well presented as his relationship with Loomis comes to a head.
Mother's Day (BluRay)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Troma (sigh) I wish I could love you more. You laid the groundwork for generations of direct to video schlock but....The truth is, a lot of people love Troma precisely because of films like Mother's Day. It's gross, it's very funny in spots and whether or not that makes it a good film it may very well make it a good film to play at your upcoming Halloween party.
The Funhouse (Collector's Edition) (BluRay)
Tobe Hooper will always be most appreciated or Texas Chainsaw Massacre but even if he'd only made this film he would have been assured a place in horror fan's hearts. The Funhouse is a novel take on the group of teens killed one by one aesthetic that eventually became standard....and boring. Hooper also manages to generate some sympathy for the Carny monster here. In short this entertaining stuff. Has it aged perfectly? Naw. But it is perfect for a retro Halloween screening.
Terror Train (Collector's Edition) (BluRay)
Planning a retro party for the spooky season? This deserves a place next to Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine, Happy Birthday To Me and The Funhouse in your programming. In short it is a real hoot. Jamie Lee Curtis is stalked once again. This time it's a aboard a party train filled with her costumed fellow graduates. The killer could be anybody. Even handsome magician David Copperfield who's been hired as the entertainment.
THESE LAST THREE RELEASES CONTAIN THE SPECIAL FEATURES ON THEIR PREVIOUS SE DVD RELEASES. BUT I INCORRECTLY STATE THAT THEY ARE PRESENTED IN HD. THEY ARE NOT. ALL SPECIAL FEATURES ON THE FOLLOWING DISCS ARE IN SD
Jeeper's Creepers (BluRay)
I hated this movie when it came out. It seemed as patched together as one of Letherface' skin-aprons. But over time I've grown to like it alot more. Great creature work, and great chase/battle sequences are coupled with a real sense of threat here even if the presence of certain characters (like the psychic) get in the way of a streamlined monster movie experience. All extras are in SD.
Killer Klowns From Outer Space (BluRay)
Can enough be said about how great this movie is? It came out long before such gonzo concepts were fashionable, even in the genre world and it was a labor of love from the start. Funny, gruesome, and utterly deserving of the twelve year old twinges one feels when reading the title. Yup. It's that fun. Tons of extras here, even if if they are all presented in SD rather than HD. The film itself has never looked better.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre II (BluRay)
I feel almost embarrassed. This movie deserves it's own episode of The Stack managing as it does to be a perfect companion piece to one of the greatest horror films ever made; the original TCM. Solid extras here presented in SD rather than HD but it's a relatively small complaint given the image upgrade.