Step inside! You’re frightfully welcome! The hit horror House franchise opens its creaky doors once again with the release of all four instalments on DVD and Blu-ray, with 2k restorations and all uncut.
For those who didn’t snap up the House: The Collection box-set back in March 2017, you can now add these beauties to your home cinema collection as individual releases.
Having looked at the bonus extras on offer, Arrow have added some newbies, including the first draft screenplay of House, vintage Making Of featurettes of House and House II, and workprint footage of the final two instalments, alongside all the other great special features that were featured in the Collection box-set.
Makes for a great stocking filler! And don’t those covers look cool?
If you want to read more about the House franchise, check out my original post HERE
Back in 1977, Dario Argento unleashed Suspiria, his intoxicating brew of black magic and murder in which Phantom of the Paradise’s Jessica Harper played an American ballet student who uncovers a deadly cover of witches at a prestigious German dance academy, overseen by Dark Shadows‘ Joan Bennett as Madame Blanc and Eyes Without a Face‘s Alida Valli as the butch dance instructor Miss Tanner.
Saturated with an expressive colour palette, hyper-real art deco production design and a ground-breaking score by The Goblins (as they were credited then), and punctuated by shocking, but expertly staged, violence, Argento’s symphony of terror is, without doubt, his horror film opus and a masterpiece of the modern macabre.
Now turning 40, Suspiria has been given a 4K makeover. Over in the US, Synapse Films spent four years working on their 4k restoration that was made from the uncut 98-minute 35mm Italian camera negative (and was overseen by cinematographer Luciano Tovoli). They have now released it as a Special Edition Steelbook (read more here) producing 6000 units, with bags of extras.
Meanwhile, here in the UK, CultFilms are releasing their own restoration, which is set to be the most complete and original looking, finally doing justice to Argento’s vision. The new 4K scan was painstakingly restored by TLE Films in Germany with the film’s crucially distinct colour palette reinstated in accordance with Argento’s original Technicolor Dye Transfer specification, using period film materials as reference. The restorers also reinserted all the missing frames which had degraded badly or were simply lost over the years.
CultFilms have got a crowd-funding campaign up and running to get the film its official UK/European Ultra HD home entertainment release. It’s got just under two weeks left, and has already passed its initial target of £15,000, thanks to some 700+ backers, which means some great bonus extras will be added. And 100 of those initial backers also got the chance to get their copy signed Argento himself (alas now sold out). If you live in Europe, or anywhere that isn’t region A and you do not have a region free player, then this 4k UHD release is one to look out for. Plus, it will also include the Blu-ray and DVD (see below).
UPDATE: On 4 December 2017, CultFilms announced that their campaign closed, reaching an incredible £33,705, which guarantees the creation of a third disc, filled with those promised bonus extras.
I was lucky to see the 4k print (which is simply stunning) at the sold out London screening at the Barbican, with Argento introducing film and giving an illuminating Q&A afterwards. Now, I have seen Suspiria more times than I can remember, and in many formats – from scratchy 16mm and faded VHS to dodgy DVD and the fab HD release back in 2009. But it’s always great to learn something new – especially from the master himself. So, thanks to some intelligent questions from the audience, I discovered that his main inspiration came from Disney’s Snow White, both as a dark fairytale of female empowerment and because of the animated feature’s vibrant primary colours; and that he drew from his own nightmares, one of which became the vicious dog attack sequence.
He also worked alongside Goblin to create what has become an iconic horror score, and even introduced the bouzouki, a Greek musical instrument, to link with the ballet school’s Directress, Helena Markos, a Greek émigré who is ultimately revealed to be Mater Suspiriorum (the Mother of Sighs), the oldest and wisest of the Three Mothers.
The other interesting piece of trivia I discovered was that Jane Russell was in line for the role that eventually went to Joan Bennett, who got it only because she worked with Argento’s favourite director, Fritz Lang, and that she liked a drink or two. And, on a more personal side, Argento also said that he did not believe in magic, except as a narrative device in books and films; and that he had nothing to do with the poster design of the blood-splattered ballet dancer.
If you can’t wait to get your hands on the UK 4K edition, then CultFilms are releasing the Dual Format (Blu-ray/DVD) edition on 4 December, with the following extras…
• Dual format special edition: Blu-ray and DVD in a numbered, embossed slipcase
• New Extra: Long interview with Dario Argento
• New Extra: Exclusive Dario Argento Introduction of this new 4K restoration
• Audio commentary by critics Kim Newman and Alan Jones
• Fear at 400 Degrees: interview with Dario Argento and Claudio Simonetti
• Interview with Claudio Simonetti, Norman J Warren and Patricia McComack (Blu-ray only)
• New Extra: The 4K Restoration Process ‘utterly fascinating’
Fragment of Fear (1970) | This baffling Blow-Up imitation starring David Hemmings is one helluva delirious ride
Before heading to cult-dom in Dario Argento’s Deep Red, David Hemmings was the hot ticket in Michelangelo Antonioni’s unfathomable but unquestionably hip 1966 arthouse classic Blow-Up. Four years later, 1970’s Fragment of Fear aimed to recapture the same magic, but ended up even more baffling – a delirious puzzle box that sets the nerves on edge, but leaves you screaming for answers.
Murder, mystery and paranoia are the order of the day in this adaptation the 1965 novel by former M15 spy John Bingham (John le Carré’s inspiration for George Smiley). Hemmings plays writer Tim Brett, who believes himself to being cured of his drug addiction.
When his philanthropist aunt (Dame Flora Robson) is found strangled while on holiday in Italy, Brett starts digging into her past, but soon starts receiving menacing threats warning him off the case. Investigating further, he is soon targeted by a shadowy government agency…
Frankly, it’s amazing that this British psychological thriller ever got finished, as it was made under the influence of lots of late-night drinking sessions by both the film’s crew and its star Hemmings. Which might also account for some truly offbeat scenes like one in which a group of bystanders casually watch a junkie shoot up in a London street (really?).
But while it may make for bewildering viewing, it does hold your gaze and interest throughout – thanks to Ossie Morris’ noirish cinematography – that makes atmospheric use of the Pompeii and London locations, and Hemmings’ genuinely convincing performance as the former-junkie battling to hold his own. And Indicator’s HD re-master is so pristine that it brings the excellent cinematography to the fore, while the sweat on Hemmings’ brow is so luminous, it practically drips off the screen.
While it certainly apes Blow-Up and bears a strong resemblance to Basil Dearden’s suited-and-booted dopplegänger cult classic The Man Who Haunted Himself (which came out the same year), there are a few other reasons to check it out. First up is the fantastic moody jazz score from the legendary Johnny Harris. It’s so cool, I’m desperately hunting down its supposed LP re-release.
Next comes the distinguished supporting cast playing the quirky, not-to-be-trusted characters including Mary Wimbush, Roland Culver, Daniel Massey, Wilfred Hyde White and Derek Newark, whose mysterious Sergeant Matthews sets Brett off on his ‘wild goose chase’. Playing Hemming’s love interest is his real-life wife, the gorgeous Gayle Hunnicutt, who apparently got the role as a condition to securing Hemmings’ involvement in the project.
The screenplay was by Paul Dehn, who had a knack for espionage, having penned The Spy Who Came In from the Cold and The Deadly Affair (both featuring le Carré’s George Smiley character – albeit in different guises); and he also wrote four of the original Planet of the Apes sequels. Check out the extra that accompanies the Indicator release for a very informative profile of Dehn.
Director Richard C Sarafian may not be a name you instantly recognise, but does he have some darn fine credits. Not only did he helm one of the most memorable Twilight Zone stories, 1963’s Living Doll, he also directed episodes of TV’s Batman and Wild Wild West; and followed this film with the bona fide cult classic, 1971’s Vanishing Point (now that’s one that deserves the HD treatment).
It might be a baffling Blow-Up imitation, but Fragment of Fear is still one helluva delirious ride.
The Indicator Limited Editon (3000 copies) Blu-ray (world premiere) features a HD re-master and original mono audio, with the following special features…
• The Writer as Auteur: an analysis of the life and work of screenwriter Paul Dehn
• First Assistant Director William P Cartlidge on Fragment of Fear
• Original radio spots & theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Collector’s booklet with essay’s from Johnny Mains, composer Johnny Harris, critical responses, and historic articles
StudioCanal celebrates the work of the Spanish surrealist director Luis Buñuel with an Essential Collection box set featuring re-issues of seven of the director’s most significant films on Blu-ray.
Diary of a Chambermaid (1964)
(aka) Le journal d’une femme de chambre
This biting satire of a middle-class French family in 1939 is drawn from Octave Mirbeau’s infamous 1900 novel and was an ideal subject for Buñuel’s particular incisive talents.
Jeanne Moreau plays Celestine, a Parisian chambermaid who ingrains herself in a scandal with her philandering employer (Michel Piccoli). About halfway through, when a child is murdered, the film shifts focus, but Buñuel’s mercurial talent makes it work, while also maintaining our fascination for the narrative. And bubbling away under Buñuel’s dabbling into fetishism and murder is a scathing look at the burgeoning French fascism of the era. In French.
Extras include a documentary and an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière.
Belle de Jour (1967)
The 50th Anniversary Edition | 4k Restoration
A surrealistic voyage into the mind of a bored, wealthy housewife (Catherine Deneuve), who leads the double life of afternoon prostitution. Buñuel blends memory, fantasy and reality, seamlessly, and it is never certain if what is seen is reality or fantasy. This exquisite and spellbinding film won the Best Picture award at the 1976 Venice Film Festival. In French.
Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrièere, director Diego Buñuel and Dr Sylvain Mimoun, commentary by professor Peter W Evans, and a trailer.
The Milky Way (1969)
(aka) La Voie lactée
Buñuel’s witty, metaphysical romp through Catholic doctrine became the first film in the director’s trilogy about ‘the search for truth’ and was followed by The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and The Phantom of Liberty.
The pilgrimage from Paris to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain of two French vagrants (played by Paul Frankeur and Laurent Terzieff) is interrupted by a series of bizarre encounters which end up becoming a trip through the history of heresy set over the last 2000 years.
Slipping through time and sometimes into other characters, the pilgrims keep doggedly on their chosen path, meeting Christ, the Devil, the Marquis de Sade and Delphine Seyrig’s prostitute along the way. It may be hard going and uneven at times, but this crazy tapestry of jokes, arguments and fantasy is never dull and pure Buñuel. In French.
Extras include a documentary, an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans and a trailer.
In 1929 Toledo, innocent and devout orphan Tristana (Catherine Deneuve) goes to live with her guardian, Don Lope (Fernando Rey), whose fatherly affection turns to desire. At first, Tristana submits to his advances, but then she falls for a young artist (Franco Nero) and moves to Madrid with him. When she falls gravely ill, Tristana is force to return to Toledo where she finds her prospects changed…
A mischievous mix of passion, social satire and black comedy, this is one of Buñuel’s most enjoyable films, and contains compelling performances from both Rey (whose character was based on Buñuel’s own father) and Deneuve (whose innocence was informed by the director’s younger sister Conchita).
Buñuel’s signature satire is very much on display here, but he never forgets to keep us glued to the central story drawn from the eponymous novel by Benito Pérez Galdós’ – regarded as Spain’s Dickens. Cinematographer José F Aguayo captures the streets of Toledo in all it’s post-war grittiness, while the bell tower in the city’s Gothic Cathedral and the marble tomb of Cardinal Tavera provide some of film’s most haunting images. In French, and also in Spanish.
Extras include an interview with Franco Nero, a documentary and a trailer.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972)
(aka) Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie
Winner of the 1972 Best Foreign Film Oscar, Buñuel’s sly, subversive satire is his surreal masterpiece. Again the director blurs the lines between dreams and realities in this wickedly funny puzzle box in which six middle-class characters try to dine together, but fate intervenes…
Fernando Rey is the ambassador holding the dinner party, while his wife (Delphine Seyrig) would rather make love in the garden – and the constant interruptions include soldiers on manoeuvres and terrorists bursting in…. Written by Bunuel’s frequent collaborator, Jean-Claude Carrière, this the most Buñuel of Bunuel’s canon. In French and Spanish.
Extras include an interview with Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a trailer. In French and Spanish.
The Phantom of Liberty (1974)
(aka) Le Fantôme de la liberté)
In his penultimate film, the 74-year-old Buñuel shows that he can still make the kind of subversive statements and deeply personal films that he did at the very start of his film-making career with Un Chien Andalou and L’Age D’Or.
It’s impossible to describe the plot of this perversely playful absurdist comedy, as there isn’t one! Instead, it contains short incidents and scenarios collected from throughout Buñuel’s life, arranged in the style of a surreal game where seemingly disconnected ideas are linked by chance encounters.
It all begins with Napoleon’s invasion of Spain and ends with a revolution in the zoo: and the succession of surreal incidents in between make this the most anarchically funny of Buñuel’s canon. The most notorious scene features an elegant soiree with guests seated at toilet bowls. In French.
Extras include an interview with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, analysis by Peter W Evans, a documentary and a photo gallery.
That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
(aka) Cet obscur objet du désir
Buñuel’s final film, which earned him, Carrière and producer Serge Silberman the Best Foreign Film Oscar, is a rich, blackly comic, study in sexual obsession.
Fernando Rey (dubbed here by Michel Piccoli) is perfectly cast as middle-aged bourgeois businessman Mathieu, who becomes tortured by his desire for elusive maid, Conchita, played by two actresses, Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina. It’s a bizarre concept that works to emphasise the different sides of her character (sophisticated French beauty vs Spanish coquette), whose mesmeric qualities make Mathieu unaware of the terrorist violence occurring around him. The same story was previously filmed in 1935 as The Devil is a Woman with Marlene Dietrich.
Extras include interviews with writer Jean-Claude Carrière, Diego Buñuel, Carlos Saura, Carole Bouquet, Angela Molina, Pierre Lady and Edmond Richard. In French and Spanish.
The Cine Excess Cult Film Conference and Festival kicks off its 11th year under the title Fear and the Unfamiliar: Wrong Time, Wrong Place, Wrong Crowd. The festival, combining academic discussions and public screenings takes place in Birmingham between the 9th – 11th November, 2017.
Guest of Honour will be Italian director Sergio Martino (Torso, All the Colours of the Dark) who will be discussing his career as well as judging the Cine-Excess 2017 short film competition. On Thursday 9th November, Sergio will introduce a special screening of his thriller Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key (1972) at 7.30pm. This will be followed by Profundo Mondo, a special concert dedicated to cult Italian soundtracks from 9pm.
Other films being screened include Beset by Demons, a new documentary from Kim Henkel and Brian Huberman which profiles the life and shocking murder of cult Texan actor Lou Perryman; Aaron B Koontz’ dark psychological thriller Camera Obscura and Lou Simon’s 3.
Keynote speaker for this year’s event is by Professor Mark Jancovich (UEA), whose talk Almost Psychopathic: British Working Class Realism and the Horror Film in the late 1950s and early 1960s takes place on Friday 10th November at 12noon.
The conference is open scholars, students and members of the public. Tickets can be purchased as a Cine-Excess Delegate Pass which allows access to all Cine-Excess conference events and branded screenings for:
£130 (standard) /£60 (concessions) for the three days, or £50 (standard)/£25 (concessions) per day.
Conference details and bookings available from:
Cinema tickets available from:
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I have the Key/Profondo Mondo Italian cult concert tickets available from:
The 1970s rats on the rampage cult horrors, Willard (1971) and Ben (1972) get their UK home entertainment debut in newly-restored versions complete with brand new special features on DVD and Blu-ray in a limited edition box-set, as well as individual releases, on-demand and download from Second Sight Films.
This is the *one* movie you should not see alone!
Meet Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison), a pleasant but lonely young man who lives with his nagging elderly mother Henrietta (Elsa Lanchester) in a run-down LA mansion, and has a subservient position in the company his father once owned.
On his 27-birthday, the socially awkward Willard is humiliated when he’s thrown a party where the only guests are a bunch of senior citizens, while at work, his boss Al Martin (Ernest Borgnine) continues to belittle him.
After befriending a group of rats, Willard discovers that one them (which he names Socrates) will do anything for him, while another (named Ben) proves to be somewhat of a rebel. It’s time for Willard to get even. But it’s not without a cost…
This scary horror was a huge success on its original release in 1971. Bruce Davison, who had starred in the counter-culture film The Strawberry Statement the previous year, is perfectly cast as another angry young man, the meek Willard whose suppressed internal rage against the establishment is finally given release through his friendship with Socrates, Ben and co, who are quite happy (at first) to do his bidding.
Starting off with a harmless prank, Willard’s actions take on a deadly purpose when he becomes desperate to find the money he needs to feed the ever-growing rat population in his cellar. But he hasn’t counted on the devious motives of Ben, who soon turns into a rodent version of George Orwell’s Napoleon in Animal Farm, when Socrates meets a bloody end.
Loosely based on the novel Ratman’s Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert, the film’s screenplay was by Gilbert Ralston, who wrote for countless US TV shows, including Star Trek, and helped create The Wild Wild West. He died in 1999 while battling a lawsuit with Warner Bros over the big-screen adaptation of the cult western spy spoof.
The Stiles’ Queen Anne-style house in the movie is the Higgins/Verbeck/Hirsch Mansion, which was designated a Los Angeles Cultural-Historic Monument in 1988. Among the other films shot there are William Castle’s The Night Walker (1964) and Waxwork (1988).
Sondra Lock makes one of her earliest screen roles as Willard’s potential girlfriend Joan, while this marked the 500th screen appearance for 83-year-old former silent film star Almira Sessions, who retired after making this movie.
Best line: ‘Tear him up!’
Where ‘WILLARD’ ended… Ben begins. And this time, he’s not alone!
While investigating Willard’s murder by a band of rats, LA homicide detective Cliff Kirtland (Joseph Campanella) realises that they are becoming an organised army, and sets out to destroy them. But closely watching from his hiding place is Ben, the leader of the rats, who befriends Danny (Lee Harcourt Montgomery), a young boy with a heart condition, who finds himself in deadly peril when he follows Ben to his new home deep inside the LA sewers…
Director Phil Karlson’s is best known for his 1950s crime noir thrillers Kansas City Confidential and Hell’s Island, and the Dean Martin-starred Matt Helm adventure, The Silencers, and he’s in top form with this no-nonsense sequel that pays homage to the genre as the police pursuit of Ben through the city’s storm drains which could just as easily be a manhunt as a rat-hunt. And Karlson directs the action and its vital elements of harassed policeman (Campanella), sympathetic kid (Montgomery), and fast-talking reporter (Arthur O’Connell) with a brusque intensity against sombre, low-key settings, building steadily to an exciting fiery climax.
There’s also a strong eco horror vibe bubbling away as Ben and his band raid a local shopping mall to feed his ever-growing colony whose attacks on a hospital and a health spa turn the city into a disaster area. Having these scenes taken from the perspective of Ben and the rats only maximises the fear factor, which is stoked by O’Connell’s cries of ‘God help us if we go to war with people with guts like them’, in which his chain-smoking reporter equates the rats actions with Robert Ardrey’s 1966 Territorial Imperative – an hypothesis that described the evolutionarily determined instinct among humans toward territoriality (also also influenced Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 and A Clockwork Orange).
Adding to the radical tone informed by the cultural uncertainities of the era are the flame-throwers and guns a blazing as the police take down our anti-heroes in a climax that’s reminicisent of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (which came out the same time).
Best line: ‘Their eating us alive down there’
• New HD transfer and restoration using the best surviving archive print
• Interview with Lee Montgomery
• Commentary with Lee Montgomery
• Theatrical trailers, TV & radio spots
• Stills gallery
From the team behind 70s Monster Memories, Unsung Horrors and We Belong Dead magazine, comes this 300-page love letter to the Gentleman of Horror, Peter Cushing.
Featuring contributions from a global roster of established writers and dedicated fans – A Celebration of Peter Cushing covers the versatile actor’s most famous roles, including the Baron in Hammer’s Frankenstein series and Van Helsing in the studio’s Dracula franchise, as well as his portrayals as Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who and Star Wars’ Grand Moff Tarkin, plus his memorable roles in a host of genre hits – and misses. There are also lots of chapters dedicated to Cushing’s legacy, in print, on stage, radio and vinyl, and in art; as well as features on his hobbies and his muse, his beloved wife Helen.
A true labour of love, gorgeously designed (with a retro eye) with full colour spreads boasting fantastic photos, posters and lobby cards; a foreward from Hammer scream queen-turned-artist Veronica Carlon; an interview with Cushing’s personal secretary Joyce Broughton; and an archival one from the great man himself, this another must-have for any serious film buff.
Vault of Horror – The Italian Connection | Demon Records to unleash 20 classic terror themes on 8 December
Vault of Horror – The Italian Connection presents 20 classic soundtrack themes from the golden era of Italian horror. A heady mix of funk, disco, electronic and prog rock, the 2-vinyl set features scores by some legendary composers, including Stelvio Cipriani, Nico Fidenco, Ennio Morricone, Fabio Frizzi and Riz Ortolani, who conjured up iconic scores to some of most outrageous terror films of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, including Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Beyond, The New York Ripper and (one of my personal favourites) Tentacles.
Released on 8 December from Demon Records, this must-have also includes specially-commissioned artwork from artist Graham Humphreys (aka Britain’s Quadfather), biographical notes, a CD version in a replica card wallet, and a 12 x 12″ reproduction collector’s art print of the sleeve painting.
PRE-ORDER IT HERE: http://amzn.to/2zssh9m
HERE’S THE FULL TRACK LISTING
DISC 1 SIDE A
Carlo Rustichelli – ‘Atelier (totoli)’ from ‘Blood And Black Lace ‘(‘Sei Donne Per L’Assassioni)’
Franco Micalizzi – ‘Seq 1’ from
‘The Last Hunter’ ‘(L’Ultimo Cacciatore)’
Nico Fidenco – ‘Seq 6’ from ‘Porno Holocaust’
Roberto Donati – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Eaten Alive’ ‘(Mangiati Vivi!)’
Francesco De Masi – ‘New York One More Day’ from ‘The New York Ripper’ ‘(Lo Squatatore Di
DISC 1 SIDE B
Franco Micalizzi feat. Warren Wilson – ‘Bargain With The Devil’ from ‘Beyond The Door’ ‘(Chi Sei)’
Stelvio Cipriani – ‘Small Town Pleasures’ from ‘Tentacles’ ‘(Tentacoli)’
Roberto Donati – ‘NYC Main Title’ from ‘Cannibal Ferox’
A. Blonksteiner – ‘Apocalypse’ from ‘Cannibal Apocalypse’ ‘(Apocalypse Domani)’
Carlo Maria Cordio – ‘Absurd’ from ‘Absurd’ ‘(Rosso Sangue)’
DISC 2 SIDE C
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters’ ‘(Zombi 2)’
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Mystery’s Apotheosis’ from ‘City Of The Living Dead’ ‘(Paura Nella Citta Dei Morti Viventi)’
Fabio Frizzi – ‘Voci Dal Nula’ from ‘The Beyond’ ‘(L’Aldila)’
Walter Rizatti– ‘I Remember’ from ‘House By The Cemetery’ ‘(Quella Villa Accanto Al Cimitero)’
Stefano Mainetti – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Zombie Flesh Eaters 2’ ‘(Zombi 3)’
DISC 2 SIDE D
Walter Rizatti – ‘Main Theme’ from ‘Bronx Warriors’ ‘(1990: I Guerrieri Del Bronx)’
Claudio Simonetti – ‘Nuke Is Over’ from ‘The New Barbarians’ ‘(Nuovi Barbari)’
Riz Ortolani – ‘The Fighter Centurions’ from ‘Rome 2033 – The Fighter Centurions’ ‘(I Guerrieri Dell ‘Anno 2072)’
Ennio Morricone – ‘End Theme’ from ‘Holocaust 2000’
Nico Fidenco – ‘I Celebrate Myself’ from ‘Emanuelle In America’
The Wonderful Worlds of Ray Harryhausen: Volume One (1955-1960) | Three classic adventures get a glorious HD restoration
Powerhouse Films have released three fantasy classics from special effects titan Ray Harryhausen for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK as part of their Indicator series. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras – including exclusive new interviews with director Joe Dante, SFX maestro Dennis Muren, and Aardman Animation co-founders David Sproxton and Peter Lord – this Limited Dual Format Edition Box Set is a must-have for your cult film collection.
First up is 1954’s It Came from Beneath the Sea starring Faith Domergue, Kenneth Tobey and Donald Curtis. One of the first films to feature Harryhausen’s special effects puppet animation, this classic sci-fi thriller uses them most impressively, while creating a tangible atmosphere of fear and chaos when a giant octopus emerges from the Pacific to wreak havoc on San Francisco. The sci-fi is presented here in both the original black and white print and an authorised (and surprisingly effective) colourised version.
A fun offering from the height of the 1950s monster movie boom is the second feature, 20 Million Miles to Earth, starring William Hopper (from TV’s Perry Mason) and Joan Taylor. Directed by Nathan Juran (TV’s Lost in Space) it features a scaly, clawed alien from Venus which doubles its size every 24 hours… The sci-fi is also presented in the original black and white print and a director-approved colourised version.
In 1960’s The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Kerwin Mathews gets to be a big man in a little world and a little man in a big world in this appealing version of Jonathan Swift’s classic. While it’s light on action, Mathews makes for an engaging hero, while Harryhausen conjures up some cute special effects for the little Lilliput and big Brobdingnag sequences (though the squirrel sequences is a bit of a disappointment). The film also makes great use of the location scenes set in Avila and Segovia in Spain.
INDICATOR LIMITED EDITION SPECIAL FEATURES:
• HD restorations of It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth
• 4K restoration from the original camera negative of The 3 Worlds of Gulliver
• Original black and white and alternative, authorised colourised versions of It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth
• Mono and 5.1 surround sound audio options
• It Came from Beneath the Sea and 20 Million Miles to Earth audio commentaries about the colourised versions with Ray Harryhausen (which are both excellent and hugely entertaining).
• The 3 Worlds of Gulliver audio commentary with film historians Randall Cook, C Courtney Joyner and Steven C Smith (this one is heavy on the creation of the musical score and lots of bios of the cast and crew).
• New interview with filmmaker Joe Dante
• New interview with SFX maestro Dennis Muren
• New interviews with Aardman Animation’s David Sproxton, Peter Lord and Dave Alex Riddett
• Archival documentaries, interviews and featurettes
• Original trailers and promotional films
• Isolated score on The 3 Worlds of Gulliver by Bernard Herrmann (I forgot how good this was)
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• Booklet with essays from Kim Newman, Dan Whitehead and Charlie Brigden, and film credits
Over half a century after its original cinema release, this surreal 1953 musical fantasy – conceived and part-written by noted children’s author Dr Seuss – remains one of the most bizarre children’s films ever committed to celluloid.
Little Bart Collins (future Lassie star Tommy Rettig) would rather play baseball than practice his piano scales. Falling asleep, he enters a nightmarish world in which a sinister piano teacher, Dr Terwilliker (Hans Conreid in splendid sinister form), has hypnotised Bart’s mum (Mary Healey) into becoming his assistant (and future bride); imprisoned non-piano-playing musicians in his dungeon; and constructed a gigantic piano to force 500 boys (including Bart) to play his latest composition for all eternity.
Bart’s only chance to free both his mother, himself and the other boys is to convince friendly plumber Mr. Zabladowski (Peter Lind Hayes) of Terwilliker’s maniacal plans…
Although a flop at the box office, director Roy Rowland and producer Stanley Kramer’s bonkers film brilliantly captures the spirit of Dr Suess’ anarchic vision, especially in the fantastic production design featuring sets and matte paintings that look like an colourful mash up of weird Frank Gehry angles, Jean Cocteau fantasia, Fritz Lang expressionism and The Jetsons cartoon futurism.
The music, however, isn’t so memorable. 24 musical numbers were filmed, but 11 ended up being scrapped from the final cut (they were later included on a 2007 CD release). But despite the not-so-great music (except maybe the screwy Hypnotic Duel), this fantasy certainly deserves revisiting – and maybe one day, in right hands, even a musical stage adaptation.
This limited edition dual format Powerhouse Films release (part of the Indicator series) presents a HD remaster of the film – for the first time in the UK – with the following special features:
• Audio commentary with film historians Glenn Kenny and Nick Pinkerton
• Crazy Music: a 2017 interview with musician, singer and archivist Michael Feinstein on his obsession with the filme
• Father Figure: a 2017 new interview with Steve Rowland, son of director Roy Rowland
• Karen Kramer introduction (2007)
• Dr T. on Screen (2007): Cathy Lind Hayes, George Chakiris and others talk about the film
• A Little Nightmare Music (2007): an examination of the film’s music score
• Original theatrical trailer
• Joe Dante trailer commentary (2013) WATCH BELOW
• Image gallery
• New and improved English subtitles
• Booklet with a new essay by Peter Conheim, and extracts from the original press kit, advertising and promotion guide