Category Archives: Animation

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

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Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos | Underworld fans will lap up this vampiric animated motion comic with a Black Metal twist

Omer Sheriff Patel on Realm of the Damned: Tenebris Deos

This new UK-made animation tells the story of vampire hunter, Alberic Van Helsing who is ‘recruited’ by vampire queen, Athena to seek out and destroy her recently-resurrected brother Balaur – the demonic warlord who once fought alongside the legendary ‘Impaler’ (yep, ol’ Count Drac himself). In true reluctant ‘anti-hero’ fashion, Alberic Van Helsing agrees if only to find some sort of redemption; he loathes himself as he himself uses a special ‘vampire-serum’ to stay alive over the centuries in order to defeat the forces of evil.

Main baddie Balaur himself is a twisted, power hungry, jacked-up version of Dracula who wants to attain nothing less than complete domination of the world (of course!) and to join the ‘Tenebris Deos’ – the mythical pantheon of the dark gods.
Van Helsing’s narration is delivered in the style of an old noir detective story as he encounters several insanely over-the-top creatures including the man-made giant known as The Nameless (a very ‘Frankenstein’-like character), Queen Nemetari (a Mummified Criminal Kingpin) and the werewolf clan leader, La Bete.

This tale will definitely appeal to fans of the Underworld series, as it mixes up elements of 15th-century gothic vampire lore with modern day, hi-tech action elements. And this is all played out against a backdrop of Black Metal tunes. Oh, and gore. LOTS of gore! This ‘motion comic’ definitely owes a lot to the likes of Heavy Metal magazine in its style. In addition to the blood-splattered imagery, the writer of this tale (Alec Worley of 2000AD fame) really likes to use a LOT of profanity (sometimes a bit TOO much!) but it all adds to the grittiness of the narrative.

Motion comics are a very interesting, yet ‘limited’ medium and I can only imagine that this would be sought out by die-hard fans of Morbid Angel and Cradle of Filth (and the Sons of Balaur, the ‘fake’ Norwegian metal band who also feature in the original graphic novel). Still, it’s good fun if you like variations of vampire mythology and at just under an hour, the story moves at a fast and kinetic pace.

Realm of the Dead – Tenebris Deos is available on Blu-ray & DVD from 7th April 2017

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Wizards (1977) | Rediscover Ralph Bakshi’s trailblazing animated fantasy

Wizards (1977)

Praised by Quentin Tarantino and George Lucas, Wizards is an epic sci-fi fantasy adventure created by the legendary animator Ralph Bakshi in 1977, and it’s now available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK featuring a new high definition print.

Wizards (1977)


Millions of years after a nuclear holocaust, the Earth is divided between the Badlands, where goblins and demons dwell, and the Goodlands, which is home to fairies and elves. During a violent storm, the queen of Montagar gives birth to two wizards– Avatar and Blackwolf, who are fated to enter into a deadly battle between magic and technology.


‘A cross between Tolkien’s Hobbit, Mel Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man, and Marvel Comics’ Howard the Duck’ according to Tarantino, Wizards is without doubt a fantastical animated adventure from a master craftsman, but it also works as a none-to-subtle allegory on the creation of the state of Israel in the wake of the Holocaust.

Featuring the vocal talents of Bob Holt (Hong Kong Phooey), Jesse Welles (The Return of Count Yorga), and a pre-Star Wars Mark Hamill, this was the subversive cartoonist’s boldest gamble following his adult-themed flicks Fritz the Cat and Heavy Traffic. But it is also became a trailblazing calling card for his next foray into animated fantasy, 1978’s The Lord of the Rings.

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The 2016 Fabulous Films region 2 DVD and Blu-ray release includes a new high-definition transfer, audio commentary from Bakshi, isolated music and effect audio track, a featurette on Bakshi, trailers and a gallery including conceptual drawings.

Get the DVD here

Get the Blu-ray here

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Terrahawks | Watch out Earth scum! Gerry Anderson’s crazy children’s Supermacromation sci-fi invades in HD

Terrahawks

Having turned to live action drama in the 1970s following his 1960s Supermarionation hits Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet, Gerry Anderson returned to puppeteering in the 1980s with the Supermacromation sci-fi, Terrahawks, which he co-created with Christopher Burr.

The show, set in 2020, introduced a new generation of kids to a brand new elite force, headed by Tiger Ninestein, whose loyal crew (both human and zeroid) matched wits and state-of-the-art weaponry with a hideous-looking android crone called Zelda, as she attempted to dominate all ‘Earth scum’ with her cyrogenically-suspended monster squad.

Terrahawks

With its latex Muppet-style hand puppets and cheap special effects, some critics called it a cut-price Thunderbirds, but the show, which ran for 39 episodes between 1983 and 1986, has become quite the cult in its own right thanks to the quote-worthy tongue-in-cheek humour, the crazy creature designs, and scene-stealing vocal performances from Windsor Davies as bullish zeroid, Sergeant Major Zero, and Labyrinth‘s Denise Bryer as Zelda (who reminded me of a potty-mouthed Witchie-Poo from HR Pufnstuf).

From Network in the UK comes the first 13 episodes, presented for the first time in High Definition from the best available materials, in their original as-transmitted aspect ratio, and with the following special features:

Geronimo! Terrahawks SFX with Steve Begg and Terry Adlam (HD) (30min)
The Composer’s Perspective with Richard Harvey (HD) (20min)
Zeroids vs Cubes: Zero’s 1980s Party cartoon (2:16) (HD)
• FX Reel (HD) (14min)
The Price is Right audio episode (SD) (35min)
• Glass Onion music video (SD)
• Image gallery (HD)
Expect the Unexpected: VHS Version (SD)
• Script and Annual PDFs
• Steve Begg Concept art and storyboards

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