Category Archives: Comedy

Karloff at Columbia | Six classic chillers from the Master of Terror

From Eureka Entertainment comes KARLOFF AT COLUMBIA, six films comprising the entirety of the Master of Terror’s filmic output for Columbia Pictures, as a part of the Eureka Classics range from 3 May 2021.

All six are making their worldwide debut on Blu-ray, and it’s the first time they’ve become available on home video in the UK. There’s also a wealth of bonus content over the two discs, including four Inner Sanctum radio broadcasts, and a collector’s booklet featuring articles by Karloff expert Stephen Jacobs (author of Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster); film critic and author Jon Towlson; and film scholar Craig Ian Mann. 

DISC ONE

The Black Room (1935, dir. Roy William Neill)
Released in the same year as Universal’s The Bride of Frankenstein and The Raven, this excellent Gothic chiller sees Karloff taking on a dual role as the twin sons of a Czechoslovakian baron in early 1800s Europe. The eldest Gregor is a brutal sadist, who abdicates in favour of his gentle brother Anton when confronted by an angry mob after several village girls disappear. He then secretly murders Anton and impersonates him.

Karloff is in fine form here and plays each twin with much light and shade (and the double exposure camera trick really works a treat). The sets, lighting and cinematography are all wonderfully atmospheric – with Universal’s expressionist influence much evident. My standout scene is when Allen Seiger’s camera tracks servant Maska (Cecil B DeMille’s daughter Katherine) as she moves quietly through a local graveyard as the castle set looms menacingly in the background (it all looks like something out of a dark fairy tale book).

• Audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)

The Man They Could Not Hang (1939, dir. Nick Grinde)
Having been hidden under mountains of make-up in 1939’s Son of Frankenstein and a couple of Charlie Chan films, Karloff scored a role that proved so successful that Columbia went on the produce four more films with similar themes. These became known as Karloff’s ‘Mad Doctor’ cycle, and follow in this box-set. Here he plays Dr Savaard a dedicated scientist who is hanged after his experiments with an artificial heart resulted in the death of a volunteer. Brought back to life by a loyal assistant, he lures the six jurors that condemned him to his mansion which has been rigged with traps and kills them one by one.

Karloff pulls off a delicate balancing act here with aplomb, one that requires him to be kindly but also seething with vengeance, and to elicit sympathy even while he’s frying his victims with bolts of electricity or dosing them on poison. These set-pieces still hold up today, and I’m sure influenced films like 1973’s Theatre of Blood and the Saw franchise. Following this, Karloff was back in full-on horror mode with Universal’s Tower of London.

• Audio commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)

The Man With Nine Lives (1940, dir. Nick Grinde)
In his second good-scientist-turn-bad role, Karloff plays the rather frosty Dr Kravaal, whose experiments in cryogenics could be a cure for cancer. But while testing the formula, Kravaal’s underground laboratory is invaded, and everyone ends up unconscious after the formula is dropped. A decade later, Kravaal is revived by medical researcher Dr Mason and his nurse Judith, but when his formula is destroyed by another revived patient, Kravaal plans to keep everyone prisoner and use them as guinea pigs until he can recreate the drug. Reviews at the time called this a ‘first-class shocker’ and like They Man They Could Not Hang drew on some controversial science – mainly American biologist Robert Cornish (who was a real-life Herbert West) and his ‘Lazarus’ experiments.

• Audio commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)

Karloff on the Radio
The Corridor of Doom (12 October 1945) & The Wailing Wall (6 Novemeber 1945)

DISC TWO

Before I Hang (1940, dir. Nick Grinde)
After creating an artificial heart and finding a cure for cancer, seeking an elixir to restore youth and prolong life came next in Karloff’s ‘Mad Doctor’ cycle. Sentenced to hang after a mercy killing, brilliant scientist Dr Garth continues his experiments behind bars. Using the blood of a killer, he injects himself and becomes younger. When his sentence is commuted to life imprisonment, he kills the prison doctor (Edward Van Sloan), but another convict is blamed. Pardoned, he returns home to resume his practice, but with his mind and body contaminated – his lust for murder continues.

Originally titled Wizard of Death, this third entry is a much more ghoulish affair than The Man With Nine Lives, and its bolstered by Karloff’s winning turn (which he described as ‘a cross between a ghoul, a zombie and a vampire’. It also features Evelyn Keys (The Face Behind the Mask) and Bruce Bennett (The Alligator People).

• Audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)

The Devil Commands (1941, dir. Edward Dmytryk)
Karloff was somewhat tired of the crazed-scientist format by the time he filmed this last ‘serious’ entry. Here he plays Dr Julian Blair, who constructs a machine to communicate with his late wife, whom he believes has been trying to send out an electrical signal to him from beyond the grave. Working in secrecy in an old house in New England, he starts robbing graves for subjects in his experiments, which he carries out with the help of a medium (Anne Revere). After the death of a nosey housekeeper, however, the townsfolk rise up against him and just as he is about to achieve success (using his daughter as a conduit), his machine explodes.

While one reviewer called it ‘a hodge-podge of scientific claptrap’, The Devil Commands is one of the most inventive and thoroughly engrossing among Columbia’s ‘Mad Doctor’ cycle. While based on sci-fi/fantasy author William Sloane’s 1939 novel The Edge of Running Water, there’s a strong HP Lovecraft vibe in the offing. It greatly reminded me of Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond. I particularly like the lab scenes with all its gadgetry and those weird robot-like suits, and the final scene with the column of energy being sucked into the atmosphere is really ahead of its time. Karloff followed this with a hugely successful return to the stage – in Arsenic and Old Lace.

• Audio commentary by Stephen Jones and Kim Newman

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)


The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942, dir. Lew Landers)
Filmed on the back of Karloff’s success in Arsenic and Old Lace on Broadway, Columbia’s homicidal screwball comedy cast Hollywood’s foremost ‘boogie man’ as Professor Nathaniel Billings, a scientist intent on creating a race of superman for the war effort in the basement of a historic 18th-century inn. But things getting messy when he sells the place to the enterprising Winnie, while also continuing his experiments with the aid of Dr Lorentz (Peter Lorre), the local sheriff and doctor. Mix in a powder-puff salesman, a fascist planning to blow up a munitions factory, and Winnie’s concerned husband, and all manner of craziness ensues.

This was Karloff last film under his contract with Columbia, and it scored mixed reviews. It is great to see both Karloff and Lorre share quality screen time, but watching this only underlines the questions: just how good would they have been if Karloff had been given a chance to reprise his Arsenic and Old Lace stage role in Frank Capra’s 1944 film adaptation.

• Audio commentary by Kevin Lyons and Jonathan Rigby

• Stills Gallery (production stills, artwork and ephemera)

Karloff on the Radio
Birdsong for a Murderer (22 June 1952) & Death for Sale (13 July 1952)

Godzilla: The Showa-era (1954-1975) | I’m roaring with excitement over Criterion’s beast of a Blu-ray box set

67-years-ago, Japan’s monster movie genre, kaiju-eiga, rose out of the sea in the guise of Godzilla. Over the following decades, Toho’s terrifying symbol of nuclear annihilation has transformed into a superhero in a series of films ranging from serious sci-fi to bubblegum pop. I’ve grown up with Godzilla and his many allies and adversaries, and count Mothra, Ghidora, Hedorah and Mechagodzilla among my favourites of the Shōwa-era (1957-1975).

With Godzilla vs Kong now streaming, I thought it would be the best time to share my thoughts about Criterion’s eight-disc box-set, which I have been watching whilst in lockdown. It features a bonanza of extra content as well as a monster-sized book featuring great artwork*** and new writing about each of the films. Let the roaring begin…

Godzilla (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1954)
In June 1953, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms rampaged through New York where it unleashed a deadly prehistoric contagion before being burned alive in an inferno at Coney Island. Then, in October 1954, Japan faced another radioactive monster from the deep, Gojira.

This superior and deadly serious atomic age sci-fi is an all-time classic and looks better than ever in HD. The human story is a blunt yet purposeful metaphor for Japan’s post-war nuclear holocaust fears, and Eiji Tsuburaya’s special effects and miniature sets are and still look fantastic. But what I love most about this Japanese original is Akira Ifukube’s powerful, yet melancholy score. The US version, featuring Raymond Burr, is also included. 

Godzilla Raids Again (dir. Motoyoshi Oda, 1955)
Released in the US as Gigantis, the Fire Monster, this black and white sequel sees Godzilla going up against his first foe – an ankylosaurus called Anguirus. This time, Osaka’s ancient port city ends up in ruins after the two monsters do battle outside the historical caste. The human story involves a group of convicts whose escape plans go awry when the city’s subway is flooded (in one of the film’s best sequences). Meanwhile, two pilots (Hiroshi Koizumi and Minoru Chiaki) working for a tuna cannery company who end up the film’s unlikely heroes. Anguirus is no match for Godzilla, but the returning titan ends up buried in an avalanche of ice and rock.

King Kong vs Godzilla (dir. Ishiro Honda, Thomas Montgomery, 1963)
After seven years in hibernation, Godzilla rampages once more – and this time in glorious colour. This Toho-Universal co-production (based on an original idea by Willis O’Brien) opens with one of the best sequences in the entire franchise – a giant octopus attacking an island village. Kong defeats the creature, then falls fast asleep after eating some irresistible berry juice. While resting, he’s transported to Japan by a pharmaceutical company who plan to put Kong on show. But with Godzilla on the warpath, it’s not before they engage in some rock-throwing and fire-breathing; with Tokyo once more facing destruction. The wrestling titans end up in an underwater battle after destroying Atami Castle, where the final battle score is 1:1.

Mothra vs Godzilla (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1964)
In the second of 11 films and a 1990s trilogy featuring Toho’s second favourite kaiju character – another slimy entrepreneur plans to turn one of Mothra’s giant eggs into a sideshow attraction. At the same time, Godzilla emerges from his muddy to lay waste the city of Nagoya. A news reporter, a photographer and a professor then head to Infant Island to request the Shobijin (again played by The Peanuts, AKA twin sisters Emi and Yumi Itō) to send Mothra to defeat Godzilla. The duo clash, but Mothra is ultimately defeated. However, all is not lost when the egg hatches two larvae, which then spin a cocoon around Godzilla, and dump him in the sea.

I love this film, almost as much as 1961’s Mothra (check out the Blu-ray from Eureka Entertainment). Yuji Koseki’s catchy Song of Mothra gets revamped by Akira Ifukube, whose The Sacred Springs, sung by The Peanuts, is the film’s standout track. In the US, American Internation Pictures released an edited version under the title Godzilla vs The Thing.

Ghidorah, The Three-Headed Monster (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1964)
Released eight months after Mothra Vs. Godzilla, this monster mash-up sees the franchise getting a bit of an overhaul, with Godzilla now taking on the role of Earth’s protector. This time around, the menace is the titular lightning-emitting space monster who would go on to become Godzilla’s arch-enemy in the Showa series and beyond.

In a nod to Roman Holiday, which did big business in Japan, the story sees a princess of a remote nation (future Bond girl Akiko Wakabayashi) saved from being assassinated by an alien intelligence and used as a prophet of doom. Action star Yosuke Natsuki is the detective tasked with protecting her. While assassins try to kill her, Mothra brokers a deal with Godzilla and the irradiated PteranodonRodan (one of my least favourite kaiju) to join forces to take Gihidorah down. The film’s highlight is Ghidorah’s fiery birth (overseen by an expedition wearing some fab colour-coordinated outfits), and check out the panto-worthy costumes worn by the princess’ royal courtiers.

Invasion of Astro-Monster (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1965)
In the series’ first space adventure, two astronauts – Nick Adams (a dead-ringer for Vladimir Putin) and Akira Takarada – investigate a mysterious new planet under attack from King Ghidorah (Monster Zero). The United Nations agrees to help, by lending them Godzilla and Rodan, but the evil controller of Planet X plans to invade the Earth using all three monsters under his control.

Esi Tsuburaya and his special effects team create some winning designs here (it’s all very Gerry Anderson), mostly the alien landscapes, futuristic weaponry and Planet’s X’s flying saucers (which I’d love to have as a model). And the aliens look cool in their body-hugging vinyl suits and wraparound sunglasses. The monster fight sequences are well-staged (although the wires are very noticeable on Rodan and Ghidorah). There are also some comic antics from Godzilla when he does his victory dance (inspired by Fujio Akatsuka’s manga Oso Matsu-kun, where the main character jumps up in a particular pose while shouting ‘Shie!’).

Ebirah, Horror of the Deep (dir. Jun Fukuda, 1966)
In this South Seas island-set James Bondian adventure, a new team took charge of the film’s direction, score and special effects and it’s quite the colourful confection all to the strains of some jazzy guitar riffs. The story follows young Ryota (Toru Watanabe) as he goes in search for his missing brother on a stolen yacht with two companions and a stowaway (Akira Takarada). After being attacked by the titular Ebirah (a giant lobster), during a storm, they get shipwrecked on an island where The Red Bamboo (a secret army) are building atomic weapons for a planned attack on Japan. Discovering this, the foursome and a young native girl try to help the island’s captive workforce (from Mothra’s Infant Island) to escape. At the same time, Godzilla gets a rude awakening beneath the island. The film’s standout scene is an aerial attack on Godzilla, while Mothra makes a welcome return.

Son of Godzilla (dir. Jun Fukuda, 1967)
This second island adventure from Toho starts off a tad slow but pays off with some great monsters and comic turns from the lead players. A team of scientists are working on a weather control system on Sollgel Island when a mishap results in a radioactive storm, causing the island’s oversized mantises to grow to gigantic size. Godzilla then comes to the rescue when they unearth an egg that hatches a baby Godzilla. As Godzilla teaches his adopted charge, Minilla (AKA Minya), how to use its atomic ray (cue lots of humourous interplay), the scientists, reporters, and island native girls find themselves under attack by a giant spider. But guess who comes to the rescue? I loved the mantises’ design (Kamacuras – AKA Gimantis) and the spider (Kumonga AKA Spiga) here, and the jazzy music is a plus. The only downside for me was Minilla – but little kids loved him.

Destroy All Monsters (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1968)
Toho planned to end the Godzilla series with this monster mash-up and, wanting to out with a bang, reuniting the original 1954 creative team. It’s 1999, and the world’s monsters are now all housed on Monsterland island under the United Nations Science Committee’s watchful eye. But when an alien race called the Kilaaks (who wear a nice line in silver lamé) use mind control on the monsters, all hell breaks loose. Rodan attacks Moscow, Mothra Beijing, Manda London, Baragon Paris and Godzilla New York (beginning with the UN HQ). After the UNSC retaliate by destroying the Kilaaks lunar outpost, the aliens call in King Ghidorah to protect their secret base at Mount Fuji. Godzilla, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Gorosaurus, Anguirus, and Kumonga join forces to take down the fire-breathing serpent. But the Kilaaks have a new surprise: a Fire Dragon.

This was the first Godzilla film I saw (aged seven), and it made me a life-long fan. The action set pieces are well-orchestrated, while the primary coloured sets, costumes and special effects (courtesy of a returning Tsuburaya) are terrific, especially the Moonlight SY-3 spaceship and the Kilaaks saucers. Best scenes are the attack on Tokyo, the battle at Mount Fuji, and the climactic showdown. A massive hit in both Japan and the US (where American International Pictures distributed it), its success meant Godzilla would live to fight another day.

All Monsters Attack (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1969)
OK! This one is a bit of a dud in my book, as it uses footage from the previous films wrapped around the story of a little boy who some kids in his Kawasaki neighbourhood are bullying. At the same time, Godzilla’s annoying son Minilla has similar issues with an ogre-like creature called Gabara. Director Honda, who retired after making this film, regarded it as one of his favourites, as it directly spoke to children (its target audience). It went out under the title, Godzilla’s Revenge, in the US, initially on the same bill as the ‘underrated’ British sci-fi Night of the Big Heat starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Godzilla vs Hedorah (dir. Yoshimitsu Banno, 1971)
Yeah! One of my all-time favourites. Released internationally as Godzilla vs the Smog Monster, this 11th film in the series re-establishes Godzilla as an ecological hero as he comes up against a glowing red-eyed alien spawned from pollution. ‘Hedoro’ (which means polluted mud) is one of my favourite creature designs of the series, and quite similar to the one-eyed tentacle monsters in The Green Slime (1968). Although aimed at younger audiences, and again featuring a little boy at the centre of the action, this latest kaiju features some genuinely scary moments (all the better to highlight the very real problem of out of control pollution in Japan at the time). My fave is when a transformed flying Hedora’s toxic sludge and gas turns people into skeletons.

Set against a trippy hippie backdrop (the club scenes are ‘wild man!’, and check out the crazy paisley clobber and sealife masks!), it also features a kitschy catchy theme tune, Kaese! Taiyô wo (Return! The Sun), which was sung by Keiko Mari in the Japanese version and redone as Save The Earth, written and sung by Adryan Russ, on the US AIP edit (which is the version I first saw). Russ went on to score the Broadway hit Inside Out, and her music also features on TV shows Young Sheldon and WandaVision. It’s such a cool song; here are both versions to enjoy. It’s just a shame that the US edit isn’t included in this box set.

Godzilla vs Gigan (dir. Jun Fukuda, 1972)
Cockroach-like aliens, the Nebulans, take on human form and construct a theme park, World Children’s Land, to serve as their secret base. With their planet dying, they see a polluted Earth as the ideal place to colonise. To aid them in their plan to wipe out humanity, they electronically control two space monsters: King Ghidorah and a reptilian cyborg called Gigan. But a Manga artist stumbles on their plans and, with the help of his karate-kicking girlfriend and hippie sidekick; they alert the Japan Self Defense Forces. Meanwhile, planet protectors Godzilla and Anguirus ally to take down the space monsters and the aliens.

This 12th Godzilla film was a huge success, with returning director Jun Fukuda putting the franchise back on track after the disappointing box-office returns of Godzilla vs Hedora. Designed primarily as a marketing ploy for children’s toys, Gigan (who sports scythe-like claws, abdominal buzz-saw and pincer-like mandibles) is one of Godzilla’s most brutal adversaries, and also the first kaiju in the Toho series to make him bleed. Featuring lashings action and goofiness, and more bloodshed than any previous Godzilla film, this one also introduced a new trope to the series: monster tag teams facing off each other. It also marked Haruo Nakajima’s final performance as Godzilla, which he had played for 24 years.

Godzilla vs Megalon (dir. Jun Fukuda, 1973)
This film sees Godzilla turned into a fully-fledged monster-hero for kids, and with no female characters to speak of, it’s an entirely Boys’ Own adventure. The scenario sees Seatopia’s Emperor Antonio (The Green Slime’s Robert Dunham) retaliating against the surface dwellers nuclear testing by letting loose the underwater kingdom’s protector Megalon, a giant beetle with drillbit arms that spits napalm bombs and shoots death rays. He also calls on space monster Gigan (who looks way less sinister this time around due to the new suit) to join forces to create mass destruction.

Again, a little boy, Rokuro (Hiroyuki Kawase), is at the centre of the action along with his scientist brother Goro (Katsuhiko Sasaki) and his friend Hiroshi (Yutaka Hayashi). Meanwhile, Godzilla is shoved to the sidelines as the film-makers show off their equivalent to the many Ultraman heroes – Jet Jaguar, a flying super robot who gets his own theme tune (you can sing along with it below). Relying mostly on stock footage, it’s pretty unexciting on the SFX side, while the climactic tag-team looks like something out of a 1970s TV wrestling match. Oh, and look carefully during the big pyrotechnic scene as you can see the Godzilla suit catching fire.

Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (dir. Jun Fukuda, 1974)
This penultimate Showa-era kaiju finds Godzilla taking on his space titanium doppelganger. Created by the ape-like Black Hole Planet 3 Aliens, Mechagodzilla (with its head-spinning space beams and finger missiles) is one of my top fave Godzilla adversaries. The robotic menace proved a big hit when it made its debut and has continued to appear in films, comics and video games and is sure to garner a new generation of fans when it rises again in Godzilla vs Kong. Disguised as Godzilla, the giant robot attacks Tokyo but is soon confronted by the real Godzilla and forced to retreat to the alien’s crater base inside Mount Fuji. Much intrigue ensues involving an archaeologist, Interpol agents, and a mystical statue that awakens King Caesar – the ancient guardian of Okinawa’s royal Azumi family. Of course, Mechagodzilla is no match when King Caesar and Godzilla joins forces. 

Terror of Mechagodzilla (dir. Ishiro Honda, 1975)
It’s the end of an era and what better way than to bring back the mighty Mechagodzilla. Again those simian aliens return to finish what they started – the conquest of the Earth. This time around, they rebuild their greatest weapon with living human brain cells and use a young woman, Katsura (Tomoko Ai) – who has been turned into a cyborg by her mad scientist dad – to control its circuitry. Again, Interpol is trying to stop the aliens while Godzilla battles with Mechagodzilla MK2 and one of the campest kaiju monsters of the Showa-era Titanosaurus, a pink-frilled aquatic dinosaur who uses its swishing tail to wreak destruction.

I have a soft spot for this final entry because the excellent production design (especially the alien’s base) reminded me of the early James Bond films and Thunderbirds. And as for Goro Mutsumi’s blue-shades wearing alien leader Akihiko Hirata’s crazed scientist – they are worthy of being in an Austin Powers movie. Great to see Honda back on board and Akira Ifukube composing another excellent score.

BONUS FEATURES
• HD digital transfers of Godzilla, King of the Monsters, the 1956 US-release version of Godzilla; and the 1962 Japanese-release version of King Kong vs Godzilla (which is on disc 8)
• Audio commentaries from 2011 on Godzilla and Godzilla, King of the Monsters featuring film historian David Kalat
• International English-language dub tracks for Invasion of Astro-Monster, Son of Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs Megalon, Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, and Terror of Mechagodzilla
• 1990 Directors Guild of Japan interview with director Ishiro Honda
• Featurettes on the creation of Godzilla’s special effects and unused effects sequences
• New interview with Alex Cox about his admiration for the Showa-era Godzilla films
• New and archival interviews with cast and crew members, including actors Bin Furuya, Tsugutoshi Komada, Haruo Nakajima, and Akira Takarada; composer Akira Ifukube; and effects technicians Yoshio Irie and Eizo Kaimai
• Interview with critic Tadao Sato from 2011
• Illustrated audio essay from 2011 about the real-life tragedy that inspired Godzilla
• New English subtitle translations
• Trailers

*** THE ILLUSTRATORS
Arthur Adams, Sophie Campbell, Becky Cloonan, Jorge Coelho, Geof Darrow, Simon Gane, Robert Goodin, Benjamin Marra, Monarobot, Takashi Okazaki, Angela Rizza, Yuko Shimizu, Bill Sienkiewicz, Katsuya Terada, Ronald Wimberly and Chris Wisnia

Tremors | The 1990 creature feature gets a monster 4K UHD Blu-ray release

1990’s Tremors was a hugely entertaining comedy horror that paid loving homage to the giant monster features of the 1950s. A hit with audiences and critics alike, it spawned a hugely successful franchise on the big and small screen. Now it’s breaking new ground with Arrow Video’s 4k-restored 2-disc special edition release.

In the tiny Nevada desert town of Perfection (population 14), Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward’s repairmen Val and Earl pick the wrong day to leave town for good when four giant earthworm creature start feasting on the local citizens. Trapped along with a group of survivors, Val and Earl unite to save the day – and the world!

Featuring a fantastic ensemble cast, including Family Ties‘ Michael Gross, who went on to appear in all of the sequels, great practical special effects, and lashings of action and humour, Tremors is a modern-day horror-comedy classic. I’ve lost counts the number of times I’ve seen it in various formats (cinema, TV, DVD) and while I don’t (yet) have a UHD player/screen, Arrow’s 4K UHD Blu-ray presentation really sparkled on my Blu-ray home cinema system.

But Arrow has really done themselves proud with the extras, and there are loads. The first disc features two new audio commentaries with director Ron Underwood, writers/producers Brent Maddock and SS Wilson, and Jonathan Melville, author of The Unofficial Guide to Tremors.

There’s also a new making-of documentary (which also revisits the film locations), alongside informative interviews with co-producer Nancy Roberts, DP Alexander Gruszynski, associate producer Ellen Collett, and composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk.

Plus, TV overdubs, on-set camcorder footage about the making of the Graboids (the name that Victor Wong’s store owner Walter gives them), deleted scenes, trailers, TV and radio spots. And ported over from the Universal Blu-ray is the 1995 documentary.

But wait! There’s still more. The second disc has extended interviews from with Underwood, Maddock, Wilson, Roberts and creature designer Alec Gillis, outtakes, and three early short films, including Wilson’s 1975 stop motion short Recorded Live, all remastered in HD. And this monster of a release is packaged with a collector’s book, posters, lobby card repro art cards and new artwork by Matt Frank. Phenomenal!

Buster Keaton: Three Films – Volume 3 (1923-1927) | Our Hospitality, Go West and College on Blu-ray

Congrats once again to Eureka Entertainment for bringing another trio of classics from the silent comedy genius that is Buston Keaton on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. And once again it’s packaged with a host of extras and a fantastic collector’s booklet.

Our Hospitality (1923) – 2k restoration
In this gag-filled take on the infamous Hatfield and McCoy feud, Keaton stars as the luckless William McKay, who is lured into a trap by a rival clan, the Canfields. But knowing that he won’t be killed as long as he remains inside their homestead, he tries to stay put against all obstacles. This was one of Keaton’s most significant features and a breakthrough in his career – it also features a rather scary climax involving some dangerous rapids. Included is a new audio commentary by silent film historian Rob Farr, and the shorter (55min) work-print, Hospitality, presented with a  commentary by film historian Polly Rose. Plus, the video essay Making Comedy Beautiful by Patricia Eliot Tobias.

Go West (1925) – 4k restoration
In this one, Keaton plays the penniless Friendless who ride the rails to work on an Arizona ranch. But when his beloved cow, Brown Eyes (who gets her own credit), seems set for the slaughterhouse, Friendless intervenes… The stand-out scene in this little beauty is a cattle stampede. You also get an audio commentary by film historians Joel Goss and Bruce Lawton, a video essay by John Bengtson on the filming locations, and another one, A Window on Keaton, by David Cairns. Plus, the short film Go West [1923, 12 mins], and a stills gallery.

College (1927) – 2k restoration
Keaton followed up 1926’s The General with this higher education comedy in which he plays the scholarly anti-sports Ronald who tries to win the heart of schoolgirl Mary (Anne Cornwall) by becoming the one thing he is not – an athlete. But when Mary’s jock beau Jeff (Harold Goodwin) tries to force her into marriage, Ronald comes to the rescue… Filled with inventive physical gags, this is my favourite in the set. Also included is a video essay by John Bengtson on College’s filming locations, The Railrodder [1965, 24 mins] starring Keaton in one of his final film roles, optional audio commentary with director Gerald Potterton and cameraman David De Volpi, and an audio Q&A with Potterton [55 mins]. Plus, the documentary Buster Keaton Rides Again [1965, 55 mins], and stills galleries.

Out now on Blu-ray as part of Eureka’s The Masters of Cinema Series.

Mr Vampire | The 1980s Hong Kong horror comedy gets the 2K treatment

From Eureka Entertainment comes Mr Vampire, presented from a brand new 2K restoration and making its worldwide debut on Blu-ray as part of the Eureka Classics range.

A huge hit in its native Hong Kong in the 1980s, this horror-comedy from producer Sammo Hung and director Ricky Lau spawned at least four sequels and countless spin-offs and triggered a wave of jiangshi (‘hopping vampire’) imitations.

Lam Ching-ying stars as supernatural expert Master Kau. When he and his two bumbling students, Man Choi (Ricky Hui) and Chou (Chin Siu-ho), exhume a corpse for reburial, things go hilariously awry when the cadaver is revealed to be a vampire. Blamed for the chaos that ensures, Kau must put the spirits to rest before the vampire’s own granddaughter (Moon Lee) gets bitten. Fighting the undead with everything from sticky rice to filing down the bloodsucker’s fangs, the trio must defeat an increasing number of ghoulish dangers…

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation from a brand new 2K restoration
• Original Cantonese audio (original mono presentations)
• English dub track produced for the film’s original European home video release
• English dub track produced for the film’s original American home video release
• Newly translated English subtitles
• New audio commentary by Asian film expert Frank Djeng
• Alternate end credits
• Archival interview with Chin Siu-hou [40 mins]
• Archival interview with Moon Lee [15 mins]
• Archival interview with Ricky Lau [12 mins]
• Original Hong Kong Trailer
• Limited Edition O-CARD Slipcase with new artwork by Darren Wheeling
• Collector’s Booklet featuring new writing on the film

A Foreign Affair | Billy Wilder’s postwar romantic comedy on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes Billy Wilder’s Oscar-nominated postwar romantic comedy A Foreign Affair on Blu-ray as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

When a US congressional committee flies into occupied Berlin to monitor the morale of American troops, staunchly conservative Iowa congresswoman Phoebe Frost (Jean Arthur) is appalled by the lax attitudes exhibited by the troops. She then also starts her own investigation when she discovers that a popular cabaret singer Erika von Schlütow (Marlene Dietrich) was the former mistress of wanted ex-Gestapo agent Hans Otto Birgel (Peter von Zerneck) and is being protected by a mystery American officer. But when she enlists the services of fellow Iowan Captain John Pringle (John Lund) to root him out, she’s unaware that Pringle’s her man – and now he’s trying to cover his tracks by wooing her…

Shrewd, sharp with a whole lot of heart despite its cynical undertones, this is one of Wilder’s best-loved films, thanks to its winning combination of some amazing location footage of a decimated Berlin, delightful performances (especially Jean Arthur), and the divine Dietrich in sultry fine voice.

SPECIAL FEATURES
· 1080p presentation on Blu-ray
· Uncompressed LPCM 2.0 audio
· Audio commentary by film historian Joseph McBride
· From Berlin to Hollywood: Wilder and Dietrich’s Foreign Affair – A video essay by Kat Ellinger
· Two radio adaptations of A Foreign Affair, broadcast as part of the Screen Directors Playhouse in 1949 and 1951. Featuring Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Rosalind Russell, John Lund, and Lucille Ball
· Archival interview with Billy Wilder
· Theatrical trailer
· Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by film historian Alexandra Heller-Nicholas; a new essay by critic Richard Combs; and archival material

Buster Keaton: 3 Films (Volume 2) | The Navigator, Seven Chances and Battling Butler get a 4K restoration on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes a second collection of essential films from silent comedy genuis Buster Keaton, presented as part of The Masters of Cinema Series.

Between 1920 and 1929, Buster Keaton created a peerless run of feature films that established him as ‘arguably the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies’. Collected here are three further films from that era; The Navigator (1924), Seven Chances (1925) and Battling Butler (1926), and each one is presented in 4K restorations.

The Navigator (1924, dir. Buster Keaton & Donald Crisp) – Wealthy Rollo Treadway – a character who forms one of Keaton’s gallery of rich nitwits and was first seen in his first feature The Saphead (1920) – suddenly decides to propose to his neighbour across the street, Betsy (Kathryn McGuire), and sends his servant to book passage for a honeymoon sea cruise to Honolulu. When Betsy rejects his sudden offer, he decides to go on the trip anyway, boarding without delay that night. Because the pier number is partially covered, he ends up on the wrong ship, which Betsy’s rich father has just sold to a small country at war.

When 1924’s Sherlock Jr bombed with critics and public alike, Keaton endeavoured to make a follow-up that was both exciting and successful and so provided himself with the biggest prop he could lay his hands on to show off his comic mastery: an ocean liner. The result was the biggest hit of his career, with glowing reviews – The New York Times called it ‘an excellent panacea for melancholia or lethargy, as it is filled with ludicrous and intensely humorous situations’. It is now widely rated as Keaton’s finest feature apart from The General.

Seven Chances (1925, dir. Buster Keaton) – Jimmy Shannon (Keaton) learns he is to inherit $7million, with a catch. He will only get the money if he is married by 7pm on his 27th birthday, which happens to be that same day! What follows is an incredible series of escalating set-pieces. This one did big business at the box office and includes one of the best chase sequences of any Keaton movie.

Battling Butler (1926, dir. Buster Keaton). Keaton’s character, Rollo Treadway, resurfaces here and this time his dandy pretends to be a champion boxer keen to impress the family of the girl he loves. But when the real champ shows up, he decided to humiliate the imposter by having him fight the ‘Alabama Murderer’! Battling Butler actually did better box-office business than The General, and was one of Keaton’s personal favourites (although the critics were in two minds). It was also one of Martin Scorsese’s inspirations when he was making 1980’s Raging Bull, especially Butler’s final, uncomic fight.

Eureka Entertainment’s limited edition (3000) 3-disc Blu-ray release includes the following special features…

• 1080p presentations from the Cohen Film Collection’s 4K restorations, with musical scores composed and conducted by Robert Israel
The Navigator: audio commentary by silent film historians Robert Arkus and Yair Solan
Seven Chances: audio commentary by film historian Bruce Lawton
• Video essay by David Cairns covering all three films
The Navigator: documentary on the making of the film by Bruce Lawton
• Buster Keaton & Irwin Allen audio interview (1945, 6min)
• Buster Keaton & Arthur Friedman audio interview (1956, 32min)
• Buster Keaton & Robert Franklin audio interview (1958, 56min)
• Buster Keaton & Herbert Feinstein audio interview from 1960 [1960, 48min)
• Buster Keaton & Studs Terkel audio interview from 1960 [1960, 38min)
What! No Spinach? (1926, dir. Harry Sweet, 19min): Comedy short by US actor/director Harry Sweet, that riffs elements from Seven Chances
• Collector’s book featuring new writing and archival writing and imagery

Arrow Video FrightFest – Twenty Blood Years | Day Three – Vlogging scares, a killer drone and the return of stoners Jay and Silent Bob

While temperatures rose on the streets of London on Saturday, the air-con kept everyone super chilled inside Cineworld Leicester Square (a little too much so for me) during Day Three of the festival. Meanwhile, over at the Prince Charles Cinema there was the first short film showcase which featured some excellent pieces, including folk horror Marianne, the Oz vampire flick The Hitchhiker, The Video Store Commercial and the occult chiller The Cunning Man. I must say, there were a few duds today on the main screens (and many of my FrightFesters felt the same), but here’s three that caught my interest for differing reasons…

DEATH OF A VLOGGER
YouTuber Graham (Graham Hughes) gains viral fame after one of his eerie videos contains an alleged out-of-this-world haunting. But when it’s revealed that it’s all a hoax, he kills himself. But was it?

Any time someone mentions ‘found footage’, I feel a shudder down my spin — the genre is an instant turn-off for me, as it opens itself up to some shoddy, cheapskate ways of making a film. But Graham Hunghes’ viral mockumentary was a genuine surprise. I found myself totally absorbed and taken on the journey, which is all about internet fame and social media shaming and, as such, is bang-on as to what’s happening around us today. Its well-executed, with a cleverly-crafted mix of head-shot interviews, archive material, ripped YouTube content and some unexpected frights; and all the characters have a well-crafted trajectory (and some interesting insights into the human psyche). Deffo one to check out.

DAUGHTER OF DISMAY
I really wanted to see Critters Attack!, but with it being sold out I opted to catch The Drone, which was preceded by this visually-stunning 9-minute short. Shot in 70mm IMAX with great pedigree in the crew department (including The Conjuring composer Joseph Bishara), this visually-stunning occult chiller involves a witch (Ieva Agnostic) attempting to resurrect her daughter (Dajana Rajic) from the dead by invoking a demon (Krist Mort). The scene in which she cuts her arm was probably the single most disturbing thing I have seen so far at the festival (I had to look away, it was so realistic). Director James Quinn is hoping to turn this into a feature. And I hope he does.

THE DRONE
Just before the police break into his home, serial killer The Violator (Neil Sandilands) invokes black magic and downloads his soul into the commercial drone he used to stalk victims. Finding the abandoned drone while moving into their new smart house, just-married Rachel (Alex Essoe) and Chris (John Brotherton) are happy to claim the device as their own. But when strange things begin to occur, they gradually realise the full horror of adopting the psychotic equipment…

The fact that this comedy horror comes from Jordan Rubin, the director of Zombeavers, should have alerted me as to what I was about to see. Yes, its tongue-in-cheek with a definite Empire Pictures vibe and a cheesy synth score that’s part-Richard Band, part Henry Manfredini, but its also down-right ludicrous with two lead characters that you just want to see die. Not because they are exceptionally good-looking (well that’s a big factor), but because they are just so stupid in their actions in dealing with the murderous drone.

I counted a number of instances when they should have just either tossed it back in the bin they found it in, or smashed it. And why does Rachel insist on having the dreaded contraption sit beside her when she keeps shouting, ‘I hate that drone’ and ‘I hate technology’? Of course, this is Rubin’s sledgehammer way of commenting on consumerism and our attachment to technology. The only sensible character in this farrago is Hector, the couple’s dog, whose efforts to try and warn his masters of the impending danger results in him being tied to a post out the backyard.

When Anita Briem’s cougar neighbour Corrine is sliced and diced by the drone, Chris becomes the prime suspect in her murder, which means the couple must now set out to clear his name. This is when the ludicrous plot turns ridiculous, as they hire a private investigator and track down The Violator’s brother, who has just given the possessed drone an upgrade (complete with razor sharp blades and audio speakers). Cue the climactic showdown, a not-so big reveal and a LOL twist ending that hints at (please no!), a sequel.

MADNESS IN THE METHOD
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) of Clerks fame reunite in Mewes’ directing debut. Playing an alternative version of his ‘Jay’ persona, Mewes wants to reinvent himself as a serious actor and sets out to land a coveted lead role in a major studio film. Upon advice from Smith, he tracks down a secret book outlining all the mysteries of the Method Acting process. But rather than following the rules, he decides to read the whole book at once — which has disastrous consequences.

Mewes’ self-reverential crime comedy is a bit of a mixed bag and frankly overstays its welcome by about mid-way through its 100-minute running time. But it does feature some wickedly funny cameos. Vinnie Jones, who is framed for the murder that Mewes commits (which sets the action in motion), is pure dynamite – in more ways than one, Casper Van Dien makes for a great bitchy queen, a feather-boa wearing Danny Trejo taps into his feminine side, Dean Cain is terrific as the Superman star hiding from his adoring fans (even though no one actually recognises him), and his old former co-star Teri Hatcher is terrific as a multi-tasking talent agent. There’s also a poignant final on-screen appearance from Marvel icon Stan Lee (and the film is dedicated in his memory). Mewes’ has certainly put his heart and soul into his pet project, but I wasn’t convinced that a horror film festival was the right fit for this screwball comedy.

BEST LINE (from Danny Trejo)
‘It’s not gay so long as the balls don’t touch the chin’

Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase

One of the big highlights at FrightFest are the terrific short films from around the globe that get their own showcase over the weekend, and there’s something for everyone this year – from folk horror (Marianne) to body horror (The History of Nipples), the weird (The Cunning Man), the surreal (Five Course Meal), the sinister (Service) and the very odd indeed (The Video Store Commercial).

There are just a handful of tickets left for Showcase 1 and 2… just click on the links below

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA from 1pm

Wither 
Director: Ethan Evans. Cast: Lamissah La-Shontae, Phillipa Howard. UK 2019. 4 min.
A young girl finds herself vulnerable to a sinister mythological farmer after failing to contribute to the annual tradition.

Hana 
Director: Mai Nakanishi. Cast: Hee-jin Jeon, Do Eun Kim, Jeongbi Lee. Japan 2018. 13 min.
Not all babysitting jobs are alike, as college student Sujin is about to discover when she is left in charge of a strange young girl.

Marianne 
Director: Matthew Losasso. Cast: Mae Losasso. UK 2019. 7 min.
A distinguished investigator is called to the grounds of an isolated rectory in a remote English hamlet to observe an enigmatic young tenant.

The Hitchhiker 
Director: Adele Vuko. Cast: Liv Hewson, Brooke Satchwell. Australia 2018. 13 min.
Jade and her friends are on their way to a music festival when they pick up a strange hitchhiker, who makes Jade an offer she might not be able to refuse.

The Dead Ones 
Director: Stefan Georgiou. Cast: Olivia Hallinan, Sebastian Armesto, Vinette Robinson. UK 2019. 19 min.
In this world, those whose lives are cut short by violence do not disappear; they live to haunt the person who killed them.

Abyssus
Director: Kim Westerlund. Cast: Sampo Sarkola. Finland 2019. 9 min.
A man regains consciousness as he is being buried alive. Overwhelmed by panic, he tries to force his way out of the box.

Glitter’s Wild Women
Director: Roney. Cast: Grace Glowicki, Cotey Pope. Canada 2018. 13 min.
In the Canadian backwoods, sisters harvest and smoke glitter that gives them super strength.

The Video Store Commercial 
Director: Cody Kennedy. Cast: Joshua Lenner, Kevin Martin, Jesse Nash. Canada 2019. 4 min.
A desperate video store owner hires a crew to shoot a commercial in his shop. But when they accidentally destroy a cursed VHS, suddenly, all their lives are in danger.

The Cunning Man 
Director: Zoë Dobson. Cast: Simon Armstrong, Ali Cook, Ian Kelly. UK 2019. 13 min.
An old farmer must resort to extreme measures to clean up his dead cattle or face a hefty fine from the Inspector.

The History of Nipples 
Director: Bailey Tom Bailey. Cast: Joseph Macnab, Lily Wood. UK 2019. 10 min.
‘What are my nipples for?’ With this question Ron falls into an existential crisis which seems to have only one solution.

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2
SUNDAY 25 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 15:45

Service 
Director: Theo Watkins. Cast: Paul Clayton, Alison Lintott. UK 2019. 8 min.
Ted is just trying to pay for his shopping, but the shoddy self-service till and eerily elusive shop workers have other, more sinister ideas.

One in Two People 
Director: Ali Mashayekhi. Cast: Katie Strain, Jade Hassoune, Ashley Leggat. Canada 2019. 8 min.
Emily’s friends are getting a bit tired of her insistence that someone in her room is trying to kill her. But maybe they should listen more closely.

Old Beginnings 
Director: Suni Khan. Cast: Hannah Arterton, Lewis Reeves. UK 2019. 16 min.
A young couple trying to rid themselves of the past use an unorthodox and bizarre ritual as they rekindle their love.

Tomorrow Might Be the Day
Director: Josefa Celestin. Cast: Jocelyn Brassington, Tim Barrow. UK 2018. 20 min.
A fanatical believer sets into motion a chain of dark events that he believes will spare his rebellious niece from the impending apocalyptic doom.

Five Course Meal
Director: James Cadden. Cast: Melissa Kwasek, Murray Farnell. Canada 2018. 6 min.
Mark and Jenny agree to take part in a mysterious experiment for money. Things get exceptionally messy.

Under the Parasol 
Director: Stanislava Buevich. Cast: Sarine Sofair, Joe Wredden. UK 2018. 6 min.
Marie comes to the beach to catch some sun. The only problem is that it’s nighttime…

Makr 
Director: Hana Kazim. Cast: Mansoor Alfeeli, Mohammed Ahmed, Madiya Humaid. United Arab Emirates, 2018. 15 min.
A fake exorcist visits the home of a man who thinks his wife is possessed by a Djinn, only to find out that things are not as they seem.

Patron 
Directors: Emily Haigh, Alon Young, Cast: Mhairi Calvey, Jamie Lee-Hill. UK 2019. 11 min.
Vickie has her employment sights set high, but the questions from her faceless male interviewers soon become predatory.

The Obliteration of the Chickens 
Director: Izzy Lee. Cast: Bracken MacLeod. USA 2019. 3 min.
The universe does not care. The abyss is stupid. Existence is banal.

Torching the Dusties 
Directors: Marlene Goldman, Philip McKee. Cast: Clare Coulter, Eric Peterson. Canada 2019. 14 min.
Frank and Wilma are finding that retirement life is more trouble than they had imagined, as protestors appear outside making some very serious demands.

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 3 ***SOLD OUT***
MONDAY 26 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 13:00

Pig 
Director: Evan Powers. Cast: Aaron LaPlante, Lindsey Rose Naves, C.J. Vana. USA 2019. 8 min.
A self-conscious psychopath struggles with his body image while terrorizing a group of unsuspecting campers.

One Last Meal 
Director: Jill Gevargizian. Cast: Matt Mercer, Jake Martin, Tim Marks. USA 2019. 11 min.
A prison guard is forced to fulfil an unusual request from a violent criminal on death row.

Dog Skin
Director: Tiago Teixeira. Cast: Maxwell Cavenham, Laura Obiols. UK 2019. 13 min.
A man in a self-imposed exile is haunted by a mysterious dog, who transforms into an elusive woman every night.

Re-Possessed Homes 
Director: Matthew Evans Landry. Cast: Natalie Lisinksa, Jordan Gavaris. Canada 2018. 15 min.
Shirley Parker is a real-estate godsend who has discovered a niche market. However, it might put her family in some danger.

Hunting Season 
Director: Shannon Kohli. Cast: Hannah Levien, Luke Camilleri. Canada 2018. 11 min.
It’s a creepy evening when gas station attendant and recovering alcoholic Callie must deal with a wild beast roaming the area, and the men who are determined to hunt it down.

This Little Death 
Director: Alex Hardy. Cast: Sarah Bauer, Jay Simpson. UK 2018. 19 min.
Young chef Zoe who falls for Mortimer the poet. The beginning is filled with love, lust and laughter, but as the months pass, they realise they have very different ideas of happiness.

Toe 
Directors: Neal O’Bryan, Chad Thurman. Cast: Cassie Carey. USA 2019. 7 min.
A starving boy eats a toe he finds sticking out of the ground. Later that night, something ghastly comes to his bedroom wanting it back.

Midnight 
Director: Katie Bonham. Cast Eleanor Crosswell, Ian Recordon. UK 2019. 8 min.
A ticking clock. Hurried footsteps. A woman struggling. Who are the ghosts that come haunting your apartment at the stroke of twelve?

The Game of the Clock 
Director: Michele Olivieri. Cast: Simone Mumford. UK 2018. 7 min.
A young woman innocently comes to a friend’s home, only to find herself stalked by menacing creature, and time is running out fast.

Sleep Tight 
Director: Lewis Taylor. Cast: Mark Field, Joseph Richard Thomas, Péline Liberty. UK 2019. 8 min.
A wheelchair-bound teen complains about lack of personal space to his overly attached father. But maybe he shouldn’t complain when the lights go out.

Leprechaun Returns (2018) | The tiny terror is back for his gold and some LOL revenge!

Leprechaun Returns

When the sorority sisters of Alpha Upsilon and their hunky tech help decide to go ‘green’ and use an old well as their water source at their new rented desert property, Townie Ozzie (Mark Holton) unwittingly awakens the leprechaun who, 25 years before, was seeking out a pot of gold. Now, the pint-sized wise-cracker (Channel Zero’s Linden Porco) embarks on a killing spree in order to achieve his treasure…

Leprechaun Returns

This is the eighth entry in the horror franchise, that started back in 1993 (with Warwick Davis playing the lead role over six films). It also serves as a direct sequel to the original with Mark Holton reprising his role as dim-witted Ozzie.

Directed by Steven Kostanski (part of the Canadian Astron-6 team, who were behind Manborg, Father’s Day and The Void), this is a horror tickbox cackle-fest, boasting some quotable one-liners and some inventive death scenes – watch out for the solar slicer, the sprinkler silencer and drone decapitator.

Leprechaun Returns

Leprechaun Returns is released by Lionsgate on all digital platforms from 11 December, including:

  • Sky Store
  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Google Play
  • Virgin Movies (TVOD Only)
  • Talk Talk
  • XBOX
  • Sony PlayStation
  • Rakuten TV
  • Chili TV

iTunes Exclusive Special Features:
• Going Green with director Steven Kostanski Behind the Scenes
• Still Gallery

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