Category Archives: Cult classic
From Eureka! Entertainment comes director Robert Aldrich’s brooding murder mystery, Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, starring Bette Davis, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
Don’t Tell Anyone What Happened In The Summer House!
Tended by her loyal servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead), Charlotte Hollis (Bette Davis) has been closeted in her family’s plantation mansion ever since the brutal murder of her married lover, John Mayhew (Bruce Dern) 37 years earlier. When the local county plans to tear down the house to build a highway, the spinster seeks the help of her New York-based cousin Miriam (Olivia de Havilland), but Charlotte’s mind soon becomes unhinged when she sees visions of John’s decapitated hand and hearing the song he composed for her wafting through the mansion late at night. Has his ghost really come back to haunt her or is someone trying to drive Charlotte insane?
Regarded as Aldrich’s informal follow-up to What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, this splendidly macabre psychological thriller deservedly stands on its own merits, especially considering its seven Academy Award nominations, including a Best Supporting Actress gong for Agnes Moorehead. She is simply splendid as the dishevelled Velma, who is quick to alert the authorities and an insurance investigator (a twinkly Cecil Kellaway) about her suspicions. Moorehead’s old Mercury Theatre pal, Joseph Cotton, meanwhile, chews the scenery big time as the bourbon-soaked Dr Drew Bayliss, who jilted Miriam after the murder.
In her last film role is The Maltese Falcon‘s Mary Astor. ‘Turn her loose, Robert, you might learn something!’ was Davis’ famous on-set comment about the veteran actress whose scenes as John’s seriously-ill widow Jewel are the antithesis of Davis’ full-blown hysterics. Nevertheless, Davis brings much pathos to Charlotte (especially in the last half of the film), while Olivia de Havilland (who sensationally replaced Joan Crawford) gives sterling support as the butter-wouldn’t-melt Miriam, who is hiding a few dark secrets of her own.
With its atmospheric black and white cinematography (from Aldrich regular Joseph Biroc), meticulous art direction (from William Glasgow and Raphael Bretton), cracking script (from Baby Jane novelist Henry Farrell), ghoulish special effects and nightmarish set pieces, not to mention the memorably haunting theme tune (from Frank De Vol and Mack David), this is a classic murder mystery of the highest order and one that can be revisited over and over..
Watch out for George Kennedy as the demolition foreman, Ellen Corby as one of the town’s gossips, and a couple of faces from Baby Jane, including Victor Buono as Charlotte’s domineering father whom she believed killed John.
Favourite line: ‘Don’t turn on the light. It’s not real when it’s light. It’s only real when it’s dark… dark and still!’
Eureka! Entertainment presents Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte as part of their Masters of Cinema Series for the first time on Blu-ray in the UK with the following extras…
• 1080p presentation
• LPCM 2.0 Audio
• Optional English SDH subtitles
• Audio commentary by critic Kat Ellinger
• Audio commentary by film historian Glenn Erickson
• Hush…Hush, Sweet Joan: The Making of Charlotte [22 mins]
• Bruce Dern Remembers [13 mins]
• Wizard Work [5 mins] – archival behind-the-scenes look at the film, narrated by Joseph Cotton
• Stills Gallery
• Trailer & TV spots
• Collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Lee Gambin, illustrated with archival imagery
Available to order from Zavvi at http://po.st/vIhZja
DID YOU KNOW?
Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte, which was shot on location at the historic Houmas plantation in Burnside, Louisiana, was originally going to be called What Ever Happened to Cousin Charlotte? However, Bette Davis disliked the title as it indicated a sequel to Baby Jane, so it was she who suggested using Frank De Vol/Mack David’s song title instead. Crooner Al Martino (who sings the tune over the closing credits) released it as a B-side of his January 1965 single release My Heart Would Know, which reached No.52 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bette Davis, Patti Page, Richard Chamberlain and even the UK’s very own Bruce Forsyth all released their own versions of the melody.
Renowned for his imaginative and eccentric marketing ploys, American film showman William Castle became synonymous with delivering lurid horror films backed-up by his trademark publicity gimmicks like Illusion-O, Percepto and Fright Breaks. Now, Powerhouse Films/Indicator are releasing eight of his classic films in two highly-collectable Blu-ray box-sets…
WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA, VOLUME ONE features four classic fright films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures and presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras, this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set is strictly limited to 6,000 copies. Out on 22 October 2018 PURCHASE HERE
• High Definition remasters of all four films: THE TINGLER (1959), 13 GHOSTS (1960), HOMICIDAL (1961), MR SARDONICUS (1961)
• Original mono audio
• Two presentations of 13 Ghosts: the original ‘Illusion-O’ presentation and the alternative black-and-white version
• The Tingler audio commentary by Jonathan Rigby, author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema, and Kevin Lyons, editor of The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Film and Television
• Homicidal audio commentary by author and film historian Lee Gambin
• Mr Sardonicus audio commentary with Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan and Kat Ellinger
• Spine-Tingler! The William Castle Story (2007, 82 mins): Jeffrey Schwarz’s acclaimed documentary on Castle, featuring interviews with John Landis, Joe Dante, Roger Corman, Stuart Gordon, Leonard Maltin, Budd Boetticher, Bob Burns, David Del Valle, Fred Olen Ray and John Waters among others
• Larger Than Life: The Making of ‘Spine-Tingler’ (2007)
• Kim Newman on ‘The Tingler’ (2018): an appreciation by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
• Scream for Your Lives!: William Castle and ‘The Tingler’
• I Survived ‘The Tingler’ (2007): an interview with actor Pamela Lincoln
• Unleashing Percepto (2007): an interview with publicist Barry Lorie
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘13 Ghosts’ (2018): an appreciations by the acclaimed horror author
• The Magic of ‘Illusion-O’: William Castle and ’13 Ghosts’
• Psychette: William Castle and ‘Homicidal’
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Homicidal’ (2018)
• The Punishment Poll (2007): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
• Taking the Punishment Poll: William Castle and ‘Mr Sardonicus’
• Jonathan Rigby meets ‘Mr Sardonicus’ (2018): an appreciation by the film historian and author of American Gothic
• Ballyhoo!: Bob Thomas recalls the time he interviewed William Castle
• Original theatrical trailers
• Trailer commentaries with Sam Hamm, Stuart Gordon and Joe Dante
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets with new essays by Kat Ellinger, Dan Whitehead, Rebecca Nicole Williams and Jo Botting, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews, and film credits
WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA VOLUME TWO features four more weird and wonderful films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures, all presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set from Indicator is strictly limited to 6,000 units. Released 10 December 2018. PRE-ORDER HERE
• High Definition remasters of all four films: ZOTZ! (1962), 13 FRIGHTENED GIRLS (1963), THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1963), STRAIT-JACKET (1964)
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentations of The Old Dark House – the black and white 1963 US theatrical presentation (87 mins); the cut-down A-certificate 1966 UK presentation (77 mins); and the complete uncut colour presentation (87 mins)
• Zotz! audio commentary by Diabolique Magazine’s editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger
• 13 Frightened Girls audio commentary by Daughters of Darkness’ Samm Deighan
• The Old Dark House audio commentary by celebrated horror and fantasy authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
• Strait-Jacket audio commentary film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood
• Stephen Laws Introduces ‘Zotz!’ (2018): an appreciation by the acclaimed horror author
• Kim Newman on Ray Russell (2018): an appreciation of novelist and writer of Zotz! by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies
• 13 Frightened Girls: William Castle’s original ‘The Candy Web’ opening / closing ‘Danger Card’ messages
• 13 Frightened Girls: four alternativee opening sequences created for international release versions
• Jonathan Rigby on ‘The Old Dark House’ and ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2018): new appreciations by the author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema
• ‘The Old Dark House’ in Eastmancolor (2018): Paul Frith, Senior Research Associate, School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA discusses the film’s cinematography
• Joan Had Me Fired! (2018): an interview with actor Anne Helm
• On the Road with Joan Crawford (2018): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn
• Battle-Axe: The Making of ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2007, 15 mins)
• Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests (1964, 4 mins)
• Joan Crawford – Axe Test (1964, 1 min)
• How to Plan a Movie Murder (1964, 5 mins): star Joan Crawford, director William Castle and author Robert Bloch discuss making Strait-Jacket in this vintage piece
• Super 8 version of Strait-Jacket
• Isolated music & effects track on all four films
• Original theatrical trailers
• Strait-Jacket trailer commentary with David DeCoteau
• 13 Frightened Girls original UK trailer introduction
• Alternative 13 Frightened Girls ‘The Candy Web’ trailer
• Promotional and on-set photography, poster art and archive materials
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Limited Edition box set exclusive booklets for each film with new essays by Joe Jordan, Racheal Nisbet, James Oliver and John Oliver, archival interview materials, contemporary reviews and film credits
Death Line (1972) | Mind the doors! – Gary Sherman’s grim but moving London Underground cannibal cult horror gets the HD remaster treatment
Fans of classic British horror need no introduction to director Gary Sherman’s London Underground-set cannibal film Death Line. Nearly 50 years on from its release on 12 October 1972 (in the UK), this oddly moving cult still packs a mighty punch, and features a standout turn from Donald Pleasence.
Previously available only on DVD and VHS (remember those?), Death Line (which got recut and renamed Raw Meat in the US) has been newly scanned to 2k resolution from the original 35mm camera negative for an exclusive UK Blu-ray release from Network – and it looks and sounds bloody fantastic! Finally time to ditch my second gen VHS!
Here’s my take on the exploitation cult, ‘But first were gonna get some tea… MARRRRSHAL!!!’
Following a visit to Soho’s strip joints, James Manfred, OBE (a sleazy James Cossins, from Fawlty Towers and Doctor Who fame) is attacked by a feral-looking bloke at Russell Square tube station. Finding him collapsed by a stairwell, university student Patricia (Patricia Gurney) and her American boyfriend Alex (David Ladd) alert a local police officer, but when they return to the scene – there’s no sign of the politician.
Assigned to investigate, Inspector Calhoun (Donald Pleasence), takes an instant dislike to the youngsters and continues to question them, then finds himself being warned off the case by a secretive MI5 handler (Christopher Lee). Meanwhile, the assailant (Hugh Armstrong) is revealed to be one of the last surviving members of a family of railway workers who became trapped underground after a cave-in in 1892, and resorted to cannibalism in order to survive. When his female companion dies, ‘The Man’ flies into a rage and kills three maintenance workers – then, when Patricia, finds herself alone on the tube at Holborn Station – he knocks her out and takes her back to his lair. Will she become his next meal – or does he just wants some company?
Writer/Director Gary Sherman has crafted a neat little fright film that belies its exploitation label, for at its dark heart lies a tragic class consciousness love story in which Armstrong brings great sympathy to the grotesque and violent cannibal, who resembles a destitute Jesus meets Rasputin, but with the shuffling gait of Boris Karloff’s drunken mute butler Morgan from James Whales’ Old Dark House. Despite his murderous impulses following the sad death of his partner, you can’t help but pity ‘The Man’ as he is credited in the film; and that’s compounded when he tries and fails to communicate with Patricia using the only words he knows: ‘Mind the doors!’.
Then there’s Donald Pleasence’s fantastic turn as the abrasive, tea-loving, hippie-hating Inspector Calhoun – who loves Queen and country, but despises his upper class MI5 superiors and even more so philandering politicians. He has some great scenes (particular with Heather Stoney’s WPC Alice Marshall and Norman Rossington’s DS Rogers) and gets in some lines like: ‘That’s handy, pop round and see if he’s a nutter!’ and ‘Get ur bloody hair cut!’. Alongside Alfred Marks’ Superintendent Bellaver in 1970’s Scream and Scream Again, Pleasence’s Calhoun most certainly gave rise to the sweary likes of John Thaws’ DI Jack Regan in TV’s The Sweeney a couple of years later.
Cinematographer Alex Thomson (who became Nicolas Roeg’s favourite camera operator) provides the stylishly grim imagery, making atmospheric use of the dark and dingy real life London Underground locations (it was partly filmed at Aldwych). So effective where these scenes that London Underground took offence to the subject matter and banned its advertising on any station platform! Meanwhile, Wil Mallone and Jeremy Rose’s rumbustious soundtrack is another highlight, perfectly capturing the sleazy vibe of Soho’s strip joints, while also chiming with the film’s sadder moments.
Keep an eye out for Keeping Up Appearances‘ Clive Swift as a detective and Christopher Lee (in just one scene) as the suited and booted bureaucrat.
Network’s exclusive UK Blu-ray release, includes the following special features…
• Mind the Doors!: an engaging interview with actor Hugh Armstrong, talking about his life and career
• Theatrical Trailer
• Image Gallery
• PDF Material
• Collector’s booklet
As today (10 August) marks the 58th anniversary of the Italian release of Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (aka La maschera del demonio) back in 1960, what better way to celebrate than by re-visiting the 2013 Arrow Video Blu-ray.
In 17th-century Moldavia, princess Asa (Barbara Steele) is sentenced to a cruel death for sorcery and adultery – a spiked mask is driven into her face. Two centuries later, Asa and her devil-worshipping lover Igor rise from their crypts to destroy the descendants of Asa’s cursed family…
1960’s Black Sunday (aka The Mask of Satan) is one of the most significant films in the annals of horror cinema. It was Mario Bava’s directorial debut and launched Barbara Steele‘s career as the decade’s queen of horror. Evoking the Universal horrors of the 1930s and 1940s, while still offering the modern shocks found in Hammer films like The Curse of Frankenstein, Black Sunday gave Bava the chance to hone the romantic style that he had fashioned co-directing Riccardo Freda’s 1957 horror, I Vampiri.
The result is a hauntingly-beautiful gothic chiller, with a host of classic sequences – from Asa’s grisly execution (which resulted in the film being banned in the UK for eight years) to Igor’s frightening resurrection – that have become staples of the horror genre, influencing a host of film-makers, from Roger Corman to Tim Burton. And behind the fake cobwebs and fog-shrouded sets, the gothic horror also contained a key theme that would recur in later Bava films: the eradication of desire by men fearful of female sexuality. But that’s another story…
THE ARROW RELEASE
Vintage horror completists will certainly want to add Arrow Video’s dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) 2013 release to their collection as it greatly improves on the 1999 DVD version.
While that did contain the director’s cut (aka The Mask of Satan), Arrow’s release allows you the choice of either the English or Italian soundtrack. And, in a must-have first, it also includes the US theatrical cut of Black Sunday, featuring a score by exotica maestro Les Baxter, and dubbing that is marginally better than the director’s cut.
First up is the European (Mask of Satan) Director’s Cut with the option of either Italian with subtitles or English audio, next is the big-one (and unique to this release): the US AIP theatrical cut (under the title Black Sunday) with the option of either Italian with English subtitles or the English dub (which is different – and marginally better – to the European cut). It also features the US score by exotica maestro Les Baxter.
The extras maybe the same as the 1999 release (an 8-minute interview with Barbara Steele, and the excellent Tim Lucas audio commentary), but also included is the rarely-seen 1957 Italian horror, I Vampiri (in Standard Definition, but looks great), which was directed by Riccardo Freda but completed Bava. Topping it all is the suitably atmospheric artwork from British illustrator extraordinaire Graham Humphreys.
1932’s The Old Dark House is arguably director James Whale’s greatest cinematic feat, a macabre queer comedy disguised as a horror, delightfully acted (by lots of Brits abroad), and fused together with Whale’s stylistic, sardonic humour, well-knit scenario witty and insightful screenplay, and moody camerawork, lighting and production design. It is, quite possibly, the best British horror ever made – in Hollywood.
Taking its queues from JB Priestley’s 1927 novel, Benighted, and the ‘Old House’ chillers of stage and screen, Whale’s storm-driven adaptation finds five weary travellers becoming stranded at the ominous Welsh mansion of the reclusive and very strange Femm family, who are all quite possibly all insane. What follows is a wicked parody of the British class system, and one that features a performance from Ernest Thesiger that outshines even his iconic turn as Dr Pretorius in Whale’s The Bride of Frankenstein a couple of years later.
Thesiger plays Horace Femm, a sniffy little man, who is probably wanted by the police (for crimes we can only imagine) and has seething contempt for everything and everyone. He owns the house along with his pious half-deaf sister Eva (beautifully played by Eva Moore), and their scenes together provide the film with its most memorable moments and best lines: like ‘Have a potato’ and ‘How reassuring’.
Gloria Stuart and Raymond Massey play married socialite couple Margaret and Philip, while Melvyn Douglas is their playboy friend Roger. When a landslide forces them off the road, they seek shelter with the Femms; and are soon joined by Charles Laughton (making his screen debut and speaking his in native Yorkshire tongue) and Lilian Bond, who play the self-made businessman Sir William Porterhouse and chorus girl Gladys. But with no beds on offer, they are all forced to spend the evening huddle together around a fireplace after a frugal meal of roast, gravy and – yes- potatoes…
But it’s not long before the Femms skeletons starting coming out of the closet as the lights go out and the group are soon menaced by Boris Karloff’s mute butler Morgan, who hits the bottle and goes on a drunken rampage, which results in the release of Femm’s pyromaniac brother Saul (Brember Wills) from his locked attic room…
Whale’s shows off his perverse sense of humour through the stylistic, expressionistic camerawork (by Arthur Edeson, who also shot Frankenstein) in some very memorable scenes: like when Horace announces, ‘My sister was on the point of arranging these flowers’, then summarily throws them into the fireplace. Another is when Morgan makes his menacing entrance, and a particularly surreal funhouse mirror shot of Margaret and Rebecca, their features distorted in a vanity mirror. Then there’s the terrific trick shot of Morgan coming down the stairs only to reveal the hand on the banister is not his…
Packed to the rafters with morbid mirth and a sly wink at class and society, this is one of the most entertaining horror films of the 1930’s. The Masters of Cinema Series special dual format edition of James’s Whales’ queer comedy horror features a stunning 1080p presentation from the Cohen Media Group 4K restoration (with a progressive encode on the DVD), uncompressed LPCM audio (on the Blu-ray) and optional English subtitles; and includes a collector’s booklet featuring a new essay by Philip Kemp, archival material and previously unseen imagery and ephemera; and Limited Edition O-Card (first run only) featuring artwork by Graham Humphreys, created especially for the 2018 UK theatrical release. The special extras (below), however, are the icing on the cake, making this a must-have for any classic film collection…
• Meet the Femms This video essay by critic and filmmaker David Cairns is exceptionally executed, with loads of informative back stories on the production, cast and crew, super behind the scenes photos, incuding Whales’ own set designs, and I really enjoyed hearing actors Steven McNicoll and Angela Hardie voicing the various characters in Priestley’s novel, Benighted, as well as the author himself and Laughton’s wife Elsa Lanchester.
• Daughter of Frankenstein Sara Karloff talks candidly about her father and his work on this production, and has a great story about how Boris and Charles Laughton did not see eye-to-eye.
• Curtis Harrington Saves The Old Dark House This archival interview has the late-director (who became a close friend of Whale’s) recalling his efforts in rescing the film from oblivion back in 1968. Please, someone, give this man a posthumous medal for doing this!
• Commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones This is a great listen, with some interesting bits of trivia like that fact that Karloff was dubbed, and Kim makes a very interesting link between the film’s structure (and its class-based ensemble) to disaster movies. This was made prior to Gloria Stuart’s death (aged 100) in 2010, as the duo talk about her in the present tense, and their comments are all based on viewing an inter-negative print.
• Commentary by Gloria Stuart This is absolutely riveting. Stuart is a joy to listen to and she provides huge amounts of personal insight (the film was a real high point in her acting career): admiring Whales’ sardonic humour, the uncomfortable shooting for the actors, her regrets at being a young 22 upstart making her second film who was unaware of Eva Moore’s pedigree (a suffragette, one of Edward VI’s favourites and the mother of Laurence Olivier’s first wife, Jill Esmond), and shedding light on some truths about why Karloff and Whale weren’t on friendly terms during the shoot.
• Commentary by James Whale biographer James Curtis This has lots of great insight into the film’s production, and I certainly learnt a few things. Did you know that Karloff’s mute butler Morgan became the model for the butler Charles Addams’ New Yorker cartoons? These were subsequently published as Drawn and Quartered, with a Foreward by Karloff and thus effectively the character became Lurch in The Addams Family. Curtis also examines the similarities and differences between Priestley’s novel and Whale’s screenplay – which makes for an interesting analysis.
From Lionsgate UK comes 1987’s The Gate, as part of their ongoing Vestron Collector’s Series, restored and remastered on Blu-ray.
While their parents are away for a long weekend, break 16-year-old Al (Christa Denton) and 12-year-old Glen (Stephen Dorff) have free reign of their suburban home. But it soon turns into a supernatural battleground when Glen and his best friend Terry (Louis Tripp) unwittingly unleash demonic forces from a large hole in the backyard…
Though not much happens in the first half hour of this Poltergeist meets Home Alone offering, things really liven up when an army of pint-size trolls begin to start crawling out from ‘the other side’.
What The Gate lacks in originality, it certainly makes up for it with its ‘wink and a smile’ fan-boy approach that plays fast and furious with some classic horror tropes like the ‘monster in the closet’ and the ‘thing under the bed’, while also chucking in a great gag involving the lyrics of heavy metal records being linked to black magic and satanism.
The practical special effects may have some rough edges, but they still look terrific: especially the ankle-sized demons (a winning combination of forced perspective and people in full rubber suits), and the climactic sequence in which Glen, armed with a toy rocket, takes on the film’s gigantic HP Lovecraft-inspired serpentine demon.
So sit back and prepare to channel your 12-year-old self once again with this gleefully ghoulish fun-ride.
• Audio commentary with director Tibor Takacs, writer Michael Nankin, and sfx designer/supervisor Randall William Cook
• Audio commentary with the sfx crew, including Randall William Cook, Craig Reardon, Frank Carere and Bill Taylor
• Isolated Score and audio interview with composers Michael Hoenig and J Peter Robinson
• Eight new and archival behind-the-scenes featurettes with the cast and crew
• Trailers & TV Spot
WATCH IT ON THE BIG SCREEN: Lionsgate UK’s free screenings at the Monday Film Club at The Alibi in Dalston, East London finish tonight (26 March) with The Gate. Check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/events/178367812773304/
The Gate copyright: Programme Content and Photography: ©1986 The Gate Film Productions Inc. all Rights Reserved. Package Design: © 2018 Lionsgate Home Entertainment UK. All Rights Reserved.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) | Billy Wilder’s melancholic celebration of Conan Doyle’s great detective gets a first-time Blu-ray release
From Eureka Entertainment comes Billy Wilder’s underrated 1970 adventure comedy The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, as part of The Masters of Cinemas Series on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK.
Director Billy Wilder’s personal, melancholic celebration of Conan Doyle’s great detective was originally conceived as a three and a half hour extravaganza, and he never forgave the studio for hacking it to bits (with many of the deleted scenes now lost forever).
What remains is rewarding, but it leaves you begging for more, as the bored Baker Street sleuth (Robert Stephens) investigates a mystery that takes him and his faithful companion Doctor Watson (Colin Blakely) from London to Inverness, and involves an enigmatic amnesiac (Geneviève Page), Holmes’ conniving brother Mycroft (Christopher Lee), Queen Victoria and – yes – the Loch Ness Monster.
Stephens plays Holmes with tortured, whimsical perfection, and both Blakely and Lee are perfectly cast in their respective roles, but it’s Irene Handl rather than the alluring Page who steals every scene she’s in. Her Mrs Hudson is a comic stand-out. Other familiar faces include the legendary Stanley Holloway, Clive Revill (The Legend of Hell House), Catherine Lacey (The Sorcerers) and Jenny Hanley (Scars of Dracula).
The film’s rich period detail and authentic locations is also matched by the witty script (one of 11 that Wilder and I. A. L. Diamond wrote together) and the whole affair sparkles like a well-polished (rough) diamond.
• 1080p presentation
• Uncompressed PCM soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles
• A new video interview with film scholar Neil Sinyard
• The Missing Cases (50 mins): A presentation of deleted sequences, using script excerpts, production stills and surviving film footage.
• Deleted Epilogue Scene (audio only)
• Christopher Lee: Mr. Holmes, Mr. Wilder – an archival interview with Christopher Lee about his experience working with Billy Wilder
• Interview with editor Ernest Walter
• Original theatrical trailer
• Collector’s booklet
Boom! (1968) | Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton camp it up in Joseph Losey’s fantastically odd Tennessee Williams adaptation
Throughout the 1960s, cinema’s royal couple Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton created some brilliant, beguiling and occasionally bewildering films – some of which were adapted from classic plays: Edward Albee’s shout-fest Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Williams Shakespeare’s hysterical The Taming of the Shrew and Christopher Marlowe’s Elizabethan tragedy Doctor Faustus.
US playwright Tennessee Williams, whose meditations on sexual frustration, drug addiction and terminal disease made him the ‘darling of the day’, seemed a logical choice for Burton and Taylor to show off their craft. And along came Boom!
Based on the 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, Boom! takes place on a gorgeous private island in the Mediterranean, where the wealthy, egocentric Sissy Goforth is about to meet her maker.
As she dictates her memories to her long-suffering servant Blackie (Joanna Shimkus), penniless poet Christopher Flanders (Burton) arrives unannounced, wanting an audience. While Flanders is kept waiting, Sissy consults the bitchy Witch of Capri (Noel Coward, in a brilliantly wicked turn) over a very boozy dinner, who warns her that the poet is in fact The Angel of Death.
What follows is a cat-and-mouse game of existential wordplay as Sissy first rejects, then accepts the stranger, and thus her own mortality.
Esoteric or pretentious? Think what you will, but watching Boom! 40-plus years after its original release, I was totally transfixed. Yes, Taylor screams, rants and acts the childish princess, but she is absolutely fascinating to watch. Meanwhile, Burton’s soothing poetic voice flows like warm butterscotch.
American director Joseph Losey is the man who put this camp masterpiece together. Already capable of some unique, if slightly odd, cinematic treats like the sci-fi cult These Are the Damned and the pop art inspired Modesty Blaise, Losey’s firmly stamps his signature here.
This is helped greatly by the lavish modernist-inspired set, a Corbusier-influenced villa perched high on the rugged Sardinian coastline dotted with faux Easter Island statues, Taylor’s elaborate costumes and jewellery, and a fantastic music score from James Barry.
Boom! may have spectacular bombed on its release in 1968, but it so deserves a new audience – one that likes its cinema camp, colourful, and very odd indeed. And let’s leave the last word to John Waters, who included the film’s poster in Pink Flamingos: ‘beyond bad. It’s the other side of camp. It’s beautiful, atrocious, and it’s perfect. It’s a perfect movie, really, and I never tire of it’.
Boom! is available on DVD from Second Sight in the UK
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
Shock Treatment (1981) | You’ll be jumping like a real live wire after seeing Arrow’s fan-bloody-tastic HD release of the cult musical
From Richard O’Brien, the writer and director of The Rocky Horror Picture Show comes not a sequel, not a prequel… but an equal – Shock Treatment, out in a limited edition HD release from Arrow Video.
This riotous, toe-tapping 1981 musical sees Jessica Harper (Phantom of the Paradise) and Cliff De Young taking on the iconic roles of Rocky’s Brad and Janet Majors alongside Barry Humphries, Ruby Wax and a very young Rik Mayall, plus Rocky alumini Patricia Quinn, Charles Gray and Richard O’Brien.
Now leading a quite life in Denton, USA: The Mecca of America, The Bethlehem of the West, The birthplace of the virtuous and the home of happiness, Brad and Janet find their marriage put to the test when they take part in a hugely-popular TV show, only for Brad to end up being institutionalised on the TV station’s medical show while Janet becomes an overnight reality star. But what are the real motivations behind the kooky DTV crew and their enigmatic head-honcho, Farley Flavors?
Mental illness and mass consumerism are fair game in the hands of O’Brien director Jim Sharman, who use some eye-watering day-glo visuals and some witty songs (that certainly rival Rocky) to serve up their blackly comic attack on reality TV (and pre-dating The Truman Show by some 17 years to boot). Time to slip into a little black dress or some green hospital scrubs, grab some friends over and tune into all the crazy madness. Altogether now: ‘You need a bit of ooooh, Shock Treatment!’
Arrow’s release comes in two designs – Cosmo and Nation (named after O’Brien and Quinn’s characters in the musical), and feature the following contents in each brightly coloured digipak, featuring artwork from Graham Humphreys. You’d better hurry and snap them up on Amazon because they’ve now sold out on Arrow’s own store.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
• Original Stereo 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
• Isolated music and effects track
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Archive audio introduction by Richard O’Brien
• New audio commentary with actresses Patricia Quinn and Nell Campbell
• Archive audio commentary by “Mad Man” Mike and Bill Brennan
• DTV Presents: A Shockumentary – retrospective making-of featurette
• Let’s Rock ‘n Roll: Shock Treatment’s Super Score – archive featurette on the music of Shocky
• The Rocky Horror Treatment – vintage behind-the-scenes documentary
• Patricia Quinn in Conversation with Mark Kermode
• Fan featurettes & cover songs
• Promo gallery featuring trailers, radio spot and stills
• Collector’s booklet
• Set of exclusive Shock Treatment Mix ‘n’ Match Cards
• Exclusive double-sided “D-E-N-T-O-N” poster
• Complete Soundtrack CD