Category Archives: Must See
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) | The Jules Verne adventure classic starring James Mason thrills again in 4k
A landmark in Hollywood adventure film-making, 20th Century Fox’s 1959 adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1864 sci-fi novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, thrills again following a glorious 4k restoration.
Five years after playing Captain Nemo in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, James Mason stepped into the shoes of another classic Verne character – geologist Otto Lidenbrok (renamed Professor Sir Oliver Lindenbrook), who leads a daring mission into the bowels of the Earth after discovering a hidden message from Icelandic pioneeer Arne Saknussemm.
Tagging along is dedicated ‘Scottish’ geology student Alec McEwan (Pat Boone), the widow of Lindenbrook’s late partner, Carla (Arlene Dahl), and local Icelander Hans (Pétur Ronson) and his pet duck Gertrude. Heading down a fissure inside the Snæfellsjökull volcano, the amateur explorers soon find themselves in a world within a world populated by prehistoric creatures and strange natural phenomena. But following close behind is Saknussemm’s murderous descendent (Thayer David), who wants to claim the centre of the Earth for his own…
No matter how many times I have watched this film, I never tire of it. It’s a masterclass in adventure film-making and a big influence on Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (check out the rolling boulder) and Jurassic Park. The colourful subterranean sets are spectacular and work seamlessly with the gorgeously lit scenes shot in New Mexico’s Carlsbad Caverns, while composer Bernard Hermann fills the colourful cavernous landscape with a tremendous music score that makes everything seem ominous and outer wordly.
Of the 11 prehistoric animals that appeared in Verne’s novel, only a couple end up on screen – a family of dimetrodons and a giant megalosaurus. And although they are just magnified rhinoceros iguanas with glued-on fins and a painted Tegu lizard, they’re still pretty effective and way better than the ones in Irwin Allen’s The Lost World.
James Mason is a joy to watch playing the ever curious scientist. But he wasn’t the producers original choice. That went to Clifton Webb, who had to drop out after suffering a double hernia. Mason, however, does make a great sparring partner for Arlene Dahl’s plucky widow, and it’s a nice change to see a middle-age romance blossoming before our eyes (you don’t see much of that today on the big screen).
Christian pin-up, singer Pat Boone may not convince as a Scot, but he does make for a fun hero – and also a bit of eye candy as we get to swoon over his lithe surfer bod and deep Californian tan (how very un-Scottish) when he loses his shirt and most of his tartan trousers.
The film’s other star is, of course, Hans’ pet and best friend – Gertrude the Duck. She has so much character (and I love her painted eyes), and provides the film with one of its most memorable (and tearful) scenes. Along with Captain Nemo’s pet sea lion Esmeralda in Disney’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gertrude established the tradition of having a loveable critter join its human cast in daring adventures (remember Herbert the Rooster in 1965’s Wargods of the Deep? or Heidi the Dalmatian in 1975’s The Hindenburg?)
Eureka Classics’ 4K restoration really showcases the much-loved adventure’s fantastic production design and sound, making this a must-have in any film collection and one to watch over and over.
- 1080p presentation from a definitive 4K restoration
- Optional stereo PCM soundtrack and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio options
- Isolated music and effects track (not included on my screener)
- Optional English subtitles
- Audio commentary with actress Diane Baker and film historians Steven C Smith and Nick Redman (not included on my screener so I can’t comment)
- Interview with author Kim Newman (very informative)
- A short clip featuring film’s restoration over the years
- Original theatrical trailer
- Booklet featuring Bosley Crowther’s 1959 New York Times review, archival images and poster gallery, and viewing notes.
Available to purchase here http://amzn.to/2tir1l6
Dr Cyclops (1940) | ‘Honey, I’ve shrunk the scientists!’ – Technicolor thrills await in the vintage sci-fi adventure
Deep in the South American jungle, physicist Dr Thorkel (Albert Dekker) is using a seam of radium in his mysterious experiments. When his eyesight starts to fail, he invites three scientists from the US to help him to help him complete the project.
Refusing to return home without proper explanation as to the exact nature of Thorkel’s work, the scientists, their mule driver and Thorkel’s assistant end up being shrunk down to doll size. A cat-and-mouse game then ensues as they try to escape Thorkel’s compound…
Based on a short story of the same name by Henry Kuttner, Paramount’s Dr Cyclops was the first attempt since The Mystery of the Wax Museum to use Technicolor in a horror film. It also marked a return to the genre for director Ernest Schoedsack, best known for Most Dangerous Game and King Kong, who really goes to town on the special effects, which would earn the film an Oscar nomination.
In his Classics of the Horror Film, renowned film researcher, collector and regular visitor to the UK’s famed Gothique Film Society, William K Everson, called Dr Cyclops ‘diverting hokum – but one of the wasted opportunities among films’. It’s a bit harsh, but not without some truth.
Yes, there’s virtually no horror on display, with the miniaturised cast mainly running and hiding amongst the oversized props and from a giant hand, and feigning distress in sequences featuring back projection shots of Thorkel’s snarling black cat Satanus (great name) and stock footage of a variety of animals and birds (kookaburras – in the Amazon?). While the lush colours and gay musical score does turn it into something akin to a live action cartoon adventure.
Looking like a cross between Peter Lorre’s Mr Moto and Donald Pleasence’s Blofeld with his shaved head and thick, round glasses, Dekker brings much sympathy to his scientist with a God complex (I blamed the radiation for his increasing mania); while the rest of the cast (Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, Charles Halton, Victor Kilian and Frank Yaconelli) are all effective in their respective stereotype roles.
There are, however, some genuine thrills, notably the death of one of our little heroes (who’s killed when he learns the miniaturisation effects are only temporary), the group’s efforts to train a rifle on their sleeping tormentor, and the gripping climax. Perfect for younger viewers and for revisiting on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
Dr Cyclops is available on DVD in the UK from Fabulous Films
Stung (2015) | Giant mutant wasps attack in the knockabout horror comedy premiering today on Horror Channel
An upper-class garden party on a country estate turns to bloody chaos when a swarm of mutated wasps descends to feast upon its guests. Trying to escape the deadly insects, catering staffers Paul (Matt O’Leary) and Julia (Jessica Cook) retreat inside of the mansion with a handful of survivors, including the town’s mayor (Lance Henriksen) and local eccentric Sydney (Clifton Collins Jr). But with each victim they consume, the wasps grow bigger and bigger, and it’s only a matter of time before the survivors finds themselves trapped inside a giant nest…
This creature feature from director Benni Diez (who did the visuals for Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia) is enormous fun, boasting a super cast playing some downright kooky characters, some gleeful gore and super SFX (both practical and digital), plus some laugh out loud in-jokes that all serve to pay homage to the big bug monster genre. Love it!
Stung is available on DVD from Entertainment One, and gets its premiere on the Horror Channel in the UK on Saturday 29 April at 10.55pm
When Nazi vampires led by the nefarious Count Draculon and his Hellish minions lay waste planet Earth, a cybernetically-enhanced soldier (Matthew Kennedy) and a rag-tag band of mercenaries help a scientist to bring down the evil Count.
The brainchild of Winnipeg film-making collective Astron-6 (whose latest effort is the 80’s throwback sci-fi The Void), 2011’s Manborg is a wacky ultra low-budget love letter to the sci-fi and action films that graced many a VHS cover in the 1980s. Like a stripped down RoboCop fused with Japanese anime-styled action, this is sci-fi cheese at it’s most enjoyable. And the best thing about it is the inspired DIY stop motion special effects that look a 100 times better than CGI. Asylum take note!
Available on DVD in the UK from Rockstone Films, and includes director’s commentary, trailer, music video, cast and crew interviews, deleted scenes and two shorts.
Caltiki: The Immortal Monster (1959) | A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema
REVIEWED BY ALAN HOARE
The week’s big screen movie was a premier of Caltiki, The Immortal Monster (original Italian title: Caltiki, il Mostro Immortale, British title: The Immortal Monster) a 1959 Italian science fiction-horror film directed by Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava, which neither Chris or I had seen before.
A team of archaeologists investigating Mayan ruins who come across a creature that is a shapeless, amorphous blob. Meanwhile, a comet is due to pass close to the Earth, the very same comet that passed near the Earth at the time the Mayan civilization collapsed, raising the question: “Is there a connection between the creature and the comet”?
* John Merivale as Dr. John Fielding
* Didi Perego as Ellen Fielding
* Gérard Herter as Max Gunther
* Daniela Rocca as Linda
* Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Prof. Rodriguez’s assistant
* Daniele Vargas as Bob (expedition member)
* Vittorio André as Prof. Rodriguez
* Nerio Bernardi as Police inspector
* Arturo Dominici as Nieto (expedition member)
[WARNING: The following contains spoilers]
The opening narration tells us about the achievements of the Mayan civilisation and their unknown demise leaving their city empty and abandoned. We then see a delirious, worse for wear, man stumble from the ruins of the Mayan city and into his group’s camp (without his partner, both of whom have been exploring a nearby cave). He quickly babbles away madly, repeatedly muttering the word Caltiki. The group sets out for the cave to investigate what happened.
Upon entering the cave they find a huge chamber containing a deep pool of water, behind which on a stone pedestal is a large statue of Caltiki, the vengeful Mayan goddess who was ceremonially presented with human sacrifices.
Puzzled by the pool, they quickly decide to send a man with “full immersion gear” (in other words a diver) to investigate. Descending to the bottom, he finds the sandy bed scattered with Mayan skeletons clad in gold jewelry. Excitedly he surfaces clutching as much gold as he can carry. Although the group advises that he not go down again, he insists that he has plenty of air and suggests that they could all become millionaires from the wealth below. Relenting, they let him descend once more.
As he greedily collects more and more treasure he inadvertently disturbs something and his cable to the surface suddenly begins to move erratically. Fearing for his safety, the group pull him back to the surface, only to find, upon removing his face mask, that his face has been reduced to a decayed mass over his skeleton.
Moments later, a shapeless pulsating creature rears up from the pool, attempting to envelop anyone within reach. Max is caught by the arm but is rescued by John who chops off part of the creature with an axe, freeing Max’s arm.
As the team escapes, the shapeless mass begins to crawl out of the cave. Nearby, there is a tanker truck full of gasoline. John drives the truck directly into the creature , causing a violent explosion which sets fire to the blob, destroying it.
The team returns to Mexico City to take Max to a hospital to treat the small piece of the creature on his arm, which is slowly digesting him. The surgeons carefully remove the creature, wrapping it up. They find that Max’s arm is nothing more than a few moist scraps of flesh connected to the underlying bones and that Max’s face is also begging to deteriorate.
Through experimentation the scientists discover that sample of the creature is a unicellular bacterium that appears to be dead, only to revive and quickly grow when bombarded with radiation. Overnight the janitor inadvertently irradiates the creature which quickly grows, but is destroyed when the laboratory accidentally catches fire.
Investigating the origins of the creature they learn of a comet emitting radiation, which crosses Earth’s path only once in every 850 years, was in the earths orbit at the demise of the Mayan civilisation and now is approaching earth again. Unfortunately, the remaining samples of the creature are stored in the home of Dr. John Fielding. At the comet’s closest approach to Earth, the remaining piece of the blob begins expanding to an enormous size and reproducing. At the same time the deranged Max has escaped hospital and is terrorising Ellen Fielding.
While attempting to convince the Mexican government to send its army to destroy the reproducing blobs, Fielding is arrested for speeding but manages to escape. A colleague finally convinces the authorities to sound an alarm because if the creature multiples it will be beyond even their ability to control.
The government sends a regiment of soldiers equipped with high powered flamethrowers to Dr. Fielding’s home. Upon their arrival, they find that the creatures have multiplied and have overrun the house and grounds. Dr. Fielding’s wife and child have been forced to hide on a second-floor window ledge to escape being devoured. Fielding arrives just in time to save them, just as the soldiers lay waste to the creatures with torrents of fire.
A very enjoyable Italian take on the monster movie, that takes The Quatermass Xperiment as it’s basis, but goes well beyond this with graphic realistically detailed gore and a simply, but marvellously realised creature deigned by Mario Bava, which looks like old towels were utilised to incredible effect. Indeed there are elements of found footage genre and possibly the genesis of David Cronenberg’s body horror sub genre
Special mention must be made of Mario Bava’s excellent use of glass matte painting for the Mayan village were live action is skilfully mixed to strengthen the illusion of the painting, when the mystery man stumbles from the city and then walks directly in front of the painting. The use of sets combined with models is well handled and as realism to the film.
Allegedly, director Riccardo Freda was angered by the way the producers had treated his cinematographer, Mario Bava, on their previous film, I Vampiri. So Freda concocted a way to push Bava into the director’s chair of his next film, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster; he left the project early once Bava had been hired again as the film’s cinematographer. Freda felt that this would lead producer Lionello Santi into recognizing Bava’s talents as a film director. Bava described Caltiki, The Immortal Monster as “my very first film” while noting that Freda had fled the set “because everything was falling to pieces. I managed to carry it out, patching it up here and there”.
Arrow’s Blu-ray release of this long unavailable masterpiece is a wonder to behold. The black and white photography is crisp and detailed whilst still retaining a suitable filmic look. There is the option of English or Italian language, two audio commentaries and several documentaries.
A true five-star release of an important film in Italian horror cinema.
SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the film from the original camera negative
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) and Standard Definition DVD presentations
• Original mono Italian and English soundtracks (lossless on the Blu-ray Disc)
• Newly translated English subtitles for the Italian soundtrack
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing for the English soundtrack
• Audio commentary by Mario Bava biographer Tim Lucas
• Audio commentary by Italian Giallo cinema author Troy Howarth
• From Quatermass to Caltiki: a new discussion with author and critic Kim Newman
• Riccardo Freda, Forgotten Master: an archival interview with critic Stefano Della Casa
• The Genesis of Caltiki: archival interview with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi
• Archival introduction to the film by Stefano Della Casa
• Alternate opening titles for the US version
• Newly commissioned artwork by Graham Humphreys
• First pressing only: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing by Kat Ellinger and Roberto Curti
UFO: The Complete Series on Blu-ray | Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s cult sci-fi returns in a stunning new HD restoration
After 10 years development in top secrecy beneath a London film studio, Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation (aka SHADO) goes live on 16 September 1980. Its aim – to combat the threat of an alien invasion from a dying race that abducts humans to repair their own decaying bodies. SHADO’s dedicated operatives, headed up by Commander Ed Straker (Ed Bishop), fight a covert war against Earth’s terrifying new menace: on land, sea, air and in space!
The first live-action television series from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, UFO remains a benchmark sci-fi production, featuring solid storylines, superior special effects and a blast of a cast. Long-awaited on Blu-ray, it’s presented here in a pristine new HD restoration, with all 26 episodes offering original mono or 5.1 soundtracks, alongside the following special features:
• From Earth to the Moon: New feature-length documentary featuring interviews with many of the surviving cast. (Just wait until you hear Wanda Ventham’s views on Star Trek and that famous son of hers, Benedict Cumberbatch – it’s a hoot – as is Ayshea Brough’s memory of the show).
• The Women of UFO: New documentary discussing the improving sexual equality depicted in the series.
• Identified: SHADO New Recruits Briefing: New SHADO briefing film narrated by Matt Zimmerman.
• 600-page collector’s book edited by archive TV historian Andrew Pixley.
• Dolby 5.1 audio mix, as well as existing as-transmitted mono audio.
• Film material, including textless episode title backgrounds, textless end titles, stock footage, TV spots, extra footage for Identified and Exposed, unused footage from Timelash and The Long Sleep, and Italian trailers.
• Audio commentaries: Identified with Gerry Anderson and Sub-Smash with Ed Bishop.
• S.I.D. Computer Voice Session and audio out-takes for these sessions and Kill Straker!
• Archive Ed Bishop audio interview from 1986.
• Tomorrow Today: Future fashions with Sylvia Anderson (be warned, there’s also a disturbing interview with a burns patient).
• Extensive image galleries.
• Ron Embleton-designed poster (at the time of time of writing, the first pressing was sold out and this was only available if you bought the box-set direct from networkonair.com).
• Also available from Amazon (while stocks last)
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.
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.
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.
To mark the 40th anniversary of the UK release of director Nicolas Roeg’s iconic sci-fi, The Man Who Fell to Earth, a new director’s approved 4k restoration is being released into London cinemas on 9 September, with a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray and DVD following on 24 October.
Featuring a career defining lead performance from David Bowie and based on the cult novel by Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth endures as, not only a bitingly caustic indictment of the modern world but, also, a poignant commentary on the loneliness of the outsider.
Friday 9 September has been declared a one-off David Bowie day by Curzon Soho as part of their campaign to save the cinema from demolition. After a special Save Curzon Soho edition of David Bowie Is Walking In Soho tour of the Thin White Duke’s locations, you can enjoy a special screening of The Man Who Fell to Earth introduced by its costume designer May Routh. Book tickets here.
Meanwhile, over in Hackney on the same night, Oscar-winning Director Danny Boyle introduces a special screening at Hackney Picturehouse. This is one of his favourite films and he has often sited Nicolas Roeg as a key influence on his career (he even referred to the film in the London Olympic opening ceremony). Book tickets here.
For more on the Collector’s Edition release, check out: www.facebook.com/vintageclassicsfilm
And there’s more… The original soundtrack album will be released for first time on CD on 9 September and on vinyl on 28 October; while the musical Lazarus, inspired by Walter Tevis’ novel, debuts at the Kings Cross Theatre, London from 25 October. Check it out here: lazarusmusical.com. Plus, a book on the making of the film, limited to just 1000 copies, is available for pre-order from 27 August: www.themanwhofelltoearth.co.uk
Ahead of the restored Blu-ray release of Gerry Anderson’s cult 1970s sci-fi series UFO later this year in the UK, the feature-length compilation Invasion: UFO is now available to buy on Blu-ray exclusively through: networkonair.com.
Earth’s greatest fear becomes a reality when UFOs are finally confirmed – the aliens come from a dying planet millions of light years away, seeking human organs to repair their own decaying bodies. And mankind’s only hope at stopping the alien terror is SHADO, a top secret defence organisation headed up by Edward Straker (Ed Bishop), a former American Air Force Colonel, and his loyal team including first officer (George Sewell) Alex Freeman, computer specialist Virgina Lake (Wanda Ventham) and former test pilot Paul Foster (Michael Billington).
Created on videotape for syndication in Europe and America, Invasion: UFO is an amalgamation of the episodes Identified, Computer Affair and Reflections in the Water. To bridge continuity gaps, segments from ESP and Confetti Check A-OK were also used, while the ending was taken from The Man Who Came Back. If you have never seen the series before, then this makes for fantastic taste of things to come.
Having been resized in full 16:9 widescreen from restored High Definition elements sourced from the original 35mm negatives, Invasion: UFO looks better than it has ever been, and is presented here with both original mono and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks. The special extras include the original 1980 videotape version (which just shows how much work has gone into the restoration), the 1980 trailer, full-frame opening and end titles, and textless end titles.
Terrahawks | Watch out Earth scum! Gerry Anderson’s crazy children’s Supermacromation sci-fi invades in HD
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.
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