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Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales | Everything you want to know about Arrow’s Special Edition Contents

Vincent Price in Six Gothic TalesArrow’s limited edition box-set, Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales, not only contains HD Blu-ray presentations of all six features directed by King of the B’s Roger Corman, but also a wealth of new and archives commentaries, interviews and featurettes for each film. Plus, some of the best newly commissioned illustrations I have ever seen. Here’s a break down of what’s inside the box-set, with my comments attached.

House of Usher smallTHE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
(these supplements are a re-issue, click here for my original review)
• Audio commentary with Roger Corman. This is the same one that you get on the 2001 MGM Midnight Movies DVD release and was also included on Scream Factory’s Vincent Price Collection I Blu-ray.
Legend to Legend (27min): Joe Dante talks low-budget movie making and provides some neat anecdotes.
The House is the Monster (30min): Gothic Horror author Jonathan Rigby re-examines the film. This featurette comes with a spoiler warning.
• Vincent Price – Malibu – Julliet 86 (12min): Interview subtitled in French by Claude Ventura, which was broadcast on French TV on 18 November 1986. This is well known amongst Price fans and was done while Price was doing Basil, The Great Mouse Detective.
Fragments of the House of Usher (11min): Critic and filmmaker David Cairns examines Corman’s film in relation to Poe’s story.
• US trailer (unrestored)
• Artwork by Graham Humphreys

KK: The Scream Factory Vol 1 Blu-ray have the added bonus of Price’s intros, but this is a must-have. It also boasts a superior transfer.

Pit and the Pendulum smallTHE PIT AND THE PENDULUM
(This is also a re-issue, click here for my original release)
• Audio commentary with the always charismatic Roger Corman. This was first included on the 2001 MGM DVD release, and is also on the Scream Factory Vol 1 Blu-ray.
• Audio commentary courtesy of the always informative Tim Lucas.
The Story Behind the Swinging Blade (43min): Documentary on the making of the film.
An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (1970, 52min): Four classic Poe tales dramatised by Vincent Price unplugged, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Sphinx, The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum. (Unfortunately the 1080p transfer doesn’t improve on the original video source).
• Added TV Sequence (5min): Shot in 1968 to pad out the film for the longer TV time slot, this scene features star Luana Anders.
• US trailer (unrestored and pan and scan)
• Artwork by Gilles Vranckx

KK: This is also a must-have, with Tim Lucas’ audio commentary and the inclusion of the Poe TV dramatisation being the highlights.

Tales of Terror smallTALES OF TERROR
The Directors – Roger Corman (90min): This 1990 documentary explores Corman’s career.
NEW Kim Newman on Edgar Allan Poe (30min): the novelist and critic, who’d make a darn fine lecturer in film studies, looks back at Poe’s influence on the big screen.
• NEW Cats in Horror Films (10min): Anne Billson, a novelist, critic, photographer and blogger (catsonfilm.net), discusses the contributions of our feline friends to genre cinema.
NEW The Black Cat (1993, 18min): Short film directed by Rob Green. Though it abridges Poe’s original verse, the visuals are very Cormanesque.
• US theatrical Trailer (unrestored, but in the correct ratio)
• Artwork by Dan Mumford

KK: This is a coup for Arrow as it is not on either of Scream Factory’s Blu-ray box sets.

The Raven smallTHE RAVEN
• NEW Peter Lorre: The Double Face (1984, 60min): Documentary about the German actor, from his early days in the theatre with Bertolt Brecht to his death in 1964. Subtitled. (unrestored).
Richard Matheson: Storyteller (1993, 62min): This interview with the novelist and screenwriter also appeared on the 2001 MGM DVD release and on the Scream Factory Vincent Price Collection II Blu-ray.
Corman’s Comedy of Poe (2003, 8min): Roger Corman (in cool, calm and collected mode) on the making of the spoof comedy. This is also included on the Scream Factory Vol 2 Blu-ray.
NEW The Trick (1997, 12min): Director Rob Green’s short film about rival magicians. This has shades of The League of Gentlemen meets Buston Keaton.
• Gallery: Fantastic stuff. Can we have a pdf please Arrow? BTW: Check out Lorre smoking what looks like joint.
NEW Promotional Record (6min): OMG! Paul Frees introduces Peter Lorre reciting Poe’s poem with Boris Karloff telling us its ‘the most blood curling thing you’ll ever see’! Also included on the Scream Factory Vol 2 Blu-ray.
• US trailer (unrestored)
• Artwork by Vladimir Zimakov

KK: The promo record is a real bonus here.

Haunted Palace smallTHE HAUNTED PALACE
NEW Audio commentary by David Del Valle and Derek Botelho (author of The Argento Syndrome). Dedicated to the late Cathie Merchant, who appears as Hester Tillinghast in the horror, this commentary is fascinating stuff from David Del Valle, who shares my love for this underrated film. He has some great anecdotes (like Price becoming a millionaire after taking a profit percentage instead of a salary for House on Haunted Hill), while Derek makes a great sidekick – when he finally gets a word in. Best bit of trivia: the Aztec symbol painted on the dungeon wall also appears in Die, Monster, Die and The Dunwich Horror (which were also designed by Daniel Haller).
NEW Kim Newman on HP Lovecraft (30min): The novelist looks at the challenges of adapting Lovecraft’s stories to the screen. You can tell this was filmed on the same day as his Tales of Terror segment by the bits of dust (or are they crumbs of food) on his jacket.
A Change of Poe (2003, 10min): Roger Corman looks at the making of the film. This was also on the 2001 MGM DVD release and is included in the Scream Factory Vol 1 Blu-ray.
• Gallery (silent, with a couple of newbies)
• US trailer (unrestored)
• Artwork by Matthew Griffin

KK: The audio commentary is the highlight here.

Tomb of Ligeia small
THE TOMB OF LIGEIA
• Audio commentaries by Roger Corman and Elizabeth Shepherd. These originally appeared on the 2001 MGM DVD release, and are also on the Scream Factory Vol 2 Blu-ray. (The Shepherd one also has poor sound).
NEW Interview with Paul Mayersberg, who worked as Corman’s everyman assistant, doing everything from finding the location and hiring the cats (they kept running away), script rewrites and filming the holiday sequence at Stonehenge. Recorded 30 September 2014. (25min).
NEW Interview with 1st AD David Tringham, who talks about working with the fast-working Corman and his fears of the studio set catching fire. Recorded 26 September 2014 (8min).
NEW Interview with clapper loader Bob Jordan about shooting in widescreen on a low budget and of filming on location. Recorded 7 October 2014 (8min).
NEW Interview with composer Kenneth V Jones, who talks about the challenges of creating a score without Corman’s input. Recorded 11 March 2014. (6min). Now this is one soundtrack that so needs an official release. Anyone?
• US trailer (unrestored)
• Artwork by the Twins of Evil (aka Luke Insect and Kenn Goodall)

KK: Those interviews are priceless. Thank you Arrow.

Each feature is presented in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and offer uncompressed linear PCM 2.0 mono tracks. I found them all to be a richly colourful, pristine-looking upgrade on my MGM DVD releases. And while I already have the Usher and Pit SteelBooks, this Blu-ray box-set makes for a great companion piece. Now, what do I do with those DVDs?

Vincent Price in Six Gothic Tales is available on Blu-ray from Arrow from Monday 8 December 2014

Dracula (1958) | Hammer’s fangtastic vintage horror now restored to it full-blooded glory

Dracula (1958)

THE TERRIFYING LOVER WHO DIED – YET LIVED!
During the autumn of 1885, Dr Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) puts a stake through the heart of his friend Jonathan Harker after he falls victim to a vampire, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee). When Harker’s fiancée Lucy (Carol Marsh) is turned into one of the undead, Van Helsing brandishes his stake again, setting her soul free. Robbed of his conquest, Dracula seeks revenge by seducing Lucy’s sister-in-law, Mina (Melissa Stribling). Can husband Arthur (Michael Gough) and Van Helsing find a way to free her from Dracula’s blood lust before its too late…

Dracula (1958)

DON’T DARE SEE IT… ALONE!
With it’s blood-splattered opening shot, Hammer’s 1958 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel welcomed in a new generation of horror – Hammer horror and all in colour. The gothic melodrama’s blend of the erotic with the horrific was a box-office success that set the benchmark for the studio’s subsequent output, and turned Cushing and Lee into one of cinema’s most famous double acts.

Dracula (1958)

But it was another duo who were responsible for Hammer’s greatest achievement – director Terence Fisher and screenwriter Jimmy Sangster. Their moral fairy tale about adultery forever changed people’s perceptions of Bram Stoker’s novel and relegated Tod Browning’s stagey 1931 version to the knacker’s yard. By turning Dracula into a demon lover who threatens the conservative values of the Transylvanian equivalent of home counties Britain, they also connected with a pre-permissive 1950s audience. It was shocking, but it worked. From now on, Dracula meant sex.

Dracula (1958)

THE RESTORATION
In 2007, Dracula underwent a BFI restoration, HD re-mastering and a theatrical re-release. In 2011, sections of an extended print were discovered in Tokyo. These included two scenes originally censored by the BBFC in 1958: Dracula’s seduction of Mina and Dracula’s disintegration (pictured above) After extensive restoration, the most complete version of the 1958 film has now been achieved. It has also gone back to using the original UK title, Dracula, rather than the US title, Horror of Dracula.

THE BLU-RAY RELEASE
Fully restored in high definition, at the correct aspect ratio, on Blu-ray and DVD, the Lionsgate UK release contains both restorations and a bounty of extras that will be of huge interest to fans – especially the four surviving un-restored Japanese film reels and the original shooting script. This release makes a perfect companion to Lionsgate’s restored version of Hammer’s first horror, The Curse of Frankenstein (read my review here).
[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDTxHg7wyP0%5D

Blind Woman’s Curse (1970) | Meiko Kaji is The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in Teruo Ishii’s cult Japanese classic

Blind Woman's Curse

PREPARE TO DIE!
In 1920s Japan, Akemi (Meiko Kaji) is the dragon-tattooed leader of the Tachibana yakuza clan. In a duel with a rival gang Akemi slashes the eyes of an opponent and a black cat appears, to lap the blood from the gushing wound. The cat, along with the eye-victim, then pursue Akemi’s gang in bloody revenge, leaving a trail of dead yakuza girls, their dragon-tattoos skinned from their bodies…

Blind Woman's Curse

From Japan’s The King of Cult director Teruo Ishii, Blind Woman’s Curse (which literally translates as Ghost Story Rising Dragon) is a thrilling supernatural action adventure featuring kimono-wearing gangsters, psychopathic hunchbacks and deadly female assassins, and stars genre favourite Meiko Kaji in her first role. Kaji later found fame in the Stray Cat Rock series of girl gang films (also due out from Arrow later in 2014) and is best known to Asian film fans for Lady Snowblood, in which her singing was was borrowed by Quentin Tarantino in Kill Bill.

Blind Woman's Curse

THE UK ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
Teruo Ishii’s delirious blend of the female yakuza film and traditional Japanese ghost story, gets a first-time UK dual format (Blu-ray/DVD) release from Arrow Video on 31 March 2014, featuring a new high-definition digital transfer of the film prepared by Nikkatsu Studios. The deluxe edition includes new artwork by Gilles Vranckx, an audio commentary by author and Japanese cinema expert Jasper Sharp, trailers for the Meiko Kaji-starring Stray Cat Rock series, and a collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Japanese cinema expert Tom Mes.

Coming this Wednesday, Jasper Sharp gives his verdit on Blind Woman’s Curse, its director and star.

[youtube:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v82lry7HeUI%5D

The Stuff (1985) | Larry Cohen’s goo-tastic killer yoghurt cult film is addictive stuff indeed

The Stuff Blu-ray cover
Enough Is Never Enough
After some weird goo erupts from the Earth, a couple of miners discover it tastes so good they decide to market it. The American public laps up the new dessert known as The Stuff but, unfortunately, it has a life of its own and the not-so-friendly bacteria starts turning people into Stuff-craving zombies. Having seen the yucky yoghurt crawling around the fridge one night, young Jason (Scott Bloom) teams up with wisecracking industrial saboteur Mo (Michael Moriarty) and advertising executive Nicole (Andrea Marcovvici) to put a stop to The Stuff and the organisation behind its distribution…

Larry Cohen's The Stuff
Are you eatin’ it…or is it eatin’ you?

In these days of rising obesity, you can’t switch the TV on without witnessing yet another programme about food-related health issues or hearing disturbing reports about what’s really going into our food. This just makes 1985’s The Stuff, from horror auteur Larry Cohen, just as relevant today for behind its Blob-style B-movie façade is a fun social satire on consumerist culture, with Cohen aiming his vile-but-delicious goo at the big soulless corporations who value profit over our health.

Larry Cohen's The Stuff

Cohen’s favourite leading man, Michael Moriarty (who’d go on to work on five of Cohen’s projects) is in top form as anti-hero Mo, improvising much of his dialogue (‘I’m called Mo because I always want Mo’), which only adds to the film’s chaotic nature. He’s accompanied by Scott Bloom (Who’s the Boss?) as the young boy who, like the kid in Invasion from Mars (another B-movie nod here), nobody believes that The Stuff is alive, and Andrea Marcovicci (Trapper John, MD) as Nicole, the advertising executive whose campaign made the Stuff such a huge hit with consumers in the first place.

From TV’s The Invaders (Cold War paranoia) to It’s Alive (genetic mutations) and Q: The Winged Serpent (corporate greed), Cohen’s terror tales always contain a strong political or social comment beneath their hokey horror veneer. In the documentary accompanying this release, Cohen says he was inspired to make The Stuff because he wanted to highlight how big corporations use advertising to lure people into taking up cigarettes, alcohol and medication without really understanding the addictive and damaging side effects.

Larry Cohen's The Stuff

In The Stuff, he intersperses the story with a number of slick TV commercial parodies, featuring colourful packaging and a really annoying jingle, which may look retro today but were the mainstay of TV advertising in the 1980s. And just as those commercials set out to manipulate, so to does The Stuff – which turns people (and dogs) into Stuff-craving addicts who can’t get enough of its ‘nutritional value’ before sucking their insides dry. The idea that a food stuff can literally eat you from the inside is a great concept and Cohen runs with this by making his Stuff, Earth’s way of striking back at mankind for polluting the planet’s natural resources. It’s certainly food for thought.

Fun, quirky, heaped with great dollops of gooey social satire, totally unpredictable and featuring some great VHS-era special effects, this is a hugely enjoyable slice of 1980s comedy horror from a true maverick. Get your spoons at the ready!

Larry Cohen's The Stuff

THE ARROW VIDEO RELEASE
Arrow Video’s UK dual format release (and a UK first for the Blu-ray) features a high definition restoration of the film from a new 2k scans of the original negative, with original stereo 2.0 audio and optional subtitles.

The bonus features include Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff: Making Larry Cohen’s Classic Creature Feature, a 52-minute documentary featuring director Larry Cohen, producer Paul Kurta, actress Andrea Marcovicci, Steve Neill (mechanical makeup effects) and Kim Newman. Plus, there’s a Trailers From Hell intro from self-confessed fan, Saw II and III director, Darren Bousman, and a collector’s booklet. The deluxe edition features packaging showcasing Gary Pullin’s fantastically gloopy artwork and a reversible sleeve adorned with the original UK VHS art by Graham Humphreys.

WHAT’S IN THE STUFF
To make The Stuff, Cohen and his special effects team used buckets of Haagen-Dazs ice cream, various yoghurts and whipped cream as well as shaving cream and gallons of vile-smelling fire retardant foam, plus early CGI effects featuring stop-motion animation by SFX legends David Allen and Jim Danforth.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CviPtdhR_oM%5D

More (1969) & The Panic in Needle Park (1971) | Love and heroin create a deadly cocktail in two cinema greats that will have you hooked

More and Panic in Needle ParkWhen it comes to movies about the grim reality of addiction, Trainspotting is usually the drug film choice for most film fans, but here’s two classics that are worth seeking out.

First up is Barbet Schroeder’s More, which created quite a stir on its release back in 1969, and has since gained a cult following – notably because of its Pink Floyd soundtrack and Ibiza setting. Next up is director Jerry Schatzberg’s The Panic In Needle Park, which came out two years later and starred Al Pacino in his breakout role, and was equally controversial because of its realistic portrayal of heroin addicts in New York City.

Despite their different geographic locations and cinematic approach, the two films are both about wildly passionate love affairs fuelled by a shared addiction to heroin, and both explore the characters’ relationship with their particular setting.

More and Panic in Needle Park

In More, the island of Ibiza, a picture-postcard paradise of azure blue skies, emerald seas and dazzling white-washed houses, becomes the backdrop for German student Stefan (Klaus Grunberg) to seek out Estelle (Mimsy Farmer), an enigmatic young woman he briefly meets in Paris. Despite warnings to stay clear of the secretive girl, Stefan is spellbound and tracks her down on the island. When Estelle steals a stash of ‘horse’ (the street name for heroin at the time) from local bigwig Wolf, she convinces Stefan to try some. But just as Stefan’s love for Estelle is all consuming, so is the drug. Soon Stefan is hooked and when Wolf hunts the couple down, he is forced to work for Wolf to pay back what Estelle stole.

More (1969)

In stark contrast to Ibiza’s sun-drenched beaches, The Panic in Needle Park takes place in a real-life section of New York City’s Upper West Side, which was infamous for being a haven for drug addicts in the 1970s. Here, with car horns blaring and people racing about, small time hustler Bobby (Al Pacino) introduces the naïve, restless Helen (Kitty Winn) to his world of dealing and scoring. Helen’s growing addiction is played out in coffee shops, seedy hotels, back alleys and the local jail where she and Bobby both end up spending time before returning to life on the streets. But where More ends abruptly, and tragically, The Panic in Needle Park shows an addict’s life is a constant cycle of big ups and major downs.

Panic in Needle Park

Being phobic about needles, the hardest thing for me to watch were the scenes involving actual drug injections (it was these scenes that made the films so controversial when they were first released). And they still retain their power, especially Panic with its inventive documentary approach and all-too realistic performances from Pacino and Winn (who won a Best Actress award at Cannes for her role).

The Panic in Needle Park and More may be relentlessly grim in their outlook, but they still fascinate and their themes are just as valid in today’s society. In fact, they should be mandatory in any anti-drug campaigns in schools.

The 2011 dual format BFI release of More contains a re-mastered print of the film and a newly commissioned 17-minute documentary on the story behind it; plus trailers for Schroeder’s films other including La Vallée and Maîtresse, illustrated booklet, biographies, and notes on the Pink Floyd soundtrack.

The 2011 Second Sight release of The Panic in Needle Park is the film’s first-ever UK widescreen release, and includes some very informative interviews with director Schatzberg (who originally tested Robert De Niro for the role of Bobby), cinematographer Adam Holender (who lensed Midnight Cowboy), and writer Joan Didion (who talks about what is was like researching the script in the actual locations which have now been totally gentrified).

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RV-M-ryiDJw%5D [youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNeN9ZU2CSM%5D

Peeping Tom (1960) | The controversial British cult favourite is a must see

Here’s are my thoughts on StudioCanal’s 50th anniversary digital restoration UK Blu-ray release.

‘More Horrible Than Horror! More Terrible Than Terror!’
So went the tagline went for one of the most disturbing British films to come out of the 1960’s. At the beginning of the decade, horror was a hit with cinemagoers as Hammer was riding high with its ghoulish collection of vampires, werewolves and mad scientists, while over the Pond, Vincent Price was chewing the scenery in Roger Corman’s Poe-themed gothic melodramas. But as the decade rolled on, five film merchants of fear would stand out in the genre.

Alfred Hitchcock’s shocker Psycho spawned countless imitations; Mario Bava’s Black Sunday proved horror could be artsy as well as frightening; Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby made Satanism fashionable, and George Romero’s The Night of the Living Dead put the final nail in the coffin of old-fashioned gothic horrors. Then there was Michael Powell and his 1960 study in terror, Peeping Tom. It may not have had a direct influence on the genre, but it remains the cinematic masterpiece about filmmaking and the art of the gaze, and our fascination with it.

Austrian actor and longtime charity organiser Karlheinz Böhm plays Mark, a socially inept camera assistant working for a London film studio. But beneath his mild-mannered exterior lurks a monster obsessed with the nature of fear. The product of a sadistic psychologist father (played by the film’s director, Michael Powell), Mark uses his filmmaking obsession to kill young models in a most gruesome way.

Like Tod Browning’s controversial 1932 film Freaks, this unsettling film pretty much ended Powell’s career. It flopped big-time on its release and was vilified by the critics. But, 50 years on – and thanks to the Powell’s biggest fan, Martin ScorsesePeeping Tom is now regarded a masterpiece. It has a new lease of life on Blu-ray following a careful restoration by StudioCanal and Optimum Releasing.

The transfer is amazing. Powell’s lurid Eastman colors and stark contrasts really pop out at you (check out the restoration comparison in the special features section), and the high-transfer is just as powerful as Powell’s other restored classic The Red Shoes. The audio is also a treat, being really crisp and clean, and Brian Easdale‘s score is well balanced.

The extras on this release include:
• An introduction by director Martin Scorsese.
Eye of the Beholder featurette. Scorsese, film critic Ian Christie, Thelma Schoonmaker, Professor Laura Mulvey and Karlheinz Bohm discuss the film’s history. (19min).
The Strange Gaze of Mark Lewis documentary. Director Bertrand Tavernier, film historian Charles Drazin and psychiatrist Dr Olivier Bouvet give an overview of Powell’s body of work. In English and French. (25min).
• Thelma Schoonmaker interview. Powell’s widow looks at Scorsese’s efforts to re-release the film. (11min).
• Restoration comparison (7min).
• Trailer. In English. (3min).
• Stills gallery.
• Ian Christie commentary, in which the film critic deconstructs the film.

This is a handsome release of one of the most important films to be made in Britain during in the 1960s. And if you fancy a trip down into the past, the Newman Arms in London’s Rathbone Street (which is now closed) is the location for the film’s opening sequence, while 29 Rathbone Place in Fitzrovia (now a Middle-Eastern restaurant) was the shop where Mark supplied his soft-porn pictures.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAZZmclLdo8%5D
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