Boris Karloff (William Henry Pratt)
(23 November 1887 – 2 February 1969)
Here’s a perfect way to celebrate the great Boris Karloff — stay up all night watching a slew of his movies.
The Abbott & Costello movies offer up some of the great joys to be had in this world. Their “Who’s On First?” routine (found in The Naughty Nineties) is timeless — and runs constantly in the Baseball Hall Of Fame. Me, I simply cannot be down if Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) is on.
Shout Factory has announced The Complete Universal Pictures Collection, that puts their 28 Universal pictures (they say they saved the studio from bankruptcy) on 15 Blu-ray Discs, packed with hours of extras and a collectible book. It’s coming in November. What a great big box of Wonderful this will be!
When I started doing DVD and Blu-Ray commentaries, it no longer felt appropriate to survey the best DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the year. So, as a substitute (maybe a poor one), here’s a reminder of a few things we were treated to this year. We’ll let all the praise, complaints or ranking come from you in the comments. Part 1 can be found over at 50 Westerns From The 50s.
This was a banner year for old sci-fi and horror movies making their way to Blu-Ray. From what we’re hearing so far, next year might be the same for noir and crime pictures. Anyway, here’s some of 2018’s bounty — a few of which I’m still working on proper reviews of.
The Thing (From Another World) (1951)
This is one of the all-time favorite movies. I find something new in it every time I see it — a line, a look, a particular setup, the music, a new appreciation for the guy who did the fire stunt. It’s always something — and that, to me, is one of the requirements for a Great Movie. Warner Archive worked long and hard on this one, and I’m in their debt for sure.
The Hammer Draculas
It’s like there was some sorta Monster Movie Summit, and it was decreed that the Hammer Dracula series would be given its due on Blu-Ray. Warner Archive did a lot of the heavy lifting with Horror Of Dracula (1958), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites Of Dracula (1974). In the meantime, Scream Factory came through with Dracula – Prince Of Darkness (1966). Taste The Blood Of Dracula (1970) hit Blu-Ray a few years ago. That leaves Scars Of Dracula (197) as the only Hammer Dracula picture not available on Blu-Ray. Who’s gonna step up to the plate for that one?
The Hammer goodness wasn’t limited to the Dracula pictures. Mill Creek included some Hammer pictures in their twin-bill sets, some of the best values in all of home video. Hammer Films, William Castle, Ray Harryhausen — there’s some good stuff in those sets.
The Creature From The Black Lagoon Complete Legacy Collection
That’s quite a name for a set that only includes three movies. But what movies they are — the first two, anyway. And they’re in both widescreen 2-D and 3-D.
Gun Crazy (1949)
Joseph H. Lewis hit it out of the park with Gun Crazy (1949). So did his cast — and this year, with a stunning Blu-Ray, so did Warner Archive.
Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956)
Don Siegel making it to Blu-Ray is always a reason to celebrate, and this is one of his many milestones. Over the years, we’ve all put up with some pretty shoddy-looking stuff when it comes to this incredible movie. Olive Films’ Blu-Ray is a huge improvement.
The Tingler (1959)
It’s hard to pick between this one and House On Haunted Hill (1958) for my favorite William Castle movie. Scream Factory did a wonderful job with this one, and they’ve given us other Castle pictures as well.
Dark Of The Sun (1968)
Warner Archive has been hinting around about this one on Blu-Ray for a while. It’s beautiful — and still one of the damnedest movies I’ve ever seen.
There’s a few that stood out for me. What DVD and Blu-Ray releases knocked you out this year?
Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Cinematography: Wilfred M. Cline
Film Editor: Chester W. Schaeffer
Music by Von Dexter
Cast: Vincent Price (Dr. Warren Chapin), Judith Evelyn (Martha Higgins), Darryl Hickman (David Morris), Patricia Cutts (Isabel Stevens Chapin), Pamela Lincoln (Lucy Stevens), Philip Coolidge (Oliver Higgins)
If there’s a single movie that made me a hardcore devotee of the whole B movie thing, it’s probably this one. Everything about it is perfect, from Vincent Price’s hateful glamour-puss wife to the laboratory right off the living room to injecting LSD to the Tingler itself — all of it delivered with a ghoulish glee by the wonderful William Castle.
I’ve seen The Tingler so many times, it’s more like visiting an old friend than watching a movie. And with this new Blu-Ray from Scream Factory, that old friend’s holding up a lot better than I am.
So there’s this weird, slug-like thing (kinda like a cross between a lobster and a centipede) that hangs out along our spines, and it feeds on fright. That’s the Tingler. We get scared, it gets bigger and more powerful. When we scream, we release our fear and the Tingler is stunned — it shrinks and awaits the next time we get scared. Coroner/scientist Vincent Price discovers the Tingler, removes it from a corpse, then chases it down when it gets loose. There’s also a murder, an attempt at another one, an execution and an LSD trip. Something for everyone.
And that’s all leading up to the big finish, when the Tingler runs amuck in a movie theater, the very one you’re sitting in! You see, back in ’59, theaters were equipped with little motors attached to the seats, and at the proper time, these motors created a whirring sound and vibration in each seat — prompting the audience to scream to ward off the Tingler. “Scream for your lives!” It was called Percepto, and it was pure genius.
Scream Factory has outfitted The Tingler beautifully for Blu-Ray. First and foremost, the movie itself looks really terrific. The grain and contrast levels are exactly where they need to be. It’s perfect, and the simple, effective color sequence fits in nicely. (In the theater, the cut to color film stock was jarring and looked like crap.) The extras are everything you’d want, from the drive-in version of the loose-in-the-theater sequence to all sorts of promo material to various video pieces.
The Tingler is a real favorite, and Scream Factory has given us the kind of presentation fans have always wanted. It does William Castle proud, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Essential.
If in its glory days, Universal made a movie about Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man or The Creature From The Black Lagoon, it’s in this box — in high definition. What more do I have to tell you?
Here’s what you get: Dracula / Drácula (Spanish version) / Frankenstein / The Mummy / The Invisible Man / Werewolf Of London / Bride Of Frankenstein / Dracula’s Daughter / Son Of Frankenstein / The Invisible Man Returns / The Mummy’s Hand / The Invisible Woman / The Wolf Man / The Mummy’s Tomb / Ghost Of Frankenstein / Invisible Agent / Son Of Dracula / Phantom Of The Opera / Frankenstein Meets The Wolf Man / The Mummy’s Ghost / House Of Frankenstein / The Mummy’s Curse / The Invisible Man’s Revenge / House Of Dracula / She-Wolf Of London / Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein / Abbott & Costello Meet The Invisible Man / Creature From The Black Lagoon / Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy / Revenge Of The Creature / The Creature Walks Among Us
Thirty movies in all, and only one in color (Phantom Of The Opera). The Creature movies and Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy are 1.85.
Just wondering: where’s Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1953)? Guess Jekyll/Hyde’s outside their normal monster cycle.
This is a great thing, and it’s coming next week.
Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Philip Coolidge, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln
There’s about to be an open slot on my Blu-Ray Want List — The Tingler (1959) is coming from Scream Factory in August.
It’s maybe William Castle’s most whacked-out and outrageous movie of all. And that’s sayin’ something. A slug-like creature lives in our spines and grows when we’re scared; only screaming will keep it from killing us. And when one of these things (removed from a dead lady’s back by researcher Vincent Price) gets loose in a movie theater, the real audience got buzzed by little whirring motors attached to their seats. That, my friends, is why William Castle is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers.
Scream Factory has done a masterful job with all the old horror pictures they’ve put out, and I’m sure this one will be a real beauty — with all sorts of cool extras. God, I can’t wait!
Directed by William Castle
Starring Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, George Kennedy, Leif Erickson
And if that’s not enough, Castle’s Strait-Jacket (1964) has Joan Crawford as an axe murderer who’s released from the nuthouse. Oddly enough, as soon as she gets out, people start getting chopped up. Scream Factory’s bringing the Psycho-inspired Castle masterpiece out at the same time as The Tingler.
Directed by William Castle
Written by Robb White
Starring Vincent Price, Carol Ohmart, Richard Long, Alan Marshal, Carolyn Craig, Elisha Cook, Jr.
The Graham Cinema in nearby Graham, North Carolina, is one of my favorite places to see a movie. So imagine how excited I was to find out one of my all-time favorites films, William Castle’s House On Haunted Hill (1959), will be playing there Friday night, October 20, at 11:30.
William Castle. Vincent Price. Robb White. Elisha Cook, Jr. Emergo. Even the Ennis House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (and just up the street from the infamous Ackermansion). There are a million reasons why this movie’s so wonderful.
Admission’s just $2 and benefits the Shriners Hospital For Children. If you’ve never been to the Graham Cinema, you owe it to yourself to check it out. And of you’ve never seen House On Haunted Hill, I pity you. I really do.
The Graham Cinema
119 N Main St, Graham, NC 27253
UPDATE: I get the supreme honor of introducing the movie Friday night.
Thanks to my daughter Presley for the tip.
Basil Gogos, the artist who painted so many of those terrific covers for Famous Monsters magazine, has passed away at 88. Throughout the magazine’s original run, he seemed to top himself month after month. This 1972 cover for FM #64 depicts Vincent Price in House Of Wax (1953).
I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gogos at some shows back in the day, and not only was he a great artist, he was a very nice man. (My best friend owns Gogos’ original art for issue #109, featuring Price in Madhouse. The detail to be found in his work is really incredible.)
Mr. Gogos was a huge part of my adolescent brain rottage — and I hate he’s gone.
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
Starring Beverly Garland, Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney, George Macready, Richard Crane
Anolis Entertainment, a company out of Germany, has announced a DVD/Blu-Ray combo release of The Alligator People (1959) from 20th Century-Fox and Robert Lippert’s Associated Producers, Inc.
This is one of those 50s monster movies that is 100% carried by its cast. Beverly Garland, one of my favorite actresses, is terrific here — as she always was in these things. This kind of hokum needs just the right touch to really work, and Bruce Bennett, Lon Chaney and George Macready are on hand to help pull the whole thing of.
Garland’s new husband (Richard Crane) suddenly disappears during their honeymoon. It takes her a couple years, but she tracks him down to his family’s Southern estate, where a botched medical treatment has turned him into an alligator.
It’s clearly inspired by The Fly (1958), and it’s a load of fun. 20th Century-Fox proudly boasted that The Alligator People (and its co-feature The Return Of The Fly) were in CinemaScope, no longer releasing their black-and-white Scope pictures under the Regalscope banner. The domestic DVD presents the picture in gorgeous widescreen and stereo. The Blu-Ray can only be stunning.
Thanks to John Knight for the tip.
Directed by John Brahm
Starring Vincent Price, Mary Murphy, Eva Gabor, John Emery, Donald Randolph, Lenita Lane
Here’s a perfect announcement for Halloween. Twilight Time has announced a January Blu-Ray release for Columbia’s The Mad Magician (1954) in 3-D and 2-D — with the added bonus of the two 3-D Three Stooges shorts, Spooks and Pardon My Backfire (both 1953).
All three are goofy fun. The Mad Magician is very much a ripoff of House Of Wax (1953), but that’s not a complaint. It’s terrific, with Vincent “Mr. 3-D” Price at his best. The Stooges shorts are exactly what you’d expect — some of the pies and stuff are thrown at you this time around. All come highly recommended, whether you have a 3-D rig or not.