Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s Latest Creature Feature Re-Issue Is Another Great Classic Flick

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Universal Pictures’ classic 1950s creature features are among some of the greatest cinematic works in Hollywood’s rich history.  During their original theatrical runs, they were considered scary.  By today’s standards, they are anything but.  That’s okay though.  That is because they are examples of moviemakers doing so much more with so much less.  They are examples of movie making done right, and later this month, Shout! Factory and its horror arm Scream Factory will resurrect yet another of the studio’s classic creature features in the form of the 1995 classic Tarantula.  The latest of the studio’s movies to be re-issued by Shout! Factory, it is set for re-issue on Blu-ray on April 30.  It is another great addition to any true movie’s buff’s collection.  This is proven in part through the movie’s story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured in the movie’s forthcoming re-issue supports that statement even more, and will be addressed a little bit later.  The movie’s average price point proves to be money well-spent considering the re-issue’s combined primary and secondary content.  When it is considered with those noted elements, all three elements make the movie yet another of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.

Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1955 creature feature is a must have for any true movie buff.  It is one more of this year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.  That is thanks in part to the movie’s story.  The story at the center of Tarantula actually somewhat defies the movie’s title.  As a close watch will reveal, the real core of the movie was Professor Deemer’s misguided efforts to create a solution that will create super-sized animals and other foods to feed the world’s exploding population.  The result of Deemer’s tests are shown right in the story’s opening scene.  Of course, this is not fully realized until later in the story.  It would be wrong to call Deemer a mad scientist, but he is clearly misguided, as he wants to keep the findings and results of his work secret.  It is because of those efforts to hide what he is doing that the story’s titular character escapes from its enclosure in his home laboratory and wreaks havoc on a nearby town.  The majority of the story is spent with lead character Dr. Matt Hastings (John Agar – The Mole People, The Brain From Planet Arous, Night Breed) investigating a series of deaths around the unnamed town that slowly leads him to the killer spider.  During the course of that investigation, the spider is rarely shown.  When it is shown, it is barely presented.  This is both good and bad.  It is good in that it builds the suspense in the story.  The bad side is that the buildup leads to some noticeable pacing problems.  The pacing problems are not so bad that they make the movie unwatchable, but are problematic enough that they lead one to get the urge to fast forward every now and then.  Luckily, the story does eventually find its footing, and when it does so, finally starts moving forward much more easily.  One can’t help but wonder if this approach played a role in how famed author Peter Benchley approached his book Jaws when he wrote that novel.  Its big screen adaptation followed a similar approach, not really fully introducing the movie’s killer title creature until late in the movie.  Getting back on the subject at hand, once the story finally finds its footing, it does well keeping the action moving, and in turn keeping viewers engaged and entertained. The ending seems a bit abrupt, but still works, regardless.  Keeping this in mind along with the entertainment offered throughout the rest of the story, there is no question that the script, despite some minor bumps, is still an enjoyable work that will gives audiences plenty to appreciate.  The enjoyment created by the movie’s story is enhanced even more by the movie’s bonus feature-length audio commentary.

The commentary, presented once again by film historians Tom Weaver and David Schecter, adds its own share of enjoyment to the movie.  The pair has previously provided commentary for Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s Blu-ray re-issues of The Deadly Mantis and The Mole People.  Weaver also previously provided commentary for The Man From Planet X with Dr. Robert J. Kiss, who joins Weaver and Schecter for this outing.  The trio’s commentary offers lots of insight about the movie’s casting, its connection to other sci-fi and horror flicks of the time and trivia directly connected to the movie.  One of the most interesting revelations presented in the audio commentary comes from Schecter as he reveals that famed composer, conductor and musician Henry Mancini played a role in the movie’s soundtrack.  It’s not the first time that Mancini’s role in the movie industry has been noted.  Schecter reveals in the audio commentary for The Deadly Mantis, that Mancini played a key role in that movie’s soundtrack, too.  Weaver, meanwhile reveals late in the commentary, that allegedly Agar was not entirely happy being cast just in the studio’s creature features, while his more well-known counterparts, such as Tony Curtis and others were receiving more high-profile roles.  Weaver reveals in this anecdote, that Agar was so unhappy that he freelanced for other companies, but sadly was typecast because of his work with Universal. Kiss meanwhile, reveals that when Tarantula originally debuted in theaters, it actually ran as part of a double feature in many U.S. theaters alongside the cop action/drama Running Wild.  The movie starred Mamie Van Doren (Teacher’s Pet, Voyage To The Planet of the Prehistoric Women, The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters) in one of its lead roles.  The revelation that the movie did not run by itself in many theaters is important because it shows some theater owners might have thought at the time that it was not strong enough to run solo.  As if everything noted here as to the movie’s commentary is not enough, there are also notes of possible link between Them! and Tarantula, between This Island Earth and Tarantula (the prior of which Shout! Factory/Scream Factory is set to re-issue on June 25 along with Monster on the Campus) and even info on at least one goof and some background on how the tarantulas used in the movie were chosen.  Between all of this and so much more shared throughout the course of the movie’s audio commentary, the breadth and width of material shared throughout the movie is more than enough for audiences to take in.  Given, it once again sounds and feels entirely scripted by all involved, which does detract from the presentation once more.  However, the commentary’s clear scripting is not so bad that it makes the commentary a loss.  It just would be nice to have commentary shared naturally rather than scripted.  Either way, when the commentary couples with the movie’s story, the two elements go a long way toward making the movie enjoyable for all audiences.  Keeping that in mind, the movie’s average price point proves to be money well-spent.

The movie’s average price point, using price listings from Shout! Factory’s own store, Books-A-Million and Target, is $26.22.  The movie’s previous DVD release is listed at Walmart, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers, but not its upcoming Blu-ray re-issue.  Shout! Factory’s listing of $22.99 is the least expensive listing at the time of this review’s posting while the most expensive listing — $27.99 – is at Books-A-Million’s store.  Regardless of which outlet movie buffs use, the prices will not break anyone’s bank, and as already noted, the movie’s upcoming re-issue offers plenty for audiences to enjoy.  When all of this is considered together, it becomes easy to see why this flick’s re-issue is a welcome addition to any purist movie buff’s library and why it is one more of the year’s top new DVD and BD re-issues.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online at:










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Olive Films Goes “Big Time” With New Mickey Rooney Re-Issue

Courtesy:  Olive Films

Courtesy: Olive Films

Officials with Olive Films announced this week that the classic cinema company will release Mickey Rooney’s 1959 crime thriller The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray this fall.

Olive Films will release The Big Operator on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, September 16th. The late actor, who was best known for his role as Andy Hardy in the Andy Hardy films, stars in this crime thriller as Little Joe Braun. Braun is a union boss who is the most crooked figure since Johnny Friendly in On The Waterfront. He is trying to get out of a federal corruption probe. And only two men can stop him—factory workers Fred MacAfee (Mel Torme—Night Court) and Bill Gibson (Steve Cochran—Private Hell 36). This movie was an attempt by Rooney to escape the shadow of his Andy Hardy figure and show that he could successfully play a more mature, grown up figure. It mixes classic film noir style film making with an A-List cast that includes the likes of Mamie Van Doren (High School Confidential), Vampira (Plan 9 From Outer Space), Jim Backus (Gilligan’s Island, Mr. Magoo), and Jackie Coogan (The Addams Family) for a film that has earned the title of being one of the best B-flicks ever made.

The Big Operator will retail for SRP of $29.95 on Blu-ray and $24.95 on DVD. More information on this and other releases from Olive Films is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Shout! Factory’s Latest MST3K Box Set Even More Fun For Movie Buffs

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory has done it again. The company that has brought audiences of all ages so many great classic TV series and movies has released yet another hit in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX. The cult favorite TV series continues to show in its latest four-disc box set, why it remains such a beloved series even today. It shows this first through the skits that accompany the movies chosen to fill out this set. The movies in question are another reason that audiences will appreciate this latest collection of episodes. And the bonus material included in the set rounds out the set, making it complete. There is much more that could be discussed as to what makes this box set so great. The jokes and pop culture references made throughout each movie evidence this. Those jokes and references combine with the bonus features, selected movies, and skits to make Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX one of the potentially best box sets of the year.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is potentially one of the best new box sets of 2014. One of the reasons for this label is the skits included in each of the set’s four episodes. Audiences get to see Mike and his robot pals deal with Pearl as she unsuccessfully tries to host her own ball as part of The Pumaman. And both Pearl and Mike have to deal with a trio of “superbeings” that think Pearl and Mike to be “as amoebas” to them in the skit accompanying The Thing That Wouldn’t Die. Joel has to deal with his boss at the Gizmonic Institute in Untamed Youth and Hercules and the Captive Women. The skits themselves are so cheesy. Much the same can be said of the acting on the part of all involved. And that it’s meant to be so cheesy makes it all so much more entertaining. Long-time fans of this cult favorite series will find themselves laughing hysterically at each skit as if it was the first time that they had seen them. Those that might be seeing the skits in each episode will find themselves laughing just as hard after scratching their heads in totally confused yet entertained disbelief.

The skits used to introduce each film in this set are worth more than their share of riotous laughter. One can’t help but wonder where the writers—who also served as the show’s cast—came up with the ideas for them. One can’t help but compare the skits to really bad drug trips. Regardless, they are hilarious. Just as hilarious as the skits, are the movies chosen for each episode. This box set includes Hercules and the Captive Women, Untamed Youth, The Thing That Wouldn’t Die, and The Pumaman. The Pumaman is easily the most entertaining the movies included in this set. It presents a professor named Tony Farms, played by Walter G. Alton, Jr., who starts out just an ordinary scientist and becomes The Pumaman after being located by the descendant of an ancient alien race named Vadinho. Vadinho gives Professor Farms a belt that turns him into the superhero Pumaman. Given, the movie was crafted and released in 1980. But even for the day, the movie’s production values and writing were horrendous. Thus it earned the distinction of being added to MST3K’s schedule. Alton notes in the movie’s bonus interview that he was genuinely not happy with the biting commentary on the movie on the part of Mike and his robot pals. But there’s no denying that as serious as the cast and crew took themselves in making the movie, the end result was anything but a movie that could have been taken seriously.

The movies included in MST3K Volume XXIX are just as important as those included in the series’ previously released box sets not just for their entertainment value, but for their historical value, too.   Those audiences that are more interested in the history of the movie industry will appreciate seeing one more example in this set, of how far the movie industry has come since its earliest days. It’s astonishing to see just how much things have changed since the days of these movies. It’s just as interesting to note how little has changed in that time, too. For that reason, this latest volume of MST3K is made even more enjoyable for audiences.

The skits and the movies featured in MST3K Volume XXIX together make this latest volume just as entertaining as the series’ previous box sets. The bonus material included in each episode puts the finishing touch on the set. Audiences that watch The Thing That Wouldn’t Die get an extra bit of Hollywood history when they watch the bonus feature, “The Movie That Couldn’t Die.” Audiences learn through this feature that the censors still had quite a bit of pull even back then. It’s noted that a particular flashback scene involving the antagonist being beheaded originally involved a priest damning the figure. Apparently, the censors didn’t like the thought of a priest condemning the antagonist. So his character was changed to that of a random man. And as noted previously, actor Walton G. Alton, Jr. expressed his displeasure with the zingers tossed at The Pumanman because he and his cast mates had taken the creation of that movie so seriously. It’s one more item that makes the viewing experience of the movie all the more enjoyable and richer. The same can be said of the interview with actress Mamie Van Doren in Untamed Youth. These bonus features are the final pieces of MST3K Volume XXIX that make the box set whole. Together with the skits and the movies themselves, they make this set one that fans new and old will love to watch over and over again. It is just as great an introduction to the series for new fans as it is a continuation for the show’s more seasoned fans.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXIX is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered direct from the Shout! Factory online store at More information on this and other releases from Shout! Factory is available online at and To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at