Arrow Video’s ‘Cold War Creatures’ Blu-ray Box Set Is A Wonderful Treat For Classic Sci-Fi, Horror Fans This Halloween and Beyond

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Halloween is less than half a month away.  With the unofficial start of the holiday season once again so close, Arrow Video is offering audiences a great way to get into the holiday spirit with its recently released Blu-ray box set, Cold War Creatures.  Released Sept. 14, the four-disc collection is an excellent way for audiences to do just that.  That is due in no small part to the movies featured in this collection and their stories.  They will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured across the set is just as important as the movies and their stories and will be discussed a little later.  The set’s pricing rounds out its most important elements, considering the overall content.  It will also be discussed later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the box set.  All things considered, they make this collection one of the absolute best of this year’s new DVD and BD box sets for grown-ups.

Arrow Video has quickly become one of the leading names in home entertainment over the course of the past year or so, even surpassing the likes of Shout! Factory.  The reason being is its offerings.  It continued to do just that last month when it released its new classic sci-fi horror cinema collection, Cold War Creatures.  Released Sept. 14 on Blu-ray, the four-disc collection features four classic Columbia Pictures flicks, all produced by Sam Katzman.  The movies are all from the 1950s, the era that gave audiences some of the greatest sci-fi and horror flicks of all time.  In this case, the movies are spread across those genres.  The Giant Claw (1957) is a classic creature feature.  It was Columbia Pictures’ answer to all of Universal’s classic creature features.  Yes, it is so cheesy from beginning to end, but it is one of those flicks that is just so bad that it is great.  Thanks to HD technology, audiences can even see the strings and wires that controlled the giant bird and all of the model planes.  On another note, The Werewolf (1956) throws back to Universal’s older monster movies, but even being a werewolf movie, is not just a ripoff of The Wolfman.  This will be discussed shortly as the focus turns to the movies’ stories.  Creature With The Atom Brain takes the focus on atomic energy in that era and crosses it with a mob flick and a zombie flick.  That all sounds really contrived, but in a weird way, it works here.  Meanwhile, Zombies of Mora Tau is a more supernatural movie that, as the title infers, centers on a bunch of zombies.  However in this case, they aren’t brain-eating zombies.  This will also be discussed as the focus turns to the movies’ stories.  Looking at all of this, it is clear that the movies are unique from one another while also showing the ground that they cover within the sci-fi and horror realms of the time.  Simply put, they in themselves give audiences diversity in their viewing options.

Moving to the movies’ stories, the stories are as diverse as the movies themselves.  The story featured in Werewolf for instance centers on a man named Duncan Marsh (playe by Steven Rich – Wagon Train, Plunder Road, City of Fear) who is suffering from amnesia and just wants to remember who he is and how he became a werewolf.  Meanwhile, the residents of Mountaincrest — the town where Marsh ends up — meet him and eventually come to find out he is also the one responsible for a series of “murders” that happen in the town.  The revelation of how Marsh became a werewolf in the first place versus the mindset of sheriff Jack Haines (Don Megowan – Blazing Saddles, The Creation of the Humanoids, The Devil’s Brigade) and that of his fiancé, Amy Standish (Joyce Holden – Private Eyes, The Milkman, The Ford Television Theatre) really does a good job of making Marsh a sympathetic character.  Haines’ mindset meanwhile really makes him more of a villain in the bigger discussion on humans’ humanity and lack thereof.  That and the intolerance shown by the townspeople versus Amy’s more humane mindset really makes the story even more interesting.  That coupled with the blatant Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde comparison makes the story even more engaging and entertaining.  It does well to help separate this movie from its Universal Pictures counterpart, The Wolfman.  Interestingly enough, the movie is in fact a lifting of another movie, as is revealed in some of the set’s bonus content.  This will be addressed later.  Getting back on topic, it is just one of the interesting stories featured in this set.  The story featured in Zombies of Mora Tau is completely unlike that featured in The Werewolf.

The story featured in The Zombies of Mora Tau centers on a group of treasure hunters who have come to an unnamed region of Africa to retrieve a cache of diamonds.  As the set’s bonus content notes (again, this will be discussed later) the comparison to RKO Pictures’ 1932 movie White Zombie (which starred Dracula himself, Bela Lugosi) are inescapable.  AS it turns out, the diamonds are “protected” by the zombie crew that originally tried to steal the diamonds.  There is some tension and action throughout.  It is a story that is completely unlike that of the stories in the set’s other movies.

On yet another side of things, the story featured in The Giant Claw harkens back to the so bad they’re great creature features, such as The Deadly Mantis (1957), Them! (1954) and The Fly (1958).  In the case of The Giant Claw, the story is simple.  A giant, monster bird (apparently from outer space) comes to Earth to terrorize the planet while also preparing the next generation of super powered creatures.  It’s up to a smart mathematician named Sally Caldwell (Mara Corday – The Rookie, The Gauntlet, Sudden Impact) and her guy friend, the stereotypical, headstrong male lead, Mitch MacAfee (Jeff Morrow – This Island Earth, Kronos, Flight To Tangier) to figure out how to beat the apparently extraterrestrial beast.  This approach – the elite pair/team working to defeat the deadly beast(s) – was so typical of the creature features of the 50s, but is still just as entertaining to watch here as in those movies, even as cheesy as it is here.  Of course Sam Katzman was known for just rehashing previously used plots and plot elements from other movies for the movies that he produced.  This is also noted in the expansive bonus content featured in this set.  It will also be discussed later.  Getting back on topic again, this story is yet another example of the diversity in the movies’ stories.

As noted earlier, the story in Creature With The Atom Brain is unique in its own right.  It features a mobster named Frank Buchanan (Michael Granger – Battle of Rogue River, Fort Vengeance, Murder By Contract) who enlists the aid of ex-Nazi scientist Dr. Wilhelm Steigg (Gregory Gaye – Ninotchka, My Gal Sal, Dodsworth) to bring a bunch of dead criminals back to life and use them to get even with the law enforcement officials who caused him to be deported.  What audiences get here is a story that blends elements of a crime story and a zombie story to make quite the unique tale that is, again, super cheesy but still somehow so entertaining at the same time.  Looking at all of this, it is clear that the stories featured in this set are just as unique from one another as the movies’ genres.  To that end, they are just important to the set’s presentation as the movies themselves.  The two together are just one part of what makes this collection so entertaining.  The bonus content that accompanies the movies and their stories is of its own importance. 

To say that the bonus content featured in this set is expansive would be an understatement.  Each movie comes with its own bevy of bonuses.  Film historian and critic Kim Newman provides his own new introduction to each movie.  Each also features its own feature-length audio commentary and other extras.  One of the most notable of the “other” extras is the in-depth bonus, “Family Endangered!,” which comes with The Giant Claw.  Critic Mike White discusses in this feature, how so many movies in the 1950s reflected audiences’ concerns and the real world in general.  For instance, White points out that Creature With The Atom Brain features two antagonists who essentially represented the axis powers from WWII, in an Italian mobster and an ex-Nazi scientist.  The hero, an American detective went up against the pair, eventually defeating the men.  In the essay about the movie (which is part of the set’s bigger “Essaays” collection about each movie), writer Curt Siodmak was himself a survivor of sorts of Hitler’s regime.  The movie’s essay points out that he and his family actually fled their homeland to come to America to get away from Hitler and his evil.  So it is interesting to note that this likely played into his writing here.

Getting back on topic, in the case of The Giant Claw, White points out that the bird was essentially a physical manifestation of the fears that Americans had during the Cold War.  It was able to “cloak” itself from radar, and destroy so much of America.  It even ate the United Nations building while also building a nest in an attempt to spread its evil.  In other words, the whole movie was, in essence an allegory of global political tensions at the time.  That is interesting in its own right to learn.

On a related note, Newman points out in his introduction to The Giant Claw that allegedly, special effects legend Ray Harryhausen looked into The Giant Claw and essentially turned it down because of the low budget special effects.  This is shocking in its own right.

Moving on to Werewolf, Newman points out in this movie’s introduction, the comparison to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hydeand adds that it was an intentional throwback to the old Universal monster movies of days gone by.  The noted “Essays” collection that comes with the set adds to Newman’s own in-depth discussion, pointing out that the movie was in fact a lifting of the 1943 Columbia Pictures flick The Return of the Vampire.  This goes back again to the bigger discussion on Katzman’s willingness to just lift from other movies for the works that he produced.  This is also discussed in the “Essays” booklet. 

The discussion on Katzman’s willingness to lift plots and plot elements from other movies points out that such a move was intentional.  It was part of Katzman’s overall overly spendthrift approach to making movies during the 1950s.  He knew that people would buy into such an approach, and that in turn, the movies would make a profit.  Keeping that in mind, it leads one to realize that the more things change the more they stay the same, especially in Hollywood.  Knowing that movie studios have been excessively taking such an approach over the past 20 years or so, it looks like their approach is nothing new.  It lessens the annoyance of studios doing that even today, but at the same time adds to the annoyance that Hollywood even has taken such approach.  Ironically if not for that approach, the movies in this set would never have existed, so it becomes something of a bizarre necessary evil.  It is just one more of so many bonuses featured in this collection that show the importance of the set’s bonus content.  Between everything noted here and so much else featured with the set, the whole strengthens the set’s presentation that much more.  Keeping the breadth and depth of that content in mind along with that of the movies and their stories, the whole of the primary and secondary content gives audiences more than enough reason to own this cinematic set.  It also makes the set’s pricing money well spent.

The average price point of Cold War Creatures is $93.23 according to prices averaged through Amazon, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers.  The collection was not listed through Walmart, Target, and Books-A-Million at the time of this review’s posting.  Best Buy actually is the best buy in this case, listing the set at $79.99.  Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Amazon each list the movie at $99.99.  That roughly $80 price point (just over that, counting shipping and handling) is not that bad, considering – again – the amount of content and the depth thereof in this collection.  Considering so many Blu-rays ranging from as little as $9 to about $25 on average by themselves, that noted price is actually that much more affordable, considering that at the high end, buying each by itself would equal to about $100.  Add in the two extensive booklets that discuss the movies and their art one by one, and that average price point and the least expensive listing becomes that much more affordable.  Keeping that in mind along with the overall content, the whole proves even more why any cinephile, any classic sci-fi and horror fan, and any fan of all things Halloween will find this set so enjoyable.  It leaves no doubt that the set is among the best of this year’s top new DVD and BD box sets for grown ups.

Arrow Video’s recently released box set of vintage Columbia Pictures movies, Cold War Creatures, is one of the most impressive of the company’s releases so far this year if not the company’s most impressive this year.  That is due in part to its primary content.  That primary content consists of the set’s featured movies and their stories.  The movies and their stories are all unique from one another, offering plenty of diversity from the top down.  The secondary content – the bonus content that accompanies the movies and their stories – adds even more engagement and entertainment to the presentation.  That is because of the amount of background that it provides for the movies.  Any true cinephile fill agree it makes the set that much more immersive.  The set’s pricing proves to be money well spent, especially on the lower end.  On the lowest end from the nation’s major retailers, audiences will spend less than $100 on the set.  Speaking specifically, the lowest point is just over $80.  That is not bad, again, considering all of the noted content.  When that pricing is considered along with the content, the whole makes this collection overall a complete success one of the year’s top new DVD and BD box sets for grown-ups. 

Cold War Creatures is available now. More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:




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MST3K Volume XXXIII Is Yet Another Must Have For Any Film Buff, MST3K Fan

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

It’s time to blast off and laugh your heads off yet again, everyone. Mike, Joel, and their robot pals are back yet again on board the Satellite of Love with loads more fun for fans of the classic series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in the series’ 33rd (yes, 33rd) volume of episodes. Late this summer, Shout! Factory released MST3K Volume XXXIII much to the joy of its legions of fans. The latest collection (and according to new information not the last.  Volume XXXIV is due out in December) brings four more best of the worst from Hollywood’s hidden vaults to audiences in the form of Daddy-O (1958), Earth vs. The Spider (1958), Teen-Age Crime Wave (1955) and Agent For H.A.R.M. (1966). The movies are themselves so bad that yet again they are great. They serve both to show how far movies have come in so many avenues. Classic movie buffs will love seeing these once-forgotten flicks and using them to see how much Hollywood fare has changed since their day both for the good and for the bad. The less initiated will appreciate them just as much for their historical importance as for the stingers and zingers thrown in their direction courtesy of Mike, Joel, and their robot pals. Speaking of the crew of the Satellite of Love, the writing for the show’s live-action segments and the cast’s interpretation of said scripts is yet another reason that this new collection proves to be so funny. The collective work of the show’s writers and its cast make for so many laughs throughout each of the set’s episodes. Last but hardly least of all to the show’s positives is the bonus material included with each episode. There are behind-the scenes extras as well as retrospectives and more to keep true fans entertained for hours (or even days). Even for the more casual viewer the bonus material incorporated into the set offers its own share of insight and entertainment. All three elements combined together make MST3K Volume XXXIII yet another great addition to any MST3K fan’s own home DVD library and yet another example of why Shout! Factory remains today the leading name in home entertainment.

Shout! Factory’s latest collection of classic MST3K episodes is yet another great addition to any MST3K fan’s own home DVD library and yet another example of why Shout! Factory remains today the leading name in home entertainment. The main reason for this is the selection of episodes and movies chosen for the collection. There is plenty of action and drama presented in this offering of the best of Hollywood’s worst beginning with a former truck driver getting unwittingly swept up in a drug-running operation in 1958’s Daddy-O. The second of the set’s featured movies Earth vs. The Spider (1958) sees a small town community having to band together in order to stop a giant, mutant spider. This movie was just the latest at the time in Hollywood’s fascination with giant pests. Them! debuted four years prior in 1954 while The Deadly Mantis followed that one three years later in 1957. Another arachnid-based flick simply titled Tarantula three years prior to Earth vs. The Spider. It, too centered on a giant, mutant spider. Only in the case of that movie, the spider mutated as a result of human interference. Considering the number of creature features that came before this one, it doesn’t lessen the enjoyment of Earth vs. The Spider by any means. But it does make analysis easier. Teen-Age Crime Wave is just as enjoyable in its camp with its story centered on tow young teen criminals who go on a crime spree and get an innocent friend caught up in the whole thing, leading the girl to have to make a tough choice along the way. Considering such a plot, if a movie like that were made today, it would be a perfect fit on Lifetime and its digital “sister station” Lifetime Movie Network. And Agent For H.A.R.M. is just as much fun with its campy classic secret agent story centered on a flesh-eating bacteria. While most of the movies presented in this set have been largely forgotten save perhaps for Earth vs. The Spider, the fact that they have been dug up and presented once again is in itself is a great thing. That is because they serve as yet another lesson on Hollywood’s truly rich history. They really serve to show just how far Hollywood has come both to the positive and negative. To that end, the movies featured in this latest collection show once again why Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of the most under appreciated series of the 90s.

The movies chosen for MST3K Volume XXXIII are in themselves more than enough reason for fans of the cult favorite series to add this latest collection of its episodes to their own home DVD libraries. Of course they are just a fraction of what makes this collection just as enjoyable as every one of the series’ previous installments. The live action segments incorporated into the show are once again just as hilarious as ever. In some cases they are in direct relation to the featured flicks as with Daddy-O while in others such as in Agent Of H.A.R.M. they are their own standalone segments. Regardless every segment will have viewers in stitches. In Daddy-O viewers are treated to Joel and company spoofing the club scene from the movie early on in the episode. Audiences will roll on the floor with laughter seeing Joel with his pants pulled almost up to his chest, singing about it while Crow and Tom Servo join in. This is an absolutely hilarious moment. And it is obvious that Hodges and company had a blast filming the segment. In Agent of H.A.R.M. Mike is thrown into a court case after being accused of destroying an entire planet. Pearl (Mary Jo Pehl) just happens to become the prosecutor in the case while Professor Bobo (Kevin Murphy) plays Mike’s defense attorney. Crow and Tom Servo both serve as character witnesses for Mike. The cast’s acting ability in these segments is wonderful. It is so wonderful that one can’t help but wonder how much of the cast’s work was improve and how much was scripted. The live action segments included in Teen-Age Crime Wave and Earth vs. The Spider are just as funny in their own right. Audiences will discover that for themselves when they add this box set to their own home DVD libraries.

The live action segments incorporated into the set’s featured episodes and the movies that were chosen for each episode are collectively plenty of reason for any MTS3K fan to add this collection to his or her own home DVD library. They are not the only aspects of the collection that make it another must have for fans of the cult favorite series either. The bonus material included in the collection seals the deal for viewers. Whereas the movies featured in this collection serve as their own virtual film history lesson once again, the bonus material provided with each of the movies enriches that lesson even more. Audiences learn lots of equally interesting history in the bonus material that they might not have otherwise known. For example, it is revealed in Daddy-O’s bonus material that this movie was actually now legendary film composer/director John Williams’ first job as a film composer. Equally interesting to learn here is that director Lou Place originally worked with B-movie legend Roger Corman on his movies before taking on the directorial role in this film. The bonus material included in Earth vs. The Spider reveals that one member of the movie’s cast was in fact a WWII veteran who had been shot down over France and held in the very P.O.W. camp that was the inspiration behind the famed WWII movie The Great Escape. And many of the backdrops used in the movie’s filming were rather familiar. That is because they were also used in the likes of The Munsters, Gremlins, and Tarantula. Just as interesting (and funny) to learn is that another of the movie’s “young” actors wasn’t so young. He was in fact 35-years old despite playing a high school student. Teen-Age Crime Wave comes complete with an in-depth history lesson on producer Sam Katzman. Viewers learn in watching this “bio” that Katzman was the man behind Columbia’s first major 3D flick Fort Ti. That movie would go on to be just the first of a number of huge hits for Columbia in the 3D realm. There is also mention of Katzman being one of the big names behind Elvis’ movie career and so much more. His bio is so rich that there is not enough time or space to cover his full career. Tue movie buffs will appreciate such depth both here and in the set’s other bonus material just as much as that provided by Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz before and after the classics run on Turner Classic Movies. The very depth of information provided by this set’s bonus material coupled with the movies themselves and the episodes’ live action segments makes for four more episodes that collectively are another must have for any MST3K fan.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 Volume XXXIII is one more must have for any real classic movie buff and for any true MST3K fan. Thankfully it is not the last of the series’ collections as at least one more is planned for release in December. While audiences wait for that collection’s release this installment will make the wait quite easy. That is thanks to its selection of classic forgotten flicks and their companion bonus history lessons. The stingers and zingers thrown out over the course of each movie add even more enjoyment to each presentation. The live action segments incorporated into each episode make for even more enjoyment for viewers. All things considered, MST3K Volume XXXIII is another must have for classic movie buffs and MST3K fans alike. It is available now in stores and online, and can be ordered online via Shout! Factory’s online store at More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:




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