Every Horror Movie Purist Should “See” ‘I Saw What You Did’

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Universal Pictures

Hollywood’s horror genre has come a long way from what it once was and not for the better either.  It seems like every other horror flick churned out by Hollywood today is either an overly dark and violent movie centered on demons and the like or it is an equally violent (and gory) slasher flick.  That wasn’t so much the case in Hollywood’s golden age.  It was wholly possible for studios in that age to make horror flicks—regardless of their specific subgenre—without being so dark, bloody, and violent.  Alfred Hitchcock’s classic slasher flick Psycho is proof of this as is the 1963 nightmare-inducing ghost story The Haunting and Allied Artists’ 1959 fright fest House on Haunted Hill.  All three of these movies are examples of what once made horror such a great genre.  They are also examples, when set against their newer counterparts, of just how far the genre has fallen from its pedestal.  The comparison is stark to say the very least.  Earlier this year Scream Factory, Shout! Factory’s horror division released another example of what once made Hollywood’s horror realm so great when it released the classic slasher flick I Saw What You Did on Blu-ray.  This 1965 flick from William Castle Productions (which was also behind House on Haunted Hill) and Universal Pictures is a must have for any horror fan looking to escape the glut of cookie cutter slasher flicks and ghost stories currently being churned out by Hollywood’s Big Six studios.  That is due in no small part to the movie’s story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note in its presentation as its story.  Last but hardly least of note in the movie’s presentation is its general lack of blood, gore, and violence.  This element rounds out the movie’s most important elements and is no less important than the movie’s story or the work of the movie’s cast.  Keeping that in mind, each element does its own part to make this movie an entertaining work of horror.  Altogether they make this movie another must see for any horror purist.

Universal Pictures’ 1965 slasher flick I Saw What You Did is a must see for any horror movie purist.  That is because like so many horror flicks of its age it is the antithesis of everything that Hollywood’s horror genre has become.  That is clear in examining the story at the center of the movie.  The story centers on the antics of teenagers Libby Mannering (Andi Garrett—The Wild Wild West, Black Sheep Squadron) and Kit Austin (Sarah Lane—The Virginian, The Trial of Billy Jack, Billy Jack Goes To Washington) and the eventual terror that comes as a result of what they think are harmless phone pranks.  The pair’s prank calls end up having a rather far-reaching effect, causing (indirectly) the murder of Judith  Marek (Joyce Meadows—The Brain From Planet Arous, Two Faces West, The Girl in Lovers Lane) by her husband Steve (John Ireland—Spartacus, All The King’s Men, Red River).  Libby calls Steve’s number, pretending to be another woman, which leads Judith to confront Steve while he’s showering.  What’s interesting is that when Judith goes to confront Steve, she notices that their bathroom is a shambles.  It is clear that Steve’s intent was to murder Judith regardless and make it look like someone else did it.  But her confrontation leads Steve to murder her in the shower and then get rid of the body.  When Libby calls back later, she tells Steve, “I saw what you did and I know who you are,” he thinks that she is serious, which leads to even more tension.  What’s really interesting in all of that tension is that in adapting author Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark to cinematic form, writer William P. McGivern unknowingly included a story element that is wholly relevant today.  The element in question involves the young, naïve Libby actually going to meet Steve because she thinks he actually wants to meet her, not knowing that he is a murderer.  This is an issue that the world faces even more today than ever before due to the advent of online messaging services, chat rooms, etc.  Who would have thought a story crafted more than fifty years ago would have such a relevant element within its script?  This revelation makes the movie’s story all the more believable, and in turn engaging.  Of course the movie becomes somewhat cheesy in its final act.  That aside, the rest of the story will still keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  That being the case, the story in whole shows just how important it is to the movie’s overall presentation.  It is just one of the elements that make the movie such an entertaining work of horror.  The work of the movie’s cast is just as important to note as its story in examining what makes the movie a must see for horror purists.

William P. McGivern’s cinematic adaptation of Ursula Curtiss’ novel Out of the Dark is an important part of the presentation of I Saw What You Did.  That is because it is by and large, a thriller that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats.  It manages to do so even without the use of any overt violence and bloodshed.  That is not to say that there is no violence or bloodshed.  It is there.  Don’t mistake that.  But it is kept to an extreme minimum since censors at the time didn’t allow but so much of said elements.  It shows that horror can be enjoyable even without blood, gore, or overt violence.  Of course the movie’s story is just one of the most important elements to examine in McGivern’s adaptation of Curtiss’ novel.  The work of the movie’s cast in interpreting McGivern’s script is just as important to examine here as his story.  Garrett and Lane are completely entertaining as lead stars Libby and Kit.  The pair makes audiences shake their heads in disbelief at Libby and Kit.  That is because the actresses fully embrace the girls’ lack of forethought in their actions.  While teens today might not make prank calls for their own fun that lack of foresight, teens today still act just as thoughtlessly even if in different ways.  And it gets them into their own share of trouble, too.  On the other end of the spectrum John Ireland is just as entertaining to watch as the villainous Steve Marak.  Steve’s actions might not seem all that believable on the surface.  But anyone that has ever watched an episode of 48 Hours or Dateline knows that what he did is in fact rather commonplace in real life crimes.  He does such an impressive job in presenting Steve’s paranoia about having been seen.  That is especially considering that only two people saw what he was doing over the course of the movie.  Each of the movie’s other cast members do their own part in adding to the movie’s enjoyment.  But it is really the trio noted here that most shines through.  Their work in interpreting their parts (and McGivern’s script) is just as important to the movie’s presentation as McGivern’s own work.  It still is not the last remaining element to note in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so surprisingly entertaining.  The general lack of overt violence and bloodshed, as slightly mentioned earlier, plays a part in the movie’s presentation that is just as important to note as the movie’s story and the work of the movie’s cast.

The story at the center of I Saw What You Did and the work of the movie’s cast are both important in examining what makes this classic slasher flick so entertaining.  Each element plays its own part in making it a movie that any horror purist should see as has already been noted.  They are not the only elements that make the movie so surprisingly enjoyable either.  The movie’s general lack of blood, gore, and overt violence is just as important to note in examining the movie’s presentation as its story and the work of its cast.  There is some blood and violence incorporated into the movie.  But most of it comes when Steve Marak murders his wife and his mistress.  Even when he does this, the bloodshed is virtually nothing when compared to most of the slasher flicks that are available to audiences today.  Rather it is more comparable to the bloodshed used in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960).  Given that is the result of standards set by censors and the MPAA at that time.  But it is a good thing.  That is because it forced McGivern (as with every other writer at the time) to actually rely on story more so than on the violence factor (I.E. quality versus quantity).  It is a standard to which this critic personally wishes horror movies would return.  McGivern did an admirable job in focusing on the movie’s quality.  He showed that a story can stand on its own literary merits even in a horror setting without having to rely on blood, gore, and violence.  It really serves as a model for today’s horror screen writers.  It shows that a horror movie can be fun without being overly violent, bloody, gory or even nightmare-inducing.  Keeping this in mind, it rounds out the movie’s most important elements.  Together with McGivern’s work and that of the movie’s cast all three elements join together to make the movie in whole a surprisingly fun ride for any horror movie purist.

Scream Factory’s recent re-issue of I Saw What You Did is a surprisingly fun ride for any true horror movie purist.  That is because it shows that it is possible for horror flicks to be fun without being overly violent and sexualized.  That is evident most prominently in the movie’s story, written by William P. McGivern.  The story relies more on its literary elements than its actual visual content to keep audiences entertained and engaged.  The movie’s cast is just as notable in its work in front of the camera.  Garrett, Lane, and Ireland are completely believable in their respective roles and in turn envelope audiences in the story.  The story’s general lack of blood, gore, violence, and sexual content is Just as important to note here as the story itself and the work of the movie’s cast.  It brings everything full circle and shows together with the previously noted elements that it is possible for a horror flick to be entertaining without being questionable in its content.  All things considered the recent re-issue of this classic horror flick proves to be a surprisingly enjoyable ride for any true horror movie purist.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/film/film-horror/i-saw-what-you-did.  More information on this and other titles from Scream Factory is available online now at:




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CMG’s Jamaica Inn Re-Issue Is A Must Have For Any Classic Movie Buff

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group

Alfred Hitchcock is one of the most famed directors in the modern history of the movie industry. Known mostly for helming the likes of Psycho, Dial M For Murder, North by Northwest, The Birds, Rear Window and a handful of other legendary Hollywood hits. While he is most well-known for the noted movies, they are not the only movies that he helmed. Before taking on those famed films, Hitchcock also helmed the big screen adaptations of a pair of books by author Daphne Du Maurier in the form of Rebecca (1940) and Jamaica Inn (1939). The latter of the two was re-issued on Blu-ray this past May to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of its debut. Of course the movie’s seventy-fifth anniversary was technically October 13, 2014. But that is beside the point. The very fact that this classic Hitchcock helmed film has been resurrected by the people at Cohen Media Group is reason enough in itself for audiences to be excited. This movie is a great escape from all of the movies currently polluting America’s theaters and retailers both online and physical. For those that might perhaps be unfamiliar with this classic action/drama movie, its script is the central reason for its enjoyment. The script presents a story that is action packed in its own right especially for its age, and yet is easy to follow. The work of movie’s cast adds even more to the movie’s enjoyment. The bonus material included in the movie’s new re-issue rounds out the presentation and solidifies its place in this year’s crop of re-issues. All three elements considered together, they show Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Jamaica Inn a must-have for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with Hichcock’s body of work.

Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn is a must-have for any classic movie buff regardless of their familiarity with Hitchcock’s body of work. It is a movie that not only will classic movie buffs enjoy but even those that lovers of action movies will enjoy. The central way in which it shows itself to be so enjoyable is its script. The script presents a story that is action packed in its own right especially for its time and that is easy to follow. The story presented in this movie’s script is itself timeless. A young woman named Mary (Maureen O’Hara–The Parent Trap, Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man) moves in with her aunt and uncle (played respectively by Marie Ney–Scrooge, Simba, Escape! and Leslie Banks– Henry V, The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Most Dangerous Game) and discovers that her uncle is part of a gang responsible for wrecking ships on the British coast. Mary (O’Hara), in moving in with them, inadvertently discovers this and frees a member of the gang who turns out to be a naval officer who has infiltrated the gang in order to find out who is running the operation and in turn shut the whole operation down. The officer, Jem Trehearne, is played here by Robert Newton (Oliver Twist, Treasure Island, This Happy Breed). What happens from here is pretty obvious. It is a story that has been played out countless times throughout the movie industry’s modern age. Though, there are some interesting differences between this movie and those that have attempted to ape it ever since its debut. And those differences add even more interest to the movie’s script.

The story that lies at the center of Jamaica Inn’s enjoyment is in itself a great work. It is just part of what makes the movie’s script so enjoyable and interesting for viewers. The more minute elements of the script that play into its enjoyment, too. Most notable of that minutia is the fact that the movie’s writing staff held off on the romance element that is far too prevalent in so many action flicks that have come along since. It would have been so easy for the movie’s writers to go that route and have Mary and Jem fall in love, etc. over the course of the movie. But they opted instead to not go that route. It was obvious that there was a connection between the pair. But the writers kept that element on the back-burner, opting instead to let the main story holds its rightful place in the grand scheme of things. Even more interesting in examining the movie’s script closely is that while O’Hara is billed as one of the story’s main stars, it doesn’t take long for her to take more of a supporting role than a lead. Laughton on the other hand maintains his lead status. But it is Newton who surprisingly rises to the occasion and becomes the other real lead star opposite Laughton. Maybe that is a result of the era in which the movie was made. Women in that era generally were written as the damsel in distress type of character versus the strong leads that they are often portrayed as today. Considering that O’Hara was billed as one of the movie’s leads it makes this casting and eventual role change all the more interesting and worth the discussion. Whether for this element, the direction taken by the writers in regards to the story’s romance, or for the story itself, it becomes crystal clear in the long run why Jamaica Inn’s script is central to its enjoyment and success.

The script that was crafted for Jamaica Inn is in itself more than enough reason for viewers in whole to check out this classic action/drama flick. Its story is itself classic in every sense of the word. It also avoids the trappings that are far too commonplace in so many of today’s action/dramas. While the essential changing of Mary from a lead to a supporting role is not necessarily a good thing, that seeming cultural reflection is still well worth noting in the larger discussion of Jamaica Inn in whole. The script and its more specific elements in whole collective make up a big part of why classic movie buffs and action/drama fans will appreciate this movie. The work of the movie’s cast adds even more enjoyment and interest to the movie. Viewers will especially find it interesting thanks to the additional video essay by author Donald Spoto (pronounced spoh-toh). That will be discussed at more length later. Simply put, Soto makes note of the conflicts between Laughton and Hitchcock in his essay. The difficulties raised by these conflicts aside, there is no denying the fact that Laughton is an expert in his role. He makes it so easy to hate Sir Humphrey. Sir Humphrey comes across as being so self-righteous and overly confident in himself. He makes audiences want something bad to happen to him just because he is so vile in the type of person he proves to be. In the same vein, Leslie Banks is spot on as Joss Merlyn, the head of the ship-wrecking gang. While not as villainous as Sir Humphrey, he is enjoyable to watch as a bad guy. Yet his defense of Mary late in the story and the reveal of Joss as one of Sir Humphrey’s men makes him not as despicable. As a matter of fact, he comes across as almost a sympathetic character of sorts, especially when he defends Mary against his fellow marauders. Of course one would be remiss to ignore Robert Newton’s portrayal of Jem Trehearn. Considering his character, it would have been so easy for Newton to ham it up and be the standard over-the-top, almost Errol Flynn type a la The Adventures of Robin Hood. But he didn’t go that route. Rather he maintained a certain reserved portrayal throughout. Being that he did, it made it that much easier to root for him as he investigated the ship-wrecking crew. His is just one more portrayal that shows the importance of the cast’s work in Jamaica Inn. Whether for Newton’s work, for that of Laughton, Newton, O’Hara or any of the other cast members, audiences will agree that the work of Jamaica Inn’s cast proves just as pivotal to the movie’s enjoyment and success as the script in all of its minutia.

The work of Jamaica Inn’s writing team and its cast both play their own pivotal parts in the overall success and enjoyment of the movie. Having noted both elements, it is clear why this underrated Hitchcock classic is well worth the watch now that it has been meticulously restored and resurrected on Blu-ray and DVD. Speaking of the movie’s re-issue, audiences have been treated to a couple of in-depth extras that more than ive up to the title of “bonus features.” The extras in question include both an in-depth video essay by author Donald Spoto and full feature-length commentary. Audiences will especially enjoy Soto’s video essay as it goes into quite the depth in regards to what happened both in front of the camera and behind it. One of the most intriguing facts that Soto discusses in his essay is in regards to the working relationship between Hitchcock and Laughton. According to Soto, the relationship in question was strained to say the least as Laughton allegedly was rather difficult to work with. Soto notes that Laughton would not just request but demand multiple takes in a number of scenes and that he was controlling in his nature. Even if he was, it did result in a character that audiences will love to hate. On another note, Soto makes mention of Hitchcock’s eye for detail in making his movies as believable as possible and its consequences. Soto notes that in filming the shipwreck scenes, one of the actors actually developed pneumonia and died after being doused with blast after blast of cold water and cold air from a wind machine at the studio where the scenes in question were filmed. Soto also discusses author Daphne Du Maurier’s displeasure over Hithcock’s take of her book and its effect on the fate of Rebecca and even her book The Birds. That’s right, readers. Even that movie was lifted from a book. It just so happened that it, too was penned by Du Maurier. Obviously Hitchcock was a fan of her work despite the fact that he changed her works to meet his own expectations for his movies. These are just a few of the tidbits offered up by Soto in his essay. There is plenty more that audiences will find interesting in watching his essay. In turn, viewers that watch the essay will agree as to just how much it adds to the overall viewing experience of Cohen Media Group’s new re-issue of Jamaica Inn. The feature-length commentary that comes as an optional audio track adds even more insight and enjoyment to the movie. The commentary in question is provided by one of TCM’s (Turner Classic Movies) employees. Coupled with Soto’s own separate commentary in his video essay, both commentaries add the finishing touch to this new re-issue of Jamaica Inn. They prove once and for all that it is one of the most underrated of the extensive list of movies helmed by Alfred Hitchcock if not the single most underrated of those movies. Together with the work of the movie’s writing team and its cast, it shows in the end to be a movie that any classic movie buff and action/drama should see if not have in their own home movie library.

Cohen Media Group is to be greatly applauded for its re-issue earlier of Jamaica Inn this past May. It never did receive the respect or acclaim that it so rightly deserved in its original release nearly seventy-six years ago. Now thanks to its re-issue it is finally getting the second life, and in turn second chance at respect and acclaim that it so rightly deserves. It exhibits this through the work of its writing team, the work of its cast, and through the additional commentary and content added through its bonus video essay and commentary. All three elements together show just how much this movie has to offer audiences of all ages. They are just the tip of the iceberg, too. One could also make mention of its special effects in comparison to those of today’s action/drama movies. One could also raise a discussion on the level of violence in the movie versus that of today’s movies. Whether for those discussions or the ones noted here, it can be said without a doubt that Cohen Media Group’s recent re-issue of Jamaica Inn is an absolute must see and must have for audiences that are fans and lovers of classic film and action movies alike. More information on Cohen Media Group’s re-issue of Jamaica Inn is available online now along with a trailer for the movie at http://cohenmedia.net/films/jamaica-inn. More information on this and other titles from Cohen Media Group is available online now at:

Website: http://cohenmedia.net

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CohenMediaGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cohenmediagroup

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MPI, Cohen Media Group Making Their Name With Their Latest Uncovered Classic

Courtesy:  Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

Courtesy: Cohen Media Group/mpi media group

The partnership between Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video has made the two companies leaders in re-issuing cinema classics.  Universal Studios is a close second thanks to the recent re-issues of Cape Fear, its Alfred Hitchcock Essentials collection, and it Universal Monsters collection. Now two more companies are staking their claim in the classic movie world.  Those companies are Virgil Films and Cohen Media Group.  Early in 2013, the two companies partnered for the release of what is one of the single greatest classics of all time in the Thief of Bagdad.  Now months later, they have released an even lesser known classic in Perfect Understanding.

The plot of Perfect Understanding rests in the agreement between Swanson’s Judy and Olivier’s Nicholas that could be equated to an open marriage.  Right off the top, it’s obvious just how original this is, considering social norms and values of America in the early 1930s.  The agreement between the couple is meant in order to break the trend that the couple sees among its friends.  Neither wants to end up like their friends.  Ironically enough, it is because of the agreement that the couple reaches the point of its friends.  The ensuing story is unlike anything that fans of the rom-com genre have seen since.  It’s obviously not just another typical boy meets girl-loses her-gets her back in the end story.  It’s almost Shakespearian in a way when one really goes back through the story a couple of times and analyzes it at a much deeper level.  It should also be noted here that despite a run time of an hour and half, the story actually moves along at a relatively easy pace.  This, along with the largely original story is another positive to this unearthed gem of a classic film.

For a film of its era and its style, Perfect Understanding could very well have been much longer and less able to relate to viewers, even today.  Luckily, it didn’t do that.  And roughly eight decades after it premiered it’s still as funny today as it was in its premiere.  Taking into account the film’s age, it’s incredible that it still sounds and looks as good as it does to this day.  What audiences see and hear is largely what audiences heard when the film first premiered so long ago.  It is a true testament to those charged with restoring the film to its original glory.  And now thanks to those individuals, a whole new generation of film buffs can enjoy this rare classic.

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The Hunchback of Notre Dame Is One Of Disney’s Modern Classics

Courtesy:  Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Courtesy: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Walt Disney Studios has largely made its fame on taking classic literary stories and adapting them for the big screen.  For the most part, doing so has led to great success for Disney.  So it goes without saying that when Disney’s heads decided to bring Victor Hugo’s literary classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame to audiences in animated form doing so was a pretty big risk.  That is because this is hardly the happiest of stories.  Somehow though, Disney managed to pull off the job and craft what should be considered to be one of the company’s modern classics.  Whereas its renditions of The Jungle Book, Peter Pan, Cinderella and others are considered the company’s original classics, its take on Hugo’s literary masterpiece fits nicely into the category of modern classics.  This is the case for a variety of reasons. In watching this rendition, one can’t help but be taken back to Disney’s golden era.  From the subtlety of the mix of hand drawn and digital animation, to the big song cues to the animation, one actually feels as if one is actually watching a stage presentation made into an animated film.  And while it may be a little bit scary for younger audiences with its darker elements, it still stands as one of the better works in Disney’s modern era.

Viewers that closely watch the newly re-issued Hunchback of Notre Dame I/II combo pack will catch a subtlety that others might not that harkens back to Disney’s golden era.  That subtlety is a mix of animation styles.  There are a handful of scenes throughout this movie that show on one side, the rougher, less “streamlined” animation style sitting side by side.  This is explained briefly in the original “Making of featurette” that was included in the movie’s previous release.  Actor Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) explains the reality behind the misconception that all animation done for Disney movies—at the time—was done by computer.  The difference between the hand drawn animation and digital animation is pretty clear.  And the very fact that animators tried to duplicate the animation of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” even in the slightest in this feature makes it worthy of at least a little bit of respect.

If the attempt by animators to replicate the animation of Disney’s most famed animators isn’t enough for viewers, then perhaps the story’s musical numbers will help win over audiences.  Composer Alan Menken returned for this movie after having massive success nearly a decade prior on another of Disney’s biggest modern classics in The Little Mermaid.  The animation works in tandem with the big musical numbers to really leave viewers feeling like they are watching a stage presentation in animated form.  That’s even more the case now that the movie has been re-issued on Blu-ray.  There is just a certain quality on which one can’t put one’s finger that pulls audiences in and makes the story believable.  That’s the sign of a quality work.

If the song cues and the animation aren’t enough, then the movie’s more comical moments will entertain audiences.  Even in some of the movie’s darker moments, the story’s writers come up with some pretty funny moments to help lighten the mood.  A prime example of this comes late in the movie, in the final showdown sequence.  As Quasimodo and Frollo face off in the cathedral’s tower, soldiers are below, trying to break in.  Laverne (voiced by the late Mary Wickers) helps in the fight by calling on a large group of birds.  This moment is a tribute not just to the classic Warner Brothers movie, The Wizard of Oz, but also to Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic, The Birds.  While the latter tribute may have been unintentional, it is there.  It’s just one of so many moments that will have viewers laughing.  Add in Jason Alexander’s comedic timing and viewers get more than enough laughs to offset the movie’s darker moments.  Those darker moments being offset and the movie’s enjoyable musical numbers and hybrid animation together make The Hunchback of Notre Dame one of the better movies from Disney’s modern era.  One might even go so far as to call it one of Disney’s modern classics.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from the Disney store at http://www.disneystore.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1331583/1000316/ and at the Disney DVD store at http://disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-hunchback-of-notre-dame-two-movie-collection.html

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