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:

Websitehttps://www.arrowfilms.com

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To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/phispicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Arrow Video’s ‘Dune’ Re-Issue Is Imperfect But Entertaining

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Much has been made of the latest cinematic adaptation of author Frank Herbert’s classic science fiction novel Dune over the course of the past year plus.  It was originally scheduled to make its theatrical debut in 2020, with multiple pushbacks as a result of the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Now later this year, the movie will apparently finally get its long awaited debut, too, just before Halloween.  If in fact the movie finally makes its way to theaters nationwide, it will not have been the first time that Herbert’s novel has been adapted for the big or even small screen.  Its most recent adaptation was a made for TV version that aired on television in 2000.  That rendition was followed up in 2003 by the sequel, Children of Dune.  Both mini-series aired on the old Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy).  Much as with the original theatrical version from 1984 that was helmed by David Lynch, the 2000 and 2003 mini-series has led to plenty of division among audiences.  Viewers either loved it or hated it.  There was no middle ground.  Speaking of that 1984 version, it will receive an expansive re-issue Tuesday in the form of a 4K UHD/Blu-ray box set.  If research is correct, the last time that the landmark 1984 version was released on any format was in 2011 on a single-disc Blu-ray presentation with limited extras.  The new, forthcoming re-issue from Arrow Video is overall, a large step up from that presentation.  That is due in large part to the expanded presentation in this case.  This will be discussed shortly.  While the expanded presentation is unarguably a positive, the bonus content that features with the new re-issue is a mixed bag.  It will be discussed a little later.  Considering the overall presentation in the movie’s forthcoming re-issue, its pricing proves important in its own way to the whole of the presentation in a mostly positive fashion.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the forthcoming Dune 4K UHD/BD combo pack re-issue.  All things considered, they make this re-issue a mostly successful presentation, despite its concerns.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD/BD re-issue of the David Lynch-helmed 1984 cinematic adaptation of Dune is an interesting new presentation of the landmark movie.  Its presentation here stands out in part because it is expanded from the movie’s previous release.  Instead of just being available on Blu-ray, it is also presented here on a 4K UHD platform.  For those who don’t know, the picture quality on 4K UHD is an enhancement from that of Blu-ray.  That is because of its pixel rate.  Now that is not to say that the Blu-ray presentation’s visual quality is bad.  It is impressive in its own right in comparison to the movie’s original analog presentation.  The picture is much better. 

Keeping all of this in mind, it plays into the related topic of pricing for 4K UHD technology.  4K UHD players and TVs are far more expensive right now than Blu-ray players and standard monitors.  To that end, consumers who cannot afford or do not want to pay the currently exorbitant price for that 4K UHD hardware can still enjoy this classic sci-fi flick in a positive visual presentation even on Blu-ray.  Those who have actually turned out the money for 4K UHD hardware can enjoy it on the already impressive Blu-ray presentation and on the even more enhanced 4K UHD presentation.  So to this end, the dual visual presentations ensure that audiences on either side of the BD/4K UHD discussion will benefit.

While the dual 4K UHD/BD presentation of Dune in Arrow Video’s new re-issue is a strong positive for this re-issue, the manner in which the movie’s companion bonus content is presented here is more problematic.  Arrow Video has spread the movie’s bonus content (new and old alike) across the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs.  Two new feature-length audio commentaries are presented on the 4K UHD disc along with a variety of “older” cast and crew interviews from the early 2000s.  Meanwhile, the Blu-ray presentation features a new interview with members of Toto, which composed the movie’s score, and a new interview with make-up artist Gianetto de Rossi, which was filmed in 2020.  The new interviews are complimented by a pair of archived interviews with other members of the movie’s crew.  The interview with Toto’s members is interesting in that audiences learn it was the first and only time that the band had ever scored a movie’s soundtrack and that Lynch had told the band that working with them was, in hindsight, one of the few things he enjoyed from the movie.  The interview with de Rossi, meanwhile, offers a lot of insight into the movie’s creation.  Thankfully, the subtitles – de Rossi speaks entirely in Italian during his interview – that he was very picky about how he did things, and that one of the cast members even received a minor injury because the cast member did not listen to him in one particular scene.  He also reveals through his discussion that he enjoyed working on the movie for the most part, though in hindsight, he felt the movie really did not end up reaching its potential, which is interesting.  That is interesting, again, because he said himself that he enjoyed working on the movie and with the cast and crew.

On a similar note, the archived interview with Production Coordinator Golda Offenheim (recorded in 2003, prior to her passing only years later in 2008) offers similar thoughts.  Offenheim reveals during her interview that she also was not a fan of the movie, nor was she a fan of most of David Lynch’s work.  Ironically, she admits in her interview that she enjoyed working with the cast and crew, even saying there was a positive sense of camaraderie among them.  As if that is not enough, that she leaves viewers (and her anonymous interviewer) hanging on a number of topics, including the fate of a bus used by the cast and crew that went missing, and certain details about the cast and crew.  One cannot help but wonder what knowledge she took with her from that interview.  That alone makes for so much more interest in this interview along with everything else discussed.  Simply put, her comments and those of de Rossi showed that clearly there was some discord among the cast and crew behind the scenes.  That is proven even more with the archived interview with star Paul Smith.

Smith reveals in his interview that one of the scenes that he wanted to do was cut out of concerns about him and crew members being accidentally electrocuted.  He also reveals that he was initially the first choice to play the Baron, but his own refusal to put on extra weight for the role resulted in him playing another character, the Baron’s nephew.  Smith openly states in his interview that he outright refused to gain the extra weight needed for the role of the Baron because he did not want to put his health and life in that kind of danger.  It is just another example of that noted discord behind the scenes.  Interestingly despite everything that obviously went on behind the cameras, the 1984 adaptation of Dune has still gone on to become a cult hit, even though it may not stick entirely to it literary source material.  By comparison, the two TV mini-series that aired in 2000 and 2003 on Sci-Fi Channel stayed closer to their source material but still looked awful.  So again, the 1984 version suffered from its own problems behind the lens, but still ended up being better than the 2000 version and its sequel.


Adding even more to the discussion here is the bonus booklet that accompanies the re-issue.  Whether audiences own 4K UHD or Blu-ray hardware, viewers on both sides of that divide will get to take in so much content spread across the 60-page publication.  From the movie’s place in the bigger history of science fiction on the big screen, to the bigger message of Herbert’s novel, to even the movie’s sound effects and more, the booklet offers in-depth discussions of so many topics.  One could actually argue that to at least a point, that breadth and depth of information makes up for the division of the bonus content on the set’s two discs.  Keeping that in mind, it helps further enhance the set’s presentation.

Getting back on track, the bonus content featured on the movie’s Blu-ray presentation is, again, unlike that presented in the re-issue’s 4K UHD presentation.  This is where the matter of cost comes back into play, but not in a good way.  While those with 4K UHD players and TVs will be able to take in the bonus content on both the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs, those with Blu-ray players and standard TVs will only get to take in the bonus content on the Blu-ray disc.  Again, the new content featured in the 4K UHD content includes two new feature-length audio commentaries along with a variety of archived interviews.  Not having access to that content, means those with only Blu-ray players and standard TVs are being short-changed.  4K UHD players and TVs are, again, largely cost restrictive in comparison to Blu-ray players and standard HDTVs right now.  That means that while yes, some consumers do own that more expensive content, most do not.  So in separating the bonus content out in such fashion means that Arrow Video is really shooting itself in the foot here so to speak.  To that end, it makes the movie’s bonus content positive and negative all in one.  Keeping in mind the positive role that the movie’s presentation on dual formats plays and the role of the divided bonus content here, this latest re-issue of Dune largely proves entertaining but largely imperfect.  Even with all of this in mind, there is at least one positive left to note here.  That content in question is the re-issue’s pricing.

The average price point for Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD/Blu-ray re-issue of Dune is approximately $42, rounding up the number to a whole.  Now considering how expensive most 4K UHD discs are by themselves, that seems a bit hit, and that would be right.  However, that the movie’s 4K UHD is presented alongside a Blu-ray presentation of the movie, that number makes more sense.  What’s more, the most commonly occurring price for the re-issue – through Amazon, Walmart, and Target – is $34.99.  That is an even more affordable number, considering the breadth and depth of the content featured in this re-issue.  Best Buy’s listing is right at the average, at $42.99.  Books-a-Million, the only other major retailer that lists the re-issue, has it listed far above the average at $59.95.  So looking at all of these prices, it becomes clear that the pricing for this re-issue is in fact largely positive and will not break anyone’s budget.  Even with the concerns raised through the bonus content’s division, that aspect and the movie’s dual presentation works with the bonus content to a point to make this re-issue imperfect but still mostly engaging and entertaining.

Arrow Video’s forthcoming 4K UHD/Blu-ray presentation of Dune (1984) is an interesting new offering from the home entertainment company.  Its primary positive comes in the form of the movie’s dual presentation.  Whether audiences own 4K UHD hard ware or Blu-ray players and standard TVs, viewers on both sides of that divide can enjoy this classic movie with full clarity on either platform.  Now while that dual presentation is positive, it also widens the divide.  That is because the new and archived bonus footage is split between the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs.  Not everyone can afford the more cost restrictive 4K UHD hardware, and those people are relegated to only watching the Blu-ray’s bonus content.  Keeping that in mind, the division of the bonus content detracts from the set’s enjoyment to a point.  On the other hand, the extensive information shared in the set’s bonus booklet makes up for that shortfall at least to a point.  Even with that in mind, the division of the bonus content cannot be ignored.  Even with the concerns raised by the bonus content in mind, the set’s pricing proves to be its own positive.  It proves cost effective regardless of whether viewers have the noted 4K UHD hardware.  Maybe one day when and if that hardware becomes less cost restrictive, then it will become even more of a positive.  In the meantime though, it still proves at least somewhat positive.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Arrow Video’s forthcoming re-issue of Dune imperfect but still entertaining.  The presentation is scheduled for release Tuesday.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available at:

Websitehttps://www.arrowfilms.com

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/ArrowVideo

Twitterhttps://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to https://www.facebook.com/phispicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Bonus Content Is The Saving Grace For Arrow Video’s ‘Silent Running’ Blu-ray Re-Issue

Courtesy: Arrow Video/Universal Pictures

When Disney and Pixar released their movie WallE back in 2008, it was lauded by audiences and critics alike, even receiving a score of 95 from Rotten Tomatoes.  All of the accolades that the movie received are prime examples of how easily audiences really do forget the past.  The movie is a clear lifting of MGM’s 2001: A Space Odyssey as well as ruminations by the late great scientist Isaac Asimov.  On another level, it is also a lifting from another well-known sci-fi flick by the name of Silent Running.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that WallE pulls more from that movie than from 2001: A Space Odyssey with its overly preachy content.  That would go to show the influence of the latter, decidedly nihilistic flick, which in fact received the Blu-ray re-issue treatment last month thanks to Arrow Video.  Re-issued Nov. 17, the 1972 cult favorite sci-fi flick will appeal equally to its longtime fans and sci-fi fans who might be less familiar with the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  While the story is certain to keep viewers engaged throughout the movie’s roughly 90-minute run time, the re-issue’s presentation does suffer from at least one concern, its production.  Most notably, the audio production proves somewhat problematic and will be addressed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the re-issue adds to the presentation’s appeal and together with the story, makes for even more appeal.  The two items together make up for the concerns raised by the audio production and make the movie’s re-issue worth watching at least occasionally by the most devoted science fiction fans and of Silent Running.

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi statement flick Silent Running is a presentation that will appeal to the most devoted of the movie’s fans.  It will also appeal to the most devoted science fiction fans.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story in question centers on Freeman Lowell (Bruce Dern – The Burbs, Nebraska, The Hateful Eight) as he makes his way into space to (he thinks) protect a forest that he oversees in a bio-dome structure attached to his ship, the Valley Forge.  The flight happens after an order from Earth for all ships orbiting Earth to destroy their biodomes, which contain the last plant and animal life from Earth.  While no reason is ever given for the order, the script does manage to explain that by having one of Freeman’s soon-to-be deceased crewmates note that he did not understand the order either.  In a way, that lack of explanation is a sort of commentary about the oftentimes mind boggling actions of any government body.  Lowell’s development as the story progresses is really what makes the story engaging.  His focus on protecting the forest gradually declines as he increasingly falls victim to the psychological effect of isolation.  He eventually comes to the realization that being alone, there is no reason to keep trying to save the forest, leading to the story’s disturbing finale.  This critic will not reveal that finale here for those who have yet to see the story.  What can be said is that it will leave audiences unsettled, to say the very least.

On another note, there is one notable plot hole to this story that almost completely negates the whole thing.  That plot hole comes early on as one of Lowell’s crewmates makes mention that the Earth at the time was 75-degrees.  The companion booklet that comes with the movie’s recent re-issue points out that the degrees measure in question is Celsius, not Fahrenheit.  That Celsius measure equals to 167-degrees in Fahrenheit.  So it leaves one scratching one’s head that Lowell’s crew mates talk about returning to Earth when no human, let alone plant and animal, could survive such temperatures.  Humans even now struggle when summer temperatures in the real world get to the 100s, so there is no way humans could even begin to survive at a temperature of nearly 200-degrees year-round.  Audiences who can overlook this massive Earth-size plot hole will find themselves able to stay engaged.  However in hindsight, that noted realization detracts from the story’s enjoyment quite a bit.  The plot hole pointed out in the re-issue’s companion booklet is just one aspect of the bonus content that will be pointed out later.  It is also just one of the problems from which the movie itself suffers. The audio production presented in the movie is another concern.

Throughout the course of Silent Running’s 90-minute run time, its audio levels are problematic.  The dialogue plays out at a low volume while the music, crafted and performed by folk singer Joan Baez and composer Peter Schickele, is far too loud whenever it is used.  Whether that was the result of work done on the movie’s re-mastering or if it was originally like that is anyone’s guess.  It was not discussed in any of the movie’s bonus content.  Again, the bonus content will be discussed later.  Regardless, the constant volume adjustments that audiences will find themselves having to make as they take in the movie will become bothersome to say the least.  At least the video quality is worth its share of applause.  It makes up at least to a point for the problems posed by the problematic audio production.

For all of the problems posed by Silent Running’s story and its audio production, its re-issue does come with at least one undeniable positive, its bonus content.  As has already been noted, the movie’s bonus content makes for plenty of engagement and entertainment.  The companion booklet that comes with the re-issue is just one of the noted extras worth addressing.  Journalist Peter Tonguette points out on page 21 of the booklet, “In the screenplay by Deric Washburn, Michael Cimino, and Steven Bocho, the temperature of the Earth has  eached 75-degrees Celsius, apparently rendering it inhospitable to a wide assortment of plants and animals.”  A check of those credits on IMDB.com certifies they crafted the movie’s script.  Again referencing this, 75-degrees Celsius is equal to 165-degrees Fahrenheit.  How that would even be hospitable to any life is confusing.  Humans in reality can barely handle temperatures in excess of 100-degrees.  So for Lowell’s crew mate to be excited that the planet’s year-round temperature is 75-degrees leaves one wondering how humans have adapted to such high temperature.  It creates a massive plot hole about the size of the ships that orbit Earth.  It is just one of the interesting aspects pointed out in the movie’s companion booklet.  Audiences also learn from journalist Barry Forshaw, that director Douglas Trumbull’s turn helming Silent Running was not his first jaunt into space so to speak.  Forshaw points out in his essay, that Trumbull worked on 2001: A Space Odyssey prior to taking on Silent Running, and that it was his stint on the prior that led to the latter.  On an equally interesting note, WallE – as already noted – lifts liberally from both movies for its story.  Additionally, Forshaw points out in page 11 of the booklet, that famed Star Wars director George Lucas was so impressed by Trumbull’s use of sound in the open space scenes, that he was moved to incorporate the use of sound for space scenes, rather than just leave the outer space scenes outside the ships quiet.  That is quite the statement for Trumbull to have had such impact.  Between all of this and so much more noted in the booklet, it alone more than proves the importance of the movie’s bonus content.  It is just one part of the bonus content that is worth addressing.

The bonus content that is presented on disc ensures viewers’ engagement and entertainment in that it does not just rehash the bonus content featured in the movie’s 2015 re-issue, its then most recent re-issue.  That content is featured here, but is joined by even more new content, such as a discussion on the movie’s soundtrack.  As is revealed in that discussion, Schickele’s turn on Silent Running was in fact his first time scoring a big screen feature.  Music historian Jeff Bond, who narrates the feature, points out that Schickele’s work with Baez stemmed oddly enough from Baez’s intent to work on a holiday music compilation of all things.  Additionally, Bond discusses the attention that Schickele paid to each scene, to ensure every note of every scene made for the utmost emotional impact on audiences.

“First Run,” another of the new bonuses featured in this re-issue, takes audiences through a look at the initial first scenes of Silent Running.  The comparison of those early scenes to the final product makes for more appreciation for that final product.

The archived “Making of” featurette joins with the newer content to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  Audiences learn firsthand from Dern in the vintage extra, that he ran “200 miles” on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Valley Forge (which was used for most of the movie’s principal shooting) during down time as a means to stay healthy.  That is a lot of running.  Audiences also learn in this extra that Trumbull did not even initially want to direct the movie, but do other things on the film.  Audiences will be left to learn that whole story for themselves.  Between this story, the other items noted here and the rest of the features extensive information, it and the rest of the equally extensive list of bonus content does much to entertain and engage audiences.  If for no other reason than the bonus content, audiences will find the movie worth watching at least once.  Audiences who can overlook the aforementioned plot hole involving the planet’s temperature in the story will find the rest of the movie’s ecologically-minded story worth watching, too.  The two items together give audiences reason to watch this movie at least occasionally. 

Arrow Video’s recent Blu-ray re-issue of Universal Pictures’ 1972 sci-fi eco/space drama Silent Running is a presentation that will find enjoyment among the most devoted sci-fi fans and those of the movie.  That is due in part to the movie’s story.  The story, which does suffer from one massive plot hole, follows a botanist – Lowell — who goes rogue after being told that the forest for which he cared was going to be destroyed.  As a result of his actions, Lowell falls into a slow spiral of depression and despair, leading to the movie’s rather depressing finale.  That the movie’s script never addresses its one major plot hole greatly detracts from its presentation.  Audiences who can overlook that problem will find the movie engaging at least to a point.  The video quality of the movie’s re-issue is a positive in its own right, but the audio production proves problematic in its own right, as audiences will find themselves having to raise and lower the volume throughout the movie.  The extensive bonus content featured with the movie’s re-issue is its primary saving grace.  If for no other reason than that content, audiences will find the re-issue worth watching.  Even with that in mind, that content is more worth watching than the movie itself.  To that end, the movie in whole is going to find the most appeal among the movie’s most devoted audiences and sci-fi fans than general sci-fi fans and other audiences.  Silent Running is available now.

More information on Arrow Video’s Silent Runnning re-issue is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:

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Universal Pictures’ ‘Black Angel’ Is One Of Hollywood’s Most Underrated Film Noir Flicks

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group will resurrect Universal Pictures’ little-known 1946 film noir flick Black Angel later this month.  The movie, starring Peter Lorre (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Maltese Falcon, Arsenic & Old Lace), June Vincent (The Creeper, Shed No Tears, Can’t Help Singing) and Dan Duryea (The Flight of the Phoenix, Scarlet Street, Too Late For Tears) is scheduled for release January 28 on Blu-ray.  The movie’s central story proves that while it might not have been among the genre’s most well-known features in its initial debut, is still a work that every noir fan will appreciate.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s home release adds even more appeal to its presentation.  That combined primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point money well-spent by any classic movie buff and film noir aficionado.  Keeping all of this in mind, Arrow Video’s forthcoming reissue of Black Angel proves itself a presentation that is a must have for all of the noted viewers.

Movies today just are not what they were during Hollywood’s golden era.  Hollywood (and even so many independent studios) rely entirely too much on sex, violence and special effects than on anything with any real substantive content.   Thankfully, Arrow Video and MVD Entertainment Group are going to give audiences another alternative to all of that excess later this month when they reissue Universal Pictures’ 1948 noir flick Black Angel.  This movie is a work that classic film buffs and noir aficionados alike will welcome openly.  That is due in part to its story, which abounds in content.  The story, based on the novel by author Cornell Woolrich, centers on the murder of the fictional singer Mavis Marlowe and the search for her killer.  The man accused of her murder Kirk Bennett (John Phillips – 7 Men From Now, Heldorado, John Paul Jones) is accused of taking her life and is sentenced to death for the crime.  However, Kirk’s wife Catherine (played by Vincent) doesn’t believe her cheating husband is guilty, so she works with Marlowe’s estranged husband Martin Blair (Duryea) to prove Kirk’s innocence and save him from the gas chamber.  Female viewers especially will appreciate the story because as Martin and Catherine work to prove Kirk’s innocence, Kirk finds himself falling for Catherine, but she never gives into his charms, staying loyal (ironically) to her husband who himself had cheated on her with Mavis.  In the end, Kirk is proven innocent.  How he is saved will not be revealed here.  That will be saved for audiences to discover on their own.  During the course of the story, Roy Chanslor, who adapted Woolrich’s story for the screen, manages to keep viewers engaged and entertained as Catherine and Martin go undercover at a night club to investigate the crime.  He [Chanslor] does a good job with the use of his red herring in the investigation.  Viewers will agree that element adds even more enjoyment to the story since it does throw a bit of a proverbial wrench in the works.  As a matter of fact, it will leave eagle-eyed viewers to go back and recall a certain subtle element from earlier in the story that helps determine the identity of the true killer.  By the story’s end, audiences will know that they have taken in a story that even despite its changes from its literary source material (which is discussed in the movie’s bonus content), is still an enjoyable story in itself.

The story at the center of Black Angel does a lot to make it an enjoyable presentation for classic movie buffs and film noir aficionados.  It is just one part of what makes the movie’s forthcoming home release so appealing.  The bonus content included with the story builds on the foundation formed by the story to make the movie’s presentation even more appealing.  One of the bonuses featured with the movie’s reissue is a retrospective on the movie by film historian Neil Sinyard.  Sinyard has provided commentary for other reissues from Arrow Films and Arrow Academy.  He points out in this presentation’s commentary, Woolrich actually was not fond of Chanslor’s adaptation of his novel.  Maybe that is because of the changes that Chanslor made as he wrote the story’s screenplay.  This will be discussed a little more in-depth shortly.  Sinyard also makes note of the fact that Woolrich’s biographer ironically did like the movie.  Sinyard points out the reason for this was that it ‘caught something essentially about Woolrich’s personality both personal and artistic.”  The discussion on Black Angel as a possible reflection on Woolrich’s personality is just one of the interesting notes that Sinyard brings up in his roughly 20-minute retrospective.  He also goes into a discussion on the movie’s casting, noting that by the time that the movie came along, Duryea was already a very well-known actor, having played villains (or heavies as they are also known) in a number of films prior to this work.  Sinyard points out that Duryea is actually a presentation of Woorich himself, and that added to the reason for Woolrich’s biographer appreciating the adaptation.  Along with the note of Duryea and his possible connection to Woolrich, Sinyard also shares a funny anecdote about supporting actor Broderick Crawford (All The King’s Men, A Night Before Christmas, Born Yesterday), who portrays in this movie, Police Captain Flood.  He tells the story of an alleged run-in between Crawford, who also had a history of playing bad guys in cinema prior to this flick, and the late, great Frank Sinatra.  The story that Sinyard shares involves Crawford allegedly getting into an altercation with Sinatra and doing something peculiar with Sinatra’s toupee.  Lorre is also addressed by Sinyard, albeit briefly.  He jokes about not knowing how Lorre could deliver his lines while having a cigarette “dangling from his bottom lip.”  That in itself will bring its own share of laughs from viewiers.  Sinyard also addresses the movie’s soundtrack and its role in the story as well as director Roy William Neill, stressing Black Angel was actually Neill’s final film before his death.  He applauds (and rightfully so) Neill’s work behind the lens, citing specific examples for his praise of Neill in the process.

Writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode (pronounced roadie) adds even more enjoyment to the movie with his feature-length commentary.  Right off the bat, Rode does actually get one fact wrong, noting that Catherine is trying to save her husband from the electric chair.  It is clearly pointed out during the story that he faces the gas chamber, not the electric chair, but he [Rode] can be forgiven for this misstep.  It is the only item that is misspoken through the course of the movie.  Rode expands on Sinyard’s commentary, noting that Duryea was paid as an outsider for his part in this movie since she was not a contract actor for Universal Pictures.  At another point, Rode points out that Vincent was not the first choice for the role of Catherine.  In fact, Ava Gardner was the initial choice for the role, he points out.  Rode also points out that Duryea actually played the piano in this movie, rather than just playing against a tape.  He points out that Duryea learned five songs so that he could actually perform them here.  This is important in that it added to the story’s believability.  Along the same line, the song ‘Heartbreak’ was sung by Vincent.  This adds even more to the story, both for its irony and the realism.  An extensive background history of Neill is also presented by Rode during his commentary, including his earliest days.  Rode points out that Woolrich’s original book was told from a first-hand perspective from Catherine and that there were four characters included in the book that were omitted in the screenplay adaptation.  Maybe that played into Woolrich’s dislike of how his book was translated to the screen.  Rode also points out the fact that Duryea was completely different off screen than his characters.  He notes that some women were such fans of Duryea’s characters that despite those characters’ despicable nature, his female fans liked that aspect.  He states that Duryea was so concerned by the fan letters that he took them to a psychiatrist friend of his and asked what to do.  Rode adds in, he was so concerned about the reaction of his fans to his characters that he and his wife went over the top in every day life to make sure people knew the characters he played were just that.  This shows that crazy fans today are nothing new.  Everything noted here is discussed within the first half hour of Black Angel’s 80-minute run time.  The rest of the movie offers audience just as much, if not more, commentary to appreciate.  That includes a funny recollection of an off-screen interaction between Lorre and another actor in a movie and how it led to a bit of a scuffle in the movie in question.  When all of this is considered alongside Sinyard’s retrospective, the whole of the bonus content proves to be more than worth the watch.  It adds so much to the movie’s overall presentation and makes the movie’s average price point that much more worth paying.

The average price point of Black Angel is $32.20.  That price was reached by averaging listings at Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Books-A-A-Million and MVD Entertainment Group’s store.  Considering that the movie’s reissue this time out is being handled by a British company, that makes it an import.  So to that end, that price is right about on par with most imports.  Amazon, Target, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble Booksellers each have listings below that average point.  Their listings do not even break the $30 mark as a matter of fact.  Walmart ($33.09), Books-A-Million $39.95) and MVD Entertainment Group (also $39.95) all break that average.  Again, audiences should keep in mind that this reissue is an import, so all of the prices are in line with most DVD and BD import prices.  Regardless of which retailer one chooses, the money paid is worth it considering everything that this presentation offers audiences.  Add in the general rarity of the movie’s release, it makes the price, which will not break anyone’s bank, that much more appealing.  Keeping this in mind along with the content, the whole of Black Angel becomes a presentation that lovers of classic film and especially film noir will enjoy.  It is also another example of why Arrow Films/Arrow Academy and MVD Entertainment Group are quickly becoming some of the leading names in home entertainment.

More information on Black Angel and other titles from Arrow Films is available online at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

 

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Arrow Video Announces Release Date For ‘Black Angel’ BD Re-Issue

Courtesy: Arrow Video

Arrow Video will resurrect Universal Pictures’ 1946 crime noir flick Black Angel later this month.

The movie, starring Peter Lorre (The Maltese Falcon20,000 Leagues Below The SeaArsenic & Old Lace), June Vincent (The CreeperShed No TearsCan’t Help Singing) and Dan Duryea (The Flight of the PhoenixScarlet StreetToo Late For Tears), is scheduled for release Jan. 28 on Blu-ray.  It focuses on the death of singer Mavis Marlowe (Constance Dowling — Boston Blackie and the LawBlind SpotKnickerbocker Holiday) and the search for her killer.

Kirk Bennett (John Phillips — 7 Men From NowHeldoradoJohn Paul Jones) is convicted in Marlowe’s death, even though he is innocent. Knowing Bennett is innocent, Martin Blair (Duryea) joins Bennett’s wife Catherine (Vincent) and shady nightclub owner Marko (Lorre) to prove Bennett’s innocence.

Based on the novel by author Cornell Woolrich and directed by Roy William Neill (The Scarlet ClawFrankenstein Meets The Wolf ManMurder Will Out), the movie will feature a variety of extras to add to the package.  One of those new bonuses is a new feature-length commentary from writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode.  A new retrospective by film historian Neil Sinyard is also featured as a bonus to the movie.  The first pressings will feature a collector’s booklet that features new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp.

The full list of the movie’s bonus content is noted below.  Pre-orders are open now.

Bonus Materials

  • Brand new restoration from original film elements by Arrow Films
  • High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
  • Uncompressed Mono 1.0 PCM audio soundtrack
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • New audio commentary by the writer and film scholar Alan K. Rode
  • A Fitting End, a new video appreciation by the film historian Neil Sinyard
  • Original trailer
  • Gallery of original stills and promotional materials
  • Reversible sleeve featuring two artwork options
  • FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by author Philip Kemp

More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available online at:

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

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Cinephiles, Classic Movie Buffs Alike Will Enjoy Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection Re-Issue

Courtesy: Universal Pictures/Shout! Factory

Seventy-nine years ago this year, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello made their theatrical debut in the classic romantic comedy One Night in the Tropics.  That movie made its theatrical debut Nov. 15, 1940.  Shout! Factory and Universal Pictures are partnering to get a jump on celebrating the anniversary of the legendary comic duo’s big screen debut with the Blu-ray release of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition.  The famed duo’s collection has previously been released twice on DVD, but this marks the first time that the collection has received the Blu-ray treatment.  All joking aside (yes, that terrible pun was intended), the forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of the collection is a presentation that every classic film buff will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to its featured movies, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content featured with the collection adds even more enjoyment to this collection, and will be addressed a little later.  The collection’s packaging rounds out its most important elements and will also be addressed later.  Each item discussed here is important in its own way.  All things considered, they make the set’s average price point money very well spent among every cinephile and classic movie buff.

Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory’s new forthcoming re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition is a presentation that fans of the comic duo and its work will appreciate just as much as any cinephiles and classic movie buffs.  That is due in no small part to its makeup.  The collection features all 28 of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello’s Universal Pictures movies in one setting.  The movies are spread across 15 discs in three separate Blu-ray cases.  This is important to note because while all 28 movies have been released previously between 2003 and 2005 by Universal Pictures in four separate DVD collections, this set marks the first time that they have ever seen a Blu-ray release and in one complete collection.  In other words, this collection is not the first time that all 28 movies have ever been released together in one setting (considering the collection’s previous two DVD releases), but it is the first time that all the movies have ever seen release in one setting on DVD.  That will save space for those audiences and fans who might not already own the noted standalone DVD volumes released between 2003 and 2005.  Also, a comparison of the bonus content featured in those previous standalone DVD sets (the 2003-2005 sets) and the bonus content featured here shows far more bonus content in this collection than those sets.

The bonus content featured in Universal Pictures’ standalone Abbott & Costello DVD sets is minimal at best.  Audiences got in those noted sets, Production notes in the second of the four sets, and a pair of features in the fourth volume – a tribute to Bud and Lou from famed comedian Jerry Seinfeld, and a retrospective on Abbott & Costello’s monster movie crossovers.  By comparison, audiences get in the new Blu-ray re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection, feature-length commentaries as an extra in no fewer than six of the collection’s movies.  The noted Seinfeld and monster movie retrospectives are also featured in this collection.  This goes right back to the already discussed fact that the entire collection is featured in one setting.  So, for those who might not have the fourth previously released volume of Abbott & Costello movies will now have those retrospectives along with lots of new, commentaries that were also featured in the collection’s previous two DVD releases.  As if the commentaries and retrospectives being placed in one complete collection is not enough, audiences also get the same companion booklet that was also featured in the previous DVD releases of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection.  That booklet is just as important as the retrospectives and the commentaries.  Reading through the booklet not only gives audiences an overview of each of the movies,  but also some rather interesting trivia.  For instance, audiences learn of One Night in the Tropics, the very first scene that Bud and Lou shot for that movie was their now iconic “Who’s on First” bit. Additionally, at one point, laughter by the movie’s crew members got so bad that the set had to be cleared.  In the case of The Naughty Nineties, viewers learn that the riverboat set was originally constructed for Universal Pictures’ 1936 movie Show Boat and that Henry Travers, who played the riverboat’s Captain, also went on later to play Clarence opposite James Stewart.  Also of interest in the companion booklet’s information is that the pair’s 1946 movie The Time of Their Lives, that marked one of only two times during their career in which Bud and Lou did not work as a team.  The other time is noted in the booklet but will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  Getting read the trivia is like taking in the same kind of presentation from one of the current hosts at Turner Classic Movies. It just makes the experience that much more personal, and in turn enjoyable.

As if all of the trivia revealed and the story summaries are not enough for viewers, the companion booklet also features introductions from family members of Bud and Lou.  Specifically speaking, Bud Abbott’s daughter Vickie Abbott Wheeler and Lou Costello’s Children Paddy Costello Humphreys and Chris Costello.  Vickie Abbott Wheeler reveals in her introduction that her parents worked together in Vaudeville early on, adding that her mom actually worked with Lou Costello before her dad.  She also reveals something very intriguing about Universal studios during its heyday that will be left for audiences to discover for themselves.  The Costello children reveal in their introduction information, such as the revelation that Bud and Lou intentionally kept their act clean because they did not like working “blue.”  They also note, Bud and Lou had a good relationship both on and off camera and that Lou would have appreciated the advancement of recording technology because of his personal interest in technology.  This is just a portion of everything that the pair had to talk about.  Between that and everything else that they and Mrs. Abbott Wheeler had to say, audiences get a lot of engaging and entertaining personal insight into who Bud and Lou were on and off screen.

As if all of the personal recollections from Bud and Lou’s family are not enough, there is also an extensive, in-depth look back at the life and legacy from Abbott & Costello In Hollywood co-author Ron Palumbo that will keep viewers just as engaged and entertained.  Audiences learn about the cultural significance of Abbott & Costello through Palumbo’s discussion on the constant comparisons that are made to the duo since – as he writes – “There are no comedy ‘teams’ anymore.  Pakumbo writes that comparisons to Bud and Lou during discussions about comedic duos, such as gene Wilder and Richard Pryor, Dan Akroyd and John Belushi.  Palumbo also notes bud and Lou had a very noticeable financial impact for Universal Pictures during their 15 years under contract with the studio.  He notes that the pair was the studio’s “single greatest source of income.”  That is a very telling statement in regards to the pairing’s star power.  This and everything else that Palumbo notes in his liner notes couples with the discussions that Bud and Lou’s children share in the booklet to make the set’s companion booklet perhaps its most important bonus.  That is especially considering all of the trivia shared in the booklet and the movie summaries that are featured within, too.  When the importance of all of this information is considered along with the fact that all of the pair’s Universal movies are set here with lots of other previously released bonus content, the set becomes that much more of a plus for any cinephiles and Abbott & Costello fan who might not already own Universal’s previous Abbott & Costello collections.

While the primary and secondary content featured in Shout! Factory and Universal Pictures’ new Bud Abbott & Lou Costello Blu-ray collection go a long way toward making the collection so impressive, they are only a portion of what makes it notable.  The overall packaging is just as worth examining as the set’s content.  As previously noted, all 28 of the duo’s Universal Pictures entries are spread here across 15 discs in three separate Blu-ray cases.  That is important to note, as it takes up less space than the four standalone DVD sets that Universal Pictures released between 2003 and 2005.  This critic owns those standalone sets and measured them against one another.  The new Blu-ray re-issue is equal, in terms of space, to three of the four DVD sets.  So, while the space saving might not be extensive, audiences do still get with this set, a package that consumes less space on a rack than the four separate DVD sets.  The movies featured in the DVD sets are featured two to a side on either side of two discs on each set.  In simpler terminology, each DVD set features two discs.  Each disc has two movies on either side, making for eight movies.  The fourth and final set features four more of the pair’s movies plus the noted retrospectives.  By comparison, the Blu-ray presentation features two movies per disc, with each disc sitting on its own plate on either side of a set of plates inside the cases.  So, while the discs have fewer movies on each one, the packaging still helps to save space, again, still making the packaging its own positive.  Keeping this in mind along with the breadth and depth of primary and secondary content, the whole of this collection proves a welcome addition to the home library of any cinephile and Abbott & Costello fan who might not already have either of this collection’s previous DVD releases or Universal Pictures’ previously released standalone DVD volumes of Abbott & Costello movies.

Universal Pictures and Shout! Factory’s forthcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection is a welcome addition to the home library of any true blooded cinephile, classic movie buff and Abbott & Costello fan.  That is due in no small part to the fact that it features all 28 of Abbott & Costello’s Universal Pictures features in one complete setting.  The extensive bonus content – the feature-length bonus commentary and extra information featured in the set’s companion booklet – adds its own share of engagement and entertainment for audiences, as has been noted here.  The space-saving packaging in which the whole thing is featured makes for its own positive.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this collection.  All things considered, they make Abbott & Costello Universal Pictures Collection: 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  It will be available Nov. 19.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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The Appeal For ‘The Andromeda Strain’ BD Re-Issue Will Spread Like A Virus Among Audiences

Courtesy: MVD Entertainment Group/Universal Pictures

Michael Crichton was one of the greatest literary minds of his time during his life.  He was, for all intents and purposes, the second coming of Jules Verne.  That is because his novels, like those of Verne, told stories that were so far ahead of their time.  Jurassic Park, for instance was not so much about a bunch of dinosaurs living on an island, but rather the issue of cloning before it become a major topic for scientists and news agencies to talk about daily.  Now it is everywhere.  Next focused on genetics and government control thereof before the news ever picked up on the issues, such as drug companies using people’s blood types to control the drug industry and people being able to pick the gender of their babies with their doctors.  In The Andromeda Strain, one of his earliest works, Crichton addressed the issue of germ warfare and the issue of what constitutes “intelligent” life from other worlds other than our own.  That book was adapted to the silver screen in 1971, and subsequently released (and re-issued multiple times) to home viewers.  Early last month, Arrow Video re-issued the movie again, this time on Blu-ray, resurrecting the chilling plague outbreak story for a whole new generation of sci-fi and horror fans.  The noted audiences are certain to appreciate the noted story, which forms the foundation of the movie.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s latest re-issue adds even more to its presentation.  The companion booklet that is also featured with the movie’s re-issue is yet another positive touch to its overall presentation.  Each item noted here plays its own key part in the whole of The Andromeda Strain.  They certainly are not the only key elements that one can examine.  One could also examine additional items, such as the movie’s cinematography, its casting and even the work of the movie’s cast by relation.  All things considered, they make The Andromeda Strain an welcome addition to the home library of any science fiction (and more specifically Michael Crichton) fan.

Plague outbreak stories seem to be a favorite go-to for Hollywood’s major studios.  From the likes of The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Masque of the Red Death (1989) and Outbreak (1995) to the likes of And The Band Played On (1993), 12 Monkeys (1995) and The Andromeda Strain (1971) and so many others, Hollywood’s major studios seem to love stories about plagues.  To that end, it makes sense that early last month, the latter of the noted group of movies – The Andromeda Strain – would re-issue that movie.  Released June 4, it was re-issued this time on Blu-ray.  Fans of the outbreak genre, fans of Michael Crichton’s works and sci-fi fans in general have plenty to appreciate in this latest re-issue, starting with the movie’s story. The story at the center of The Andromeda Strain follows a group of scientists that is working to contain a space-borne virus brought back to Earth on a satellite that mysteriously crashed to Earth in a quiet town in the American Southwest.  As the story progresses, it is eventually discovered — not to give away too much — that the virus being aboard the satellite might not have been quite as coincidental as originally thought.  The antidote (of sorts) is eventually discovered, thanks to two lone survivors from the town – an old man and a baby.  The story in whole harkens back to the sci-fi flicks of the 1950s and 60s turned out by Universal Pictures, whose stories centered on the military’s atomic testing leading to all kinds of problems for mankind.  Again, not to give away too much, but there is a very close similarity between those stories and this work.  It is also addressed in the bonus features included in The Andromeda Strain’s bonus material.  That will be addressed a little later.  Keeping that in mind, this story will appeal to a wide range of viewers, even despite its pacing issues.

It becomes clear through everything  noted so far, that the story at the center of The Andromeda Strain builds a strong foundation for Arrow Video’s recent re-issue of the movie.  The bonus content featured with the movie’s recent re-issue strengthens that foundation even more.  That is because this re-issue features some previously presented bonus content and some new material in one setting.  Among the most notable of the new bonus content is the discussion by critic Kim Newman.  Newman discusses in his commentary, The Andromeda Strain’s place in the bigger picture of the plague/virus outbreak genre, citing the movies already cited in this review, and others.  Newman’s discussion might not seem like much  on the surface, but in the bigger picture, the roughly 10-minute presentation brings new light to the fact that said genre is in fact so expansive.  The previously presented “making off” featurette, which was featured in the movie’s 2001 re-issue, is another notable addition to this re-issue.  That is because some viewers have not previously seen this featurette while others perhaps have not seen it in a long time and forgotten what was discussed in the mini-doc.  Audiences get discussions here on topics, such as the then groundbreaking special effects used in the movie, the deliberate choice of cast members who were not at the time, well-known  and the faux bibliography featured in The Andromeda Strain and its connection to it cinematic adaptation.  That discussion, with the movie’s script writer Nelson Gidding, makes for its own share of insight and entertainment.  There are also vintage interview segments with Crichton himself featured within the “making of” documentary in which he talks about his connection between his medical education and the book.  Those discussions are expanded even more in yet another of the movie’s key features, “A Portrait of Michael Crichton.”  The late, great author talks in this presentation, about his decision to author his original novels under a fake name and why he decided on going to medical school first among other topics.  As if everything in this and the other noted featurettes is not enough, the new feature-length audio commentary will entertain and engage viewers just as much if not even more than those featurettes.  All things considered here, the bonus content – new and old alike – does just as much to keep viewers engaged and entertained as the story at the center of The Andromeda Strain.  The two elements together are just part of what makes this latest re-issue of the classic sci-fi flick such a welcome addition to audiences’ home movie libraries.  The companion booklet that is featured as yet another extra with this re-issue is notable in its own right to the movie’s whole.

The companion booklet that comes with  the latest re-issue of The Andromeda Strain adds its own touch to the movie’s presentation, as its liner notes – penned by author Peter Tonguette – discuss not only the movie’s place in the grand scheme of the cinematic universe, but also that of its director, Robert Wise.  Tonguette states in his notes, that Wise and the movie both deserve far more credit than they have been given.  He notes Wise’s work on so many b-flicks prior to helming The Andromeda Strain as a big part of the reason that Wise has never gotten the credit that he believes the director has deserved.  Additionally, Tonguette discusses Wise’s approach to the Andromeda, crediting that approach for items, such as the dialogue and effect of the cinematography.  Along with Tonguette’s brief, but concise discussion on Wise’s work on The Andromeda Strain, the companion booklet also offers a starting point for discussions on the movie within the context of a film appreciation class, clearly outlining a set series of discussion topics; topics such as the nature of the deaths in Piedmont, the President’s decision whether to drop an atomic bomb on Piedmont, and the impact of the virus’ mutation.  There are also focuses on items, such as recent real life scientific breakthroughs in comparison to the topics discussed in the movie, whether The Andromeda Strain is in fact science fiction or science fact, and Werner Von Braun’s statement decades prior about the very topic on which Crichton centered his book.  Even more interesting is that all of these discussion topics were featured in a 1971 educational guide sent to schools nationwide to help promote the movie.  That guide is still just as relevant today as it was in 1971.  To that end, it is another key addition to the companion booklet included with this latest re-issue of The Andromeda Strain.  Keeping this in mind, the vast expanse of content (and the depth thereof) within the booklet proves to be just as important to the re-issue’s presentation as the bonus content and the story itself.  When all three elements are considered together, they make The Andromeda Strain a movie that, again, sci-fi fans will appreciate just as much as fans of Michael Crichton and those of the plague/virus outbreak genre.

Arrow Video’s re-issue of Universal Pictures’ The Andromeda Strain is a strong new offering for fans of Hollywood’s plague/virus outbreak genre just as much as for fans of Michael Crichton and of science fiction in general.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story.  While maybe not the first movie of its kind when it was originally released in 1971, its story is one that still rings true for audiences to this day.  It is far more believable than most other movies within its realm.  The bonus content that is featured with the movie’s recent re-issue adds even more engagement and entertainment to the re-issue’s presentation.  That is because the content balances new and old for viewers of all ages.  The companion booklet that also come with the re-issue adds even more interest to the re-issue.  Each item noted in this review is important in its own way to the whole of The Andromeda Strain.  All things considered, they make this re-issue a work that is one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  It is available now.  More information on this and other titles from Arrow Video is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.arrowfilms.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ArrowFilmsVideo

 

 

 

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The Native Howl Launches New Tour; Debuts New Video

The Native Howls is back out on the road.

The band launched a new series of live dates Monday in Burlington, VT.  The band’s new tour schedule runs through July 13 in Boggstown, IN. The tour schedule is noted below.

The Native Howl Tour Dates:
7/4 – Richmond, VA – Canal Club
7/5 – Washington DC – Hill Country DC
7/6 – New York, NY – Hill Country NYC
7/8 – Frostburg, MD – Dante’s Bar
7/9 – Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups
7/10 – Nashville, TN – The End
7/11 – Louisville, KY – The Tiger Room
7/12 – Cincinnati, OH – Stanley’s Pub
7/13 – Boggstown, IN – Summer Bash 2019

The tour is just the latest in support of the Michigan-based band’s latest album, Out of the Garden and Into Darkness (2018).  It comes two months after the band held its “Torque Tour” May 2 to 11. Out of the Garden and Into Darkness spawned the single ‘Somethin’ Else‘ and its companion video, which debuted Oct. 24.

Prior to launching its new tour, the band debuted the video for its new single ‘Harvester of Constant Sorrow‘ June 23.  The song and video are not featured in Out of the Garden and Into Darkness.  the video couples elements of Metallica’s ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ with Union Station’s ‘Man of Constant Sorrow,’ which was used in Touchstone/Universal Pictures’ 2000 movie O BrotherWhere Art Thou? and the movie’s soundtrack.

Courtesy: FM Music Management

The song’s video also spoofs the famous concert hall scene in which the Soggy Bottom Boys performed “their” song and couples that with a spoof of Metallica’s video for ‘Harvester of Sorrow’ for the final product.

The Native Howl front man Alex Holycross talked about the video’s concept in a recent interview.

“”I was out for a run last Fall and was contemplating all the “mash-ups” that were popular at the time,” he said. “These mash-ups were simply audio of two different songs spliced together and over each other (a popular one at the time was a combination of audio from “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin and “War Pigs” by Black Sabbath). I then thought about an online poll we had done with our fans in which we asked which song they’d like us to cover (even though we did not really have a concrete intention of doing so at the time). The most requested song by FAR was “Man of Constant Sorrow”. I then glanced at my Metallica ring on my right hand, and thought ‘what if we did a true mash-up of this with a Metallica song?’ Then it hit me: Harvester of Constant Sorrow!” Metallica may be our biggest influence collectively as a band, and “Man of Constant Sorrow” is definitely my favorite bluegrass song of all time. We have always been against the idea of doing cover songs, but this endeavor was exciting to us both conceptually and compositionally.”

Holycross added, “The video is always the most difficult part, and we lend our unending thanks to our brother and studio partner Joe Horsch for crushing that portion of the project, as always. As far as the song itself goes, it was as much of challenge as it was a joy to find creative ways to put the Howl’s spirit and collective mind into two iconic songs, and end up with a piece that we were proud of. Selecting which vocals to use from which sections of each song was a long conversation, as well as the arrangement of the fast ‘cut-time’ (albeit ‘Metallica-esque’ in nature, it is original Howl riffs and solos). The concept for the video was quite simple: recreate scenes from the movie “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou” (which made “Man of Constant Sorrow” a hit) and scenes from Metallica’s “One” video. Both the movie and music video have had such an influence on us, that we wanted to pay homage visually as well as sonically. We hope everyone enjoys the song and video, thanks for the support!”

‘Harvester of Constant Sorrow’ is just the latest song from The Native Howl to receive its own video treatment.  The band also released a video for its single ‘Thunderhead‘ in 2016.  The song was the lead single from the band’s 2016 EP Thrash Grass.

More information on The Native Howl’s upcoming live dates is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news at:

 

Websitehttp://www.thenativehowl.com

Facebookhttp://www.facebook.com/thenativehowl

Twitterhttp://twitter.com/thenativehowl

 

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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:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ShoutFactory

 

 

 

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Classic Creature Feature Gets Great Re-Issue Thanks To Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Scream Factory/Universal International

Shout! Factory and its horror arm, Scream Factory are taking sci-fi fans back in time again next month with the release of yet another one of Universal Pictures’ timeless creature features.

The Deadly Mantis is scheduled for release on March 19 on Blu-ray.  The classic low-budget b-flick was lambasted by critics following its theatrical debut on May 26, 1957.  The criticisms focused on items, such as its overt use of stock footage and re-use of sets.  While it hardly received a warm welcome in its debut, The Deadly Mantis has since gone on to become a cult favorite among sci-fi fans and movie buffs alike, but has been difficult to find on DVD and Blu-ray.  That is until now.  This new re-issue of The Deadly Mantis is another welcome addition to the library of any of the noted audiences.  That is proven in part through the movie’s story.  Its bonus content adds even more interest and appeal to its presentation as its story.  The Blu-ray’s average price point rounds out the most important of its elements.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie.  All things considered, they make The Deadly Mantis’ new Blu-ray re-issue another welcome watch for sci-fi fans and movie buffs alike.

The upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of Universal International Pictures’ 1957 creature feature The Deadly Mantis is a presentation that will appeal to cinephiles across the board.  That is proven in part through its story.  The story focuses on the introduction of a giant prehistoric praying mantis into the 20th century world and mankind’s efforts to stop the creature before it has any chance to reproduce.  The story was hardly the only one of its kind at the time, having been preceded by Them! in 1954, Tarantula in 1955, and Attack of the Crab Monsters only three months prior to the debut of The Deadly Mantis.  The latter of that trio – one of famed director Roger Corman’s creations – was an Allied Pictures presentation, unlike the other two mentioned here.  This is important to note as it was just one part of what was a much bigger cinematic trend at that point in time.  Considering the bigger trend being presented, what makes this movie stand out is that it did not center on giant mutant creatures that came to be as a result of the military’s nuclear testing.  Rather, the mantis simply existed millions of years ago, and was freed from its cryogenic slumber (of sorts) as the overarching result of a volcanic eruption thousands of miles away in the Earth’s southern hemisphere.  Film historian Tom Weaver addresses this scientific approach during his bonus commentary.  This will be discussed a little later on.  Getting back on the subject at hand, the story at the center of The Deadly Mantis might have seemed silly at the time, but considering the scientific advancements and discoveries that have been made in the current age, it makes the story more believable.  That ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief (even today) due to the story’s setup, ensures even more, viewers’ maintained engagement and entertainment.  Now given, missiles and fire being unable to bring down the giant beast seems a bit of a stretch, considering it is just a giant praying mantis.  That thing must have had an exoskeleton made of titanium, especially considering what ultimately ended its reign of terror.  That aside, the reality that giant beasts did in fact exist at one time in reality, and that scientists even today are in fact, trying to clone other giant beasts (E.g. wooly mammoths and saber-tooth tigers) makes this story that much more believable, and in turn enjoyable.  The ability of audiences to suspend their disbelief with this movie’s story is just one part of what makes the movie such a joy for sci-fi fans and movie buffs alike.  The movie’s bonus content adds even more enjoyment to the movie’s presentation.

The bonus content featured in this movie includes the previously noted feature-length audio commentary from film historian Tom Weaver and fellow film historian David Schecter, and the full-length episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that featured The Deadly Mantis.  Unlike The Mole People, which was re-issued by Shout! Factory/Scream Factory last month, this movie’s re-issue is lacking a bonus “making of” featurette.  The lack of that featurette is disheartening, but not enough to ruin the movie’s presentation.

The feature-length commentary from Weaver and Schecter reveals quite a bit of interesting information.  Viewers learn from the commentary, that principal photography — the main part of a movie’s production involving capturing scenes in which the cast is on camera – took only 13 days, and that the use of stock footage in the movie played a direct role in the movie.  Weaver reveals that approximately 14 minutes (or 1/5) of the movie was composed of stock footage.  Considering that the movie’s run time is listed as just 79 minutes, that 14 minutes is actually a large portion of the movie.  Additionally, viewers learn through the duo’s commentary, that the movie’s original opening scene was actually different from what is in the final cut.  Weaver notes that the final cut was presented, as the movie’s director – Nathan Juran – wanted to ensure the story was believable, right from the opening sequence.  The end  result was that the frozen mantis was freed as the result of a volcanic eruption thousands of miles away.  This is actually believable, considering what we know today about the effects of volcanic eruptions.  Now, could the weather patterns that might have resulted from said eruption been enough to thaw out the mantis?  That is debatable, even today.  However, knowing mankind’s impact on climate change, it actually does not seem overly unbelievable.  Keeping this in mind, the right move was taken to change the opening.  As if all of this is not enough for fans, audiences also learn the identity of the film used for part of the stock footage – S.O.S. Iceberg (1933) – through Weaver’s scripted commentary.  It is revealed that the Eskimos in the noted scenes were reacting to a seaplane circling their community in Greenland, not to a giant praying mantis.

Schecter’s portion of the movie’s commentary will appeal just as much to music lovers as it will to movie lovers.  Schecter notes in his portion of the movie’s commentary, that legendary composer/conductor Henry Mancini played a specific part in the movie’s soundtrack.  The full depth of his involvement in the soundtrack will be left for audiences to learn on their own.  He was just one of the famed musical figures who were connected to the movie, according to Schecter.  Fellow composer Irving Gertz also had a tie to the movie’s soundtrack, as Schecter notes.  He makes note that the soundtrack to The Deadly Mantis and The Monolith Monsters were indirectly connected to each other.  Again, the full discussion will be left for viewers to take in on their own time.

The items listed here are just a portion of what Weaver and Schecter discuss throughout the course of The Deadly Mantis.  Far more is discussed, such as ties that certain members of the crew had to the now infamous “Red Scare” and the various ties that the cast had to other movies of the age. While Schecter’s (and Weaver’s) commentary are quite insightful, the one negative to their insight is that each man’s commentary is once again scripted.  This is made clear through their delivery.  Each man is obviously watching the movie as he shares his insight.  The problem is that each man is watching the movie only for timing purposes with his commentary.  This detracts from the commentary at least a little bit. It is not enough to make the commentary unenjoyable, but cannot be ignored.

Speaking of things that detract from the experience, the movie lacks a “making of” featurette this time out.  It doesn’t ruin the viewing experience, but it would have been nice to see what could have been told through such a feature that maybe was not addressed in the bonus commentary.  In defense of Shout! Factory/Scream Factory, there had to have been a good reason for omitting it this time out.  Luckily, the commentary from Weaver and Schecter does provide enough insight and entertainment to make up for that omission.

While The Deadly Mantis lacked a “making of” featurette, one thing that was thankfully included was the full episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that focused on the classic creature feature.  Shout! Factory/Scream Factory did the same with its recent re-issue of The Mole People, and once again, it is a welcome addition to the movie’s presentation.  This time out, Mike and his robot pals are trying to escape Pearl Forrester once again, and luckily escape her after her ape friends inadvertently activate a thermonuclear device that destroys Earth.  Of course Pearl and company managed to escape the blast.  How they escape and what happens from there will be left for audiences to discover on their own.  In the meantime, plenty of riffing happens as the crew of the Satellite of Love take in The Deadly Mantis.  Early on there is a joke about Minnesota (the state in which the show was based), that audiences will enjoy.  As the movie progresses, there is a joke about one of the unidentified cast members because of a certain shot.  “Shot in bald spot vision,” one of the robots cracks.  There are also pop culture references about Wheaties and Vicks Vapo rub later in the movie, along with a joke about the famed comic opera, the H.M.S. Pinafore and so much more.  Between the constant riffing and the live segments, the laughs that result from this episode of MST3K prove to be nonstop.  When that entertainment is coupled with the insight offered through the movie’s bonus commentaries, the end result is content that truly is a bonus in every sense of the word.  When it is collectively considered along with the story, which itself guarantees just as much engagement and entertainment, the movie proves that much more welcome in any cinephile’s home library.  Keeping all of this in mind, the breadth and depth of the movie’s primary and secondary content makes the movie’s average price point money that is well-spent.

The average price point for Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s upcoming re-issue of The Deadly Mantis, using price listings at Shout! Factory’s store and those of Amazon and Books-a-Million, is $25.39.  The movie is not listed at Target, Best Buy, Walmart and Barnes & Noble Booksellers at the time of this review’s posting.  Research shows that Shout! Factory’s price of $22.99 is the least expensive of the three listings, and is will below that average price point.  Books-A-Million’s listing of $27.99 is the most expensive, while Amazon’s list price of $25.19 is barely below that average.  In other words, at the time of this review’s post, Shout! Factory’s price for the re-issue is the most affordable.  It is money that sci-fi purists and movie buffs alike will agree, is well-spent.  That is because of the already noted content overall.  Add in that right now, the only outlets that audiences have for such a movie are occasionally on Turner Classic Movies and Me-TV’s hit show Svengoolie (both of which are themselves wonderful outlets), it makes that money even more well-spent, as it will allow audiences to watch this timeless classic any time that they want.  Keeping all of this in mind, it can easily be said that the upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of The Deadly Mantis is one more of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.

Shout! Factory/Scream Factory’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of The Deadly Mantis is one of this year’s top new DVD/BD re-issues.  That is proven in part through the movie’s story (its primary content), which is actually quite believable considering what science has discovered to this day, and through its bonus content (its secondary content).  The insight and entertainment offered through the bonus content is just as certain to keep audiences engaged and entertained as the story.  Add in an average price point that once again won’t break viewers’ banks, and the movie proves a completely welcome addition to any cinephile’s movie library.  It will be available March 19.  More information on this and other titles from Shout! Factory is available online now at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.shoutfactory.com

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