Classic Film Buffs Will Appreciate The Film Detective’s ‘The Bat’ Re-Issue

Courtesy: The Film Detective/MVD Entertainment Group

Halloween is just a matter of days away and just in time for the big day, independent movie distribution company The Film Detective will re-issue Universal Studios’ 1959 movie The Bat on DVD and Blu-ray.  The cult classic has been panned by audiences and critics alike, getting a 20% score from Rotten Tomatoes.  Even Vincent Price (who played more of a supporting part in the movie than lead) allegedly said he was ultimately disappointed with the movie in hindsight.  All of this aside, it is still a work that its established audiences will find just as appealing in its latest presentation as in its theatrical premiere.  That is due in part to the movie’s central story, which will be discussed shortly.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its latest re-issue is far from perfect but does add at least a little something to the presentation.  The audio and video in this latest presentation is also of note and will also be discussed later.  When it is considered alongside the other elements noted here, the whole makes The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of The Bat a welcome addition to this year’s field of new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

The Film Detective’s upcoming re-issue of The Bat is a mostly successful offering from the classic cinema distribution company.  The movie’s success comes in part through its central story.  The story is simple:  $1 million that was embezzled by a bank president is hidden in a house that has been rented by author Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead – Bewitched, Charlotte’s Web, Citizen Kane).  Van Gorder and a group of others are in the house and are well aware of the money, searching for it during their stay.  There’s just one problem, the infamous killer known as “The Bat” is also looking for the money, and will stop at nothing, including murder, to get the money first.  While Moorehead is the lead here, the movie continues to be marketed, oddly, more on the back of Vincent Price (The House on Haunted Hill, House of Wax, The Great Mouse Detective).  That is of note because for all intents and purposes, Price’s character of Dr. Malcolm Wells is in fact more of a supporting character here than a lead.  Not to give it away for those who have yet to see the movie, but he is more or less a red herring and not the star, showing up at only certain points in the story.  The Bat’s identity is eventually revealed in the story’s finale, but only after Dr. Wells ends up being killed by The Bat.  Sorry, folks, that had to be revealed.  The money is also found after The Bat is also killed.  Who finally ended The Bat’s reign of terror (so to speak) and how will be left for audiences to figure out for themselves.  There are some very real plot holes and other problems with the acting throughout the movie, but otherwise, they can be overlooked when looking at the bigger picture of the movie’s story.  To that end, the story here is reason enough for audiences to take in this movie.

While the story at the center of The Bat gives audiences reason enough to makethe movie worth watching, the bonus content that accompanies the movie in its latest iteration makes for at least a little bit more reason to take in the movie.  The most notable of the bonuses featured with the movie’s new re-issue is the essay composed by professor and film scholar Jason A. Ney.  Ney’s essay is presented in a booklet that comes with the package.  He notes in his essay, the roots of The Bat, pointing at that it was author Mary Roberts Rinehart’s debut novel, The Circular Staircase, that paved the way for what would become the stage presentation of The Bat.  That presentation, which apparently Price greatly enjoyed as a child, went on to be made into a movie three times over, the final time with Price as one of its stars.  He also points out the very deliberate choice by Rinehart and those involved in The Bat’s creation.  From there Ney furthers the discussion, pointing out how Moorehead’s character of Van Gorder intentionally takes it on herself to try to solve the mystery of The Bat’s identity and the location of the stolen money.  It really is a reflection of changing roles of women in society and again, Ney addresses this, too.  It could be a starting point on so many discussions on feminism and its role in society and in cinema.  As if all of this background is not enough, Ney also offers audiences a background on Rinehart’s very motivation for becoming an author.  Not to give everything away, but it has to do with her family’s own standing.  Interestingly, according to Ney, Rinehart remains one of the lesser-known figures in the literary world today, despite the maintained popularity of The Bat to this day.  This and so much other background information and history that Ney provides in his essay makes for plenty of engaging reading material, and in turn really the most notable of the re-issue’s bonus content.

Ney also provides a feature-length audio commentary throughout the movie.  The problem though, is that he clearly reads from a script throughout the course of his discussion.  That is clear through his pacing and general delivery.  He is not sitting there watching the movie at the same time as audiences.  It detracts from the viewing experience and leaves one feeling like he only did the commentary to get paid, rather than out of love for the movie.  It all just feels too scripted and fluid rather than organic.  To that end, it really does detract from the movie’s presentation.  Thankfully, the negative impact that the commentary leaves is not enough to doom the presentation.

The career retrospective of Crane Wilbur, who wrote the screenplay for The Bat also adds little if anything to the viewing experience and appreciation for the movie.  That is because of how fast it moves.  It just goes from one movie to the next on which he worked, so rapidly that it makes it difficult to follow even for those who fully engage themselves in the brief presentation.

On the positive side of things, the bonus radio broadcasts, which feature Price, of other programs make for their own enjoyment.  They are not connected in the least to The Bat but are still fun to hear.  They take audiences back to another time and give audiences more of a profile of Price’s work.  Keeping that in mind, this and Ney’s essay do just enough to make the bonus content its own positive overall.

Knowing that the bonus content featured in The Bat’s new re-issue is neither entirely good nor bad, there is one more complete positive to note.  That positive is the movie’s overall production.  The audio and video presented here is so clear, even more than 60 years after the movie made its theatrical debut.  It is unknown if any work was done to remaster the footage for its presentation here, but regardless, the overall presentation looks and sounds so good.  That alone more than wakes for reason to take in the movie, especially among its established audiences.  When this and the story are taken into account with the re-issue’s more notable bonus content, the whole makes The Bat’s new re-issue all the more engaging and entertaining.

The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of Universal’s The Bat is a mostly successful presentation that classic film buffs will find enjoyable.  That is due in part to its story, which is a simple soft-boiled crime tale.  The bonus content that accompanies the movie in its new re-issue makes for its own appeal, at least to a point.  The movie’s production rounds out its most important elements.  That is because of the high quality of the sound and video.  Each item examined here is important in its own way to the whole of the movie in its new presentation.  All things considered they make The Bat a welcome addition to this year’s field of new DVD and Blu-ray re-issues.

The Film Detective’s forthcoming re-issue of The Bat is scheduled for release Oct. 25 on DVD and Blu-ray.  More information on this and other titles from The Film Detective is available at:

Website: https://thefilmdetective.com

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Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest Is A Great Treat For The Whole Family

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Discovery Family

Courtesy: Shout! Factory/Shout! Factory Kids/Discovery Family

Labor Day has come and gone once again. The weather is beginning to turn for much of the country and has already turned for others. That means it won’t be long before Halloween is upon us once again. Even store shelves across the country are becoming filled with the annual bevy of Halloween fare. This includes the annual crop of Halloween DVDs and Blu-rays. The thing about Halloween is that it seems to produce the least amount of holiday programming in comparison to that of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shout! Factory however is looking to help change that as it released yet another new Halloween DVD earlier this month in the form of the new Littlest Pet Shop DVD Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest. This latest addition to the show’s already extensive series of DVDs is yet another welcome addition to any family’s home DVD library and yet another breath of fresh air among the annual holiday fare. The main way in which it proves itself such an enjoyable new set of episodes is the writing behind each of its episodes. While Littlest Pet Shop has always been aimed largely at younger female viewers, the writing in the featured episodes is such that the whole family will enjoy each episode. That will be discussed at more length shortly. The work of the show’s voice cast is just as entertaining as the work of the series’ writers once again. Last but hardly least worth noting to this DVD’s positives is the inclusion of a pumpkin stencil exclusive to the DVD. With many stores and farms already stocking their annual supply of pumpkins, the stencil is a great addition for any family in deciding what design to use for their jack-o-lantern this year or any year. Each noted element by itself proves its own value to the whole of Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest. Collectively they show the DVD in whole to be a collection that is just as enjoyable in the realm of Littlest Pet Shop compilations as it is in the realm of new holiday DVD fare.

Halloween is one of the slimmest times of the year when it comes to new DVD and Blu-ray offerings. Why that seems to be the case is anyone’s guess. Regardless each year there are some new releases among those slim pickings of new releases. The problem is that among those few new offerings, even fewer can truly be said to be worth the watch. Shout! Factory has one of those few fully worthwhile offerings once again in the form of the new Littlest Pet Shop collection Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest. The main way in which it proves this is in its writing. At the center of the writing’s success is the script for each of its five episodes. All five episodes featured in this collection feature their own frightfully fun stories that are fitting for the whole family (say that one five times fast). It all kicks off with the absolute laugh riot “Door-Jammed.” This episode sees Blythe’s animal friends believing that each one is a monster after having watched a movie about a werewolf. Meanwhile Mrs. Twombley sets out to claim a doorknob (yes, a doorknob) away from her arch-nemesis Mr. Biskit. The LPS pals meet a new eight-legged friend in the collection’s second episode “Eight Arms To Hold You.” This episode is a good fit for the collection thanks to the execution of its story. As the story progresses, it is believed that the octopus is actually a monster. That’s because the new pal was kept in the shadows much in the vein of so many classic monster movies. And that will be discussed shortly as it is another element of the episodes’ writing that makes these episodes so enjoyable. As if the stories already noted aren’t enough to convince families, there is an equally enjoyable story in “War of the Weirds” the third of the DVD’s five episodes. The very title is itself a tribute to the classic sci-fi flick War of the Worlds. The episode itself will have viewers laughing till their sides hurt as the LPS pals become afraid that aliens are invading. There is an interesting twist at the episode’s end that makes for just as many laughs. On another level, the episode makes great reference to one of the funniest stereotypes of the alien conspiracy theory culture out there today. That is yet another more minute detail of the episodes’ writing that makes them so enjoyable, which will also be discussed shortly. Getting back on the subject at hand, all three of the stories noted here are in their own right prime examples of how the writing behind this collection’s episodes makes them so enjoyable. That is hardly to take away from the remaining pair of episodes–“Pawlm Reading” and “The very Littlest Pet Shop.” Both episodes make for their own share of enjoyment, too. All five episodes considered together make Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest well worth the watch within themselves. They are just part of the writing that makes this collection so enjoyable, too. There are smaller details within each episode that make each one even more enjoyable and the collection in whole that much more enjoyable.

The stories presented within each of the episodes featured in Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest give viewers plenty of reason to pick up this new collection of Littlest Pet Shop episodes. They are only part of what makes the writing so enjoyable within each episode. The smaller details included within each episode’s script adds even more enjoyment to the whole of the DVD. One example of how the episodes’ more minor details make the writing even more enjoyable comes in the set’s lead episode “Door-Jammed.” The writers make direct reference to the hit Hobbit movie franchise as well as Michael Jackson’s famed Thriller video complete with narration just as the actual video had courtesy of Vincent Price. The manner in which the writers kept the octopus in the shadows through much of “Eight Arms To Hold You” is very much in the vein of Hollywood’s classic monster movies. Those movies would build tension by not revealing the monsters until late in the movies’ run. One could even argue that the use of an octopus is in itself a direct throwback to the classic 1955 sci-fi/horror hybrid It Came From Beneath The Sea. In “War of the Weirds” the writers pay homage to the classic 1953 sci-fi flick War of the Worlds. There is also a hilarious reference to the stereotype of conspiracy theorists using tin foil hats to keep the invasion forces from controlling their minds. And just as interesting in this episode is the playful jab at the stores that employ people to stand on street corners and spin signs while dancing in order to get attention. These are just a handful of examples of how the more minor details of the episodes’ writing makes them so enjoyable for audiences of all ages. There is just as much that could be noted from “Pawlm Reading” and “The Very Littlest Pet Shop,” which in itself throws back to the likes of 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man. The ultimate reveal in this episode won’t be given away here for the sake of those that haven’t seen this episode (or any of the set’s others). But it is a timeless plot element that has been used time and again in so many other TV series and movies. Whether for that element, for any of the other minor details of the writing or for the stories themselves, it should be fully clear by now why exactly the writing behind the episodes featured in Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest is so important to its overall success and enjoyment. All things combined, the writing makes each of the set’s five episodes enjoyable not just for its target younger female viewers but for the whole family. Having noted this, there is still plenty more to note in regards to the enjoyment of Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest including the work of the series’ cast.

The work of the writers behind Littlest Pet Shop has clearly paid off in spades in this collection of episodes. All five featured episodes include something that at least one member of any family will appreciate if not the whole family. This includes both the episodes’ stories and the more minor details of each episode. For all of the enjoyment generated through each of the episodes’ writing, the work of the show’s voice cast makes for just as much enjoyment. Lead voice actress Ashleigh Ball (Johnny Test, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures) is just as solid as ever in her portrayal of Blythe Baxter throughout each episode. One instance in which this is clear comes when she is trapped in a bathroom with one of the Biskit twins at the Biskits’ mansion. Not once here does she try to ham it up as Blythe connects with said girl. Even at other points in which Blythe takes a back seat to her cast mates, Ball is just as entertaining. Viewers can really feel the respect that she has for her cast mates in those moments, which are themselves included in this collection. Peter New’s (Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed, Agent Cody Banks, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) work as the voice of Sunil Nevla is another of the high points of the cast’s voice work in this collection. New maintains his place as the comedian of the cast as he brings Sunil to life, spewing out conspiracy theories and coming up with all kinds of outlandish thoughts. One can’t help but wonder in listening to New’s delivery just how much of his work was ad-libbed and how much was actually in the scripts. Even if he did stick to the episode’s scripts, his timing was still impeccable, making for so many laughs in the long-term. Supporting actress Kathleen Barr (Reboot, Kid vs. Cat, Adventures of Sonic The Hedgehog) is just as impressive as the voice of Mrs. Twombley. Her delivery as she searches for and finds the doorknob she bid on in “Door-Jammed” will have both those familiar with the hugely successful Hobbitt series and those more familiar with Littlest Pet Shop laughing just as much as the other. While Barr, New, and Ball each add their own enjoyment to these episodes, their work is not the only entertaining work featured throughout the set. Each of the cast members could just as easily be noted for their work, too. Altogether, the work of the show’s voice cast plays just as important of a role in the enjoyment of Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest as the work of the show’s writers. The writers and cast together make each episode well worth the watch each time as the days close in on Halloween. Together, they make even clearer why this collection is such a breath of fresh air among this year’s holiday offerings. While both elements do plenty to show why this collection is so enjoyable, they still are not all that make it a wonderful new addition for families. The inclusion of a free bonus pumpkin stencil rounds out the ways in which the DVD proves itself so enjoyable.

The work of both the writers and the cast within each episode featured in Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Fest shows clearly why this new DVD is a breath of fresh air among the otherwise stagnant collection of holiday offerings on store shelves each year. For all of their collective importance in the bigger picture of the DVD, there is still one more element that makes the presentation whole here. That element is the bonus pumpkin stencil included inside the case. Now that fall is here, stores and farms are all beginning to pull out their annual stock of pumpkins for people to carve up and put on their porches. The stencil included in this DVD gives a great idea for fans of Littlest Pet Shop. The main reason that it is such a great addition is that it gives young Halloween lovers and fans of the show a starting point for their own original jack-o-lantern design. It also serves as another great opportunity for parents and children to do something together to get into the Halloween spirit all while celebrating younger viewers’ love of Littlest Pet Shop. Simply put it’s a double whammy for the whole family (hey, it rhymes). It gives the carver (whether it be adult or child) a clear explanation of where to and where not to cut their pumpkins. So it’s also user-friendly so to speak. Considering all of this, the bonus pumpkin stencil included in Shout! Factory and Hasbro Studios’ new Littlest Pet Shop DVD is just as much reason to pick up this new DVD as the work of the show’s writers and cast. All three elements together make this DVD a breath of fresh air among this year’s crop of holiday DVD and Blu-ray offerings.

Littlest Pet Shop: Halloween Adventures is not the only new offering among this year’s crop of new holiday offerings. However, it is only one of very few new offerings for Halloween. Considering all that it has to offer in regards to its writing, acting, and its bonus material of sorts, it is one of the best of this year’s holiday offerings. It is a breath of fresh air among that small handful of new offerings for the whole family. It is available now in stores and online and can be ordered online direct from Shout! Factory’s online store at https://www.shoutfactory.com/kids/kids-animation/littlest-pet-shop-halloween-fest. 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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No Mystery About It: The Great Mouse Detective Is A Fun Family Movie

Courtesy: Disney Home Entertainment

Everybody knows the name and face of Mickey Mouse.  The iconic figure has been the face of Disney since his creation.  And he’s still the most famous animal figure in the movie world to this day.  As famous as Mickey might be, he isn’t the only mouse to grace the silver screen in the annals of Disney’s movie history.  Next to Mickey and Minnie, most audiences probably instantly think back to Bernard and Miss Bianca A.K.A. The Rescuers.  There is at least one more mouse whose name is likely less prominent in audiences’ minds when asked about famous Disney figures.  That mouse is none other than Basil of Baker Street.

Basil is the mouse counterpart to author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famed detective, Sherlock Holmes.  He’s the star of Disney’s 1986 animated feature, The Great Mouse Detective.  The Great Mouse Detective has never enjoyed the popularity of The Rescuers or of any of Mickey Mouse’s adventures.  But it’s still a fun movie for any fan of mysteries.  One factor that makes The Great Mouse Detective enjoyable is the understanding of how much work went into bringing this film to life.  While it’s somewhat short, the bonus “making of” featurette contains some information that will make for a new appreciation for this story.  In that same vein, the work that went into bringing The Great Mouse Detective to life included making a believable story and equally believable characters.  All of this combined makes it a movie that deserves more attention and credit than what it has gotten in the almost three decades since its debut.

The new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack re-issue of The Great Mouse Detective includes a short bonus “Making of” featurette pointing out that it took four years for this movie to come to life.  It goes on to point out that a major reason (of not the reason) was the combination of computer based graphics and hand drawn animation.  This movie was the first ever in which Disney actually used computer graphics to any extent.  As viewers will see in the bonus feature, a lot of work was put into making the final conflict between Basil and Ratigan happen.  The feature points out that the clockworks inside Big Ben were created largely by computer.  That meant taking extensive lengths in order to mix the CG and hand drawn animation without losing the film’s integrity.  The animators behind this mix and the rest of the movie’s animation are to be commended for the work put into making this happen.

The animators behind The Great Mouse Detective went into painstaking detail in order to make its animation stand out.  So did the writers responsible for making the story happen.  Viewers don’t have to have read the books on which this movie is based to be able to enjoy it.  It’s a simple story that presents a good guy (Basil), a bad guy (Ratigan) and a mystery.  Even more interesting is that in its own way, the writing staff behind the movie made it even more believable in that they made Basil flawed.  Here is a character that starts out as a pompous, arrogant individual.  But as the story progresses, audiences see him become warmer and more caring towards Olivia Flaversham.  Olivia originally comes to Basil after her father is abducted by Ratigan’s henchman Fidget.  Basil’s personal growth and his relationship to Olivia is a secondary storyline to that of his search for Ratigan.  But it makes the story more heartwarming, and in turn, more enjoyable.

One of the most important factors of any movie script’s success is suspension of disbelief.  The Great Mouse Detective has a story that easily allows audiences to suspend their disbelief.  As a matter of fact, the main story and its intertwining story will pull in audiences with ease.  No story is believable without equally believable characters.  And believable characters are exactly what the movie has.  Basil’s personal growth makes him more relatable and endearing to audiences.  On the other side of the spectrum, Professor Ratigan is equally vile and despicable. If there’s one thing that Disney has always had the ability to do, it’s creating great villains.  And thanks to the voice acting of the late, great Vincent Price, Ratigan jumps off the screen.  He wastes little time establishing himself as an all out bad guy.  That he feeds other mice to his “pet” cat without remorse is itself worthy of the title “evil.”  Audiences will instantly find themselves booing him.  That means from Price to the writers, everyone involved in bringing Ratigan to life did everything right.

As one can see, so much went into bringing The Great Mouse Detective to life.  From making the art to the story to its characters, the work involved in making this movie a reality paid off.  It is a good movie not just for fans of the mystery genre, but for anyone who is a fan of Disney’s history.  The new Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via Disney’s online shop at http://www.disneystore.com/the-great-mouse-detective-special-edition-blu-ray-and-dvd-combo-pack/mp/1319926/1000316/

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New Carol Burnett Show Re-Issue A Great Piece of TV Nostalgia

Courtesy: Time Life/Star Vista

Television today is largely anything but family friendly.  As Peter and Lois Griffin joke in the opening to Seth McFarlane’s hit cartoon, Family Guy, “all you see is violence in movies and sex on TV.”  While that line is meant entirely in a tongue-in-cheek manner, there’s a certain modicum of truth to it in today’s television culture.  Thank goodness for companies such as Time Life.  Time Life officially released yesterday what is one of the greatest sketch comedy/variety programs of all time and one of the greatest family friendly programs in television history in The Carol Burnett Show.

Time Life released “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” yesterday.  The six-disc compilation contains seventeen episodes considered among the “best” of the show’s roughly eleven year run on CBS.  The episodes compiled for this new set leave no doubt that Burnett’s show was one of the influences behind NBC’s Saturday Night Live.  The sketches from this show clearly hint at the bits that would come from the latter.  The Carol Burnett Show even spawned a little show called “Mama’s Family” that would last a total of six seasons on television.  Saturday Night Live, on the other hand, has tried multiple times to spin off its sketches to both the big and small screen with little success.  That goes to show the importance and staying power of The Carol Burnett Show to this day.  It’s even been spoofed by a number of television shows that have come since.  And after all, it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

“The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is a wonderful collection for those who are unable to pick up the complete twenty-two disc collection.  That collection was released yesterday alongside this compilation.  It contains every episode from the show’s run.  Among some of the best episodes included in the six-disc “Carol’s Favorites” are the ones that include the hilarious skit, “The Family.”  That skit was the precursor to Vicki Lawrence’s hit TV sitcom, “Mama’s Family.”  Fans of “Mama’s Family” will be happy to know that on this set is the very first episode of “The Family.”  Guest star Roddy McDowall even gets his own role in the skit.  McDowall is just one of a bevy of guest stars to make appearances on the show.  Also appearing on the show in this compilation are the likes of:  Joan Rivers, Johnny Cash, The Jackson 5, Steve Martin, Betty White, Vincent Price and loads more.

From the original skits to the guest stars, The Carol Burnett Show offered so much great entertainment for the entire family.  That’s not all that makes this set such a great addition to the library of any classic television fan.  The set’s packaging is another bonus.  While the box may seem slightly bulky, the packaging for the discs themselves is very impressive.  Three inserts hold all six discs inside the box.  Each disc has its own spot on the inserts, thus protecting them and increasing their longevity.  This may come across as something minor.  But the longer the discs last, the more families will get to enjoy this TV classic.

The packaging goes a long way to making “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” a joy for families and fans alike.  But one would be remiss to ignore the most obvious factor of this set that makes it such a joy.  That factor would be the footage itself.  There are those who would speak badly of the footage quality.  But as with so many shows from that era, watching it from its original airing recordings is like listening to an original classic jazz song on vinyl.  The static on those old original vinyls creates a certain sense of nostalgia.  In the same vein, seeing this show as it originally aired will bring back that sense of nostalgia, too.  Trying to enhance it would only decrease that sense of nostalgia.  So kudos to Time life for keeping it how it was. 

There are shows that deserve to be resurrected on DVD and blu-ray.  And then there are those that are better left dead.  The Carol Burnett Show is one of those shows that belong in the prior category.  Despite what some critics may have to say, this newest reintroduction of this classic show is quite welcome.  Now a whole new generation can experience what is an example of television with real heart.  “The Carol Burnett Show:  Carol’s Favorites” is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via Time Life’s website, http://timelife.com.

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House On Haunted Hill Is Scary Fun For The Whole Family

Courtesy: Mill Creek Entertainment

B-flick or not, House on Haunted Hill is one of the greatest horror movies of all time.  It’s also one of Vincent Price’s finest moments.  It’s one more piece that shows the importance of classic movies.  Rather than being over worn by unnecessary violence, special effects and sex, this black and white classic relies on storytelling and acting to grab and hold the audience’s attention.  The storytelling itself is perhaps the most interesting factor in House on Haunted Hill.  Being that this story is an ensemble piece, one would automatically think that it will have its share of problems, story-wise.  But somehow the planets aligned just right for writer Robb White.

The mood is expertly set from the story’s opening moments, with both Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) and Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook, Jr.) setting the stage.  Pritchard is up first, telling audiences the ghost story centered on the mansion to which Loren has invited his guests, Pritchard included.  Loren makes the story even creepier with his delivery, explaining why each one of the guests has been invited to stay in the house.  Price’s delivery as Loren will send chills up any first time viewer’s spine.  Of course, the reality of why everyone has been invited is revealed at the end, making the ghost story a little less scary.  It’s only a little less scary because the door is left wide open for audiences to wonder about the house, even as the credits roll.  Could it be that the house really is haunted?  That’s up to the audiences.

Writing is at the base of every good (and bad) movie ever written.  That writing doesn’t just include dialogue.  It also includes little nuances such as lighting, acting, etc.  Those nuances were captured equally well through the direction of William Castle and William Malone.  The entire cast’s acting kept the scare factor on the high end throughout the movie.  The entire cast plays off of Pritchard and Loren perfectly, some of them believing Pritchard’s story.  Some not so sure.  The mixed reactions serve to make the story that much more believable.  Their reactions to things such as the organ playing and the lights going on and off make it all the better.  And best of all is the screams of Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig).  At first her screams are believable.  But the more she does it, the funnier it gets.  And it’s not the only comedy to the story, either.  Audiences will have to find out for themselves what other silliness is in store.  What the inclusion of all this funny business means is that while the movie has a good scare level, it has enough comedy to keep it from being too scary at the same time.

House on Haunted Hill has even more that could be discussed among any classic film buff or even a film studies class.  Keeping in mind that it has so much going for it, it goes without saying that B-flick or not, it’s still a great horror flick that everyone should see at least once in their lives.

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