August 04, 2008

DVD news: region 1


Paul Schrader's film has rightfully been released as part of the Criterion Collection, with both the Japanese and American voiceovers. Thoroughly recommended, I reviewed it here. Criterion have also released Patriotism, the only film to be directed by Mishima. The short film eerily anticipates his ritual suicide.


This is a first on DVD and I've never seen it on VHS either. It's certainly taking me decades to see all of Hammer Studio's classic horrors in any form. Newly released, this early Hammer Horror was directed by maestro Terence Fisher after Curse of Frankenstein and Horror of Dracula, just before he made The Mummy in 1959.

The Man Who Could Cheat Death is a tale of science misused for personal gain, with a couple of chills and a classic cast. Anton Diffring (Circus of Horrors, The Beast Must Die) as the scientist with a secret, Hazel Court (Masque of the Red Death) as his dark infatuation, and Christopher Lee as his reluctant aide. The lush transfer is richly colourful and looks fantastic. For fans of Hammer and British horror, this is very welcome title from Legend Films, who have also just released Freddie Francis' The Skull, starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, in 2.35 widescreen for the first time on home video.

MOON ZERO TWO (1969) plus

Two more rare and sought-after Hammer films debut on DVD as a double-bill. Moon Zero Two is a space western, released to cash in on the Moon landings in 1969. Starring James Olsen (The Andromeda Strain) and Catherine Schell (Space 1999), it's colourful, inventive, and tongue-in-cheek (a lunar property tycoon playing Moonopoly). I particularly like Adrienne Corri as the ray-gun toting space sheriff.

It's paired with When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth - the title should be familiar to anyone who remembers the finale to Jurassic Park. Following the success of One Million Years BC starring Raquel Welch, Hammer repeated the 'cavemen vs. dinosaurs' formula with more scantily clad cavegirls (headed by Victoria Vetri), grunting dialogue, stop-motion dinosaurs (impeccably animated by Jim Danforth), but with added sex and nudity.

This is only available in the US, and as a BestBuy exclusive but there may be an availability problem, according to chatter on the Classic Horror Forum, Warners appear to have muddled the adult version with the 'G' rated one.


Volumes 1, 2 and 3 of 42nd Street Forever should have been released before Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse movies, to educate us all as to what the hell 'grindhouse' actually was. Turns out Quentin meant seventies exploitation movies, except I saw them all in the Studio 7 (later 'Pine World') in Kingston-on-Thames, which I'd call 'a fleapit' rather than 'a grindhouse'.

The trailers were often better than the movie in this genre that preceded straight-to-video, The best scenes were always going to be in the trailer, laced together with death-dealing hyperbole.

There are several priceless feature-length collections of trailers from Synapse Video. They illustrate the many seventies trends, where the hunt was on to replace Bruce Lee, and rip-off any of the big hits, like The Exorcist or Animal House.

For instance, Volume 3 'Exploitation Explosion', contains trailers for kung fu thrillers, horror movies, monster action and general sleaze, including Alligator, Blood Beach, Survive, House by the Lake, Tentacles, Enter the Ninja, Prison Girls and dozens more. All the trailers are remastered for anamorphic widescreen.

Sometimes the picture quality is misleadingly dupey and slightly blurry – so remember that the final film may look 100 times better. Well, maybe 10 times. Also, some of these films aren’t on DVD, so this is your only way to catch a glimpse of them.

These outrageous previews for outrageous movies are fun to watch and full of ideas what to check out next. Don’t let the boring cover artwork put you off, these are dynamite. compilations. Thanks to Marios for telling me about these video gems.


This is simply a fantastic collection of classic fifties science fiction, where spectacle and suspense are more important than science. Quality black-and-white movies in their original aspect ratios, this Universal boxset is a reasonable way to jump-start a sci-fi collection.

The titles included are Tarantula (atomic radiation, giant spider), The Mole People (lost civilisation), The Incredible Shrinking Man (atomic radiation accident - based on the novel by Richard Matheson), The Monolith Monsters (alien rocks), Monster on the Campus (prehistoric Dr Jekyll), Dr. Cyclops (1941 technicolor - mad prof with shrink ray), Cult of the Cobra (vengeful snakey cult), The Land Unknown (dinosaurs in the Arctic), The Deadly Mantis (atomic radiation, giant mantis), and The Leech Woman (killing for eternal life).

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