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Friday, October 24, 2014
One of the most well-liked, perhaps even loved, titles in the bad-movie pantheon is a low-budget horror/sci-fi thriller from 1959 called THE KILLER SHREWS.
As I myself pointed out in great detail in an earlier review--intended, admittedly, more for Medved-style cuteness than anything else--there's a lot to poke fun at in this modest effort if you've a mind to.
But even as it gets its share of well-deserved ridicule (especially for the giggle-worthy fact that its mutated shrew creatures are actually dogs wearing monster costumes) and is one of the most popular films to have been given the MST3K treatment, one of the main reasons this tense little flick has such staying power is that in addition to being "so bad it's good", it is also, in many ways, just plain good.
For one thing, it's one of the first movies in which a disparate group of people barricade themselves in a house to defend themselves against an outside menace. As has often been pointed out, the similarities between it and George Romero's 1968 horror classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD indicate that Romero was influenced by the earlier film.
Which gives rise to an even more intriguing thought--did Alfred Hitchcock see THE KILLER SHREWS before coming up with his own barricaded-house thriller THE BIRDS four years later?
The story is pure straightforward pulp novel stuff, with manly cargo boat captain Thorne Sherman serving as a no-nonsense working class hero. When he and first mate "Rook" Griswold (Judge Henry Dupree) deliver supplies to a group of research scientists on a remote island that's about to be hit by a hurricane, he finds he's walked right into danger in the form of wolf-sized, man-eating killer shrews whose teeth drip instantly-lethal venom.
Heading the research group is Dr. Marlowe Craigis (leading Yiddish theater actor and famed director Sidney Lumet's father, Baruch Lumet), a well-meaning scientist wracked by guilt for having unwittingly unleashed such monsters. Among those threatened by them is his own daughter Ann, played by Ingrid Goude who was Miss Sweden of 1956 and, while not a very skilled actress, at least brings a likable earnestness to her performance.
In the role of Dr. Craigis' cowardly assistant Jerry Farrell is Ken Curtis (THE SEARCHERS, THE ALAMO), who would go on to TV superstardom as Festus Haggen on "Gunsmoke." Curtis has a field day playing Jerry as a weaselly lush driven by ambition and burning with jealousy after Ann starts making goo-goo eyes at Captain Thorne, and we can't wait to see the shrews chow down on this insufferable jerk.
Rounding out the cast are executive producer Gordon McLendon as endearingly nerdy scientist Dr. Radford Baines and Alfredo DeSoto as loyal handyman Mario. McLendon and Curtis also co-produced THE GIANT GILA MONSTER that same year, and both films were directed by Ray Kellogg, who co-directed THE GREEN BERETS along with John Wayne. A special effects man as well as director, Kellogg supplies some really nice-looking matte paintings to the shots of Thorne's boat anchored in the island harbor.
While many low-budget horror flicks of the era are technically inept and heavily padded, THE KILLER SHREWS' lean, suspenseful story moves along briskly once the exposition is out of the way. The shrew attacks themselves are often frightening as the revolting creatures relentlessly chew their way through the soft adobe walls of the house in a frantic search for "food."
It helps that the actors seem so thoroughly convinced that the dogs-in-monster-suits menace is real. James Best, known mainly as Rosco P. Coltrane on "The Dukes of Hazzard", somehow fits his own laconic persona into the part of a macho action hero well enough for us to buy into Thorne Sherman as a guy with the brains and brawn to get these people through this seemingly hopeless ordeal.
Meanwhile, some of the dialogue is laughably off-kilter and seems even more amusing as the cast strains to deliver it with utmost seriousness, often while guzzling martinis like they're going out of style. Yet they're able to make us care about these desperate people during the escalating shrew attacks, up to and during one of the most ludicrous (yet somehow riveting) climactic sequences ever seen in a film of this kind. The fact that it's played absolutely straight--as is the entire movie--makes it both exciting and, yes, perversely hilarious.
The DVD from Film Chest is in 4 x 3 full screen with original mono sound. No subtitles or extras. While I don't see much difference in this "digitally restored" version than the ones I already have, the image is quite good despite the usual specks and scratches.
What makes this release stand out for me is that the opening narration is complete, beginning with the line "Those who hunt by night will tell you that the wildest and most vicious of all animals is the tiny shrew." Usually this narration is joined in the middle of the final sentence with the truncated line "...Alaska, and then invading steadily southward...there were reports of a new species...the giant killer shrew!"
Apparently only the longer audio survives since the footage to accompany it seems to consist of the same brief shot seen before, only greatly slowed down until the bolt of lightning that heralds the main title. But it's nice to finally hear the whole thing.
Even if you've already watched the MST3K version of THE KILLER SHREWS, it deserves to be seen on its own terms. (Unlike much of the total crap that Joel, Mike, and the robots have comically endured over the years.) With repeated viewings, the unintentional comedy remains entertaining as ever while the suspense and chills contained in this nifty little monster movie steadily creep their way up your spine.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Read our original "The Killer Shrews" review HERE
DVD street date: November 11
Posted by porfle at 4:59 AM
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Dear HK and Cult Film News Readers:
Your costume is ready, the pumpkins are carved and there's a gallon of apple cider in the fridge. Now all you need to make All Hallow's Eve complete is a good horror movie. Fear not - just yet!
With Halloween just around the corner, Movies and More.TV has summoned super fright films with enough vampires, zombies and slashers to keep your spine tingling long after your trick or treat candy has gone stale.
Here's just a tempting taste of the sinister experiences that await.
Movies and More.tv
Posted by porfle at 4:52 PM
On January 13th, 2015, Anchor Bay Entertainment will give viewers 12 reasons to fear the skies when "Zodiac: Signs of the Apocalypse" is unleashed on DVD.
First premiered on the Syfy Channel, Zodiac stars Joel Gretsch ("V," "NCIS," "Witches of East End"), Aaron Douglas ("Battlestar Galactica," "The Killing"), Andrea Brooks (50/50, Independence Dayster), and the great Christopher Lloyd (the Back to the Future trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit). SRP is $19.98 and pre-book is December 10th, 2014.
For university museum curator Kathryn Keen (Emily Holmes), it seemed like the discovery of a lifetime, when the university’s collection of antiquities received its latest acquisition: a 2,000 year old ivory carved astrology board. What seemed a harmless paean to astrology turns out to be hiding something "powerful."
Now, strange things are beginning to happen, on Earth and in the skies above. A race against time has begun, to decipher the artifact’s secrets...while there’s still something left of Earth and humanity!
Zodiac Signs of the Apocalypse DVD
Genre: Sci-Fi / Horror
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Street Date: January 13th, 2015
Pre-Book: December 10th, 2014
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 90 minutes
UPC: 0 1313 26255-6 0
Posted by porfle at 12:08 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2014
Some movies can pretty much divide a roomful of people in half. That is, one half will sit in rapt attention while the other half flees the room in all possible haste to escape paralyzing, soul-crushing boredom.
IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES (1973) is one of those movies. Many viewers will find its dry, pseudo-scholarly tone, glacial pace, and static images of crumbling ruins and desolate landscapes to be the absolute opposite of entertainment.
And yet, those who used to sit fascinated week after week by every episode of the subsequent television series "In Search Of" (1976-1982, hosted by Leonard Nimoy) will most likely be riveted to the screen from beginning to end.
The open-mindedness of this film's producers and writers--which skeptics would no doubt find excessive--is what allows host/narrator Rod "Twilight Zone" Serling to pose baffling questions about ancient civilizations and then offer theories involving alien visitors from outer space and other paranormal phenomena.
Most of the now-familiar subjects are touched upon, from the mysterious lines carved into the vast Nazca plains of Peru--which Serling supposes may have been a landing field for alien aircraft--to the gigantic etchings of people and animals seen here and in England which can only be discerned from the air. Were these created for the benefit of our ancestors from the sky?
The ruins of Inca cities and other wondrous sites such as Troy and Jericho are examined for further evidence of such visitors sharing their advanced knowledge with ancient humans. Serling, along with various scientists, historians, and other experts whose credentials may or may not be impeccable, endeavors to explain why we should suspect an alien influence shaping much of our shared history as citizens of Earth.
In a seemingly stream-of-consciousness manner, Serling whisks us from Peru to the Bermuda Triangle for a quick retelling of the famous tale of disappearing military planes, and then it's off to search for the fabled lost city of Atlantis.
Unexplained artifacts are examined as well, including human skulls that display evidence of successful brain surgery, intricately designed machines created seemingly ahead of their time, and painted or sculpted images that resemble modern-day astronauts or aircraft.
Serling follows all of this up with some NASA-related anecdotes and a tale of unexplained radio waves received from outer space, again told by guest "experts" whose reliability we must either accept or discount. More interstellar speculation wraps things up, unsurprisingly, on an inconclusive note.
The DVD from Film Chest is in full screen (4 x 3) with original mono sound. Running time is 53 minutes. No subtitles or extras. The picture quality varies between okay and "ehh" (some of the stock footage shots in particular look like somebody's home movies) but then again the "In Search Of" shows always looked like that and it never really made that much difference.
While I don't know how every diehard skeptic will react to IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT MYSTERIES, I'm pretty sure the less patient ones would rather skip it altogether. But if you've ever entertained the notion that we've been visited and indeed colonized by aliens throughout history, you may find this documentary's earnest "what if" tone to be both intriguing and fun.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Posted by porfle at 5:30 AM
Monday, October 13, 2014
Celebrating 75 Years of Caped Crusader Entertainment… Batman 25th Anniversary Edition Debuts December 9 in New Diamond Luxe Packaging
Burbank, Calif., August 14, 2014 – To help mark Warner Bros. Entertainment (WBE) and DC Entertainment’s milestone 75th anniversary of DC Comics’ popular Batman character, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) will release Batman 25th Anniversary Two-Disc Edition, a new Blu-ray™ edition debuting December 9 (at $24.98 SRP) in the studio’s distinctive new sleek Diamond Luxe collector-style packaging.
With its state-of-the-art sophisticated and durable design, the new packaging is perfect for those wishing to add this edition to their home libraries. Also included is Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster -- a look at the phenomenal marketing, extensive merchandising and franchise foresight that set the template for the next 25 years of tentpole pictures.
WBHE and DCE’s year-long celebration, befitting the world’s most popular Super Hero, will boast new products from WBE and DC Entertainment in numerous areas – comics, TV, Interactive Entertainment, Consumer Products and more. There is a new commemorative 75th anniversary Batman logo and an exclusive "Cape/Cowl/Create" art exhibit, featuring 20 contemporary artists’ interpretations of The Dark Knight’s iconic cowl headpiece and cape from the new Batman: Arkham Knight video game. Various other events are taking place throughout the year.
In addition to releasing Batman 25th Anniversary Two-Disc Edition, WBHE will also feature the highly anticipated release of the 1960s Batman: The Complete Television Series for the first time ever. Other new home entertainment releases include animated films Son of Batman and Batman: Assault on Arkham.
In announcing the Batman 75th anniversary initiative in March, WB Chairman and Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara noted, "Batman is an incredibly important property with multi- generational appeal across all of the Studio’s businesses, and we’re proud to celebrate this milestone anniversary. From billion-dollar blockbuster films to TV, home entertainment, video games and consumer products, The Dark Knight continues to resonate with audiences worldwide and rightfully deserves his place as a global pop culture icon for the ages."
About the Movie
In 1989, director Tim Burton breathed new life into one of the most complex and intriguing characters in popular culture. Burton cast off the 1960s camp depiction of the Dark Knight and launched for Warner Bros. one of the most popular comic book film series ever. Batman was the top-grossing movie that year and subsequently became a global phenomenon.
Tim Burton’s vision and Michael Keaton’s performance as the Caped Crusader combine perfectly to capture Gotham City’s sinister atmosphere and Batman’s brooding nature. Jack Nicholson stars in a memorable performance as the maniacal Joker and Kim Basinger is Vicki Vale, the beautiful and resourceful photojournalist desired by both men. Featuring songs by Prince and a score by Danny Elfman, Batman won the 1990 Oscar® for Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Anton Furst and Peter Young).
• Batman: The Birth of the Modern Blockbuster (NEW) Discover how the film's phenomenal marketing, extensive merchandising and franchise foresight set the template for the next 25 years of tentpole pictures.
Note: All enhanced content listed above is subject to change. OSCAR®, OSCARS®, ACADEMY AWARDS®, ACADEMY AWARD®, A.M.P.A.S.® AND "OSCAR NIGHT® are registered trademarks, and the OSCAR statuette is a registered trademark and copyrighted property, of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Blu-ray Disc™ and Blu-ray™ and the logos are the trademarks of Blu-ray Disc Association.
Warner Home Video Blu-ray Discs™ offer resolution six times higher than standard definition DVDs, as well as extraordinarily vibrant contrast and color and beautifully crisp sound. The format also provides a higher level of interactivity, with instant access to extra features via a seamless menu bar where viewers can enjoy features without leaving or interrupting the film.
About Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment (WBHE) brings together Warner Bros. Entertainment's home video, digital distribution and interactive entertainment businesses in order to maximize current and next-generation distribution scenarios. An industry leader since its inception, WBHE oversees the global distribution of content through packaged goods (Blu-ray Disc™ and DVD) and digital media in the form of electronic sell-through and video-on-demand via cable, satellite, online and mobile channels, and is a significant developer and publisher for console and online video game titles worldwide. WBHE distributes its product through third party retail partners and licensees, as well as directly to consumers through WBShop.com and WBUltra.
Stream rare and hard-to-find movies and TV shows at Warner Archive Instant; purchase discs at Warner Archive Collection. Even more at www.wbshop.com or www.wbultra.com
Posted by porfle at 3:53 PM
Sunday, October 12, 2014
Fandor To Present New 4K Restoration Of Horror Classic
‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’
Centerpiece of Fandor’s "Shocktober," celebrating a season of horror!
(San Francisco - October 6, 2014) Fandor, the leading curated subscription streaming service for film enthusiasts, will debut Kino Lorber’s new 4K restoration of Robert Wiene’s classic horror thriller The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari exclusively on the site beginning Halloween. In addition, the restored film will have a limited theatrical run in select cities also commencing on October 31st through Kino Lorber.
Roger Ebert wrote that "Caligari creates a mindscape, a subjective psychological fantasy. In this world, unspeakable horror becomes possible" and remarked that an argument could be made that "Caligari was the first true horror film." The restoration was overseen by the Murnau Foundation and is a co-production of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and ZDF in collaboration with ARTE., with mastering by L’immagine Ritrovata, Cineteca di Bologna in Italy.
To celebrate this restoration and in honor of the season, Fandor is also highlighting a series of genre classics featuring zombies, vampires, psychopaths, murderers, bloodthirsty cults, and even a parasite named Aylmer! The collections of truly shriek-worthy films are divided into two segments:
THE SIN WITHIN: featuring films focused on internal threats, compulsive behaviors, dangerous impulses, and possession (of course!). The full line-up of films available in this collection is available to view here: http://www.fandor.com/spotlights/the-sin-within
STRANGER DANGER: featuring mysterious killers, stalkers, starved zombies, and a variety of other unidentified terrifying entities will become available on October 16th.
The collection of films feature filmmakers as diverse as Claire Denis, William Lustig, Dario Argento, Mario Bava , Lucio Fulci and Kim Jee-Woon, and of course George Romero.
Highlights of the Halloween offerings include:
Trouble Every Day (2001) 101 min Directed by Claire Denis
World renowned filmmaker Claire Denis' most controversial divisive and under appreciated films to date. With its gory, outré film style, Trouble Every Day shocked audiences at it's 2001 Cannes Film Festival debut for its graphic depictions of carnal lust as a cannibalistic disease. Named after a Frank Zappa song, the film follows American newlyweds Shane and June Brown to Paris on their honeymoon. Once there, Shane begins a search for his former colleague Leo, who might be in possession of a cure to a tropical virus that has transformed both Shane and Leo's wife into a ravenous sexual cannibals.
Night of the Living Dead (1968) 96 min Directed by George Romero
One of the most influential horror movies ever made, Night Of The Living Dead trail-blazed zombie lore along with its choice of an African-American hero, its unprecedented gore and the magnitude of its success, making tens-of-millions on a minuscule budget. This tightly-focused story of strangers barricading themselves in a farmhouse to escape cannibalistic ghouls raised from the dead was the first feature for George Romero.
Maniac (1980) 88 min Directed by William Lustig
Frank Zito (a career performance by co-writer/co-executive producer Joe Spinell of Rocky and The Godfather fame) is a deeply disturbed man, haunted by the traumas of unspeakable childhood abuse. And when these horrific memories begin to scream inside his mind, Frank prowls the seedy streets of New York City to stalk and slaughter innocent young women. Now Frank has begun a relationship with a beautiful photographer (Caroline Munro of The Spy Who Loved Me), yet his vile compulsions remain. These are the atrocities of a human monster. This is the story of a Maniac.
Devil Doll (1964) 81 min Directed by Richard Gordon
Grab a good seat and don't look away from the stage, for the Great Vorelli (Bryant Haliday) is about to dazzle London with his eerie mixture of hypnotism and ventriloquism. However, there may be something a little too lifelike about his dummy, Hugo, who has the ability to walk across the stage all by himself. Now Vorelli has become obsessed with Marianne (Yvonne Romain), an heiress who proves to be the key to the powerful mesmerist's insidious plans. Marianne's boyfriend, reporter Mark English (William Sylvester), suspects evil at work and becomes determined to uncover the secret between Vorelli and the wooden Hugo, a creature born from your darkest nightmares!
Female Vampire (1973) 101 min Directed by Jess Franco
Channeling his deepest libidinal desires and darkest fears into films, with no apparent concern for narrative convention or the boundaries of mainstream taste, Jess Franco is a cinematic iconoclast. And Franco was never better than when working with his wife, Lina Romay, a haunted waif who would go to any extreme to assure that the director's wildest imaginings were brought to the screen without compromise. Their most highly regarded collaboration, Female Vampire stars Romay as the mysterious Countess Irina Karlstein, a beautiful vampiress who feeds on victims at their moments of sexual climax. Because she destroys those whose essence she consumes, Irina is doomed to a life of solitude, wandering through the Western Coast of Europe in a dreamlike state, shrouded in a lush musical score by Daniel White.
Ganja and Hess (1973) 110 min Directed by Bill Gunn Flirting with the conventions of blaxploitation and the horror genre, Bill Gunn’s revolutionary independent film Ganja & Hess is a highly stylized and utterly original treatise on sex, religion and African American identity. Duane Jones stars as anthropologist Hess Green. When he is stabbed with an ancient ceremonial dagger by his unstable assistant (director Bill Gunn), Hess becomes endowed with the blessing of immortality and the curse of an unquenchable thirst for blood. When the assistant’s beautiful and outspoken wife Ganja (Marlene Clark) comes searching for her vanished husband, she and Hess form an unexpected partnership. Together, they explore just how much power there is in the blood.
Zombie (1979) 91 min Directed by Lucio Fulci
In Italy, it was considered the 'unofficial sequel' to Dawn Of The Dead. In England, it was known as Zombie Flesh Eaters and banned as obscene. In America, it was called Zombie and advertised with the depraved tag line "WE ARE GOING TO EAT YOU!" Tisa Farrow (The Grim Reaper), Ian McCulloch (Contamination), Al Cliver (Cannibals), and Richard Johnson (The Haunting) star in this worldwide splatter sensation directed by 'Maestro of Gore' Lucio Fulci (City Of The Living Dead, The House By The Cemetery) that remains one of the most eye-skewering, skin-ripping, gore-gushingly graphic horror hits of all time.
The Crazies (1973) 103 min Directed by George Romero
Its code name is 'Trixie', an experimental government germ weapon that leaves its victims either dead or irreversibly insane. When the virus is accidentally unleashed in Evans City, Pennsylvania, the small community becomes a war zone of panicked military, desperate scientists and gentle neighbors turned homicidal maniacs. Now a small group of citizens has fled to the town's outskirts where they must hide from trigger-happy soldiers while battling their own depraved urges. But even if they can escape the madness of this plague, can they survive the unstoppable violence of The Crazies?
A Bay of Blood (1971) 84 min Directed by Mario Bava
One of the most influential horror films of all time, Mario Bava's A Bay Of Blood (aka Twitch Of The Death Nerve) is the spurting artery from which all future slasher films would flow. When crippled Countess Federica is murdered at her isolated mansion, a gruesome battle ensues to secure the rights to her valuable property around the bay. Everyone, from illegitimate children to shady real estate agents, stakes a claim, only to be killed in increasingly bizarre ways, from simple shootings to impalement by fishing spear. The makeup effects are by Carlo Rambaldi (who would later earn Oscars for his work on Alien). Initially scorned upon its original release because of its graphic violence, A Bay Of Blood eventually became a trendsetter, the model slasher film that Friday The 13th would emulate nearly a decade later.
Inferno (1980) 106 min Directed by Dario Argento
A young woman stumbles upon a mysterious diary that reveals the secrets of the "Three Mothers" and unleashes a nightmare world of demonic evil. As the unstoppable horror spreads from Rome to New York City, this unholy trinity must be stopped before the world is submerged in the blood of the innocent. Written and directed by Dario Argento, Inferno is the visually stunning second chapter of the "Three Mothers" trilogy begun with the classic Suspiria. This surreal shocker stars Irene Miracle (Night Train Murders), Daria Nicolodi (Deep Red) and Leigh McCloskey (Dallas), and features a pulse-pounding original score by Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
About Fandor Fandor’s mission is to create a community of film lovers and makers connected by meaningful and entertaining cinematic experiences. Fandor is the home of thousands of handpicked, award winning films from around the world, of all types, lengths and genres. By investing in strategic partnerships with festivals (F|FA) and individual filmmakers (FIX) Fandor is generating greater opportunities for filmmakers, while their member-based service reaches audiences through TV set-top, desktop, and mobile devices, as well as through Keyframe, Fandor’s digital film art and culture magazine. For more information, please visit www.Fandor.com.
Posted by porfle at 7:37 PM