Blu-Ray Review- Ghost Town
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 28th 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 85 Minutes
Empire Pictures and Charles Band’s 1988 production of Ghost Town contains too many laugh-out-loud “what the fuck am I watching?” moments to count. When bride-to-be Kate Barrett goes missing in a desert town (honestly…who keeps their wedding dress in the backseat of a top-down convertible in the desert?), the local Sheriff’s Deputy (Franc Luz) Langley is assigned to track her down. A rough sandstorm is the apparent cause, but we (the viewers) know that a ghastly western outlaw apparition on horseback has carried her off.
As Langley begins his search, the same outlaw apparition quickly decimates his vehicle, leaving him stranded and desperate in the scorching desert heat. Our hero stumbles across the barren landscape into an abandoned Old West town in his search to solve the mystery of Kate’s disappearance, but soon finds out, nothing is what it seems. The entire town’s inhabitants are dead, stuck in a limbo of sorts, waiting for the day when a legendary lawman will come to town and rid them of the ghostly outlaw that is keeping their souls hostage. Langley, by chance, just might be the lawman they’re looking for.
Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. I will say that the special effects aren’t half bad, with a few select gore shots and makeup details that are impressive given the obvious budget restraints. Do I recommend it? Sure. Ghost Town isn’t a terrible way to waste away a rainy afternoon, and cheesy movie fans will delight in the film’s unintentional comedy.
Scream Factory has given Ghost Town an incredibly solid transfer onto the Blu-Ray format! It’s almost too good given the film’s B-movie laugh-fest quality (joking of course). The print is very clean, free from defects, and offers up some beautiful natural film grain without any evidence of manipulation. The dusty ghost town exhibits a depth and lifelike quality in High Definition, and facial features and clothing material are captured in stunning clarity. There are a few scattered shots with artifacts, and a handful of scenes that exhibit a “jumpy” quality (likely a stabilization issue from the source), but Ghost Town overall looks fantastic on the format!
The 2.0 DTS-HD audio track is another fine aspect to this Blu-Ray release. Dialogue always comes through clean and clear, music and sound effects are rather dynamic for a mono track, and there are no hiccups or other distortions in sound throughout the experience. The cheesy score sounds especially great here!
There are no special features included on this Blu-Ray release for Ghost Town. For many of us, having the film on the High Definition format is a special treat in and of itself. Others may be disappointed with the lack of extras.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for the film on its cover. I love the classic Western “pistols at dawn” pose paired with the menace of the skeleton cowboy. The artistic touches of the town’s buildings fading away and the skeleton’s shadow in the foreground are appreciated. On the reverse of the case you’ll find a plot synopsis, technical specifications, and select production stills from the film. Inside of the case is the Blu-Ray disc as well as some nice reversible artwork that fans can choose to display instead of the theatrical poster art.
Ghost Town is a fairly enjoyable B-movie cheese-fest! The story is unintentionally silly, with less-than-stellar acting ability all around, exaggerated line delivery, and questionable editing choices. If it wasn’t for its lack of repeat-watch value, Ghost Town would almost qualify for the “so bad it’s good” stamp of approval. For those that enjoy bad movies, there is no denying that the film delivers the goods. The Blu-Ray from Scream Factory boasts very impressive video and audio quality, making for an enjoyable home theater experience for Horror fans. The lack of special features may be disappointing for some, but most of us are satisfied enough to finally own a rare treat like this one on the High Definition format. Western Horror films are hard to come by, and though you have to be in the right mood to appreciate its B-movie charms, Ghost Town on Blu-Ray comes recommended.
Blu-Ray Review- Exterminators of the Year 3000
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: March 3rd 2015
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color, 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio, DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Let’s go ahead and discuss the elephant in the room before we even begin. Giuliano Carnimeo’s Exterminators of the Year 3000 (1983) is a direct rip-off of George Miller’s The Road Warrior (1981). There is no opposing viewpoint or argument in defense of Exterminators’ originality, it’s written in stone. Whether or not that’s the reason Carnimeo took the pseudonym Jules Harrison as his directing credit, we’ll never know. The only reason I state the obvious here is because Exterminators of the Year 3000 is nevertheless, highly enjoyable. It’s an absolute cheese-fest of epic low budget proportions, and as long as you can go in with this mindset, I’m positive you’ll have a howling good time (the awful Italian to English dubbing alone is worth your while).
In the film, a band of survivors live out of a makeshift cave base in the post-apocalyptic future. The earth is now a scorching hot desert with a roaming motorcycle gang on the prowl for water, led by the hilariously insane Crazy Bull. The band of survivors sent out one of their own to search for a new water supply, but he never returned. Growing more desperate as each day passes without life’s most essential substance, the group decides to send out a new group, but they are quickly decimated by Crazy Bull’s gang. The only survivor of the massacre is young Tommy (son of the first searcher), who comes across a lone badass named Alien (Robert Iannucci). After some initial trust issues between the two lone wanderers are sorted out, Alien begrudgingly agrees to help Tommy and his people find water and take on Crazy Bull and his army of psychos.
From the ultra-80’s synthesizer score and the incredibly awful dubbing to some fairly well orchestrated action scenes (not to mention a few laughable ones), there is something for everyone in Exterminators of the Year 3000. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure, but in name only as one shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying cheesy movies. They’re this particular reviewer’s bread and butter. It may be a complete rip-off of The Road Warrior/Mad Max franchise, but that’s all part of the fun.
Scream Factory’s High Definition presentation of Exterminators of the Year 3000 is pretty solid overall, exhibiting the film’s dusty post-apocalyptic color palette with nice detail and relatively clean of debris. There are some standout scenes, mostly in the first 30 minute of the film that suffer from clarity issues and digital noise, but they are few and far between. From what I understand, this is the first time the film has been presented in its original widescreen aspect ratio, and to my eyes, it looks surprisingly good given the budget, import status, and time period.
The DTS-HD mono track included herein is also impressive, relaying the hilarious dubbed dialogue, car battles, and explosions in very clear fashion on your home surround system. It has a slightly tinny/hollow feel at times when the action/score let up, but overall the film sounds impressive on Blu-Ray.
Scream Factory has provided fans of Exterminators of the Year 3000 with select bonus features for this Blu-Ray release. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- Audio Commentary with Robert Iannucci: This audio commentary features actor Robert Iannucci (Alien) discussing the film in depth, from the production to casting and filming the action scenes, he has plenty to say about the making of the film.
- Boogie Down with the Alien: Interview with Robert Iannucci– This nearly 18-minute interview with Robert Iannucci is slightly repetitive if you’ve already watched the commentary at this point, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. This particular interview segment was borrowed from a previous Code Red DVD release.
- Trailer- This original theatrical trailer lasts nearly four minutes (!) and gives viewers an overview of nearly every action scene in the film.
- TV Spots- 43 seconds of original television spots from the film’s theatrical promotional campaign.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features the original theatrical poster design for Exterminators of the Year 3000. On the reverse of the packaging you’ll find a plot synopsis, a list of special features and technical specifications, as well as select production stills from the film. On the interior of the packaging is the Blu-Ray disc and some fun background art with a poster and more production stills from the film.
Exterminators of the Year 3000 is an absolute cheese-fest of epic low budget proportions, and as long as this is understood beforehand, I’m positive you’ll have a howling good time. From the ultra-80’s synthesizer score and the incredibly awful dubbing to some fairly well orchestrated action scenes (not to mention a few laughable ones), there is something for everyone here. It’s a guilty pleasure for sure, but in name only as one shouldn’t feel guilty for enjoying cheesy movies. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features impressive video and audio quality for a film of this nature, and the special features, though light, are entertaining for fans. It’s an admittedly cheesy and borrowed affair, but Exterminators of the Year 3000 comes recommended.
Doctor Macabre’s Top Ten Hi-Def Horror Releases of 2014:
There is no denying that 2014 was a stand-out year for Horror when it comes to Home Video releases. Exciting would be an understatement. Not since my teenage years in the mid to late 90’s; saving up my lawn-mowing cash to pre-order the latest Anchor Bay tin set at Suncoast Video, has there been a time as good as this for fans of the genre. I found those sentiments echoed throughout the Horror community lately. It was simply a great year to be a Horror aficionado. And who do we have to thank for that? The fine folks at Scream Factory, Synapse Films, Scorpion Releasing, Blue Underground, Kino Lorber, and Grindhouse Releasing to name just a few. Their dedication to the genre, attention to detail on video transfers and extras, and pure willingness to go above and beyond to please the fans deserves admiration and applause.
2014 saw the release of a multitude of titles that many of us never saw coming, including the Halloween 6 Producer’s Cut and the Director’s Cut of Nightbreed. We saw the painstakingly beautiful efforts of 4K restorations on titles like Sleepaway Camp, Prom Night, and Curtains. And let’s not forget the incredible documentaries and featurettes included on these releases from the likes of Aine Leicht and Red Shirt Pictures. The bottom line is this: we were spoiled beyond belief this past year, and here’s to more of the same in 2015.
Without further ado, the following are my personal Top 10 picks for the very best 2014 had to offer when it came to Horror films on Blu-Ray (counting down from 10 to 1):
- Countess Dracula (Synapse Films)
*Besides the fact that this Hammer release is a gorgeous gothic delight all on its own (with the beautiful and sultry Ingrid Pitt in the title role), but Synapse Films delivered it masterfully in High Definition. Featuring a breathtaking new transfer and the fantastic (if short) Immortal Countess: The Cinematic Life of Ingrid Pitt featurette touching on her heartbreaking childhood spent in a concentration camp, her escape via river from Berlin (being pulled out of the water by a US soldier whom she would later marry), and beginnings in Hollywood, it’s a fascinating piece on an underrated actress. Complete with reversible cover art and a solid audio track, this one easily made my list.
- Deadly Eyes (Scream Factory)
*How can one go wrong with dachshunds in rat suits chasing Scatman Crothers down a sewer drain? This movie is simply too much fun, with earnest performances and goofy practical effects, it’s pure camp entertainment that remains one of my favorite 80’s Horror entries to revisit. Producer Aine Leicht’s Deadly Eyes: Dogs in Rat’s Clothing documentary is an absolute hoot too, with fun interviews and insight into the making of the film. Scorpion Releasing adds a few bonus features on this Scream release as well, rounding out this great disc (with solid picture and audio quality).
- The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Kino Lorber)
*Along with F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, this is one of my favorite Horror pieces from early German cinema. It’s incredibly well made, with plenty of memorable set designs and costumes that have gone on to inspire Horror auteurs that would soon follow. The imagery is endlessly spooky and haunting, and it looks simply stunning in this brand new 4K scan on Blu-Ray from Kino. With two separate HD audio tracks (one by DJ Spooky!) and the captivating documentary Caligari: How Horror Came to Cinema, there is so much to love on this release for fans of the film.
- The Vincent Price Collection II (Scream Factory)
*There is nothing in cinema quite as calming or comforting to me as sitting down and enjoying a good ol’ Vincent Price movie marathon. He is, without a doubt, my favorite Horror icon. The man simply knew how to deliver the goods to his audience, and delighted in the fandom of the genre that he understood so well. With a simple tweak of an eyebrow, or escalation in his vocal tone, the man was endlessly watchable on the silver screen. Scream Factory’s Volume II collection includes some wonderful films from his outstanding career including: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. They’ve also included an array of great special features on every disc including commentaries, featurettes, and my personal favorite, Iowa Public Television’s Gothic Horror introductions starring the man himself. Joel Robinson’s perfectly rendered artwork rounds out this great collection.
- The Walking Dead: The Complete Fourth Season (Anchor Bay)
*From the disease spreading among Rick and his band of survivors holed up in the abandoned prison to the Governor’s assault and subsequent heartbreak for fans of the show, Season Four of The Walking Dead offers up the very best in television entertainment. Whenever I encounter someone who hasn’t seen the series and dismisses it as “that Zombie show”, I have to shake my head. This series just keeps getting better and better, and zombies are a mere backdrop in a story about human strength, weakness, and survival. Anchor Bay’s release for Season Four featured stellar video and audio quality on every episode and countless hours of commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes that will entertain fans of this great show.
- The House on Sorority Row (Scorpion Releasing)
*This 1983 slasher about a group of sorority sisters stalked by an unknown killer is an absolute campy hoot, with a great score and creepy atmosphere, not to mention some less-than-stellar performances that add to the fun. Scorpion Releasing treats this minor cult-classic with the utmost respect, delivering a very solid video transfer and bonus features. The two commentaries included are absolutely worth listening to, and the extended interview with Harley Jane Kozak is one of the best of 2014.
- The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: 40th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (MPI/Dark Sky Films)
*Available in a standard box-style release and the “Black Maria” truck edition, Dark Sky Films’ 40th Anniversary release of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre exhibits strong video and audio (especially considering the original elements utilized) and an endless array of bonus material that perfectly pairs with the great packaging job. There are several commentaries, interviews, an alternate ending, storyboard comparisons and much more. The film itself remains horrifying and effective, even after all these years.
- Sleepaway Camp: Collector’s Edition (Scream Factory)
*Scream Factory’s release of Sleepaway Camp on Blu-Ray is the perfect example of why this company is the very best at what they do. Starting with the amazing cover art by regular contributor Nathan Thomas Milliner that perfectly captures the atmosphere of the film, featuring a jaw-dropping brand new 2K-sourced transfer and strong audio, and ending with some of the best bonus content on any release this year, this is the definitive version of the film to own on Home Video. The included documentary titled At the Waterfront After the Social: The Legacy of Sleepaway Camp from Reverend Entertainment’s Justin Beahm offers fans every behind-the-scenes story and anecdote that one could ever wish to discover about this Horror classic.
- Prom Night (Synapse Films)
*With an opening that Horror fans new and old will have a hard time forgetting, the Scream Queen herself Jamie Lee Curtis (fresh off her Halloween success), Leslie Nielsen, and plenty of teenage shenanigans and kill counts to boot, Prom Night is as enjoyable as ever on Synapse’s standout Blu-Ray release of the year. The meticulously mastered 2K scan included herein is one of the best catalog treatments we’ve seen, and for that alone, Synapse deserves kudos for taking their time to get the transfer right (something they have come to be known for). But they didn’t stop there, the packaging features reversible artwork that is gorgeous to behold, a truly outstanding 5.1 audio track, and consistently top-notch bonus material. The Horrors of Hamilton High documentary features the cast and crew discussing the film at length, and we also get never-before-seen outtakes and additional footage featured in the television broadcast. Simply superb!
- Halloween: The Complete Collection– Limited Edition (Scream Factory & Anchor Bay)
*The #1 release of the year easily belongs to Halloween: The Complete Collection (Limited Edition), the result of an unheard of partnership between two home video giants: Anchor Bay and Scream Factory. Featuring every single film in the franchise and for the first time ever, the Producer’s Cut of Halloween 6 (on a beautiful transfer), as well as a vast array of bonus materials newly produced by Scream Factory, this is the absolute definitive set to own for fans. The artwork from Paul Shipper sets the mood perfectly, and the attention to detail with the individual black cases and original theatrical artwork on each separate film case is perfection. This is dedication folks! The fact that so much time and effort went into ensuring that fans would be happy with the results of this box set (along with the aforementioned content itself) is reason enough to select this fine release as the best of 2014, and one that will be appreciated by Horror fans for years to come.
Runners Up: Frankenstein Created Woman (Millennium Entertainment), The Blob (Twilight Time), Ginger Snaps (Scream Factory), Motel Hell (Scream Factory), The Quatermass Xperiment (Kino Lorber), Scanners (The Criterion Collection), Curtains (Synapse Films), The Final Terror (Scream Factory), and Nightbreed (Scream Factory).
Blu-Ray Review- The Vincent Price Collection II
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: October 21st 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P Video, Color/B&W, Multiple Aspect Ratios, DTS-HD Master Audio Mono
Runtime: 588 Minutes
When you think of the Horror greats of the past century, who comes to mind? There have been so many iconic performances from truly talented and memorable ladies and gentleman of the genre over the years, and it’s likely a hard task for any devoted film fan to just pick one. From Lugosi to Chaney, and Karloff to Lee, there are those masters of the stage and screen who simply understood their audience well enough to unleash the thrills in a focused onslaught of perfection. But for my money, there never will be anyone quite like Mr. Vincent Price. He was such a commanding presence on screen, from his tall stature to his iconic mustache, a simple lift of an eyebrow or a tweak in his vocal inflection could bring a smile to his fans all over the world. He was a lover of art, a doting father, and a man that seemed content with his typecasting in the Horror genre, despite being a loveable, kind, and giving soul in real life (a far cry from some of the wicked men he portrayed on screen). He was also multi-talented, able to convey sinister dread in a non-speaking role like Dr. Phibes, saying so much with just his eyes and expression. He could portray damaged and desperate, such as his turn as Robert Morgan in The Last Man on Earth. Even in his later years, a minor role in Edward Scissorhands (as the title character’s genius creator) would leave us smiling and heartbroken at an elderly man’s glee and pride in caring for his unique “child.”
Perusing Scream Factory’s upcoming release for The Vincent Price Collection II brought on two personal revelations: the first being that, without a shadow of a doubt, the distributor’s Vincent Price collections represent the very best in their brilliant catalog of macabre treats. You can simply watch them on any rainy day the entire way through, appreciating the man and his work on so many levels. The selections are diverse, thoroughly engaging, and showcase the artist at his very best. The second revelation would be that there has never been a Horror star quite like Mr. Price. The man knew how to lure the audience into his performance, buy into a film’s concept, and have a frightfully enjoyable time at the movies. He is a legend of the silver screen, and there simply isn’t a better way to enjoy his work than spinning these fine discs from Scream Factory.
This latest Volume II release features seven wonderful horror gems including: The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, The Last Man on Earth, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, The Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill. Rather than bore you with a lengthy multiple page essay on each film, here are my quick thoughts on each of these titles after revisiting them in High Definition:
- The Raven (1963)- Resembling very little of the Edgar Allen Poe source material, this reworking of The Raven is a delightful horror comedy from the Corman-Poe adaptations, and along with The Comedy of Terrors, stands out as unique among the films presented in Collection II. Having grown a little tired of the formula and wanting to branch out into the unknown, Roger Corman and screenwriter Richard Matheson decided to make this particular Poe adaptation an all-out comedy, and the result truly works. Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, and Boris Karloff all deliver fine performances here as sorcerers in the 15th century. Price wants nothing more than to have his wife Lenore back, years after she seemingly died. Lorre’s been transformed into a raven by Karloff and comes “tapping” at Price’s window, and the pair soon travels to Karloff’s castle, one to battle with his arch nemesis, and the other to find his wife (who Lorre swears he has seen roaming the castle). Featuring some standout improvised comedy from the trio with oodles of chemistry to delight in, The Raven is just about as good as it gets. This isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, it’s simply “cute” and clever every step of the way.
- The Comedy of Terrors (1963)- Yet another comedic delight from American International Pictures that features Price and Lorre as partners in the undertaking business. When the rent is due and money becomes scarce, the pair decides to start murdering townsfolk in order to bring in some business. Boris Karloff makes an appearance as the hard-of-hearing Mr. Hinchley, and Basil Rathbone is equally as enjoyable as their landlord. The ad-libs and jokes come fast, exhibiting a similar clever charm in the same vein as The Raven.
- The Tomb of Ligeia (1964)- The last of the Corman-Poe adaptations is also one of my personal favorites, featuring Price as the grieving and bitter Verden Fell, who has recently lost his wife Ligeia. When he marries again, the spirit of Ligeia seems to haunt the couples’ mansion, unable and unwilling to let her husband move on with his life. Though Corman apparently felt that Price was too old for the part, I think he’s simply wonderful here, conveying the sorrow and rage of the widowed Fell with great believability. The outdoor scenery, atypical for a Corman production, is gorgeous, and the gothic interiors fit well with the Corman-Poe catalog. It’s not a particularly scary film by any means, but the dedication and care is obvious, making for a respectable final Poe adaptation from American International Pictures.
- The Last Man on Earth (1964)- This is without a doubt the very best screen adaptation of Richard Matheson’s source material, I am Legend. It also might just be my personal favorite Vincent Price film. Mr. Price stars as Dr. Robert Morgan (Neville in the book), the seemingly lone human survivor of a deadly outbreak that decimated the world population, turning those who died from its symptoms into vampires of the night. Three years after the outbreak, Morgan spends his days stocking up on the necessities and hunting down the vampires of his city as they sleep, and in turn, spends his nights defending his boarded-up home from the sinister creatures. Through flashback narrative we’re able to see what Morgan’s life was like before and during the outbreak before he unexpectedly meets a fellow survivor on what appears to be another routine day for him. I won’t spoil too much more of this horror classic, but it’s simply one of the best there is! Price’s narration of his day-to-day routine reel me in every time, and his performance here as a broken man who desperately hangs onto hope is one of his best. To think that Matheson opined that he was miscast in the role is mind boggling. The black and white cinematography is the icing on the cake, as this is impeccably filmed and realized on screen (even with the occasional crew member appearing in the background). I simple love this movie!
- Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)- The master of plagues is at it again, three years following the events of the first film. Dr. Phibes (Price) awakens from a self-induced hibernation with his beloved dead wife, who he soon hopes to awaken with the help of his assistant, Vulnavia (this time around played by Valli Kemp). With his mansion destroyed and the special scrolls he needed for his wife’s resurrection stolen, a new series of inventive deaths are unleashed upon those who get in his way. This time around, the kills fall in line with the Egyptian theme of the story, with sand storms and scorpions, among others, providing for some delectable misdeeds. The sequel to The Abominable Dr. Phibes retains the dark humor of the first film, and is nearly just as fun, with Price truly hamming it up and enjoying his role once again. Though I prefer the original, this one is certainly a lot of fun, with great performances and consistent entertainment. The finale is especially twisted and brilliant.
- The Return of the Fly (1959)- Released only a year after the original classic, this sequel has Price reprising his role as Francois Delambre, brother to the ill-fated scientist Andre Delambre of the first film. Opening with his sister-in-law’s funeral, Francois tries his best to convince his nephew Philippe to not follow in his father’s footsteps, warning him that continuing his experiments with the teleportation of matter may have dire consequences. Philippe is not easily swayed, taking on a new partner from his Uncle’s company, and diving right back into the teleportation experiments. When Philippe’s new partner double crosses him to turn a profit on the machine, things go awry for Philippe, and a new fly-human hybrid is on the loose! For me, this sequel isn’t quite as engaging as the first film, but still has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment value. The acting is just fine, and though Price’s time on screen is still limited (as it was in the first film), he seems to be having fun returning to his role. The fly-human hybrid effects are just as creepy this time around, and the film moves swiftly and efficiently for the viewer, making for a respectable sequel.
- House on Haunted Hill (1959)- This William Castle classic has Vincent Price portraying Frederick Loren, a mysterious and sadistic millionaire who, along with his equally creepy wife Annabelle, has invited five strangers to their “haunted house party.” Once the clock strikes midnight, the doors will be locked and everyone will be forced to stay in the house until morning, no matter what paranormal happenings occur within. Frederick has provided each of the guests with a loaded gun (complete with a tiny gun coffin), to add a little more danger into the mix. When strange things begin to occur (including one of my all-time favorite jump scares with the old woman in the basement), trust dwindles among the group, and Annabelle tries to warn the guests that Frederick is psychotic, and that the night that lies before them may not be what it seems. I won’t reveal any spoiler plot details, but the twists and turns in this horror classic make for sheer Halloween viewing delight! This is one of Price’s best performances as well, nailing the passive aggressive and sadistic nature of his character. It’s also incredibly well framed and filmed in glorious black and white, making for a wonderful old school horror experience.
Presented in both color and black and white prints, these High Definition transfers all look fairly solid, some even pristine, on the format. The color timing has been properly adjusted when appropriate, and though some titles in the set exhibit some minor print wear and scratches, it’s all part of the fun when it comes to classic Horror! Film grain is always present and authentically produced, and there is some surprising detail in the costume design and facial features across the board. As an admirer of black and white films, I was especially delighted to see the transfers on The Last Man on Earth, Return of the Fly, and House on Haunted Hill handled so well. Contrast is appropriately balanced and detail and grain look beautiful, and the minor scratches and slight imperfections bring the nostalgia back in full force. The color prints on The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, The Tomb of Ligeia, and Dr. Phibes Rise Again look very solid indeed, with accurately reproduced colors and detail looking nice in the set design and costumes. The color films, particularly The Comedy of Terrors, occasionally suffer from a handful of soft shots (appearing like Vaseline smear), which I’m guessing is likely inherent to the source material. There are no big anomalies or intrusive manipulation here, and the films look better than I’ve ever seen them appear. Fans will be delighted with how good these Horror classics look on the format!
Every film in the set features a DTS-HD Master Audio Mono track, and though they’re not likely to challenge your system with power or dynamics, they feel accurately reproduced and get the job done. Dialogue is always clear and discernable, music sounds balanced and undistorted, and background effects and thrilling high points are well maintained on each disc.
Scream Factory has given Vincent Price fans a fully-loaded set with some great bonus features to peruse on a dark and stormy night! Rather than bore my readers with a listing of each and every bonus feature found on these individual discs, I’ll simply breakdown some of my favorite material from the set as a whole. With multiple great audio commentaries to peruse featuring the likes of Roger Corman, David Del Valle, and Steve Haberman, those of you that wish to know more about the making of the films and Price’s history working on them will not be disappointed. Del Valle in particular is extremely fascinating to listen to. The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors, and The Last Man on Earth all feature the wonderful Richard Matheson: Storyteller segments which feature the screenwriter/author discussing his work on the films. I especially loved hearing Matheson discuss the Horror greats’ (Price, Lorre, Karloff) collaboration on The Comedy of Terrors, admiring their love for the genre and delight at having some campy fun on set. But my very favorite bonus feature additions to this set are once again the Iowa Public Television Gothic Horrors segments where Vincent Price himself offered introductions and farewell bookend videos to various films in his career. I love seeing Price dressed up, fire roaring, in a secluded mansion as he introduces the viewers to each film. Though there isn’t much in the way of newly produced bonus content, the carried over MGM features and IPT Gothic Horrors segments alone are brilliant enough to recommend.
This Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features newly-commissioned artwork from fan-favorite artist Joel Robinson on the slip-case, which much like the first collection, reveals the female skeletons in the paintings when you pull out the Blu-Ray case itself. I love Robinson’s vision, and the framed art pieces pay tribute to Vincent’s love for art. On the reverse of the slip-case, you’ll find a listing of special features and technical specifications for all seven films in the set. Inside the slip-case is a beautifully created booklet featuring gorgeous production stills and posters from the various films in the set, as well as a wonderful essay written by David Del Valle. Inside of the Blu-Ray case are the various discs with a classy yet simple design that matches the rest of the set. Fans of Vincent Price and his work couldn’t ask for anything better.
There has never been, and likely will never be again, a Horror star quite like Mr. Vincent Price. This latest collection, as well as the first, represents the very best of what Scream Factory has to offer. For a fan of classic Horror and an admirer of the late, great, Vincent Price, sitting down to enjoy a marathon of his very best films in High Definition is a dream come true. Scream Factory has loaded these discs with some great special features including several audio commentaries, informative featurettes, and my personal favorite; the continuing additions of Iowa Public Television’s Gothic Horrors introduction segments featuring the man himself. Video and audio quality is overall terrific, rounding out this great package. If you’re looking for the perfect Halloween season entertainment, The Vincent Price Collection II receives my highest recommendation.
Blu-Ray Review- Lake Placid
Distributor: Scream Factory
Street Date: July 8th 2014
Technical Specifications: 1080P, Color, 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
Runtime: 82 Minutes
The creature feature subgenre of Horror has always fascinated and terrified me, specifically, the aquatic monsters featured in movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon, Jaws, Piranha, and many more. The thought of being attacked from beneath, unable to scream, run, or even hear your attacker coming, gives me nightmares. I feel safe and secure swimming at the lake that surrounds my family cabin, but to this day, I’m more than a little edgy going into the ocean. In 1999, television writer David E. Kelly and Director Steve Miner teamed up to release Lake Placid, which works as both a modern day take on creature feature concept and a witty homage to B-movie cinema.
In the film, Paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) is reluctantly sent to Black Lake, Maine to assist in the investigation of a Fish and Game officer who was bitten in half by an unseen creature from beneath the water. Once there, she joins local Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleeson) and Fish and Game Officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman). They’re an odd crew to say the least, and tempers flare even more when egotistical Professor of Mythology Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) joins the search for the mysterious creature.
After a series of lethal encounters, including an overturned canoe, a severed toe, and the decapitation death of one of their crew, the team discovers that the creature they’re dealing with is a prehistoric 30-foot crocodile. And as it turns out, foul-mouthed lake resident Delores Bickerman (Betty White) knows more than she initially let on about this killer croc’s origins and feeding habits. As the bodies pile up, the team has to find a way to capture or kill this ancient behemoth to assure that the local community can be safe once more.
As always, I hesitate to say too much more about the plot of Lake Placid and let you enjoy this fun film for yourselves. Believe it or not, the main draw of the film (and repeat watch factor) is the witty and creative dialogue from screenwriter David E. Kelly. The dialogue is consistently fresh and playful, and the humor is very dark and fitting. Lake Placid plays more like a tribute or homage to the B-movie creature features of yesteryear than a straight horror film, but offers plenty of unique kills and bloodshed for those that require it. The characters are extremely well written, and in turn, creatively played by the cast involved, which is something unique for a film of this genre. I really enjoyed revisiting Lake Placid after all these years, and it’s the perfect summer entertainment for horror fans.
Fans of Lake Placid can rest assured that the film looks great in High Definition. Some of Scream Factory’s abundant admirers seemed worried that this transfer might be plagued with some of the picture quality issues that their most recent license from Fox (Ravenous) displayed. There is no reason for concern here, and point of fact, this is a strong video presentation. Film grain looks natural and authentic, and textures and fine object detail in clothing, crocodile scales, and the surrounding woods of the lake is very clear. Colors are also accurately reproduced here, with the golden-hued and forest green color scheme really coming to life. There are no signs of digital noise reduction, and the print is relatively free of artifacts or scratches, making for a fantastic video presentation.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track featured here represents the film well on Blu-Ray. Dialogue, music, and sound effects are all equally balanced across your home entertainment system in a surprisingly dynamic presentation. From the larger scale action scenes (crocodile chomps, boat motors, helicopter blades) to the films quieter moments (birds chirping, crickets on the lake), this audio presentation is respectful to the source and enhances this fun B-movie for home viewing.
Scream Factory has given fans of Lake Placid the deluxe treatment on this brand new Blu-Ray edition. Here’s a breakdown of what’s included:
- The Making of Lake Placid– This brand new HD documentary runs over thirty minutes and features interviews with the likes of Actor Bill Pullman, Director Steve Miner, Editor Marshall Harvey, Cinematographer Daryn Okada, and many more. The cast and crew discuss David Kelly’s witty script, the blend of animatronics and CGI used to bring the crocodile to life, the enormous water tank used in production, Betty White’s time on the set, and other fun details from filming. I especially enjoyed the story that Nick Marra (effects supervisor) told about the grizzly bear being scared of the animatronic crocodile. This is another standout job from Scream Factory and crew.
- Theatrical Trailer- The original theatrical trailer is presented in standard definition and runs just under two minutes. This is a classic 90’s preview, with the “smoky” tone voiceover and recycled climactic music from Aliens, and offered theatrical audiences a good taste of the humor and mayhem from the film.
- Featurette- This featurette includes what appears to be carried over interview footage from the previous Fox DVD release that has been edited together with film footage from the new high definition transfer. It runs a little over five minutes, and is presented in standard definition.
- TV Spots- Roughly a minute and a half of television promos for Lake Placid that ran during the original theatrical campaign for the film. Like the aforementioned trailer, these little clips help establish the fun and campy nature of the film.
- Croc Test Footage- This is over seven minutes of camcorder footage (no audio) from the filming during the summer of 1998. Just a few test shots from the animatronic designers to make sure the mouth, nostrils, and eyes were working on the crocodile.
- Behind the Scenes Gallery- Over five minutes of fun behind-the-scenes photos and production stills from the making of the film. I especially enjoyed seeing the various camera rigs and mechanical elements used to make the crocodile come to life.
As you can see from the “Unboxing” pictures below, this Blu-Ray release from Scream Factory includes newly commissioned artwork from artist Robert O’Brien. I love the postcard style utilized here, and really appreciate the minimalist approach that really evokes terror. It’s clean, simple, and uncluttered. On the reverse of the slipcover you’ll find a plot synopsis, production stills, a list of special features, and the technical specifications for this release. On the inside of the packaging, you’ll find the Blu-Ray disc with some nice artwork, and a reversible slip-sheet featuring the original theatrical poster design for the film. Very well done!
If you’re like me, and “creature feature” horror is your thing, you’ll get a kick out of Lake Placid. This self-aware B movie homage is well written, funny, and offers up more than a few “light” scares. It’s a shame that most of the subgenre films today are relegated to television films, because Lake Placid demonstrates how you can make a fun, campy, big-budget creature feature that is a hit with audiences and (most) critics alike. The Blu-Ray edition from Scream Factory features an outstanding video presentation with authentic film grain and natural colors, and an audio presentation with a surprisingly dynamic range. Special Features are top notch as well here, especially the brand new documentary made for this release. All in all, this might just be my favorite release from Scream Factory’s “Summer of Fear” thus far. Lake Placid comes Highly Recommended.
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