July 17, 2018

HEREDITARY on 4K, Blu-ray & DVD 9/4

A family’s darkest secrets surface when Hereditary arrives on 4K Ultra HD™ Combo Pack (plus Blu-ray and Digital), Blu-ray Combo Pack (plus DVD and Digital), and DVD September 4 from Lionsgate. Academy Award® nominee Toni Collette “is raw, almost feral, making us feel in our marrow what it’s like to be a mother losing control of her family and maybe her mind” (Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly) in this riveting film from writer-director Ari Aster (Munchausen, The Strange Thing About the Johnsons) about a grieving family haunted by tragic and disturbing events. From the producers of The Witch and Split, Hereditary is being lauded as “a new horror classic” by the Los Angeles Times and as “this generation’s The Exorcist” by Time Out New York. The Rotten Tomatoes Certified Fresh horror film also stars Alex Wolff (Patriot’s Day, My Friend Dahmer), newcomer Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd (TV’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”), and Gabriel Byrne (The Man in the Iron Mask, TV’s “Vikings”). 

July 16, 2018

I FEEL PRETTY is Pretty Inoffensive

https://www.uphe.com/
Starring Amy Schumer, Rory Scovel, Michelle Williams, Tom Hopper, Aidy Bryant, Busy Philipps, Lauren Hutton, Naomi Campbell, Emily Ratajkowski, Dave Attell. Directed by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein. (2018/110 min). 

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM 
UNIVERSAL

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Obviously, Amy Schumer's uninhibited brand of comedy isn't for everybody. Like other comedians whose typical routine doesn't come with anything resembling a filter, she's an acquired taste. Comics who get by on sheer audacity, exuberance and a willingness to say or do anything are sometimes the most polarizing.

That being said, I Feel Pretty is sort of Schumer-lite, perhaps because she didn't write this one. Though the basic premise seems tailor-made for her, co-writers/first-time directors Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein appear to be pulling their punches for a more traditional romantic comedy, with Schumer along for the ride. The result is enjoyable enough, though nothing particularly memorable.

Schumer plays Renee Bennett, an insecure young woman with body-image issues who works for Lily LeClaire, a high-end cosmetics company. She manages the website from a small basement office far away from corporate headquarters - a gleaming glass tower where every employee looks like a supermodel - run by Avery LeClaire (Michelle Williams). Renee spends her time with two equally-timid friends, while aspiring to be like the beautiful women she looks up to.

Following a head injury, Renee wakes up believing she's been miraculously transformed into a stunning beauty, which suddenly gives her the confidence she never had before. She gets promoted to head receptionist at LeClaire, where Avery and company matriarch Lily (Lauren Bacall) are enthusiastic over her suggestions to change the company's elitist image with its latest line of "diffusion line" products. Renee also begins dating Ethan (Rory Scovel), who's as self-conscious as she used to be.

For her audition, Ms. Schumer re-enacts a scene from her favorite film, The Passion of the Christ.
The "joke," of course, is that Renee hasn't physically changed at all, only her perception of herself. This joke isn't always particularly funny, often stopping just short of humiliating its main character during such scenes as a bikini contest or Renee & Ethan's first sexual encounter. One might assume these moments come courtesy of Schumer herself, and perhaps they do, but the film never crosses the line into cheap laughs at Renee's expense. Ultimately, I Feel Pretty has an empowering message about body-positivity and, refreshingly, is not about turning the tables on a batch of elitist snobs. In fact, all the so-called "beautiful people" here are as likable as Renee.

However, the film's consistently positive tone also renders the whole thing pretty predictable. With little in the way of actual conflict, you'll see every revelation and epiphany coming long in advance. Schumer is ironically most effective when she isn't engaging in the brash behavior we typically associate with her.

This will likely disappoint those expecting another film similar to Trainwreck or Schumer's own audacious Comedy Central series. In fact, even though she's decent in the lead role, Renee could have been played by any able actor. I Feel Pretty is watchable - even charming, at times - but never the uproarious romp many are undoubtedly anticipating.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATURETTE: "Being Pretty" - Promo spot, less than a minute long.
GAG REEL
DELETED SCENES
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

July 15, 2018

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN: All Hail Bad Bob

https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive
Starring Paul Newman, Victoria Principal, Roddy McDowell, Ned Beatty, Anthony Perkins, Jacqueline Bisset, Stacy Keach, Tab Hunter, Anthony Zerbe, Ava Gardner, Bill McKinney, John Huston, Steve Kanaly, Jim Burk, Bruno the Bear. Directed by John Huston. (1972/123 min).

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Review by Mr. Paws😸

"Bean! Hey, Beano! It's me...Bob! Bad Bob!"

It's funny how certain scenes can stick with you long after the rest of the film fades from your memory. I hadn't seen The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean since I was little and remembered almost none of the film, save for the scene where notorious albino gunslinger Bad Bob (Stace Keach) rides into Vinegaroon - shooting and cackling - to kill the titular character (Paul Newman). As the townspeople flee in terror, Bob shoots a horse, orders its owner to cook it for him, chows down on a raw onion and chugs a steaming pot of coffee. While he's calling-out the judge with taunts and insults, Bean shoots him in the back...a hilariously unceremonious demise for such an infamous outlaw.

Edgar Winter's great, great grandpappy.
It's a memorable scene, with an uncharacteristically manic performance by Keach, and emblematic of the entire film. Very loosely based on the real-life figure, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is an episodic, irreverent revisionist western about an outlaw who rides into town, and after getting revenge on a batch of lowlifes, declares himself the judge and spends the next several years dispensing his own brand of swift justice, which nearly always involves a hanging. Working by his side are another band of outlaws he appoints as deputies, his young wife (Victoria Principal, in her film debut) and a beer-swilling bear given to him by Grizzly Adams. Most other characters - both real and fictional - drift in and out of the story, meaning many in the impressive cast appear only briefly.

The first Captain America.
With his idol worship of actress Lily Langtry (Ava Gardner), Bean is an amusingly eccentric character and Newman looks like he had a blast playing him. And while essentially plotless, the film's fascination with its characters - broadly-drawn as they may be - is infectious. Only during the final act, where the wheels of progress threaten to destroy Vinegaroon, does the narrative begin to lose its way. These scenes almost seem to belong to another movie, though it rights itself at the end with a wonderfully poignant coda.

One of the more underappreciated westerns of the 70s, The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean is an entertaining film filled with memorable characters (like Bad Bob!) and fun performances by a great cast. Like one of the film's taglines said, if this story ain't true...it shoulda been. This overlooked gem has been given a great transfer for Blu-ray, though it's unfortunately light on bonus features.

EXTRA KIBBLES
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
PURR-R-R...LIKE A GOOD SCRATCH BEHIND THE EARS.

July 10, 2018

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR on Digital July 31 & Blu-ray Aug 14

Box office history was made when Marvel Studios' "Avengers: Infinity War" shattered all opening records, surpassed the $2 billion mark at the global box office in just 48 days, and remains the fourth highest-grossing film of all time. Now, the cinematic event ten-years in the making comes home Digitally on July 31 and Blu-ray on Aug. 14 with over two hours of bonus.

"Marvels' Avengers: Infinity War" is a must-own addition to every in-home film collection and is packaged several ways so that fans get the most out of their viewing experience. Consumers who experience the ultimate showdown Digitally will join a 30-minute roundtable with Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) directors Anthony and Joe Russo, Jon Favreau, Joss Whedon, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler, Peyton Reed and Taika Waititi who reflect on how their movies contribute to the MCU's larger storytelling adventure. The 4K Cinematic Universe Edition's never-before-seen bonus material grants behind-the-scenes access to MCU members and features the memorable moments when characters first meet, the rationale behind some unexpected on-screen pair-ups, and a funny Super Hero gag reel. Featurettes explore the frighteningly powerful Thanos and two action-packed attempts to prevent his collection of all six Infinity Stones: the struggle on Titan and the massive battle in Wakanda. Deleted scenes and filmmaker commentary reveal even more on-set secrets from Marvel Studios' monumental undertaking.


July 9, 2018

INNOCENT BLOOD: What's in a Name?

https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive
Starring Anne Parillaud, Robert Loggia, Anthony LaPaglia, Don Rickles, Elaine Kagan, David Proval, Rocco Sisto, Angela Bassett, Chazz Palminteri, Kim Coates, Marshall Bell, Luiz Guzman, Leo Burmester, Tony Sirico. Directed by John Landis. (1992/115 min). 

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM
WARNER ARCHIVE COLLECTION

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

In some parts of the world, this film is known as A French Vampire in America. Considering John Landis' last foray into comedy-horror was An American Werewolf in London, the title makes more sense - and is far more accurate - than Innocent Blood. None of Marie's selected victims are what anyone would mistake for innocent.

Marie (Anne Parillaud) is apparently a vampire with a conscience, preferring to feed on criminals...more specifically, Italian mobsters. Meanwhile, Detective Joseph Gennaro (Anthony LaPaglia) was been working deep undercover, earning the trust of a Pittsburgh mob run by Sal the Shark (Robert Loggia). After one of one of Sal's men is murdered - attacked by Marie, then shot in the head to make it look like a hit - Gennaro's cover is blown and he's taken off the case.

When you can't find the remote.
Later, Marie's attack on Sal himself is thwarted by his driver. Since she was unable to completely kill him, Sal becomes a vampire himself, eager to use his newfound power to take control of the city, as well as kill Gennaro for betraying him. Marie and Gennaro end up working (and sleeping) together to try and stop Sal, who's quickly turning his crew into undead soldiers.

Though watchable, Innocent Blood is the work of a once-interesting director at the beginning of a creative downslide (which he's yet to recover from). John Landis had previously displayed a quirky knack for combining comedy and horror in An American Werewolf in London. While that film is now considered a modern classic, the pieces don't fit together nearly as well here. It's a great concept, but clumsily executed. Most attempts at humor fall flat, the sex & nudity are gratuitous and the make-up effects pale in comparison to Rick Baker's groundbreaking work in American Werewolf. Parillaud and LaPagglia may be easy on the eyes, but neither character is particularly interesting and they have zero chemistry together.

"You stupid quack...I came here for a colonoscopy!"
The late, great Robert Loggia is easily the best part of the entire film. As Sal, makes the most of a rare opportunity to engage in some serious scenery-chewing. The movie's a real kick whenever he's onscreen, especially once he becomes a vampire. There's also some fun to be had in spotting the numerous cameos by various horror icons, including Tom Savini, Sam Raimi, Dario Argento & blink-and-you'll-miss-her Linnea Quigley.

Innocent Blood mostly squanders a neat premise, not-to-mention a cast that includes a who's-who of mafia movie tough guys. Still, even though there are better horror comedies from the same era and it pales in comparison to Landis' best work, it remains his last watchable film, which has its share of fans, who'll certainly be happy with this Blu-ray transfer (though there's no bonus material other than a trailer).

EXTRA KIBBLES
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD...BUT COULD USE AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF OR TWO. 

Rest in Peace, Tab Hunter

July 7, 2018

THE JURASSIC DEAD is a Thing

http://www.wildeyereleasing.com/
Starring Cooper Elliot, Andy Haman, Mia Klosterman, Ben Johnson, Adam Singer, Ruselis Aumeen Perry, Raquel Pennington, Shale Le Page, Nicole Goeke. Directed by Milko Davis & Thomas Martwick. (2017/82 min).

AVAILABLE ON DVD FROM

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat😸

From the director of Tsunambee and the studio that brought you Shark Exorcist comes the epic mash-up you've been waiting for. So why are you still reading this? If the title doesn't tell you all you need to know, perhaps you're already familiar with some of Wild Eye Releasing's crazy catalog.

That being said, The Jurassic Dead more-or-less delivers on the promise of its title, with a plot so absolutely bonkers it makes your typical mockbuster from The Asylum look like a Merchant Ivory film. For example, In the first ten minutes alone:
  • A scientist is forced at-gunpoint to inject a re-animating serum into a dead T-Rex, which springs to life and kills everyone but the scientist. No, it is never explained where an extinct dinosaur came from.
  • In the very next scene, that same scientist, Dr. Wojick Borge is fired from his teaching position for re-animating a dead cat during class. Afterwards, Borge gets pancaked by a car.
  • Borge turns out to be a special kind of crazy, making Herbert West look like Marcus Welby.
  • We meet a batch of mercenaries hired to take-out Borge, who is somewhere in the desert. We also meet four young morons heading down the same highway, one of whom is sporting the worst wig in movie history.
  • A meteor hits Earth, creating an EMP that shuts everything down...except for a CGI helicopter, which safely lands before inexplicably exploding.
But don't worry kids...it'll all make sense in the end...sort-of. The mercenaries and kids end up trapped in a fortified facility run by the demented Dr. Borge, who now resembles a wheelchair-bound cross between Immortan Joe and Darth Sidious. Borge plans to nuke major cities before unleashing his herd on undead dinosaurs on the world. Before that, however, he turns a zombie T-Rex loose on his trespassers. In my favorite scene, a mercenary meathead drops his weapons and knocks-out the beast with a few punches (as though fighting dinosaurs comes with the job). But they soon discover you can't a good - or dead - T-Rex down. It continues to mosey throughout the facility, chomping down the cast, who then become zombies themselves.

An tender moment in The Jurassic Dead.
As to be expected, the special effects are suitably terrible, with nearly every scene looking like it was performed in front of a green screen (even when it doesn't appear to be necessary). In fact, you'll often notice the background can't hold completely still. T-Rex himself (the only dinosaur in the film) is an amusing creation, mostly the work of puppeteers. Characters behave stupidly, scenes change with almost no transition and everything comes to a ridiculous climax.

But you probably already know this, which ultimately makes The Jurassic Dead a hard movie not to enjoy (even the opening & closing credits are funny...both intentionally and unintentionally). Say what you will about its bargain-basement production values, shake your head in disbelief at the laugh-inducing dialogue & cringe-worthy performances, but one accusation you can't level at the film is that it's boring.

You gotta appreciate the sheer exuberance on display here. While not entirely serious in tone, it's mostly free of the cynicism that tends to suck the joy out of similar movies. We're almost certain this is the best they could do on both sides of the camera. Only a goofy post-credits scene suggests anything resembling self-awareness. So, hey...why not?

EXTRA KIBBLES:
LOADS OF WILD EYE TRAILERS - You don't wanna miss these.

KITTY CONSENSUS:
A GOOFY GOOD TIME

July 6, 2018

A QUIET PLACE in Horror History

http://www.paramount.com/
Starring Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe. Directed by John Krasinski. (2018/90 min).

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

If nothing else, the first ten minutes of A Quiet Place might be the most masterful opening to any horror film ever made. With no dialogue, music or exposition, the audience learns almost everything they need about the apocalyptic implications of the film's central idea and meets every character essential to the narrative...all before the opening title. Had the film been a short subject and ended right there, it would still come to a shocking, satisfying conclusion. The whole sequence is a triumph of minimalist storytelling.

Fortunately, A Quiet Place is just warming up.

In the not-to-distant future, the world has been subjected to a global cataclysm in which vicious, horrific creatures - mostly unseen until the final act - have decimated most of the population. Completely blind, they are drawn by sound, attracted to even the most minuscule noise. Worse yet, they're strong, agile and lightning fast; victims are usually dead before they even knew what hit them.

The story focuses on the Abbott family, who've adapted to survive in silence at a remote farmhouse, though not without tragedy. Their youngest son, Beau, was killed by the creatures, which deaf older sister Regan (Millicent Simmons) still blames herself for. The father, Lee (John Krasinski), spends most of his days trying to contact others through computers and a radio, while also teaching his son, Marcus (Noah Jupe), survival tips and constructing an effective hearing aid for Regan. His wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), has-since become pregnant. As the due date nears, the family prepares by trying to sound-proof the basement.

When more trick-or-treaters show up, and you're all out of candy.
The Abbotts' daily routine makes up the bulk of the first half. Life is a challenge, of course, and the film does a tremendous job reminding the viewer what a typically noisy species people are. To go through life making no sound at all - or face dire consequences - makes the entire story fraught with tension, even during the supposedly routine moments.

Not everything is hunky-dory with the Abbotts, either. Regan harbors resentment towards her dad, feeling like he also holds her responsible for Beau's death. Indeed, it does often seem as though Lee doesn't completely trust her, leaving her behind while he takes Marcus on food gathering expeditions (even though the prospect terrifies the boy). Their relative estrangement sets-up the film's most poignant moment later on.

I remember seeing A Quiet Place in theaters and marveling at how the overwhelming silence in the film encouraged the same from the audience. Hardly anyone dared even crunch their popcorn for fear of breaking the tension, which wouldn't have happened if the film weren't so consistently engaging. Not only is the premise completely unique (how often can you say that about a horror film these days?), it's smart, suspenseful and thoroughly exploits the oppressive silence to great effect, intensifying the dread and obligatory jump-scares. And the monsters, of course, are terrifically nasty creations.

Unlike many recent horror films which generate brief amounts of hype and praise before the next one comes along, I suspect we'll still be talking about A Quiet Place a decade from now. It has the hallmarks of other stand-alone classics of the genre: scary, totally original, lots of fun and definitely worth repeated viewings. On a related note, I sincerely hope they change their minds about doing a sequel (which has already been announced). A premise like this is truly effective only once.

EXTRA KIBBLES
FEATUETTES: "Creating the Quiet" (behind-the-scenes documentary); "The Sound of Darkness"; "A Reason for Silence" (visual effects, mostly related to the creature).
DVD & DIGITAL COPIES
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE TAUNTING A MOUSE TO DEATH

July 5, 2018

A CIAMBRA: Life on the Fringes

https://www.mpihomevideo.com/products/a-ciambra-1
Starring Pio Amato, Koudous Seihon, Damiano Amato, Francesco Pio Amato, Iolanda Amato, Patrizia Amato, Rocco Amato, Susanna Amato. Directed by Jonas Carpignano. (2017/119 min).

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM

Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

The Amatos are a large, multi-generational family of gypsies living in Romani. Pio, a street-smart 14-year-old, idolizes his older brother, Cosimo, who helps support the family by stealing anything he can get his hands on, then selling it to Italian mobsters or local African refugees. When Cosimo gets caught and arrested - along with his father - Pio takes tries to become the man of the family, boosting cars, stealing luggage and fencing whatever he finds.

Though he talks & acts tough - smoking, drinking and hanging out at the same bars Cosimo did - Pio is still just an impressionable boy and, despite some car-boosting tips from his brother, quite naive and inexperienced. He comes to rely on help from Cosimo's African friend, Ayiva (Koudous Seihun), to fence whatever he manages to steal.

Guess who took the last roll.
Eventually, circumstances force Pio to make some extraordinarily difficult choices between friendship and family, and clinging to what's left of his childhood versus a life like his brother's, which he'll likely never be able to leave. These quandaries are the crux of A Ciambra, though the story takes a considerable amount of time getting there. A great deal of the film focuses of Pio - who's in nearly every scene - and the world he's been raised in. He's not a particularly nice kid, or even outwardly likable. However, Pio's obviously a product of his environment, and though he seldom shows it outwardly, his love for his family is repeatedly demonstrated through his actions, questionable as they are.

The most interesting aspect of A Ciabra is that the Amatos are a real family playing fictionalized versions of themselves. They actually live in that ramshackle house in the very village most of the film takes place. That writer/director Jonas Carpignano manages to get authentic, convincing performances out of all of them is quite remarkable (a stunt Clint Eastwood failed to do with The 15:17 to Paris). Pio himself is particularly impressive, able to carry most of the movie's emotional weight on his inexperienced shoulders.

Reservoir Pups.
The episodic narrative does meander quite a bit. Just because what we're seeing looks, sounds and feels authentic - augmented by intimate hand-held camera work - doesn't mean it's always interesting. Pio's relationship with Ayiva is engaging, but hanging out with the Amatos - especially his siblings - is sometimes an endurance test. However, the third act, particularly the very last shot, packs a hefty emotional punch.

Well-intentioned and occasionally revealing, A Ciambra is certainly worth checking out, as it takes a unique approach in showing us a culture that exists on the fringes of society. Considering his age and experience, Pio Amato is also quite a revelation. But its inconsistent pacing, not-to-mention an overall air of hopelessness that hangs over the proceedings, probably discourages repeated viewings.

EXTRA KIBBLES
"A CIAMBRA: THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY" - Revealing behind-the-scenes documentary.
FEATURETTE - "From A Ciambra to Cannes"
DELETED SCENES
SHORT: "YOUNG LIONS FOR GYPSY" - This was the basis for the feature film.
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
NOT BAD. LIKE CAT CHOW.

July 2, 2018

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY (1945) Will Never Hang in My House

https://www.wbshop.com/collections/warner-archive
Starring George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Lowell Gilmore, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford, Richard Fraser, Douglas Walton. Directed by Albert Lewin. (1945/110 min). 

AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY FROM 

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON🙀

It takes a hell of a lot to truly scare me anymore.

It ain't like when I was a kid, when damn near everything terrified me. A few grotesqueries on my long list of nightmare fuel were spiders, lava, quicksand, the dark, large bugs, my neighbor's dog, slugs, monsters, holiday nutcrackers, the high-dive, Grandma's basement, bees, Mom's tomato aspic and entering a dark room without first reaching in to flip-on the light switch.

Some of those fears were groundless, while others grew and festered from personal experience...or movies I watched, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Every summer, my parents used to ship my sister and I to Grandma's for a week or two. She had a old house in Prosser, Washington, a town just big enough to require a traffic light at its lone intersection. While I loved my grandma, she was only able keep us entertained for so long before leaving us to amuse ourselves. My sister and I often played in the basement, where Grandma and Grandpa used to entertain guests before he passed away. There was a full bar, piano, card table, dartboard, television, bookshelves and an ancient console stereo with a massive collection of 78 RPM records. We spent many summer afternoons pretending we were bar owners.

The basement was also where Grandma kept old treasures she couldn't bring herself to get rid of. Rummaging through the numerous storage closets was like going on an archaeological expedition and discovering relics from ancient civilizations. I once stumbled upon Grandpa's collection of Playboy magazines, with issues dating back to the 1950s. At that age, I was less interested in what those old issues were actually worth than gazing in dumbstruck awe at the timeless glory of the female anatomy.

Unless we wanted to share Grandma's love for Days of Our Lives and The Mike Douglas Show, we watched TV down there, too. One time, my sister happened to be engrossed in The Picture of Dorian Gray. I didn't really share her love of old movies at the time - especially black & white ones - so I wasn't paying much attention...at least until the titular painting appeared onscreen for the first time.

Portrait of a Young Douchebag.
In the movie, Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) is a meek, impossibly handsome young aristocrat who poses for a painting by Basil Hallward (Lowell Gilmore). Having captured Gray perfectly, Basil considers it his masterpiece. Also present at the unveiling is Lord Henry Wotton (George Sanders), a cynical cad whose hedonism is renowned around town. Wotton flippantly informs Gray that he'll someday succumb to the ravages of age, but this portrait will retain his youth & beauty forever. Gray openly wishes the opposite were true, which is somehow granted by a mysterious Egyptian statue that happens to be within earshot.

Unfortunately, Gray is gullible and easily influenced by Wotton, becoming a narcissistic douche in the process. His first act of cruelty is viciously dumping the girl he loves (a very young Angela Lansbury), who kills herself the next day. Over the years, Gray remains as youthful as ever, which everyone in the community finds unnerving. The painting, however, depicts him as the monster he's turned into, his once-beautiful image growing increasingly grotesque with every sin he commits, which eventually includes murder. To keep his secret, Gray hides the horrific portrait in a locked room.

Something for the baby's room.
Looking like something from a Cannibal Corpse album cover, the painting is presented in full color at key moments, heightening its shock value and scaring the shit out of me. Hell, Dorian's face was kind-of unnerving before his image began morphing into a monster.

I found The Picture of Dorian Gray truly terrifying, the first movie I remember giving me nightmares. Furthermore, Grandma's basement was suddenly a scary place, especially since many of the walls were adorned with replicas of similar old paintings, the creepiest one being a couple of cherub-faced children staring back at me. With only one ground-level window, the basement was already dimly-lit, even with lights on. But with my new-found fear of ancient portraits, I refused to ever go down there again once the sun went down.

So old paintings joined my long list of childhood fears. Not that I crapped myself whenever I saw one, but I found them intimidating, particularly when used as horror fodder. An especially terrifying Night Gallery episode featured Roddy McDowell as a spoiled punk who inherits the family estate after killing his ailing uncle. Then he notices that an old painting of the family graveyard starts changing. First, there's a freshly-dug grave, then an open casket containing his dead uncle, followed by a corpse shambling toward the the mansion. The last shot of the painting shows the corpse at the door. By then, McDowell's character has gone completely mad and yours truly was covering his eyes in horror.

As a heavy metal fan, some of the artists I listen to write horror-based songs to go with their image. Much of the time, it's either tongue-in-cheek or supremely goofy, especially the stuff from the 80s. But the one song that I found truly scary was the title track from King Diamond's album, Fatal Portrait. The song tells the story of a fanatical, abusive mother who's obsessed with painting a portrait of her young daughter, Molly. She keeps the child locked in the attic, and with every stroke she paints, Molly grows weaker until she finally dies. But her spirit re-awakens in the painting, seeking revenge on her terrified mother. The lyrics, coupled with the album's cover art, were really creepy.

Dorian Gray's little sister, Doris.
With age comes wisdom, of course, and most of my old childhood fears seem silly and quaint now (except spiders, because fuck spiders). Today, I'm more preoccupied by decidedly "adult" terrors: tax season, climate change, the thought of my in-laws moving in, my daughter's first date, unexplained lumps, scary engine noises, identity theft, and the big one, an increasing awareness of my own mortality.

Still, it's no small coincidence that absolutely none of the decor in my house has ever consisted of paintings featuring human subjects. In fact, when Grandma passed away years later and the family was dividing what she left behind, I vehemently refused to take home anything from that basement, especially the scary-ass shit on the walls. Mom kept the painting of those cherub children, though, which apparently evoked much fonder memories in her than it did in me.

I'd mostly forgotten how Dorian Gray's painting once traumatized me until recently revisiting the film. Seeing it again, this time with adult eyes, I was able to appreciate the stunning deep-focus cinematography and wonderful performances, especially Sanders as Wotton, who I now realize is the film's true villain. I'm not easily scared by horror movies, anymore, mainly because I've seen so many that I've become somewhat jaded. But even 45 years later, when that hideous painting flashed across the screen in all of its hellish color, it still made me jump.

For over 100 years, Oscar Wilde's original novel has been adapted countless times, but this version remains in a class by itself. It may not be considered a true horror film by some, perhaps because the look and tone more closely resemble a lush period drama. But by being selective with its shocks, we're caught off-guard, rendering its moments of terror all-the-more potent. All these years later, The Picture of Dorian Gray still has the power to inspire dread.

EXTRA KIBBLES
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By Angela Lansbury and Film historian Steve Haberman
"STAIRWAY TO LIGHT" - Live-action dramatization of French physician Phillippe Pinel. Won an Oscar for Best Short Subject.
"QUIET, PLEASE!" - Oscar-winning Tom & Jerry cartoon.
TRAILER
KITTY CONSENSUS:
MEE-OW! LIKE BEING TURNED LOOSE IN A BIRD SANCTUARY