March 30, 2018


Starring Lin Shaye, Angus Sampson, Leigh Whannell, Spencer Locke, Caitlin Gerard, Bruce Davison, Josh Stewart, Tessa Ferrer. Directed by Adam Robitel. (2018/103 min).

I have a soft spot for the Insidious franchise because the original was the first movie to terrify my youngest daughter, Lucy. It also made her a horror fan for life (much like Halloween did for me a thousand years ago). Ever since, the two of us have looked forward to each new installment. While no Insidious film has been worth the effort & expense of seeing in theaters, they make great late-night couch potato fodder.

These films are nothing if not consistent and Insidious: The Last Key is no exception. The series' overall narrative timeline dictates that this one, like the previous film, is another prequel, with everyone's favorite senior scream queen, Lin Shaye, returning as paranormal exterminator Elise Rainer.

"Damn Tide Pods."
This time, however, the fight is more personal. Elise returns to her childhood home after the current owner requests her services. She's initially reluctant, for reasons provided by harrowing flashbacks involving her abusive father, as well as the death of her mother from a key-fingered demon (which is suitably creepy, though not as memorable as "Lipstick-Face" from the original). Aided once again by her longtime comic-relief sidekicks, Tucker & Specs, Elise discovers her father had an even darker past than she could imagine, which is directly tied to the house's sinister history.

"Anything insidious happen around here lately?"
Longtime Insidious fans should know what to expect: an overall creepy atmosphere, plenty of jump scares, a return trip into The Further and yet-another earnest performance by Shaye. Along with a few narrative surprises, we also meet Elise's estranged brother, Christian (Bruce Davison) and his two daughters, Melissa and Imogen, the last of whom share's her aunt's unique gift (perhaps so she can take the reigns after Shaye hangs up her spurs).

Insidious: The Last Key doesn't re-invent the wheel or take the franchise in new directions. Nor, I suspect, would viewers like Lucy want it to. Even at her tender age, she's already seen enough horror movies to know the bad ones far outnumber the good ones, which is especially true when it comes to sequels. So when one delivers exactly as expected, it's hard to complain too much..

FEATURETTES: "Going into the Further"; "Becoming Elise"; "Meet the New Demon"
"DIVE INTO THE INSIDIOUS UNIVERSE" - An amusingly cheeky re-cap of the entire series (I wish more more franchises would do this).

March 29, 2018

News: New Music from WESTWORLD SEASON 2

The official Westworld Season Two trailer features a new version of the song “Heart-Shaped Box” (originally performed by Nirvana) by multi-Grammy and Emmy Award-nominated composer Ramin Djawadi (Westworld, Game of Thrones), now available to stream and for purchase. Full details for the album Westworld Season 2 (Music From The HBO Series) have yet to be announced. Upon hearing “Heart-Shaped Box,” Westworld fans will be thrilled to hear Djawadi continuing his masterful re-imagining of classic songs as he did in Westworld Season One.

Blu-Ray Review: UP IN SMOKE

Starring Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Stacy Keach, Zane Busby, Wally Ann Wharton, Tom Skerritt, Mills Watson, Strother Martin, Edie Adams, June Fairchild. Directed by Lou Adler. (1978/85 min).

Back in the 70s, weed was still illegal, illicit and, most ominously, the gateway to a living hell of addiction, crime and debauchery. Only hippies, headbangers and Jane Fonda dared risk their souls by indulging in the devil's lettuce.

So the unexpected success of Up in Smoke was telling. Here was a rambling, low budget film starring a counter-culture comedy duo, directly aimed at a specific audience who were likely as high as the characters on-screen. That it immediately skipped-over cult status and became a box office smash suggests a lot of people could relate to Cheech & Chong's unique brand of drug-related humor. Considering the film was best enjoyed by those in a similarly altered state, perhaps marijuana use was more mainstream than some conservative alarmists wanted to admit.

Cheech & Chong learn they're expecting.
40 years later, it's amusing to entertain the notion that Up in Smoke is damn-near a period piece. Not that it hasn't aged well. In fact, its humor holds up better than countless stoner comedies that followed in its wake (including Cheech & Chong's own subsequent films). Even today, Up in Smoke remains hugely influential. But the actual plot - yes, it sorta has one - is contingent on the drug's illegality and difficulty in acquiring, which make Pedro (Marin) and "Man" (Chong) such an amusing pair of antiheroes.

With recreational marijuana now legal in nine states, and more joining the list every voting year, it won't be too long before one of the most amiably-subversive films of the 70s is viewed in the same context as prohibition era gangster movies. As such, Up in Smoke is a wonderful nostalgia trip, though still best-viewed when totally high (which is much easier to do today than in 1978).

If nothing else, Cheech & Chong knew their audience and Up in Smoke remains the only unqualified classic in the stoner comedy genre. Everyone from Mike Judge to Snoop Dogg to Seth Rogan owes these guys a tip of the hat. Finally on Blu-Ray for the first time, this disc also includes a new interview with Marin, Chong & director/producer Lou Adler, who look back on the making of the film.

NEW: FEATURETTE: "How Pedro Met the Man: Up in Smoke at 40" - New interview with Marin, Chong & director Lou Adler
FEATURETTE: "Lighting it Up: A Look Back at Up in Smoke" - Vintage featurette from 2007.
"EARACHE MY EYE" - Animated video of one of their most famous sketches.
"THE MAN SONG" - A hyper-edited montage of every moment someone in the film says "man"
DELETED SCENES (including a scene with Harry Dean Stanton!)
AUDIO COMMENTARY - With Cheech Marin & Lou Adler

March 27, 2018


Starring John Ashley, Pat Woodell, Jan Merlin, Charles Macaulay, Pam Grier (mee-ow!). Directed by Eddie Romero. (1972/81 min).

Though no acknowledgment or credit is given, Twilight People is a budget-conscious adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau. Of the most well-known films based on that classic novel, this one isn't nearly as handsomely produced as AIP's 1977 film, but still more goofball fun than the 1996 Brando debacle.

Matt Farrell (John Ashley) is a roguish adventurer who's kidnapped while scuba diving (!). He's taken to a remote island where demented genius Dr. Gordon (Charles Macauley) is conducting bizarre experiments, trying to combine humans and animals into some kind of super-being more adaptable to the changing world. Some of his subjects roam the island, others remain in cages (and they ain't too happy about it).

Feelin' horny.
Assisting Dr. Gordon is his sexy daughter, Neva (Par Woodell), who's increasingly alarmed by her father's cruelty while becoming smitten with Farrell. Eventually, she and Farrell free the beasties and try to escape the island. The second half of the film is a chase through the jungle, with Gordon's arrogant, perpetually grinning henchman, Steinman (Jan Merlin), hunting them down.

Twilight People is not without plenty of issues. Bargain basement production values and silly make-up aside, the movie is atrociously edited and narratively lazy, such as a primary villain who simply disappears late in the story, never to return. However, its endearing tackiness keeps things entertaining. Though she's buried under fangs & prosthetics, a young Pam Grier somehow exudes more sex appeal (even while ripping out throats) than the film's bland leading lady. Similarly, Ashley is a deadly-dull hero, but Merlin looks like he's having a great time. Additionally, the wildly inappropriate jazzy music score is a real hoot.

Coffy...before coffee.
Running only 81 minutes, Twilight People doesn't stick around long enough to wear out its welcome. In the interim, the movie is mildly amusing (intentionally or otherwise) and surprisingly bloody for a PG rated film. This Blu-Ray remaster is pretty decent, though apparently some of the original negative couldn't be completely cleaned up. There are several moments, especially during the first act, with distracting blemishes, spots and yellow streaks.

INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR EDDIE ROMERO - This is pretty old, so the video quality is pretty poor.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - With film historian David Del Valle & Puppet Master III director David Decoteau.

March 26, 2018

THE CONCORDE - AIRPORT '79 and the Forfeiture of Dignity

Starring Alain Delon, Susan Blakely, Robert Wagner, Sylvia Kristel, George Kennedy, Eddie Albert, John Davidson, Andrea Marcovicci, Martha Raye, Cicely Tyson, Jimmer Walker, David Warner, Charo, Avery Schreiber, Sybil Danning, Monica Lewis, Bibi Andersson, Mercedes McCambridge. Directed by David Lowell Rich. (1979/123 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON

When it comes to forsaking your dignity, how low would you go?

In the distant past, I've occasionally swallowed great gobs of personal dignity, mostly related to my ineptitude when it came to money management. I've crawled back to my parents begging for financial assistance with the promise of paying them back. I've spent nights on friends' sofas after being evicted from my apartment (and showing my gratitude by stealing their food). Out of sheer desperation, I once even sold a $500 electric guitar - and its amplifier - for fifty bucks.

Those are just a few examples I'm willing to share, and sure, sometimes circumstances absolutely require one to temporarily put dignity on the backburner of the sake of survival (okay, okay...I sold the guitar to buy a bag o' weed). Those days may be distant memories, but I still shudder with self-loathing when I think about them.

Some folks reading this might shake their heads and say, "Fuck your dignity. Try standing on the shoulder of a freeway on-ramp holding a cardboard sign for 10 hours." And they'd be right. My own personal dignity would never allow me to beg for the change in your car's cup holder. On the other end of the spectrum, there are people who wouldn't be caught dead behind the wheel of the PT Cruiser I happily drive to work every day. The bar is set different for everybody.

Revisiting The Concorde...Airport '79 offers unique insights on the static nature of dignity.

A mid-flight sucker punch.
The film's utter awfulness is legendary, even by disaster movie standards. Rehashing every converging element that makes it such a delightful dumpster fire would be an exercise in redundancy, like shooting a spider with Black Flag after you've already squashed it. But considering the original Airport ignited the popularity of disaster movies in the 70s, it's fittingly ironic that this cheap-jack third sequel would provide one of the biggest nails in the genre's coffin a decade later.

Speaking for forsaking one's dignity, the good folks at Universal Pictures were the kings of not giving a fuck back then, tarnishing their biggest movies by turning them into franchises and squeezing-out every last drop of profit before unceremoniously discarding the carcasses. There was Jaws, of course, which didn't even need one sequel, let alone three. We kept getting Smokey and the Bandit movies long after even Burt Reynolds was wise enough to jump ship. Not even Hitchcock's Psycho was sacred, spawning three sequels and a legendarily-pointless scene-for-scene remake.

Of course, all studios have been guilty of milking franchises for all they're worth, but historically, Universal often took it to another level, even dating back to the golden Hollywood's "golden age". Dracula and Frankenstein are both undisputed classics, but not untouchable enough to stop the studio from cranking out countless cut-rate sequels & spin-offs which shamelessly exploited these characters to the point they began appearing in comedies.

The original Airport, while not exactly a cinematic milestone, was a blockbuster that managed to be entertaining in spite of its soap opera trappings. Universal was apparently well-aware it was cinematic junk food (despite being nominated for 10 Oscars), which is perhaps why all the sequels were prophetically slapped with expiration dates right in their titles. Airport 1975 had TV movie production values that looked ridiculous once The Towering Inferno was released a few months later. Airport '77 appeared quaint compared to Star Wars, which came along that summer to change everything. The Concorde - Airport '79 was so rotten right out of the package that Universal swallowed their remaining dignity and tried to re-market the thing as a comedy. They didn't care, so long as the money kept coming (which it didn't, especially after Airplane! came along to fossilize the entire franchise).

Sylvia Kristel and Alain Delon ponder the irony of George Kennedy appearing in the movie's only love scene.
And what of Airport '79's illustrious cast? One of the hallmarks of nearly all disaster movies were their "all-star casts." Even a classic like The Towering Inferno featured a virtual who's who of heavy hitters & has-beens motivated more by profit than pride. Paul Newman famously disliked the movie, but with a $1 million salary plus 7.5% of the box office, he ended up taking home a paycheck nearly as large as Airport '79's entire budget. He might have thought he was forfeiting some of his dignity, but to the rest of us, that just sounds like a damn fine business decision.

But while no actor in history has ever declared their appearance in a disaster movie to be the highlight of their career, just how much pride are you required to swallow to sign-on for a suppository like Airport '79? It's doubtful that anyone other than John Davidson read the script and thought, Wow, this is terrific! So when it came to dignity, I'd wager there was more swallowing on the set of this film than the average porn video. Not everyone, of course. I'm sure soft-core siren Sylvia Kristal was simply grateful to appear in a movie where she kept all her clothes on, and French heartthrob Alain Delon apparently saw Airport '79 as his last opportunity to achieve stardom in America (which makes him stupid, but not shameless). Monica Lewis was married to producer Jennings Lang, so she probably didn't have a choice. As for George Kennedy returning to play Joe Patroni, I'm assuming Universal threw a ton of cash his way to establish the film's only tenuous tie to the rest of the franchise. 

But Robert Wagner? Susan Blakely? Eddie Albert? David Warner? Cicely Tyson? Mercedes McCambridge? All of them sacrificed varied amounts of dignity to ride this shame plane. However, none of these folks set their own personal pride bar lower than Martha Raye.

Jacqueline your heart out.
Martha Raye had an impressive film, stage and television career spanning six decades. While never a glamorous starlet or sexy leading lady, she was unassumingly cute and well respected for her singing & comedic talents, though more renowned to a later generation as the old lady in Polident commercials. At age 73, she showed up in Airport '79 after a nine-year absence from the big screen, playing a passenger with an extreme case of incontinence. Seriously, her entire role consists of a singular running gag where her character repeatedly rushes to the restroom in a state of wide-eyed panic. Following a sequence in which the Concorde flies upside-down to avoid being destroyed by a killer drone, she shuffles out of the restroom drenched in toilet water, her soaked old-lady blouse leaving little to the viewer's imagination. Martha has only three or four lines of actual dialogue in the entire film, the last of which is, "The bathroom's broken." It's such a pathetic, demeaning character that, even watching today, it's difficult not to feel a little second-hand embarrassment.

Ms. Raye's dignity-free appearance Airport '79 would pretty-much be her last movie role. Directorial hack David Lowell Rich soon retreated back to his comfort zone, cranking out generic made-for-TV movies nobody remembers. Jennings Lang would later help Universal shit in their own nest yet-again with one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time, The Sting II. Ironically, only Eric Roth, who scribbled the insipid screenplay, moved on to bigger and better things...he eventually wrote or co-wrote Ali, Munich, The Insider, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Forrest Gump (for which he won an Oscar).

Like my recollection of the times I was forced to forfeit my own dignity for the sake of shelter, groceries or a bag o' weed, I'll bet Eric looks back at those days and shudders with similar self-loathing.

March 25, 2018


By Michael Vaughn. (2017/352 pp).

At first glance, one might understandably assume The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema is yet-another book dedicated to cult films. After all, most movies embraced by the fringe crowd are indeed strange and you'll find a lot of them discussed among these pages.

But author Michael Vaughn has a different agenda than providing the umpteenth shout-out to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. In fact, Vaughn only fleetingly mentions that cult classic when discussing some lesser-known films, such as its spiritual precursor, Phantom of the Paradise, or Rocky Horror's completely forgotten sequel, Shock Treatment.

In addition to films with indisputable cult credentials, there are detailed write-ups of obscure titles from around the world - bizarre Japanese mash-ups, Italian giallo & gorefests, high falutin' art films, crazy classics, microbudget massacres...even some major Hollywood movies that also happen to be really, really weird. Some entries include interesting trivia footnotes and brief interviews with people involved in the production.

Movies are grouped in chapters by category and, for some genres, further broken down by country of origin. Vaughn's knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject is readily apparent, his writing style displaying great fondness for most of these films (even made-for-TV cheapies like Killdozer).

Though he occasionally misuses an idiom or two and a few of his facts can be disputed (no reference book is perfect), The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema lives up to its title. Chances are even the most dedicated fan of off-center entertainment is likely to learn of a few movies they never knew existed. 


March 24, 2018

AIRPORT '77 and a Eulogy for the Queen

Starring Jack Lemmon, Lee Grant, Brenda Vaccaro, George Kennedy, Joseph Cotten, Olivia de Havilland, James Stewart, Darren McGavin, Christopher Lee, Robert Foxworth, Robert Hooks, Kathleen Quinlan, Gil Gerard, Monte Markham, M. Emmet Walsh. Directed by Jerry Jameson. (1977/113 min).

Essay by D.M. ANDERSON

Friends, we're gathered here today to honor a Hollywood that thrilled us with her exploits on the the silver screen for nearly 50 years. While we mourn her passing, let us also celebrate an illustrious career, both on and off the screen.

Portland International Airport (PDX) is only three or four miles from where I teach. Looking out my classroom window a few years ago, I saw a Boeing 747 coming in for a landing, her 18 wheels emerging from her belly like extended talons. Massive against the backdrop of the blue afternoon sky, she hardly seemed to be moving, as if telling the world, "I'm Queen of the Skies...I'll get there when I'm damn well ready."

Air traffic comes and goes with such regularity that I seldom give it more than an passing glance. This time, I halted my lesson on sentence combining, strolled to the window and watched this gleaming diva's graceful approach until distant trees blocked the rest of her landing.

She was beautiful.

747s are a rare sight these days. Some of my students even stopped to gawk along with me, the way one might do when spotting a freakishly large garden slug in the yard. The few 747s that bother to arrive & depart at PDX are always cargo planes (as this one was). In fact, I don't recall the last time I saw one arrive carrying anything other than Fedex packages.

Not long afterwards, I learned the sad news that the few remaining 747 passenger planes in-service were being grounded (in this country, anyway), having outlived their usefulness among newer, sleeker, more technologically-advanced planes. The last one - Delta Air Lines Flight 9771 - touched-down for good on January 3, 2018, its final resting place an airplane graveyard in Arizona. It was the end of an era that began five decades earlier, when Pan-American Airlines started carrying jet-setters around the world in space-age luxury. Affectionately dubbed the Queen of the Skies, the 747's unique shape and sheer size made her instantly iconic.

With such a striking appearance, it wasn't long before Hollywood came calling. She was a natural, of course, appearing in a wide variety of movies. Even in the smallest roles, she displayed epic grace on the big screen and became the go-to aircraft whenever a film's story required international travel. It was obvious the 747 was destined to be a big star.

A true Hollywood diva.
She found a niche in grand-scale action movies. One of her first starring roles was that of a crippled airliner in Airport 1975, sharing top billing with another icon once renowned for larger-than-life performances, Charlton Heston. The film itself was no great shakes and the rest of the all-star cast obviously showed up to collect paychecks, but the 747 was magnificent, stealing every scene. Even today, the tension-filled scenes where she's flying at dangerously-low altitudes through the Rocky Mountains are impressive. Not only did she do her own stunts, these sequences just wouldn't have had the same visual impact with a puny old 707.

Dozens of similar roles followed over the years: Executive Decision, Turbulence, Die Hard 2, Final Destination, Drop Zone, Megashark vs. Giant Octopus, Air Force One, Snakes on a Plane, just to name a few. A lot of them were variations of the disaster movie genre and she died on-screen more often than Sean Bean, but being a consummate pro, she never complained about typecasting.

Of all the films in her career, perhaps Airport '77 most-effectively showcased her talents. Not that it's her best film, but she gets plenty of screen time to strut her stuff. Airport '77 is her second appearance in the franchise that began in 1970 with the original Airport. That sappy, sudsy film - starring her less-sexy older sister, the Boeing 707 - kicked the disaster movie genre into high gear (which The Concorde - Airport '79 ironically brought to a screeching halt a decade later). Of all four films in the series, Airport '77 is arguably the best one, meaning it's the least goofy. Though still pretty silly, at least it boasts a stronger cast, better performances and a more engaging story than the other Airport movies.

"Truth-be-told, George, it's not such a wonderful life."
Billionaire Philip Stevens (James Stewart) is the proud owner of an all-new, state-of-the-art 747. Touted as a technological miracle, the plane boasts a piano bar, bedrooms, sofas, office space, poker tables and a full kitchen. There's also a table-top version of Pong - a huge deal at the time - and one of the very first laserdisc players. In real life, the latter was so new and pricey that the producers actually borrowed Universal exec Lew Wasserman's player for a single scene.

Stevens invites all his rich friends on the plane's inaugural flight, flown by Capt. Don Gallagher (Jack Lemmon), to transport his art collection to a new museum. His friends include the usual batch of past-their-prime stars, character actors, young up 'n' comers, a couple of annoying children and, of course, George Kennedy as Joe Patroni. Unfortunately, the plane is hijacked by a crew of art thieves led by Gallagher's co-pilot, Chambers (Robert Foxworth...and no, he's not the guy who played Mike Brady). After gassing the passengers and crew, they descend below the radar and disappear into the Bermuda Triangle.

"You're Mike Brady and you know it."
Back in the 70s, the Bermuda Triangle was one of those mysterious places that terrified people who believed everything they read. Supposedly a paranormal region of the Atlantic Ocean, many planes and ships "disappeared" there over the years, never to be seen again. It even inspired a bestselling book by Charles Berlitz, who made a career out of convincing the more intellectually-challenged of our species that Atlantis was real, the Navy had invisible ships and the world would end in 1999. If Berlitz were alive today, he'd probably find gainful employment as Fox News' scientific advisor. But like Area 51, the Amityville House and Sasquatch, the Bermuda Triangle was mostly great tabloid and movie fodder. Indeed, this angle was hyped-to-the-hilt in Airport '77's ad campaign, though the region's supernatural reputation never figures into the plot.

Instead, the plane's wing clips an oil derrick and splashes into the ocean, trapping the passengers 100 feet underwater. Their importance to the plot now served, most of the bad guys are conveniently killed in the crash, save for Chambers, who ruefully informs Gallagher he changed course to avoid detection. This means nobody tracking the plane on radar knows where they went down. One would think a few oil workers might have noticed a massive jumbo jet striking their platform and consider phoning it in, but never mind.

Before the water pressure crushes the plane "like an empty beer can," Gallagher hatches a plan to open one of the cargo doors and swim to the surface with an emergency signal buoy. The remainder of the film is a race against time as the Navy rushes to the scene to try and raise the plane before it floods and everyone drowns.

Airport '77 is the most FX-driven film in the franchise, making ample use of miniatures to depict the crash, sinking and most of the flight scenes. Though Star Wars would come along just a few months later to render the whole thing absolutely archaic, the effects are more-or-less convincing enough to serve the story. The crash scene itself - a combination of miniatures and some dubious rear projection - is rendered more ominous due to the performance of our dear lady, the Boeing 747, who dominates the screen. Airline disaster films simply look and feel more epic when the Queen of the Skies is in distress.

The stealthy 747 sneaks up on unsuspecting swimmers.
Of course, no disaster movie is complete without its sillier elements. Those in Airport '77 are mostly regulated to pre-catastrophe festivities, such as Monte Markham as one of the baddies who inexplicably changes disguises three times before he even steps on the plane, or Olivia de Havilland hamming it up as a southern belle who "humorously" turns out to be a card shark. And just who's idea was it to cast the magnificently menacing Christopher Lee as the biggest pussy in the entire movie (playing Lee Grant's henpecked husband)? Why the hell isn't he masterminding the damn heist???

My favorite moment, however, features blind singer/songwriter Tom Sullivan, who passionately mewls "Beauty is in the Eyes of the Beholder," the sappiest Oscar-baiting song interlude in disaster movie history, making Helen Reddy's goofy musical moment in Airport 1975 sound like she's belting-out "Balls to the Wall." Sullivan warbles with such high-pitched sincerity that young Kathleen Quinlan can't help but fall instantly in-love with him.

Airport '77 would be the 747's last appearance in the series. She wisely passed on The Concorde - Airport '79, but still found plenty of employment with choice roles in many other action epics. Eventually, though, like so many other fading stars throughout Hollywood history, her popularity began to wane and the offers dried up. She still retained her sleek beauty, though, hardly aging at all in 50 years.

When the last of the great Boeing passenger jets was permanently grounded, it was the end of an era. The 747 is now just another relic of the past, no longer relevant in Hollywood or anywhere else. We won't see the likes of her on the big screen again. Sure, she still finds work as a freighter, but that's like seeing Meryl Streep appearing in a Life-Alert commercial.

So let's not forget to appreciate the grand old bird's contributions to cinema and pop culture. Whether splashing into the Atlantic, exploding in mid-air or being attacked by a megalodon, the 747 will always be the Queen of the Skies.

Rest in peace, old girl. I only wish I'd had the opportunity to ride you just one time.

March 22, 2018

News: THE OUTER LIMITS: SEASON ONE Coming to Blu-ray & DVD March 27

We don't always feature Blu-Ray news of television shows. But when we do, it is a CLASSIC.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics is proud to announce the Blu-ray and DVD release of Season One of The Outer Limits, the hit television anthology series, created by Leslie Stevens, that became a benchmark for science-fiction shows to follow. This seven-disc collection contains all 32 episodes of Season One, newly restored in HD.

The Outer Limits: Season One will be released on Blu-ray and DVD March 27, with a SRP of $99.95 for the Blu-ray and $79.95 for the DVD. Special features include "There is Nothing Wrong With Your Television Set", a 40 page booklet essay by David J. Schow, and audio commentaries by David J. Schow (The Outer Limits Companion), Tim Lucas (Mario Bava: All the Colors of the Dark; Video Watchblog), Craig Beam (My Life in the Glow of the Outer Limits), Dr. Reba Wissner (We Will Control All That You Hear: The Outer Limits & The Aural Imagination), Gary Gerani (Fantastic Television), Michael Hyatt (film historian), and Steve Mitchell (King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen).

March 18, 2018

Blu-Ray Review: THE BLACK SCORPION (1957)

Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday (mee-ow!), Carlos Rivas, Mario Navarro, Carlos Muzquiz, Pascual Garcia Pena, Pedro Galvan. Directed by Edward Ludwig. (1957/88 min).

There's an early scene in The Black Scorpion when our heroes search a mysteriously abandoned house after hearing suspicious noises. Guns drawn, they get to the last room and discover it's just a baby cooing in his cradle. Relieved, Dr. Hank Scott (Richard Denning) smiles, chuckles to his partner and repeatedly points at the little bambino...with his pistol. This doesn't have anything to do with the plot, but remind me never to hire Dr. Scott as a babysitter.

Elsewhere, The Black Scorpion sees an angry nest of enormous arachnids unleashed in Mexico after a massive earthquake creates a new volcano. Dr. Scott is an American geologist sent down to study the eruption, but spends more time flirting with cattle rancher Teresa Alvarez (played by beautiful B queen Mara Corday, so who can blame him?). When these supersized scorpions begin attacking a nearby village, Scott and colleague Arturo Ramos (Carlos Rivas) put their research on hold to become epic exterminators.

Best. Halftime show. Ever.
The scorpions only come out at night, so after blowing up the cave where they hang-out during daylight, Scott & friends think they're in the clear. They're gravely mistaken, of course, because what's the point of a giant bug movie if the title creature isn't allowed to attack a major city? In this case, its Mexico City, and the last remaining scorpion is the biggest mother of them all.

For the most part, The Black Scorpion is your garden variety low budget, big-bug flick, complete with recycled action footage and actors accustomed to dealing with nature run-amok. However, the film is noteworthy for featuring some of the last stop-motion creature work by Willis O'Brien, who once brought Kong to life and taught Ray Harryhausen everything he knows. Despite working with obviously limited resources, his monsters are creepy creations, though the misguided decision to give the title creatures human-like faces makes them all look like Edward G. Robinson.

"Listen, you crummy, flat-footed copper!"
Additionally, the movie is a lot of fun. It's got a decent story that moves along nicely and the special effects are pretty neat (though repeated...a lot). Considering its budget, a sequence where the title creatures attack a passenger train (train wreck...YEAH!!!) is particularly impressive. The plot even includes the obligatory, cute child character who only exists to put himself in peril by being stupid. Though not among the best of its genre, The Black Scorpion is a nifty little nugget from the golden age of monster movies. 
"STOP-MOTION MASTERS" - Special effects legend Ray Harryhausen talks about learning from and working with his mentor, Willis O'Brien.
FOOTAGE FROM "LAS VEGAS MONSTERS" and "BEETLEMEN" - FX test footage from two unproduced films O'Brien worked on.
DINOSAUR SEQUENCE FROM THE ANIMAL WORLD - This was an Irwin Allen 'documentary' Harryhausen worked on.


News: STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI Score-Only Edition Now Available on Movies Anywhere

The score-only version of Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available exclusively on Movies Anywhere for a limited time. Simply sign-up for Movies Anywhere and link your digital retailer account where you purchased your digital copy in order to unlock it!

Lucasfilm’s worldwide phenomenon, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, is now available on digital and arrives on Blu-ray & 4K on Tuesday, March 27th.

March 17, 2018

Blu-Ray Review: A TRIP TO THE MOON

Starring Georges Melies, Bleuette Bernon. Directed by Georges Melies. (1902/15 min).

In nothing else, you aren't likely to find a more lovingly-assembled Blu-Ray release dedicated to a single 15 minute film.

Of course, this isn't just any 15 minute film. A Trip to the Moon is arguably the most important 15 minute film in history. Universally acknowledged as the very first science fiction movie (heavily inspired by Jules Verne), it was the brainchild Georges Melies. In addition to being a technical pioneer, he explored the narrative possibilities of film before it was even an industry.

More than just the film, this set is also a celebration of Melies himself. In fact, the uninitiated might want to check out the accompanying 65 minute documentary beforehand. The Extraordinary Voyage is a wonderful retrospective of Melies' groundbreaking achievements, featuring interviews and commentary by various filmmakers & historians, along with clips from many of the 500+ films he made during his relatively short career. The film also documents the painstaking efforts to restore a long-thought-lost colorized version of A Trip to the Moon - each frame was originally hand-painted! - to its former glory.

Inside Gary Busey's head.
Watching the documentary first, one can't help but view A Trip to the Moon as much more than just whimsical entertainment (thought it's still quite charming). It's impossible not to appreciate the film's impact and influence on both audiences and filmmaking. This disc features both the restored color print, which looks remarkable, and the commonly-available (but more intact) black & white version. There are also several music options, including orchestral, improvised piano and a surprisingly effective synthesized score. Other audio options offer narration and/or actors voicing some of the characters.

This Blu-Ray edition of A Trip to the Moon from Flicker Alley is must-own for anyone who considers themself a cinephile. The film's lasting influence is immeasurable and the chance to finally experience it as audiences first did in 1902 is too good to pass up.

THE EXTRAORDINARY VOYAGE - A feature-length 2011 documentary about Melies' life and career, with a special emphasis on "A Trip to the Moon." One of the best film history docs I've ever seen.
"THE ECLIPSE" (1904) & "THE ASTRONOMER'S DREAM" (1898) - Two other Melies films.
SUPLEMENTARY BOOKLET - Contains screenshots, vintage photos and a detailed essay by Gilles Duval & Severine Wemaere, which is an excerpt from the book, A Trip to the Moon Back in Color.

March 16, 2018

Blu-Ray Review: DOWNSIZING

Starring Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Udo Kier, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Rolf Lassgard, Maribeth Monroe, Ingjerd Egeberg, Neal Patrick Harris, Laura Dern. Directed by Alexander Payne. (2017/135 min).

Here's another strong reason why people should probably pay more attention to who's creatively responsible for a film rather than its pandering trailer. Writer/director Alexander Payne isn't known for gimmicky, high-concept movies and he sure as hell didn't start with Downsizing.

Yet ads and trailers offered it up as a big, fun, FX-driven sci-fi comedy with Matt Damon experiencing the joy of tapping a giant vodka bottle (a scene which didn't actually show up in the final cut). It wasn't really fair to audiences or Payne, who wrote and directed a more somber and thought-provoking film than that.

As a solution to overpopulation, climate change and Earth's depleting resources, a brilliant Norwegian scientist develops a technology which reduces people to five inches. At that size, not only do they consume less of everything, even those with relatively few assets can suddenly afford lives of luxury. Years later, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), an occupational therapist who once had bigger dreams, sees this as a chance to do something important. His wife, however, backs out at the last second. Since the procedure is irreversible, Paul's stuck living on his own in Leisureland (the community where everyone who's been "downsized" live).

"Yeah, I was expecting Steve Martin to be here, too."
For a time, Paul is lonely and bored, working as a telemarketer and befriending Dusan (Christoph Waltz), an aging Serbian playboy who hosts wild parties every night. Then he meets one of Dusan's housekeepers, Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese political prisoner who was shrunk against her will and shipped to America. Through her, he discovers Leisureland isn't quite the utopia he was led to believe and that downsizing has done little to change the social injustices plaguing the rest of the world. The story takes an even darker turn after Paul accompanies Dusan to Norway to the village where the very first downsizers have been living - in relative isolation - for decades.

While it's not exactly Honey, I Shrunk Matt Damon, Downsizing is sometimes very funny for reasons we're led to expect. But Payne also has something important to say about humankind's inherent short-sightedness, apathy and egocentrism. Infusing some biting satire, he doesn't paint an optimistic picture of the world or its future. In fact, there are moments when the story is kind-of depressing, especially when Leisureland is depicted as a little more than microcosm of the world its inhabitants supposedly wanted to save.

"Sorry...I ate all the crackers."
The film is a bit overlong. The first hour, in particular, is pretty meandering - almost aimless - until the real story kicks in, which is full of surprises and as engaging as it is intelligent. Aside from a boatload of gratuitous cameos (mainly during the first act), the characters are interesting, as are most of the performances. Damon is...well, Matt Damon, but Waltz & Udo Kier are wonderful in roles which seem tailor-made for them. The best performance, though, belongs to Chau, whose character becomes emotional crux of the film.

Downsizing is smart, enjoyable and poignant, not at-all like the film we were sold. That's arguably the biggest reason it undeservedly came-and-went in theaters within a few weeks. But perhaps it'll enjoy a second life on home video, being a very rewarding experience once the viewer knows what to expect.

PROMOTIONAL FEATURETTES: "Working with Alexander"; "The Cast"; "A Visual Journey"; "A Matter of Perspective"; "That Smile"; "A Global Concern"