October 30, 2019

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE...Not Christmas-y Enough?

Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Thomas Mitchell, Henry Travers, Beulah Bondi, Frank Faylen, Ward Bong. Directed by Frank Capra. (130 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Is It’s a Wonderful Life the greatest Christmas movie of all time? That’s debatable, of course. As holiday classics go, I’m more of a Miracle on 34th Street man, with A Christmas Story coming in a close second. Perhaps it's because those are Christmas movies through and through, the yuletide season being the driving force behind their plots.

In that context, It’s a Wonderful Life doesn’t quite qualify. To elaborate, my oldest daughter, Natalie, eats, lives and breathes Christmas throughout the year (taking a brief respite during January in honor of her birthday). She’d heard of It’s a Wonderful Life and was happy to join me while I reviewed this disc. However, Natalie ended up calling it quits after about an hour. Not that she hated the film, but it wasn’t “getting Christmas-y” fast enough.

"This is going right up my nose."
In a way, Natalie has a point. Without delving into specifics of a story most of us are familiar with anyway, Christmas doesn't even figure into the plot until the final act. Until then, It’s a Wonderful Life is a series of flashbacks of George Bailey’s (James Stewart) tumultuous life, as viewed by his guardian angel in preparation for preventing George from killing himself. In fact, much of the film is actually pretty downbeat. But as anyone who’s seen it knows, the preceding scenes of financial hardship and clashes Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) are what make George’s newfound appreciation for life – on Christmas Eve - so inspiring.

So while it may not get to Christmas fast enough for Natalie’s liking (much like real life), It’s a Wonderful Life is still quintessential Frank Capra, which of course means it’s...well, wonderful. Imitated but never duplicated, the film’s themes and imagery remain as timeless as ever. And it has never looked or sounded better than it does with this wonderfully-restored Blu-ray from Paramount, which also includes a smattering of interesting - and brand new - bonus features.

FEATURETTES - “Restoring a Beloved Classic” (includes a lot of before/after comparisons and interviews with those at Paramount in charge of the restoration); “Secrets from the Vault: It’s a Wonderful Life” (contemporary filmmaker-historians discuss Frank Capra and the story behind the film); “It’s a Wonderful Wrap Party” (home movies of the cast & crew picnic).
COLORIZED VERSION – On Disc 2...but why bother?

Rest in Peace, John Witherspoon


Quentin Tarantino's ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD Comes to Digital 11/25 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray & DVD 12/10
Academy Award winner Leonardo DiCaprio and Academy Award nominee Brad Pitt give “explosively funny and emotionally complex performances” as actor Rick Dalton and his longtime friend and stuntman Cliff Booth, alongside Academy Award nominee Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate in the blockbuster ninth film from writer and director Quentin Tarantino, ONCE UPON A TIME...IN HOLLYWOOD, coming to digital on November 26 and 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD December 10.

Premium collectible packaging will contain a 7” vinyl record with two of the soundtrack’s grooviest tunes (complete with turntable adapter), a collectible vintage poster for the Rick Dalton film
Operazione Dyn-o-mite! and an exclusive new MAD Magazine parody of the Rick Dalton TV series “Bounty Law,” Lousy Law. The collector’s edition is available for pre-order today from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com and Target.com.

The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and digital releases come loaded with even more sights and sounds of the ‘60s, featuring over twenty additional minutes of footage that delves deeper into world of Rick Dalton’s Hollywood. The 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and digital include an additional behind-the-scenes look at the film’s production design, cinematography, costume design, cars and more.

Collectors will also be delighted by exclusive packaging and gifts-with-purchase offered at retail for the film’s Blu-ray release. These include “Rick Dalton” movie poster cards available at Walmart, a vintage-style film magazine with over 26 never-before-seen production photos available at Target and a collectible steelbook available at Best Buy. All exclusive offerings are available for pre-order today.

QT8: THE FIRST EIGHT - Tara Wood's Deep Dive Doc on Tarantino / Out on VOD December 3rd
Quentin Tarantino is the most influential filmmaker of the past 30 years. His bloody, talky, nonlinear films pull together dozens of influences to form bracingly original cinematic events. In a Hollywood that worships at the altar of franchises and remakes, Tarantino’s films are the best kind of tentpoles - wholly unique cinematic visions from a filmmaker at the peak of his powers. As Tarantino's newest film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood arrives to praise and controversy, filmmaker Tara Wood takes us on a journey through the first 8 wildly divergent films that Tarantino has helmed, narrated by the actors and collaborators who have worked with him. From Reservoir Dogs through The Hateful Eight, from the video store to the fall of Harvey Weinstein, QT8 digs deep into the story of the most important and controversial filmmaker of our time.

October 28, 2019

RINGU: The Face That Launched a Thousand Nightmares

RINGU (1998)
Starring Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani, Hiroyuki Sanada, Hitomi Sato. Directed by Hideo Nakata. (95 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

I’ve raised my daughter right.

Lucy became an instant horror fan when I introduced her to the original Poltergeist at the tender age of 6. I’ve since-shared enough fright flicks with her over the years that she’s become quite discriminating. One of those films was 2002’sThe Ring. As the best American film to capitalize on the phenomenon affectionately known as J-horror, Lucy enjoyed it immensely.

So when I suggested we sit down to watch the film that inspired it, of course she was on-board. I’m often required to review many foreign language films, including horror, so she’s never had qualms about subtitles. In fact, her all-time favorite film is Korea’sTrain to Busan. Like I said, I’ve raised her right.

Being a teenager, sometimes Lucy’s a bit chatty during movies, but after popping-in Ringu, she sat in complete, unblinking silence as the now-familiar story unfolded. For greenhorns, the basic premise is a video tape that, when played, shows a series of bizarre, surreal images. Whoever views the tape gets a phone call saying they’ll die in seven days. One week later, they’re history. Unless…

Shoulda paid your cable bill, lady.
Neither Lucy nor I spoke until the end credits rolled, when she turned to me and said, “You know, even though I knew what was gonna happen, that movie really freaked me out,” which is saying a lot because it takes quite a bit to truly scare her anymore. And I had to concur. Even though I had seen the American version first and really liked it, there’s something about Ringu that simply feels creepier, the ramifications of viewing the tape more ominous.

Some of that could be due to its budget. Like so many other horror classics, limited resources can force a director to find more creative methods to instill fear. In this case, Ringu is neither flashy nor effects-driven, yet has loads of atmosphere, haunting imagery, foreboding music and – most importantly - a methodical, tension-filled pace. While never openly terrifying, Ringu’s overall tone is one of escalating dread.

Why Sadako can't pass her driver's test.
Good characters and performances help, of course. Nanako Matsushima is believable as Reiko, who sometimes places her career over parenthood, which ultimately has dire implications for her son, Yoichi (Rikiya Otaka). Hiroyuki Sanada is low-key and likable as Reiko’s ex-husband. Furthermore, our emotional investment in their characters renders the film's resolution truly chilling.

Lucy and I also came to the consensus that few images in modern horror are as disturbing – or imitated - as Sadako’s single, delirious eye peering through that matted black hair. Like The Exorcist, decades of sequels, rip-offs and remakes may have diminished Ringu’s overall ability to shock, but it remains the best example of J-horror ever made. It’s been given a significant facelift by Arrow Video with a great restoration and, best of all, new bonus features that make one appreciate just how influential the film continues to be. A must-own for any horror fan.

NEW: “THE RINGU LEGACY” - Easily the best of the bonus material, this is 27 minutes of interviews with various critic and filmmakers who discuss the impact the film series had on the horror genre and pop culture.
NEW: “A VICIOUS CIRCLE” - An interview with writer/critic Kat Ellinger, who discusses director Hideo Nakata.
NEW: “CIRCUMNAVIGATING RINGU” - Video essay by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By author David Kalat
"SAKADO’S VIDEO” - Hope your phone doesn’t ring after watching.
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Cast, crew & restoration credits; Essay, “Ringu: This Vortex of Evil Energy,” also by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas
REVERSIBLE COVER – With new and original artwork (We love the new one).


Rest in Peace, Robert Evans

October 26, 2019


Starring James Cagney, Dorothy Malone, Jane Greer, Jim Backus, Marjorie Rambeau, Roger Smith, Robert Evans. Directed by Joseph Pevney. (122 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😸

Man of a Thousand Faces is another one of those films that showcases the underappreciated versatility of James Cagney. Since he was already one of Hollywood’s most instantly recognizable faces, it’s sort of ironic that Cagney gave one of his best performances by convincingly portraying a man who made a career from being unrecognizable.

This is the story of silent film star Lon Chaney, who was quite versatile himself, but became a superstar for his iconic roles – and his own monstrous make-up work - in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Phantom of the Opera. Before that, though, Chaney was a popular vaudeville performer along with his first wife, Cleva (Dorothy Malone), who turns out to be kind-of an awful person, first-demonstrated by her reaction upon learning Chaney’s parents are both deaf and selfishly stating she no longer wants his child she’s carrying.

But their baby, Creighton, turns out fine. Chaney finds some success as a performer, but Cleva grows resentful at putting her own career on hold to raise their son. She tries to resume her singing career while neglecting Creighton and Chaney. When he manages to get her fired, she drinks a poison that permanently ruins her voice, then disappears completely. The scandal ends his vaudeville career and temporarily lands Creighton in a Foster home.

On the advice of his agent, Clarence (Jim Backus), Chaney reluctantly goes to Hollywood to try and break into movies. His work ethic and make-up skills keep him steadily employed until his big break in The Miracle Man. Star-making roles in Hunchback and Phantom soon follow. Chaney eventually finds love with former vaudeville colleague, Hazel (Jane Greer), who’s also the loving mother Creighton never had as a little boy. However, Cleva re-enters the picture years later, complicating matters because Chaney told Creighton she was dead.

Man of a Thousand Dandruff Flakes.
Man of a Thousand Faces is a film of two halves. The first half, Chaney’s vaudeville years, is probably the most revealing since it establishes the man as fiercely protective of his son, perhaps at the expense of his first marriage (she’s alarmingly narcissistic, but Chaney had a hand in driving her away). In the second half, Chaney’s movie career takes a back-seat to the turmoil of his personal life (including his deteriorating relationship with Creighton). The film takes a lot of creative liberties regarding accuracy, but it’s great dramatic entertainment dominated by Cagney’s powerful performance.

Creighton, of course, would someday become famous in his own right as Lon Chaney, Jr. and I often found myself wondering what he thought of this film. I also wonder if having him play his own dad was ever considered, especially since Cagney looked nothing like Chaney. On the other hand, Cagney manages to make Chaney a Man of a Thousand and one Faces (to riff a line from the film), giving this legend a complexity I doubt Junior could’ve mustered.

As for this disc from Arrow Academy, it's relatively light on bonus features (for them, anyway), but as usual, the restoration looks and sounds great.

"THE MAN BEHIND A THOUSAND FACES” - Film historian/critic Kim Newman (no stranger to Arrow supplemental features) discusses Chaney’s career and influence.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By historian Tim Lucas
SUPPLEMENTAL BOOKLET – Cast/crew credits, restoration credits, film reviews from 1957 and a great essay, “Larger Than Life: Revisiting Man of a Thousand Faces,” by film writer Vic Pratt.
REVERSIBLE COVER – Features new and original artwork (we kinda like the new one).


October 23, 2019


Starring David Naughton, Jenny Agutter, Griffin Dunne, John Woodvine, Lila Kaye, David Schofield, Brian Glover. Directed by John Landis. (97 min)

Review by Josey, the Sudden Cat🙀

Revisiting An American Werewolf in London for first time in at-least 30 years, my biggest takeaway was that it has aged remarkably well from a technical standpoint, better than most other horror movies released in the 1980s. The spectacular werewolf transformation sequence halfway through remains a make-up effects milestone, forever changing the way creature features would be made. As practical effects go, only John Carpenter’s The Thing ever topped it. More importantly, those effects are still convincing.

Additionally, the gradual decomposition of Griffin Dunne’s character is just as impressive. Perhaps even more so, being that each time he shows up in the story – looking increasingly hideous – Rick Baker’s work is onscreen for long, unbroken stretches, yet the illusion of a dead man talking is never broken. The special effects alone make An American Werewolf in London deserving of a spot on any horror lover’s shelf.

There are some regions where Nair is a bad idea.
However, my other major takeaway was that the groundbreaking imagery tends to overshadow some of the film’s shortcomings, such as a protagonist who’s pretty-much devoid of any real personality, a fairly standard plot and a maddeningly abrupt conclusion that suggests writer-director John Landis couldn’t figure out how to end it. Maybe because he’s always been a better director than a screenwriter. His penchant for in-jokes, self-conscious quirkiness and gratuitous sex is certainly here in abundance. But comparatively speaking, Joe Dante’s The Howling, released around the same time, was a more creative – and funnier – homage to werewolf lore.

Still, An American Werewolf in London remains an entertaining horror-comedy. Considering Landis’ wildly inconsistent career, it arguably ranks among his better films, though much of that is due to Rick Baker’s still jawdropping make-up effects. One thing is certain, fans of the movie will love this Blu-ray release from Arrow Video, which is loaded with an abundance of new and vintage bonus features (outlined below).

NEW: “MARK OF THE BEAST: THE LEGACY OF THE UNIVERSAL WEREWOLF” - Easily the best of the bonus features, this 77 minute retrospective documentary on the history of Universal monsters (not just werewolves) is a must-see. Includes numerous interviews Landis & Naughton, as well as directors Joe Dante, Daniel Griffith and a host of others.
NEW: “AN AMERICAN FILMMAKER IN LONDON” - An entertaining interview with Landis, though it sometimes covers the same ground as the above-mentioned doc.
NEW: “WARES OF THE WOLF” - A short look at some of the props and masks.
NEW: “I THINK HE’S A JEW: THE WEREWOLF’S SECRET” - Video essay by filmmaker Jon Spira, discussing the film’s depiction of Jewish characters.
"BEWARE THE MOON” - Vintage documentary, running 97 minutes, that covers quite a bit of the same ground as “Mark of the Beast.”
AUDIO COMMENTARIES - #1: Paul Davis, director of “Beware the Moon”; #2: David Naughton & Griffin Dunne
VINTAGE FEATURETTES - “The Werewolf’s Call” - Director Corin Hardy & writer Simon Ward discuss first seeing the film; “Making An American Werewolf in London” - Short, promotional making-of featurette; “I Walked with a Werewolf” - Interview with make-up artist Rick Baker; John Landis Interview; “Casting of the Hand” - designing Naughton’s ‘stretching’ hand (from 1980)
OUTTAKES – 3 minutes, no sound.
GALLERIES – Stills, promotional material, storyboards and even the shooting schedule.
REVERSIBLE COVER (not reviewed)


October 22, 2019


Starring Gerard Depardieu, Nathalie Baye, Maurice Barrier, Isabelle Sadoyan, Roger Planchon, Dominique Pinon. Directed by Daniel Vigne. (112 min)

Review by Mr. Paws😸

When we first meet Martin Guerre, he’s still a young man and...well, kind of a dick. Granted, he’s got some performance issues on his wedding night, to the amusement of the entire village, but that was due to a curse placed on him. However, after a priest removes the curse, Martin is still cold to his wife, Bertrande, and virtually ignores their newborn son. To the chagrin of his parents, he shuns his farming duties and eventually takes off in the middle of the night.

Martin (Gerard Depardieu) returns nine years later. The villagers are initially overjoyed, especially since he appears to be a changed man. Personable and hard-working, he claims he was off fighting the war and regales friends and family with tales of his travels. Most notably, he’s now a loving and affectionate husband to Bertrande (Nathalie Baye). Things are idyllic for a few years until some villagers – led by his uncle, Pierre (Maurice Barrier) – begin to suspect he may not actually be the real Martin Guerre. Whether or not he is her husband, Bertrande has never been happier, so she's reluctant to side with his accusers. An investigation and trial soon follow, conducted by court judge Jean de Coras (Roger Planchon). 

Damned Ikea instructions.
This 1982 French period drama – based on a true story – made enough waves overseas to inspire an American remake (Sommersby) and a stage musical. After viewing this film, it’s understandable. The premise itself is inherently compelling enough to have previously inspired numerous other writers and The Return of Return Guerre does the story further justice with outstanding performances – Depardieu and Baye, in particular – as well as impressively drab production design depicting 15th Century peasant life in France. But it’s ultimately a courtroom drama, with Martin’s trial comprising the second half of the story. Without providing spoilers, director & co-writer Daniel Vigne does a commendable job keeping the viewer guessing until the final reveal.

The film does take time to gain momentum, as does any emotional investment in the titular character. But The Return of Martin Guerre rewards the viewer’s patience with plenty of narrative surprises and a suitably haunting denouement. Additionally, a new 4K restoration nicely preserves the production’s earthy imagery and costume design. If nothing else, this is a great looking disc.



THE POOP SCOOP: A Few Underappreciated Gems

The Original FAIL SAFE (1964) on Blu-ray 1/28 from THE CRITERION COLLECTION
This unnerving procedural thriller painstakingly details an all-too-plausible nightmare scenario in which a mechanical failure jams the United States military’s chain of command and sends the country hurtling toward nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Working from a contemporary best seller, screenwriter Walter Bernstein and director Sidney Lumet wrench harrowing suspense from the doomsday fears of the Cold War era, making the most of a modest budget and limited sets to create an atmosphere of clammy claustrophobia and astronomically high stakes. Starring Henry Fonda as a coolheaded U.S. president and Walter Matthau as a trigger-happy political theorist, Fail Safe is a long-underappreciated alarm bell of a film, sounding an urgent warning about the deadly logic of mutually assured destruction.
READY OR NOT on Digital 11/26 and Blu-ray & DVD 12/3
The sanctity of marriage goes straight to hell when a young bride (Samara Weaving) competes in a time-honored tradition with her new husband (Mark O’Brien) and his insanely rich and eccentric Le Domas family (Adam Brody, Henry Czerny, and Andie MacDowell). The bride’s wedding night takes a turn for the worst when she realizes she is at the center of a lethal game of ‘Hide and Seek’ and must fight her not-so-loveable in-laws for her own survival.

The In-Home release is slaying with special features as writers Guy Busick and R. Christopher Murphy give insight on their script’s exploration of the Faustian bargain made by the Le Domas family. Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett and Producer Chad Villella explain how they used practical effects to deliver an authentically bloody film.

October 20, 2019

Mr. Biscuits’ ADVENTURES IN THE BUDGET BIN: Trek Toys Edition

For Mr. Biscuits, it’s the thrill of the hunt...digging for discounts wherever they may be. Sure, you could order from Amazon or spend your hard-earned kibbles on something already used, but what’s the fun in that? So if you’re a movie collector on a tight budget, let Mr. Biscuits’ show you some of his latest bargains.

I already had this on DVD, but couldn’t resist double-dipping for this set that comes with an easily-assembled model of the U.S.S. Enterprise, which stores the DVDs in the saucer section. And yes, after assembling, I pretended to fly it to the display case where I now keep it, going “pew-pew-pew” the entire way. $5.00 at Big Lots.

REMAKE REWIND: D.O.A. (1949) & D.O.A. (1988)  
The original D.O.A. is a terrific little slab of film noir. Ideally, I’d rather have a Blu-ray restoration, but for a buck at Dollar Tree? How can anyone pass that up? It comes with the completely forgettable 1988 remake with Dennis Quaid & Meg Ryan, but that's just a useless bonus feature I’d never be compelled to watch again (I don't care how cute they were together). $1.00 at Dollar Tree.

Typically, a trip to my local Walmart has slightly more appeal than a visit to the DMV. However, digging through their Blu-ray budget bin occasionally unearths something that makes it worth the effort. Just recently, I found Ron Howard’s megabomb, In the Heart of the Sea. While it’ll never be mistaken for a classic, it looks pretty and provides your only opportunity to catch Tom (Spider-Man) Holland crawling around in a dead whale's bowels. $5.99 at Walmart.

This has been playing every weekend at the Clinton Street Theater in my hometown for over forty years now. I attended a midnight showing once, but that was in my reckless youth a long time ago. My oldest daughter - who loves musicals – knows the songs but has never seen the film. Since I’m now at the age where even making it to midnight is an act of heroism, we can sing-along from the comfort of a sofa. And though my dog wouldn’t mind, we’ll refrain from throwing hot dogs at the screen. $5.00 at Best Buy.

LEGEND OF THE DEMON CAT: A Bad Kitty in More Ways Than One

Starring Xuan Huang, Shota Sometani, Yuqi Zhang, Hao Qin. Directed by Chen Kaige. (120 min)

Review by Tiger the Terrible😼

As the roommate of two cantankerous felines, I can attest that cats generally don’t listen or follow directions. They may indeed be trainable, but it takes more patience than I can ever hope to muster. Stinky continues bathing herself on my dining room table because I’ve long-since given up trying to keep her off.

Maybe the producers of Legend of the Demon Cat lacked the required patience, too. Maybe they first-tried using a real cat, only to have it sit on a table and lick its ass. Maybe Hong Kong ain’t exactly teaming with skilled cat wranglers. So maybe someone finally threw up their hands and said, “Screw it, go fire-up a couple o’ laptops.”

So the title creature is entirely rendered in CGI, and if that isn’t a testament to the overall incorrigibility of cats, I don’t know what is.

But damn, how ‘bout putting a little effort into it? If your whole premise is built around a ferocious feline exacting revenge on those responsible for an empress’ murder, wouldn’t you make sure the critter was at-least marginally convincing? Instead, this is a bad kitty in more ways than one, looking like a cartoon character and atrociously animated. Which is a damn shame because the rest of Legend of the Demon Cat boasts impressive special effects and spectacular production design. 
"Cat? What cat?"

The horror-tinged fantasy story is fairly engaging, though overly-complex with too many characters to keep track of. In a nutshell, this black cat – with an appetite for eyeballs – is wreaking havoc among the hierarchy of the Tang Dynasty, resulting in the death of the current emperor. The official cause of death is listed as the flu, but Letian, the emperor’s scribe, and Kukai, a Japanese exorcist, suspect otherwise. Their investigation leads them to the dilapidated palace of the former Emperor, where the spirit-embodied cat reveals deadly treachery that occurred there three decades before. Or is the empress onlymostly dead? Either way, kitty wants some payback.

Kind of a crazy plot, but when your primary antagonist is a vindictive housepet, that’s probably a given. Speaking of which, as silly as this creature looks, the film is at its most interesting when the cat is part of the narrative. Especially amusing is a sequence where it pops-up at a brothel with a serious case of ‘the zoomies’. It reminded me of my other cat, Josey, only she never clawed-out any eyeballs (for which I’m grateful). However, there are some lengthy stretches of feline-free exposition that tend to disrupt the pace and tone.

While overlong, Legend of the Demon Cat is ultimately worth checking out. Aside from the embarrassing title creature, this is a great looking film and the story is just bizarre enough for the viewer to endure the duller stretches. If only they had utilized just a few more gigs in their hard drive.


October 18, 2019


Starring Jack McGowran, Roman Polanski, Sharon Tate, Ferdy Mayne, Alfie Bass, Terry Downes, Fiona Lewis. Directed by Roman Polanski.

Review by Mr. Paws😼

The Fearless Vampire Killers has a pretty sizable cult following and fans will be happy to know this new Blu-ray from Warner Archive features the original cut of the film, not the truncated version first-released in the U.S., which was apparently a lot worse.

That being said, I can’t count myself among Roman Polanski’s admirers. He’s made some indisputably great films, while many others are wildly overpraised. After finally viewing The Fearless Vampire Killers for the first time, I would include it among the latter.

I suppose the film deserves some kudos for being one of the earlier horror-comedies to poke fun at vampire clichés. From stakes through the heart to bloodsuckers’ aversion to garlic, all the boxes are checked. But this isn’t mere parody. The Fearless Vampire Killers also attempts to be a horror film in its own right.

The problem is that it’s neither funny nor scary. Not once. Jack McGowren and Polanski himself ham-it-up as two bumbling vampire hunters who stumble into a Transylvanian village where Count van Krolock (Ferdy Mayne) has been having his way with the locals. Alfred (Polanski) becomes enamored by Sarah (Sharon Tate), an innkeeper’s daughter. When she’s snatched away by Krolock, they venture to the count’s mountaintop castle to try and rescue her.

"Anyone can have bad breath. But you, my dear, could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon."
McGowren mugs and babbles – often incoherently – while Polanski overreacts to his surroundings and ogles his future wife. Speaking of which, Tate is simply window dressing, required to do little but look good in a bathtub (in that respect, mission accomplished). In fact, there’s no real characterization of any kind. Lethargically paced, the film is filled with long, dull, dialogue-free stretches, occasionally punctuated by lame physical gags straight out of a Benny Hill sketch.

Still, The Fearless Vampire Killers has its share of fans and I have to admit the film is beautifully shot. With an aesthetic similar to Hammer’s horror output at the time, it’s handsomely produced and atmospheric. Regardless of my personal assessment, this might be one of the best looking vampire movies ever made up to that point. All that beautiful imagery is nicely restored for this Blu-ray release, which is accompanied by a few oddball bonus features. The most interesting extra is the pre-credit animated intro that was originally tacked-onto the film for its U.S. release. It’s fascinatingly terrible and indicative of MGM’s bone-headed attempt to pass this off as a wacky farce.

From a historical perspective, The Fearless Vampire Killers is an interesting artifact, mostly because of Polanski’s involvement with both the production and Ms. Tate. But the film itself is dated, dull and devoid of laughs or scares. In short, it sucks (pun intended).

ALTERNATE OPENING TITLES – There’s a compelling train-wreck quality to this heavy-handed pre-credit sequence.
"VAMPIRES 101” - A vintage – and eye-rolling – promotional featurette.
THEATRICAL TRAILER – For the U.S. version.

(though fans of the film will love the transfer)

October 17, 2019

THE LION KING and the Shiny Penny

Featuring the voices of Donald Glover, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Seth Rogan, Billy Eichner, John Oliver, John Kani, Florence Kasumba, Keegan-Michael Key, Eric Andre. Directed by John Favreau. (118 min)

Review by Stinky the Destroyer😼

Did The Lion King need to be remade? Of course not, but you can say that about any movie.

However, this one isn’t simply a remake. As nearly everyone already knows by now, it’s almost the exact same film, right down to the songs, music score, title card, jokes, dialogue and iconic scenes (many of which are shot at identical angles or perspectives). James Earl Jones even returns to voice Mufasa. The only significant difference is the animation...CGI and motion-capture that makes everything (mostly) look like live action.

My initial reaction was that this version might be as redundant as Gus Van Sant’s misguided scene-for-scene remake of Psycho. Why crank out the same thing when the original was not-only groundbreaking, it remains culturally relevant decades later? Even though I’m a middle-aged curmudgeon who remembers – and often misses – the days of traditional hand-drawn animation, I certainly understand the aesthetic appeal of computer animation...as long as it still looks like animation.

The family dog notwithstanding, animals ain’t all that expressive, so by designing the characters in the new Lion King to be as realistic as their counterparts in the wild, their personalities are severely muted, as is our emotional investment in them. That also makes it pretty tough for the exact same dialogue, jokes and songs to go over as effectively as they did 25 years ago, despite an impressive cast (though Seth Rogan, voicing Pumba, comes close).

The morning commute.
A few new wrinkles are sprinkled-in here and there. How Rafiki learns Simba’s still alive is creatively amusing (like anything involving dung beetles) and the hyenas have a few more chuckleworthy scenes. But most of the added material is inconsequential. Other than that, this is the shiny penny version of The Lion King you grew up with.

But people like shiny things, and in that respect, The Lion King admittedly hits a home run (and is therefore not as redundant as Psycho). The animation is meticulous, an astounding amount of detail poured into every shot. It’s a technological wonder and the imagery alone makes it worth checking out at least once. Director Jon Favreau and his crew of computer nerds may not have added anything significant to the narrative, but visually, they’ve certainly taken what they learned from The Jungle Book and amplified it tenfold.

For a lot of viewers - kids especially - the eye candy may be enough, perhaps even preferable to the barbaric methods used to animate critters back in the ancient ‘90s. Since the story itself is bereft of any surprises whatsoever, The Lion King is obviously intended for those who enjoy paying to have their cars detailed: It’s still the same old vehicle, but for a brief time, you feel like you’re driving a shiny new set o’ wheels.

"THE JOURNEY TO THE LION KING” - 3-part documentary.
"MORE TO BE SCENE” - Behind the scenes of 3 major musical sequences.
AUDIO COMMENTARY – By Director Jon Favreau.
MUSIC VIDEOS - “Spirit” by Beyonce; “Never to Late” by Elton John