DVD PICK OF THE WEEK: TALES FROM THE CRYPT/ VAULT OF HORROR (Scream Factory!/Shout! Factory)
Years before the HBO series, producers Max Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky’s Amicus Films unleashed a pair of bigscreen anthology shockers based on the popular EC Comics series’ “” both adapted by Subotsky and boasting starstudded casts.
1972’s Tales from the Crypt (directed by Freddie Francis) and 1973’s Vault of Horror (directed by Roy Ward Baker) share the same basic structure: Five characters find themselves in either the Crypt or the Vault and must revisit the circumstances and deeds that brought them there. At heart, each story is a morality tale, with the pivotal character duly punished for moral transgressions, often by supernatural or otherworldly means.
Ralph Richardson adds class as the Crypt Keeper in Tales, which features Peter Cushing, Joan Collins, Richard Todd, Sylvia Sims, Ian Hendry, Patrick Magee, Richard Greene and Nigel Patrick. Vault dispenses with the Crypt Keeper but offers Denholm Elliott, Curt Jurgens, Terry-Thomas, Glynis Johns, Tom Baker, Edward Judd and real-life siblings Daniel and Anna Massey. Typically, some stories are more effective than others, but the nice thing about anthologies is that another tale of terror is right around the corner “¦ Tales from the Crypt is the better film, but both are wicked fun for horror buffs. The new Blu-ray double feature retails for $24.97. Both films:
BLACK SUNDAY (Kino Classics/ Kino Lorber): The Blu-ray debut ($19.95 retail) of the US-release version of Mario Bava’s first (and best-known) feature, the atmospheric 1960 Gothic shocker starring Barbara Steele in a dual role as a witch burned at the stake 200 years before and her descendant, a princess whose identity she takes to exact her revenge. Also known as The Mask of Satan and Revenge of the Vampire, American distributor AIP (American International Pictures) edited certain scenes, redubbed all voices (including Steele’s), and replaced the original score with Les Baxter’s. Nevertheless, this is the version that first brought the film “” and its director and leading lady “” enduring cult status.
BROTHERHOOD OF BLADES (Well Go USA Entertainment): Director Lu Yang’s award-winning 19th-century martial-arts thriller (originally titled Xiu Chun Dao), starring Chang Chen, Wang Qianyuan and Ethan Li as Imperial Guardsmen assigned to track down and kill a fugitive (Chin Shi-chieh) and his followers. In Mandarin with English subtitles. The DVD retails for $24.98; the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“THE FEARMAKERS” (Alpha Home Entertainment): Subtitled “Masters of Terror and Suspense,” this 2007 documentary series was narrated by John Mc- Carty, based on his 1994 book The Fearmakers, profiling filmmakers of note in fantasy, sci-fi and horror cinema. “Volume 1″ features Robert Wise, Tod Browning, Jacques Tourneur, William Castle, Jack Arnold, Roger Corman and Roland West. “Volume 2″ features John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Terence Fisher, Dario Argento, Stuart Gordon and Roman Polanski. Each DVD volume retails for $7.98.
“HORROR FROM HELL DOUBLE FEATURE” (Alpha Home Entertainment): An aptly-named DVD twin-bill ($7.98 retail) of low-rent sci-fi schlock: James Craig plays an obsessed NASA scientist who creates a gigantic Venus flytrap (a guy in a big rubber suit) while on sabbatical in Japan in 1970’s Revenge of the Venus Flytrap (also known as Body of the Prey and simply Venus Flytrap), based on an old Edward D. Wood Jr. script; and Larry Buchanan’s In the Year 2889 (1967), an uncredited remake of The Day the World Ended (1956) starring “Donna Reed Show” juvenile Paul Petersen. Few scares but lots of unintentional laughs. Both films:
IN THE LAND OF THE HEAD HUNTERS (Milestone Films/Oscilloscope Laboratories): In 1914, photographerturned-filmmaker Edward S. Curtis made cinema history with one of the very first feature films, a silent melodrama that explored the culture of the Native American Kwakwaka’wakw (Kwakiutl) tribe of British Columbia, populated entirely by real-life members of the tribe. It was the first feature filmed in British Columbia and the oldest surviving Canadian film on record. Newly restored for its 100 th birthday, the DVD ($29.95 retail) and Blu-ray ($39.95 retail) both include the film, the 1973 version (retitled In the Land of the War Canoes), retrospective documentaries, audio commentary and more.
LESS THAN THE DUST (Alpha Home Entertainment): Mary Pickford produced and stars in this 1916 silent feature, as an Englishwoman abandoned at birth in India who returns to claim her birthright. The DVD retails for $7.98. THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (RaroVideo/Kino Lorber): Barbara Steele essays a dual role in Antonio Margheriti’s atmo spheric 1964 chiller set in an accursed 15th-century German village, originally titled I Lunghi Capelli della Morte. Steele is striking as always but doesn’t have all that much to do. Margheriti adopted his usual American pseudonym, Anthony M. Dawson. The new transfer is a knockout, however. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95.
“MARIE’S MIND FOR MURDER”: SET ONE (MHz Networks): A five-DVD collection ($39.95 retail) of the first 10 feature-length TV movies (2008-12) detailing the cases undertaken by the titular homicide detective (Mariele Millowitsch) and her ongoing partnership with a womanizing older inspector (Hinnerk Schonemann). In German with English subtitles.
NIGHTMARE WORLD (Alpha New Cinema): A trio of avant-garde shorts made by Philadelphia underground filmmaker Ted Knighton, each dealing with parallels between insects and humans: In (2009), Six Insects (1999) and Testing (2005). It’s not for all tastes, but it’s undeniably different and there are major cult potential.
SLAUGHTER HOTEL (RaroVideo/ Kino Lorber): It’s not a hotel at all but an asylum, replete with medieval instruments of torture and apparently designed for troubled, gorgeous women (including Rosalba Neri and Margaret Lee), that provides the setting for Fernando Di Leo’s 1971 stylish giallo shocker (originally titled La Bestia Uccidea Sangue Freddo), wherein a masked killer stalks patients and staff alike. Because Klaus Kinski plays the doctor in charge, you know strange doings are in the offing, though he’s fairly restrained here. One thing’s for sure: this film has never looked better. The DVD retails for $24.95; the Blu-ray for $29.95.
TRAFFICKERS (Well Go USA Entertainment): Kim Hong-sun’s awardwinning, Korean-language directorial debut (originally titled Gong-mo-ja-deul) takes place aboard a ship where a blackmarket organ-trafficking ring preys on passengers. The DVD retails for $24.98; the Blu-ray for $29.98.
“UNDER THE DOME”: SEASON 2 (CBS DVD/Paramount): Executive producers Steven Spielberg and Stephen King offer a terror-filled take on small-town Americana (based on King’s obligatory best-seller), as a mysterious transparent dome descends upon a small town, with the residents battling for their lives. The ensemble cast includes Dean Norris, Rachelle Lefevre, Aisha Hinds, Mike Vogel, Natalie Martinez and Britt Robertson. All 13 episodes from the 2014 season of the award-winning CBS series, plus special features, are available on DVD ($65.99 retail) and Blu-ray ($76.99 retail).
VAMPIRA: THE MOVIE (Alpha New Cinema): Nostalgia buffs should enjoy producer/director Kevin Sean Michaels’ 2006 documentary focusing on the life and career of the actress, horror hostess and cult queen born Maila Nurmi (1922-2008), as told by Nurmi herself “” though Forrest J. Ackerman, Lloyd Kaufman, Sid Haig, Debbie Rochon and Cassandra Peterson (“Elvira”) occasionally get a few words in, too.
MARK BURGER can be heard Friday mornings on the “Two Guys Named Chris” radio show on Rock-92. ‘© 2015, Mark Burger.