Friday, December 13, 2013

HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS PT.1: SCREAM FACTORY DVD/BLU-RAY MULTI-PACKS

With Christmas just a few weeks away - and if you are anything like me - you probably haven't put much of any thought into what to get your wife or girlfriend. Well, unless your wife or significant other loves horror movies I have nothing to offer you, nothing at all. I have a wife and two daughters and I don't pretend to understand women or what they want, so sorry in advance. 

However, if you happen to be blessed with a loved one or friend who enjoys horror movies I do have some great ideas for some fun stocking-stuffers from Shout! Factory horror imprint Scream Factory with varying price points. Depending on just how good they were will ultimately decide what you stuff in that stocking of theirs.



THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION
4-Disc Blu-ray Set 

Let's begin with one of my favorite releases this year from Scream Factory, the 4-disc Blu-ray set THE VINCENT PRICE COLLECTION. This expansive set brings six Vincent Price classics to Blu-ray for the first-time. We have four of the Roger Corman productions including three Edgar Allen Poe tales and a H.P. Lovecraft adaptation, this is definitely some of Corman's finest work with lavish sets and gorgeous period settings steeped in macabre atmosphere, complete with crumbling Victorian castles, secret passageways, cobwebbed torture chambers, haunting specters and matte paintings drenched in layers spooky fog, this is fun stuff. My favorite of the the four Corman produced films would have to be The Pit and The Pendulum (1961) with it's awesome psychedelic opening credits and fog shrouded seaside castle, Price is a haunted man driven to madness by a childhood trauma and the premature death of his beloved wife, played by the ethereal beauty Barbara Steele (Nightmare Castle) who appears only briefly but her presence is felt throughout - it's fantastic stuff with a trippy Les Baxter score. Away from the Edgar Allen Poe adaptations we also have the Lovecraft adaptation The Haunted Castle (1963) featuring Price in a dual role and Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolfman) as his sinister minion in one of his last great roles.

Michael Reeves' Witchfinder General (1968) stands as one of the great witchcraft films of the late 60's and early 70's if not of all time in my opinion, an unflinching testament to the depraved nature of man and the terrors of religious persecution featuring a rather reigned-in performance from Vincent Price who is known for a certain campy theatricality. Here he turns in an intense, steely-eyed performance as the witchfinder Mathew Hopkins, just a fantastic watch. In Robert Fuest's The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) Price is Dr. Phibes, this is a deliciously witty revenger with Price as a demented doc delivering elaborate deaths upon nine victims, a very satirical and fun watch with set fun pieces and elaborate death sequences, a macabre piece of comedy with a distinct Phantom of the Opera flavor and House of Wax ending.

The four Roger Corman films are doubled-up on two discs while The Abominable Dr. Phibes and Witchfinder General each receiving their own disc. The 1080p transfers look wonderful with Phibes and Witchfinder looking the best of the bunch, each with a nice natural layer of film grain and vibrant colors, there's some very minor print damage on occasion but the 1080p upgrade is pretty sweet, lets hope Scream factory do well with this set and The Vincent Price Collection Vol. 2 is on the way, would love to see a set with The Oblong Box (1969), Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972), Theatre of Blood (1973), Madhouse (1974) and The Tingler (1959)!



Onto the special features we have audio commentaries for the films, sometimes multiple tracks for each film,  plus vintage Vincent Price video intros and outros for each which were recorded for a TV broadcast, they're great. Plenty of interviews from director Roger Corman, Vincent Price, Victoria Price, a few documentaries, extensive picture galleries and trailers galore including a fun extended Vincent Price trailer reel. There's also a 24 pg. color booklet with writings on the film from David Del Valle which includes a ton of pictures and poster art for all the films, this is a great edition. 

SPECIAL FEATURES: 


FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER (1960)
- Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price (6:57)
- Audio Commentary with Roger Corman
- Vincent Price Retrospective Commentary with author Lucy Chase Williams featuring Piotr Michael as the voice of Vincent Price
- Audio interview with Vincent Price by historian David Del Valle (41:05)
-Theatrical Trailer (3:32)
- Still Gallery

THE HAUNTED PALACE (1963)
- Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price (3:47)
- Audio Commentary by author Lucy Chase Williams (The Complete Films of Vincent Price) and Richard Heft
- Audio Commentary by author Tom Weaver
- A Change of Poe- an interview with director Roger Corman (11:15)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:13)
- Still Gallery (3:37)

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH (1961)
- Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price (3:59)
- Audio Commentary by author Steve Haberman (Silent Screams: The History of the Silent Horror Film)
- Interview with Roger Corman (18:52)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:12)
- Still Gallery (4:27)

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)
- Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price (5:06)
- Rare Prologue (5:09) HD
- Audio Commentary with Roger Corman
- Theatrical Trailer (2:28) HD
- Still Gallery (3:57) HD

WITCHFINDER GENERAL (1968)
- Vintage and rare Introduction and final words from Vincent Price (4:59)
- Audio Commentary with producer Philip Waddilove and actor Ian Ogilvy
- Witchfinder General: Michael Reeves’ Horror Classic
- Vintage Interview with Vincent Price conducted by film historian David Del Valle (1987) (1:02:11)
- Vincent and Victoria: an Interview with Victoria Price (47:17) 
- Alternate Opening (5:52)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:06)
- Additional Vincent Price Theatrical Trailers (18:00)
- Still Gallery (6:57)

THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES (1971)
- Audio Commentary with director Robert Fuest
- Audio Commentary with author Justin Humphreys (Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget)
- Introductory Price: Undertaking “The Vincent Price Gothic Horrors” (13:17)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:34)
- Still Gallery (8:7)


THE AMITYVILLE HORROR TRILOGY
3-Disc set 

Next up is THE AMITYVILLE HORROR COLLECTION 3-Disc set featuring the ONLY Amityville sequels you NEED to see, everything else is pretty wretched. We get the first classic entry, the one that scared the shit out of me as a kid watching it on TV - the eyes outside the window sent me running for my mom, no kidding. James Brolin as the posessed father is chilling and Rod steiger's unhinged performance is the cherry on top of this haunting classic.


Up next we have the prequel Amityville II: The Posession (1982) directed by Italian Damiano Damiani and it's a funhouse chiller for sure. Love the prequel premise and Burt Young as the abusive and overbearing Italian father is great, plus we have some weird incestuous tones going on here, weird stuff. A real ghostly atmosphere and demented sense of perversion saturates the film - it's pretty sleazy, plus we have the deaths of children, shocking stuff. Fittingly directed by an Italian the film sort of feels like one of the Exorcist knock-offs the boot-shaped country were so fond of at the time, but I love it and actually enjoy it more than the first entry.


The third entry Amityville 3-D (1983) is most certainly not a good movie but it's goddamn entertaining right from the start! Paranormal investigators Melanie and John (Candy Clark, Tony Roberts) expose a pair of con artists during a seance at the now empty Amityville house, it's a great set-up and the reveal and ensuing confrontation are great. Afterward the Realtor explains to John that he just cannot sell the house enabling John, a true skeptic, to purchase the infamous house for a song. He moves in with his daughter and things just start going wrong all around him though he is blind until tragedy strikes close to home. Because this was a staple on cable TV in the 80's I've seen it more than any other entry, trust me it's not a good film, but I just love it and some of the effects are pretty great including a bizarre car incineration and a demon that appears in the last few minutes, just crazy town fun. As was the craze at the time (Friday the 13th 3D, Jaws 3D) this was shot in 3D and Scream Factory have given this disc a Blu-ray 3D option for those with 3D TV's. 



The disc look and sound great on 1080p Blu-ray, with the exception of Amityville 3-D which has an softness and an odd red and blue shading anomaly which I suspect comes from the 3D process. The three discs are housed in a slipcase, it's a very nice presentation. Special features audio commentaries on the first two films, a vintage documentary with James Brolin and Margo Kidder, an interview with director Damiano Damiani plus new interviews with actors Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Candy Clark and Rutanya Alda and plus ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzera plus a selection of trailers and radio spots.
SPECIAL FEATURES:

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (1979)
- New interview - Haunted Melodies with Composer Lalo Schifrin
- "For God's Sake, Get Out!" Documentary with actors James Brolin and Margot Kidder
- Audio Commentary by Dr. Hans Holzer, PH.D. in Parapsychology (author of MURDER IN AMITYVILLE)
- Original Theatrical Trailer
- TV Spot
- Radio Spots



AMITYVILLE II: THE POSESSION (1982) 
- The Posession of Damiani - Interview with Director Damiano Damiani
- Adapting Amityville – New Interview with Screenwriter Tommy Lee Wallace
- Family Matters – New Interview with Actress Diane Franklin
- A Mother’s Burden – New Interview with Actress Rutanya Alda
- Father Tom’s Memories – New Interview with Actor Andrew Prine
- New Interview with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer (GROWING UP HAUNTED: A GHOSTLY MEMOIR)
- New Audio Commentary with ghost hunter/author Alexandra Holzer (GROWING UP HAUNTED: A GHOSTLY MEMOIR)
- Original Theatrical Trailer



AMITYVILLE 3-D (1983) 
- 2D and Blu-ray 3D presentation of the film for the first time!
- A Chilly Reception – New Interview with Actress Candy Clark (9:46)
- Original Theatrical Trailer (1:32) 


This set would be a great gift for fans of more contemporary chillers like Insidious(2010), Paranormal Activity (2007) and The Conjuring (2013), I think they're gonna love this set.  


My last recommendations are the 2-disc multi-packs from Scream Factory, the ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON sets bringing some b-movie obscurities to DVD, some for the very first-time ever. Vol. 1 includes the Debbie Reynolds/Shelly Winters shocker What's the Matter with Helen? (1971) which has been previously issued on MGM's Midnite Movies Double Feature series alongside Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972). The other three are brand-new to DVD beginning with the The Godsend (1981) which is a spooky Omen-esque chiller, it's pretty decent.The standout selection on this disc for me was The Vagarant (1992), a quirky psychological comedy starring Bill Paxton (Frailty) as suck-up yuppie who's world is turned upside down my a crazed vagrant (Marshall Bell) living in his neighborhood, Michael Ironside (Scanners) also appears as a skeptical cop, this was weird and wonderful stuff. The last film on the set is The Outing (1987) which is actually a re-edited version of a film called The Lamp (1987) and it concerns a group of teens trapped at the museum being menaced by a magic gene in a lamp, a pretty funny 80's horror-comedy with some great cheesy special effects, not a great film but definitely fun. 


ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON Vol. 2 is my favorite - watching these Empire Pictures produced b-movie grinders reminded me of going to the VHS shop as a kid with my Dad and renting a half dozen horrors based on the exploitative artwork and spending the weekend re-watching them over and over again and loving every damn minute of it.  


First up is a sweet sci-fi actioner The Dungeonmaster (1985) seven different directors anthology style, we have seven segments directed by Dave Allen (Puppet Master II), Charles Band (Trancers), John Carl Buechler (Troll) ,Steven Ford, Peter Manoogian (Seedpeople), Ted Nicolaou (Subspecies), and Rosemarie Turko. A nerdy computer programmer and his girlfriend are whisked away to a nightmarish world by a demonic sorcerer named Mastema (Richard Moll, Nighttrain to Terror) who puts the geek through a series of contests, the nerd is assisted in these challenged by his trusty computer X-CaliBR8... it's weird and horribly dated, but pretty awesome, totally 80's and a lot of b-movie fun, I loved David Allen's segment "Stone Canyon" with some great Harryhausen styled stop-motion animation, this version includes pre-credit dream sequence missing from the Lightning Video VHS with some sweet nudity and bizarre nightmarish imagery plus we get an appearance from metal band W.A.S.P. in all their 80's glory!

Next is John Carl Beuchler's Cellar Dweller (1988), when an aspiring artists named Whitney Taylor (Deborah Farentino, TV's Eureka) attends an art academy where years earlier a famous comic artists (Jeffrey Combs, From Beyond) was burned alive her artwork threatens to unleash a demonic presence. You know with John Buechler at the helm we're gonna get some sweet gore, plus we get an appearance from Yvonne De Carlo, Lily Munster herself! Sadly, Jeffery Combs is relegated to the pre-credit sequence, but the guy always classes up a b-movie with his presence. 

Contamination .7 (1993) comes to us from Italian schlock master Joe D'Amato (Anthropophagus) and is also known as Troll 3 in various territories,  but it has absolutely nothing to do with Troll (1986) or it's infamous sequel Troll 2 (1990) other that it's just as ridiculous the acting is across the board awful - there's not one decent performance in the bunch! Radioactive waste is turning trees in man-eating plants - watch out! A real stinker that should be a riot for lovers of bad cinema, you've been warned.

Director David Schmoeller (Tourist Trap, Puppet Master) should be a familiar name for fans of Full
Moon horror, this one revolves around the Abbey of San Pietro where a demonic presence was buried in the catacombs of the cemetery 400 ears ago but when a cute red-headed school teacher named Elizabeth Magrino (Laura Schaefer) arrives at the monastery and shakes things up a bit, this was fun stuff and there's a great scene with Christ coming down off the cross that's hard to forget.  Pino Donaggio (The Howling, Blow Out) contributed a fantastic score for this one, too. This is the only film on the set to feature an audio commentary, it's a great listen about a somewhat troubled production but apparently not as difficult as working with Klaus Kinski on Crawlspace (1986) as Schmoeller references several times.  

ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON, VOL.1 
2-Disc Set 

THE GODSEND (1981) 
Synopsis: When a strange woman has her baby at the Marlowe's house, then disappears, Kate Marlowe is forced to keep the baby, Bonnie. She loves the child, but when her own children are systematically killed, suspicion turns to Bonnie.

THE VAGRANT (1992) 
Synopsis: Bill Paxton (Aliens) and Michael Ironside (Scanners) star in this humorous psychological thriller as an ambitious young executive whose life is turned upside-down when a vagrant (Marshall Bell, Starship Troopers) moves into his neighborhood.

THE OUTING (1982) 
Synopsis: An ancient genie is released from a lamp when thieves ransack an old woman's house. They are killed and the lamp is sent to a museum to be studied. The curator's daughter is soon possessed by the genie and invites her friends to spend the night at the museum, along with some uninvited guests.

WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN (1971) 
Synopsis: Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters star in this stylish shocker set in 1930s Hollywood about two women who come to Tinseltown to start an idyllic new life and end up in a terrifying nightmare. Directed by Curtis Harrington (Queen Of Blood, Games), this relentlessly frightening film also stars Dennis Weaver (McCloud).

ALL NIGHT HORROR MARATHON, VOL.2

2-Disc Set


THE DUNGEONMASTER (1985)
Synopsis: Paul, a young computer ace, is forced to pit his physical and mental skills against unimaginable odds when a hulking wizard looking for formidable opponents picks him as his next challenger. Paul faces a series of seven spectacular and death-defying challenges and must survive not only to save his life but that of his girlfriend too.

Special Feature: Trailer 

CELLAR DWELLER (1988) 
Synopsis: The promising career of a horror comic book artist ends in a fiery death when he confronts the carnage of his own imagination in his studio. Years later, an ardent devotee of the artist's work becomes a resident in his house, now an art academy, unaware that her imagination has revived the grotesque murderer of the past…and that she may be the next victim.
CATACOMBS (1993)
Synopsis: For over 400 years, the curse of the Abbey at San Pietro was kept a secret. Buried deep beneath the monastery lies the Beast of the Apocalypse. The power of evil is unleashed when an American priest and a beautiful young schoolteacher uncover the unholy terror of a diabolical spell cast centuries ago. Now, it will take the ultimate sacrifice for the curse that will not be denied.

Special Feature: Audio Commentary with David Schmoeller

CONTAMINATION .7 (1993)
Synopsis: When radioactive waste from a nearby nuclear plant turns the local trees into man-eating plants, a group of determined villagers must fight them to the death.


So there you have it, some great multi-pack gift ideas from Scream Factory, you'd be so lucky if someone gifted any of these sets to you but this is the season for giving - not receiving. Tomorrow I'll have some ideas for maybe those friends and family members who weren't quite so nice as to deserve these prime cuts, we will talking about some affordable Mill Creek Entertainment multi-packs that can be had on a budget...

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