Wednesday, January 30, 2019

WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA, VOLUME TWO (1962-1964) (Indicator Blu-ray Review)


Synopsis: Renowned for his imaginative and eccentric marketing ploys, William Castle became synonymous with delivering lurid horror films backed-up by his trademark publicity gimmicks (‘Illusion-O’; ‘Percepto’; the ‘Punishment Poll’; ‘Fright Breaks’, etc.). WILLIAM CASTLE AT COLUMBIA VOLUME TWO features four more weird and wonderful films from the outrageous showman’s illustrious career with Columbia Pictures, all presented on Blu-ray for the very first time in the UK. Containing a wealth of new and archival extras this stunning Limited Edition Blu-ray Box Set from Indicator is strictly limited to 6,000 units.

ZOTZ! (1962) 

Label: Indicator 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 85 Minutes 
Rating: Cert.12
Audio: English LPCM Mono 1.0 with Optional English Subtitles 
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: William Castle
Cast: Tom Poston, Julia Meade, Jim Backus, Fred Clark, Cecil Kellaway

When a straight-laced but oddball Ancient Eastern languages professor named Jonathan Jones (Tom Poston, The Old Dark House) finds himself in possession of an ancient coin with magical powers, he discovers that wielding it properly gives him the power to annoy or straight-up kill anyone he points his finger it by simply uttering the magic phrase "ZOTZ!".

The offbeat comedy stars future sitcom star Tom Poston (The Bob Newhart Show) as the finger-pointing professor as he tries to keep his job at the university, but his finger-pointing powers prove problematit, allowing his backstabbing peer Horatio Kellgore (Jim Backus, Thurston Howell III from Gilligian's Island!) the leverage he needs to usurp his academic throne. We also have the attractive Professor Virginia Fenster (Julia Meade) who shows as Jones' new collegue (and/or possible replacement), as well as commies and U.S. government agents who are after his incredible ZOTZ-ing power, all adding up to a charming if not-all-together amazing comedy. 

There's some fun use of slow-motion gimmickry at play, a scene of the professor jumping off a building and using his newfound powers as he plummets several stories to the ground is a highlight, as is a slow-motion toast given by Professor Kellgore, fun stuff, but largely forgettable. There's no real gimmick on display here, just a load of slapstick humor via improbable star Tom Poston. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary by Diabolique Magazine’s editor-in-chief Kat Ellinger 
- Introduction By Stephen Laws (6 min) HD 
- The Horror Of It All: Kim Newman on Ray Russell (2018): an appreciation of novelist and writer of Zotz! by the critic and author of Nightmare Movies (24 min) HD 
- Isolated Music & Effects Track
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) HD 
- Image Gallery (60 Images) HD 


Label: Indicator 
Region Code: Region-FREE
Duration: 88 Minutes
Rating: Cert.12
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: William Castle
Cast: Murray Hamilton, Joyce Taylor, Hugh Marlowe, Khigh Dhiegh, Charlie Briggs, Norma Varden

Next up is a fun Cold War era espionage thriller set at a Swiss boarding school attended by the daughters of various international diplomats. Candace "Candy" Hull (Kathy Dunn) is the daughter of American Diplomat  John Hull (Hugh Marlowe, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers), she has a crush on her an older man named Wally Sanders (Murray Hamilton, the mayor from Jaws!), a spy working for her father. To impress him she begins to do a bit of spying on her own, using her friendship with Mai-Ling (Lynne Sue Moon, To Sit With Love), the niece of a Red Chinese diplomat, to uncover secrets.Turns out the teen has quite a knack for espionage, and uncovers the murder of a Russian diplomat and is now caught up in a cat and mouse game of espionage and teen romance, and while it is not horror it it a lot of fun, this one feels very much along the lines of an old live-action Disney film from the 60s.  

The gimmick this time out is not some hokey visual process, but some pre-filming publicity by way of a contest, a casting call for thirteen girls from thirteen different countries to reprsent their own country in a starring role in the film. 

Special Features: 
- Audio Commentary with San Deighman
- Introduction By Stephen Laws (10 min) 
- William Castle 'Danger Card' Messages (1 min) HD 
- Alternative Opening Scenes: British (4 min) HD, German (4 min) HD, Swedish (4 min) HD, French (4 min) HD 
- Isolated Music ∧ Effects Track
- British Trailer Introduction (1 min) HD 
- 13 Frightened Girls Trailer (2 min) HD 
- The Candy Web Trailer (2 min) HD 
- Image Gallery (22 Images)


Label: Indicator
Region Code: Region-Free
Duration: 86 Minutes 
Rating: Cert. 12
Audio: English LPCM 1.0 Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080P HD Widescreen (1.85:1)
Director: William Castle 
Cast: : Tom Poston, Robert Morley, Janette Scott, Joyce Grenfell, Mervyn Jones, Fenella Fielding

The third film on this set is an adaptation of a J. B. Priestley novel which was previously adapted by James Whale (Frankenstein) in the 30s. we begin with an American car salesman Tom Penderel (Tom Poston, ZOTZ!) delivering a new car to Casper Femm (Peter Bull, Dr. Strangelove) at the the Femm family home located in a very rural area. Pulling up to the gate of the him during a torrential down pour a gargoyle falls onto the hood of the car, destroying the engine and stranding the aloof Penderel at the Fenn Family home. 

Once inside he meets the eccentric Femm family, who announce that Casper Femm has dies following an accidental fall down the stairs, but something more seems to be happening at the home, something murderous. From here we are treated to a macabre comedy of murder as one by one the inhabitants of the home fall prey to a killer, once again, inheritance seems to be the motive. This is a Hammer co-production and it certainly has a British feel about it, the comedic and macabre slapstick tone strongly reminded me of the Price-Lorre-Karloff classic The Comedy of Terrors (1964), this was a hoot and a ton of fun, if not a faithful telling of the original story.  

Special Features: 
- Alternative presentations of The Old Dark House – the black and white 1963 US theatrical presentation (87 mins); the cut-down A-certificate 1966 UK presentation (77 mins); and the complete uncut colour presentation (87 mins)
- Audio Commentary by celebrated horror and fantasy authors Kim Newman and Stephen Jones  
- Not Too Spooky: Jonathan Rigby on ‘The Old Dark House’ by the author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema (29 min) HD 
- House and Castle: Paul Frith, Senior Research Associate, School of Art, Media and American Studies at UEA discusses the film's cinematography (7 min) 
- Isolated Music & Effects Track 
- Theatrical Trailer (3 min) 
- Stills, Lobby Cards and Posters (68 Images) 
- Press Books and Promotional Materials (70 Images) 


Label: Indicator 
Region Code: B
Rating: Cert.12
Duration: 93 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Mono with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (1.79:1)
Director: William Castle 
Cast: Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, Leif Erickson, Howard St. John, John Anthony Hayes, Rochelle Hudson, George Kennedy, Lee Majors 

When Lucy Harbin (screen legend Joan Crawford, I Know What You Did) catches her younger hubby (Lee Major, TVs The Six Million Dollar Man) in bed with the town hussy she loses it, taking an ax to him and his lover while they sleep, chopping their heads off right in front of her three-year old daughter Carol! For her heinous crime she's locked away at an asylum for the criminally insane, and is released 20-years later, moving in with her now adult daughter Carol (Diane Baker, the senator from The Silence of the Lambs) who has since been raised by Lucy's brother and his kindly wife on their rural farm. At first dear old mom is a bit meek and fragile, a shadow of her former ax-swinging self, but after a mother-daughter day of shopping and having a few drinks Lucy begins to act a bit too much like her younger self, hardly able to keep her hands off of her daughters handsome boyfriend Michael. Crawford is wonderfully campy as she shamelessly flirts with the young man, sticking her fingers right in his mouth! Not long after the doctor who cared for her at the asylum arrives unexpectedly to check-in on her well-being and soon after the heads begin to roll as an ax-murderer rums amok on the farm.

Strait-Jacket offers the best of both worlds, a bit of the William Castle shock and schlock and some of Crawford's tasty, overwrought late-career campiness, a prime example of the psycho-biddy films, which are also unkindly dubbed hag-sploitation, which I am sure would have made Crawford's waddle crawl. There's loads of thrills to be had here, aside from Crawford vamping it up, the ax-murders are surprisingly graphic for the era, there are decapitated heads a plenty in this film.

This film marked the debut of Lee Majors who is almost unrecognizable as the short-lived Lothario, as is George Kennedy (Death Ship) as the greasy and impossibly thin hired hand on the farm. Notably the film was penned by Psycho writer Robert Bloch, and there are some similarities to the stories, the most obvious being some serious mother issues throughout. Another nice touch is that the Torch Lady from the Columbia Pictures logo is decapitated at the start of the film, and the opening credits play over some truly surreal/gruesome paintings, a great way to start off this overwrought shocker! 

Special Features: 
- Strait-Jacket audio commentary film historians Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood
- Jonathan Rigby on  ‘Strait-Jacket’ (2018): new appreciations by the author of American Gothic: Six Decades of Classic Horror Cinema 
- Joan Had Me Fired! (2018): an interview with actor Anne Helm 
- On the Road with Joan Crawford (2018): an interview with publicist Richard Kahn 
- Battle-Axe: The Making of 'Strait-Jacket' (15 mins) 
- Joan Crawford Wardrobe Tests (4 mins) 
- Joan Crawford - Axe Test (1964, 1 min) 
- How to Plan a Movie Murder (1964, 5 mins): star Joan Crawford, director William Castle and author Robert Bloch discuss making Strait-Jacket in this vintage piece 
- Super 8 version of Strait-Jacket 
- Strait-Jacket trailer commentary with David DeCoteau 

William Castle At Colombia, Volume Two, like the first set from Indicator, is a pure delight, a lavish set that is absolutely extras loaded with gorgeous transfers for each film! This set is a continuing love letter to the master of gimmicky horror thrillers from Indicator, Castle was a showman of the highest order, and lovers of his films should be falling over themselves to own these sets, this is about as essential as it gets for b-movie film fans.