Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Another 42nd Street Forever DVD just came out, and it's just as good as the last. Over 50 movie trailers from the 70's and 80's of films, most of which, have yet to see proper DVD release. And as last time, you get commentaries loaded with trivia about individual movies. This time AVMANIACS Editor Edwin Samualson is joined by Fangoria's managing editor Michael Gingold. The folks at Synapse films are truly doing a public service. I'm still amazed so many films aren't available on DVD. These guys are too. And though they wouldn't be thrilled if Americathon ever came out, I know I sure would be.

The folks at the now defunct BCI Entertainment were also doing quite the public service as well. Having provided DELUXE reissues of genre obscurities for a few years, it seems the poor economy has hit them so hard they have gone out of business. From Mexican and Spanish horrors to Martial Arts and forgotten B-movies to obscure TV show compilations, I'm hoping someone can pick up the ball where BCI has dropped it. A few of the final releases, which kinda don't even exist, yet somehow showed up anyway, includes the fourth volume of the Drive-In Classics series. As usual it contains 8 1970's drive-in classics for around ten bucks. This one has "The Van" starring Danny Devito, Chain Gang Women (from the director of The Thing with Two Heads!), and the Young Graduates (starring a sexy Bruno Kirby!). The final release I was most excited to see was of obscure (naturally) early 70's enviro-horror film STANLEY. The story of Vietnam vet/Seminole Indian Tim (Chris Robinson from General Hospital)living and raising snakes in the Florida everglades. Tim's being done wrong by some carpetbaggers itching to get ahold of his daddies land and the snakes that live there. Yes, it is Willard with snakes. Done as deluxe as needs to be, this has loads of commentaries and documentaries with and about most of the main people involved in making it. The only person missing is lead bad-guy Alex Rocco, though he's covered with a story about how Stanley opened in theaters the same day as The Godfather and that Alex was in both. You'll all remember him as Moe Greene, who is famously shot in the eye. Or you may remember him as Jo's father on Facts of Life. You'll certainly NOT remember him from George Carlin's 1994 sitcom, The George Carlin Show. Throughout the late 70's/early 80's Stanley showed up here in Chicago on the late show on channel 7 and I seemed to have seen it each time. I remember it so well, though it's not just because I saw it a handful of times in my youth, but because it was one of the few horror films/b-movies Gene Siskel actually reviewed in his column. Ya see, back in junior high, I'd spend hours going through old issues of the Chicago Tribune at the Library looking for movie reviews of films of interest, and Stanley was one of the few. And Gene Siskel even kinda liked it! A two and a half star review isn't a rave, but when it came to "those kind of films", it really stood out. Siskel was most taken with the "death by quicksand" scene, and I concur.
Since Stanley came out, it has taken a lot of grief for showing the apparent mutilation of scores of snakes. It sure looks like understandable outrage once you see the film, BUT according to Star Chris Robinson, he remembers using nothing but rubber snakes or already dead ones for those scenes. It's the story of how they made the live snakes docile that offends me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

2008. Not just another 2007.

I'm stickin' with DVD's as my favorite things of 2008. My list of music will probably just make me seem old (Lindsey Buckingham) or common place (Ting Tings) or just plain weird (Sixpence None the Richer "Dawn of Grace", Vincent Price "Master of the Macabre"), so, I'm sticking with DVD's.

2008 finally convinced me that everything and anything will eventually be legally ownable, and nothing convinced me more than the appearance of the Complete Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show on DVD. A short-lived Saturday morning show from my childhood, the Hudsons sang Beatle-esque pop in between corny sketches. Featuring a cast that included something that I still find the most amusing aspect of the show, Rod Hull and his Emu. Yes, he's a ventriliquist, but more than that, he was freakin' funny. as opposed to most of the humor on display. As an artifact of a time when garish colors and corny jokes ruled the television airwaves this is a time-capsule. Most viewers not already exposed to this show may (will) grow bored by episode 3 or 4. The uninitiated would be better off watching in small doses. As most of the shows are kinda same-y, yet different. In all honesty, marathon viewing is not recommended for anyone. From what I remember, the Hudson's follow up show Bonkers!, which showed in Chicago after Second City TV (it wasn't SCTV yet) at 12:30AM Sunday mornings, was a much less kid friendly (i.e adult) show that ran it's course even quicker than this show. I guess I'll never say never about that showing up on disc either. I'll report back to you next year if it does.

In 1993 Yugoslavian Director Emir Kusturica was given a huge budget, as much time as he needed (reportedly over a year, during which time he had a nervous breakdown) and a great cast to make a film. Arizona Dream is that film.
A 142 minute surrealistic ballet is what he handed back to Warner Brothers. Understandably, a major studio has no idea how to market such a thing, so they cut 20 minutes and released it straight to video where it was loudly ignored. Well, flash-forward to 2008 and it's still being ignored. Though available for many years, from many countries, with various extra's, 2008 saw a DVD that can finally be played in US DVD players, at a reasonable price. And though it has no extra's, it IS the 142 minute Directors Cut. I was going to list a collection of sights and journey's that this movie takes you through, but I think Roger Ebert put it best in his summation - "Here is a movie containing wonderful sights. Ambulances to the moon. Unsuccessful suicide by bungee cord. Johnny Depp. A dog saving a man from death in the Arctic. Faye Dunaway. Turtles crawling through meatballs. Jerry Lewis. A man who counts fish. Paulina Porizkova. Airplanes that look like they were borrowed from "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines." Michael J. Pollard. Thunderstorms." Yep, that just about sums it up. You'll either love it or hate it, but it will challenge you to take a stand one way or the other like movies rarely do.

Other DVD's I most appreciated seeing the lens of my player:
Talk Talk "Live at Montreux".
The Oh-my-God they finally got it right Ray Harryhausen reissues, particularly The 7th Voyage of Sinbad,
James Cagney chewing right through the celluloid in Man of A Thousand Faces,
And I can't forget A Colbert Christmas. You'll laugh, you'll cry. It truly was "The Greatest Gift of All".