October 01, 2006

Halloween Thrills

by Jeremy Lassen

Hello movie fans.  It’s October!  Time to get your Halloween on!  Leading the pack are several new episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror.  Jenifer, directed by Dario Argento is a fun little bit of twisted Italian horror cinema.  But the real piece de resistance from Masters of Horror is the episode that Showtime refused to air.  It was directed by Takashi Miike, and called Imprint.  Remember when I mentioned him last month?  Well, this episode was a bit too controversial for Showtime, so it never aired, but it is here now on DVD, and it is really pretty intense, and at the same time smart and engaging.

Other films to fill out your October chills include the just-arrived Lady Vengeance, from Korea.  It’s the final movie in the “Vengeance” trilogy from South Korean maestro Park Chan-wook (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Old Boy).  Another trilogy of hardcore terror from Asia which has just arrived as a three disk set is the “All Night Long” collection.  Japanese grindhouse-esque films reached a peak with this series of films, including the title movie, Atrocity, and The Final Chapter. Rape, revenge, mutilation, etc.

For some Japanese horror that's a little less on the hardcore gruesome/wet/gory side, but still pretty scary and intense, check out The Tomie Collection:  based on a popular manga about a murderous humanoid creature that goes undercover as a beautiful teenage schoolgirl. The new set  presents five films: Tomie (1999), Tomie: Another Face (1999), Tomie: Replay (2000), Tomie: Rebirth (2001), And Tomie: Forbidden Fruit (2002).

Moving away from Asia, Boris Karloff comes to the Universal “Franchise” series with a five movie set:  "Night Key"(1937), "Tower of London" (1939), "The Climax" (1944), "The Strange Door" (1951), and "The Black Castle" (1952).  Unlike most of the B films and poverty row flicks that have appeared as public domain disks, this set shows Karloff in some of his best performances.  It’s also the perfect companion to the Universal Franchise collection of Bela Lugosi (also a five movie set) that came out earlier this year.

If you want a classy ghost story, be sure to check out Guillermo “Hell Boy” del Toro’s Spanish language thriller called The Devil’s Backbone.  This one is set during the Spanish Civil War, and forms a thematic prequel to his forthcoming movie, Pan’s Labyrinth.

Another brilliant movie that just came out on DVD is Richard Stanley’s Dust Devil.  This is from the director of Hardware…the director who was kicked off the set of The Island of Doctor Moreau… who showed back up on set in creature prosthetics, just to torment star Val Kilmer, who got him fired in the first place.  Dust Devil was previously available in an extremely edited version on VHS.  This DVD has two versions of the movie, and three documentaries… One on Nazis and the Holy Grail, another on Voodoo,  and a third on Afghanistan under the Taliban.  I was excited about the movie, because Ralph Stanley’s version of Dust Devil is one of the legendary things that one always hears about but never sees.  But all three of the fairly lengthy documentaries look fascinating.  This 5 disk set should not be missed.

Another good Halloween flick is The Last Broadcast.  This one was billed as a “Blair Witch knock-off” until one realizes it was shot before Blair Witch.  This one focuses on the legend of the Jersey Devil.

I admit, some of the movies I’ve recommended are a bit intense… They might be kind of off-putting to those who like lighter fair.  Well, I’ve got a DVD for you.  It’s a double feature of Escape To Witch Mountain and Return to Witch Mountain. I loved these films as a kid, and still love them.  Fun magical space alien hi jinx for the whole family.

Oh, and last month, George Lucas finally released the ORIGINAL theatrical editions of the Star Wars trilogy on DVD. I guess he got tired of seeing all those Chinese pirate editions of the Laserdisks selling on ebay.  In any event, the new disks contain both the revised versions, and the original theatrical versions of each film:  Star Wars, Empire and Jedi. Good stuff for both the casual Star Wars fan, and for the hard core fan who has been afraid that their Laserdisc player would die before Lucas finally made the originals available on DVD.

Anyway, that should cover most everything.  Next month I’ll have a big round of science fiction and anime films.

Till then, keep watching the DVD’s.

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