September 01, 2009

Notes from a DVD Geek

by Jeremy Lassen

September is upon us and I've got new DVDs to recommend.  Please ignore all the new Michael Jackson DVDs hitting the shelves and go directly to the SF/Fantasy/Horror section.

First up is the complete series of the manga-turned-anime "Ah! My Goddess". Our protagonist is a college student with a hot girlfriend who is really a goddess, and doesn't know how to behave amongst humans.  Hijinx ensue, and this new 6-disk collection of the series is the best way to enjoy all the hijinx.

For all you people out there who have been holding off on buying John Carpenter movies, I have to ask:  "What is wrong with you?"  But if you HAVE been holding out,  now is your chance to buy a quadruple feature of some of his best (and one of his worst) movies.  Universal is putting out "John Carpenter: Master of Fear".  It contains "The Thing","Prince of Darkness","Village of the Damned", and "They Live".  For my money, there is only one clunker in this set, and that's "Village of the Damned". . . but it's got Christopher Reeve and creepy little kids, so I won't complain too much.  This set comes on two disks, so my guess is it's not loaded with extras like some of the JC releases are, but "Prince of Darkness" and "They Live" were pretty bare-boned as single disks, so you probably aren't missing much, and if you don't already own these movies, you probably don't care about the extras anyway.  But if you don't own these movies, this is a great chance to pick up JC on the cheap -- $5 a movie.  And let's face it: everybody reading this should own at least a couple of JC movies. I think there's a rule about that somewhere.

Getting into more quadruple feature action is Turner Classic Movies.  This month they are giving us both a horror and a science fiction set.  The horror set contains "House Of Wax" (1953), "The Haunting" (1963), "Freaks" (1932), and "Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde" (1941).  The science fiction set contains "Forbidden Planet" (1956), "The Time Machine" (1960), "Soylent Green" (1973), and "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968).  These are better-then-average selections for discount box sets, and with a per-movie price of $7, they are a great bargain.

For a classic of a completely different sort, don't miss the 1971 Angela Lansbury/Disney classic "Bedknobs and Broomsticks".  It might not be for everyone, but if you love this movie, this restored, remastered edition has a heaping of extras.  I repeat, don't miss it.

And leaving the realm of classic, and back to the realm of multi-movie sets: the first three Amityville Horror movies are collected together in the "Amityville Horror Collection".  Cheesy 70s/80s haunted house movies, all in one box.   It may not be great cinema, but if the profile of that house ever gave you nightmares, this might be the box set to have in your collection.

Speaking of cheesy movies that have been repackaged:  this month Universal Pictures is FINALLY (they originally announced it as a May title but pulled it) releasing a new edition of "Army of Darkness" (The Screwhead Edition).  Now, you might say that "Army of Darkness" has had a million different editions, and you'd be right.  But EVERY LAST ONE of the Anchor Bay releases of "Army of Darkness" used a really really really bad, grainy, high-compression version of the film.  It looked like crap.  It looked like it was shot on 16mm, and I can tell you. . . I saw this baby in the theater the week it came out, and it looked glorious.

For a long time, the MGM Japanese DVD was THE disk to get if you wanted the best picture quality.  Well, the North American rights reverted back to MGM, and they are releasing this on both DVD and Blue Ray, so the transfer is bound to be the best available.  Now,  the bad news is that it is ONLY the "theatrical cut" on the disk: the "slept until the future" ending is tacked onto the disk as an alternate ending/bonus material.  This is NOT the significantly longer running time "director's cut" that featured the original ending and a bunch of other dialogue and bits that were cut from the North American theatrical edition.  So don't throw away your Anchor Bay Director's Cut DVDs just yet.  But for my money, the theatrical cut was always the tightest/best version of the movie anyway, and I say that as someone who has owned the original dual disk Anchor Bay Theatrical and Director's Cut disks since they were first released. I've watched both versions. . . a lot.  Actually, I have to admit that I even had the laserdisc of "Army of Darkness" for a while too.  Yeah.  I'm a geek on so many levels it hurts.

I'm going to sort my "Evil Dead" disks, and move them into my zombie section, instead of my Bruce Campbell section, while I wait for this new "Army of Darkness" disk. I'll talk to you next month about a bunch of Halloween releases, and more stuff, I'm sure.

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