The Black Sleep/Queen of Blood/Daughters Of Satan (1956/66/72 MGM
Limited Edition Collection DVDs)
C+/D/C- Sound: C Extras: C-/D/D Films: B/C/C-
practice of major studios releasing titles on the DVD-R format is not one that
I am particularly fond of, to put it lightly. While it is a blessing to have lesser-known
films released at all, asking consumers to pay 20 dollars each for a product
equivalent to what they would be able to produce from a home computer seems a
bit cruel. Not everyone is as upset by
this as I am, and in all fairness, the presentation of most titles is at least
passable. You must keep in mind,
however, that everything from the quality of the printed artwork down to the
actual look and sound of the film varies greatly between releases, making it
difficult to decide if a particular title is worth the investment.
we'll be looking at three titles from MGM's Limited Edition Collection. First up for inspection is The Black Sleep, from director Reginald
Le Borg. Known best for his time at
Universal, where he directed The Mummy's
Ghost, Jungle Woman, and several
entries in the Inner Sanctum Mystery
series for the studio. The Black Sleep is a throwback to “old dark house” films
of the '30s and '40s. It plays so
convincingly that many viewers would be hard-pressed to accurately date the
film as being from the mid '50s. Only
the advanced age of actors Basil Rathbone, Lugosi, and Chaney Jr. give it away
readily, as the plot and characters are straight out of horror's golden era. Though it doesn't get high marks for
originality, it is an excellent film, and far surpasses my preconceptions of
what I was in store for.
that MGM is the rights holder to at least two of Le Borg's other genre efforts
- Voodoo Island (released on one of
their Midnite Movies Double
Features) and Diary of a Madman
(also a part of the Limited Edition
Collection), the opportunity exists to have these put together in a
collector's set for mass distribution. Five years ago, when the market was booming,
such a set would have been a near inevitability, but the odds of it happening
now remain slim. Nonetheless, I hold out
hope that we might one day see such a collection.
have Queen of Blood, an
American-International picture about the crew of a spacecraft encountering with
an alien vampiress. It, too, features
Basil Rathbone, and shows a young Dennis Hopper in a supporting role. Although slow to develop, the movie builds up
nicely by the end, and its story would later serve as the basis for the
underrated Tobe Hooper film, Lifeforce.
quality of the print used is acceptable, and while there are frequent examples
of scratching, dirt and debris, most of that seems to be confined to long shots
that were borrowed from another film. These
scenes also tend to exhibit a lot of flicker, but I assume that this problem is
the result of a poor transfer job when these pieces were originally placed into
the film. I did spot at least one instance where the frame jumped for a moment
before righting itself, and this is seemingly the fault of the mastering
process, but this is overall a passable job.
we have Daughters of Satan, a United
Artists film starring Tom Selleck as a husband destined to meet with death at
the hands of his wife - a reincarnated witch whom his forefather had killed,
along with the rest of her coven. This
movie pulls out every cliché from '70s satanic cult movies and wedges them into
the storyline rather unceremoniously. While
there is some promise of fun early on, the movie soon enough degrades into
being nonsensical and dull. This one
really isn't worthy of seeking out unless you absolutely have to see every
movie of this type ever made.
Daughters of Satan and Queen of Blood are shown in 1.85 X 1 widescreen, while The Black Sleep is presented in its
original aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Audio
quality is acceptable across the board, but nothing stands out as being
particularly good either.
bonus feature among these titles is found on The Black Sleep disc, and is a trailer for the film.
While Queen of Blood represents the bottom
rung of the limited exposure I've personally had with on demand releases, the
other two titles here are a step up. Still,
they would be better served by an actual aluminum DVD pressing, even though not
every DVD can play on every DVD player due to issues when the format was first
created. My main concerns with
recordable disc media remain with the longevity of the materials, and the
almost nonexistent standards that are in place for quality control. This is evidenced by the universal
dissatisfaction with releases such as The
House of Long Shadows, which by all accounts looked absolutely atrocious,
and also had a run of bad discs that were unplayable.
of what is said about the strategy of majors releasing films in this fashion,
the strongest statement that can be made is with your wallet. It all boils down to just how bad you want
that favorite movie of yours, and if you really can't wait, remember that your
decision now might effect how these titles are seen in the future.
- David Milchick