Alien Vault (2011/Hardcover Book/Voyageur Press)/The Howling Reborn (2011/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)/Island Of Lost Souls (1932/Criterion Blu-ray)/Phantom Of The Opera (1925/Image Entertainment)/The Others (2001/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Torso (1973/Blue Underground Blu-ray)
Picture: X/B-/B/B/C+/B Sound: X/B/B-/B-/C+/B- Extras: B/D/B/B/C-/C Book: B+/Films: D/B/B/C-/C
Now for a
look at three horror classics, one cult classic, a ambitious failure and a new
duds in the Horror genre.
with a great new hardcover book on the making of Ridley Scott’s original 1979
classic Alien by Ian Nathan called Alien Vault (2011) that is yet another
great, unique item inspired by one of the most enduring Sci-Fi/Horror films
ever made. That has been an unspoken
tradition with the film and this book is a hardcover in a hardcover slipcase
shell (something you rarely see anymore, but used to be common in publishing)
and in addition, has several pockets throughout with more paperwork and
reproduction items as the book thoroughly tells you “the definitive story of
the making of the film” as the case claims.
At least it does this as thoroughly as a book can, even trying to begin
to delve into its pop culture success.
Fans new and old will want to not just read it, but experience it and
Nathan has come up with material even I have not seen and I am a very big
fan. For more on the film and its
sequels, try our links to our coverage of the Alien Anthology on Blu-ray:
Edition EGG Package
other end of the Horror franchise is Joe Nimziki’s The Howling Reborn (2011), a silly, dumb, laughable attempt to
revive the name of the 1981 werewolf hit on its thirtieth anniversary, joining 2011’s
absurd trend of remaking anything from the 1980s as if that would bring them
back. This one hardly saw a theatrical
release and with good reason.
Universal’s Wolfman remake
did not fare well at the box-office, so why the makers of this one thought they
would do any better is unfathomable as a high school teenager (Landon Liborion)
discovers that falling for a girl (Lindsey Shaw) Arouses him to be more than
sexually attracted, it makes him grow fur and want to kill people! And you thought you had problems. Ivana Milicevic (Casino Royale) shows up to explain why he is hungry like the wolf,
but not why they do not have a good script or why this feels like a warmed-over
version of The Twilight Saga that is
as overrated as anything.
also boring and very badly made, like all the Howling sequels that never worked.
The make-up is laughable (unless fake fur terrifies you) and sound
effects that are practically boring library stock. Nothing here works, 92 minutes is too long
and this proves that the werewolf film is dead.
Extras include a feature length audio commentary track (zzzzzzzzz) by
Writer/Director Nimziki and Actor Shaw, Making Of featurette and Theatrical
Trailer. For more on the original film
and one of its sequels, try these links:
Howling 3 DVD
after the 1977 Michael York/Richard Burton remake and disastrous 1996 Val
Kilmer/Marlon Brando re-remake, Erle C. Kenton’s Island Of Lost Souls (1932) not only remains the best version of
H.G. Wells’ classic novel The Island Of Dr. Moreau, but is a
much more important classic of the Sci-Fi/Horror genre than most know about or
realize. Finally restored to its uncut,
uncensored version, the film can be properly understood as being as important
to the genre as all the Universal monster classics, Val Lewton RKO thrillers
and RKO’s original King Kong among
the many genre classics.
Kong, the characters take a boat journey to another world that will bring the
city people and science people face to face with their animal nature (but this
was a year before Kong) and in this
case, land up shipwrecked on a South Seas island. However, there lives Dr. Paul Moreau and in
this film, he is played in a great early performance by the legendary Charles
Laughton whose performance remains as impressive as his later work. Richard Arlen is Edward Parker, who questions
the doctor’s morality while being at his mercy and Bela Lugosi shows up in an
underrated performance as Sayer Of The Law.
censorship came from the new Production Code objecting to ideas of human being
combined with animals, being like animals, being animals, being sexual and of
course, anything suggesting evolution.
However, this tale is as relevant as ever and this version as landmark
as ever, originally made by Paramount Pictures in their early prime and show’s
what the second most powerful studio was willing to spend a then-large amount
of money to produce to compete with genre work from the other studios.
TV deal back in the day has NBC/Universal owning almost all Paramount films to
1948, this tends to be a catalog that is somewhat neglected and not dealt with
enough, including some classics long overdue for restoration and reissue. This is the way to do it and I have to admit
the film even pleasantly surprised me.
include another informative, illustrated booklet with technical information and
an essay by Christine Smallwood, while the Blu-ray adds film historian Gregory Mank’s
fine, feature length audio commentary, Stills Gallery, Theatrical Trailer, new
conversation on the film with American
Werewolf In London director John Landis, make-up legend Rick Baker and
fan/actor/genre expert Bob Burns and new interviews with film scholar David. J.
Skal, Director Richard Stanley (who made that doomed 1996 remake) and Gerald
Casale & Mark Mothersbaugh of the legendary band DEVO who was partly
inspired by this film. Their classic
Music Videos for “Secret Agent Man” and “Jocko Homo” are also included.
itself was a much smaller company than Paramount
when they made their first Phantom Of
The Opera in 1925, but it helped put the studio on the map and on the road
to being the top Horror studio in the world.
With this film, directed primarily by Rupert Julian of Gaston Leroux’s
classic novel, marked the point where Hollywood
overtook German Cinema in the Horror genre.
The reasons aside form the rise of Hollywood include the soon-to-end of
German Expressionist movement, the soon-to-begin arrival of sound and movement
of German talent to Hollywood accelerated by the rise of Hitler.
should not take away from how great the film is on its own and how studio Carl
Laemmle backed the film 100% to make it a big film. Of course, it worked and became a huge
international worldwide hit cementing the studio’s capacities to make great
films when they could fund them and making Lon Chaney a movie star legend for
the ages. The tale of the Paris Opera
House haunted by a lonely, sick, psychotic romantic who falls for the star
Opera singer is known as much now as a hit musical as anything, but it is still
most effective as the tale of terror it truly is (while the musical tends to
sand-down that aspect to make it a somewhat phony romance in all honesty) so it
is nice to see the original classic film (even in variant versions) in all of
its glory as close to the original theatrical film releases as possible. You will be surprised by and impressed over
how well this still works. Having just
looked at the slightly older Phantom
Carriage (1921, reviewed elsewhere on this site) on Criterion Blu-ray, the
film more than holds its own indeed.
include the Film Script, Still Gallery, Original Theatrical Trailer, Theatrical
Souvenir Program Reproduction, interview with Composer Gabriel Thibaudeau
(whose scoring of the 1929 20 frames per second version is on this disc) and a
feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Dr. Jon Mirsalis.
Amenabar’s The Others (2001) was an
attempt to put Nicole Kidman into a smart supernatural thriller as the mother
of a family stuck in a house and though the situation had some potential, but
turns into a laughable bore as the makers either do not know what they are
doing or think they are above the material they are making, condemning it to
not work. Kidman is trying, but she
cannot overcome a dull project. Four
making of featurettes and a theatrical trailer are the extras.
we have Sergio Martino’s more watchable Torso
(1973), which wants to be a major entry into the giallo psycho-killer cycle
Italy was experiencing at the time, but despite its cult following and some
good moments, it is just not up to the style of what Mario Bava or Dario
Argento would do and these films depend on a certain style. Suzy Kendall and Tina Aumont co-star in this
sex-killer thriller here in uncut and director’s cut version for the first time
from Blue Underground, who have done justice to the film as expected. Being a minor classic from this cycle, you
should see it at least once, but don’t expect it to work consistently
either. At least it looks good.
include a Theatrical Trailer, U.S. Opening Credits, TV Spots, Radio Spot, Murders
In Perugia on-camera interview with Martino, Poster & Still
1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Reborn is weak with motion blur and other detail issues, plus the
color is limited and this all makes watching a bad film that much more
difficult. The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital
High Definition image transfer on Souls
and two different 1.21 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers (with
different frame rates) on Phantom despite
their age and reconstructed nature look as good as anything here. To get an unedited version of Souls, two 35mm prints and a private
collector’s 16mm print had to be combined to make sure all the “shocking images
and dialogue” was in tact, but the results are impressive and watching it is
like finally seeing a long lost horror classic that no one has seen in nearly
eight decades, which it is. You are let
into a bold, daring film that no remake has touched. This also does great justice to the amazing
camerawork by Director of Photography Karl Struss.
Phantom offers the original 1925 silent
version in 16mm, 1.33 X 1, low-definition form only as no 35mm print seems to
have survived and this includes footage not in the later 1929 version that does
not look so good here. That means the
only versions in High Definition version offered here are two 1929 cuts. They not only includes properly tinted
scenes, but (and I have to get more specific than usual) restoration of the
hand-colored scenes which has been done here by older computer means and the
famous ballroom sequence where The Phantom shows up in a very red outfit
wearing a skull. This was issued in
two-strip, dye-transfer Technicolor for the 1925 version and 1929 “sound”
reissues, but it is not as simple as it sounds.
explain and add to what the records I have and audio commentary by Dr. Jon
Mirsalis points out. He says it is
possible the sequence was not shot in Technicolor, but a competing format
called Prizma Color, so if it was in 1925, this would make it the second
version, which was a subtractive process.
That means when you add the second strip, you get colors as some take
away others to register the final color schemes.
states that it is a mistake to call the older Technicolor Two-Strip because
there is only one strip running through the camera, but he is wrong in his
reasoning as three-strip Technicolor has two strips of film running and it is
still is called three-strip, though one of the strips is registering two of the
three colors. In addition, there are
three versions of the two-strip Technicolor process. The first was a color additive process like
the first version of Prizma Color (which itself replaced the famous
Kimemacolor) and used on two films (in 1917 and 1920), the second is a cemented
positive (1922 to 1927) and the third is dye-transfer (1928 - 1933). Prizma even reportedly sued and lost a
lawsuit to Technicolor over using their process in 1922.
1925 Phantom had that color ballroom
sequence as records show, than it was in the cemented positive format soon
discontinued when the prints had troubles including the heat of the projector
melting the print apart. Mirsalis claims
the copy used for the 1929 version is a dye-transfer print so that means that
footage is either a cement copy he is misidentifying, a dye-transfer version
struck immediately by Universal when that format became available in 1928
because the film was such a massive hit or it is from the 1929 sound reissues
which made more money still just the same.
Whether it is an original Two-Strip Technicolor or Prizma Color shoot,
it does not matter in so far as you get the same result. It is as if you recorded a film in DTS 5.1
sound today for a new movie, but issued it in DTS, Dolby and Sony Dynamic
Digital Sound 5.1 in theaters because it is the same mix as it were. More research is needed, but that is apparently
the story on that amazing sequence, though apparently the late, underrated
composer Roy Budd bought a copy of the film (possibly the 1925 version) in 35mm
and created a while new score for the film and spent money restoring his print,
but this version is still in the vaults.
back to the Blu-ray playback, though there are some various issues with the
footage here and there (ghosting, softness, print damage unfixable or too
expensive to fix) as expected, this is the best this film has ever looked and
like Souls delivers a Blu-ray that
will finally deliver the greatness of this classic for everyone to enjoy for
what for almost everyone will be the first time they have properly seen the
1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image on Others
is off of an older HD master, actually looks poorer than Reborn and hurts the shots in this film that look good, while the
same presentations on Torso comes
from the original camera negative and except for age, looks fine and has color
as good as anything here. The film was
originally issued in dye-transfer, three-strip Technicolor prints (if you have
one of those, it is worth some money) and there are enough instances here where
you can believe that as you watch. That
does not always equal style, but it does equal quality Horror filmmaking.
default, the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix on Reborn
sounds the best and at least has a rich, consistent, warm-enough soundfield
throughout, though that cannot help the film and it sounds as if the makers
relied on it more than they should have.
The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Others is quiet to begin with, but being down a generation or so
like its HD master makes this the weakest sonic performer on the list. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono on Torso in either language is fine,
though the Italian track is more authentic, but both are warmer than expected
and as good as the film will ever sound.
Criterion chose PCM 1.0 Mono for Souls
playback and it is as fine a reconstruction as we could hope for, as clean and
clear as a soundtrack its age could be.
Phantom has three scores in PCM 2.0 24/48
sound, with the new Alloy Orchestra score and Gaylord Carter’s Theater Organ
Score in Stereo on the 78 minutes/24 frames-per-second version and Gabriel Thibaudeau’s
recent score in Mono on the 92 minutes/20 frames-per-second version. That 16mm 1925 silent print has a piano score
by Frederick Hodges in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono, though I wondered if the film
could not use another score to bring out even more that it has to offer. Like Souls,
no remake has worked as well, though one or two have come closer. Nice to have them out in time for Halloween
- Nicholas Sheffo