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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Fantasy > Vampires > Supernatural > Comedy > Science Fiction > Action > Adventure > Tim > Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012/Fox Blu-ray + DVD)/Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants (1964/Story No. 9) + Vengeance On Varos (1985/Story No. 139/BBC DVDs)/Equinox (1969/Umbrella Region Free/Zero PAL

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012/Fox Blu-ray + DVD)/Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants (1964/Story No. 9) + Vengeance On Varos (1985/Story No. 139/BBC DVDs)/Equinox (1969/Umbrella Region Free/Zero PAL DVD)/Repo Man (Universal/Umbrella Region B Blu-ray)/Snowmageddon (2012/Anchor Bay Blu-ray)


Picture: B- & C/C/C+/B-/B/B-     Sound: B & B-/C/C+/C+/B/B     Extras: C/B-/C/B-/B-/D     Main Programs: C/B-/C/B-/B-/C



PLEASE NOTE: The Repo Man Blu-ray is correctly marked as a Region B disc and will only play on Blu-ray players that can handle that format, while Equinox is a Region Free PAL DVD and both imports can be ordered from our friends at Umbrella Entertainment at the website address provided at the end of the review.



Rounding out even more Halloween 2012 releases are the following genre titles…



First we have one of three Tim Burton-related releases this year that did not work out.  Along with remakes of Dark Shadows (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and a CG version of his own Frankenweenie (?!?!?) comes Timur Bekmambetov’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012), a bizarre idea that you know cannot possibly work, yet here it is getting made.


Trying to juggle the issue of slavery is problematic as is (here they give Lincoln an African American best friend who he has known since childhood) and tries to tie in the evil of slavery with the supernatural (which is at least borderline offensive if not worse) as we get vampires who can exist in the day (never explained) and can only be killed with axes made of silver blades (making him like a Lone Ranger, but isn’t that supposed to be for werewolves?  Never explained either) and we get slow motion killings throughout including seeing the President (hope you’re sitting for this one) doing gravity-defying acrobatics and quasi-martial arts!


Older audiences will expect Johnny Carson to show up and start cracking jokes at any moment, but the actors and makers take this seriously and shockingly to their credit, hold it all together to the end of the picture n a way most commercial films of late have not.  Too bad they had to pick Lincoln and not some friends of his at least (a much lower budget Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter already arrived on home video recently) and the playing with history ultimately backfires no matter what.


Still, this will be a curio and know if you try it out, you will not be seeing too much that works, but at least it is competent and professional for the hopeless project it is.  Benjamin Walker looks more like Young Liam Neeson, Vampire Hunter for much of this and Rufus Sewell plays yet another villain.


Extras include Ultraviolet Copy, a five part Making Of featurette, a Graphic Novel Comic Book, Linkin Park Music Video (they’re still together?), Art Of Transformation: Makeup Effects featurette and feature length audio commentary by screenwriter Seth Grahame Green.




At two far ends of the original run of Doctor Who are the latest BBC DVD releases of the original series.  First we have the early William Hartnell adventure Planet Of Giants (1964/Story No. 9) which runs three episodes and offers a fun early adventure where the Doctor, Barbara (Jacqueline Hill), Susan (Carole Ann Ford), Ian (William Russell) and the TARDIS find themselves in a strange situation when the door of the vehicle starts to open.  When they land, they find themselves only an inch tall each average and in a place where some very bad people are developing an insecticide that is deadlier than just for its supposed intended use.


Running three episodes, it shows how creative and fun the early shows were and how the combination of Sydney Newman (fresh from launching The Avengers at Associated British before moving over to the BBC) and Verity Lambert (starting up one of the most successful producing careers in British TV history and breaking ground for women worldwide in the industry) clicked.  Their chemistry would be evident throughout the early years of the show and in other endeavors (including Adam Adamant Lives!, reviewed in an import DVD set elsewhere on this site, but still not released in the U.S.) giving British TV a strong separate identity from all others.


Little did anyone know they would be building the foundation for one of the most successful fiction TV series of all time.


130 adventures and 21 years later, with Tom Baker long gone, the show stayed popular, but started a slow decline.  The choice of actors to replace Baker were unusual and interesting, but never totally worked.  This included Colin Baker (no relation) and Vengeance On Varos (1985/Story No. 139) is one of his few watchable entries even though it does not totally work either.  The Doctor and current female companion (the very viable Nicola Bryant) go to a planet with a substance that could help power the TARDIS, but it offers a sick society techno-fascist society where people are entertained by violent TV shows and even sicker things are going on unbeknownst to the distracted, dumbed-down public.


We join in when a rebel against the state (Jason Connery around the time he played Robin Hood (see the Robin Of Sherwood Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) on his way to being a viable star) being the tortured TV subject.  Eventually the Doctor arrives and seeing what is going on, decides to save him, not knowing what a sick, sad alien world they have arrived to.  From there we get a good adventure, but an uneven one that does not go far enough politically and often rings false.  However, Baker gives one of his few good performances in the role and too bad Connery did not stay around on the show.  That makes this a curio at best, but also a disappointment overall, though the series was running out of steam at this point just the same.


Extras on both Who releases include audio commentaries and stills, with Giants adding two featurettes on reconstructing the episodes of the show, PDF materials that are DVD-ROM accessible, audio of Producer Verity Lambert on the show and Suddenly Susan featurette with Carole Ann Ford, while Varos adds a Production Note Option, Trailers, BBC bumpers for the show, Extended/Deleted Scenes and a Behind-The-Scenes featurette.



Jack Woods’ Equinox (1969) is a fun Jack H. Harris production now know for being the inspiration for Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead films (that accursed magic book) as well as a film that helped launch the career of Visual Effects legend Dennis Muren.  This new Umbrella Region Free/Zero PAL DVD is a repeat of the U.S. Criterion DVD edition, but with slightly better picture quality.


In it, a young group of friends go to some canyons in California where they discover a strange book that will change their lives, open up other worlds and unleash surprises like monsters.  In its time, this was an amazing low budget achievement that Harris picked up and refined for theatrical release.  The result was a hit and fan and genre favorite that is sometimes forgotten, but gets this nice DVD treatment for everyone to see, discover and rediscover.


I enjoy the flat acting, time capsule look of the era and some of the better stop motion animation outside of Ray Harryhausen that remains as charming and interesting as ever no matter how it has aged.  I wish more digital animation in the same genre was half as interesting.


More than a curio, Equinox is a minor classic of genre, independent and low-budget filmmaking, not to mention remarkable for having the effective effects it had.  I really enjoyed seeing it again and is a must-see for all film fans.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Harris & Woods, an on-camera Muren interview, Trailer, Outtakes, Taurus animation tests, interview featurette with co-stars Frank Bonner (later of the hit sitcom WKRP In Cincinatti, reviewed elsewhere on this site), Barbara Hewitt & James Duron, two shorts of connected interest (The Magic Treasure from this film’s co-animator David Allen, plus Zorgon: The H-Bomb Beats From Hell by the film’s crew) and a famous station wagon commercial at the time with a newly animated King Kong brought to life by Allen in the best copy of the ad I have seen to date and test footage of the their Kong recreation in amazing 35mm footage recreating the climax of the 1933 classic in color.  A great set of extras!



Alex Cox’s Repo Man (1984) is finally on Blu-ray, but not yet in the U.S., where the best version is this DVD edition we covered a few years ago at the following link:




I was not a big fan of the film, but think it is interesting and has aged in interesting ways as Emilio Estevez plays a young car thief who land sup mixing it up with aliens and the U.S. Government.  It is sometimes unexpected and has some good work all around from its cast, including Harry Dean Stanton and has never been duplicated despite what seems like a few attempts (including Cox’s lame Repo Girl reviewed elsewhere on this site; Repo Men is also from Universal, but not related to this film).  All the extras from the DVD edition are here too.



Finally we have Sheldon Wilson’s sometimes amusing Snowmageddon (2012) which is a disaster tale, a supernatural tale and one with Christmas overtones via The Twilight Zone, but like a very bad, undeveloped episode of the original, classic version of the series.


In a nice small town around the holidays, a family received a gift of a giant snow globe (no Citizen Kane references intended) which is also a music box.  The young boy in the family decides to activate it and that is when snow disasters start to occur.  As people start to die or become severely injured, it takes almost the whole 89 minutes of this dragging-on-forever tale to change things and the digital visual effects are phonier than usual.  As a result, there is no suspense, no point and the writers never even try to make this interesting or self-reflective so it becomes quickly forgotten in the Christmas glut of releases even if it is not specifically so.


There are no extras either, so see it at your own risk.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 AVC @ 26.5 MBPS digital High Definition image transfer on Lincoln has been stylized down to be soft, dark and even semi-diffused on purpose, sadly putting it on par with the nice 1.33 X 1 PAL video transfer on the Equinox DVD and cheaply shot 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Snowmageddon Blu-ray.  The Lincoln anamorphically enhanced DVD version is much softer and very hard to watch.  That leaves the 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Repo actually looking the best despite a sometimes rough look, dated visual effects and low budget.  Likely the same HD master as the older DVD, or at least the same (or similar print), that DVD was a big improvement over the previous versions of the film, but my fellow writer was even more impressed.  Here, it looks just that much better and fans will be very pleased.  Lincoln is also available in the Blu-ray 3D format.


Both sets of Who episodes are shot on professional PAL analog videotape and in 1.33 X 1 framing.  Giants is in black and white and had to be restored from 2-inch videotape reels, so the footage has some detail issues, motion blur and flaws.  I don’t think it could look much better though, especially as compared to other tapings of the time we have covered on DVD, including actual Pal imports.  Varos is in color and is a more recent taping, so it looks better and is clearer, though the tape can still show its age, it too could not look better.



The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 7.1 lossless mix on Lincoln is narrowly the best sound mix here, but (in part due to the time it is set in) some quite moments and dialogue placing the soundfield towards the front speakers holds the mix back a little bit.  Otherwise, it has some nice sonic moments, if not always and the lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the DVD is not bad, but no match for the Blu-ray’s DTS-MA.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Repo and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 on Snowmageddon are also pretty consistent throughout with Repo’s 5,1 upgrade from a few years ago paying off and sounding warmer than it did on that older DVD while Snowmageddon has a more consistent soundfield than expected.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Giants is a little worn sounding, has some limited dynamic range, a little harmonic distortion and slight background hiss throughout, while the lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Varos sounds better as expected, but also shows its age and has some sonic limits of its own.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Equinox can show its age, but sound pretty good and clean just the same.



As noted above, you can order the import DVD version of Equinox and Region B Blu-ray version of Repo Man exclusively from Umbrella at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


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