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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Science Fiction > Action > Monster > Comic Book > Graphic Novel > Film Production > Murder > Were > Alien: The Illustrated Story (1979/Titan Books reissue/Archie Goodwin & Walter Simonson/softcover)/Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion (2012 by Mark Salisbury/Titan Books/hardcover)/Johnny Dickie’s Sla

Alien: The Illustrated Story (1979/Titan Books reissue/Archie Goodwin & Walter Simonson/softcover)/Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion (2012 by Mark Salisbury/Titan Books/hardcover)/Johnny Dickie’s Slaughter Tales (2012/Briarwood/MVD DVD)/Wolf Lake: The Complete Series (2001/CBS/E1 DVD Set)


Picture: X/X/C-/C+     Sound: X/X/C-/C+     Extras: X/X/D/C+     Main Content: B/C+/D/C+



Here are some varied Horror releases of interest…



First we have a reprint of the classic Archie Goodwin/Walter Simonson comic book adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Alien (reviewed on Blu-ray, along with its endless sequels, elsewhere on this site) originally released by Heavy Metal Magazine and entitled Alien: The Illustrated Story (1979) by Titan Books.  Like the magazine that backed it, it came out of the underground Comix tradition and may very well be the first of what we now consider a standard in this industry: the graphic novel.


When first issued, it was considered impressive then and faithful at a time when the film was the first-ever R-rated science fiction film.  After all these years, it holds up extraordinarily well and can go more than a few rounds with any other graphic novel ever made.  Even if you have seen the film many times, if you have missed out on this adaptation, you have missed out on one of the great tie-in publications of all time and a real classic in comic book publishing.


This softcover has excellent color and picture reproduction on very high quality paper.  Nice to see it back in print.



Titan has also issued Dark Shadows: The Visual Companion off of the 2012 Tim Burton/Johnny Depp film, here written by Mark Salisbury as a fancy hardcover meant as a gift-0quality book as well.  You can read about the actual film on Blu-ray and DVD at this link:




Though I was disappointed (and people still are coming up to complain to me about the film since that Blu-ray coverage) by the film, this extensive volume is pretty thorough on the cast, their characters, production design, costumes and much more so if you liked the film or want to see how the money actually did go on the screen, this is worth a look.



I cannot say the same about Johnny Dickie’s Slaughter Tales (2012), a lame, goofy, uninspired exercise in “found footage” so bad that it may not be as sickening and boring as most exercises in such with blood and gore since the makers think they are making something interesting and good.  However, this looks like amateur hour in the worst way and the worst part is if they had really concentrated and tried to do much more, this could have been something more than “the last videotape you’ll ever watch” instead of yet another dud you’ll quickly forget.  We even get 2 trailers, 2 featurettes and some odd audio commentary, but the actual feature looks like something low-def off of YouTube and not even VHS, so see it at your won risk… of falling asleep.



Finally we have Wolf Lake: The Complete Series (2001) which was one of the many series made to capitalize on the massive then-success of The X-Files, but the show we saw originally (nine episodes, including the last three broadcast belatedly on the then UPN Network) was not the show conceived for the pilot and the result is a show that should have stuck with its original vision.  CBS and Cherry Pie Productions (finally having a big hit with Homeland (reviewed elsewhere on this site) had turned to John Leekley (Kindred The Embraced, HBO’s Spawn) to create this show about werewolves and filed a pilot so good and dark, that CBS foolishly rejected it.


So did CBS throw away a big hit show that had the potential to make hundreds of millions of dollars?  Well, besides the huge hit cable TV series True Blood and huge hit movie series Twilight being very similar and following relatively soon after, plus how interesting the pilot it, the answer is absolutely yes!  Once again, CBS played it sage and lost out big time.


Needless to say I like the pilot and feel the episodes throw out potential story arcs that could have made this the next X-Files, but that was a decade ago and we can now only watch what went wrong.  Besides a strong never-before-seen pilot, the nine shows that were made (you can tell more were being planned when the plug was pulled), the cast is one of the better in recent TV history of cancelled shows.


Jeff Fahey was good in the original pilot and is noticeably missing in ways you can only see after viewing the pilot, but his loss was bad for the show, despite retaining an interesting cats that included Lou Diamond Philips, Tim Matheson, Mary Elizabeth Winsted, newcomer Paul Wesley, Graham Greene, Mia Kirshner, Bruce McGill and even Sharon Lawrence.  It is interesting how it almost plays like Twilight without catering to young viewers, but CBS just had to mess it up.  You think they could have tried selling it to Showtime or the like, so this tale of a town with clans of wolves who in some cases, are much more is lost in the world of bad network TV judgment, but having it on DVD is a plus sop people can see it and it is ironically one of the few X-Files imitators that even came close.


Extras include Wolf Lake: The Original Werewolf Saga featurette and an audio commentary track on the pilot with Creator/Writer/Producer Leekley and Pilot Director Rupert Wainwright.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Tales takes a 16 X 9 image and sort of sticks it in the middle of the frame with black bars on all sides, so it is a visual mess and despite some good color, some of the most bizarre (for al the wrong reasons, none of which have anything to do with the storytelling) framing of anything we have ever seen on DVD in DVD history.  The lossy Dolby Digital sound is poor as well with bad location recording where even the stereo might as well be mono.


On the other hand, Wolf Lake has its pilot in a nicely filmed 1.33 X 1 frame with fine color and some good atmosphere, while the regular episodes of the show are here in anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 presentations that should look better but do not, in part because atmosphere, style, visual language and color have all been paired back to the detriment of the show.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on all shows is professionally recorded and well mixed, so I hope we get a Blu-ray edition sometime down the line.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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