Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Science Fiction > Drama > Mystery > Detective > Murder > Thriller > Movie Series > Comedy > Action > Adventu > Antiviral (2012/Brandon Cronenberg/IFC Midnight/MPI Blu-ray)/Charlie Chan Collection (1946 – 1948/Monogram/Warner DVD Set)/Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space (1970/BBC Blu-ray)/Greystoke: The Legend Of

Antiviral (2012/Brandon Cronenberg/IFC Midnight/MPI Blu-ray)/Charlie Chan Collection (1946 – 1948/Monogram/Warner DVD Set)/Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space (1970/BBC Blu-ray)/Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan: Lord Of The Apes (1983/Warner Archive Blu-ray)/The Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection (1932 – 1937/Warner Archive DVD Set)


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



PLEASE NOTE: The Greystoke Blu-ray and Hildegarde Withers DVD set are only available from Warner Bros. through their Warner Archive series and can be ordered from the link below.



Mystery and suspense play a huge part in some of the best kind of filmmaking, whether strictly genre work or work that tries to be something more.   The following releases made over an eight decade period show us the better attempts at this…



Brandon Cronenberg makes his directorial debut with Antiviral (2012) set in a near future where sick, dehumanizing behavior has become al the worse.  Calen Landry Jones is very impressive as the biological viral expert at a company that sells something very unhealthy in viruses, but one’s that people want to buy and at high prices.  Why?  Because they are guaranteed to be viruses that major, popular celebrities have had and a hugely profitable industry has been manufactured that people are idiotically and sickly buying into.


Sarah Gadon is the sexy blonde who is especially popular with clients of his company, but something else is also going on.  He is an addict who “illegally” injects himself with every single copyrighted virus his company is selling, hacks them for cash and continues on at the company like nothing has happened, but his addiction to such experimentation is about to become entangled with a competing company, the sick environment that makes these companies possible and other twists and turns that are blatantly honest about how ugly the situation is.


If you are loosely reminded of elements of Re-Animator, that is a good thing, because it has a similar post-modern Frankenstein element to it and it works as well as that celebrated cult film, but it is also capable of some dark humor in the proper places, has other fine performances and is as much in the David Cronenberg mode as it is in the Stanley Kubrick mode down to casting Malcolm McDowell in a key role.


Challenging, smart, ahead of its audience most of the time and well made, Antiviral is one of the best thrillers and science fiction films of the past year as well as a stunning debut that is purely cinematic on many levels.  Don’t miss it!


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track with Cronenberg and his Director of Photography Karim Hussain that gets silly at times, should not be heard until seeing the film and may even undermine some scenes, plus we also get the Making Of documentary featurette Anatomy Of A Virus.



The boldly named Charlie Chan Collection is actually the eighth DVD box set of the hugely successful mystery movie series to hit DVD.  Instead of the glory days of the Fox-produced movies, this marks more of the later films made by the low-budget Monogram Studios from 1946 to 1948 when Fox made the giant mistake of thinking the series was dead.  This set debuts the four films included, starting with Shadows Over Chinatown (1946) with Sidney Toler in a mystery about insurance fraud and murder, but the amazing thing is how dark this one is thematically as dead bodies that have been mutilated and have their heads, arms and legs chopped off are part of the storyline.  That is unusually dark for any mystery series or film of any kind of the time, but Film Noir had finally affected the series.  It is a mixed film, but so dark, it is a surprise.


Toler eventually passed away during his run of the series, so e was quickly succeeded by Roland winters, who was not as convincing or even seemed the proper age versus Victor Sen Young as his son Jimmy.  The three remaining films are form 1948 and include Docks Of New Orleans (key people from a major chemical company being knocked off), Shanghai Chest (the William Beaudine-directed entry about jurors and law officials being killed in a case where a dead man would only want revenge) and The Golden Eye (Beaudine again helming in a tale of bloodlust for gold tied to a major company) are not as good as the Toler film, but have some good moments and the cats is having fun, but even they know the formula Monogram adapted is wearing thin.


Mantan Moreland as Birmingham is here as the Chan equivalent of Jack Benny’s Rochester, but it is just a new stereotype replacing an older one (like how Monogram started their Chan films as filler for the lack of budget versus the money Fox put into these), but he is such a good actor that even his charm and talent override the stereotypical role.


No, the Fox films are still the best in the series, but these are not awful and Monogram was at least trying to make them work since higher profits could be used to fund other projects and save, grow and prolong the life of the little studio.  It didn’t work out.


There are no extras, but here are links to other Chan DVDs:


Fox V. 1 Box



Fox V. 2 Box



Fox V. 5 Box



Charlie Chanthology (what a title!)



The Amazing Chan & The Chan Clan (animated)




When a hit show gets into trouble, it has to reinvent itself or it ends, which is exactly what happened when Jon Pertwee took over the role of TV’s most successful time traveler in Doctor Who: Spearhead From Space (1970) which found the classic hit show facing unexpectedly healthy competition not just from U.S. TV outlets, but at home in England including hits like The Avengers, Lord Lew Grade’s action shows (The Saint, Strange Report, Department S, The Prisoner) and those SuperMarionation shows Grade was making with Gerry & Sylvia Anderson (Captain Scarlet, Thunderbirds; all reviewed elsewhere on this site) so the BBC had some catching up to do and they did.


Now here on Blu-ray, we originally covered this four-episode debut on DVD and you can read more about it at this link:




The BBC did not use any PAL videotape of this show, shooting the entire thing in 16mm and seeing it here in HD, it looks so good, you would think it was one of Lord Grade’s shows and you can also see some elements from other hits creeping up here.  In particular, I found The Avengers and their classic black and white episode The Cybernauts a big influence, as the Autotons that Who and the classic introduction of U.N.I.T. (an spy-like anagram at that) are similarly creepy to said Cybernauts, the idea of an automated future as bad resurfaces and Who himself wears classic British clothing and even fancies a classic British roadster ala John Steed, but it all works and the show bounced back.


Seeing it here is a revelation, looking as good as any of the newer HD-shot Who shows and reminding us of what a great golden period of genre TV Britain was enjoying.  In an earlier attempt to do an Avengers-like show, the BBC made Adam Adamant Lives! (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and it was something special, yet had problems it could not overcome and was cancelled after two seasons.  Especially seeing this set of episodes on Blu-ray, I believe the BBC learned from what did not work on that show and it commercial failure (and artistic successes) save Doctor Who in the long run without anyone at the time knowing it.  Spearhead From Space continues to be a key classic in the Who cannon and if you have a Blu-ray player, you should make this a must-see release on your list.


Extras are the same as the DVD edition, but adds a Restoration Comparison so you can see the work the BBC did to fix and save these episodes.



After the MGM/Bo Derek Tarzan film in 1980, you can imagine how the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate wanted to revive the character in a much more intelligent, realistic way.  Greystoke: The Legend Of Tarzan: Lord Of The Apes had gone through the hands of several directors and scripts before Chariots Of Fire director Hugh Hudson took over the project.  Finally released in 1983, the film was a mixed critical, commercial and artistic success, but certainly one of note that should have turned out even better than it did and was made some mistakes along the way.


Christopher Lambert (Highlander, Cimino’s The Sicilian) made a strong breakthrough debut here as the title character when he finally becomes an adult in the long (this cut runs 137 minutes) storyline that goes back to his being lost as a child and spends more than a little time watching him grow up among the apes.  With what looks like an extended version of the Dawn Of Man sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), the film goes bonkers enjoying the new breakthroughs in latex make-up (Rick Baker’s work here is some of his best) and like the film Quest For Fire which also overdoes this, it all becomes a run on that should have been shorter than it was.  Truffaut’s Wild Child had some influence here as well.


Still, those who want to see that part of the Tarzan story and myth done the long way can say it was achieved here and we should never have to see it this way again.  When Greystoke finally gets to civilization, late Victorian England, the culture clash is expectedly immediate and well done, but like Hudson’s Chariots Of Fire, the most involving moments are interrupted by moments that drag, though the money is definitely on the screen here, which is a nice plus.


Annie MacDowell in an early role was unnecessarily dubbed by Glenn Close, which does not help the film, but a cast that also includes Ian Holm, James Fox, Ralph Richardson and Nigel Davenport among others make this classy and makes it one of the rare Tarzan films that is not a simple B-movie adventure romp.  Still, it misses the mark overall and could have been better, but it has aged much better than you might expect and is worth seeing and rediscovering, especially on such a solid Blu-ray edition.


Extras include a feature length audio commentary track by Director Hudson & Producer Garth Thomas and the Original Theatrical Trailer.



Last but definitely not least is The Hildegarde Withers Mystery Collection featuring six mystery films (from 1932 to 1937) with Stuart Palmer’s schoolteacher who quickly becomes a detective.  The first three films are classics with the great Edna May Oliver in the title role, but RKO did not renew her contract, so the remaining films had two other actresses try top fill in, but RKO dropped the ball and the series ended long before it should have.  Based on the first three films along, this should have run as long as the Charlie Chan series.

The Penguin Pool Murders (1932) has Miss Withers with her class at a zoo on a field trip when a dead body lands up in the pool where the title animal lives.  James Gleason makes his debut as Inspector Piper and held the role for all six films (getting top billing on the last three in a move that did not help the longevity of the series) and we get more than a little time with her students, who should have been regulars more often through the series.  This is a top rate mystery with great writing and true suspense, plus the chemistry with Oliver and Gleason is immediate.  Robert Armstrong, Mae Clarke and Edgar Kennedy as Donovan (in a regular role) are among the fine supporting cast.  Terrific!


Murder On The Blackboard (1934) is a worthy follow-up as a fellow female teacher at Withers’ school turns up dead and she is determined to find out whom, why and what happened no matter what.  Bruce Cabot and Regis Toomey are among the fine supporting cast in another solid mystery yarn and Oliver steals most every scene!


Murder On A Honeymoon (1935) has Withers flying to Catalina Island when a passenger who gets sick for unknown reasons is dead soon after touchdown, so she investigates and even lets Piper know about it.  When he finds out something much deadlier is going on, he flies out immediately before Withers gets herself and many others killed.  A young Leo G. Carroll plays an arrogant movie director and the change of pace makes this one another winner!


Murder On A Bridle Path (1936) has Helen Broderick (Top Hat, Swing Time, plus the author of The Mystery Club (1926)) taking over as Withers as if Oliver never played the role.  She is not bad here, but wrong for the role, yet it also shows if she had a detective character who was more like a fast-talking city woman instead of a school teacher, she could have had her own great series.  She more than holds her own against Gleason and carries her scenes well, but they never gel as a team and the case of death by horse turns out to be murder and not just a coincidence.


Willie Best (under the racist credit Sleep N Eat (which he had in (too) many of his early film appearances) plays the young African American who handles the stable is actually very good when he is not being made a joke of and interestingly, he has a somewhat progressive relationship with the Withers character.  Too bad racial barriers ruined that from turning into anything.


The Plot Thickens (1936) has RKO realizing Miss Broderick’s Withers lacked humor, so they hired the great Zasu Pitts and may have got too much humor this time out as murder and jealousy at a rich household involving a butler, a secret employee affair and other secrets quickly leads to a dead body.  This is well plotted and Pitts is not bad in the role, but she eventually plays herself too much and never totally becomes the character.  She is not a bad match with Gleason, but it just makes one miss Oliver all the more.


Forty Naughty Girls (1937) is the poorest of the films with a weak script, the cast on auto pilot and a few giggles at best with no real mystery as Withers and Piper try to figure out murder in a backstage ballet setting.  I don’t know what RKO was thinking, but the energy is gone, atmosphere lame and Pitts even seems lost.  Can’t blame her.


There are sadly no extras, but this is a series that calls for Blu-ray and that would be a time to come up with some.



The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfers on Antiviral (shot in HD) and Greystoke (shot in Super Techniscope, a precursor to Super 35mm) are the best presentations on the list with some minor detail issues (Antiviral has some detail issues due to its HD shoot, Greystoke (delayed to get the image correct) more grain than you would expect from a film that received 70mm blow-ups) but they look good and consistent throughout, delivering the intended look in both cases.  I cannot imagine either looking much better in this format and color is also consistent in both cases.


The 1080p 1.33 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on the Doctor Who episodes come from the original and surviving 16mm color elements, a rare case of an older episode being totally filmed.  Save some fine details in some shots lost in the restoration, this looks fine with consistent color, depth and detail equal to any possible film print of the show.  Fans will be particularly surprised and I hope we see this in some other rare cases, even if videotaped sections have to be line-doubled to 1080i where film and PAL video is mixed as was often the case for the show.


That leaves the 1.33 X 1 black and white image on the Chan and Withers films looking pretty good for their age, with interesting issues in each case.  The Chan films are made by Monogram with limited budgets, so the stocks will not be as glossy or rich necessarily as the Withers films, made at RKO, but those films are older and have age issues they cannot avoid.  Despite some print damage and detail issues (including some second generation footage here and there), this is the best these films have ever looked and with enough work, Blu-rays would be more than possible.  Fans will not be disappointed.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Antiviral is the sonic champ here with advanced sound design, character in the mix and one of the most creative mixes we have encountered lately down to warm playback, a consistent soundfield and what we expect from Blu-ray and do not often enough get in dynamic range.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix on Greystoke comes in second place with a decent upgrade of the sound that tends towards the front speakers, but this was a film originally designed for 6-track magnetic sound in the 70mm Dolby 4.1 blow-up film prints that made it out to select theaters.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mix on the Doctor Who episodes have been nicely restored and this is as good as any set of classic episodes have ever sounded, so fans of the show used to Blu-rays of British TV classics like Space: 1999, The Prisoner, The Persuaders and/or The Sweeney (including the Regan telefilm) will be more than happy to add this one to their shelves.


The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on the Chan and Withers films show their age, including some brittle sound at times, but they have been cleaned, though the Chan films are at a volume level that is lower than I would have liked, so be careful of volume switching and high playback levels.  Otherwise, they sound good.




To order the Greystoke Blu-ray and Hildegarde Withers DVD set, go to this link for it and many more great web-exclusive releases at:





-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com