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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Demon > Satanism > Terror > Comedy > Satire > Zombie > Drugs > Counterculture > Drama > City Of The Dead (1960 aka Horror Hotel)/Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972/VCI Blu-rays)/The Trip (1967/American International/Orion/MGM/Olive Blu-ray)

City Of The Dead (1960 aka Horror Hotel)/Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972/VCI Blu-rays)/The Trip (1967/American International/Orion/MGM/Olive Blu-ray)

Picture: B-/B-/B Sound: C+/C+/B- Extras: B/B/C- Films: B/B-/C

Not so long ago, audiences expected much more from their feature films and from a golden time where the budgets were not as ludicrous as they are today. Three such films, two horror and one from the psychedelic counterculture drug trip cycle, make their Blu-ray debuts in worthy editions that are now the definitive ways to see them outside of a high quality film print...

John Moxey's City Of The Dead (1960) was the beginning of what became the underrated Amicus horror studio in the U.K. and VCI has been hugely instrumental in getting it out of cut up lousy copies and reintroducing the film the way it was meant to be seen. They began with this great DVD we reviewed years ago enthusiastically...


I continue to argue it is a forerunner of Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968, now out on Blu-ray from Criterion) and with both its underrated director Moxey and legendary Christopher Lee sadly no longer with us, it should have a whole new generation ready to rediscover the remarkable horror thriller it is. A horror highlight of Lee outside of the Hammer Studios much like his Franco Dracula and Horror Express (see both on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) that are classic key works of his that tend to go beyond mere genre films.

Extras repeated form the DVD include running commentaries by both Lee and Moxey, photo galleries, on-camera interviews with Lee, Stevenson & Moxey and Original Theatrical Trailer, plus new extras include a 2001 Lee interview, new 2015 feature length audio commentary track by film scholar Bruce G. Hallenbeck and the U.S. release version of the film in standard definition. Needless to say that makes this the definitive must-have version of the film now.

Bob Clark's Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things (1972) has also only become more important and valuable with age as well, the first spoof of Romero's original Night Of The Living Dead (1968, see all our coverage elsewhere on this site) that may be silly and goofy, but is now more than ever, one of the most important zombie films and horror spoofs ever made, flaws and all. Another highly enthusiastic review for the DVD version can be found here...


I should say that some might find star Alan Ormsby a bit much and that has some validity as a critique, yet that is his character here. It's also a film bound to have new unintended laughs in the face of all the new zombie film and TV shows since, plus changes in production (improved make-up, digital shooting and digital visual effects for better and more often for worse) making its endurance that much more remarkable.

The DVD only had an Original Theatrical Trailer, but this new Blu-ray keeps that and adds a reversible cover, illustrated color paper pullout with liner notes, two videos, a Photo Gallery, the complete alternate U.K. version, Grindhouse Q&A, Memories of Bob Clark tribute clip, Radio Spots with Ormsby, Freak 11 tribute video, Confessions of a Grave Digger interview with Ken Goch and a feature length audio commentary track by Ormsby, Jane Daly and Anya Cronin. Fans and newcomers will be very pleased.

Last but not least is Roger Corman's The Trip (1967) an ambitious-for-its-time attempt to explore the drug culture and the 'kids' who got involved with it. A very young Bruce Dern and Peter Fonda (getting wilder than sister Jane cinematically and early) playing a TV commercials director who decides to try out LSD! With Jack Nicholson scripting and Susan Strasberg (also of a prominent acting family) and Dennis Hopper turning up as the most skied-out of them all, it is a period piece that is trying to work. It may not always succeed, but makes for quite the time capsule, especially considering all the up and coming talent involved and Easy Rider was only months away (which American International, who released this film, made the mistake of turning down).

This runs 82 minutes and is a little long, but was shocking for its time, taking a European writerly approach to portraying the experiences. It may seem tame by todays visual effects, digital and violence-driven films now, but it makes for an interesting sit-through. Even when it does not work, it is great seeing all this talent trying.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is sadly the only extra.

The 1080p 1.66 X 1 black and white digital High Definition image on City is a nice upgrade from the then highly welcome, improved DVD from years ago, with more detail, depth and a better gray scale with better overall back and white throughout, but there are more than a few moments of motion blur and some softness that holds back the transfer of what looks like a fresh new 35mm print. Nonetheless, the atmosphere is captured so much better here and makes it all chilling all over again like never having seen it before.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Things from a new 2K scan can show the age of the materials used, but this is superior to the previous DVD with color and color range especially improved in ways I thought would be possible, but I am proven very correct with that color looking a bit like the original Dawn Of The Dead six years before its arrival. The print flaws are minor, but part of it comes from the low budget, so one can only do so much.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Trip can also show the age of the materials used, but this is far superior a transfer to all previous releases of the film and just edges out the other Blu-rays as the best presentation here with its own fine color range (though I think Things goes further in the color department) and just barely has the cleanest print here. Nice presentations all around.

All are theatrical monophonic releases, so City and Things get lossless PCM 2.0 Mono presentations that are better than their lossy old Dolby Digital mixes, but also show some new sonic limits to the productions and their age. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Momo lossless mix on Trip is a little better, a little cleaner, but also simply shows its age. In all three cases, I think they've been cleaned up nicely enough and will not disappoint too much.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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