Friday, June 27, 2014

New "Twin Peaks" Blu-Ray Trailer

With just a month to go before "Twin Peaks" goes hi-def, here's a new trailer for "Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery" that includes samples of deleted scenes, extras, and restoration comparisons. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this thing...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's Official: Bad News About Classic Universal Monster Movies on Blu-Ray

Last week I wrote about Universal's rerelease of some classic Hammer horror films on DVD while blu-ray upgrades remain a mystery. Today, the home video company has released a new publicity update about upcoming releases, and it's not looking good for monsters fans hankering to see some lower profile titles in hi-def. While Universal is already rereleasing such essential titles as Dracula, The Wolf Man, and Frankenstein on blu-ray with new packaging on September 2, sequels such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Dracula's Daughter, House of Frankenstein, Revenge of the Creature, and The Mummy's Hand are also being rereleased...but on standard definition DVD only (also on September 2). 
For those who never got their hands on all of Universal's wonderful Monster Legacy Collection DVD box sets, this is good news since Dracula and The Wolf Man are currently out of print. Plus, the "Abbott & Costello Meet the Monsters" comedies have been added to the mix, which is also being released as a 21-disc box set. 

For those who'd like to see some of those second-tier monster movies receive upgrades, Universal's decision to rerelease them on DVD-only made me wonder if the company doesn't believe there is sufficient interest to give them the blu-ray treatment. While only the hardest of hardcore monster maniacs will lament the absence of, say, She-Wolf of London on blu-ray, it wouldn't be outrageous to get a bit up in arms that we may not see some of the sequels mentioned above in hi-def anytime soon. So I reached out to Universal:
I'm just writing to find out if USHE has any plans to put out blu-rays of the titles on these collections that aren't already on blu-ray (such as Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Dracula's Daughter, House of Frankenstein, Revenge of the Creature, and The Mummy's Hand) in the near future.
Later in the day, a representative from Universal responded:
To answer your question, the Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection will be available exclusively on DVD September 2, 2014.  Universal Studios Home Entertainment has no plans to release this collection on Blu-ray in the immediate future.
Same applies to the specific titles you inquired about below.

So there you have it. It's a sad day in Vasaria.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Finally! 'Eraserhead' Is Officially Coming from the Criterion Collection! Updated with Pre-Order Info....

The rumors have been ruminating for quite some years that Criterion has hi-fed dibs on the ultimate cult movie. Well, the company has just announced its September titles, and I am absolutely thrilled to announce that David Lynch's Eraserhead is finally on the roster for the 16th! My personal favorite movie will also include hi-def restorations of five Lynch shorts (Six Figures Getting Sick, The Alphabet, The Grandmother--a truly remarkable film in its own right, The Amputee (two different versions), and Premonitions Following an Evil Deed). Other extras include a new selection of cast and crew interviews and Lynch's mesmerizing "Eraserhead Stories" interview from the original DVD. With Wild at Heart arriving from Twilight Time last spring and Twin Peaks/Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me coming from Paramount next month, 2014 is shaping up to be the year that the greatest living director is finally getting his due on blu-ray.

But that's not all! Among Criterion's other September titles are two other Psychobabble favorites for the 23rd: Jack Clayton's 1961 Turn of the Screw adaptation The Innocents (and film that, like Eraserhead, was on my list of films that deserve the Criterion treatment) and Roman Polanski's horrific 1971 version of Macbeth (a film that was almost on that list but wasn't for some reason).

Pre-order all three blu-rays on Amazon.com now:


Hey, Universal... What's Up with Your Hammer Horror Library?

As I've written on this site more times than I care to Hammer Horror is in a sorry state in the United States. While select titles have slipped out in hi-def from several production companies (Shout! Factory, Millennium Entertainment, Synapse Films), the studio's most essential films remain MIA. Two of the most essential are Hammer's first Dracula sequel, Brides of Dracula, and its one and only werewolf picture, Curse of the Werewolf. Both of these films are the property of one of the biggest studios with Hammer rights in the U.S., Universal, and both were originally released on DVD in 2005 as part of the "Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection", which also included Kiss of the Vampire, Paranoiac, Night Creatures, Nightmare, Evil of Frankenstein, and Phantom of the Opera

On September 2, Universal will rerelease "Hammer Horror Series 8-Film Collection" on DVD even though this double-disc collection isn't even out of print. The press release made no mention of a blu-ray version, and my inquiry to Universal regarding the hi-def fates of these films has gone unanswered as of this writing. OK, so Hammer doesn't quite have the sweeping rep and influence in the US it enjoys in the UK, but this is still pretty confounding treatment for some unforgettably horrific films that would look astounding on blu-ray. I'd suggest starting one of those online petitions calling for their release on blu-ray if I believed that sort of thing accomplished anything. For now we can only hope that Universal--the studio that did right by its own horror legacy with its "Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection" blu-ray box in 2012-- comes to its senses... or gets its throat torn out by Oliver Reed.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Beatles Mono Mixes Coming to Vinyl This September

On September 8, Capitol will be issuing all eleven of The Beatles' mono LPs, including a triple-LP Mono Masters set identical to the one included in the CD mono box from 2009 in line-up but not in master. According to the official press release,"this new vinyl project, (engineer Sean) Magee and (mastering supervisor Steve) Berkowitz cut the records without using any digital technology. Instead, they employed the same procedures used in the 1960s, guided by the original albums and by detailed transfer notes made by the original cutting engineers.

Working in the same room at Abbey Road where most of The Beatles’ albums were initially cut, the pair first dedicated weeks to concentrated listening, fastidiously comparing the master tapes with first pressings of the mono records made in the 1960s. Using a rigorously tested Studer A80 machine to play back the precious tapes, the new vinyl was cut on a 1980s-era VMS80 lathe."

The records will be available individually and as a limited edition box set. Pre-order for all incarnations are now up on Amazon.com:


Sunday, June 15, 2014

"Vincent Price Collection II" Coming to Blu-Ray This Halloween Season

Loaded with classic films such as Masque of the Red Death, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and House of Usher, Scream Factory's "Vincent Price Collection" was probably the best blu-ray set of last year. Apparently, it was a success from a commercial standpoint too, because the company is planning to follow it up with a second volume this October. All specs have not been released yet, but according to blu-ray.com, the "Vincent Price Collection II" will include The Last Man on Earth, The Comedy of Terrors, Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Tomb of Ligeia, The Raven, Return of the Fly and The House on Haunted Hill. Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Tomb of Ligeia (Price's personal favorite of his Poe-based collaborations with Roger Corman), and William Castle's absolute classic House on Haunted Hill,  a public domain film that has never been available in exceptional quality on home video before, might make this a keeper. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Review: The Criterion Edition of 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'


With a sudden boost of government assistance by way of Prime Minister John Gorton, Australian cinema really came into its own in the seventies. The boom gave us some extraordinary films, such as Nic Roeg’s dizzying Walkabout and Ted Kotcheff’s brutal, horrifying Wake in Fright. But the most enduring masterpiece of that era is Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. Faithfully adapted from Joan Lindsay’s lyrical novel, Picnic at Hanging Rock is a dreamy and rather creepy allegory of Victorian sexual repression.

On Valentine’s Day, 1900, a group of young women from an all-girl’s conservatory go for a holiday picnic near a mysterious rock formation in the Australian wilds. Three of the girls and their teacher mysteriously disappear during the excursion. In the wake of this bizarre tragedy, a young man (Dominic Guard) becomes obsessed with finding out what happened, a rebellious young girl (Margaret Nelson) obsesses over the loss of the ideal Miranda (Anne Louise Lambert), and the school slowly goes to pot.

This may sound like a decent amount of dramatic substance, but Weir develops the film so slowly and reveals so little that some viewers will no doubt feel cheated by his refusal to let us know precisely what happened. I love this movie for that very reason; the spell is never broken, the mystery is never solved, and the viewer is allowed to fill in the gaps as he or she sees fit. I’d always rather be haunted than routinely satisfied, and few films are as haunting as Picnic at Hanging Rock, with its golden cinematography and otherworldly depiction of nature in contrast to the conservatism of the bordering school environment and its seething headmistress (Rachel Roberts) who so desperately wants to keep her school as tightly wound as her pompadour.

Picnic at Hanging Rock was an early release in the Criterion Collection, which means it’s been well due for an upgrade for a while, particularly since that DVD was pretty bare boned. Criterion has more than made up for that with a new Blu-ray/DVD combo that delivers high quality in both the video/audio department and the extras. There’s a ten-minute introduction by film-course text-book mainstay David Thomson, which largely focuses on the film’s place in Australian cinema, a 2003 video interview with Weir that functions as a good making-of account (he talks about getting approval from Joan Lindsay, the tantalizing unsolved mystery, casting, locations, music, and the film’s mesmerizing aesthetic), and a new documentary called Everything Begins and Ends that fills in the gaps and features new interviews with the production team, actress Helen Morse, and the still radiant Anne Louise Lambert. Less insightful but neat for retro reasons is a vintage on-set doc called A Recollection…Hanging Rock 1900, most notable for the first hand perspectives of Joan Lindsay and a baby-faced Weir. Weir is also represented by his short film Homesdale, a weird mystery much more playful and much less polished than the feature. Lindsay is represented by the complete (and long out-of-print in the U.S.) Picnic at Hanging Rock novel, which may be the neatest extra of all.

The one glaring omission is the clutch of scenes deleted from the original theatrical version of the film. I have never seen those scenes as part of the film, but I have seen them on their own, and while I don’t think they add anything of great value to the story, it still would have been nice to have them as extras. That one omission aside, Criterion’s new edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock is as beautiful a package as the film and as satisfying as that film refuses to be.

Get the Criterion edition of Picnic at Hanging Rock on Amazon.com here:



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Twin Peaks" Blu-Ray Sneak Peak: David Lynch's Sit Down with the Deceased Leland Palmer

"You've been dead for 25 years now." 

So begins David Lynch's interview with Leland Palmer, one of the more intriguing extras on the upcoming "Twin Peaks" blu-ray box set. Described in Paramount's press release as "a new featurette with Lynch and the actors who portrayed the Palmer family which includes a mesmerizing return to the lives of their characters today," the "Between Two Worlds" featurette apparently consists of interviews with Ray Wise as Leland, Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer, and Grace Zabriskie as Sarah Palmer in dreamy black and white. 

Here's a wee taste of the Leland interview. I'm not sure if this is scripted or if Ray Wise is improvising, but Lynch's face as Leland talks about his wife's laugh is priceless.



Monday, June 9, 2014

Farewell, Rik Mayall

I'm saddened to report that the People's Poet has passed at 56. Rik Mayall, best known as Rick of "The Young Ones", died today. Aside from his iconic work in film and TV, which also included the great "Black Adder" and a small role in the very best horror film of the eighties, An American Werewolf in London, Mayall wrote an absolutely hilarious book called Bigger than Hitler, Better than Christ that you simply must read. Details of his sudden and tragic death have yet to be determined. 

For now, a couple of great Rik and Rick moments: 

Rick's first encounter with a tampon (featuring young Jennifer Saunders!):


Rick, Neil, and Vyvyan Sings My Generation:
 

Turn Left at Greenland, Part 6: ‘Beatles VI’


In this monthly feature on Psychobabble, I’ve been looking at how The Beatles were presented on long-playing vinyl in the United States.

Capitol started 1965 with a bit of necessary closet cleaning. Now that Vee-Jay’s lease was up on The Beatles’ early recordings, Capitol was free to put them out in an imaginatively titled package called The Early Beatles. For those who hadn’t picked up Introducing… The Beatles, this was a required—if out of date— purchase. Capitol made up for that with its next LP. Though the title of Beatles VI implied yet another routinely pushed out piece of product, the contents were actually fairly interesting. Several tracks were available for the very first time anywhere. Parlophone’s Help! was still a month away from publication in the UK, and George Martin gave Capitol the go ahead to use “Tell Me What You See” and George’s “You Like Me Too Much” since they weren’t used in the film. Of even greater historical interest are two Larry Williams covers the band recorded on May 10 because the Capitol record would have been short material otherwise. Although “Dizzy Miss Lizzy” (misprinted on the Beatles VI album cover as “Dizzy Miss Lizzie”) would end up as a bit of filler at the end of Parlophone’s Help!, where it would be the final significant cover song on a non-compilation Beatles LP in the UK, “Bad Boy” would be The Beatles’ first and final recording intended for the U.S. market exclusively (nevertheless it would be put out in the UK soon enough as part of the A Collection of Beatles Oldies compilation when the guys couldn’t get together an LP in time for Christmas 1966), not to mention their wittiest and liveliest homage to the underrated New Orleans rocker. The inclusion of the gorgeously melancholy B-side “Yes It Is”, the only track to suffer from duophonic reverb excess this time, also helped to make Beatles VI the most unique Beatles LP Capitol slapped together since Second Album. 

The remaining six tracks were all left over from Beatles for Sale, though their lean toward trad Rock & Roll (with a couple of covers from Little Richard and Buddy Holly), rather than the band’s new brooding folk-rock direction made for a record with a decidedly different feel from Beatles ’65. Ironically, even as a number of these songs are fresh recordings that hadn’t even seen light in Britain yet, Beatles VI ends up sounding like a bit of a step backward after Beatles ’65. Only “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”, “Every Little Thing” and “Tell Me What You See” fall in line with the folkier feel of For Sale/’65 and much of the upcoming Help! Thus The Beatles’ story was becoming increasingly confusing in America. Not that it did anything to impede their success. The Yanks apparently weren’t too concerned about the relative lack of Lennon/McCartney songs or innovation, ensuring an appropriate six-week stint at number one on Billboard’s LP chart for Beatles VI. Interestingly, it would be the next Capitol LP that would really point toward future directions for The Beatles, and it wasn’t even the mere seven band originals that indicated that progression.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

CBS Home Entertainment Releases "Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery" Restoration Comparison Video

One of the big draws of the upcoming "Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery" blu-ray set is that original picture negatives long believed to be gone forever were finally found. This means "Twin Peaks" really will look as it never has before on home video. To give you an idea of just how much of an improvement you can expect, CBS Home Entertainment has released this video that compares the new restoration with the previously available one.


Pre-order "Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery" on Amazon.com now here:

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A Pair of Classic E.C. Portmanteaus Coming to Blu-Ray This Year

Two of the very best horror portmanteaus are based on two of the very best horror comics: EC's Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. Although a release date still remains to be revealed, Scream Factory has announced its plans to package these two films together on blu-ray in 2014. Stay tuned for that date and specs, although we do know that Vault will arrive in its long-awaited uncensored version! Gasp! Choke!
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