Thursday, June 19, 2014

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.

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.

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:
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