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By Peter Covino
This has to be my favorite time of year for both DVD and TV viewing.
Just about everywhere you look there are horror classics old and new, horror films that are very bad and very good, as Halloween gets closer and closer.
And as usual, there are so many releases coming out as it gets closer to Oct. 31, that it will be pretty much impossible to fit them all here in one DVD review.
I don’t even know where to begin.
Yes, I do. Let’s start with one of the greatest horror films ever made —The Exorcist.
Few horror films retain their shock (or horror) value 40 years after the initial release, but The Exorcist is one of a very few films that is scary to watch alone or in the dark.
The Exorcist has been on DVD before. It has even been on Blu-ray before, but this 40th anniversary edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) of William Friedkin’s masterpiece, features the Blu-ray Extended Director’s Cut (as well as theatrical version) .
Also new to the anniversary edition, are two new featurettes: Beyond Comprehension: William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and Talk of the Devil.
Beyond Comprehension features The Exorcist author (and screenwriter) revisiting his famous book and film, including the house in Encino, Ca. where he wrote the novel. Blatty also goes to Georgetown University, made iconic by the film. Blatty reads from the book at the various locations, including an excerpt from a newly published passage.
And Talk of the Devil is some footage, available for the first time in many years, of Blatty talking about a true case of possession at Georgetown with Father Eugene Gallagher.
In addition, the Blu-ray/DVD includes commentaries with Friedkin and Blatty and 1998 BBC documentary on the film; The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown then and now. Interviews, trailers and more.
The Exorcist stars Ellen Burstyn, Linda Blair, Max Von Sydow and Jason Miller and received ten Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, winning two.
The Exorcist was originally released with an R rating.
This one is not exactly the stuff of nightmares, but Pacific Rim (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment), with its assortment of monsters from the sea, is certainly entertaining.
Available in Blur-ray combo packs (including a 3D version) and 2-disc DVD special edition, Pacific Rim features direction and screenplay by Guillermo del Toro and most definitely has its roots in Godzilla movies.
It’s the near future and legions of monsters, known as Kaiju, have started rising from the sea. It is literally a never-ending battle as human-kind no sooner vanquishes one monster when it is replaced with one equally as bad or worse. Millions have already been killed as the monsters take on cities all along the Pacific Rim.
To defend the world (the situation just keeps getting worse) are massive robots called Jaegers, each controlled by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge.
As things get their bleakest, it is up to two unlikely heroes, a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnan) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi) to save the day.
Bonus Blu-ray features include an Ultraviolet copy; audio commentary with director del Toro; The Directors Notebook; The Digital Artistry of Pacific Rim, deleted scenes, blooper reel and more.
The film is rated PG-13.
House of Wax
No, not that House of Wax.
Way before the remake melted and burned on screen, the House of Wax meant 3D and Vincent Price.
In 1953, House of Wax was the first color 3D feature from a major studio. It featured some really gimmicky things like it was a 3D demo (that guy with the paddle ball bouncing a ball seemingly into the aisles).
House of Wax is still creepy and you can see it as it was originally intended thanks to this newly-restored and remastered HD 3D Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
The disc set also includes a 2D version in Blu-ray of the film, plus the bonus, Mystery of the Wax Museum, the original 1933 film on which House of Wax is based.
This is the film that made Price a star of horror films and it is easy to see why.
It also stars Frank Lovejoy, Phyllis Kirk and a very young Charles Bronson (billed as Charles Buchinsky).
House of Wax was also one of the biggest box office successes of 1953. Adjusted to today’s gross, it would have brought in more than $401 million, placing it in the top 100 grossing films ever.
Bonus features include a new featurette, House of Wax: Unlike Anything You’ve Ever Seen Before.
This is the second classic 3D film Warner has released as a Blu-ray edition. The studio has also released Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder.
This film starring Ethan Hawke and released without too much fanfare earlier this summer, is a nice one to kick off Halloween film viewing.
In a near future America, once a year all crime is permissible…for a 12-hour period. If you hate your neighbor, you can kill him. Supposedly, it stills the savage beast and cuts down on crime. Of course, the rich and near rich (Ethan Hawke’s character makes a living selling home protection) just lock down for the night and watch the yearly bloodbath on TV.
But things are terribly wrong for Hawke after his son lets the barricades down and lets a desperate man into their safe haven. His family is now the target of his own friends and neighbors. Directed by James DeMonaco (who wrote Assault on Precinct 13 which is similar in feel), The Purge has all the makings of becoming a classic horror/thriller in its own right.
The Purge (Universal Home Entertainment) is available in Blu-ray combo pack (Blu-ray, DVD copy, digital/UltraViolet) and DVD.
The Purge is rated R.
Bonus features include Surviving the Night: The Making of The Purge.
Probably the most disturbing of all of this week’s DVDs, Maniac stars “Hobbit” Elijah Wood as a crazed Jack the Ripper kind of killer.
This is actually a remake of a 1980 cult film, with a strong emphasis on horror and violence.
Woods plays Frank, a very disturbed young man living in modern day Los Angeles who owns a mannequin store and owns and restores mannequins. He also has an inner rage that forces him to brutally kill and scalp women.
He becomes friends with young artist Anna (Nora Armezeder) but the friendship just makes Frank become more unhinged and his stalking and killing increases.
Maniac is both very violent and stylish.
The film is available in both Blu-ray and DVD from IFC Films.
Special features include commentary, a making of feature and deleted scenes.
Maniac is unrated, but is intended for mature audiences.
Beast with Five Fingers
Newly-remastered from the Warner Archive Collection is the Peter Lorre classic The Beast with Five Fingers (1946).
Lorre is at his creepy best living in isolated Italian villa with the cranky aged owner and other guests. After the owner dies, the other inhabitants are seemingly stalked by the old man’s hand. With Robert Alda (father of Alan) as a schemer who lives off of others and Andrea King as the owner’s young caretaker.
Tame by modern standards, but Lorre is always good in a horror film.
As are all films from the Warner Archive Collection, it is made to order and must be ordered from Warnerarchivecollection.com.
Also new, from the Warner Archive Collection is Nightmare Honeymoon (1974), a pretty routine film of its kind that would have fit quite nicely as a drive-in midnight movie during the 1970s.
Dack Rambo and Rebecca Dianna Smith are a Mississippi couple enroute to a New Orleans honeymoon when they witness a mob hit. After the wife is raped, her Vietnam hero husband embarks on a private war of revenge. The location scenes are the real standout including many of New Orleans and surrounding areas.
The film is newly remastered and features both the original theatrical version and an alternate TV version.