Dracula Dies! The restored disintegration of HORROR OF DRACULA

Horror of Dracula (1958) the restored destruction as seen in film
The restored destruction of the Count (Christopher Lee) in HORROR OF DRACULA

The Holy Grail of horror cinema – the censored shot of the Count’s destruction from HORROR OF DRACULA – will soon be in the hands of faithful fans when the British Blu-ray of the restored version arrives on March 13. U.S. fans without a region-free player are not so lucky (no mention of a Region 1 release yet), but at least you can enjoy this glimpse of the previously missing footage, thanks to a still posted by David J. Skal on his Facebook page.
horror of dracula disintegration publicity still
Dracula's disintegration as seen in a publicity still - possibly an early makeup test

The censored shot is similar to but nonetheless radically different from the publicity still of the missing scene, which has been reproduced endlessly since HORROR OF DRACULA was released back in 1958. The version in the publicity still – possibly an early makeup test – suggests burns or scars, and although it is difficult to see clearly, I get the impression that you can see Christopher Lee’s unblemished skin showing through around the edges. The version as seen in the newly reinstated footage suggests melting flesh, which completely covers Lee’s face.*
I gave a rundown of the history of the missing footage and its rediscovery last November, so I will not reopen that coffin. Instead, I will provide a sequence of images portraying the disintegration of Dracula (Christopher Lee), as he is forced back into the sunlight by Professor Van Helsing (Peter Cushing). The sequence ranks as one of the great climaxes in horror cinema, and it’s exciting to think that the scene will soon be augmented, making it even more gruesomely delightful than ever before.
HORROR OF DRACULA: the Count screams as daylight pierces the shadows of his castle HORROR OF DRACULA: the Count's foot disintegrates in a beam of sunlight HORROR OF DRACULA: the Count struggles to avoid the sun HORROR OF DRACULA: Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) fashions a pair of candlesticks into a cross HORROR OF DRACULA: The makeshift cross forces Dracula (Christopher Lee) toward the sunlight. HORROR OF DRACULA: the Count's hand disintegrates into dust HORROR OF DRACULA: the defeated vampire king edges closer to the sun Horror of Dracula (1958) the restored destruction as seen in film HORROR OF DRACULA: the implacable Van Helsing watches Dracula's destruction HORROR OF DRACULA: the final stage of Dracula's disintegration (1958) HORROR OF DRACULA: all that remains of the Count is a pile of dust, blown away in a cleansing breeze.
FOOTNOTE:

  • Roy Ahston's makeup for Herbert Lom as the Phantom of the Opera (1962)
    Roy Ahston's makeup for Herbert Lom as the Phantom of the Opera (1962)

    In fact, the restored makeup reminds me of Herbert Lom’s visage in Hammer Films’ version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1962). At first, this seems to make sense, since both HORROR OF DRACULA and THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA were produced at Hammer Films. However, they featured the work of different makeup men: Phil Leaky provided Dracula’s destruction; Roy Ashton had taken over the department by the time that Herbert Lom played the Phantom. (UPDATE: Ted Newsom suggests that Roy Ashton may have provided uncredited assistance to Phil Leaky on HORROR OF DRACULA before becoming head of the makeup department around the time of THE MUMMY in 1959.)

Laserblast: What's Wrong with Redbox Rentals

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Forget about getting the unrated version of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 at Redbox.

In an era that sees brick-and-mortar video rental stores resembling dinosaurs fated to extinction, the increasingly ubiquitous presence of self-serve Red Box locations in front of convenience stores and even inside some grocery stores is a good sign for those of us who do not want to wait for Netflix to ship us that latest DVD or Blu-ray disc. Redbox also offers other services, dispensing videogames for Wii, PS3, and XBox, and it recently started offering tickets to select events in Los Angeles. With a $1 price for a one-day DVD rental ($1.50 for Blu-ray discs) and a $1 service fee for ticket purchases, Redbox offers great value along with convenience. Unfortunately, it is not quite perfect.
First, Redbox offers only the latest home video releases. I’m not sure what the exact window is, but the standard “shelf life” appears to be about six months, after which a “last chance” warning is flagged on the title in question, which disappears shortly thereafter. Occasionally, an older title returns (e.g. SPIDER-MAN went  back in the box when THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN opened in theatres; PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 is back now that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 is out), but generally speaking, if you are interested in anything more than what’s current, you are out of luck.
And by “current,” I mean something with a recent copyright date. New DVDs and Blu-ray discs of older titles do not get into Redbox. If you are hoping to see that new Blu-ray release of Mario Bava’s 1972 neo-Goth BARON BLOOD, you are out of luck, and you might as well forget about the upcoming Blu-ray of Hammer memorable THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970).
Still, these titles appeal to a relatively small slice of today’s homevideo audience, so I cannot blame Redbox too much. However, there is another problem, as I found out this week when I wasted $1.50 on a rental of the new Blu-ray disc of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4: although the DVDs and Blu-rays available for purchase through other outlets (such as Amazon) contain both the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut, the discs available for rent through Redbox contain only the R-rated theatrical version.
To be fair, the Redbox website’s FAQ section clarifies that Redbox does not carry NC-17 titles, but it says nothing about unrated titles. Also, the information on the website mentions the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4’s R-rating and the running time (87 minutes for the theatrical version), and nothing on the artwork suggests you are getting anything else. So I guess it is my fault for not looking more closely before renting the Blu-ray disc.
drag me to hell copyHowever, this is not always the case. Redbox sometimes displays artwork indicating that you are getting something more than an R-rated version. For example, the box art for both DRAG ME TO HELL and LOCKOUT clearly indicate “Unrated Edition,” while the accompanying text shows that the film you rent will actually be rated PG-13. This could certainly be construed as false advertising.
Obviously, there are other ways to view the unrated version of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4. The extended cut is available for rent and purchase through steaming and download services such as Amazon and iTunes, but you will not get the 30 minutes of additional scenes available as a Blu-ray bonus feature. For that, you have to purchase the disc or rent it through Netflix and await the arrival days later.
Obviously, a short waiting period is not a great burden, but it is strange that Redbox would cede this advantage to a competitor. Presumably, Redbox is leery of accusations that children might get access to unrated movies, but they already have a system in place to validate for age, in order to prevent R-rated movies from getting into the hands of youngsters. If the system is good enough to do that, then there should be no additional onus on unrated material, which should be available to adult renters.
Redbox remains a useful service. In addition to their current a la cart rental service, they plan to offer a subscription service that will include four one-day rental a month, plus unlimited streaming through Verizon wireless. But it is unfortunate that their selection is so limited. This is no doubt due to the size restrictions of the redboxes themselves (approximately equal to a jukebox), but if they have room for every piece of direct-to-video junk that comes out each week, there should be a way to include unrated titles and also older titles given new home video releases.
Although it may not be viable to stock BARON BLOOD, TWINS OF EVIL, VAMPIRE CIRCUS, and THE VAMPIRE LOVERS at a box in front of every 7-11 store, Redbox does have an online reservation feature and allows you to create accounts listing your order history and movie preferences. Certainly, these features could be tweaked to move discs with specialized appeal into locations convenient for people who want them.

Laserblast 4.4.2: Frankenweenie, John Carter, Iron Sky, Homicidal

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Welcome back to another edition of the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast, exploring the highways and byways of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction Films on Home Video – Blu-ray, DVD, Video on Demand, and Instant Streaming. In Volume 4, Episode 4.2, Steve Biodrowski reviews the Blu-ray discs of FRANKENWEENIE and JOHN CARTER; Dan Persons waxes over the Nazi-on-the-Moon spoof IRON SKY; and Lawrence French offers up William Castle’s HOMICIDAL (1961) as an effective pinch-hitter horror film in place of PSYCHO (1960).
Also on the agenda: a look at FrightPIX, the new free streaming channel of horror films available through Roku; and a rundown of home video releases for the weeks of Tuesday, January 22 & 29.


NOTE: If you prefer reading to listening, details of the week’s home video releases are listed below…

JANUARY 29 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

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Click to purchase

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 sees the release of three titles that have actually been available on Video on Demand for two weeks through the magic of “Early Release.” This is a new strategy, in which films are available through downloading and streaming services before arriving on store shelves in hard copies. The early release price (for purchase only, not rental) is considerably higher; now that the films are on store shelves, the price for streaming and downloading has dropped, and rental options are available. The films in question are:

  • HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, now on single disc DVD; on triple disc Blu-ray and DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy; and quadruple disc with a 3D Blu-ray.
  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which arrives in two packages: the first includes only DVD; the second includes both DVD and Blu-ray, plus a Digital Copy and Ultra-Violet. Both the Blu-and the DVD include the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut, which runs approximately ten minutes longer. The Blu-ray also offers a half-hour of “recovered files” – basically, deleted scenes – but there are no other bonus features. Amazon.com still has the unrated version available through their Instant Streaming service
  • click to purchase
  • THE AWAKENING: This excellent British ghost story from 2011, which got a small U.S. release last year, is now available on DVD and on Blu-ray; the steaming version is still available here. The latter includes numerous behind-the-scenes bonus features: deleted scenes; behind-the-scenes featurettes; an interview with director Nick Murphy; a look at belief in the supernatural and in spiritualism.

And speaking of “Early Release,” SILENT HILL: REVELATION goes on sale via Video on Demand and download this week. Expect discs to hit store shelves in a couple weeks.
Also out this week:
BATMAN: THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS arrives on Blu-ray combo pack and on DVD and on Video on Demand.

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click to purchase

WHITE ZOMBIE: The 1932 black-and-white classic, starring Bela Lugosi, reappears in a newly remastered transfer, available on Blu-ray and on DVD. These discs port over some of the bonus features from the Roan Group’s 1999 DVD (including a re-release trailer and an “Intimate Interview” with Lugosi), but not the excellent audio commentary by Gary Don Roades. WHITE ZOMBIE is a public domain title, available in lots of cheap DVD versions, but this new version from Kino Classics has been digitally restored – which you will appreciate if you recall the Roan version, which was good but still had problems. Source material was a 35mm fine grain master; the raw and enhanced versions are included.
Midnight Movies Volume 9 offers a zombie double bill of HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD and NIGHTMARE CITY – two Italian gorefests from the 1980, following in the wake of DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979) and ZOMBIE (1980). The former is also known as VIRUS and as NIGHT OF THE ZOMBIES, and reuses music from DAWN OF THE DEAD. The later stars actor Hugo Stiglitz, after whom Quentin Tarantino named a character in INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.

JANUARY 22, 2013 HOME VIDEO RELEASES

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click to purchase

Since we posted no Lasberblast – either column or podcast – for last week, we will make it up to you by listing the titles this week, but rest assured, you did not miss much. The only new titles wer DEATH RACE 3: INFERNO, which made its direct-to-video debut on DVD and Blu-ray, and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING, which arrived on store shelves after a pre-theatrical VOD debut last year, followed by brief, limited exposure in theatres.
Older titles resurrected on disc include several 1980s titles and a bunch of 1990s obscurities from Charles Band’s now-defunct Full Moon Productions. The 1980s titles include:

  • Wes Craven’s DEADLY BLESSING in a new Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and DVD. This 1981 is from a few years before Craven hit big with A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. You can also sense Craven inserting some NIGHTMARE style dream scenes toliven up the slasher-style scenario.
  • CUJO, based on the Stephen King novel and starring Dee Wallace (E.T.) sees new life on DVD and on Blu-ray.
  • THE INCUBUS (1982) with John Cassavetes flts into stores on DVD. The film was directed by John Hough, who has a couple of good titles to his name (TWINS OF EVIL and THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE), but this is nowhere near as good. There is some nice atmosphere, but the script is problematic at best, and one suspects that Cassavetes was earning a pay check to fund one of his own directorial efforts.

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click to purchase

Meanwhile, the Full Moon titles arrive on DVD are: LURKING FEAR (1994), MONSTROID, SEED PEOPLE (1992), and DARK ANGEL: THE ASCENT (1994). The last of these is a mildly amusing horror-comedy, featuring a female demon who ventures up from Hell and falls in love with a mortal man. The basic concept (the denizens of Hell are demonic, but they are doing God’s work by punishing sinners) is actually rather interesting.
That’s all for now. Since Captain Sparky has defeated the flying saucers, all is safe.
Or is it?
Purchase these and other videos in the Cinefantastique Online Store.
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Laserblast 4.2.2: The Sorcerer and the White Snake, Paranormal Activity 4 on demand, Dredd 3D TV

sorcerer-dredd-mark copy

Interested in what new horror, fantasy, and science fiction films are available on home video this week? You have two ways to find out: listen in to this week’s podcast, or read on. In fact, why not do both?

In the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast 4.2.2, Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski run down genre titles coming out on DVD, Blu-ray, and Video on Demand for the week of Tuesday, January 15. Biodrowski reviews THE SORCERER AND THE WHITE SNAKE – currently available as a “pre-theatrical rental” with a couple of big-screen engagements scheduled for February 8. Persons explores the potential of watching DREDD in 3D without a 3D television set, by way of the 3D Video Wizard Console, which translated the signal from your 3D Blu-ray or streaming service into a picture that can be viewed with blue-and-red 3D glasses.

After that, Biodrowski offers some home video recommendations for the late actor Jon Finch, who passed away last week. Finch starred in Alfred Hitcock’s FRENZY and Roman Polanski’s MACBETH, both of which are available on DVD and through Amazon Instant Viewing (click here for FRENZY and here for MACBETH). Finch also played the young male lead in THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), which is available on both DVD and through Netflix Instant Video. The DVD (which also contains COUNTESS DRACULA and which you can purchase here) features a nice audio commentary by Ingrid Pitt, who starred as the voracious, voluptuous, and yet vulnerable Countess Mircalla Karnstein. A Blu-ray release is scheduled for April 30; you can pre-order now. Sadly, Finch’s most eccentric and interesting science fiction film, THE FINAL PROGRAMME (a.k.a. THE LAST DAYS OF MAN ON EARTH) is currently out of print, although old copies may be available for purchase at some outlets.

Next up: a new feature titled “Pinch-Hitter Films.” What are Pinch-Hitter Films? As the name implies (a baseball term), Pinch-Hitter Films substitute in a pinch for other films. If you have watched your favorite classic so many times that you never need to see it again, but you still feel a hunger for the sort of entertainment value it used to provide before you exhausted it through repeat viewings, you resort to a Pinch-Hitter Film.

  • Biodrowski offers up MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935), directed by Tod Browing and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Mora, as a pinch-hitter for DRACULA (1931), directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. MARK OF THE VAMPIRE is no match for its predecessor, but it is a wonderfully atmospheric example of old-fashioned black-and-white Gothic horror, and it does surpass DRACULA in one or two ways (e.g., it actually shows the man-to-bat transformation only suggested in DRACULA).
  • Persons suggests that SILENT RUNNING (1972) is an adequate substitute for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968). Although not of the same stature, SILENT RUNNING is a sort of unofficial successor to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, directed by Douglas Trumbull, who provided special effects for SPACE ODYSSEY (in fact, SILENT RUNNING’s sequence of a spaceship passing through the rings of Saturn was originally intended for the earlier film).

EARLY RELEASE STEAMING AND DOWNLOADS

Not mentioned in the podcast but worth noting here, are a handful of “Early Release” home video titles. “Early Release” is the designation being given to films that are made available to be purchased via digital download or cloud streaming prior to arriving on Blu-ray and/or DVD. The general pattern seems to be a two-week window during which titles are priced to sell, followed by release in other home video formats, including rental options.

The most high-profile early release for Tuesday, January 15 is PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4, which is now available in two versions: the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut that adds ten minutes to the running time. (Note: the theatrical version is available through iTunes but not Amazon.com, which offers only the unrated version.) Blu-ray discs and DVDs of both cuts will arrive on January 29.

Also available for early online viewing and download is HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, the computer-animated comedy about the titular establishment where monsters gather to avoid humans, until one stumbles in by accident and falls in love with Dracula’s daughter. The film is currently available for purchase in both high-def and standard-def versions at iTunes; Amazon.com has only the standard-def version. Rental options, along with DVDs and Blu-ray discs, will arrive on January 29.

Lastly, THE AWAKENING – the excellent 2011 British ghost story that arrived in U.S. theatres last year – is also now available for early release purchase. Amazon.com has a standard-def version for $11.99; iTunes has the same offer for the same price, plus a high-def version for $19.99. Again, the DVD and Blu-ray release will occur on January 29, at which time you should also be able to rent the film film through your preferred VOD method, whether digital download or instant streaming.

January 15 Home Video: Paranormal Activity 4, Possession and more

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click to purchase

POSSESSION, which played in U.S. theatres last August, hits video store shelves on Tuesday, January 15. The supernatural thriller, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Kyra Sedgwick arrives in two versions: the first contains a DVD, a digital copy, and UltraViolet; the second contains Blu-ray, Digital Copy, and UltraViolet.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 4 becomes available for download in two different versions: the original theatrical cut and an unrated extended cut. Blu-ray discs and DVDs will follow two weeks later on January 29.
Other titles arriving on home video this week are:
MERLIN: THE COMPLETE FOURTH SEASON on DVD and on Blu-ray.
BEING HUMAN: SEASON 4 on DVD and on Blu-ray.
30 NIGHTS OF PARANORMAL ACTIVITY WITH THE DEVIL on DVD and on Blu-ray.
THE BISHOP’S WIFE, the 1947 classic starring Cary Grant and David Niven, arrives on DVD from Warner Home Video. A previous DVD was released by MGM in 2001. The film is also now available for instant streaming.
Also of interest: Woody Allen’s TO ROME, WITH LOVE arrives on DVD, on Blu-ray, and Video on Demand. Although not, strictly speaking, a genre effort, several of its episodes straddle the borderline, especially the sequences in which Alex Baldwin’s character seems to meet a younger version of himself, reliving events from his past.
You can purchase these and other titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store, powered by Amazon.com

Laserblast Podcast 3:46.2: Universal Soldier, Red vs. Blue, Jack & Diane, Bava

Universal Soldier Day of Reckoning crop
The Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast returns, bringing you news and reviews of the latest horror, fantasy, and science fiction films on home video – DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and instant streaming. Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski take a look at new releases for Tuesday, November 20, including the Japanese anime title GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES, now on Blu-ray for the first time, and the DOCTOR WHO LIMITED EDITION GIFT SET on DVD (featuring the three most recent doctors: Matt Smith, David Tennant, and Christopher Eccleston).
But wait, there’s more! Dan Persons reviews Season 10 of RED VS. BLUE. Steve Biodrowski reviews two films in limited theatrical release that are also currently available via Video on Demand: JACK & DIANE (a teen romance with weird, artsy horror elements spliced in) and UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: DAY OF RECKONING (the film that asks whether the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER franchise can successfully incorporate elements of MEMENTO and APOCALYPSE NOW). And things wrap up with a look at some titles from the late Italian horror specialist Mario Bava, which have recently become available on Netflix Instant Viewing.


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Warner Brothers Halloween Blu-ray Contest!

DVD ContestUPDATE: Contest Closed! Thanks to everyone who entered; sorry we didn’t have discs for all of you.
Halloween approaches! And what better way to enjoy the October season that with horror movies! Fortunately for you, Warner Brothers is giving away a set of their latest Blu-ray horror titles, just in time to fill your treat bag for Halloween night! The four discs are CHERNOBYL DIARIES (released today), DARK SHADOWS (released October 2), HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS and NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS (scheduled for October 30).
One lucky winner will receive all four discs. For your chance to win, send an email to contest@cinefantastiqueonline.com with “WBHalloween” in the subject line, and answer this question:

What romantically inclined supernatural femme fatal from the original DARK SHADOWS soap opera appeared in the recent DARK SHADOWS feature film and in NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS but not in HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS?

Please include your name and address so that we can send the discs to you. We are not able to ship to PO Box addresses, and the winner must be within the United States.

Laserblast Podcast 3:37.2: Total Recall, Indiana Jones, Bait

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It’s the return of the Cinefantastique Laserblast Podcast – featuring news and reviews of horror, fantasy & science fiction available on home video. In this installment, CFQ correspondents Dan Persons and Steve Biodrowski look at Tuesday, September 18’s current crop of releases, including INDIANA JONES: THE COMPLETE ADVENTURES, CABIN IN THE WOODS, and the complete seventh season of SUPERNATURAL. Also, they offer reviews of recent releases, BAIT in 3D and the “Mind-Bending” Blu-ray edition of TOTAL RECALL (1990). Finally, they take a look at the 2001 Canadian documentary, THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY, a look at horror makeup effects in general and at makeup artist Greg Nicoter in particular; it’s not available on U.S. home video yet, but CFQ fans should eagerly await its arrival so that they can see Biodrowski’s 10 seconds of fame as one of the interview subjects.

BATTLESHIP on Home Video

On Tuesday, August 28, BATTLESHIP arrives on home video in multiple formats: Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD. The Blu-ray Combo Pack includes a digital cop of the film, for use on mobile devices, along with UltraViolet, which allows you to collect your movies on the could, from which you can stream and download them to computers, tablets or smart phones. The Blu-ray disc also contains extensive bonus features:

  • Alternate Ending Pre-visualization with commentary by Peter Berg
  • The Visual Effects of Battleship – From ground-breaking water-simulation programs to cutting-edge motion capture, see how the team at Industrial Light & Magic pushes the boundaries of visual effects to bring the aliens to life.
  • All Access with Director Peter Berg – Join director Peter Berg as he gives fans an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie.
  • USS Missouri VIP Tour – Come aboard the historic “Mighty Mo” for an exclusive tour with director Peter Berg and actual Navy veterans as they reveal some of the coolest facts and amazing action that has graced the decks of this legendary ship.
  • Commander Pete – Watch as director Peter Berg energizes the cast and crew with his endless enthusiasm and relentless good humor.
  • And with UNIVERSAL’S SECOND SCREEN, viewers can enjoy an innovative and interactive viewing experience, that allows them to control, interact and explore Battleship with groundbreaking features right on a networked tablet or computer, in synchronization with the movie on the television screen! While the movie plays, experience features such as:
  • Alien Tech 3D Model Turntable Explosions: During the movie, 3D models of the aliens and the shredder become available to the user to view at various angles. For instance, as the user turns the Regent Alien, the armor flies off in parts and then re-assembles. (Exclusive to Second Screen.)
  • All Access with Director Peter Berg: Viewers get an all access look at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.
  • Flick View: Interact with the movie, move content from the Tablet to the TV screen, and compare storyboards, animatics, and other executing content by “Flicking” them from on their tablet to their TV screen, simply by gesturing their fingers upwards on their tablets.

You can see clips of the BATTLESHIP Blu-ray bonus features at Cinefantastique’s YouTube Channel: