Tuesday, July 10 offers little in the way of new horror, fantasy, and science fiction on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD; however, if you are looking to fill some empty slots in your collection, you will find a pod bay full of older titles returning in new editions.
LOCKOUT, the action-packed science fiction thriller starring Guy Pearce, is the one newbie arriving this week, making its Video on Demand debut a week ahead of its arrival on DVD and Blu-ray next Tuesday. The movie is not bad, but viewers will need a high tolerance for familiar formula film-making (ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK comes to mind, without much mental grasping). Two versions are available, the theatrical and unrated; both are currently available only for sale.
If vampires get your blood pumping, you’re in luck, thanks to the arrival of three titles of various vintage: BLADE II, TWINS OF EVIL, and DARK SHADOWS: THE COMPLETE ORIGINAL SERIES (DELUXE EDITION). The first two are new Blu-ray releases; the latter is a mammoth box set, enclosed appropriately enough in a collector’s edition coffin.
BLADE II (2002) is the second in the series starring Wesley Snipes as the epynomous vampire-hunter striking fear into the hearts of the undead. The film is generally regarded as the best of the bunch, thanks to the presence of Guilllermo Del Toro in the director’s chair. The Blu-ray disc includes numerous bonus features that will be familiar to anyone who has perused the old DVD: audio commentary, deleted scenes, trailers, galleries, and featurettes. (The one I remember best “Epilogue: Dirty Version,” which Del Toro informally names “Come Removal” – because, apparently, the scene, set in a peep show, had to be trimmed because someone though semen stains were visible somewhere in the dark grungy setting.)
TWINS OF EVIL (1971) is the third in the Karnstein trilogy – three bloody, sexy shockers produced by Hammer Films in the early 1970s, inspired by J. Sheridan LeFanu’s classic novella, Carmilla. TWINS OF EVIL is no match for the original THE VAMPIRE LOVERS (1970), but it far exceeds the lackluster LUST FOR A VAMPIRE (also 1971). The lesbian element of its predecessors is severely diminished, the the predatory vampire countess Mircalla Karnstein reduced to a mere cameo in order to get the blood boiling early on. After that, the film focuses on the conflict between hedonistic vampires and holier-than-thou vampire hunters, with the battle lines drawn in such a way that it is hard to root for either side. The innovation here lies in the titular characters, played by identical twin playmates, Mary and Madeleine Collinson (only one of whom is actually evil). For such an old title, the Blu-ray DVD Combo pack offers some impressive bonus features : a deleted scene; isolated music and effects track; motion still gallery; theatrical trailer and TV spots; a featurette titled THE PROPS THAT HAMMER BUILD and a full-length documentary feature detailing the behind-the-scenes production details, THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL.
The final nail in the vampire’s coffin this week is the DARK SHADOWS Deluxe Edition, which includes all 1,225 episodes of the show on 131 DVDs. This old Gothic soap opera is very much an artifact of its time (late ’60s, early ’70s), but the crude production values of the shot-live approach (including blown lines, visible boom microphones, and rubber bats bouncing around on wires) become part of the charm. For all its many faults, there is something raw about the series – it’s like watching a first draft being written before your eyes, and it’s easy to imagine someone coming along later and refining this raw material into cinematic gold (alas, if only that had actually happened!). Bonus features include bloopers, behind-the-scenes material, and over 120 cast and crew interviews. The commemorative coffin contains a booklet with episode summaries and photographs, plus nickle hinges, white ribbon to hold the lid open, and matte and foil coating.
The remainder of the weekly offerings consist mostly of oldies resurrected on Blu-ray.
- ALTERED STATES (1980) is director Ken Russell’s mind-blowing special effects freak-out adaptation of the novel by Paddy Chayevsky. It’s overblown and over-the-top in the usual Russell fashion, but that’s all part of the fun, and Chayevsky (who removed his name from the screenplay credit) grounds the bombast in serious drama.
- OUTLAND is Peter Hyams’ attempt to create a gritty vision of outer space as the new version of the old frontier: think “HIGH NOON in Space.” Thanks to performances by Sean Connery and Peter Boyle, the result is entertaining viewing.
- COMA is writer-director Michael Crichton’s adaptation of Robin Cook’s medical thriller about black market body parts; there is some queasy suspense, but the film falls short of Crichton’s best work.
- BRAINSTORM represents one of special effects guru Douglas Trumbull’s few directorial efforts; although tarnished by the death of star Natalie Wood, the film is not a complete bust, offering some splendid visual riches in its depiction of a device that allows the recording and experiencing of other people’s mental stats.
Also on the menu this week: FREQUENCY, SPAWN, and on DVD, WAREHOUSE 13: SEASON THREE.
You can find all of these titles in the Cinefantastique Online Store.