Tuesday, July 6 sees no new theatrical horror, fantasy, or science fiction titles making their home video debut; fortunately, that is no reason for fans of cinefantastique to despair: the 1963 classic JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS, with stop-motion effects by Ray Harryhausen, is arriving on a brand new Blu-ray disc that improves on the picture and sound quality of the previous DVD release. Not only that, the Blu-ray is loaded with no bonus features, including an audio commentary with Ray Harryhausen.
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS is a sort of precursor to CLASH OF THE TITANS (1980) – both films are based on Greek mythology – but JASON is the better effort, despite the larger’s bigger budget and cast of stars. The writing, directing, and acting are reasonably strong, creating a fairly serious work, and Harryhausen offers up some of his most imaginative monsters, including a giant walking statue, a multi-headed Hydra, and the famous skeleton battle, which outdoes the earlier skeleton duel in THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD. Sony’s 1998 DVD featured a full screen and a widescreen transfer (one on each side of the disc), but supplemental material was limited to a brief interview with Harryhausen, conducted by director John Landis. The new Blu-ray, also from Sony, features a new transfer with an aspect ratio of 1.66, for a sort of compromised widescreen look. (For technical reasons, Harryhausen preferred to shoot in standard format; to get a widescreen transfer requires cropping the top and/or bottom of the image.) The disc, which is region free, features DTS audio and Dolby Surround. The old Landis-Harryhausen interview is ported over. Additionally, there are these new bonus features:
- Commentary with Harryhausena nd historian Tim Dalton
- Commentary with Peter Jackson and William Randall Cook
- Skeleton fight storyboards
- Harryhausen legacy featurette
- Harryhausen Chronicles feature narrated by Leonard Nimoy
- John Landis interview with Harryhausen (from DVD)
Fans of the classic British television series DOCTOR WHO will be pleased to see several old episodes from the 1960s and ’70s released on DVD this week:
- UNDERWORLD and THE HORNS OF NIMON with Tom Baker
- THE TIME MONSTER with John Pertwee
- THE SPACE MUSEUM with William Hartnell
EYEBORGS makes a direct-to-video debut on DVD and Blu-ray. This flick is from the director of PYTHON, the 2000 stinker starring Robert Englund, but advance word suggests that this new film is quite an improvement.
GOD OF VAMPIRES is another DTV title making its debut. This American film follows a hit man contracted to take out a Chinese crime lord – who turns out to be a vampire.
GAMERA VS. BARUGON, the second film starring the giant flying fire-breathing turtle, arrives on DVD. MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 did a good job on this one, back in the 1990s. After that, it’s hard to imagine watching the film without Joel and the ‘bots.
Fans of Japanese gore films can rejoice in the release of the ULTIMATE MACHINE GIRL Collectors Tin, a three-piece set dedicated to the low-budget revenge flick, about a girl who loses her arm when she is brutally attacked – then replaces it with a machine gone and goes after her attackers. At the very least, it’s no more ridiculous – and probably a good deal less so – than PLANET TERROR.
If you’re too cheap to shell out the dough for a single title, here are some bargains for you: a Blu-ray two-pack of PRACTICAL MAGIC and WITCHES OF EASTWICK and another Blu-ray two-pack of DR. GIGGLES and OTIS.
If that’s not enough value for your money, there are two DVD box sets coming out that offer 25 titles a piece – although, in spite of th word “classic” being used in both cases, quantity rather than quality is what’s really selling.
25 SCI FI CLASSICS includes no classic titles that I can recognize, but there are a few cult items (Roger Corman’s THE WASP WOMAN) and some star names that might just peak your interest (Charles Bronson in ONE STEP BEYOND, Peter Graves in KILLERS FROM SPACE, the latter of which was derided in an episode of THE FILM CREW).
25 HORROR CLASSICS is also short on true classics, although this set at least include WHITE ZOMBIE (with Bela Lugosi), which is a great, if slightly creaky, black-and-white horror from 1932. Also included are ICE FROM SPACE, starring Paul Newman (a TV-production, I believe) and Lon Chaney in FRANKENSTEIN. (This is presumably the notorious live television production, in which a drunken Chaney believed he was doing a rehearsal.)