Saturday, October 13, 2007

horrifying roundup

Ghosts and goblins abound this time of year, as we all know. And so do horror films on DVD. I have never been one for modern horror movies with the gore, the nastiness and all of it’s conventions. It all seems tasteless, nasty – and almost like cheating. Creating an atmosphere, developing mystery and building suspense almost seem lost. But the horror and suspense classics of yesteryear had those in spades for the most part. Sure, there weren’t many chainsaws and killer clowns or dolls, but they could be frightening nonetheless. Perhaps more for the horror of mankind’s unexplored psyche and whispered cruelties, than the gory stuff. There is classic suspense and horror on Old Time Radio shows that creates more frightening images in your mind than anything else. Either way, the classics still mean something today. This Halloween, as with Halloweens past, countless people will be watching the Universal monster movies, or the Vincent Price Edgar Allan Poe movies or maybe even some of the Sci-Fi riddled funky monster movies of the 50s and 60s. Many will be dressing like them or dressing their kids up like them. Whatever the case maybe, we shouldn’t loose that sense of scary fun. This week there are several classic horror and suspense films hitting the shelves that should make you jump. Take a chance and check them out.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!
Fox Horror Classics Collection (The Lodger / Hangover Square / The Undying Monster)
Fox is finally bringing these films for the first time to DVD. While billed as Horror Classics, these films have more suspense and an edge of psychological drama to them. All three of the films were directed by John Brahm and have an underlining sense of tragedy to them. The Lodger stars Laird Cregar as a border in the house of a financially strapped family, and who may or may not be Jack the Ripper. Hangover Square also stars Cregar as a classical pianist suffering from occasional blackouts that he can’t explain and is in love with a young singer (Linda Darnell), which relationship may be doomed. The Undying Monster is more in the “monster’ frame of horror movies. It stars James Ellison and is the story of a family long afflicted with an centuries old curse that one of their member will be a werewolf. When members of the family begin to be murdered, an inspector arrives to get to the bottom of the mystery.
I’ve looked forward to this set for quite a while, as I’ve always liked Laird Cregar. He died way too young and tragically. He was a gifted actor, with a flair for the comedic and a booming theatrical voice and presence. He was a favorite in such movies as Charly’s Aunt, This Gun For Hire, The Black Swan, Heaven Can Wait and I Wake Up Screaming. He was tired of playing the heavy in films and longed to be a romantic leading man, which lead to an obsession with trimming down his frame for the film Hangover Square. It would be his last. His crash diet and taking of drugs to reduce caused a strain on his body which ultimately caused his death at the age of 28.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Ultimate Edition)
Some of you may already own a DVD of this film, now Image Entertainment brings us an Ultimate Edition of the 1923 silent classic starring Lon Chaney. Included in the set are reproductions of the souvenir program; Gallery of original 3-D stills (3-D viewing glasses are included with this DVD); extensive gallery of 2-D stills, including production shots, scenes and advertising materials; excerpt from Alas and Alack, a 1913 Universal film in which Lon Chaney plays two roles - one of them a hunchback; and behind-the-scenes footage of Lon Chaney out of makeup on the Hunchback set. Pretty sweet edition for any silent film or classic Halloween film fan.

Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Season Three
If you've been collecting the season sets of this classic television series, you should be happy to know that Universal is continuing to put out the season sets. Several stars make appearances in this season of the popular anthology series: a young William Shatner, Keenan Wynn, Paul Henreid, Peter Lorre and Barbara Bel Geddes. Also this season includes an episode directed by Hitch himself: The Perfect Crime, which is the one and only collaboration between Hitch and horror-film icon Vincent Price.

Twilight Zone - The Movie/ Poltergeist: 25th Anniversary Edition

1980s horror and suspense usually meant Freddy or Jason. Not for me: Twilight Zone and Poltergeist stepped up the fright and freak out quotient for me. This is the first DVD release for The Twilight Zone movie and the 25th Anniversary Edition of Poltergeist. So you would think it would be accompanied by all the appropriate bells and whistles. Not really Twilight Zone is pretty bare and Poltergeist really only has a couple of docs. But ripe for Halloween nonetheless.

Surf's Up and The Reef
Man, the talking animals and the Penguins virtually invaded theaters last year and this year. My kids liked Surf's Up and they recently watched The Reef and liked it as well. I can't speak to Surf's Up, but I wasn't too impressed with The Reef. While they tried to make it kid friendly and accessible to adults, the premise and writing just wasn't anything new. I didn't care for it, but you may find the kids will get a kick out of it.

TV on DVD:
Michael Palin - Pole to Pole
I was always intrigued by how some of the Monty Pythons made out in their post-MP careers. One who impressed me quite a bit was Michael Palin. His treks across the world were always entertaining and the books that followed the series were just as fascinating. The series Pole to Pole follows Michael as he travels from the North Pole to the South Pole. Adventure, danger and interesting people and lands abound. Worth picking up for anyone who loves National Geographic or similar series.

Meerkat Manor - Season 1
I've watched this set and of course my young amateur zoologists love it. I've been really impressed by how the show is handled and the drama it creates. It puts me in mind of the Disney nature documentaries.
And if you would like to try your hand at the contest, you could win one! Click on the contest on the sidebar to see how!
Also - stay tuned for a full review of this DVD release, here at The Shelf.


Josh Groban: Noel
Eric Clapton: Complete Clapton
There are many Christmas CD's that start coming out this time of year, in anticipation of the Holidays. However, so many of them are too much of "been there, done that". It takes something different and special to catch my ear, and after sampling Josh Groban's Noel, I can say this is something special. Worth picking up and saving til after Halloween.

The title of Clapton's new release is deceptive. There is really no way any one disc could contain all of his music. Rather, this CD is a companion to his new autobiography. It contains tracks from over the course of his entire career. Pick up the book and the CD.

Ken Follett: World Without End
Clarence Thomas: My Grandfather's Son: A Memoir
Besides picking up Clapton's new book, you will really want to add these to your library. Ken Follett's World Without End is a sequel of sorts to his bestselling novel of Historical fiction: The Pillars of the Earth. Taking place several hundred years after the story of the building of the massive cathedral in Pillars, Follett brings together an assortment of characters whose lives intersect at the cathedral. A must-have.

I've been very impressed with listening to the interviews with Justice Thomas about his life and this book. He is a very impressive man, and one of the most important Supreme Court Justices to sit on the bench in years. After listening to his life story, (and after reading it soon) one should walk away with a profound respect for this independent thinker and truly great American.

That's all for now kiddies. Stay tuned for those reviews coming soon and for our weekend OTR double thriller! And don't forget to sign up for the Meerkat Manor giveaway!

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

You wouldn't think that anyone could hate a thing and love it too.

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