Friday, October 31, 2008

dvd review: fox horror classics, vol.2

I know you are itching to get out there and get all the goodies. Or maybe you've already made the rounds and you are currently stuffing your face with said goodies. That's OK- take a breather- slow down and savor the moment. Howsabouta short DVD review of some classic films perfect for sitting down and enjoying this Halloween night once all the kids are in bed and you are done rifling through their candy for the chocolate? They don't like chocolate anyway, right? Well, I've got the perfect DVD set for you, and guess what? The price is great, you get three fun, eerie and even romantic titles for the bargain- no tricks, just treats. These are classic flicks that you can actually enjoy anytime you are in the mood for gothic romance or fantasy with a light terrifying touch. I'm talking about Fox Horror Classics, Vol. 2! Check out our review, lightly packed, short and sweet; a quick read before you dive in for more goodies!

The Hard Facts:
Fox Horror Classics, Vol. 2
3 Discs in slimcases
Studio: Fox
Black and White/(Color on extra features)
Full Screen
Original Studio: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: 9/09/2008
Rated: NR
Stars: Vincent Price, Gene Tierney, Bela Lugosi,
J. Carroll Naish, Edmund Lowe and more
Directors: Various

The Films: (short reviews- no spoilers!)

More a gothic romance with an Edgar Allen Poe edge, than an outright horror film, this is the film that really put Vincent Price on the map. Price plays Nicholas Van Ryn, wealthy Lord proprietor of the Dragonwyck estate in New York's Hudson Valley in the 1840s. He rules Dragonwyck as a poltroon, with tenant farmers paying him rent and part of their crops. Von Ryn invites his very distant cousin Miranda Wells (Gene Tierney) as an au pair to his daughter. However, Von Ryn is cold to his daughter and his wife, whom he despises for not giving him a son to carry on at Dragonwyck. He also finds his world turned upside down and political changes in New York threatens to extinguish the old Dutch ways of fuedal-like rule. When his wife dies mysteriously, Miranda returns home for a time, but Nicholas persues her and marries her- bringing her back to Dragonwyck. It is there that Miranda will eventually learn more about her husband, but will what will happen when she learns his terrible secret?
Very much in the vien of other classic gothic romance films like Rebecca or Wuthering Heights, Dragonwyck is a great classic film that has finally made it to DVD in a great edition. Price is excellent as Von Ryn, and although you can see a touch of his later Poe inspired work, here he is an excellent lead, along with an equally great Tierney. Walter Houston also gives and excellent supporting performance as Miranda's dour "Yankee farmer" father.
Extras include: A featurette about the film: A House of Secrets: Exploring Dragonwyck, commentary, two Radio show versions of the film, still galleries and trailer.

Dr. Renault's Secret:
Secret is a remake of the 1927 horror melodrama The Wizard, and based on a novel. A young Doctor Larry Forbes arrives in a small French village as the new sawbones, and becomes the houseguest of a quaint Dr. Renault and his niece, Madeline. Dr. Renault also has a bizarre manservant named Noel, who resembles more like an ape than a man. When some mysterious murders occur in the village, no one is sure who is the culprit, though the villager's have their suspicions. While trying to discern the truth, Dr. Forbes discovers a shocking secret about his benefactor and his work. But that is only one of Dr. Forbes' problems, as Madeline has been kidnapped by a local thug.
Very much in the vien of similar films of the period, and even double billed at the time with Fox's The Undying Monster (from last year's set). The cast is great, especially J. Carroll Naish as Noel, who in many ways rivals some of Lon Chaney's work. Very much a great B mystery/horror film.
Extras include: Original featurette about the film: By The Book: Horror, Suspense, and Literary Inspiration, Restoration Comparison, Trailer, Interactive Pressbook, and Still Gallery.

Chandu the Magician
Including some of the best, cutting edge graphics for it's time, Chandu is based on the radio serial of the same name. Having mastered the magic of Yogi's of India, Chandu has attempted to keep the secret of his powers from his family and be a force for good (equivilant of a latter super-hero's secret identity). Unfortunately when his sister's scientist husband Robert Regent is held hostage by the evil villan Roxor (played by Bela Lugosi- and who wants Regent to tell him the secret of his death ray), Chandu must reveal himself and fight Roxor to save him.
It may sound cheesy - but it's actually quite good, and inspired a film serial with Bela Lugosi playing Chandu. The effects are great (for the time) and while Lowe is low key as Chandu, it's still great fantasy adventure.
Extras include: a commentary by Lugosi biographer Gregory William Mank, Masters of Magic: The World of Chandu featurette, Chandu the Magician Radio Serial Episode, Restoration Comparison, Trailer and Still Gallery.

The Black and white on Dr. Renault and Dragonwyck is excellent. Being an older film, Chandu suffers a little more in the video department, but is done from the best remaining source material. The audio is excellent and please take the opportunity to listen to the commentaries and especially the radio shows included as extras.

The Bottom Line:
This is a fun set- and it's light on the horror stuff- more mystery fantasy and gothic, Poe stuff. The set is surprisingly full of extras and I say suprisingly, because you can pick it up for a song. Amazon currently has going for less than $15 bucks without shipping. It's a steal and you get some great flicks. A low cost treat for a eerie evening!

Review Rating:
Individually rating the films and the features, Fox Horror Classics Vol. 2 earn the following:
Dragonwyck: A
Dr. Renault's Secret: B+
Chandu the Magician: B+
Extras: A+

Overall Rating:
We give Fox Horror Classics, Vol. 2: 4 stars (Groucho glasses).

That's all folks! I told you it would be quick! Now put a movie in and enjoy the rest of your plundered treats from the kid's candy. Oh, and Happy Halloween!

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.

Of course you do. You like being waited on - I could see tonight it was your first time. You like peaches out of season. You like the feel of silk sheets against your young body... And one day you'll wish with all your heart you'd never come to Dragonwyck!


Laura said...

Very interested in your review -- two of the movies aren't my thing but all the DRAGONWYCK extras make it a "must buy" for me. (Major Gene Tierney fan here...) I wish it was sold as a single title but the price is pretty good on the complete set, at least.

Glad to see you blogging! Hope you are completely recovered and had a great Halloween night.

Best wishes,

J.C. Loophole said...

Dragonwyck is a must have!
Yeah- the titles are only available in the set, but considering that the set costs about what a single title would cost anyway- just look at it this way- buy 1 get 2 free!
Dragonwyck is a must have, but you might get a kick out of the other two.
Thanks for your concern also. I am about "cleared" now. I was tough with work, teaching load etc.
Hope all of you had a great Halloween. Looking forward to some great pictures of Disneyland in all it's Christmas regalia!


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