Category Archives: Blu-ray

Sunday Night Movie: The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)

By way of my Netflix account I got ahold of the Blu-ray for the 1938 production of The Adventures Of Robin hood, starring Errol Flynn as Robin Hood.

There have been a number of Robin hood productions. The character has been in the popular imagination for literally centuries. Which means two things to movie makers.

One, that there is a built-in audience for the stories, and producers love a built-in audience. Producers really hate risk, when it comes to putting money into films they can be very conservative.

And two Robin Hood is in the Public Domain and they don’t have to pay no rights to nobody.

This production of Robin Hood was hardly the first. Douglas Fairbanks had been in a very successful silent version and was considered the definitive screen Robin Hood until this film was realeased. Continue reading Sunday Night Movie: The Adventures Of Robin Hood (1938)

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Sunday Night Movie: The Day The Earth Stood Still

Yesterday I got the news that award winning actress Patricia Neal has passed away and I resolved to make my Sunday Night Movie The Day The Earth Stood Still.

I have not seen very many films with Patricia Neal, but from what I have seen she was a talented actress of diverse skill and range. The films I know her best from are, of course, The Day The Earth Stood Still, and  A Face In The Crowd.

The first film clearly SF and the second very nearly SF. If you have never seen A Face In The Crowd this is a must see movie. A great, absolutely stellar cast, a pitch-perfect scrip and just as relevant today as when it was made.

Back to last night’s movie.

The Day The Earth Stood Still is a classic of SF films, and is a classic of films in general. Made in 1951 it was ahead of the curve for SF films, leading, along with Destination Moon, the charge into SF films of the 50s. Sadly, most of the films that followed were heavy on ray guns, monsters, and adventure and light in the thought and ideas that science-fiction can explore so well.

Very loosely inspired by the Harry Bates short story, Farewell the Master,  the movie is about the arrival of an alien, Klaatu, and his robot, Gort, to the planet Earth. Klaatu is greeted with gunfire and suspicion. The alien has a mission and message, but refuses to share it with any one nation or people, insisting that it must be heard by representatives of all the peoples and nations of the Earth.

This of course is impossible in a world divided between the United States and the USSR. Frustrated by terran stupidity, Klaatu eascape his captivity to learn more about humans and their fears firsthand.

What follows is in part a message film, in part a lovely look at the Earth through alien eyes, and in part a manhunt. (Or an alien-hunt if you prefer.)

I have problems with the specific message delivered in the film, but that’s okay. It’s a wonderful story, wonderfully told. I am not as allergic to ‘smug aliens’ as some of my friends are.

Of course if you have never seen this movie, I urge you to rent it. I own it on Blu-ray and the effects hold up very well for a film nearly 60 years old.

DO NOT see the remake. There is no remake. I refuse to acknowledge it.

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A bygone age

Last night I did not video game as late as usual because I was suffering from pulled muscles that made sitting forward uncomfortable. I ended up surfing the channels on my TV looking for something to watch while I waited to unwind and get ready for bed.
On TCM (Turner Classic Movies) I spotted something that could have been a low-budget horror film from the late 50’s or early 60’s, but alas it was what looked a murder mystery. (Turns out to have been Girls On The Loose)

For the first time in years I thought about my Saturday night as an adolescent in Ft. Pierce Florida. Every Saturday night at 11 pm the local TV station would start Creature Feature. A double bill of horror and genre films that would play into the early morning hours.

I saw many an entertaining movie late Saturday night with a bowl of popcorn by my side. It was on Creature Feature that I first saw many classic movies such as The Creature From The Black Lagoon and quite a few of the Roger Corman ‘Poe’ Movies from the sixties.

Those days are gone. Late night TV now is a collection of infomercials — one of the sins of the Reagan era — and second rate TV shows. There isn’t much in the way of a Creature Feature with classic and cheesy movies I haven’t seen before. Now I know that we have DVD, Blu-ray, Movies on Demand, and Instant View movies on Netflix and I utilize all of those in my movie watching habits, but there is a real shortfall in this aspect of home video. It only shows me movies I have asked it to show me.

I never get surprised or exposed to a new movie this way because I search out the films I want to rent, buy, or view. Oh there is the occasional that I find by surfing the sites or rarely one that is recommended to me by the software actually looks interesting, but this is a different dynamic than the Creature Feature.

Every Saturday night I would lay back on the couch, the rest of the house asleep, and I was watch a genre movie. I usually knew no more than that when the features started. It was genre and that was enough to spark an interest. Sometimes the movies would be so bad or dull I would go to be, most of the time the movies were forgettable and have now been forgotten, but occasionally the movies would leave an impression that echoed through the decades.

I remember watching Planet Of Vampires on Creature Feature, a stylistic though flawed Italian SF movie. Years later I found it on DVD and bought it for a friend. We watched the film and man the makers of Alien were clearly influenced by this movie. Sadly I did not buy a copy of the DVD for myself and it is now out of print. I never would have seen this movie had it not been for Creature Feature.

This is terribly saddens me. Young people growing up today will not get the same exposure to the classic genre films that I got. They’ll see remakes of the really big name movies, such as The Day The Earth Stood Still, and perhaps track down the original, but that random sf/horror film of the weekend is a thing of the past. Many films that are not classics are going to be rarely seen just because of the death of Creature Features across the country. While The Killer Shrews is a film with more flaws than charms I am still happy that I saw the movie and when it turned up in a 50 movies boxed set I bought I was happy to watch it again.

Perhaps this is why I am a fan of our local club, San Diego Vintage SF, though my life has made it tough to attend in months. Every month a genre film from before 1968 is shown, along with a serial and cartoon. (Frankly I could skip the serial as it was never part of my movie going experience.) However SDVSF does not make up for the Creature Feature.

It would be wonderful is TCM did a regular program dedicated to SF,Horror, and Fantasy films. They already have these movies and they play them, but not as part of a generalized programming about them with a host, introduction and such. There is a richness in the genre and it extends beyond the recognized classics. A treasure likely to be rarely seen and forgotten with the years.

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A Pleasant Surprise

Early this week after I had finished my evening’s writing I found that I could not fall asleep. I spent a fitful twenty minuets in bed, but In knew I wasn’t falling asleep anytime soon. So instead of bothering my sweetie-wife by tossing and turning I got up, de-equiped my CPAP mask and such, and returned to the living room.
I decided to watch a TV show on disc, figuring about 40-50 minutes should put me in a more accepting mode for snoozing. I took out my latest TV acquisition, Star Trek The Original Series Season 3 on blu-ray.
Yeah, yeah, season three the one that gave us space-hippies and Spock’s Brain. However I selected The Tholian Web as my late night Star Trek Fix.
I had seen the episode before of course, but not in like twenty years or more. This is a much better episode and very strongly written. The science isn’t terrible — how nice to see c used as a unit as speed as it should be in this sort of setting — and the character dynamics were very nicely played out.

I had two out of episode thoughts that kept occurring to me.

1) I kept watching James Doohan’s right hand. Scotty has a lot to do in this episode and I marveled as what skill Jimmy Doohan showed in constantly making sure he right hand was out of frame or hidden from the camera.  (Doohan lost a finger in WWII and concealed the fact on camera.)

2) I wondered why they had written an episode with so little Kirk in it. Usually you make sure you get the most out of your stars. They cost big bucks and you pay them even if they aren’t there. I know often episode like this will happen is a star is sick or engaged. I have no idea if this is the case with Shatner and The Tholian Web, but I am happy with the results.

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It warped my little mind

So in an earlier post I told you about the production company, The Asylum, and how they make mockblusters. (Cheap knock titles of big films hoping to ride the coattails to profit. This used to happen a lot with made for TV movie, but now exists in the direct-to-home video market.)

We had lots of fun watching MegaShark versus Giant Octopus. This has caused me to investigate The Asylum’s catalogue for other hidden gems.

I found one.

Sherlock Holmes.

This of course is perfect for The Asylum as the stories and characters are in the public domain and Guy Ritchie can’t say boo to The Asylum and their knockoff with the exact same title.

OF course those old stories are kind of dull and slow for us modern audiences, but that’s okay the fine minds at The Asylum knows exactly what Sherlock Holmes, master detective really needs.

Giant Monsters.

I kid you not. Their Sherlock Holmes has Dinosaurs, Giant Octopuses (Octopi?), Mechanical fire-breathing dragons, and lovely steampunk  powered armor.

Here’s the one sheet.

Who cloud resist that Sherlock Holmes? Fie on Guy Ritchie we’ll go with The Asylum!

(Fish is right we really do need a sarcasm font.)

[Of course I have been describe as a font of sarcasm, but I don’t think that’s really applicable.]

There is of course a trailer…..

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Blu-ray Review: In The Loop

So my sweetie-wife and I came across this film, In The loop, when a trailer for it appeared on the blu-ray of Dog Soldiers. The trailer grabbed us and we just knew we had to see this movie.

In The Loop is the story of a build-up to war in the middle east my the USA and Great Britain, but rather than tell a serious tale dealing with Presidents and Prime Ministers this film is farce and centers on the middle management civil servants and elected officials.

The cast is primarily British and unless you follow Brit Tv most of them would be unknown to you. (The phrase in the image to the left should be delivered shouted and in a heavy Scottish accent for full effect.)

There are people trying desperately to stop the up coming war and others equally committed to seeing it realized. If you are humorless when it comes to your recent events and politics then you might want to give this film a pass. However if you can let go of your personal politics and enjoy the madness of rampant cursing Scotsmen, bewildered MPs, conniving suck-ups, General more Political than Military and back stabbing office politics then give this blu-ray a spin.

I was disappointed that there were more bonus features, though the 28 minutes of non-stop deleted scenes were a treasure.

After the cut — the trailer.

Continue reading Blu-ray Review: In The Loop

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Sunday Night Movie:I Sell The Dead

So this week’s movie was a bit of a gamble for me as it was something I had never seen and further more was something I had heard little about.

I started the Sunday Night Movie habit as a way of utilizing my movie collection. I had realized one day that I rarely watched so many movies in my collection and when I did I tended to watch the same ones over and over. I started Sunday Night Movie as a regular event to enjoy those movies that I love but so rarely watched.

This is not one of those movies.

I Sell The Dead is a story about two men in the resurrection business in what I presume is the 17th or 18th century. Arthur Blake (Dominic Monaghan) is partner and former apprentice to Willie Grimes in the resurrection business. That is they steal corpses and sell them to doctors. Their lives take a dramatic turn down a path of bump in the night events when they discover that digging up some corpses leads to a much more active product than the pair is accustomed to finding.  They have a number of serious threats in their wretched lives, There Dr. Quint (Angus Scrimm, Best know as the Tall Man in Phantasm.) who is extorting their services without compensation by threats of the law. Then there’s the House Of Murphy a rival gang of resurrectionists with a tendency for murder and mayhem, and of course there’s the very active undead who are always ungrateful for being dug up or unboxed.

This movie is supposed to be a comedy and as such one is expected to give it more leeway that a traditional horror film or dramatic feature for suspension of disbelief, however this film had too many flaws for me to do that. There are endless anachronisms, historical errors, and a general failure to understand just what it was that resurrection men did. (They did not sell bodies to doctors for their general practice, they sold them to schools and teaching doctors for study, instruction, and research.) In the end this movie was simply too much of a mess with too little plot and too much gag to work as a film.

I recommend pass if someone offers a viewing to you.

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A questions of ethics

So I was looking for a soundtrack that I thought was out of print and it cause me to ponder the ethics of downloading it.

I fully support buying material to support the artists. I buy my books, I buy my DVDs and Blu-rays, and I buy my music, but there are times when what I want is not in print. I cannot buy a copy that will support the artist. (Buying a used copy generates no royalties for the copyright holder.)

So in that situation is it ethical to download a copy? Certainly on the legal front it is illegal, but I’m asking a question of ethics.

I think so. I will support the legal methods of reimbursing the artists and such whenever I can, but if the copyright holders do not make it possible for me to pay them for the product I then I really do not feel bad about finding a copy on my own.

My story had a happy ending for the copyright owners. Not only was the soundtrack to The Wicker Man (1973) in print it was available from iTunes!

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Sunday Night Movie: Dog Soldiers

So a while back I was working on a werewolf short story, A Taste Of Tears and Blood, (If fact my writing page horribly out of date indicates that is my current project) and as part of my research I was watching all sorts of werewolf films.

One film I put on the Netflix queue but never got around to seeing as part of the research was Dog Soldiers from 2002. This weekend I had is shipped from Netflix and my sweetie-wife and I watched it early Sunday evening. (I was unable to watch a film later by myself as it my habit because I was so terribly exhausted.) I was a little surprised when my sweetie-wife expressed an interest in the film, gory violent horror film are not her usual cup of tea. She is much more attracted to projects based upon the actors and the nationality of the production. This film had an actor she very much like to follow, Sean Pertwee, son of Dr Who actor Jon Pertwee.

This film was written, produced, directed and edited by Neil Marshall, who has gone to direct such movies as The Decent and Doomsday. If you like or hate Dog Soldiers it’s really just one man’s fault.

Personally I really liked Dog Soldiers, much more than I had expected. The direct was quite aware of his limited budget and knew the limitations of his production. He stayed very much inside those limitation rather than attempting cheap and cheesy digital effects like we see when we’re inflicted with SyFy.

The story is about a fix man army squad that had been dropped into the highlands of Scotland on a routine training mission. The squad is led able veteran Sgt harry Wells (Sean Pertwee) with the capable assistance of Private Cooper (Kevin McKidd of ROME) a young man recently bounced from Special Forces training for ethical reasons. The squad quickly find themselves in serious trouble when they are confronted with a werewolf pack and all the squad is armed with is blanks.

There is one wonderfully British moment when the squad has found temporary safety, and Cooper temporarily in command is ordering men to do this and do that to secure the building and orders the last man to ‘put a kettle on, we can all do with a cup.’

My biggest quibbles with the film is occasionally the characters posses superhuman capabilities and survive the sort of events no human being has any business surviving. That said the film transcends these fault by having neat and interesting characters, a nicely thought out premise, and a relentlessness about the doomed  situation the characters find themselves in. I was disappointed that the Blu-ray disc did not have any bonus feature on it.  I searched on line fro a collectors edition or some such, but none was to be found.

Surprisingly the gore in this film was restrained. There was lots of blood thrown about, but only a few shots of graphic violence. Again I think this was a function of the director understanding his limitations and using them to his advantage rather then foolishly ignoring them

I look forward to seeing more movie from Mr Neil Marshall.

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