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Tales From The Crypt / Vault Of Horror (Double Feature Blu-ray)

December 31st, 2014

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By Shawn Francis – From DVD News Flash, December 31, 2014

Every time I think of Amicus Studios I think of Doctor Terror’s House Of Horrors (1965) and The Beast Must Die (1974), two of my favorites, but as I was perusing a section of my DVD collection a couple of years ago I tend to forget Amicus also made The Land That Time Forgot (1974), The People That Time Forgot (1977) and At The Earth’s Core (1976). More favorites. They certainly loved making anthology movies though (i.e. Tales From The Crypt, Vault Of Horror, Asylum, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood, From Beyond The Grave and the previously mentioned Doctor Terror’s House Of Horrors). The only one of those I ever saw when I was a kid was Doctor Terror’s. I have a vague memory of Tales From The Crypt (1972) being on and being somewhat interested to at least check out the first few minutes. But from what I gathered this was a movie more concerned with madmen than monsters so I lost interest and turned the channel.

That’s how it was when I was a kid. Monsters always won out over psychopaths. But in the intervening years as my tastes in movies shifted I have always wanted to see some of those other anthologies including Tales From The Crypt and it’s sequel Vault Of Horror (1973).

I probably wanted to see these two more so than the others ever since HBO launched their Tales From Crypt series (1989-1996) back in the late 80s. Tales ’72 wasn’t bad. I have to admit I kind of prefer the more serious and creepy performance of flesh and blood actor Ralph Richardson as The Cryptkeeper now to the animatronic John Kassir-voiced, wise-cracking puppet from the HBO series.

The setup to the Tales movie is simple. Five people take a tour of these underground catacombs and encounter an odd, monk-adorned figure (Richardson) in a chamber deep inside. There’s a clue early on that something “isn’t right.” The tour guide tells the five it’s dangerous down here so don’t go wandering around; an odd thing to tell tourists and then not show them around yourself, which is what happens. They all just start wandering around and taking in the sites. When they get to this one chamber, a slab of stone shuts them in and from out of nowhere appears The Cryptkeeper.

He tells them all to take a seat. They do reluctantly, and then the tales begin. Every time he addresses a person, a tale starts, after it’s over you get the impression what you just saw was a psychically implanted vision the individual just experienced. All of them felt compelled to come and take this tour, but the twist is all five are dead and the tales we see is how they died. All of them were “morally lacking,” so-to-speak, and Hell is where they are destined to spend all eternity, that is, after a quick visit with The Cryptkeeper first.

Here’s how the stories break down:

… AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE: Stars a young and hot Joan Collins as a greedy wife who kills her husband on Christmas Eve with a fireplace poker. At the same time over the radio it’s announced a lunatic dressed as Santa has escaped. Wouldn’t you know it Joan has the bad luck to be in the home psycho Santa picks to menace. Santa ends up killing her. This tale was also remade for the premiere of the HBO series in ’89.

REFLECTION OF DEATH: This one centers on Carl Maitland (Ian Hendry) who has made plans to leave his wife and kids for his mistress, Susan Blake (Angela Grant). While in the car with Susan (she’s driving) he wakes from a nightmare, then the accident happens. The car dodges a head on collision only to go rolling down a hill. When Carl comes to he stumbles around the woods horrifying people with his appearance. The segment from this point on is told from his perspective. He stumbles back to the apartment he rendezvoused at with Susan and finds the twist to his predicament. The apartment was empty when they left, all the furniture moved to the new flat. Now it’s all back, Susan’s living there and she can’t see. She’s horrified to hear Carl’s voice and she tells him he died two years ago in that car accident that also blinded her. A reflection of himself shows him and the viewer he’s a walking corpse. Carl suddenly wakes up in the car screaming, like he did previously and they’re both about to have that predestined accident. Again.

POETIC JUSTICE: Peter Cushing stars as Arthur Grimsdyke, a trash collector two years from retirement who lives alone with his dogs and routinely entertains the neighborhood kids. He’s not a bad guy, but James Elliot (Robin Phillips), the focus of the story, who lives with his Father across the street from Arthur, doesn’t like him. He’s under the impression he’s of the 99% and wants him to move out so the aesthetic of the neighborhood will be more to his liking. He comes up with several plans designed to make life hell for Arthur, like having his dogs taken away, then having him fired, then the coup de grace, a bunch of Valentine’s sent to him on behalf of the townsfolk but none of the poetic rhymes within are heartwarming, they’re insulting and this pushes Arthur to hang himself.

Not being seen for days, James and his father, Edward, visit and find Arthur’s hanging corpse and how wrong they were about his lifestyle. A year later Arthur returns from the grave as a walking corpse and pays now guilty conscienced Ed a fatal visit that involves poetry and an excised heart. James’ heart.

WISH YOU WERE HERE: Is an interesting tale based on The Monkey’s Paw legend. The characters even reference that legend, hoping to be clever enough to not do what was done in that myth, but they don’t. Leaving us the viewer knowing what they never had a chance to in that any scenario involving a Monkey’s Paw will always end up turning to unholy shit for all involved. The Paw in this tale is a jade, Chinese figure with an inscription on its base saying that it can grant three wishes. Apparently, rich husband and wife Ralph Jason (Richard Greene) and Enid (Barbara Murray) has had this statue in this particular room on obvious display for years and are just now noticing it. Just in the nick of time, too, since his lawyer, Charles Gregory (Roy Dotrice), has told Ralph, he’s now broke.

Enid makes the first wish. It’s simple. She wants a lot of money. Then a call comes in from Charles to come to the office ASAP. On the way Ralph is killed in a car accident and Enid is now rich due to his insurance policy. Second wish is that she wants Ralph alive again before the car accident, because Charles tells her of the particulars of The Monkey’s Paw legend and neither one wants to deal with a mutilated walking corpse. Ah, but the catch was Ralph died of a heart attack which is what caused the accident. Result, some morticians burst into the room with his corpse in a coffin and leave him there. So, there he is before the car accident, dead from a heart attack. And the third wish? She wants him to be alive and live forever. The catch? Ralph was embalmed. Now he’s alive and in pain from the embalming fluids in his body. Putting him out of his misery with a samurai sword doesn’t work either as she comes to find out. He lives forever, howling in pain, in pieces.

BLIND ALLEYS: This was the weakest of all tales, in my opinion. Ex-military man, Major William Rogers (Nigel Patrick), is put in charge of this halfway house for the blind and his focus is on keeping finances down rather than actually taking care of the patients. This means cutting off the heat at a certain time at night, cutting down the amount of food and cutting supplies. The blind strike back by locking the man’s dog in a room in the cellar, and then locking him up in a room right next door. Over the course of a week or two they build this makeshift hallway between both rooms. You see the dog hasn’t been fed and his door is unlocked, so naturally he goes after his master and eats him.

Now that I’ve seen Vault Of Horror this was like night and day. They should have called this Vault Of Boredom. In no way does it equal Tales From The Crypt. About the only thing I liked was the setup of the five victims, all men this time, entering an elevator one at a time seemingly going about their lives with no anticipation of anything untoward happening to them when the elevator inexplicably takes them all the way down to the sub-basement. A sub-basement that’s a small octagonal room with a table in the middle, chairs and some drink and snacks set out.

The elevator door closes trapping them for there are no buttons to get it back down. Presuming someone else will eventually show up to explain their circumstance and get them out they decide to make the best of it, sit down and wait. While they do conversation turns to the almost realistic nightmares each one has been having as of late. It’s these nightmares that kick off each tale, and like the outcome of the first flick these men are indeed dead. After the final tale the elevator door opens up onto a murky graveyard, into which each men feels compelled to walk into. It’s the last man standing that finally states what we already know. They’re dead, these nightmares are the evil deeds they have done in life and they are cursed to relive them in this fashion every night for all eternity.

Here’s how each tale breaks down:

MIDNIGHT MESS: This first one has potential and actually does have a creepy premise but ultimately it just didn’t get me to any point of wanting to like it. Real life siblings Daniel and Anna Massey play on screen brother and sister Harold and Donna. Harry hasn’t seen his sister in ages and hires a PI to track her down. He kills the PI after getting her address. He tracks her to a town where everyone needs to be indoors before nightfall. Not even the restaurants will stay open. He finds her, pulls a switchblade and explains father has died and left her with a shit ton of money. He then kills her ensuing that all that money is now his. But comeuppance comes in the form of vampires as he returns to that restaurant intent on eating and learns everyone inside is undead… even his sister, who shows up to drain her brother!

THE NEAT JOB: Terry Thomas plays neat freak, Arthur Critchit, who marries Eleanor (Glynis Johns). The problem is she’s not a neat freak and constantly gets on his bad side by making things untidy, unintentionally. One night she snaps kills him with one of his hammers, cuts him up and places his body parts neatly in jars on the shelf. Yawn.

THIS TRICK’LL KILL YOU: Husband and wife magicians, Sebastian (Curd Jürgens) and Inez (Dawn Addams), on vacation in India come across a “trick” they absolutely must have for their next act, but the woman won’t reveal it not even for a large sum of money. What’s a morally corrupt magician to do? Oh, right, call her back to their room, have her do the trick for the “sick” wife then kill her. You see it’s a rope trick and it rises out of the basket when the woman plays this flute much like snake charming, but Seb can’t debunk it, which means he must have it. What he doesn’t bargain on is the rope having a mind of it’s own, making his wife disappear forever and then strangling him to death.

BARGAIN IN DEATH: This one is about an insurance scam between two friends that goes south in a big way. You see Maitland (Michael Craig) thinks he’s a fucking genius coming up with the idea to fake his death by taking these pills that’ll slow his heart down long enough to fool the corner and everyone else. He wants his friend, Alex (Edward Judd), to dig him up after he’s buried. Yeah, we all know how this is going to end. Elsewhere two med students want to dig up a corpse to practice on so they and this gravedigger just happen to pick Maitland’s grave. He’s awake and waiting to get unburied, but Alex his driven off with the cash leaving him to suffocate in his own grave. Once they get his coffin open, Maitland is so dying for air he sits up gasping which scares the kids right into the middle of the road where Alex almost runs into them. He swerves and dies crashing into a tree. The gravedigger meanwhile freaked out and smashed Maitland in the head, killing him, but, hey, at least the med students got their corpse. So all’s well that ends well.

DRAWN AND QUARTERED: The final yawn inducing tale stars ex-Time Lord, Tom Baker as Moore, an artist who’s just been seriously bent over by three men in the art industry, who made a killing selling his art when they initially told him it was worthless. He gets revenge through a voodoo curse that enables him to paint the visages of those three dicks, then defaces the paintings in particular ways. Cutting the hands off one means that guy will lose his hands in a paper cutting accident, another he gouges out the eyes and that man gets acid thrown in his face, and the final one he draws a red dot on his forehead and this dude shoots himself right between the eyes. The catch with this tale is that Moore did a self-portrait with his cursed hand, which he must take extreme care of. An accident at the end where paint thinner is dropped on it while he’s heading back to clean up a crime scene manifests itself in a car accident that has a trucking over his head and squashing it like a ripe melon.

Shout! Factory released both movies through their Scream Factory sub-label in one blu-ray edition back on December 2nd. It was a double feature. Tales and the uncut widescreen version of Vault are on one disc, while the second holds the theatrical version and a full frame uncut version of Vault. The widescreen uncut Vault looks a wee bit better, but having taken a quick 5–minute look at the uncut full frame version I think I like seeing the extra head room on that one. Without the letterboxing it gives the environment a bigger part in the movie, which actually appealed to my sensibilities more despite not liking the movie at all.

Video/Audio/Subtitles (Tales/Vault Uncut LBX): 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English DTS—English subs only.
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Vault Theatrical LBX, Disc 2): 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 Mono—English subs only.
Video/Audio/Subtitles (Vault Uncut Theatrical Full Frame, Disc 2): 1.33:1 full frame—2.0 DTS Mono—English subs only.

On Disc #1 for extras you get the Theatrical Trailer for Vault Of Horror only and an alternate opening credits sequence (no sound) when it was briefly under the alternate title of Tales From The Crypt II.


Afghanistan’s Bruce Lee

December 14th, 2014

From the ruins of a palace above Kabul, a young Afghan man bearing a striking resemblance to Bruce Lee, is high-kicking his way to Internet fame.

 


Dolls (1987) Blu-ray

November 26th, 2014

By Shawn Francis – From DVD News Flash, November 26, 2014

This review is dedicated to the memory of Stephen Lee (1955-2014). He played Ralph Morris in the movie.

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I was not aware of the existence of Dolls until I saw a screenshot in The Postal Zone of a 1988 Fangoria. There was just a small photo of the dolls, mention of Stuart Gordon’s name and something about it being an “unheralded gem,” or words to that effect, but a horror movie about killer dolls? Pass, I immediately thought.

I didn’t end up seeing it until the Sci-Fi Channel aired it one afternoon back in the day when they were still marketing themselves as a channel catering to science fiction. I liked it. I ran into it a second time back in early 2005 when Showtime aired it this one time only. Just on the off chance they might be running it widescreen I popped in a VHS tape ready to record it and as luck would have it they did. But I had to wait until the opening credits were over before I knew that for sure. Sometimes cable would run the opening widescreen and then blow it up to full frame right after they were done. I was really shocked Showtime didn’t do this with Dolls. I also knew without a doubt it meant it would be hitting DVD later in the year. Back in the early 2000s, certain channels (TCM, AMC, cable) had a tendency to run remastered movies as a prelude to a DVD release later on. I remember catching a lot of MGM’s Midnite Movies on TV, looking all sweet and tasty and widescreen suddenly, months before they debuted on disc.

It wasn’t until the 2005 DVD of Dolls and hearing the commentary that I learned it had been shot right before Stuart Gordon did From Beyond (1986), but post production on it ran so long because of Dave Allen’s stop motion it ended up getting released after From Beyond. That was revelation #1, then came revelation #2, which was also gleaned from one of the commentaries, that Dolls was shot on the same soundstages as From Beyond. This now explains why that shot of the basement, when the family breaks into the house, always looked so familiar. It’s the same basement Crawford Tillinghast (Jeffery Combs) and Bubba (Ken Foree) tangled with that giant, interdimensional, lamprey eel-thing that ended up sucking all of Tillinghast’s hair off his head and body.

In the movie we get introduced to three separate groups of characters out of which two become the flicks survivors/heroes. And we start off meeting the Bower family first, who are on a vacation in England. You’ve got David Bower (Ian Patrick Williams), the father, Rosemary (Carolyn Purdy Gordon), the classic “wicked stepmother,” and eight-year-old stepdaughter, Judy (Carrie Lorraine). To be honest Judy’s father is a douchebag too. All three get stuck in a sudden thunderstorm and then stuck in their car on this lonely country road. The family chooses this nearby mansion to seek shelter and run into the elderly owners, Gabriel and Hilary Harwicke (Guy Rolf and Hilary Mason). Gabe is a toymaker, specializing in handmade dolls. Hilary is just his creepy wife.

While they are granted a nightly stay and are having a warm bowl of soup at the kitchen table our final group of characters burst in. Ralph Morris (Stephen Lee) and the two British chicks, Isabel (Bunty Bailey) and Enid (Cassie Stuart), David Bower refused to pick up after the opening credits and almost ran down. Issie and Enid are of the period; very 80s chicks, one dressed punk rockish, the other looking more like a Madonna groupie. Ralph is our hero and still has a soft spot for toys and the memories of them when he was a kid.

We don’t get a sense of the “danger” within this abode until Isabel thinks she can make a quick buck by sneaking about and stealing what she thinks might be expensive antiques in the house. This is where we learn the various dolls seen around the house aren’t exactly inanimate objects. They can walk, stalk and kill . . . oh, and giggle. This isn’t a bloody movie, but there’s some gore dappled here and there, mostly in the death scenes of Izzie and Rosemary.

As the cast gets whittled down Judy father’s, David, becomes the real villain of the movie, while the Hardwicke’s remain a creepy couple but hardly evil. The stop motion effects by David Allen are, as usual, a highlight.

As I mentioned earlier this has gotten a DVD release before in 2005 and is just now making it’s way to blu-ray courtesy of Shout! Factory’s genre sub-label, Scream Factory.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition widescreen—5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English subs only. This new transfer is absolutely breathtaking; crisp, colorful and beyond anything its DVD counterpart could ever offer. Audio was excellent too.

All the extras from the DVD were ported over while a new doc was made for the blu-ray:

■ New SCREAM FACTORY bonus extra: Toys of Terror: The Making of “Dolls” (38:22)
■ Audio Commentary with director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha
■ Audio Commentary with cast members Stephen Lee, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy Gordon and Carrie Lorraine
■ Storyboard-to-Film Comparison (8:21)
■ Theatrical Trailer
■ Still Gallery (50 photos)

If someone were to ask me give me two reasons why I should trade in my Dolls DVD for this blu-ray, I’d tell them the new transfer and this short documentary, Toys of Terror: The Making of “Dolls.” Most of the usual suspects are interviewed anew for this like Stuart Gordon and his wife, Carolyn Purdy Gordon, Brian Yuzna, writer Ed Naha, Charles Band, and actor, Ian Patrick Williams, plus new interviews with FX artists, John Vulich and Gabe Bartolas. They talk about how the concept came about, how it came to be filmed before From Beyond, the extra gore they added to it then took out, and some talk of the girls, Bunty Bailey and Cassie Stewart. I had no idea Bunty was that chick in that music video, “Take On Me,” by A-Ha, and that Cassie used to like to regale the cast with stories of her affairs with famous people.

If you’re a fan of this movie, and/or the filmmakers, and you’ve got the funds handy, this is a must upgrade, plain and simple.


In Memoriam

November 16th, 2014

Warren Clarke and Glen A. Larson

This week we saw the passing of a fine English actor, Warren Clarke. He was best known for his role as Dim in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971). In 1973, Mr. Clarke also appeared with Malcolm McDowell in O Lucky Man. He also enjoyed a succesful television career appearing in Coronation Steet, The Jewel In The Crown and Midsomer Murders. He was 67.

The television industry also suffered a great loss. Glen A. Larson died on November 14, 2014. Mr. Larson was was an American television producer and writer best known as the creator of the television series Battlestar Galactica, Quincy, M.E., The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, B. J. and the Bear, The Fall Guy, Magnum, P.I. and Knight Rider. He was 77.


Pumpkinhead (1988 / Blu-ray) – By Shawn Francis

November 8th, 2014

Pumpkinhead (Blu-ray)

Keep away from Pumpkinhead,
Unless you’re tired of living,
His enemies are mostly dead,
He’s mean and unforgiving,
Laugh at him and you’re undone,
But in some dreadful fashion,
Vengeance, he considers fun,
And plans it with a passion,
Time will not erase or blot,
A plot that he has brewing,

It’s when you think that he’s forgot,
He’ll conjure your undoing,
Bolted doors and windows barred,
Guard dogs prowling in the yard,
Won’t protect you in your bed,
Nothing will, from Pumpkinhead.

—By Ed Justin

This was one review copy I desperately sought out and not because I wanted to see the new transfer Shout! Factory had done. Well, I mean, yeah, that was part of it, and I’m betting it looks sweet, but what I wanted more was an excuse to put all these memories I have of this movie into some kind of coherent narrative.

So for those just interested in my assessment of the disc’s specs and special features scoot all the way down to the bottom, all others who want to take a trip back to the late 80s with me as I wax nostalgic about the many times this came in and out of my life, before learning about the disc, sit back, grab a brewski and allow me at the controls of your way-back machine.

The year is 1987, the month is September, I was 18 and only 4 months out from my high school graduation. As I mentioned in my Leviathan (1989) review I stayed on top of new movie releases by watching Entertainment Tonight, which I cannot believe is still on, and generally every approaching Halloween season they would do a segment on the new horror movies hitting theaters. It was during this ’87 episode where I got my first taste of Stan Winston’s movie, showing the scene where the demon shows up at that abandoned and nearly torn down church where two of the kids and a local holed up, but since I had never seen anything like this Pumpkinhead before what I thought I glimpsed wasn’t really the truth of the matter. What I thought I saw was a demonic monstrosity brandishing a wicked looking sickle as it lingered at the top of this great staircase. In reality what I mistook for a sickle in its grip were its actual fingers. And there was no great staircase, it was standing in the doorway of that ruined church, but my mind interpreted the whole location as something else.

I remember being disappointed the next month when I didn’t see a commercial or a trailer or anything about the movie. I do recall sharing what I saw with Chris, the only friend I had managed to retain from high school.

$_57It’s not until early 1989 when I start hearing about the movie again, this time through Fangoria. Even though Fang did a total of five issues on the it I only have two of them and issue #80 is the one I remember the most. I can’t recall if I ever saw any of the earlier ones, for my Fangoria collecting was sporadic back in high school and a few years afterwards. This was long before I ever got it in my head to subscribe and would only have access to the issues my local bookstore would get and they wouldn’t necessarily get every month’s.

But seek out issue #80, it’s written by the late Mark Patrick Carducci, one of the two screenwriters (the other is Gary Gerani) who fleshed out the concept and then added more flesh to it once Stan Winston became the director. It’s basically those three men we have to thank for creating this iconic movie demon and Carducci goes into detail in this issue on it’s distribution problems, along with how the concept came to him, etc.

It’s also got some great photos that instantly caught my attention. It was my first real look at the movie and the demon itself and I remember being very excited to see this flick some day.

And when did I eventually see it?

Summer of that same year.

The year Tim Burton’s Batman was taking the nation by storm.

I saw it on cable, but before then, oh, maybe a week before that airing I was down at the mall in one of the record stores perusing the VHS tapes they had on this one wall and I came across the movie and thought, ‘oh, yeah, that’s gonna be on next week.’

When that airing came around I shoved in a tape and recorded it—loved the movie instantly—but the next morning when I went to watch it again the recording looked like shit. It was a Maxell tape and I recall Maxell tapes being of substandard quality, but I normally didn’t use them for recording. I can only assume my parents had bought me a pack on the fly when I needed some more.

Up till then I never bought any movies on VHS, I just recorded everything from cable thinking the quality was the same so why would I eve need to buy them? It was that Pumpkinhead recording that finally taught me there was a difference. I so wanted this movie on a better tape that I instantly thought of that VHS I saw at the record store and even though this was my day off from work I knew I was going to go down and buy it.

pumpkinhead+posterI remember driving a little faster than normal too, imagining someone else stumbling upon the movie because of last night’s airing and snatching it out from under me. I even walked a little faster than normal into the mall and down to the store when I got there. My first scan of the VHS wall yielded nothing and I remember saying to myself, ‘okay, I know it’s here, I’m just not seeing it yet.’ I went row by row this time, meticulously looking at every title and nearly jumped out of my skin when I finally saw it. It was $19.99. I remember all tapes back then were either that or $14.99. I doubled checked my wallet again to make sure I had enough and walked up to the check out. I don’t think I breathed normally, until the dude bagged the movie and handed it to me. I remember feeling immensely relieved when I walked out of that store with a mint, mass-produced, VHS of Stan Winston’s movie.

When I got back into the car I took it out of the bag and looked at the cover. Yes, the VHS of this movie always had one kick ass cover. And that’s how I got into collecting VHS movies. I generally got over a hundred dollars in my paycheck and calculated I could buy roughly four movies with it and did so every other week.

These next two memories have no sequential order, though, if it means anything, this one may have come first. It’s when me and Aaron, a friend I had back then I didn’t typically hang out with, but for some reason I guess, Chris didn’t want, or didn’t have the time, to join me in seeing Batman. So long ago I can’t remember why I asked Aaron if he wanted to go. It was an afternoon showing and I called him up before I came down to pick him up.

I banged on that door loudly for, like, ten minutes, and I was getting pissed. I mean, I just called him up and spoke to him? Where the hell was he? Surprisingly the door wasn’t locked so I took it upon myself to go in and head up to his room. Found him sound asleep on his bed, and he was so deeply asleep I had to shake him to wake him.

We headed out but I always suspected he took something or got high after I called him. Anyhow while we were in line getting tickets I told him of Pumpkinhead and he replied he had a friend who may have seen the movie in New York, he said the plot sounded familiar but it was being shown under a different title. I told him about the alternate title, Vengeance: The Demon, and he said, yes, that was the movie his buddy saw.

Now Chris comes back into the picture. We were checking out this new video store in the next town and we came upon the VHS cover of Pumpkinhead sitting on the shelf. Don’t know if any of you remember but back then VHS rental stores used to just put the empty VHS cover on the shelves and if you wanted it you took it up to the register and turned it in for the actual video tape. I picked it up, held it out to him and said, “You wanna see a really awesome movie, rent this one.”

He took it, peered skeptically at the cover and told me, “Yeah, but the monster in these movies never look as awesome as they do on the cover.”

I replied, “Trust me, Chris, this one does.” I then told him I had already seen it. He was still skeptical and we walked around the store a little longer. This trip was mostly for him; he was dying to rent something new. Eventually he rented it and another movie. I can’t remember what that other movie was.

A week or so later, when we hung out again, this time at our local hang out, Village Pizza, he quickly told me how awesome the movie was and we discussed it at length for a while that night.

Good times, man. Good times, indeed.

For those not privy to the pleasures of Pumpkinhead allow me to educate you poor bastards on what this movie is about. If you’re sensitive to spoilers I recommend then you stop reading because I’m going to be doing some spoiling.

Thanks to James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and Lance Henriksen’s role of the android, Bishop, in that film, the actor was propelled into the big time. I remember after that seeing him in three movies in a row that I liked. The first was Near Dark (1987), the second was The Horror Show in spring of ’89, and then finally Pumpkinhead on cable that summer. He easily became one of my favorite actors and in Pumpkinhead he plays backwoods dweller, Ed Harley, who has a son named, Billy, and a dog named, Gypsy. He makes ends meet running this local foodmart on the side of the road, but from what we see in the prologue, Ed’s been haunted by something he saw when he was a kid. Looking out the window he saw a monster! He saw Pumpkinhead! He saw Pumpkinhead killing a guy!

And when Pumpkinhead is set loose everyone knows it. You stay inside for the night and let no one into your house, not even the guy the demon is hunting, ’cause Pumpkinhead only kills what he’s been sent after… and anyone who gets in his way. So, stay the fuck out of his way.

Cut to a group of vacationing kids heading down the same road Harley has his store on. Kids at the time I was not familiar with, but am now due to having seen some of them in other flicks and even forgetting one of them was in the most famous flicks of all.

Jeff East plays Chris in the movie but I forgot he played teen Clark Kent in Superman (1978), and according to the back of the DVD cover of Pumpkinhead was also in Wes Craven’s Deadly Blessing (1981). Yeah, I guess he was. I still haven’t revisited that movie yet.

Cynthia Bain, whom I’ve never seen in another movie since, plays his girlfriend in the movie, Tracy, but according to IMDB I may have . . . in Tobe Hooper’s Spontaneous Combustion (1990) but have very little recall of it, and she’s also done a lot of television before and since.

Actors Joel Hoffman and John D’Aquino play brothers, Steve and Joel, respectively. Steve’s the “good, little brother” while Joel is the “older douche” who’s been in trouble with the law before. Hoffman I’ve only seen once, in Jim Wynoski’s 1988 remake of Not Of This Earth, and D’Aquino I instantly recognized when he became a part of that 1993-1996 series, SeaQuest DSV.

Kerry Remsen and the late Kimberly Ross play Steve and Joel’s girlfriends, Maggie and Kim. From what I see on IMDB Ross has had the second shortest career of these kids (Hoffman being the first) with only 10 other appearances in TV and movies. The movie, Death Street USA, in 1988 seems to be her last and I was shocked to find out she died in 2006 from breast cancer. Regarding Remsen, another actress I can’t remember from anything else, IMDB says she was in A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 (1985), Ghoulies 2 (1988) and After Midnight (1989) as well as some TV shows I used to watch. I’ve seen those movies and some of those TV shows, but cannot remember her from any of them. This movie is the only thing she stands out for me in.

All the kids are relatable and likable, well, not D’Aquino’s character in the beginning. You get the obvious sense he’s a douche and then after they stop off at Harley’s store he displays more douchy behavior culminating in the very act that gets Pumpkinhead set loose upon them.

Taking their dirt bikes out into a field next to the store, Joel and Steve, race around until an accident gets Harley’s kid out there with them and run over. Panicking the other kids take off to the cabin they were originally headed for while Steve stays with the dying kid until Harley returns.

Later on Billy dies in Ed’s and he goes in search of this witch everyone knows of up there in thar hills that has the power to conjure up this demon of vengeance. It’s not until Pumpkinhead is set loose that Ed realizes there’s a hidden price he’ll pay for his vengeance. And you know what say about that, when you go in search of revenge you dig two graves. One for your enemy and one for yourself. The demon and the man are now linked and very time the demon kills, Ed psychically sees and feels it, and as things get worse the demon’s visage begins to resemble Ed’s and Ed begins to exhibit demonic tendencies.

One of the things that makes this flick unique is half way through the “resident douchebag” of the group actually grows a pair and decides to own up to his transgression, and I was amazed I ended up hoping he might actually survive. It’s a very excellent performance by D’Aquino for he makes you hate then then genuinely like him later on.

The movie is stylishly filmed and comes with a spectacular creation by FX artist Stan Winston’s crew. At its core it’s essentially a man-in-a-suit but what makes it truly stand out is that it’s augmented with animatronics in the face and hands, extensions in the arms and legs that give it towering height, and a matching physical performance by Tom Woodruff, Jr., that easily cements into the pantheon of iconic “monsters” from the 80s we still can’t get enough of.

As far as I can tell Pumpkinhead was released two previous times on DVD, a bare bones one in 2000 and a special edition in 2009. As of this past September 9th Shout! Factory’s genre arm, Scream Factory, as finally welcomed this cult classic into the warm embrace of blu-ray. Take note there is no remastered DVD. Shout!/Scream generally does this when the DVD version is still in circulation.

Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 1.85:1 high definition—2.0/5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audios—English subtitles only.

This is the best I have ever seen this movie. So much so I noticed for the first time ever that the vest Jeff East wears throughout the film is vented in the back and on the sides. Detail and color are amazing; didn’t have a problem with either audios either.

All the extras from the previous 2009 special edition have been ported over including the commentary with co-screenwriter Gary Gerani and Creature & FX Creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis, moderated by Scott Spiegel:

  • Pumpkinhead Unearthed (1:03:59 in HD): To accent those two previous Fangoria editions I previously mentioned, if you want to know even more about the movie, watch this doc.
  • Demonic Toys (4:50): Sculptor, Jean St. Jean discusses sculpting Sota’s huge action figure of the demon.
  • Behind-the-Scenes Footage (7:11): From studio to the set see how Winston’s crew built and operated the demon.
  • Still Gallery (13:39): 102 photos, most I’ve never seen before, of stills, behind-the-scenes, posters, memorabilia and production design shots
  • Theatrical Trailer

And here’s the new stuff!

  • Remembering The Monster Kid: A tribute To Stan Winston (49:11)
  • Night of the Demon with Richard Weinman (16:29)
  • The Redemption of Joel with John D’Aquino (14:02)
  • The Boy with the Glasses with Matthew Hurley (14:30)

The tribute to Stan Winston doc is even better than the talk Gillis, Woodruff and Shea did on their Leviathan (1989) featurette, which all three are back to do again, along with Henriksen and Brian Bremer who played backwoods kid, Bunt, in the film. I imagine there’ll be a third one about him on Scream’s Invaders From Mars (1986) blu next year, which I cannot wait to see.

The interview with Richard Weinman is a good companion piece to the Mark Carducci’s Fangoria #80 article in that he goes into more detail as to how the concept of Pumpkinhead came about and more about it’s distribution problems. It’s also clear he’s not a fan of those SyFy channel sequels.

Matthew Hurley, who played Ed Harley’s doomed child, mentions in his interview he never really saw and understood the movie until he was 12. John D’Aquino mentions in his talk that when he and Jeff East first met they did not get along, and even came to blows in the auditioning process. He now runs a school for young actors.

This movie was catching lightening in a bottle. If you’ve never seen it, or have never seen any of these extras, you’ll come away with the sense that every one who participated in this flick was the right person for the job, which goes further in showing you how this movie became the cult classic that it is. And like all most movies of this ilk sequels inevitably get made, with the hope that lightening could be caught again. It wasn’t. To date there are three in existence and while I have very little memory of the second one I do recall the stories and the setting with the two SyFy channel ones being somewhat solid. I mean, at least, they stuck with the folks in the back country.

What I take issue with, though, on all three is the portrayal of the demon. In those follow-ups he got reduced to being a simple man-in-a-suit; I was never impressed by any of them, and in fact turned off by how he was created at the most rudimentary level in the SyFy ones, even being inevitably rendered in the channel’s typically crude CGI at certain points.

Recently news broke that one of the producer’s from those SyFy sequels is planning on doing a remake, which, if it’s done in the same vein as the latest movies, will be the final nail in Pumpkinhead’s coffin.

Okay, here’s my recommendation for anyone who wants to take a stab at the Pumpkinhead mythology, first off I recommend buying this blu-ray and watching the movie and all the extras, then pay close attention to the end of the movie. There are three survivors, Bunt, Tracy and Chris. Don’t do a remake, do a sequel to the first film with those three as your main characters, in fact, Bunt all grown up should be the sole focus, which I think he was in one of those SyFy channel movies. Even try to get the original actors back. Then go to Amalgamated Dynamics, these are the guys who created the demon in the first film, and get them to re-create him for the sequel. And finally if you’re going to use CGI, do it right. For me personally, I don’t care how great a story is if I see a crudely made CGI monster, I’m out. There’s a monster movie that was made in Ireland called, Grabbers (2013). Go watch that film. The CGI creature in that movie is convincingly rendered. Why? Because the filmmakers took a whole year in post-production to get it right.

There I’ve said my peace.

By Shawn Francis
Courtesy of dvdnewsflash.wordpress.com


Give-away: Grindhouse Trailer Classics (DVD)

August 22nd, 2014

Grindhouse Trailer Classics

We are giving away one copy of Grindhouse Trailer Classics (DVD) if you can answer this question (we will choose the best answer to win):

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE GRINDHOUSE/EXPLOITATION GENRE?

Enter your answer in the comment box below (or click the “Comment” link). Be sure to include your correct email below, as we will need to contact you should you win. Check back later to see the name of the winner. This give-away ends in THREE DAYS.

A few simple rules:
– You must be 18 years or older to enter
– Contest open to all countries (please note the Region Code of the Blu-ray or DVD Disc and if it’s compatible with your country)
– This contest closes in 3 days from the posting date
– Winner will be notified within 2 days after the contest is closed
– Come back here often to the Boulevard Movies Blog to see the name of the winner

Winner
CRAIG EDWARDS


SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR Red Band Trailer

July 29th, 2014

Check out the latest red band trailer for SIN CITY: A DAME TO KILL FOR. This film, from Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez, will premier in August (USA).


Mad Max: Fury Road Trailer 2014

July 27th, 2014

Here’s a first look at the Mad Max: Fury Road trailer. The film will premier in May 2015 (USA).


Give-away: Electra Glide In Blue (Blu-ray)

July 19th, 2013
Electra Glide In Blue (Region A Blu-ray)

Electra Glide In Blue (Region A Blu-ray)

“He’s a good cop… On a big bike… On a bad road.”

Shout Factory’s Electra Glide In Blue is a fantastic Blu-ray package which includes the following special features:
• Audio Commentary By Director James William Guercio
• Audio Commentary With Actor Robert Blake
• Introduction By Director James William Guercio
• Interview With Actor Robert Blake
• Theatrical Trailer

We are giving away one copy of Electra Glide In Blue  (Region A Blu-ray) if you can answer this question (we will choose the best answer to win):

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE COP MOVIE?

Enter your answer in the comment box below (or click the “Comment” link). Be sure to include your correct email below, as we will need to contact you should you win. Check back later to see the name of the winner. This give-away ends in THREE DAYS.

A few simple rules:
– You must be 18 years or older to enter
– Contest open to all countries (please note the Region Code of the Blu-ray or DVD Disc and if it’s compatible with your country)
– This contest closes in 3 days from the posting date
– Winner will be notified within 2 days after the contest is closed
– Come back here often to the Boulevard Movies Blog to see the name of the winner

Winner
TODD FORD