BEVERLY HILLS - Very often love letters show up at the most inopportune times. Such is the sad fate of Julia Marchese who loved her job as the box office queen at the New Beverly Cinema so much that she made a documentary about the place. Her movie has become historic since by all accounts, Quentin Tarantino is gutting the heart of the revival cinema. The director who at one time was the charitable donor has taken control of the place. Many of the long time people have been shown the door including the original owner’s son. Julia basically got chased off the property by Tarantino’s people screwing with her hours.
Julia has put her documentary online so you can enjoy it at home. It was shot in 35mm so might be able to see it projected. Although probably not at the New Beverly Cinema.
Out of Print is rather frustrating since my immediate reaction is to fly to Los Angeles and spend the weekend hanging out at the New Beverly. But now I know that the cinema magic shown in the film is gone. Tarantino has brought that to an end as he took control of his toy. How does Tarantino let someone go who has written an amazing, passionate love letter about everything Mr. Oscar Winner supposedly holds dear? There’s a report that he has replaced butter with Golden Flavoring. So that ought to be a hint. Who know what the future holds for the New Beverly, but thankfully Julia captured what is now an end of an era.
The Vincent Price Collection II arrives just in time for Halloween with another 7 Blu-ray transfers from the Prince of Horror. The films are a mix of AIP and other studio’s that wanted Price to spook people in the seats. First up is The Raven. This was when Roger Corman broke out the comedy during his Edgar Allan Poe series. Price plays a magician who battles with Boris Karloff. Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson get caught in the crossfire of spells. There’s an introduction and outro made by Price when this was run as part of a PBS movie series. The Comedy of Terrors brought back Price, Lorre and Karloff with the added bonus of Basil Rathbone. Price is an undertaker who is cutting corners by reusing coffins. Business is slowing down so Price schemes for a way to fill his funeral parlor with local corpses. This was directed by Jacques Tourneur (I Walked With A Zombie). The Tomb of Ligeia was the final Price-Corman-Poe film. It’s also the first one shot with a sunny disposition. Price has lost his wife Ligeia. He meets a new woman and falls madly in love with him. Little does he know that his wife doesn’t believe in “Till Death Do We Part.” The dead wife haunts the new wife. Price has an amazing pair of sunglasses in the film.
The Last Man on Earth is essential viewing. This is the film that was recently remade in the rather blah I Am Legend with Will Smith. This is the tale of how Vincent Price is one of the last humans on the face of the Earth. All those that roam at night are a vampire race. Price is holed up in his house and fights them off at night. He does his best to find a cure to restore humanity. But the vampires have had enough. The black and white film was shot in Italy. Price is immortal in the role. Dr. Phibes Rises Again brings back the twisted Dr. Phibes. Price is doing his best to revive his wife (Caroline Munro). He needs to reach a hidden spot under a pyramid. To get there, he has to kill a lot of people in freak ways. This should be considered a precursor to the Saw movies. The Return of the Fly is better than The Fly. There’s a better edge to this film that combines the mad scientist with the crime flick. Price as to worry about his nephew using the transporter device that merged man and fly. Naturally it happens. But to get things ugly, there’s an underworld crime element. So the monster needs to hunt down and kill a double crossing lab assistant. The black and white film is fulfilling. House on Haunted Hill is the classic William Castle tale of people stuck in a spooky place. The Blu-ray transfers of all the films give them new life on home video. Bonus features includes 20 minutes of Price trailers, segments on writer Richard Matheson, biographies on Price, tales of working with him and quite a few audio commentaries. This is another primo Price collection that will allow you to enjoy his fearful legacy.
The Squad is a highly effective military spookfest from Columbia. The film does a fantastic job at creating the unsteady atmosphere as a squad of nine soldiers touch down at an isolated military post to investigate what happened there. Things get tense very fast with the fog and shadows around what appears to be abandoned posts. Even worse for them is they can’t get outside communications going. They fear something is lurking around them. The tension keeps building as their numbers dwindle. Can they really kill what’s out there? The paranoia explodes on the screen. The Blu-ray transfer makes the fog looks dense as the soldiers do their best to see clearly. The bonus features include the trailer and a behind the scenes featurette.
Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon was one of my favorite films from last year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The documentary takes us through the amazing life of a man whose highlight of his life wasn’t just the fact that Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin got high in his hotel room. He found himself as the manager and mastermind of Alice Cooper. He’s the man who put panties on a vinyl record and tossed a chicken to Alice on stage. The amount of pills and booze he could ingest allowed him to outlive a few of his acts. But he’s not a complete wildman. He made sure Groucho Marx’s final years weren’t a financial nightmare. He revolutionized the way celebrity chefs were treated with his deals at the Food Network. He gave us Anne Murray. He’s just a cool guy. Now you can experience his lifestory thanks to the best movie ever made my Mike Myers (Love Guru). Sadly there’s no bonus feature that lets you relax and enjoy the ocean view of Shep’s Hawaiian house. But I’m working on that detail.
Houdini brings back Adrien Brody in a role that he was born to assume. He really does give off an amazing Harry Houdini vibe in this History Channel biopic. The movie tracks how he went from doing magic tricks in brothels to becoming the greatest escape artist in the World. He is the word for any sort of impossible to conceive escape. The movie does show how he made the locks open. Brody doesn’t try to escape being Houdini. He knows how to bend and twist to achieve Houdini’s greatest stunts. The movie covers quite a bit of territory including his constant battle against those who claim they communicate with the dead. The Blu-ray includes the original version and a cut that’s 20 minutes longer. Odd are that you’ll watch the extended cut instead of the broadcast version. There’s also four featurettes that deal with the real man.
Obvious Child allows Jenny Slate to escape the curse of being a one and done cast member on Saturday Night Live. She stars as a stand up comic who is having a bad time. After her boyfriend breaks it off, she thinks she’s getting lucky with a guy. Except she also gets pregnant. Now here life and career is really in flux. What’s she going to do? Is she going to tell the guy? Can she make this part of her material? This is one of those indie films that allows a young talent to flourish in a role that doesn’t require them to dress as a superhero to show their human side. Slate is amazing in the lead. Polly Draper beings back her thirtysomething charm. The bonus features include the original short film version of the movie. There’s audio commentaries from the director Gillian Robespierre (what a cool last name) and Slate. There’s a behind the scenes featurette.
Thunder and the House of Magic is an animated family film about an abandoned kitty that gets adopted by an usual family. His new owner is a magician with his menagerie of magic critters and toys inside the huge house. Little Thunder is shunned by the old timers, but quickly gets into the family. He has to help stop the magician’s scheming relative that wants to sell his valuable house. It’s going to take a lot of effort and a touch of magic to kill the real estate deal. It’s a fun film for kids with plenty of action moments.
WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series is finally out on DVD. Plenty of folks suffered through the butchered first season that Fox put out seven years ago. But Shout! Factory has come to the rescue with a version that might not be musically complete, but is musically competent. “Jennifer’s Date” has Foreigner’s “Hot Blooded” returned to newsman Les Nessman’s transformation moment. That alone makes this boxset a great way to remember the show that was the precursor to MTV as the fictional radio station promoted real musical acts with snippets of songs and posters hanging around the DJ booth. WKRP was an extremely special show since it represented the last great sitcom from MTM after giving us The Bob Newhart Show and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The show’s ability to mix the dramatic with comic moments makes it more than just a chucklefest like other sitcoms of the late ’70s and early ’80s that have slipped off the playlist over the decades. Having worked at a college radio station and hung out with real radio people, WKRP is more realistic than Hardcore Pawn. The episodes give a great insight to how a radio station worked back then. It also predicted the sad rise of Clear Channel nation that destroyed the soul of so many radio stations. The boxset contains all 88 episodes (two of them were hour long specials) from the four seasons it lasted on CBS.
For those concerned about music replacements, Shout! Factory has cleared about 80 percent of the original songs that played. They were able to replace most of the lost music with genre clones. During “Turkeys Away,” Pink Floyd’s “Dogs” originally played in the studio. Somehow Pink Floyd’s people didn’t want to play ball which is a shame since when was the last time you heard a track from Animals on your Clear Channel monolith? The song gets replaced by a clone with the same tone including a barking dog. Thus Mr. Carlin’s joke makes sense. Rewatching the episodes made me realize how amazing Loni Anderson was in the role of Jennifer. She wasn’t merely eye candy. She had a natural comedic talent that made Jennifer not look like a gold digger, but a woman who knew how to enjoy life and get a lot of blenders from guys. Another revelation was just how great Jan Smithers was at making Bailey such a shy character with grand plans. The duo were more than the new Ginger and Mary Ann on the screen. The bonus features include the cast reunion at the Paley Center where they announced Shout! Factory was putting out this boxset. There’s also time with Gary Sandy as he remembers his time as programming director. He still has great hair. Normally people complain when a boxset comes out that they already bought the first season. You’ll want to replace that first season boxset with WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series. This is a great Christmas present for your uncle who gets cranky that Antenna TV only runs WKRP on Sunday nights.
The Red Skelton Show: The Early Years 1951 - 1955 takes us back to the dawn of network television. Red Skelton was already a comic star of movies and radio when he became a pioneer of TV. The show was a smash success and kept him on the air until the early 1970s. One of the anomalies of Skelton’s career was that he never syndicate his older TV shows. This made sense in that Red didn’t need to compete with his younger self. By the time he was off the air, TV stations were aching for color shows to run as syndication. So for decades his early shows lingered in the vaults. Thankfully his estate has finally brought out several of the episodes to share on DVD. The 11 DVD set includes 90 episodes that appear complete. They show off Red as so completely relaxed in front of the camera that it feels like he just thought up the entire show on the fly. He does all his characters including Clem Kadiddlehopper, the boxer Cauliflower mcPugg, Willie Lump Lump and the clownish Freddie the Freeloader. The half hour shows go fast as Red spends quite a bit of time trying not to crack up. He’s got plenty of guest stars including Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney and Vampira. Peter Lorre creeps up. Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis drop by to yuck it up before their break up. What’s the point of having your own show if Bob Hope won’t arrive? The bonus features include “America’s Clown: An Intimate Biography of Red Skelton” that gives details about the comedy legend. There’s also a special episode that has Walt Disney, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby. This is a fine comeback for a guy who stuck around so long on the TV dial.
The Big Valley: The Final Season brings to an end the Barkley family’s home on the range. This was a great family show with hard edge mom Victoria (Barbara Stanwyck) ruling the family that included Peter Breck, Lee Majors (The Six Million Dollar Man) and Linda Evans (Dynasty). The final season had a good batch of episode including “In Silent Battle” where Adam West (Batman) woes Linda even though he’s got a dark secret. In a weird coincidence, the telegraph operator is played by Olan Soule who would go on to voice Batman in the Super Friends cartoons until Adam West took back the role. “They Call Her Delilah” stars hottie Julie London. She even sings. “Presumed Dead” revives the career of Gavin MacLeod. Riding over from the Ponderosa on “Run of the Cat” is Pernell Roberts. In a Six Million Dollar Man preview, Richard Anderson (Oscar Goldman) arrives for “The Long Ride.” “The Prize” features the FDA required visit from Bruce Dern. “Lightfoot” is Joe Don Baker. Anderson and Gavin come back for “Alias Nellie Handley.” “The Royal Road” is graced by Harold Gould, the dean of thespians. The 26 episodes are spread over 6 DVDs. The big bonus TV historian John Griffiths giving background on the series. Big Valley fans should be pleased that they now have all the episodes on DVD. Lee Majors would mosey over to The Men From Shiloh after this series went off the air.
Penny Dreadful: The Complete First Season lived up to the hype as it brought the creatures of the night into a Victorian era Monster Mash. The Showtime series promised to bring a lot of things back from the dead. First we get Timothy Dalton in his meatiest role since James Bond. He’s explorer Sir Malcolm Murray. He’s no longer poking around Africa since he has a major quest. He must find the vampire creatures that abducted his daughter Mina Harker. Helping him on his quest is Vanessa Ives (Casino Royale’s Eva Green). She’s possessed in more than one way. Vanessa is the most complicated and frightening figure on TV. She goes into trances that will make you cringe in fear of which way she’ll go next. This is a pretty big feat in a show full of vampire creatures and Frankenstein monsters. The biggest resurrection in the series belongs to Josh Hartnett. After vanishing in an abyss of cute films, Josh has returned to the living as a Wild West show shooting expert. He gets hired by Sir Malcolm to plug a few undead critters. He also ends up getting tangled up with a dying hooker played by Billie Piper (Doctor Who). The show nails the proper atmosphere needed for a Victorian era horror story. There’s a lot of flesh on the screen since this is a Showtime series. The biggest shocker is that there’s only 8 episodes for the first season. This is a great show to binge watch before Halloween hits the Witching Hour.
Eternals brings the work of Neil Gaiman (Sandman) and John Romita Jr. to motion thanks to Marvel Knights animation. The comic book was originally started in 1976 by the legendary Jack Kirby. This animated special is from when Gaiman wrote a limited series back in 2006. Eternals deals with a group of eternal superheroes who have forgotten their pasts as they becoming absorbed in modern life. They get woken up to discover that their age old enemies are mounting a comeback. It’s a fine complicated tale with plenty of mythos action along with physical action. The animation once more preserves the original artwork as it gives it a sense of motion. All of Gaiman’s words are spoken by the characters. Will this series get stepped up to become the next Guardians of the Galaxy for the Marvel movies? Do really wish Marvel Knights could be allowed to animate Gaiman’s Sandman series, but that’s with Vertigo. Drats.
The Hercules Collection contains six movies from the ’60s when Italian Cinema was cranking out the barechested hunk epics. After Steve Reeves smashed the international box office with Hercules, every producer with a spaghetti stained tie went into overdrive with tales of ancient times when men were men and women wore sheer sheets. The Loves of Hercules gives us real life couple Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield being Hercules and a woman he loves. Jayne does her best to stay in the toga. The Trojan Horse has Steve Reeves not playing Hercules, but anytime the man is shirtless, he’s Hercules. Medusa Against The Son of Hercules looks like an AIP movie when the monster arrives. The Conquest of Mycenae stars former Tarzan Gordon Scott. The Triumph of Hercules pits him against seven guys who look like they escaped from Madonna’s pool party. Hercules Against the Sons of the Sun brings the legend to South America as he must save women from being sacrificed by the Incas. This one might not be based on fact. Overall the six titles are fun to watch when you’re in a Roman mood. It’s sad to think that movies are no longer a great place for bodybuilding hunks to become superstars. The movies are in pan and scan since most were released to American TV.
Mad Men: The Final Season Part 1 marks what seems like the comeback of Don Draper (Jon Hamm). He ended up crashing hard at the end of season six when he gave up his carefully crafted lie of a life to admit to all his childhood in a brothel. This led to him being forced into exile from his advertising firm. As the series returns, Don demonstrates that he’s not out of the game. He’s using a pal as a cover to submit pitches to the firm. What Don doesn’t know is that his sweet office space has been taken over by Lou Avery (Allan Havey). This uptight old Madison Avenue pro is the anti-Draper. He’s drab, uninspiring and a whiner. The guy does have a dream to come up with a cartoon like Underdog. This gets him in trouble. Don discovers that in order to get back into his office, he has to sign a brutal agreement. If he screws up this time, the company will take away his shares and send him packing. Can Don handle this humbling action? The most frustrating part of this split season is there’s only 7 episodes. They’re holding onto the final 7 for the Spring of 2015. Even such a short season is more satisfying than any network show with 22 episodes. The bonus features include historical pieces about what was going on in gay culture in the late 60s and the Chicago Eight trial. There’s even a bit about Robert Morse’s big song and dance moment as Bert Cooper makes a memorable exit from the building.
Perry Mason: Movie Collection Volume 4 is the last full boxset of Raymond Burr playing the iconic defense attorney. Burr was getting close to the end of his life, but he wasn’t going to stop freeing the innocent and getting the guilty bastards exposed. He’s not quite as mobile in these 6 made for TV movies. But he still has Della Street (Barbara Hale) as his secretary. There’s also plenty of murders happening all around him. “The Case of the Glass Coffin” makes Peter Scolari (Girls & Bosom Buddies) a magicians whose worst trick is knocking up his assistant. The now pregnant employee uses this as leverage to screw with the act. During a charity performance, she shows up dead at the end of a trick. Luckily Perry Mason is in the audience and ready to take on a new client. “The Case of the Fatal Fashion” makes Valerie Harper (Rhoda) a mean magazine writer who gets to discover if the Devil wears Prada when she’s murdered. “The Case of the Fatal Framing” fakes the death of David Soul (Starsky and Hutch). He’s an artist who unfakes his death when paintings are falsely attributed to him. “The Case of the Reckless Romeo” features the death of Geraldo Rivera. Talk about a give the people what they want episode. “The Case of the Heartbroken Bride” ruins a wedding party with a homicide. Luckily Perry Mason was at the ceremony. “The Case of the Skin-Deep Scandal” brings Morgan Fairchild on a tale of real backstabbing at a cosmetic company. There’s only two more Burr starring episodes left in the vault along with 4 substitute episodes to wrap things up in Volume 5.
My Little Pony: The Original Series takes us back to a time before Friendship is Magic. This show has a different set up than what kids enjoy on The Hub. The series is more wild with the ponies not exactly living the complete human lifestyle. They roam Pony Estates. They do have plenty of foes including grundles doing their best to ruin the four legged fun. They even have human friends that aren’t Equestria Girls. This series ran from 1986 to 1987. My daughter Josie wasn’t too put off by the changes of this early series. She immediately wondered why Minty wasn’t brought into the new show. The boxset has all 65 episodes spread on 4 DVDs.
The Little Penguin Pororo’s Racing Adventure is a wintertime speed flick. It’s a zippy tale about a little penguin who dreams of hitting it big in the world of snowmobile racing. These are not your normal skimobiles since they are like mini-rockets going across the snow. The movie features the vocal talents of Rob Schneider, Drake Bell, Anthony Anderson, Jon Heder and Jay Mohr. The action looks like it’ll be an amazing Oculus Rift game. A fine little film to watch while waiting this winter’s first snow storm.
NYPD Blue: Season 07 makes Detective Andy Sipowicz an emotional wreck. The previous season had his wife and police partner die. He has to keep it together for the sake of his son. He still doesn’t quite trust his new partner Danny Sorenson (Rick Schroder). Making matters worse is he’s got to go hard on Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) who is a cop that might have killed a suspect. Johnny Drama is in hot water and Sipowicz can’t stick to the Blue Silence. Things get worse at the police department when people attempt to set Sipowicz up on dates. The guy needs a little release in the tense times. There’s plenty of other ongoing stories including how Andrea Thompson’s estranged husband is part of an investigation. But this season’s success is completely on the shoulders of Franz. He completely transforms himself into a man on the edge of losing it with all that life has dished at him.
Alpha and Omega: The Legend of the Saw Tooth Cave is a spooky tale perfect for Halloween fights. A pack of young wolves are eager to be see what’s inside the ominous cave that looks like it has fangs. But their parents aren’t up for them going on such a foolish adventure. Guess who wins this battle of the wills? It’s a fine entry in the CGI series about the little wolfpack. For right now, this is a Walmart exclusive. The DVD includes access to the UltraViolet stream and download.
Lalaloopsy Babies: First Step brings even younger characters to the show about stitched together kids. The dolls flashback to their early days when they were fresh felt and buttons in the nursery. They share their first few adventures when they bonded as friends forever. While this is considered a movie, the action only lasts 45 minutes so you can start this a little bit before bedtime for your young one. My daughter was glued from start to finish and now wants a Lalaloopsy Baby for Christmas or any holiday before Christmas.
SlugtTerra: Return of the Elementals has new characters join the gang. This show dares to expose you to Slug Fu! That’s the slugslinger’s martial arts. This movie is all about the slug action. The Elementals are five slugs that have amazing powers that must be brought together to save Slugterra. There is an enemy that is doing it’s best to eliminate these special slugs. This is a movie that is perfect for the slug freaks in your life.
Pawn Stars: A Very Vegas Christmas Special unites the Rick Harrison empire for one special day. In this case, it’s for the holiday party. Chumlee wants to bring together the casts of American Restoration and Counting Cars with the employees of Pawn Stars. It’s a sweet, well meaning wish. The episode has people remember the best and worst deals from the previous year. The bonus features include Pawn Stars “Another Christmas Story” and American Restoration “One Horse Open Sleigh.”
The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Once Upon A Starry Night is the Christmas special that aired after the second season had wrapped up for the mountain man show. Grizzly thinks he’s going to have a quiet Christmas when he finds a lost boy and girl in the woods. He brings them back to his house to feed and shelter them. But now he’s got to head out and find the kids’ parents that are probably lost in the wilderness. Instead of a quiet Christmas, he must risk his lives to save a family. Ken Curtis (Gunsmoke) and Don Galloway (Ironside) guest star.
The John Wayne Collection is a two disc set from Timeless Media Group with five movies starring The Duke. McLintock is Wayne’s version of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. Wayne gets to share the screen with Mauren O’Hara and Yvonne De Carlo (The Munsters). One of the ladies gets spanked. Jerry Van Dyke shows up with a banjo. The Desert Trail has Wayne accused of robbing the Rattlesnake Glutch Rodeo. Can he find the real bad guys before he’s hung high? Angel and the Badman is about a gunslinger who gets healed by a Quaker family. Can he give up his life of violence? Or do they need his gun to keep them safe? Paradise Canyon and Rainbow Valley also put Wayne back on a horse. The extras include interviews with Harry Carey Jr, Iron Eyes Cody and Yakima Canutt. There’s a documentary about John Ford. The big thrill is 40 minutes of great John Wayne trailers. This is a great stocking stuffer for dad.
The Soul Man: The Complete Second Season puts more preaching from Cedric “the Entertainer” on the air. “Get Thee Behind Me” starts the season with Cedric fighting a physical that involves a colonoscopy. He doesn’t want anything in his butt. “My Brother’s Keeper” sends their child Lyric to a boarding school. “Love Thy Neighbor” exposes what sort of parties Jamie Kennedy would throw if he lived next door to a minister. “Music and Lyric” puts the family in hot water when daughter puts a wicked rap on the internet. Will the congregation get down with the rap? The 10 episodes of this season allow Niecy Nash to expand as the minister’s wife who wasn’t expecting a holy life.
Life of Crime adapts Elmore Leonard’s The Switch with an all star cast. The book came out in 1978 so it’s predates Ruthless People. This is the tale of Tim Robbins who wants to dump his wife, Jennifer Aniston. Why? Because he’s sleeping with Isla Fisher. He fears the cost of divorce. But then a miracle occurs. His wife gets kidnapped by John Hawkes and others. They want a million dollars or they’ll kill her. As if Tim Robbins is weighing the options. The kidnappers aren’t happy that Tim wants them to do the dirty work. Also in the cast is Mark Boone Junior with all his eyeballs. Will Forte is part of the commentary track. There’s also access to UltraViolet so you can stream or download the film.
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