Friday, September 17, 2021

Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1955 (Creature with the Atom Brain), USA, 1956 (The Werewolf), USA, 1957 (Zombies of Mora Tau), USA, 1957 (The Giant Claw)
Directors: Edward L. Cahn (Creature with the Atom Brain, Zombies of Mora Tau), Fred F. Sears (The Werewolf, The Giant Claw)
Cast: Richard Denning, Angela Stevens, S. John Launer, Michael Granger, Gregory Gaye (Creature with the Atom Brain), Don Megowan, Joyce Holden, Eleanore Tanin, Kim Charney, Harry Lauter, Steven Ritch (The Werewolf), Gregg Palmer, Allison Hayes, Autumn Russell, Joel Ashley, Morris Ankrum, Marjorie Eaton, Gene Roth (Zombies of Mora Tau), Jeff Morrow, Mara Corday, Morris Ankrum, Louis Merrill, Edgar Barrier, Robert Shayne (The Giant Claw)

Release Date: September 13th, 2021 (UK), September 14th, 2021 (USA)
Approximate Running Times: 69 Minutes 10 Seconds (Creature with the Atom Brain), 79 Minutes 32 Seconds (The Werewolf), 69 Minutes 4 Seconds (Zombies of Mora Tau), 74 Minutes 11 Seconds (The Giant Claw)
Aspect Ratios: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf), 1.78:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC (Zombies of Mora Tau, The Giant Claw)
Rating: 12 (UK), NR(USA)
Sound: DTS-HD Mono English (All Films)
Subtitles: English SDH (All Films)
Region Coding: Region A,B
Retail Price: £60.00 (UK), $99.95 (USA) 

"Zombies! Werewolves! Atomic Mutation! Intergalactic Avians! Let this quartet of classic terrors take you back to the golden age of B-Movie Monsters!

A mob boss hires an ex-Nazi scientist to reanimate his dead thugs in Creature with the Atom Brain. An auto-accident survivor is used as an experimental subject to create a vaccine for nuclear fall-out with hair-raising side-effects in The Werewolf. Treasure hunters get more than they bargained for in the search for a cargo of diamonds that went down with a sunken ship when they discover the zombified crew members are guarding the loot in Zombies of Mora Tau. Meanwhile, an enormous bird from outer-space descends to chow down on the people of planet Earth in The Giant Claw!" - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.25/5 (Creature with the Atom Brain, The Werewolf, The Giant Claw), 4/5 (Zombies of Mora Tau)

Here’s the information provided about the transfers, “The restored masters were produced by Sony Pictures.”

Creature with the Atom Brain comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 34.8 GB

Feature: 20.9 GB

The Werewolf comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 35.4 GB

Feature: 24.1 GB

Zombies of Mora Tau comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 26.5 GB

Feature: 20.4 GB

The Giant Claw comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 29.1 GB

Feature: 21.8 GB

The sources for four films are in great shape. Contrast, black levels and image clarity looks strong throughout. There are no issues related to compression and grain looks natural. That said, The Giant Claw uses stock footage that does not look as good as the bulk of the film. Also, when it comes to special effects shots, there are instances where the image does not look as crisp as it does for the bulk of the film.

Audio: 4/5

Each film comes with one audio option, a DTS-HD mono mix in English and each film comes with removable English SDH subtitles. All of the audio mixes are in great shape. There are no issues with distortion or background hiss, dialog always comes through clearly and everything sounds balanced. Range wise all the mixes sound very good considering their low-budget origins.

Extras:

Extras for Creature with the Atom Brain include an image gallery (27 stills), a trailer for Creature with the Atom Brain (2 minutes 11 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of Creature with the Atom Brain (19 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with film historian/critic Stephen R. Bissette titled Sam Katzman: Before and Beyond the Cold War Creatures (63 minutes 57 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (8 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Russell Dyball.

Extras for The Werewolf Include an image gallery (14 stills), a trailer for The Werewolf (1 minute 57 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of The Werewolf (7 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), a visual essay exploring the oft-overlooked role of women in the films of Sam Katzman by film historian/critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas titled Beyond Window Dressing (23 minutes 35 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (7 minutes 33 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Lee Gambin.

Extras for Zombies of Mora Tau Include an image gallery (29 stills), a trailer for Zombies of Mora Tau (1 minute 55 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), a visual essay exploring the intersection of mythical horror creatures and the rational world of science in the films of Sam Katzman by film critic Josh Hurtado titled Atomic Terror: Genre in Transformation (19 minutes 48 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (7 minutes 35 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critic Kat Ellinger.

Extras for The Giant Claw Include an image gallery (23 stills), a trailer for The Giant Claw (2 minutes 3 seconds, LPCM mono English, no subtitles), super 8 version of The Giant Claw (6 minutes 29 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), a brand-new visual essay examining the theme of Cold War paranoia in Sam Katzman monster movies by film critic Mike White titled Family Endangered! (12 minutes 51 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles), an introduction by film historian/critic Kim Newman (12 minutes 27 seconds, LPCM stereo English, no subtitles) and an audio commentary with film critics Emma Westwood and Cerise Howard.

Rounding out the extras is reversible cover art for each film, two double-sided posters, twelve lobby card reproductions (three for each film), an eighty-page booklet with reproduction stills and artwork from each film and an essay for each film written by Stephen R. Bissette and a sixty-page booklet with cast & crew information for each film, an essay titled Sam Katzman: The Sultan of Schlock written by Laura Drazin Boyes, an essay titled Only Screams Can Describe It: Creature with the Atom Brain written by Neil Mitchell, an essay titled Science Versus the Supernatural: Sam Katzman’s The Werewolf written by Barry Forshaw, an essay titled A Twilight Zone Between Life and Death: Zombies of Mora Tau written by Jon Towlson, an essay titled Turkey in the Sky! The Appealing Legacy of The Giant Claw written by Jackson Cooper and information about the transfers.

Summary:

What sets apart the films that comprise Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman from other B-cinema is that they’re all a vision of a singular producer named Sam Katzman. Where most B-cinema is a by-product of independently made cinema, most of the films produced by Sam Katzman had the backing of major Hollywood studios. That said, though he worked with limited budgets, his films far exceeded other B-films from this era. 

Creature with the Atom Brain: This is the type of film that you’re either going to fully embrace or quickly tune out. Creature with the Atom Brain comes from a simpler time, that by today’s standards feels more distant than it is. And though some of its flaws can-be attributed to how primitive technology was in the 1950’s. It’s positives far outweigh its negatives. Most notably a premise that taps into the fear about atomic radiation.

Screenwriter Curt Siodmak wrote Creature with the Atom Brain’s first-rate. His other notable screenplay’s include The Wolf Man (1941), I Walked with a Zombie and Donovan’s Brain. The narrative revolves around a mobster and a reluctant German scientist who he has forced to help him exact his revenge by using atomic energy to turn corpses into zombie killing machines.

From a production standpoint, Creature with the Atom Brain is a film that far exceeds its very limited budget. The premise is well-executed and the narrative most along at a good momentum. Also, though the characters are one-dimensional, the performances are better than expected. And though the premise that's rooted in science fiction, the visuals have a Film noir like quality.  

That said, though there are many dated elements in Creature with the Atom Brain. The result is a solid film that fans of the 1950's should thoroughly enjoy.

The Werewolf: Since 1941’s The Wolf Man starring Lon Chaney Jr. the werewolf has been one of horror cinema’s most reliable characters. And though most films that followed pale in comparison to The Wolf Man (1941). There are few films that stand apart from the pact by putting a new spin on the all too familiar Werewolf mythos. Case in point The Werewolf, a film that mixes The Wolf Man (1941) with 1950’s fear of atomic radiation.

The narrative revolves around a man who after a car accident is unknowingly injected with a serum that transforms him into a werewolf when he’s enraged. From there the locals try to capture the beast that’s wreaking havoc, while the mad scientist who injected the man with serum tries to get to him first.

When compared to other horror from the 1950’s, The Werewolf takes an opposite approach tone wise. Though there are elements that's associated with B-cinema like the mad scientist character. Very early on, The Werewolf establishes a serious tone that elevates above a by the numbers horror film.

From a production standpoint, there’s not an area where The Werewolf does not deliver and then some. The premise is superbly realized, the well-executed narrative does a great job maintaining tension and a finale provides a perfect coda. Also, the cast are very good in their respective roles, especially Steven Ritch in the role of the protagonist who’s become a werewolf. And the visuals are overflowing with atmosphere. Ultimately, The Werewolf is a solid horror film that’s as potent today as it was sixty-five years ago.

Zombies of Mora Tau: Eleven-years before the zombie sub-genre would have one of its hallmark films Night of the Living Dead. There were a few films that dabbled in the zombie sub-genre, mostly with varied results that were underwhelming. Case in point Zombies of Mora Tau, a zombie film that never fully exploits its premise.

The narrative revolves around a group of unscrupulous treasure hunters who are looking for diamonds that are on a sunken ship. Along the way, they meet superstitious locales and come face to face with a horde of zombies determined to protect the diamonds.

From a production standpoint, Zombies of Mora Tau suffers from many elements that are synonymous with impoverished B-cinema. And though the premise is ripe with possibilities, its execution leaves a lot too be desired. And a weakly constructed narrative does not help matters. Also, the performances are best described as serviceable. Ultimately, Zombies of Mora Tau is a film that zombie fans will find a chore to sit through.

The Giant Claw: What aspires too be a Ray Harryhausen like special effects extravaganza, ends up being a Z-grade knock off that lacks everything that’s become synonymous with Ray Harryhausen special effects. Interesting aside, Ray Harryhausen had worked with producer Sam Katzman on Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Unfortunately, due to budget limitations Ray Harryhausen would not work on The Giant Claw’s special effects.

Everything about The Giant Claw screams Z-grade cinema, cheap special effects, recycled footage and a haphazard plot that takes a backseat to a crudely designed marionette monster. That said, despite all its shortcomings The Giant Claw is an oddly entertaining film that fans of cinema to bad it’s good.

Arrow Video has long been known for their extravagant limited-editions. And with Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman Arrow Video delivers what is arguably one of their best limited-edition releases to date. Arrow Video’s Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman is an exceptional release that comes with solid audio/video presentations and a wealth of insightful extra content, highly recommended. 
































Written by Michael Den Boer

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Children of the Corn – Arrow Video (4k UHD)

Theatrical Release Date: USA, 1984
Director: Fritz Kiersch
Writer: George Goldsmith
Cast: Peter Horton, Linda Hamilton, R.G. Armstrong, John Franklin, Courtney Gains, Robby Kiger, Anne Marie McEvoy, Julie Maddalena, Jonas Marlowe, John Philbin

Release Date: September 29th, 2021
Approximate Running Time: 92 Minutes 8 Seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 2160 Progressive / HEVC / H.265 / Dolby Vision HDR10
Rating: R
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 English, LPCM Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $49.95

"a young couple who find themselves lost on the backroads of Nebraska, eventually winding up in the seemingly deserted town of Gatlin. But the town is far from empty. As the couple soon discover, it is inhabited by a twisted cult of murderous children, thirsty for another blood sacrifice..." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 4.5/5

Here’s the information provided about this release's transfer, "Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative by Arrow Films."

Children of the Corn comes on a 100 GB triple layer 4K UHD.

Disc Size: 88 GB

Feature: 61.6 GB

With this new transfer from Arrow Video they improve upon their 2017 Blu-ray releases transfer in every way. Colors saturation, shadow detail, black levels and image clarity look solid throughout. Also, there are no issues with compression and grain looks natural. 

Audio: 4.5/5

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a LPCM mono mix in English. Both audio mixes are in great shape, as dialog comes through clearly, everything sounds balanced and robust when it needs too. Included with this release are removable English subtitles.

Extras:

Extras for this release include a storyboard gallery, a trailer for Children of the Corn (1 minute 27 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actor Rich Kleinberg whose performance as the Blue man was cut from the final film titled Cut from the Cornfield (5 minutes 30 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), interviews with production designer Craig Stearns and composer Jonathan Elias titled Welcome to Gatlin (15 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), a featurette that revisits the film’s original Iowa shooting locations titled Return to Gatlin (16 minutes 29 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with producer Donald P. Borchers titled Stephen King on a Shoestring (11 minutes 18 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with screenwriter George Goldsmith titled Field of Nightmares (17 minutes 19 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), interviews with actors interviews with Julie Maddalena and John Philbin titled . . .And a Child Shall Lead Them (50 minutes 52 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), an interview with actress Linda Hamilton titled It Was the Eighties! (14 minutes 7 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), retrospective documentary with director Fritz Kiersch and actors John Franklin and Courtney Gains titled Harvesting Horror: The Making of Children of the Corn (36 minutes 17 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo English, no subtitles), two audio commentaries’ - the first audio commentary is with Fritz Kiersch, producer Terrence Kirby, John Franklin and Courtney Gains, and the second audio commentary is with John Sullivan of childrenofthecornmovie.com and horror journalist Justin Beahm, a short film that was also adapted from Stephen King’ short story titled Disciples of the Crow (18 minutes 56 seconds, 1:33:1 aspect ratio, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), reversible cover art, a slipcover and twenty-eight-page booklet with cast & crew information, an essay titled Behind the Rows written by John Sullivan, an essay titled Praise God! Praise the Lord! The Influence of the Child Preacher in reference to ‘Children of the Corn’ written by Lee Gambin and information about the restoration/transfer.

Summary:

The screenplay for Children of the Corn is adapted from author Stephen King’s short story of the same name. To date, there have been eight Children of the Corn sequels, one remake and one short film titled Disciples of the Crow. 

At its core the horror genre preys on our darkest fears. And though there is never a shortage of protagonists for this genre to draw inspiration from. With this genre’s most sinister source of evil being children. And nowhere is more clear, then how the horror genre uses innocence to disguise the evil that is lurking beneath the surface. 

Another staple throughout the history of horror cinema is religion. And at the heart of Children of the Corn is a cautionary tale about the dangers of religious fanaticism. With this film’s agents of carnage being a group of children led by false prophet named Isaac.

The characters are well-defined and the cast are very good in their respective roles. With this film’s standout performance being John Franklin (The Addams Family) in the role of Isaac. He delivers a spellbinding performance that perfectly captures his characters ability to influence his followers. Another performance of note is Courtney Gains (Hardbodies, The ‘Burbs) in the role of Isaac’s malevolent older brother Malachai.

When compared to other horror films from this era, The Children of the Corn is not as graphic when it comes to its depiction of violence. With most of bloodshed occurring off-screen. With this film’s standout moments being this film’s opening setup where the children under Isaac’s direction murder all the adult in their town and a scene where the couple who are lost accidentally run over a young-boy who appeared out of nowhere.

Children of the Corn gets a solid 4K UHD upgrade from Arrow Video, highly recommended.

4K UHD screenshots.












Written by Michael Den Boer

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

 Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man – Raro Video (Blu-ray)

Theatrical Release Date: Italy, 1976
Director: Ruggero Deodato
Writers: Fernando Di Leo, Alberto Marras, Vincenzo Salviani
Cast: Marc Porel, Ray Lovelock, Adolfo Celi, Franco Citti, Silvia Dionisio, Marino Masé, Renato Salvatori, Sofia Dionisio, Alvaro Vitali

Release Date: October 13th, 2020
Approximate Running Time: 96 Minutes 30 seconds
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVCC
Rating: NR
Sound: DTS-HD Mono Italian, DTS-HD Mono English
Subtitles: English (Italian language)
Region Coding: Region Free
Retail Price: $29.99

"Never before in film history have we seen such nihilistic and pathological behavior from protagonists, who in this film happen to be two policeman: Alfredo (Marc Porel) and Antonio (Ray Lovelock) members of an anti-crime squad who shoot down their assailants even before they have committed a crime." - synopsis provided by the distributor

Video: 3.75/5

Here’s the information given about the transfer, “new HD transfer”.

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man comes on a 50 GB dual layer Blu-ray.

Disc Size: 29.4 GB

Feature: 21.2 GB

The source used for this transfer is in excellent shape. Colors look correct, image clarity and black levels look strong throughout. Overall this is one of Raro Video’s stronger transfers that’s not hampered by egregious digital noise reduction.

Audio: 4/5

This release comes with two audio options, a DTS-HD mono mix in Italian and a DTS-HD mono mix in English. Both audio mixes sound, clean, clear, balanced and robust when it needs too. Included with this release are removable English subtitles for the Italian language track.

Extras:

Extras for this release include English language trailer for Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man (4 minutes 11 seconds, Dolby Digital mono English, no subtitles), a making of documentary titled Crime Busters (41 minutes 55 seconds, Dolby Digital stereo Italian with English subtitles), a slipcover and four-page leaflet with an essay about Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, a biography and filmography for Ruggero Deodato.

Summary:

With a title like Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man, it is not surprising that this film is one of the more violent entry’s to emerge out of the Poliziotteschi genre. Right from the get go this film establishes a brutal tone that not only sustains throughout, it actually escalates to a fever pitch by the film’s explosive conclusion.

Whether it be the film’s lengthy motorcycle chase that opens the film or the way this film’s to main characters Anthony and Alfredo, who quickly resolve a hostage situation. Pacing is never an issue as things move along at a break neck pace. There is an immediacy to Anthony and Alfredo’s actions that makes the things they do all the easier to digest. Sure they don’t exactly play by book, but then those who they are taking down don’t have a total disregard for law and order.

Narrative wise, though the plot is fairly routine cops verse thugs. It is the way Anthony and Alfredo approach their job that sets this film apart when compared to other Poliziotteschi films. Another key ingredient to why this film has such an enduring legacy, is the way it depicts brutality of screen. Instead of bringing suspects, they torture and in some cases break their neck. And when trying to get information from a female suspect, they use their place a law enforcement officers to gain sexual favors. And while there’s never a shortage of violence that erupts on-screen, most of which gets directed towards human suspects. There is a scene in two suspects being chased by Anthony and Alfredo run over a blind man’s seeing eye dog. Had this been just about any other director this scene would not be a disturbing. A few years later Ruggero Deodato would direct what is arguably one of the most controversial film’s in Italian history, the aforementioned Cannibal Holocaust. A notorious film know for it’s cruel depiction of animal’s being tortured to death.

Performance the is not a single performance that is lacking. The chemistry between Marc Porel (Don’t Torture a Duckling) and Ray Lovelock (Oasis of Fear) is without a doubt this film greatest asset. Regrettably a proposed sequel would never materialize. It would be interesting to see where they went with these characters. Two other performances of note include Adolfo Celi (Danger: Diabolik) in the role of the boos of the anti-crime squad and Renato Salvatori (Rocco and His Brothers) in the role of Roberto Pasquini, a.k.a. Bibi, the crime boss that the anti-crime squad are desperate to find and take down.

Live Like a Cop, Die Like a Man gets a strong release from Raro Video that comes with an insightful extra, recommended.








Written by Michael Den Boer

Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman (Limited Edition) – Arrow Video (Blu-ray) Theatrical Release Dates: USA, 1955 (Creature with...